June 30, 2012

Obamacare upheld

And the freakout was not far behind.  A former spokesman for the Michigan GOP suggested armed rebellion was the answer.  I always love that.  Conservatives seem to think they are somehow so patriotic that they can advocate shooting people?  One Republican referred to the SCOTUS ruling as 9-11, because, you know, it is hard to tell the difference between a devastating terrorist attack and a court ruling that says people can have access to healthcare.

And that is the part that just blows me away.  I hear conservatives everywhere talk about losing their freedoms, but I don't know what freedoms those are.  It is harder to smoke in public, that is for sure, but I don't know that Obama or the Feds are pushing that.  It is harder to scald yourself in the shower.  You can't purchase a completely unsafe car as easily as you could before.

Everyone I hear bitching about the mandate already has healthcare and would not, for a minute, think seriously about not having insurance.  Yet telling them they have to have it--for all the reasons that it actually works--is some kind of tyranny?  The government has the ability to mine your data, tap your phones, and find out what books you check out--to say nothing of my key test case--torture people--yet somehow telling people to get healthcare is a start to Nazi Germany.

I honestly don't get it.  And it isn't as if Republicans are serious about keeping government out of your life--at least if you are a woman.  They support a lot of healthcare mandates.  They don't have the least bit of a problem forcing a woman to undergo all sorts of medical intrusions if she has reproductive issues.  They can deny her access to emergency contraception, can actually force her to have a transvaginal probe, or they can simply force her to give birth regardless of the situation. 

I hate to break it to Republicans, but those stances are contrary to the idea of freedom. 

Ultimately, where I no longer respect that side of the aisle is their complete willingness to be duped into stupid outrage.  The Mandate came out of a conservative think tank, and until Freedom Works and others decided it was just what Hitler would do, was widely accepted in conservative circles.  As we talked about here, if you poll people on the basics of the ACA, even Republicans support most of them--including the ban on preexisting conditions and lifetime cap--both of which are completely impossible without the mandate. 

But my Republican friends will shout about freedom, and then go out to vote for someone who wants to restore our torture regime, and take away our healthcare.  If any of that makes sense to you, then you must be a Tea Partier. 

June 27, 2012

The least of these?

Old news, but the attack on the poor and the needy continues.  In Pennsylvania, the Republican governor is looking to reduce assistance to the needy, "including cutting support for the mentally ill." The mentally ill aren't the only ones, of course.  Anyone at the bottom is under attack to take care of themselves.  Or not. 

In Kansas, Brownback just signed a tax law that removes income tax for businesses, professional income, or anything that can be sheltered in a trust or partnership.  The elderly, the working class, and anyone who doesn't make enough money to shelter their money will still pay income taxes.  For reduced services that they need more, of course. 

All this, while my Christian conservative friends pray for the ACA to be overturned and for Obama to lose his reelection bid.  Obviously, for many of you here, that doesn't surprise or shock you, because as Leighton just said so eloquently, "lies for Jesus are just simply lies."  I still, stupidly want to believe that my conservative Christian friends--the ones who speak glowingly of their personal relationship with someone who healed the sick and hung out with whores and lepers--would actually want policies that look after the "least of these." 

But for many of them, Obama's race undoubtedly taps something they can't openly address.  For others, deep down, they just don't like poor people, and assume that many of those who are homeless or ill or poor are just lazy and immoral.  I wish I could say I understood that, but there is a cruelty there that is just scary.  But I absolutely don't understand their sycophantic kneeling at the altar of the wealthy and powerful. 

Read this from the late departed Elizabeth Edwards.  In this 2008 essay, she describes meeting a single mother (apparently), seemingly employed, grabbing Edwards at a talk and telling her that she was terrified by the lump in her breast, but could not get it checked because she had no insurance.
In the landscape of the health-care debate, two very different paths lie in front of us. Which one we choose will speak volumes about who we are as a nation and what values we hold dear. Our choice will determine what we say to women like Sheila—whether we say, “We are with you. Your challenge is our challenge too, and we will help you face it,” or simply shrug and say, “Sorry, you’re on your own.” That’s the moral choice we face today and which path we walk down is up to us.
My Christian friends don't want to admit it, but the people who pray to a man who healed women and lepers, are saying to people like Sheila, "you are on your own." 

