Last year, I reacted to the use of scripture to restrict membership in God's Kingdom to a select few, those few with acceptable characteristics.
Idolatry regards God as limited and defined. Paul expressed his opinions on earthly matters, and witnessed to his personal experiences. But he limited his description of God as being beyond his imagination and that of any mortal human. He refused to define God as in any way limited to his own understanding.
Today's idolaters have no such inhibition. They present God to us with all the limitations of their own understanding. The creator is not at all mysterious to them. They can turn the Lord around and upside down. These are the sides. This is the top. They assure us God shares their hatreds and intolerance. Unlike Paul, they present God to us prepackaged. No need for a spiritual journey of wonder and discovery.
They give us God in a box. They instruct us to join the worship of that box.
The last few paragraphs of this post are very profound...
I don't know if the God you believe in exists. I have serious doubts, but only because I feel the burden of proof has not been satisfied. However, I am convinced that the Idol you mentioned most certainly does not exist; and it is this idol I see most prominently displayed in most churches. The Idol, not God, has come to define Christianity.
JMyste is the source of a great deal of wisdom and even more wit. In this case, I feel he makes the same mistake many conservative Christians make. Intolerance and hatred, holding ourselves above others, no more defines Christianity than suicide bombers define Islam. The temptations posed to Jesus by Satan ended with the greatest of all, that he might corrupt spiritual truth by using it to grasp at earthly power. It is a temptation not resisted at all by some misguided followers. That grasp can be witnessed each day. The corruption takes the form of using holy scripture as a hammer against those minorities we hate at the moment.
To me, the tragedy lies in the effect on those who may be sympathetic to the message of hope, redemption, and love. Those who make the mistake of defining Jesus in the image of the intolerant, the hate filled, may often be those who could find a spiritual home in Christ's real message. Their angry rejection of hated is, I hope, what may make them special to God. What they reject, as I see it, is not Jesus. Rather, they reject the one who tempted Jesus in the wilderness.
Nuggets of internet gold:
Favorite extreme conservative FUNGAZI.COM reacts to a bill intending to close down internet sites that pirate movies, music, or articles. He thinks it's an effort to censor the internet. The hysteria is undeserved, but it is not a well crafted bill and should be reworked.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster REALLY likes an independent candidate for the Kentucky state legislature. Remember the name: Michael Lewis.
- Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, in an angry piece at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST speculates on how the first Thanksgiving might have happened if it would have happened at all in modern America.
Have a safe weekend. Drive carefully. Pray for those not yet in economic recovery.
Tom Delay (The Hammer) could face life in prison. He probably won't.
Texas law says candidates can't accept money from corporations. Corporations can't give money to candidates. Nobody can try to get around all that by accepting money from corporations and then giving it to candidates. That law has been around since 1903.
In 2002, Delay got corporations to give a committee controlled by him $190,000.00, then had the committee give exactly that amount of money, down to the penny, to the Republican National Committee. In those days, Delay was the most powerful Republican in the country after Dick Cheney. Okay, okay, that's a slap at President Bush, who was actually the most powerful Republican. Delay came right after that. Point is, Delay could order the Republican National Committee to do whatever he wanted them to do.
Delay got the national GOP to give exactly $190,000.00, right down to the penny, to 7 candidates to the Texas House. Now, that amount of money is pretty small potatoes on a national scale, so why did Delay do it? Well, state representatives seldom get into national level amounts. $190,000 is a lot of money for small local races, even when divided 7 ways.
Still, state representatives? Was he nuts?
Those seven helped form a new Republican majority in Texas. Delay then told Texas Republicans to do something extraordinary. You see, a lot of gerrymandering goes on in state politics. Every 10 years, the constitution says, states have to draw new lines between districts so districts represented by the US House of Representatives are pretty close to equal. Pretty much every state legislature tries to draw the lines to benefit their own political party. Every 10 years.
The next redistricting was to come in 2010. Delay said, to Heck with that!! We'll do it now. So they redistricted right then in 2002, and gave Republicans more seats in the US Congress. Where Delay was the Majority Leader. Controlling those new seats. Which makes the redistricting important. Which makes those 7 state level seats important. Which makes that $190,000.00 important. Which makes breaking that 1903 law significant.
In court, Delay said he didn't do it. He didn't even know about it. Besides, even if he was behind it, it wasn't really illegal. The notion that he didn't know about it took kind of a hit when his lawyer accidentally proved Delay and the head of the committee that coordinated everything had met hours after the swap. Oops. Prosecutors had already played a tape of Delay boasting that he knew about it all beforehand, but Delay said he had misspoken.
