From Religion News Service:
(RNS) As Florida became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent a memo to all church employees reiterating that any expressions of support for gay marriage — even if it’s only a tweet or Facebook post — could cost them their jobs.
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Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot looks to the new year with 14 (or 15) pithy observations, technological, political, sports, and personal. He also demonstrates that there are three kinds of people. Those who can count and those who can't.
Conservative James Wigderson is really upset about President Obama's goal of making available a two year education at Community College for pretty much everyone. Sadly, he includes this quote from another conservative, "If President Obama changes his mind and wants to have an adult conversation..." thereby implicitly carrying on a Rush-centered conservative tradition of suggesting the President is, by nature, less than fully grown.
Mitch McConnell tries to make the case that the Obama economic renaissance is actually caused by widespread encouragement at McConnell's election as Senate Leader. Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, reviews the evidence and pushes back - hard.
Max's Dad reacts against the exploitation by Fox news types of the Paris terrorist killings as they campaign against everything from Islam to immigration to all things liberal. Max's dad throws in a few digs of his own on all religions.
tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors watches a Fox News personality who seems to suggest that the reason French authorities were not able to stop recent acts of terrorism sooner was that ski-masks kept police from seeing skin color.
Ryan has semi-retired from Secular Ethics, so it's great to see him back for a week. He's been engaged on our pages, defending an ethic regarding torture. Sadly for us, he's making the right move, sharing his analysis with his own site. I love it when Ryan writes for us. Maybe I feel a touch guilty about it, because his work is so good you would expect to see it on Secular Ethics.
Green Eagle thanks the New York City Police Department for the ongoing slowdown in protest against the Mayor's acknowledgement that racism exists. Crime rates have been unaffected. It seems the slowdown is a secretly unselfish experiment that demonstrates that petty targeting of minorities does not make the city safer.
Mad Mike's America remembers talking animals in fiction and reality, ending up with a great clip of Mr. Ed. Horses are smarter than people. You never hear of a horse losing everything betting on a person. Mad Mike didn't say that. And I didn't originate it. It was Will Rogers.
George Zimmerman's slow decline seems to continue. The Moderate Voice watches as the one who shot and killed an unarmed teenager carrying candy, was found not guilty by a sympathetic jury, then became a bit of a hero among conservatives, is now arrested on domestic violence charges.
How Did a 40 Year Old Napkin Cost Kansas Its Economy? (5:29) - Click for Podcast
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Republican Supply Side Economics looked great on Arthur Laffer's napkin. Kansas would be the grand experimental model.
Why the Press Should Have Stopped Laughing in 2010 (3:43) - Click for Podcast
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Sharron Angle showed the goofy side of conservatism. Mainstream press reaction showed why Democrats were about to lose.
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Following the murder of two NYPD officers in New York City, much of the political right moved to blame Mayor de Blasio and other progressive critics of police brutality for inciting the violence, claiming that the mentally ill man who was behind the attack was motivated by left-wing rhetoric.
That narrative doesn't fit very well with a terror case brought this week by the FBI against three Georgia men, all members of a right-wing militia that plotted to attack police and others. Yesterday, Terry Peace, Brian Cannon and Cory Williamson pleaded not guilty to a charge of domestic terrorism, as well as charges of conspiring to defraud the government.
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From The Guardian:
It was a Muslim policeman from a local police station who was “slaughtered like a dog” after heroically trying to stop two heavily armed killers from fleeing the Charlie Hebdo offices following the massacre.
Tributes to Ahmed Merabet poured in on Thursday after images of his murder at point blank range by a Kalashnikov-wielding masked terrorist circulated around the world.
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Dozens of police officers armed with automatic weapons descended on a quiet French town Thursday in a frantic search for the two brothers suspected of brutally killing 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Helicopters, police cars, and a heavily armored vehicle were present as officers went door to door, searching homes and buildings in Crépy-en-Valois, about an hour northeast of Paris.
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LAS VEGAS — FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler offered his strongest endorsement to date of tough net neutrality rules, aligning himself with President Barack Obama’s vision for an open Internet.
Speaking here at the 2015 International CES tech trade show, Wheeler repeatedly hinted he favors reclassification of broadband as a public utility, which would subject Internet providers to some of the same rules that govern old phone companies. The approach is already drawing heavy fire from Republicans and telecom giants who warn it will lead to burdensome regulation.
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As interviews go, this would have been an embarrassment to any other network. Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas was questioned by Fox News on the progress of Republican economic policies in Kansas.
Is there a word that goes beyond fawning? Doting may be closer.
Question: You've cut taxes and you've made your state much more competitive.
Question: How's that worked?