There is nothing Christian about that response. 

June 26, 2012

Anti-intellectualism, evangelicals and the American mind

Two posts the other day caught my eye.  The first was this from Fred Clark on how professors in evangelical schools often have to lie to their students.  I remember as a teen a discussion about seminary.  One person noted that those who went to seminary expecting to get their beliefs rubber-stamped were in for a big surprise.  But I then watched as conservatives within the SBC went to rather extreme efforts to make sure that was no longer true.  And this is what Fred observes.  Intellectual inquiry has been banished, because for conservatives, intellectual inquiry and curiosity are bad things.

This, along with the emphasis on female submission started my exodus from the church.

But it isn't just the church that struggles with anti-intellectualism.  Americans, as Richard Hofstadter noted, have always struggled with this distrust of the academy and the intellectual life.  But in recent years, that has taken a different tack toward seeing education as just another market-driven problem.  I see it all the time with college students who see their tuition as payment for a degree, or, in my class, payment for a grade.  Not access to learning.  Just that letter grade and the ultimate degree.

But they aren't alone.  Conservatives everywhere have decided that education should be run as a part of a free market economy.  Cheaper to just use people like me to educate, and push everything to the online environment or for-profit education.  Chris Hayes has a really good discussion here.

I would have liked to see more discussion on the role the university itself has played here, but that will come.  I would also like to see more discussion of the role that education has played in research and social mobility.  But conservatives don't seem to value either.

Man walks up to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates

Peter asks, "Why should you enter the gates of heaven?"

Man:  "I fought for lower taxes and opposed healthcare for the poor."

Peter:  "Sigh"

June 13, 2012

The Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A Moor was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was picked up by soldiers and took to a room. There they stripped him of his clothes, drown him in water until he was almost dead, and left him naked in a very cold room. His screams filled the air, but those who heard looked the other way.  31 When news of this reached the village, the local leader assured the people that he, a very religious man, had done nothing wrong, and the Moor was very dangerous.   32 The local priests agreed, and commended the leader for his righteousness.  Local church members also shrugged and told each other the Moor was a dangerous man who asked for violence.  33 But When one of the religious leaders objected, and asked if we were not to "love our neighbor," the leaders condemned him as valuing the life of the enemy more than the villagers. 34 After many more awful days, the Moor died in his cold cell and was buried without ceremony.   The village leader, who often prayed in public, retired from public life without punishment, though he often boasted of protecting the village from the Moor.  35 The religious people of the village nodded in agreement, and told future leaders to do likewise.  
36 “Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the Moor?”*

*Well, it might not have gone exactly that way.  You can read the real story here.

June 10, 2012

Handy Pro-life guide

The betrayal of the faith

As usual, Leighton has an insight that needs some thought:
I think that in practice, faith among laypeople in the U.S. (in the sense of non-ordained, not uneducated) seems to be rarely about belief in an actual deity, so much as a belief in the power of a group or organization that preaches love and charity to breathe life into its vision. It's a faith that the church can actually make things better for people - make sure they are safe and fed, give them meaning in the midst of the crushing dullness of the present, and hope for a better future for them and their children.

Seeing so many churches and prominent people of faith going out of their way to comfort the comfortable and oppress the afflicted is a terrible betrayal for people who try to have faith in the message of hope ostensibly championed by those who are working diligently to crush that hope. This doesn't have any direct connection to God (except that for whatever reason, God is not preserving his/her message). But that betrayal of trust by people can make it harder to trust people in general. This can be a deeper and more grievous wound than losing faith in someone who was never really there to begin with.

June 6, 2012


Last night's outcome in Wisconsin is troubling for many reasons.  From what I read, Walker used tremendous amounts of anonymous money to spread complete disinformation.  In this world, disinformation works, because so many people are low information voters.  I know several people who vote based on completely half-assed information.

These Republican voters can't identify Grover Norquist, may not have heard of the Supreme Court case Citizens United, and probably aren't aware of the Koch brothers.  I have run into several who had no idea that Norquist dominates the Republican party tax policy.

