Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Get Letters

Another letter I received, with names redacted to protect the innocent.

'...Hello to you all,

Like many in our country this morning, I am extremely upset over this obscene bailout of the financial markets. The President and the Secretary of the Treasury have made the case that failure to rescue AIG and others with $700 billion will result in extreme hardships for thousands, maybe millions, of homeowners and investors. I am inclined to agree that we really have no choice, but I am very angry that not one word has been said about how the government is going to come up with the money! I have to assume that it will pay for it just like it has been paying for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: by running up the National Debt. There has been some mention of the debt going up to $11.5 trillion.

Wait just a minute! This giant credit card the Congress is using has got to have a limit and now! If you think the consequences of not bailing out AIG are bad, do you have any idea of how bad things are going to get if Japan, China and foreign banks start worrying about the safety of the U.S. Treasury bills and stop buying them? That will quickly dry up almost all credit. This nation RUNS ON CREDIT! The result is going to be worse than the great depression.

The ONLY right thing to do is for Congress to start being honest with tax payers and tell them that this $700 billion MUST be paid for with severe cuts in programs and increased taxes. So they don't get re-elected? They have to do the right thing!

Finally, why am I so alone in saying this? I would think that there would be millions or our children and grandchildren protesting all over this nation against the huge debt that my generation is selfishly straddling them with...'

Apparently there are many congressman (as well as myself) that do agree with you. Sadly, we got into this crazy mess by turning over our financial system to a bunch of lunatics, and deciding not to regulate it. It's important to remember that the banks which didn't invest in mortgage securities are doing fine. It's the ones that dove in head first into that new and unregulated industry that are sinking the ship. There's a good explanation (with some off-color language) at the SubPrime Primer.

I would agree with you that in an ideal world, people would be protesting much more over this mess. Actually in my ideal world, there would be millions of people with pitchforks and torches heading to the canyons of Wall Street, the White House and the suburban lawns of Greenwich, Connecticut right now. Pillory stocks would be set up, with ample supplies of tomatoes, rotten lettuce and horse apples provided for the populace to hurl at the immoral drek that caused this mess.

Of course, that wont happen. And one of the main reasons, aside from an overall lack of understanding of how this mess came about (securitizing debt is a complex thing to understand), is that this mess really hasn't effected our economy just yet. Massive layoffs haven't occurred, and beer is still cheap and plentiful. Most people are pretty comfortable with their lot, which granted says a lot more about mankinds' unique capacity for self-delusion than anything else.

Still, if nothing's done about this, then the economy may very well be badly effected. And it's sadly true that in the end, the taxpayer funded government is going to have to step in to solve this mess. There are of course many ways to do that. One can buy the crappy securities (as the bailout bill proposes), or insure them (as the House Republicans want to do). But those aren't the only options. Since the securities that are the source of this problem are based on mortgages owned by families, one could set up a program to deal with the mortgages directly, rather than with the securities owned by Wall Street Investment banks. Fix the families' mortgages and the securities will stabilize. It would take time for the results to 'trickle up' but this is all a mess based primarily on a lack of confidence. Ensure confidence in the base of the mortgage securities, and the crisis should resolve itself pretty quickly.

The alternative is the proposed top-down bailout of the mortgage securities, which should never have existed in the first place in such an unregulated way. Support those through a bailout and ultimately you are just putting off the problem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

All Greek to Me

A quick break from MDG blogging. I just finished my first Greek exam; I managed to ace it, Thankyouverymuch. But, alas, my knowledge of ancient Greek can’t help me parse this (via Sadly, No!):

‘…COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and placing it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation…’

Of course, I could be mistaken. Perhaps she’s speaking in tongues again. Here's the video:

Is our Children Learning?

I have my first test in Ancient Greek today. Lucky me. Actually I am, as I was blessed with and excellent primary school education at St. Michael’s, which included classes in Latin in both 7th and 8th Grade. If I do well, it will be in large part thanks to the teachers there.

There are 570 million children enrolled in primary school around the world. 73 million children are not. One of the Millennium development goals is to change that number to zero. But what are the costs?