Brownback: It's worked excellent.
The interview continued for about 15 minutes in similar vein. The governor explained in some detail. Taxes had been cut for wealthy individuals and corporations. But tax receipts were at an all time high. And business was booming all over Kansas.
It was a case study in Republican Supply Side economics.
Supply Side was born 40 years ago. Economist Arthur Laffer of the University of Southern California had a pleasant dinner with prominent Republicans. Dick Cheney was there. So was Donald Rumsfeld. Professor Laffer drew a curve on a napkin and showed it to his dinner companions.
It was a simple concept. A tax rate of zero percent and a tax rate of 100 percent have something in common.
If an income tax rate is zero, there will be no taxes collected. Zero times anything is zero, right?
If an income tax rate is a hundred percent, people won't work. A hundred percent of nothing is nothing.
So, on Arthur Laffer's napkin, the curve started at zero where the tax rate was zero, and ended at zero where the tax rate was a hundred. He explained that the point at which the the amount collected in taxes would be highest was somewhere in between.
If taxes are too low, government can get more and balance more or spend more by raising taxes.
If taxes are too high, government can get more and balance more and so on by cutting taxes.
Everyone knows taxes are too high. Too high is what I heard pretty much every adult complain about when I was a kid. In fact I have never heard anyone complain that the taxes they pay are too low. Conservatives, especially wealthy conservatives, think taxes are way, way too high. Supply Side became a cosmic belief system in which cutting taxes would always, always produce more revenue.
Actual measurements didn't seem to support the theology. Ronald Reagan cut taxes on the very wealthy. Tax revenues fell. So he raised taxes on working folks. Tax revenues went up.
Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy. Tax revenues went up. And up and up. He became the second President in my lifetime to balance the federal budget. Lyndon Johnson was the first.
Conservatives had a wonderful theory. Kind of the ultimate free lunch. But there was no evidence Supply Side economics could actually work in the world as we know it.
Then came the wonder of Sam Brownback and actual evidence. Supply Side worked in Kansas.
A couple of weeks after the impressive Fox interview, news organizations outside of Fox began getting curious. Sam Brownback's numbers began to look a little suspicious. US News and World Report reported on a major study just two weeks after the Governor's boasts about jobs.
Although the tax cuts were intended to spark job creation, Kansas’ job growth has been far from spectacular, lagging modestly behind the national average since the tax cuts first took effect.
- US News and World Report, March 26, 2014
In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the economy in Kansas had been growing faster than the national economy before the Brownback tax cuts but had slowed to a rate that was behind the national average after the tax cuts.
In May, the Kansas City Star dug into rates of economic growth and discovered that the economy in Kansas was not only growing more slowly than the national average, but was the slowest growing state economy in the entire region. Colorado was ahead of Kansas. So was Oklahoma. Iowa too, and Nebraska, as well as Missouri.
Governor Brownback was re-elected in November, hardly a surprise in hyper-Republican Kansas. More remarkable was that he was re-elected by a narrow margin. He almost lost it.
Only after the election did more current figures come to light. The state is projected to be a quarter of a billion dollars in the hole in 6 months. In the year after that, Kansas will fall short another half billion. More cuts in education and services look inevitable.
The Kansas bond rating has been downgraded twice.
So what is the Republican response? Well national conservatives don't mention Kansas very much anymore. But they do have something to say about the same rosy predictive model Governor Brownback used in Kansas.
When the next director of the Congressional Budget Office is hired, conservatives will insist on someone willing to use the very same model for the United States.
They call it "Dynamic Scoring" because it will use the predictions on Arthur Laffer's napkin, and the economic application that is working so well in Kansas.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday by a federal judge who declared the former Virginia governor’s historic corruption case “tragic from beginning to end.”
Judge James R. Spencer said “a price must be paid” for crimes that tainted the commonwealth and crippled the ascending political career and personal affairs of a lifelong public servant.
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Sometimes predictions can come back to haunt us.
It was 2010. This is how I felt about the relationship between the mainstream press and the silliest, the most right-wing candidates. I confess I felt pretty much the same way in 2014.
It's a little like catching a sudden glimpse of the little creep who once stole your new tires then won your girl, just as he slips and falls into the thrasher. If you don't watch, you'll miss out on the most delightful tragedy ever. If you do watch, you risk needing years of therapy. So, of course, you watch. Some risks are worth taking.
Last Tuesday, I really wanted to join in the horrified glee. But then Eric Boehlert spoke. It was bad enough when he rained on my parade. When he put his finger in my eye and began to dial a number, I had to turn off Chris Matthews. I did go back and see it when it ran again later that night.