None of that stops them from voting Republican, mind you.  Just as learning about torture or cuts for the disabled didn't stop them.  And the fact that so many of them are Christians just makes it all the worse.  I know that Leighton is correct in why these people vote the way they do--I get that in my head.

But the kid who grew up going to vacation bible school and revival meetings is struggling with the fact that my Christian friends don't actually care about others outside their view.  Oh sure, all of them do some for the poor.  I get that too.  But at the same time, they vote for policies that harm others--and don't care.  Their "relationship" with God is so powerful in their life that they can't manage to give a flying fuck about some poor disabled person who just lost some assistance.  Just as they didn't care when our government tortured people to death in their name.  Their God either communicates so badly that they can't hear--OR he doesn't mind torture and poverty either.

One Christian friend told me that Jesus said "the poor will always be with us," so we should just do what we can, cut government programs, and trust that "God is in control."


Are they trying to recruit for atheism?  Because that is unbelievable.  But on every issue--women's health and pay equity; poverty; the environment; torture and war; tax policy, etc. these good Christians in prayer and "quiet time" can't seem to care.

I am trying to believe.  But you guys are not helping.

June 5, 2012

When churches become more political than, well anything else

The Story of a Centrist is a great post (actually book excerpt) from Jonathan Merritt about his experience trying to address environmentalism from a Christian point of view.  You can read it, but it won't surprise you that at first he found great support from Southern Baptist circles.  But then the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission) found out and used what can be called "strong arm" tactics to try to silence the effort.

Some of this is the naiveté of someone who wanted to believe that churches were somehow different than other institutions.  I was certainly guilty of that.  I wanted to believe that because people used a language of faith that they operated from a different set of rules.  And to be fair, some groups do--both in and outside the church.

But the other part of this is the history of institutions.  At some point, the institution becomes more about protecting and defending the structure than anything approaching the ideas or goals they started with.  The Southern Baptists may have started as a group dedicated to religious liberty and the "autonomy of the local church," but they have become a de facto arm of the Republican party.  The same can be said of the Catholic church who are more about defending the structure than protecting kids, or punishing priests, or actually providing care for women.

June 3, 2012

You'll get my 40 oz. soda when you pry it from my cold, chubby fingers

So this last week, Bloomberg called for limiting soft drink sizes to 16 oz.  Not limiting people to 16 oz. of soda, by the way, but limiting the cup size.

You would have thought he called for the end of freedom.  I saw a lot of conservatives deriding this as the "nanny state" and an imposition on individual freedom.

Personally, I would advocate taxing soda and other foods that use high fructose corn syrup, but the Bloomberg model hopes that limiting cup size will serve as a subconscious trigger that the consumer has had enough.  I don't know.  High fructose corn syrup is different than other sugars, evidently, and may make people fatter than other sugars or fats.  The argument here is that these sugary drinks contribute to obesity, which costs our economy billions in healthcare costs, lost productivity, etc.   We all pay for those costs.

There are two real problems for me here.  First, is the assumption that this limit is somehow the first government intrusion into the fast food or junk food arena--or that it is completely unprecedented.  Yet corn is heavily subsidized (as is sugar) so this area is hardly some paragon of the free market.  Second, this is hardly new.  We have always made choices about things that we deem to be dangerous.  We are increasingly limiting areas where one can smoke, and charge taxes on alcohol and tobacco.  We force passengers now to wear seat belts (because the link between seat belts and saved lives is clear, btw), and impose all sorts of limits on various drugs.

But my first complaint with this is about the nature of conservative governing.  Their philosophy, as I am told, is that they believe in smaller government and more individual freedom.  Yet, the list of government intrusions they tolerate is rather stunning.  These same conservatives had no problem with the Patriot act allowing the government to invade their privacy without a warrant.  These same conservatives shrugged when their government tortured people.  These same conservatives seem to have little problem with a state that executes people even when we know that the death penalty is rife with class and racial bias.  These conservatives cheer a government that invades a woman's womb and reproductive system.  Or cheer a government that allows doctors to lie to women, or in this case, denies a rape victim access to emergency contraception.

Access to healthcare and reducing soda intake offends my conservative friends.  Torture and shaming a raped woman?  Not so much.

Is it too much to ask for some philosophical consistency?