Saturday, December 7, 2013
Far right Conservatives would have you believe that Pope Francis is being led by "the liberal media".
How else could a Pope speak ill of trickle-down economics and note its devastating effects on the poor? How could a Pope be more concerned with how we treat the least amongst us rather than with supporting economic policies that continue to redistribute wealth upwards? It MUST be that he feels a need to placate "the liberal media".
A Foxnews.com piece stated this rather directly. Sarah Palin showed great concern that Pope Francis seems so *liberal*. Rush Limbaugh continues to make millions upon millions of dollars through his purposefully incendiary remarks against anything not far right by todays's standards. Even if that means trashing the Pope because he dared to address poverty rather than support the wealth of people like Rush.
How could any Pope possibly be so un-Christian? It just has to be "the liberal media" telling him what to say.
Of course this is asinine, but the co-opting of Christianity by the far-right has reached a paradoxical degree of disconnect from the reality of the teachings of Jesus. So much so, that while shocking, it really is no surprise that the loudest mouths of the far-right would rather trash-talk the Pope than recognize that their own agendas of trying to remove assistance to the least amongst us is diametrically opposed to any answer of WWJD ("What Would Jesus Do").
Twenty years ago, it would have been unthinkable to turn on your radio and hear a defense of ignoring the poor in some bizarre conflation of the Pope, the President and orgasm. Yet that is the degree to which Christianity has been co-opted by the far-right. Not only is it now thinkable, such comments when spoken on the radio for any to hear are not even enough to to cause repercussions to those trying to profit from such shameful remarks. The hi-jacking of Christianity by the far-right is so thorough that even the Pope is no longer sacred.
But that only makes sense given that the actual teachings of Jesus Christ himself are mostly ignored in this new rendering of Christianity. Rather than ponder WWJD, they attack any who stand in the way of their ideologies. Never mind that their ideology of trickle-down economics counters the foundational teachings of Jesus. Never mind that Jesus would neither shun nor condemn those with "different lifestyles". Christianity is less a means to assist in their personal spiritual development. It is more an institution they convert to justify their far-right ideologies.
It is certainly shocking to hear Conservatives attack Pope Francis for addressing poverty and economic systems that continually widen already massive wealth gaps. Shocking, but it is not surprising.
Even less surprising is to hear such condemnations of the Pope be used to further whine about "the liberal media".
Note the date of the Chris Matthews quote in the image. Matthews (a Roman Catholic) made this statement shortly after Pope Francis was announced. Conservatives now chastising the Pope would claim that is somehow first evidence of "the liberal media" controlling Pope Francis from the start.
I have a different take. I think it is an early example of outspokenness by those who maintain their Christian identity because they connect with the timeless teachings of actual Jesus, and reject the modern day invention of Republican Jesus.
As Pope Francis leads the way on expressing this difference, it will be most interesting to see in the coming months and years how many more Christians will begin to speak out in support for such a Christianity. A Christianity that, considering the teachings of Jesus Christ, is in fact a more "Christian" version of Christianity than that which is espoused by the far-right.
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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Roughly a month ago, there was a non-verified viral story about a Pastor who made his first appearance to his new congregation disguised as a hungry homeless man. In the story, he appeared well before the church-goers began to congregate for the service where they would meet their new Pastor. The idea was to see how they would honestly treat such a fellow human. Many told him to leave, ushers escorted him to the rear pews. Many would not look at him as they crossed paths. The overwhelming reaction to his presence was disdain. The tone in church changed dramatically when the new Pastor was introduced, and the homeless man they had sidestepped took the pulpit.
|Jesus spoke of helping the poor more than anything else.|
Today, millions who claim they model their lives
after Jesus greatly miss this fundamental teaching.
The story was powerful. But it was never verified. The image used with the story was a stock photo of a homeless man.
Now the same general scenario played out in real life. Click the link below to see the news story from KUTV channel 2.
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Friday, October 11, 2013
Providing nutrition to Women, Infants and Children, the WIC program has long been vital to millions of low income Americans.
On day 9 of the government shutdown, North Carolina ran out of money to operate the WIC program in the state. Those in need of WIC assistance in NC were instead referred to food banks in the state.
Later the same day, the North Carolina based grocery chain Food Lion stepped up with a massive donation of $500,000 in Food Lion gift cards to various food banks in NC.
Food Lion's $500,000 contributions to North Carolina food banks is EXTREMELY generous. I cannot state enough gratitude to them for this financial contribution to address the ongoing food needs of low income children and parents despite the tomfoolery in Congress. More companies with the means should be following Food Lion's example.
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There is a concern however. How much of the core problem is actually addressed beyond the headlines?
$500,000 is a LOT of money.
Many people reading that headline will quickly make the false assumption that the problem is solved, even if only temporarily. Maybe even most people will assume that Food Lion's great generosity has filled the need gap in the WIC program for North Carolina for the duration of the government shutdown. In fact, that is the implied message of most reporting on Food Lion's generous donation to NC food banks. Most don't bother to go beyond the headline and actually look at how far that fills the degree of need in NC.