For Democrats, the wonderful, warm, squishy feelings surrounding pretty much everything Sharron Angle says or does in public have accumulated into a lush and comforting oasis amid the harsh and bitter Death Valley that November 2010 has become. Harry Reid's chances of surviving into another term in the United States Senate are still not what can be described as excellent. But at least the odds no longer have to include a minus sign.
The shift from primary to general election is often difficult for a candidate. It is hard to keep in mind that a political party is usually not representative of all voters. The Looney Toons applause lines at rallies of the largest fraction of a minority party might just horrify the general electorate. This often does not happen in off year elections, when most voters would rather go about the business of eking out a living. In years not divisible by 4, motivating the base will usually get a candidate more votes than going after the bland middle.
But Sharron Angle (R-BizarroWorld) is a walking, talking candidate from another planet. It was her statement about the proper role of the press that offended Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball.
We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported.
- Sharron Angle (R-NV), August 1, 2010
Hardball played and replayed the 26 seconds from comedy hell, laughter growing each time. Matthews asked his guests for reactions. Reactions provoked more laughter. Then Eric Boehlert of Media Matters stopped chuckling long enough to deliver the next punchline.
And this is part of the larger trend. For the tea party movement, this is how they view the press. It‘s not an information function. They do not see the press as being legitimate. This is a statewide candidate that refuses to talk to reporters. These are people who don‘t think the press represent the people...
- Eric Boelert, August 3, 2010
Soooooooo......... Eric Boehlert thinks it hilarious that someone, somewhere, thinks the press does not really inform, that they are not legitimate, that they do not represent the people. If that's what's absurd, where do I sign up for the crazy train?
At least Matthews and his other guest, Ryan Grimm of The Huffington Post, had the good sense to stop laughing. Matthews quickly moved on, lest our liberal audience learn that conservatives are not the only victims of epistemic closure. The chronic sinking feeling in my stomach suddenly got more pronounced.
We were about to lose this one big time.
In response to Ryan's Use of Torture Should Depend on Circumstance
What you are saying applies to more than torture and terrorism. We can question the use of guns in law enforcement: Should we allow guns in the police's toolbox when there is the potential for abuse?.
- Ryan, January 1, 2015
That is not a valid comparison. Officers are facing criminals with guns. Night sticks won’t work. Torture is not the equivalent. You can subdue someone who would torture without torturing them in return.
We can question the military: Should we have a military when there is the potential for abuse? And so on.
We can frame the comparison using a thousand different pictures, and it will still be invalid.
The same sort of argument--trading the well-being or life of some to save more--can justify all sorts of things. We routinely embrace that sort of thinking or reject it depending on our feelings about the trade-off in question.
I do not agree that this is the question. The mechanism for allowing torture in the U.S. will also make it “OK” on both sides and by people of varying ability to judge when torture is good. Sure, you or I can easily judge rightfully, but what about Bill? Sanctioning torture nullifies the intentions of the Geneva Conventions, not just for us, but for everyone involved. It sets the clock back to a more barbaric time. The notion that the rule must be that “we can torture them when appropriate, but they can never torture us, as it is never appropriate,” smacks of barbaric imperialism. No one but us will ever agree to that; and we still have the problem of Bill.
I am almost inclined to say that for the greater good we should put Bill to death (in this one case).
My case for torture involves only temporarily harming a criminal to save innocent lives
Unfortunately, that is not, and cannot be, one of your choices. “The people,” must not think torture is good, ever, or we become uncivilized (as warriors). You, by the way, are a person. We don’t want to make the rules of war worse than we have made them already. The more barbaric the rules, the more barbaric the conflict, and the more uncivilized we become, which is the sole reason I responded to your original post. Actually, in defense of Jerry’s one-liner was the exact reason.
while your case for terrorism involves killing innocent people to save other innocent people.
My contention is that if we sanction torture in war, innocent people get tortured (though I don’t consider one’s innocence or guilt in this matter to be in any way relevant, it is a topic for another discussion, not this one). It will be those with the data we need who are ultimately deemed tortureable on both sides.
I know it may seem like the Romans only crucified the guilty, and those who rebelled against them only crucified guilty Romans. In reality, crucifixion was OK, and everyone was eligible and every group had to participate. Additionally, when the order was given to kill every “man, woman, and child” inside the city walls, it was an order either side could give. After all, this was common practice and there was no convention against it.
Whether such an order was just depended on which side of the wall you were on, but that such orders are OK was not generally questioned. Of course they were. We all agree on that. There were no conventions against it.
I believe it all started when one Asian leader, perhaps his name was Na, explained to his underling that it is was not wrong for him to torture Ching because Ching was an evil man who had data he needed. After Ching’s torture, there was Zhao, and then Feiyan.
