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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- Riots & The UnderclassWhat’s a riot without looting? We want it, they’ve got it! You’d think from the press that looting was alien to British tradition, imported by immigrants more recent than the Normans. Not so.
- August FableWhen I was in my early thirties, I lived on a monthly disability check from the state: $268. My rent for a small room in a boarding house in a scary neighborhood in downtown Sacramento was $140. That left me $128 for food and not much else. And I was sure the woman I loved […]
- Bird’s Eye View (Aug 20, 2014)I must sadly report the passing of one of the best herding dogs to ever come out of this Valley. Ten-year old Bren of Yorkville, who with owner Kevin Owens was the winner of the Mendocino County Fair Sheep Dog Trial for the past two years, died recently after a short illness. To compound the sadness, her daughter Meg, potentially a champion in her own right, […]
- Chief Mayberry’s ResignationThere were 70 or more supporters of Scott Mayberry in the audience August 11th when Mayor Dave Turner asked for a show of hands at the outset of the meeting (another ten or so were there with concerns about water rates). The size of the crowd was impressive, considering many City Council meetings are sparsely attended at best. The Wow factor hit about 18 min […]
- The Transition Movement: Questions of Diversity, Power, and Affluence
- Channeling rage into change, from Watts to FergusonAs news of the protests surrounding Mike Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Mo., has circulated, many have noted an eerie coincidence: last week also marked the 49th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles...
- Grandmothers lead U.K.-wide wave of direct action against frackingOn a U.K.-wide day of action on Monday, anti-frackers locked-on to gates to defend planned fracking sites and occupied fracking companies.
- Can we leverage common assets to reduce inequality?Everybody talks a lot about economic inequality, but there don’t seem to be many credible proposals out there, let alone ones that have political legs.
- VIDEO: Children of US Navy sailors suffering from cancers after Fukushima exposure — “I couldn’t move… so much pain… I have leukemia” — More kids with thyroid cancer — Father: “We couldn’t figure it out… his body was changing” — Sailor: Right side of my body is shriveling up, one arm now almost 5 inches smaller than other
- Tokyo Press Conference: Gov’t is committing crimes against humanity; Fukushima children living in war zone and can’t leave — Childhood cancer developing much faster than Chernobyl; Rate now 14 times higher — Parent: “I’m revealing the reality of what’s going on… it’s only way to get rid of the criminals” (VIDEO)
- Experts: Plutonium and uranium flow into ocean from Fukushima — “Heavily contaminated” water is leaking out of plant — Melted fuel releasing hundreds of different radioactive materials — Officials refuse to investigate 90% of these (VIDEO)
- Nuclear Expert: Fukushima fuel suspected to be in ground… “it’s going to melt right down into the ground” when heat isn’t removed, that’s why these are so dangerous — Physician: “3 of Fukushima’s reactors melted through containment… the crisis is clearly ongoing” (VIDEO)
- Q&A: How a SuperPAC on a Shoestring Is Taking on Congress' Climate Apathy"What is effective is talking to voters," says a founder of Climate Hawks Vote in an interview. "Luckily, that kind of work doesn't take a lot of money." By Katherine Bagley Earlier this month, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz won his party's primary race by just 1,769 votes in a hotly reported contest that lasted two years a […]
- With Wind Energy Prices at All-Time Lows, DOE Is Cautiously OptimisticWind electricity costs have dropped to about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour, a highly competitive price in some parts of the country. By John H. Cushman Jr. With new wind power installations rebounding from last year's free fall, there's still a chance that wind could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, the Department of Energy projected o […]
- In 'After Water' Project, 12 Writers Imagine Life in Climate Change-Altered ChicagoEcoterrorists, saboteurs, orphans, activists muck through their separate realities. 'This project is terrifying—the idea of what the world would become.' By Hannah Robbins Four emaciated boys share a canteen of fresh water. They pass the stolen treasure around as they huddle on a raft made of broken furniture, drifting on toxic flood waters. The fu […]
- Wall Street Warned About $91 Billion of High-Risk Oil MegaprojectsTar sands, deepsea drilling and other projects would lose money if lower demand, CO2 restrictions or other factors forced crude prices below $95. By Elizabeth Douglass Critics of environmentally risky oil projects proposed for deep undersea and Canada's tar sands got new ammunition last week when a report labeled those ventures and others as the industr […]
- Pastor Steven Anderson: “Robin Williams is Burning in Hell” Because He Didn’t Follow ChristEarlier today, Hannah wrote about how some Christians seem more concerned about whether Robin Williams accepted Jesus into his heart than any of the other serious issues surrounding his death.Not all of those Christians are considered extremists by mainstream standards. But when some sound like a very clear fundamentalist, Pastor Steven Anderson, you know th […]
- Respectable Theory or “Pathologizing Belief”? Russian Scientists Posit That Microbes Spread ReligiosityIt should come as no surprise that certain sacred religious practices are remarkably unhygienic. Holy water in church fonts tends to be rife with fecal bacteria. Believers who ritually kiss the same holy stone or other religious artifacts no doubt end up sharing microbes. Millions take ritual baths in filthy lakes and waterways in which human waste and dead […]
- Religious Organizations in India Manage to Gather 82 Signatures (So Far) Against ISISIn India, according to a local news site,A panel of seven members from various Muslim and Christian organizations came together on Tuesday to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other outfits responsible for creating and supporting them, at a press conference held at Islam gymkhana at Marine Lines.They have so […]
- Oklahoma Archbishop Sues Satanic Group Planning Black Mass for Stealing a Consecrated Communion WaferLast month, there was a controversy in Oklahoma when the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu church scheduled a Black Mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. In case you're unfamiliar, a Black Mass distorts and inverts a traditional Catholic Mass, and that offends certain Catholics who believe their traditions are the only ones that matter and cannot be mocked in an […]
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Living From Our Local Landscape and Countryside - Wendell Berry
The Idea of a Local Economy - Wendell Berry
The Work of Local Culture - Wendell Berry
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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How To Be Saved - Robert Ingersoll
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Interactive Chart of Biblical Contradictions
Why support independent, locally owned businesses?
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
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If you have a garden
and a library,
you have everything
you need. ~ Cicero