There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the increasing political polarization in America, which is at historically high levels. There are a lot of reasons for it, including changing demographics, women’s growing empowerment, the internet, the economy and cable news. But religion and religious belief plays an important role as well. There’s no way around it: America is quickly becoming two nations, one ruled over by fundamentalist Christians and their supporters and one that is becoming all the more secular over time, looking more and more like western Europe in its relative indifference to religion. And caught in between are a group of liberal Christians that are culturally aligned with secularists and are increasingly and dismayingly seeing the concept of “faith” aligned with a narrow and conservative political worldview.
Imagine that a little-known but increasingly powerful group of ideologues had hatched a plan to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy harkening back to the Dark Ages of Europe, a time when society was governed by the laws and officials of the Catholic Church.
Suppose further that this plan had a scary simple strategy: Recruit bright, young law students; put them through an intensive indoctrination program; place them in plum internships across the country; and watch as they swim upstream until they reach the top of the legal system, where they can create, enforce, and interpret laws according to a legal philosophy infused with fundament-alist Christian theology
How many liberals have politically noxious relatives who were once reasonable people until they turned on Rush Limbaugh for their commute to work or ran across Fox as they flipped through their cable channels? Robert Sobel, writing for the Examiner, asked the question, “Why do Americans vote against their own interests?” He concluded that too many Americans are caught in the right wing misinformation echo chamber, whether it is listening to right wing radio, watching Fox News, or reading the conservative blogosphere. Recently, an upcoming documentary, “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” has been gaining attention. For this documentary, Jen Senko traces the history of her father’s transformation from mild-mannered Democrat to angry, racist Republican. As one might guess, this metamorphosis occurred following a change in his routine where he ended up having a long commute to work and tuned into Rush Limbaugh. His seething, bitter personality change only worsened as he dove deeper into right wing media. In her documentary, when it is completed, she intends to show her efforts to “de-program” her father. No doubt everyone will be curious to see how that works out.
Personally, in my family, the worst offenders in terms of personality deterioration following heavy doses of the right wing propaganda mill have been my grandfather and uncle.
Here is how it works these days: You start hearing about a big, national problem and then it becomes a drumbeat. First there are a few articles and columns mentioning that such-and-such is a problem. Then a number of articles appear, then a “study” from a “think tank” confirms the problem and sounds the alarm about how terrible it is, and then just as the issue seems to be the only thing you are hearing about a solution is presented. Of course, the solution always involves taking something away from you and giving it to some company or industry standing in front of a billionaire or three. The right question to start asking when you hear about these “problems” is which billionaire is driving this.
Here are five-plus examples of billionaires who use their money to try to get us to think what they want us to think in order to enact a right-wing economic agenda.
1) Pete Peterson’s deficit/debt scare campaign and his ongoing effort to gut Social Security and other entitlements.Leading every list of billionaires pushing an issue is billionaire Pete Peterson and his forever war on government doing things to make our lives better, especially Social Security. Peterson leads the list because of reports of his pledge to spend $1 billion on his pet issue.
Have you ever heard anywhere that the budget deficit and national debt are a problem?
From CHRIS HEDGES
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been Wall Street’s anointed son for the presidency. He is backed by the most ruthless and corrupt figures in New Jersey politics, including the New Jersey multimillionaire and hard-line Democratic boss George Norcross III. Among his other supporters are many hedge fund managers and corporate executives and some of the nation’s most retrograde billionaires, including the Koch brothers. The brewing scandal over the closing of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge apparently in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to support the governor’s 2013 re-election is a window into how federal agencies and the security and surveillance apparatus would be routinely employed in a Christie presidency to punish anyone who challenged this tiny cabal’s grip on power.
Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth. He is gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals.
From New Republic
Athough I am not an enthusiastic user of the Internet, I recognize that its emergence has notably expanded free expression around the world and inflicted an almost-mortal blow to the censorship regimes that authoritarian governments rely upon to control information and thwart opponents. Emily Parker, a former journalist at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, has convinced me of this in her upcoming book that reviews what the Internet and social media revolutions have meant for China, Cuba and Russia.
Parker’s book, Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground, is a rigorously researched and reported account that reads like a thriller. Parker, who speaks Mandarin and Spanish, knows and has interviewed the majority of influential bloggers in the countries she covers. She gracefully navigates the catacombs these bloggers tend to inhabit, from which they connect with the outside world and from which they are giving their compatriots—formerly paralyzed by apathy, fear and pessimism—a renewed hope in progress and democratic change. It’s been a while since I have read a book that is so entertaining, not to mention one so encouraging for the culture of liberty.
In the aftermath of the reign of Nazi terror in the 1940s, the philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote:
National Socialism lives on, and even today we still do not know whether it is merely the ghost of what was so monstrous that it lingers on after its own death, or whether it has not yet died at all, whether the willingness to commit the unspeakable survives in people as well as in the conditions that enclose them.
