Monday, October 24, 2016
When I hear politicians - especially Republicans - and Christofascists bloviating about how God has blessed America more than other nations, I want to vomit. Not only is a America an upstart on the long view of history - a mere 240 years compared to the Roman Empire or the Persian Empire, for example, each of which endured for more than twice that time period and were "great powers" in their time - but is it not hubris to believe that one nation is more blessed than others? Likewise, the propaganda line ignores so much of the ugliness of America's history. A piece in Patheos makes the case that such claims are un-biblical. Here are some excerpts:
Franklin Graham is known for saying controversial things, but the other day he said something that wasn’t very controversial at all. He said that God has blessed the United States of America more than any other nation on earth.
This concept isn’t unique to Graham– I’ve heard it said a thousand and one times in my life. The idea that America is somehow God’s favorite, that America is the place God has blessed more than anywhere else, is widely accepted in Americanized Christianity.
But here’s the question: Is it true? . . . has God blessed us more than anyone else? Are we somehow God’s favorite?
Surely, the United States has enjoyed great wealth and prosperity– but this alone is not evidence of God’s blessing. In fact, to associate blessing with material wealth is to completely miss the New Testament concept of blessing. Certainly, in the Old Testament blessing was often associated with prosperity, but in the New Testament, instead of wealth and prosperity, blessing has connotations more in line with a state of happiness and contentment that comes from living out the teachings of Jesus.
However, even if an abundance of wealth were part of God’s blessing, it is completely possible to have an abundance of wealth and not be blessed by God.
Yes, the United States is wealthy, but it is wealthy for a good reason: since its inception, American wealth and prosperity has been at the expense of… well, everyone who’s not white. The nation was born on stolen land, genocide, and slavery– realities that directly relate to our prosperity as a nation. We cannot divorce our wealth from the genesis of it all– one that was rooted in rebellion against God instead of Christian living.
Thus, our prosperity has nothing to do with God’s blessing, unless God’s “blessing” for us is really, really, bad news for a whole lot of others.
While both the OT and NT concepts of God’s blessing fail to describe America, the idea that God has “blessed America more than any other nation” really fails in light of the biblical truth that God doesn’t play favorites that way. In fact, it’s one of the major messages of the New Testament.
When Jesus came on the scene of world history, Israel had a long history of thinking they were the bees-knees when it came to God’s favorites. Jesus’ first public speech actually ended in an assassination attempt, and one of those reasons was because he hinted to the fact that God’s “favorites” would be the very people who rejected him and denied him honor.
Further along in his ministry, Jesus very specifically commands his followers to love and bless everyone equally. The reason Jesus gives for this is simple: because that’s what God does.
To claim that God has blessed America more than any nation on earth is the height of arrogance and biblical illiteracy. Viewing one’s self, one’s people, or one’s nation as being more favored by God is a destructive and toxic belief– one that Jesus came to deliver us from.
Instead of thinking we’re the greatest because God blesses America more than everyone else, we are invited to have the experience of Peter in Acts.
We are invited to look at those around us and to realize, “Oooooooh. I get it now. God has blessed all of them, too.”
So, no. God doesn’t bless America more than any other nation on earth– and that’swhat Franklin Graham is wrong about today.
And, yes, I view Franklin Graham as a truly horrible person who is little better than a hate monger who preys on the ignorant and bigoted. He is, in short, a false Christian and resembles the Pharisees of the New Testament.
As regular readers know, I loath Paul Ryan and view the man as a phony when it comes to professed religious belief and nowhere near the policy wonk that the mainstream media likes to pretend. The GOP agenda that Ryan promotes is the antithesis of the Catholic social Gospel that Ryan pretends to respect. Meanwhile, his budget proposals are little more than a warmed over version of Ronald Reagan's trickle down economics which did not work in the 1980's and will not work now. Despite these failings in morality and truth and veracity, Ryan is treated as the best thing to come to the GOP in decades. Fortunately, now, Ryan's waffling self-prostitution to Donald Trump may be the root of his undoing. The Trumpkins simply are not buying in to Ryan's smoke and mirrors bullshit. At least that is the premise of a piece in Think Progress. Here are highlights:
Paul Ryan . . . . was supposed to be the GOP’s conquering hero. He is the architect of the Republican Budget, a general so beloved he persuaded 235 elected lawmakers to fall in line — marching together behind legislation that would phase out Medicare.
