Articles, excerpts Jan 27 to Feb 5, 2015

A crisis this big changes everything By Oliver Tickell, The Ecologist, January 21, 2015  The world’s collective failure to tackle climate change comes down to one big problem, says Naomi Klein: the clash of climate necessities against corporate power and a triumphant neo-liberal world order. So after decades of government dithering… it’s time for civil society to unite and build a radical justice-based movement for climate action. Naomi Klein’s new book is This Changes Everything,

Obama Condemns ‘Distorted’ Faith at National Prayer Breakfast by Adelle M. Banks, God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners, 02-05-2015 President Obama on Feb. 5 called for an emphasis on what is just about the world’s religions as a way to counter the ways faith has been distorted across the globe. “We see faith driving us to do right,” he said to more than 3,500 people attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” He urged believers of all faiths to practice humility, support church-state separation and adhere to the Golden Rule as ways to keep religion in its proper context. “As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends,” Obama said. “Here at home and around the world we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion, the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

Marcus Borg and the New Face of Christianity by Philip Clayton, Ph.D., Claremont School of Theology, huffingtonpost.com, 01/26/2015 …Marcus Borg died a few days ago…[his]  The Heart of Christianity …clearly expresses the kind of Christianity that most of us want our lives to be associated with… Borg’s humility, which so many of us experienced, was the natural expression of a Christian faith built around Jesus’ radical way of compassion first, with everything else a distant second…Borg was an open, out-of-the-closet liberalBorg described a God worth believing inBorg’s unencumbered Christianity didn’t negate other religions and spiritual paths…a Christianity without exclusion or intolerance…

Fundamentalists take issue with the writings of Marcus Borg By Bill Uhrich, readingeagle.com, February 1, 2015 “Conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North America today,” wrote Marcus Borg, who died Jan. 21…Through his writings, Borg offered an alternative viewpoint to fundamentalist views of the Bible, particularly in his 2001 book “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.”…This perspective flies in the face of the fundamentalists’ belief in verbal plenary inspiration, the idea that every single word and all parts of the Bible are God-given and authoritative…Borg’s participation along with 200 other scholars, including John Dominic Crossan, in the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s and 1990s, which revived historical Jesus studies…Using modern tools available to scholars, the seminar came to the conclusion that 18 percent of the sayings and 16 percent of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels are authentic, according to the Westar Institute, which sponsored the seminar. The rest are essentially reflections of the early church and early Christian understanding…this methodology also raised howls of scorn from fundamentalists…”I describe myself as a nonliteralistic and nonexclusivistic Christian,” Borg wrote, “committed to living my life with God within the Christian tradition, even as I affirm the validity of all the enduring religious traditions.”

Tony Perkins: 2015 ‘Most Dangerous Year’ For American Christians by Peter Montgomery, rightwingwatch.org, 1/27/2015 …Religious Right leaders have adopted a strategy of portraying just about any policy they disagree with as a dire threat to their religious freedom. And they love to portray President Barack Obama as a sinister enemy of religious liberty. Today’s frantic email from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is a model of both the Obama-is-evil paradigm and frothing-at-the-mouth alarmism… flat-out lies…To avoid any accusations that we’ve taken Perkins out of context, here’s today’s fundraising letter in full:…“…President Obama seems willing to do anything to further his radical agenda—even if it means violating the Constitution to take away your religious freedom. This President has clearly placed the religious freedom of millions of Christians like you in his sights. Why? You are among the people who are standing in the gap against his radical plans to transform America into a godless, secular country where government reigns supreme. In these evil days it is more important than ever that you stand your ground for religious freedom!… All of us must redouble our efforts to meet the incredible challenges ahead of us. Your gift today is essential if we are to stop the assaults on religious freedom and reclaim those liberties already lost.