The WIC program in North Carolina costs $205 million per year.1
Divide that amount by 365 days, and you realize it costs $0.56 million per day.
Let the scope of that need here just sink in for a moment. In North Carolina alone, just meeting basic nutritional needs of low income families with children under 5 costs $560,000 per day.
Despite the extreme generosity of Food Lion's contribution towards this need amidst the government shutdown, their entire contribution does not even meet the challenge for one day!
This simple arithmetic is glossed over or flat out ignored in nearly all reporting on Food Lion's good deed.
I point this out not to diminish in any way the contributions of Food Lion, but rather to demonstrate the ignorance of narrow ideology that not only fails to recognize the importance of government programs, but seeks to end the majority of them.
There is a streak in American political thought that fails to recognize the importance for us all to keep the least amongst us from slipping into abject poverty. Those expressing this philosophy view themselves as victims when our collective tax dollars are used to address this need. In their philosophy, "compassion" is a matter solely for the individual, or the church, or the small non-profit organization. Penn Jillette's comments from an old Time magazine interview encapsulate this too-oft repeated ideology.
In this graphic, two quotes express heavily contrasting viewpoints over the role of government safety nets. Jillette offers that there is great joy in helping people yourself, but then expresses feelings of victimization when his tax dollars are used to fund such government programs, even going so far as to complain that such "bullying" is done "at gunpoint". In contrast, Tim Whittemore points out that leaving "compassion" to only the private sector has numerous drawbacks, including an inability to keep the safety net high enough for just basic needs.
"…To believe that simply leaving 'compassion' or safety nets to the sole responsibility of the individual or small non-profit group will ever be either adequate or consistent is pure fantasy….Regardless of what minimal safety nets against absolute poverty we may instill via government, the individual can always show true compassion by helping poor and suffering people themselves. Nothing stops anyone from doing so. Yet such individualized help proves woefully incapable of meeting the basic challenge…" - Tim Whittemore
"Yet such individualized help proves woefully incapable of meeting the basic challenge."
When Food Lion's generous contribution of $500,000 to North Carolina food banks meets less than one day's needs in just one state, the evidence for that statement should be overwhelmingly obvious.
Monday, April 8, 2013
On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", Greta van Susteren brought up the talking points of "job creators" and Washington hurting "small businesses".
Without defining how she categorizes what makes a business "small", she offered the following.
"We're strangling small businesses, I mean, no one's paying much attention to these small businesses, the regulations that are strangling them, some are laughable and silly, but they have profound impact on the job creators, those who are making jobs. They can't afford to hire people to do them."
The Small Business Administration (SBA) views 500 employees as a small business for most industries. Using a very different yardstick, the ACA(Obamacare) considers businesses with 50 or more employees large enough to require them to provide healthcare to their staff. Additionally, the smaller the business, the more ACA tax credits they get for offering health care to their employees.
In an extremely rare inquiry into what one means when they use the abstract rhetoric of "small business", George Stephanopoulos asks van Susteren if some businesses cut off their work force at 49 employees in order to avoid Obamacare responsibilities. She does not respond by defining what constitutes a "small business". Rather, she avoids the definition entirely, and offers more abstract rhetoric...
"Instead of looking at just numbers, if you actually talk to them, a lot of them are struggling with this, they don't understand a lot of those things that happen, they don't understand a lot of things that happen in Washington. They're very cautious because they see a real dismal economy out there, and that does have an impact."
Though no one pointed out that van Susteren first claims small businesses are being "strangled" by regulations, then claimed that "small business" owners aren't hiring because they "don't understand", Paul Krugman points out "If you actually talk to them, that's not what they say."
But the crucial question of who "they" really are is virtually never addressed despite endless rhetoric about the plight of "small businesses". The term itself is extraordinarily misleading. Intentionally. The term "small business" conjures up the image of a "Mom and Pop store". Politicians rarely use that term however, since when they speak of "small businesses", they are including under that umbrella quite large businesses with up to 500 employees.
Of course very few people have actually given thought to just how do you really define a business as "small". You would be very hard pressed to find a random voter that thinks a business the size of a Wal-Mart store is actually a small business. What about 250 employees? 100? 50?
Personally, I think that if your business is successful enough to employ 50 people, you are no longer a "small" business.
But exactly what magic number of employees or annual company profit anyone uses to personally view any business as "small", the label is little more than an abstract impression. We root for the small business person to grow their company and be very successful. We love the narrative of rags to riches. We also don't define when riches have been more than adequately reached. Such a concept is contrary to the American psyche. As a result, we never speak of "medium" businesses. The general (political) references to business size in America is self-restricted to just small business and corporations.
Consider a handyman with one part-time employee, or a self-employed artist, or a small carpet-cleaning business with 4 employees, or a Mom and Pop store with 6 employees. These are truly small businesses. That huge gap between "small business" and corporation does a real disservice to every one of them. When we allow politicians to imply they are referring to THESE small business people when in fact their umbrella-term "small business" is speaking of large companies even bigger than a Wal-Mart store with up to 500 employees, we are all being duped.