Though Ryan was, ostensibly, second fiddle to Mitt Romney, the GOP’s most influential minds spoke of the blue-eyed congressman as the One True King. According to Republican Überlobbyist Grover Norquist, the country needs only to “pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen” because that president’s one job would be signing “legislation that has already been prepared” — Paul Ryan’s legislation.
Ryan was the agenda setter. The mastermind. The man with the plan to unravel the New Deal and nuke the Great Society from orbit.
And then, the GOP’s rank-and-file got other ideas . . . . . According to one recent poll, 58 percent of Republican primary voters view Ryan at least somewhat unfavorably. Though the Speaker has an almost mystic ability to seduce GOP elites and inside-the-beltway reporters with those dreamy blue eyes, he has lost the confidence of his party’s voters.
There are, of course, many factors that contributed to Ryan’s collapse. His gutless response to Trump’s racism and sexism is certainly one of them. . . . . He waited to see which way the wind would blow. And he is now alone, at home neither with the Trump loyalists nor with the Never Trumpers.
Setting aside his failed effort to privatize Social Security, George W. Bush understood that the portion of the Republican base most likely to rally behind a candidate like Trump is also quite pleased with programs like Medicare. It explains why he signed Medicare Part D into law.
[W]hile the last several decades of American politics have largely been a fight between movement conservatism and Rooseveltian liberalism, a different kind of politics — openly racist while simultaneously generous to voters in the in-group — was a major player in U.S. elections for many years. Southern racists ranging from “Pitckfork” Ben Tillman to Jimmy Byrnes to George Wallace promised a mixture of government largesse for white people and oppression for African-Americans.
The spirit of George Wallace lives today in Donald Trump, whose explicit racism is paired with far less enthusiasm for tearing up the American safety net than many of Trump’s fellow Republicans. Paul Ryan, by contrast, hung his career on a proposal to repeal and replace Medicare with a voucher system that provides inferior benefits to seniors at a higher price. This proposal is wildly unpopular. Even self-identified Republicans prefer Medicare to Ryan’s vouchers by a 2 to 1 margin.
Ryan’s full budget package, which also includes cuts to programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps that ethnocentric whites may be more inclined to support that his voucher program, is so unpopular that only a minority of Republican donors support it.
Ryan rallied his party behind a wildly unpopular agenda. He did so at the very moment that the GOP’s white nationalist faction was on the rise. And his signature proposal is especially likely to pique that faction’s legitimate desire to protect its own economic safety net.
If the polls are correct, it now appears that Ryan has wound up with the smaller piece of the Republican pie. That’s not a happy position for him if he wants to remain speaker — or even if he wants to remain relevant as a thought leader within the GOP.
The GOP’s alliance between Wallace ethnocentrists and movement conservatives was never inevitable. And now it may be falling apart thanks to Ryan’s miscalculation.
As much as the GOP establishment - and even some Republican friends - try to deny the ugliness that is now synonymous with the GOP, everyday Trump supporters continue to give evidence of the hatred and fascism that motivates much of the party base. Trump has claimed repeatedly that the media is crooked and/or working against him and now we are hearing Trump supporters chanting a term much used by Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party as they clawed their way to power. True, the term originated in World War I as Germany found itself surrounded on East and West, but it was the Nazis who took the term to prominence. Is it a mere coincidence that Trump - who, like his BFF Vladimir Putin - has modeled his demagoguery on Hitler's model now has supporters shouting slogans favored by the Nazis? Candidly, I think not. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the frightening phenomenon. Here are excerpts:
BERLIN — When a video of two Donald Trump supporters shouting “Lügenpresse” (lying press) started to circulate Sunday, viewers from Germany soon noted its explosive nature. The defamatory word was most frequently used in Nazi Germany. Today, it is a common slogan among those branded as representing the “ugly Germany”: members of xenophobic, right-wing groups.Its use across the Atlantic Ocean at a Trump rally has worried Germans who know about its origins all too well. Both the Nazi regime and the East German government made use of it, turning it into an anti-democracy slogan.
The verbal attacks against journalists soon turned into physical violence in Germany.
It is without doubt that the word “Lügenpresse” has an extremely ugly meaning in modern-day Germany.