Adorno’s words are as relevant today as they were when he first wrote them. The threat of authoritarianism to citizen-based democracy is alive and well in the United States, and its presence can be felt in the historical conditions leading up to the partial government shutdown and the refusal on the part of the new extremists to raise the debt ceiling. Adorno believed that while the specific features and horrors of mid-century fascism such as the concentration camps and the control of governments by a political elite and the gestapo would not be reproduced in the same way, democracy as a political ideal and as a working proposition would be under assault once again by new anti-democratic forces all too willing to impose totalitarian systems on their adversaries.
For Adorno, the conditions for fascism would more than likely crystallize into new forms. For instance
Philip E. Agre
Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:
Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.
Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.
These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves “conservatives” have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.
It’s our duty to save democracy from the authoritarianism emerging from the Executive Branch.
“Knowledge (of) the scale of our capability would raise public awareness generating unwelcome publicity for us and our political masters.” — Classified UK NSA document
“To approve such a program, the Court must have every confidence that the government is doing its utmost to ensure that those responsible for implementation fully comply with the Court’s orders. The Court no longer has such confidence.” — U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order, p. 12, 3-9-2009
For those alarmed by the steady growth of lawless, violent and authoritarian U.S. Executive power for the last 50 years, the events of the past few months have been exciting. The emergence of a de facto coalition of progressives and conservatives opposing the National Defense Authorization Act law giving the Executive the right to unilaterally detain or execute American citizens without a trial
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- Mendocino County Today: Tuesday, September 2, 2014HEY! NO PROBLEMO Dear AVA, The paper has printed a number of letters from community members who have concerns and observations about the Anderson Valley Health Center and the care received by patients there. Unfortunately, many of these letters have promulgated significant misinformation. Additionally, a number of people attending the Health Center’s Board o […]
- Mendocino County Today: Monday, September 1, 2014Role Models; Local Sports; Lodge Fire; Catch of the Day; Deep Questions; Coffee Plus; Grand Refuge; Cannabis Market; She Left; Police v Transients; Passenger Pigeons; Satanic Mill; Puddle Folsom; Hungry Deer; Library Grant; Indian Hike
- Mendocino County Today: Sunday, August 31, 2014Rain Revelation; Strawberry Fields; ATV Tragedy; Catch of the Day; Computer Maintenance; Philo Produce; Boonville Beef; Deadly Sins; Parrish Project; Quagga Mussels; Pot Questions; If; Odd Bodkins; Police Reports; Unjust Justice; Disaster Music
- Mendocino County Today: Saturday, August 30, 2014Green Rush; FB Water; Global Affairs; Audio Gaga; Ode to Autumn; Police Reports; Eel Low; Ranger Out; UK Protester; GJ & DA; Catch of the Day; Local Food; Solar Permitting; Ageless Wisdom; Policy Vacuum; Uzi Girl; Klamath Ruling; Craig's Ready; Drought Committee; Ambulance Thanks; Senior Bookmobile
- Why Peak Oil Refuses to DiePeak oil and climate change are two sides of the same coin. The coin itself represents our reliance on fossil fuels and their unique energetic benefits.
- Peak Oil Review - Sept 1A weekly review including: Oil and the Global Economy, The Middle East & North Africa, Ukraine, Quote of the Week, The Briefs
- Ruin is forever: When the precautionary principle is justifiedIf you are dead, you cannot mount a comeback. If all life on Earth were destroyed by, say, a large comet impact, there would be no revival. Ruin is forever.