Evangelical Political Operative Reveals Plan to Fundamentally Transform America — and It Involves 1,000 Pastors by Billy Hallowell, theblaze.com, Jan. 27, 2015  …The faith leaders assembled for the Issachar Training Event, which was organized by the American Renewal Project, an organization that is working toward bringing 1,000 preachers into the public square next election cycle…[American Renewal Project founder David Lane] launched the American Renewal Project after he began to think about the societal transformation that could happen if he was able to recruit 1,000 pastors to run in 2016 — a prospect that he said “would change America.”…“Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. Our values or somebody else’s values,” Lane told Brody. “It’s our goal to bring spiritual men and women into the civil government arena.”…[Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal wrote. “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”… “These engaged evangelicals would be voting for their biblically-based conservative values.”

The Real Origins of the Religious Right By RANDALL BALMER, politico.com, May 27, 2014 They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.  

Mike Huckabee’s Christian Sharia Law by Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 1, 2015 …Mike Huckabee is known as a former governor, an author, a onetime Fox News host, and as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nominationWhen he last ran for president in 2008, he argued that we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”…What would be the reaction if a Muslim candidate for president…argued that we should amend our Constitution to agree with the Quran? The right wing in this country would explode… many of those same right-wing people who fabricate the claim that Muslims in America want to impose Islamic law have no problem when a Christian politician tells us point blank he wants to impose what is, in essence, Christian Sharia law. The good news: Our First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion in our country, be it Christianity or Islam or anything else…in the United States at least, our laws must be based on public policy considerations and the Constitution, not passages of religious text.

Dark Money Is Destroying Our World, Not Just Our Politics By Wenonah Hauter, Common Dreams, January 29, 2015 Unsurprisingly to anyone who follows the policy agenda of this right-wing think tank [Heritage Foundation] that has been funded by some of the most regressive funders in the nation, from the Koch Brothers to Scaife Foundations, they support the economic interests of corporations, and little in the way of real opportunity for the American public…The policies promoted at the conference are bad deals for people and the environment. Let’s work together today to stop their dangerous agenda and begin organizing for the future to get Dark Money out of politics.

Who Needs Lobbyists? See What Big Business Spends To Win American Minds by Erin Quinn and Chris Young, Center for Public Integrity,posted on billmoyers.com, January 28, 2015      When Washington, DC’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation….It’s been well-publicized how much industry spends on lobbying the government, but little is known about how much money goes toward influencing the public…By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR, marketing and ad services were energy and natural resources associations…The public relations industry is on a growth tear while the number of federally registered lobbyists is actually shrinking. Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people…The strategy, public relations experts say, is not designed to replace lobbying so much as it is to enhance it…PR agencies may further obfuscate their role by creating so-called “front groups” that appear to be grassroots organizations, in an effort to push their clients’ messages. It is often difficult to discern who is behind these manufactured entities, though sometimes information can trickle through…Journalists overwhelmed…The golden age for PR has coincided with the decline of mainstream journalism, especially newspapers, which have suffered from plummeting ad revenue that has necessitated layoffs in newsrooms across the country. Today, not only are PR professionals outnumbering journalists by a ratio of 4.6 to 1, but the salary gap between the two occupations has grown to almost $20,000 per year, according to the Pew Research Center. The widening employment and income disparities have left journalists underpaid, overworked and increasingly unable to undertake independent, in-depth reporting…The gradual shift from a focus on traditional lobbying toward greater use of the “outside game of politics,” or communications like PR, has been going on for at least a decade, close observers say, but is now accelerating with advances in technology, social media and digital strategies…if you have an issue that is visual and has a compelling narrative, we’re better off spending more resources on trying to educate the public” than relying on traditional lobbying…The trade associations that rely most on PR and advertising campaigns are usually those representing industries facing the heaviest regulation and the most public contempt…the campaigns are often tied to specific public policy crises…. when industries really feel threatened that they might actually lose a policy battle…

Gorbachev: US Pulled Russia Into New Cold War That Could Turn ‘Hot’ By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 29, 2015  “The U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism,” Mikhail Gorbachev is quoted as saying.