Its history is even worse, though. The term emerged way before the Nazis took over in Germany. . . . the term was coined by Reinhold Anton in 1914. In books, Anton used the term mainly in a foreign context to refer to “enemy propaganda.”
A decade later, it had turned into an explosive and stigmatizing propaganda slogan, used to stir hatred against Jews and communists. Critics of Adolf Hitler's regime were frequently referred to as members of the “Lügenpresse apparatus.”
Until today, the word has an anti-Semitic connotation, and it implies hatred not only against journalists but against everyone who opposes the “will of the people.” That abstract concept emerged during World War II when Hitler sought to propagate the idea that Germans were a "master race" superior to all others, especially Jews and Slavic people.
The consequences of that rhetoric — of which the term “Lügenpresse” was an important component under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels — were horrifying. Millions of people were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis, including Jews, political opponents and homosexuals.
Although the word disappeared from public discourse for almost half a century in democratic West Germany, it continued to flourish in communist East Germany, where it was used to condemn Western countries, including the United States.
As I have noted before, I was raised to remember that you are known by those with whom you keep company. With much of the GOP base now acting like active KKK members and/or Neo-Nasis, how do supposedly "decent Republicans" justify the company that they are keeping?
Over the last 20 years, the base of the Republican Party has become uglier and uglier and increasingly misogynistic. How did it happen? Yes, some of the hideous elements that we see on proud display were likely always lurking in the shadows of the party base, but they were never embraced by and encouraged by the party leadership. That began to change as the Christofascists were increasingly voted into positions on local committees and then began to work their way up the party structure. As the religious extremism increased and the GOP became a defacto sectarian party, sane and rational people fled and became independents or Democrats. Once this happened, the path was open for other ugly elements to assert themselves, including white supremacists, although many were already in the party given the overlap between the Christofascists and open racists. The culmination of the trend is Donald Trump's presidential nomination. Even if Trump loses on November 8th, these ugly elements will still control the GOP. It is important that this reality not be forgotten. Republicans who do not want to face this reality are merely deluding themselves. An op-ed in the New York Times looks at this toxicity and moral bankruptcy that exists across the GOP. Here are highlights:
The presidential campaign is entering its final weeks, and unless the polls are completely off, Donald Trump has very little chance of winning — only 7 percent, according to the Times’s Upshot model. Meanwhile, the candidate continues to say disgusting things, and analysts are asking whether down-ballot Republicans will finally repudiate their party’s nominee.
The answer should be, who cares? Everyone who endorsed Mr. Trump in the past owns him now; it’s far too late to get a refund. And voters should realize that voting for any Trump endorser is, in effect, a vote for Trumpism, whatever happens at the top of the ticket.
First of all, nobody who was paying attention can honestly claim to have learned anything new about Mr. Trump in the last few weeks. It was obvious from the beginning that he was a “con artist” — so declared Marco Rubio, who has nonetheless endorsed his candidacy. His racism and sexism were apparent from the beginning of his campaign; his vindictiveness and lack of self-discipline were on full display in his tirades against Judge Gonzalo Curiel and Khizr Khan.
[A]ny politicians who try after the election to distance themselves from the Trump phenomenon — or even unendorse in these remaining few days — have already failed the character test. They knew who he was all along, they knew that this was a man who should never, ever hold any kind of responsible position, let alone become president. . . . That’s a huge moral failure, and deserves to be remembered as such.
Of course, we know why the great majority of Republican politicians supported Mr. Trump despite his evident awfulness: They feared retribution from the party’s base if they didn’t. But that’s not an excuse. On the contrary, it’s reason to trust these people even less.
[W]hat we learned during the Republican primary was that the party’s base doesn’t care at all about what the party establishment says . . . Nor does the base care at all about supposed conservative principles like small government.
What Republican voters wanted, instead, were candidates who channeled their anger and fear, who demonized nonwhites and played into dark conspiracy theories.
Trumpism is what the party is all about. Maybe they’ll find future standard-bearers with better impulse control and fewer personal skeletons in their closets, but the underlying nastiness is now part of Republican DNA.
And the immediate consequences will be very ugly. Assuming that Hillary Clinton wins, she will face an opposing party that demonizes her and denies her legitimacy no matter how large her margin of victory.
[T]he modern G.O.P. is Mr. Trump’s party, with or without the man himself.