The World Bank did a calculation of the costs of achieving the goals, and it’s interesting reading. Their estimate is an ongoing additional cost of between $10 and $30 billion a year will enable every single child on the planet to go to school. Oddly enough, that’s the same number I mentioned in the last post of what one would get, in perpetuity, by investing the fabled $700 billion at 4% - $28 billion.

An oddly similar number can be arrived at by looking at the under reported bailout of the auto industries that was just announced an hour ago. $25 billion to the auto industry in loans. Which is, of course, ridiculous on so many levels.

It’s the buyout thing again. If my taxpayer dollars are going to do this, then let’s just buy the damn companies. Some more costs:

GM: $5.81 Billion
Ford: 11.27 Billion
Chrysler: This is a bit more tricky as they are no longer publicly traded. Cerberus (a private company) purchased 80% of the company in May, 2007 for $7.4 Billion, valuing it at $9.25 Billion. Since then shares in both GM and Ford have dropped by 65% and 40% respectively, so let’s value Chrysler at a 50% markdown – or $4.65 Billion.

This totals $21.75 Billion. So it’s actually cheaper to buy the big three outright, then loan them money. The World Bank estimates the annual cost of sending a child to school at $62. So with the leftover $3.75 Billion you could still send 7.5 million children to school for eight years.

The Millennium Development Goals

It’s a beautiful day here in New York City, though I wouldn’t recommend driving anywhere in Manhattan this afternoon, as the United Nations is in full session, focusing on the progress being made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

There are eight goals, defined at the Millennium Summit in 2001:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental stability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

1.4 Billion People in developing countries live in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than a buck and a quarter a day.) Solving this problem and the others is going to take an enormous effort of will.

But not resources.

It’s astonishing to have the United States host this event in the middle of a political firestorm about how to properly deal with a $700 Billion dollar line item. Should there be oversight? Should it all go to Wall Street and banks, or should only most of it go there?

To put it in perspective, every day around 30,000 children die from hunger and disease in this world. If you invested $700 billion at 4%, you would get an annual return of $28 Billion in perpetuity. Forever. Split that equally among the 11,000,000 children who die every year, and you would have $2,500 per child per year to prevent that from happening. Food, primary education, vaccines.

Alternately, consider that the combined foreign debt of every country in Africa is $200 Billion. Eliminate that, freeing up billions a year for African countries to address these needs, and you still have half a trillion to deal with the Wall Street Shitpile. Half a trillion is still enough money to entirely purchase outright the following companies:

Citibank: $100 Billion Market Capitalization
Bank of America: $150 Billion
JP Morgan Chase: $140 Billion
Wachovia: $31 Billion
Wells Fargo: $114 Billion.

That’s $535 Billion to outright buy and own the five largest banks in the United States. Toss in a few more bucks and buy both Morgan Stanley ($30 Billion) and the part of Goldman Sachs that Buffet still doesn’t own ($45 Billion) and you’ve got a pretty dandy bailout package in the works.

And Africa is debt free.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


If you watch the entire sermon by Bishop Thomas Muthee, you will hear him railing against witches in the educational system and in government (the payoff for the video, recorded by Max Blumenthal, is at the 7:00 minute mark, where Sarah Palin gets on stage and is given loud prayers for protection from the congregation and the bishop, with the laying on of hands, specifically protecting her from witches and witchcraft.)

Where to begin. This video was released today, shedding some light on the media-shy Wasilla Assembly of God Church that Governor Palin attended until 2002; though she still retains close ties. It's notoriously difficult to understand the faith of Governor Palin, and how it guides and motivates her, not only because she is not forthcoming about it but also because the nature of the thousands of denominations of Pentecostalism makes comprehension difficult.

But an excellent place to start is the Talk to Action Website, which has been publishing some helpful primers (part 1 here, covering an introduction to what is being referred to as the Third Wave movement, and part 2 here, covering Governor Palin's churches' relationships to the Third Wave movement.) I'm just getting started in understanding this rather pan-christian international movement, and I'll write more as I understand more.