Delay talked to reporters later on. "I praise the Lord for what's going on. I'm not going to blame anybody." He then went on to blame Democrats for targeting him. "Criminalization of politics undermines our system."
Seems to many of us that criminalization of criminality fortifies our system.
So why should those holding multi-Goliath size accounts, the gazillionaires and the corporations they run, get special tax slashes?
Arguments for tax cuts for the extremely wealthy transformed in the late 1970s, largely through the accidental influence of a University of Chicago professor. Arthur Laffer had lunch with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. He presented in understandable form an old, mostly ignored, argument for what had been called Trickle Down Economics.
The idea had been knocking about for half a century and had been considered self-evident. It was easy to understand, especially the way the good professor explained it. If you have a tax rate of zero, the government takes in zero revenue. And if you have a tax rate of 100%, then the government also takes in zero revenue. I mean you can't have anyone work for nothing and expect any results. What's 100% of nothing? So the tax rate that produces the most government revenue is somewhere in between.
Arthur Laffer changed American politics by doing two things. First, he drew a graph on a napkin. He drew a big old 0 on the left and a big 100 on the right. Between, he drew a bell shaped curve. It was at zero at both ends with a big hump between. It looked very scientific and it was easy to understand.
The second thing Professor Laffer did was to offer a postulate. The high point of the curve, he said, the point at which government revenue would be highest, was considerably to the left of where every sane economist had thought. In fact, it was waaayyyy to the left of the current tax rate for the extremely wealthy. Cheney and Rumsfeld were stunned. They grasped the political implication right away. Trickle Down became Supply Side. Republicans offered the ultimate free lunch. Slashing taxes for the wealthy wouldn't cost a nickel. And it would produce jobs.
Actual experience was unkind to the theory. President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes for the wealthy and deficits went to the highest level ever. President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy and deficits disappeared entirely. President Bush slashed taxes on the wealthy and the entire economy crashed as well as deficits being produced that dwarfed the Reagan cuts. The theory was bogus, so the theory became theology.
Today's Republicans no longer claim that tax cuts will pay for themselves as long as rates are to the right of the high point on the Laffer curve. Now tax cuts always, in all circumstances, pay for themselves. Plus putting more money into the hands of corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthiest will produce jobs. Liberal heathens dissent from the supply side view, pointing out that jobs will come from an increase in the cash middle class consumers are willing to spend. So direct those tax cuts at the middle class.
For any serious economic conservative, watching Arthur Laffer in the years since Reagan must be a little like realizing your brain surgery is about to be performed by a guy who just spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express. Laffer has become an assembly line of ideas from Jupiter. He now pounds the pulpit insisting employment problems around the world are caused by lazy workers. The cure is abolishing unemployment benefits, eliminating health insurance, and finally slashing everyone's wages. All for your own good.
We just heard an interesting bit of economic news. While Democrats and Republicans argue about putting more money into the hands of giant corporations and mega-billionaires to produce jobs, profits have reached the highest level in the history of the known universe. Mess-o-money is suddenly in their hands. So the question we now have for Supply Siding theologians: Now that the corporations have all this money, where are the jobs?
Employment is low because the incentives for workers to work are too small, and the incentives not to work too high. Workers’ net wages are down, so the supply of labor is limited. Meanwhile, demand for labor is also down since employers consider the costs of employing new workers—wages, health care and more—to be greater today than the benefits.
- - Professor Arthur Laffer, November 12, 2010
So many missiles are aimed at the United States, it is difficult to think of any objection to removing the threat. That makes the new START treaty extremely attractive: Keeping nuclear materials away from terrorists, limits on warheads, flexibility on modernization, ironclad verification. It doesn't take an expert to see the need for inspectors on the ground. Trust but verify, right? The treaty puts that into effect. There is no eye level inspection right now, because there is no treaty. Well, that gives us some urgency.
The devil is in the details, as they say, and therein lies the difficulty. The public backs the treaty overwhelmingly, preferring not to see humanity ended in a thousand flashes. But we are not in a position to evaluate the technical considerations that were negotiated. We have to rely on well...experts. A strong case can be made from the level of expertise in favor of the treaty.
- Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for Presidents Nixon and Ford
- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from Bill Clinton days
- Secretary of State James Baker for President Bush (the Greater)
- Secretary of Defense William Cohen
- Secretary of Defense William Perry
- National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft
- Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright
- Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA)
The list goes on and on and ... well ... on.