Ever since he rushed to sign infamous HB2 into law, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory has been fighting for his political life and deservedly so. The heinous law has caused boycotts against his state and triggered the decisions of corporations to forego expansion plans in North Carolina. Down in the polls for his re-election effort, McCrory has resorted to lying about the state's economy and played the victim of progressive activists. Now, Donald Trump's efforts to convince voters that the economy is terrible is running directly opposite to McCrory's effort to downplay the economic damage wrought by HB2. A piece in Politico looks at how Trump is perhaps unwittingly helping in the effort to defeat McCrory next month. Here are article excerpts:
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is desperate to talk about his economic achievements after a year mired in contentious debate over social issues, including the state’s transgender “bathroom law.”
The only problem? Donald Trump keeps coming to town and telling voters how terrible the economy is.
It’s the most glaring example this year of the disconnect between Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric and the message of achievement that many Republican incumbents are trying to use to win reelection.
McCrory’s TV ads open with text promising “the truth about North Carolina’s economy” before McCrory touts “one of the fastest-growing economies in the country,” one in which thousands of new jobs are announced “every month.” Yet earlier this month, Trump told attendees at a raucous rally in Greensboro that only under a Trump presidency would their “jobs come back” and “income go up.”
What Trump would add to McCrory are voters who were already probably going to vote for Trump and McCrory,” said one national operative who works on governors' races. “But the rhetoric isn’t helpful. If voters hear a mixed message, it could keep them at home on Election Day.”
Trump’s negativity on the stump compounds the feeling that the state is on the wrong track, said Carter Wrenn, a local Republican consultant. He pointed to polling that says voters are not personally feeling an economic turnaround in their lives, so Trump’s comments “complicate McCrory’s life,” Wrenn said, because he believes voters “don’t separate North Carolina from the national message.”
[Trump] sucks the oxygen out of McCrory's message. I don’t think voters can hear all the negativity on the national level and believe the state has turned around.”
Cooper’s campaign capitalized on that feeling early, putting out an ad in August that asked voters to “raise your hand if your taxes have gone up, while those at the top are the ones getting the tax break,” flashing images of voters raising their hands. “And raise your hand if you’re working more for less.”
A High Point University poll in late September found that 60 percent of voters said it was more important to end House Bill 2’s economic impact than to enforce the law.
“McCrory’s message just doesn’t ring true with people because he’s got to face all the headlines around HB2, all the job losses from companies leaving and losing sporting events,” said Gary Pearce, a Democratic consultant in the state. “He’s singing the wrong key.”
It is important that McCrory is defeated. A significant loss may at last convince some Republicans that prostituting themselves to the Christofascists is no longer good for their political survival. I hope the Virginia GOP is watching how anti-LGBT extremism is having the exact opposite effect of what the North Carolina GOP had thought the bill would achieve for them.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Proving that even the self-loathing gays at the Log Cabin Republicans ("LCR") have limits to the level of self-degradation in which they will participate, the LCR have refused to endorse Donald Trump for president. The main motivation? Seemingly Trump's alliance with leading Christofascists who have made a lucrative career denigrating LGBT individuals and striving to block any advancement of LGBT equality under the civil laws. The Advocate looks at the LRC's refusal to endorse Trump. Here are excerpts:
After endorsing John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, the Log Cabin Republicans are declining to endorse the Republicans' 2016 nominee for president, Donald Trump.
The nation's most prominent LGBT Republican organization released a statement on Saturday that acknowledged the conflicting nature of Trump's LGBT positions.
[T}he Log Cabin Republicans have long emphasized that we are not a single-issue organization, nor are our members single-issue voters. Even if we were, rhetoric alone regarding LGBT issues does not equate to doctrine. As Mr. Trump spoke positively about the LGBT community in the United States, he concurrently surrounded himself with senior advisors with a record of opposing LGBT equality, and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” that Log Cabin Republicans opposes."
As Log Cabin pointed out, Trump supports "religious discrimination" legislation that would allow LGBT people to be refused service based on religious grounds. Trump also picked the man associated with Indiana's "turn away the gays" bill, anti-gay governor Mike Pence, as his running mate. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump is opposed to marriage equality and has been silent on the so-called Equality Act, which would ban housing and employment discrimination against LGBT people.