Soon, amazingly, the other side crucified Buwei in response, and a Roman legionnaire happened to see it, perhaps Cassius. He said: “what a great idea,” never realizing that he himself would one day be crucified by a rebel, perhaps named Yohil.
I do not solely blame Yohil for the crucifixion of Cassius. I think Na has to share the blame and Cassius himself has to share in the blame. It is a pity that Yohil saw fit to first crucify Casti Puer, Cassius’ son, while Cassius was forced to watch. It was a pity, but that’s all. Everyone agreed the method was really good practice. There was some dispute about whether it was OK in this case, the Roman’s falling on one side of the debate and Yohil on the other.
But I can indeed say that, in some extreme scenario, I could support blowing up that bus full of innocent people in order to save many more.
Of course you can. There are lots of desperate people who say the same thing. They see no way to “do the right thing,” but terrorism works.
… and you like having thought of it so well, you say it again.
So torture is good when we, as self-proclaimed righteous men, proclaim it to be so.
I guess all that’s left to do is to make a list of people that we should torture and get to work making the world a better place.
John Myste's insights often grace our pages. The current clash of ideas between John and Ryan has elevated debate at Fair and UNbalanced.
Michael J. Scott at Mad Mike's America tracks happiness against wealth. He concludes the road to riches takes the unwary travelor through enormous cost. His logic and the accompanying personal story make me glad I was born good looking instead. My loved one seems skeptical about that last.
The Laffer Curve is 40 years old. Jon Perr at Perrspectives is impatient with the conservative suggestion that widespread right wing belief in Supply Side Economics is the same as success. He prefers evidence - and finds it.
2015 starts with some parochial good news. Manifesto Joe is back (YAYYY!) at Texas Blues, with a look at Iraq. He appreciates Obama's approach, but thinks recent successes are due to the unbelievable stupidity of ISIS. He hopes we are mindful of policies that started all the current mayhem - including a disastrous US invasion.
At News Corpse watches Fox News and hears about the newest scandal. The Obama family ate a meal at an expensive restaurant. I suppose when Banghazi and IRS and Kenyan birth, and the rest have played out to nothing, "uppity" is all that's left.
Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly mentioned that he had once explained to his bi-racial son that some officers might have an occasional bad day, at the expense of the occasional black teen, and that unfailing courtesy and police common sense should be his son's response to every encounter with police. New York's finest are outraged by this smear-on-all-police or accusation-that police-are-racist or advocacy-of-violence-against-police or something. So they have stopped writing traffic tickets and making arrests for petty offenses. The Moderate Voice documents the lack of social harm resulting from the slowdown, and wonders what lessons are to be learned.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot resumes our timeline of 150 years back. Sherman's march goes beyond Atlanta and President Lincoln receives a Christmas Present of Savanah and the knowledge that the Confederacy is no longer able to defend any city in the South.
I, like many of my faith, derive much of meaning from the words “born again.” The founder of our denomination, John Wesley, often quoted the first chapter of the Gospel of John, saying that believers are given the right to become children of God, and are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Often, being born again is used to describe a conversion experience, or the embrace of faith and forgiveness to which that experience leads.
Lately, I’ve been thinking on the writings of John Rawls, a philosopher who died in 2002. Rawls once suggested a thought experiment:
Suppose you are about to be born in today's world. You don't know where, to which parents, to what race, in what gender or sexual orientation.
You may be gay or you may be straight.
You may be a woman, you may be a man.
You may be of any race or ethnicity.
You may be raised in Islam, or in Christianity, or in Judaism, or Hinduism, or in no faith at all.
You may be born into wealth or into poverty or somewhere in between.
You may be graced with brilliant intelligence, or great strength, or musical skill, or some unimaginable talent.
You may be disabled.
- Not to be too horrifying, you may even be a Republican.
What will be certain is that you will have no memory of current life.
Now devise as fair a tax and social policy as you can, knowing that you will be living with the result for your new lifetime. That is to say, your entire life.
Think of the attitudes you wish to propagate in this life, knowing you may live with consequences in another life. An entire life.
I go with those of us who are more fortunate paying a higher share of the burden, and for fairness to those who are different in any of many ways from myself. You may make other choices.
Perhaps we should consider in a new light that unless we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God.
Originally Published at Fair And UNbalanced
Circumstance seemed to justify cannibalism for the Donner party. Can circumstance justify torture in the same way?
Police, Resentment, and Death - Cruisers in the Left Lane (6:23) - Click for Podcast
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The family discussion turned to police. I was used to opinions. This was different. Everyone had a personal experience.
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