I suggest that every time you hear a political talking head, or a politician refer to "small business", you demand from them a definition of that term before accepting the remaining rhetoric that follows.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Patrick Murphy(D-FL) follows Tammy Duckworth, Chuck Hagel, Shuan Donovan, Maurice Jones, President Obama, Mark Begich and Claire McCaskill in forgoing part of his sequester-exempted government salary.
While most Congressional and administration staff is subject to pay cuts and furloughs as a result of the sequestration, the pay of actual Congressional members and administration officials is exempt from the sequestration cuts. Those listed above must accept their paychecks in full, then write checks to equal the cuts they vowed for themselves.
Some, like President Obama, are returning the percentage they promised back to the Treasury.
Others, like Patrick Murphy, will be writing those checks to various charities. In Murphy's case, he will write a check each month to a different Florida cause.
For all the talk about a bloated budget and government over-spending, I have to wonder if Allen West would have done the same had he won a re-election and Patrick Murphy did not replace him in Congress. I'm not aware of West having done that when he actually was in Congress.
|After a prolonged contesting of the election results, |
Allen West lost his House seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy.
Frankly, I don't know the political affiliation of HUD deputy secretary Maurice Jones, but there is a noticeable pattern in the eight people listed above who are vowing self-imposed pay cuts. Other than Chuck Hagel (and the unknown of Jones), the list is overwhelmingly made up of Democrats.
At the moment I am not aware of any others vowing such salary sequestration solidarity. Even despite the never-ending cry from the GOP about how government spending must be cut, then cut some more, that talking point seems to end when it comes to THEIR bloated salaries.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
This linked video obviously focuses on pointing out how easy it is to do a background check before purchasing a gun, but if you listen to Mark Giffords read off the questions asked in that background check, this video actually offers up a separate issue as well. The questions asked are pretty straightforward and have obvious relevance.
One question however should bring up a whole list of questions that should be asked in return.
When the background check asks - "Are you an unlawful user addicted to marijuana?" - my reaction is - what fool thinks that marijuana is a lone substance that if over-used will lead to gun owners using their firearms in an inappropriate, reactionary way that will put others at risk?
Why is marijuana singled out? Frankly, I am far more concerned about a firearm owned by someone addicted to alcohol, cocaine, LSD, or even legal drugs sold to adults every day on the television. Ask your doctor if this drug is right for you. This drug that spends half the commercial listing all the side-effects, often including depression, and thoughts of suicide, etc. etc. How in the world is marijuana use the concern in relation to gun ownership when its side effects are primarily the munchies, and calmness. Even for those who respond with paranoia, I think the threat of gun mis-use would be far less than virtually any other drug, legal or not.
I must disclose that no, I do not have direct experience with marijuana. I have yet to try it. I have however seen people use it, and even in the extreme cases of such use that I have seen, the effect of marijuana made them actually far more trustworthy in regards to inappropriate acts of passion - like with a firearm.
In fact, I have yet to see any evidence that marijuana use, even over-use, warrants more concern with regards to mis-use of a firearm. I have in fact seen the exact opposite. I have seen a single inhale convert very stressed, angry and reactionary moods virtually instantly into far calmer, more rational thought processes.
Despite the evidence though, I still have no desire to use marijuana myself. I have however made a vow, that come age 60, regardless of any medical need or not, I do plan to try it for myself. I am now 45. I honestly think that by the time I try it, we will have ended this insane, costly and destructive prohibition against a natural plant.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Fox is the only major network not broadcasting the white smoke. (That's Fox entertainment network, not FoxNews.)
But the biggest point that stands out to me now is the false separation between many people of strong Christian faith and those who put little focus on religion.
Religiosity covers a vastly wide scale. There is the quiet believer who seeks zero attention for his personal connection to God (and Jesus). There are the Bible-thumpers who are at "war" with the world for not having Christianity a required aspect of everyone's daily life.
There is a strange disconnect in comparing the latter group to the America around us. Just look at television media. Even the most liberal outlet has virtually hourly coverage of pundits eagerly discussing who the next Pope may be. Now (with the exception of Fox who is airing the Ricki Lake Show), every major tv network with a national news dept. is covering the white smoke with the same intensity of a Presidential election.
Don't get me wrong. I know announcing a new Pope is a huge moment for any Christian, but that's the point. America is filled with Christians. Quiet Christians and loud spotlight Christians. Your political affiliation does not matter. As a Christian, you personally follow the teachings of Jesus. In America as a Christian, you are an overwhelming majority.
Yet this false American Christian persecution-complex does not go away. Granted, it is kept alive by wealthy talking heads who profit from selling such an idea as a "War on Christmas", but the absurdity being sold does only damage to bringing focus on the good that can be achieved through church programs. When those profiting off of selling their fictional "War on Christmas" also advocate for cutting programs that do what Jesus actually taught, the good of the church only gets buried further from view.
The big disconnect between Sarah Palin announcing her new book on the "War on Christmas" and the national attention on the just-announced Pope is one that is hard to swallow.
With that false divide addressed, I only hope that once all the spectacle of ushering in the new Pope has passed, the church truly helps lead a focus on what Jesus concerned himself with the most. Unconditional compassion and a nonjudgmental helping hand to the least amongst us.