- Whose century is it?: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Food and the “21st-Century Trade Agreement”There isn’t a single TPP chapter on agriculture in TPP; rather, issues impacting food and agriculture are scattered throughout the deal. With that in mind, here are the issues that characterize the TPP so far:
- Deceased Fukushima Chief: “I thought we were really dead” — Fear of “nuclear doom for eastern Japan” — “A total failure in which the fuel melts and breaches… containment vessel”
- “We’re Alarmed”: Chunks missing from bodies of salmon from Pacific — Lesions in over 50% of fish being reported — Experts: “Looks like traumatic insult… followed by bacterial invasions”; Investigating for pathogens — Wounds this significant must impact ability to survive (PHOTO)
- TV: “Surge in marine mammal strandings” on US West Coast — Scientists: “This is very weird”; “My biggest fear is if this… is everywhere” along coast — Whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds recently washing up in large numbers — Many thousands likely dead — Violent seizures shown on news (VIDEO)
- Experts: Scary problems on California coast — There may be “no food anywhere” along Pacific except in isolated areas — “It’s like crime scene investigation” in ocean — ‘Certainly’ Fukushima is one of stresses to sea life — Dolphins, whales more likely to be bathed in radiation (VIDEO)
- Colorado Town to Ask Higher Court to Uphold Its Fracking BanLongmont 'continues to imply that decades of established law on regulating oil and gas operations somehow doesn't apply to them,' says industry official. By Zahra Hirji Leaders of a Boulder, Colo. suburb on the front lines of the fight against gas drilling recently voted 7-0 to appeal last month's court ruling that overturned the city […]
- Enbridge Faces Maximum Fine of $86 Million for Kalamazoo SpillThe company told regulators in a filing it expects to pay at least $22 million. The EPA, which will assess the fine, is mum. By David Hasemyer 12:30 PM ET on 8/28/204: This story has been updated with information from the EPA. Pipeline giant Enbridge, Inc. has almost finished cleaning up its 2010 spill that sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy crud […]
- Deepening Ties Between Exxon and Russia Run Counter to U.S. Efforts to Punish PutinAs its interests deepen in Russia, Exxon also stands to profit from the U.S. effort to fast-track oil and gas exports to 'stick it' to Putin. By Elizabeth Douglass As tensions mount and U.S. lawmakers push for stiffer sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, oil giant ExxonMobil wants no part of it. On the contrary, America's […]
- In Tight Florida's Governor's Race, Climate Change Is a Central IssueVoter concern over vanishing beaches and fresh water may force GOP Gov. Rick Scott to run against his party's platform and his record. By Katherine Bagley 1:30 PM ET on 8/27/204: This story has been updated with comment from Gov. Rick Scott's spokesperson. The increasingly visible effects of climate change in Florida are putting Republican Gov. Ric […]
- A Perfect Response to That Line About God Not Creating “Adam and Steve”Zack Weiner offers a terrific response to the tired old line about "Adam & Steve":
- D. J. Grothe is No Longer President of the James Randi Educational FoundationIn a brief press release issued late this afternoon, the James Randi Educational Foundation announced that its Los Angeles offices would be closing to save some money... oh, and by the way, D.J. Grothe is no longer the JREF President:
- Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 13: Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, Directors of An Honest LiarOur latest podcast guests are Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, directors of An Honest Liar (the documentary about James Randi):
- Is This Pastor Being Honest About What He Said at a Secular Event?In 2013, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, spoke at a conference called Awaken Now.In a clip that just came to my attention, Rodriguez explained how he was invited to pray at a large secular event in Washington, D.C. with "a couple hundred thousand people" that was sponsored by a famous […]
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Living From Our Local Landscape and Countryside - Wendell Berry
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Finding Meaningful Work - Dave Smith
Embrace the Mystery
Carl Sagan Took My Faith and Gave Me Awe
The 30-Second God Debate
Not Afraid of Burning In Hell
The 20 Basic Reasons To Abandon Christianity
Religion Is Not Only Mistaken, But Does More Harm Than Good
Mondragon: The Loving Society That Is Our Inevitable Future
Surely Something Will Save Us... - Thom Hartmann
Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason - Sam Harris
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The Local Multiplier Effect
The Dirty F@#*ing Hippies Were Right!
To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.” ~ Raymond Williams
Small is beautiful, when small is skilled and dedicated... There is so much artificial and plastic crap around, the human spirit yearns for the homespun and the real. ~Gene Logsdon→
I've observed that people tend to live at one of two extremes in the spectrum of life: those who live on the edge, and those who avoid the edge. Those who live on the edge are hanging out in the most dangerous and unstable places — yet they're also often the most powerful agents of change, because the edge is where change is happening; away from the edge, things are naturally unchanging. ~Thom Hartmann
What is not worth doing, is not worth doing well. ~Abraham Maslow→
Society is like a stew: If you don't stir it up every now and then, the scum rises to the top.~Edward Abbey
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. ~Buckminster Fuller→
How thoughtful of God to arrange matters so that, wherever you happen to be born, the local religion always turns out to be the true one. ~ Richard Dawkins
Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning. ~ Joseph Campbell
I sang as one / Who on a tilting deck sings / To keep men's courage up, though the wave hangs / That shall cut off their sun. ~C. Day Lewis
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Local Organic Family Farms
THE SMALL ORGANIC FARM greatly discomforts the corporate/ industrial mind because the small organic farm is one of the most relentlessly subversive forces on the planet. Over centuries both the communist and the capitalist systems have tried to destroy small farms because small farmers are a threat to the consolidation of absolute power.
Thomas Jefferson said he didn’t think we could have democracy unless at least 20% of the population was self-supporting on small farms so they were independent enough to be able to tell an oppressive government to stuff it.
It is very difficult to control people who can create products without purchasing inputs from the system, who can market their products directly thus avoiding the involvement of mercenary middlemen, who can butcher animals and preserve foods without reliance on industrial conglomerates, and who can’t be bullied because they can feed their own faces. ~Eliot Coleman
Are The Heart
Of Free Communities
If you have a garden
and a library,
you have everything
you need. ~ Cicero