Inside the international effort to fund government programs that actually work by Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman,  VOX.com, January 28, 2015   the notion that we should run high-quality experiments to figure out whether policies work hasn’t taken root in government…Internationally, there’s a movement to change this state of affairs. Both the United States and United Kingdom have made substantial progress in recent years in backing up their public programs with actual research evidence. The Canadian government, meanwhile, has lagged behind. The tale of these three countries can prove instructive in how to get evidence into policy — and the obstacles that governments face in their attempts…A quiet, evidence-based revolution…

America doesn’t just have one deficit, and Bernie Sanders wants to address seven of them by Laura Clawson Daily Kos Labor, Jan 26, 2015 Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to talk about the deficits. Yes, plural. The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee says the next budget should address a series of deficits in investment in the American economy. Income inequality, lack of jobs and especially good jobs, poor infrastructure, bad trade deals, retirement insecurity, and a failure to invest in education—these are deficits that affect the entire American economy, dragging it down and slowing growth. That’s what Sanders wants to address:At a time when this country has an obscene level of income and wealth inequality, we need a budget that ends the outrageous loopholes that exist and asks the wealthiest people and largest corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes.

As Inequality Soars, the Nervous Super Rich Are Already Planning Their Escapes By Alec Hogg / The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, January 26, 2015  Hedge fund managers are preparing getaways by buying airstrips and farms in remote areas.

Downsize Democracy For 40 Years, Here’s What You Get By Murray Dobbin / The Tyee, posted on Alternet.org, January 26, 2015 New signs civilization is veering towards collapse.… The Trilateral Commission (TLC) could be said to be the birthplace of neoliberalism, a political theory that suggests progress depends upon “liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade.” Alarmed by the spread of the liberal state and its economic and social interventions, the The Trilateral Commission (TLC)  was founded to reverse the welfare state and re-establish capital to its “rightful” place at the pinnacle of economic and political power. (It still exists but has been supplanted to some extent by the World Economic Forum.) The TLC book concluded, in the words of its American co-author Samuel Huntington, that the industrial countries suffered from “an excess of democracy.” He wrote “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy… on the part of some individuals and groups.” He bemoaned the fact that “Marginal groups, as in the case of blacks, are now becoming full participants in the political system.” The TLC was just one of a growing number of institutions — forums, think-tanks, academic clusters, major media outlets — focussed on the same theme: that expectations of what government could provide had risen to a level that was now threatening the proper functioning of capitalist democracies…Walker told a group of worried corporate CEOs from British Columbia that “if you want to change society you have to change the ideological fabric of society.” In short, you had to launch a culture war against the activist state. It would be a war against democratic “excess.”…Fast forward 40 years and any new book with the title The Crisis of Democracy is likely to be chronicling the result of four decades of systematic assaults on the liberal/social democratic state. Indeed in contrast to Huntington’s “excess of democracy” complaint, the phrase “democratic deficit” has now been used by scores of writers and commentators…But it is the consequences of this decline and erosion of democracy that should be the most important focus of critics and citizens alike. The exceptionally successful four decades campaign to change the “ideological fabric” of society has put western civilization on a track to irreversible collapse according to a major study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The study focused on population, climate, water, agriculture and energy as the interrelated factors that determine the collapse or survival of civilizations going back 5000 years. According to a Guardian report on the study, these factors can coalesce and lead to civilization’s collapse if they create two critical social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity… and… the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or ‘Commoners’) [poor].”…advanced, sophisticated, complex and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”…the signs are so dramatically obvious… if you monitor the political debate in this country the two most important trends in our society and the world are virtually never mentioned except rhetorically. There are no serious policy prescriptions. Mass denial reigns. Or, as Freud stated, we are “knowing without knowing.” Elites won’t save us. Theoretically, of course, neoliberalism says the state should not intervene in the efficient functioning of the market — resulting in prosperity for everyone. But the theory, according to neoliberalism authority David Harvey, was simply hijacked by the elites to fleece the system — bailing out the financial sector with trillions of taxpayers’ dollars and failing to re-regulate, while gutting labour and environmental regulation. Government actions reveal neoliberalism as “more of a practical attempt to restore elite class power than as a theoretical project driven by the works of [Friedrich von] Hayek or Friedman.”…


 

 

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