Paradoxically, I suppose, I find the quality of public arguments against the treaty compelling. When an argument is countered, someone explaining persuasively that it is wrong, it is up to those making the argument to prove why it is correct after all. Otherwise the argument is discredited. When your argument is gutted, don't just repeat it. Tell me why it still stands, or don't expect me to believe much of anything you say.
Mitt Romney has published the most reasonable opposition to START so far, clearing a bar that turns out to be pretty low. And his very first argument is soooo not true. "New-START impedes missile defense, our protection from nuclear-proliferation rogue states such as Iran and North Korea." Eeeeg. It's an argument that has been made before and easily refuted. There is no limit, and no impediment, in the treaty concerning missile-defense. In fact a pledge of no first use of nuclear weapons specifically allows first use against rogue nations who don't accept a separate non-proliferation treaty. That means you, Iran, and you, North Korea. And Romney just gets worse with each subsequent word. Each argument has been made before and been thoroughly refuted, only to be mindlessly repeated again.
Romney does a good job of bringing back constantly discredited arguments. Fred Kaplan does a better job of repeating, yet again, why those arguments have been completely bludgeoned to death by experts, only to rise like the walking dead. Romney presents the best case against START because all the others are even worse.
At the heart of the arguments against this agreement is the sort of zero-sum philosophy grownups ought to reject out of hand. Critics present security as a sort of seesaw. If Russia benefits it must harm us. The idea of mutuality; mutual benefit, mutual security, mutual survival; is foreign to reflexive rejectionists. "Put another way:" Romney tells us, "We give, Russia gets."
We should try to respect those with whom we disagree, but we're talking multi-multi-mushroom clouds as a last sight in life. The bankrupt obstructionism we see in place of reason is dirty, dumb, and dangerous.
North Korea and Iran, Russia and Central Europe won't wait for months to see what kind of signal a new Congress sends. As Admiral Mullen concluded, "This is a national security issue of great significance. And the sooner we get it done, the better." But the response from some conservatives seems to be that nothing is more important than the optics of denying President Obama a victory. Retired Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, the former deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, said Friday that it was "quite puzzling to me why all of this support [for New START]... is ignored. I don't know what that says about the trust that people have and the confidence they have in our military." Russia still has thousands of nuclear weapons that are aimed at U.S. cities. Our military leadership recognizes the importance of reinstating critical verification provisions and getting U.S. inspectors back in Russia to inspect Russian nuclear facilities.
- - Report from National Security Network, November 22, 2010
Well, General Motors is alive. It wouldn't have been had President Obama let them die. Market value of the company had gone from $45 billion in 1999 to pretty close to zero in 2009. Lapsing briefly into technical economic terms, this was a ten year line from Mount Everest into the pits of darkness ruled by Satan. This week the new market value was almost $55 billion. That's quite a bounce. 45 to 0 to 55. In other words, President Obama did for General Motors what Sharron Angle did for Harry Reid.
It took a $49 billion investment. GM began paying it back in April. The initial repayment was only 13 percent of the total loan, but it came 5 years ahead of schedule. The possibility of giving taxpayers a profit on this investment is impressive. In Nevada, all Sharron Angle got was a lousy tee-shirt.
But was $49 billion the real price?
The problem with a successful bailout is that it may become the model for potential future bailouts. It's a variant of the perennial lunar question: if we could put a man on the moon and bring him back safely to the Earth, why can't we solve every problem? A successful bailout makes future bailouts more plausible. If this one worked out so well, why not try another, then another? Don't worry about the risk. We're too big to fail. The government can always step in if we get into trouble. Look at General Motors.
The liquidation of General Motors would have cost a quarter of a million jobs in GM and several million more in suppliers and dealers. Each of those unemployed people would have been one less family making routine purchases, one more not paying bills. The effect would have cascaded. You want to see a depression that makes Herbert Hoover look like an economic genius? Let's liquidate General Motors.
So how to trade off the risk to each and every working American against the risk of precedent? One way is to mitigate the risk. When the government stepped in, the penalties on everyone were harsh. Stockholders saw the value of their holdings shrink dramatically, although with the prospect of regaining it as the company recovered. The government temporarily ended up with 60% ownership. Bondholders and those owed money had to wait. Conservatives screamed like drunken yahoos at a strip club: "More, more, we're still not satisfied." They especially wanted to dismantle unions. But unions lost a lot of their pension funding.
The most dramatic effect was on upper management. The CEO was told to pack up and get out of town. A third of his colleagues followed, a wagon train of interrupted careers. Those left were enough to keep the company running through a transition. A heads down atmosphere prevailed in the executive offices. "Please hold all calls. I'm trying to find ways to save the company and also my own fat behind. Thank you." You didn't hear about the management bonuses and lavish executive parties that accompanied the Bush bailout of Wall Street.
We'll call it the Rich Waggoner effect. Waggoner's belongings were sent to his home in one box, while parts of Waggoner were sent in another box. The unceremonial dumping of GM's CEO sent ripples that may make future candidates for federal bailouts less than eager for federal help. Damage was done, but the well was capped. Future bailouts had better be necessary.
It started with an expression of freedom of faith. A Christian woman in Egypt is said to have converted freely to Islam. Her husband is a priest in the Coptic Church so it may have turned into kind of big deal in the sort of inter-religious rivalry we hear about. Then the woman disappeared. Protesters began marching in Cairo, accusing Christians of kidnapping her.
Three weeks ago the ideology of collective guilt took hold and gunmen invaded an Assyrian Christian church in an Iraqi suburb during Sunday worship. They kidnapped ours, so we would kill theirs. And they did: murdering worshipers, those who had not escaped, execution style. About 60 parishioners survived in a fortified safe room.
There was worldwide notice. Muslim officials condemned the attack. They were in Geneva meeting with Christian leaders to build a “common future.” Local Muslim communities joined in. Even the Muslim community in Malta issued a statement of solidarity with the Christian victims.
When a single deranged Muslim attacked US military personnel in Ft. Hood, killing several, there was a great deal of conservative commentary about all Muslims, that collective guilt thing again. Same when a would-be-terrorist in Manhattan tried to set off a car bomb. That plot was thwarted by a street vendor who was, in what had to be for bigots an inconvenient coincidence, also Muslim. Still, anti-Muslim activists condemned Muslims as a group.
In the attack on the church there was little commentary in the United States.
The largest organized protest against the attack on these Christians came in Chicago the following week. It was organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"And this holiday season, anyone inclined to think Christians are persecuted because some clerk at the mall wished them a 'Happy Holidays'," said Steve Benen, "should consider what Christians are facing in Iraq right now."
Anti-Muslim activists, conservative bloggers who can usually be counted on to paint every Muslim for any crime committed by any Muslim, are silent. Usually anti-Muslim sentiment is mixed with racial and ethnic centrism, and these victims were Arabs. And casualties also included nearby guards at a nearby stock exchange who tried to intervene, and 7 Iraqi Muslim troops killed as they rushed in to save as many of the Christians as they could.
There is no comparison between violence among bigots in Iraq and anti-Muslim actions, mostly vandalism and rhetoric, among bigots in the United States. The similarities have to do with the primal urge toward collective guilt. But there is another similarity that I find striking.
After the murders, in that same Christian church in Baghdad, worshipers joined in prayer. Many of them were not Christians, but simply wanted to show their solidarity against the attackers. We have seen similar rejection of hatred among victimized Muslims in the United States. But anti-Muslim bigotry is rejected as well, among countless devoted followers of Jesus. A crowd of Christians marched on a mosque in Tennessee recently after news spread of anti-Muslim vandalism. They were armed with paint and brushes, and they were there to help with repairs. One man, an unemployed trucker, even devoted a portion of his depleted funds to help pay for materials.
The one good side, the holy side, of bigotry is its rejection by the faithful.
It is unfortunate that people are so intolerant to differences that they aren’t willing to see that the place of worship is not a mosque.
- - Tayyibah Amatullah, CAIR - AZ chapter, Nov 11, 2010
On uproar over local "mosque" that is actually a Christian Church
Nuggets of internet gold:
Chuck Thinks Right points out that the Obama administration acts quite legally in selling weapons to Saudi Arabia who has been taking the lead in fighting al Qaeda and who is a counter to Iran. Chuck's logic serves him well. Chuck is outraged, though, because it means Obama will do illegal things in the future. Chuck's logic has fled him.
At The Mind of Bryan Lee Peterson, Bryan explains why writer's block is a word disguising something else.
- The World of Doorman-Priest contemplates whether Britain's evangelicals have boxed themselves into tradition at the expense of addressing contemporary problems.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for those in desperate circumstances.