Third Wave is a branch of dominionism, which mandates that members take 'dominion' over all aspects of society - hence the preacher in the video, Bishop Thomas Muthee of the Word of Faith Church in Kenya, focusing on the seven areas of society to take over. The Third Wave movement is not limited to a single church, either:

'...it is important to again note that this movement is not synonymous with the Assemblies of God or any other denomination. The burdensome terminology of Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation is repeatedly used throughout this series of articles because the terms represent two slightly different meanings. The term Third Wave was coined over two decades ago to describe a loosely linked network of groups that remained or were reemerging from a movement called Latter Rain that was denounced as heresy by the Assemblies of God in 1949. In recent years these groups have coalesced into a much larger and more institutionalized structure. A central figure in the movement is C. Peter Wagner, founder of Global Harvest Ministries and the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs. In the late 1990s Wagner gave the name New Apostolic Network to his organization which now includes over 500 Apostles under his authority, or Apostolic Covering, in the International Coalition of Apostles. Some of these Apostles also have hundreds or even thousands in their own networks. There are numerous other interconnected apostolic networks around the world tied to this movement by their common belief system and also interconnected activities, conventions, media, schools, and parachurch ministries...'

This movement is end-times oriented, believing that the almost ecumenical nature of this organization is actually the final church of the end of days. Among the activities of the movement is a strong focus on purging demons from societies.

The good Bishop Muthee has lots of experience in this:

'...Can the 'spiritual DNA' of a community be altered?" That's the question posed in a Christian video called "Transformations."

Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee is convinced that it can be. In 1988, he and his wife, Margaret, were "called by God to Kiambu," a notorious, violence-ridden suburb of Nairobi and a "ministry graveyard" for churches for years. They began six months of fervent prayer and research.

Pondering the message of Eph.6:12 ("For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world..."), they prayed to identify the source of Kiambu's spiritual oppression, Mr. Muthee says. Their answer: the spirit of witchcraft.

Their research into the community revealed that a woman called "Mama Jane" ran a "divination clinic" frequented by the town's most powerful people.

After months of prayer, Muthee held a crusade that "brought about 200 people to Christ." Their church in the basement of a grocery store was dubbed "The Prayer Cave," as members set up round-the-clock intercession. Mama Jane counterattacked, he says, but eventually "the demonic influence - the 'principality' over Kiambu - was broken," and she left town.

The atmosphere changed dramatically: Bars closed, the crime rate dropped, people began to move to the area, and the economy took an upturn. The church now has 5,000 members, he says, and 400 members meet to pray daily at 6 a.m...'

More on the Transformations video:

'...The Transformation I video features the story of four cities that the narrator, George Otis, Jr, claims have been transformed through the power of intercessory prayer and the expulsion of demons. The video served the purpose of introducing the revolutionary new evangelizing methods developed by C. Peter Wagner and his colleagues. The use of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare to expel territorial demons is facilitated by Spiritual Mapping and then intercessory prayer and fasting. The World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs developed by Wagner and Ted Haggard [yes, that Ted Haggard, of the gay prostitute fame] houses the computer systems for organizing the prayer intercessors as well as the Spiritual Mapping media...'

Bishop Muthee's is one of the four stories. Another 'success' story is the city of Hemet, California:

'...The third town featured in the movie is Hemet, California. Otis and two local pastors narrate the supposed transformation of this Hemet/San Jacinto area from a center of Satanism, witchcraft, Moonies, Transcendental Meditation, and Scientology. He reports that Hemet had serious gang and drug problems. In this segment Otis describes how Spiritual Mapping was used to direct the prayer intercessors in fighting the strongholds of the enemy. Pastor Bob Beckett of the Dwelling Place Church organized intercessory prayer to save the city. Otis reports,

"The Transcendental Meditation center was literally burned out. Shortly after the intercessors prayed for its removal, a brush fire started on the mountain on the west side of the valley. It burned only the Transcendental Meditation facility and didn't touch any of the buildings on either side."

Consequently Otis claims that the drug trade dropped 75% and many gang members as well as other residents have been saved. Beckett states that the city now has "a professing mayor, a professing police chief, a professing fire chief, and a professing city manager."

The mayor, Debbie Cornett, is interviewed and states,

I feel that God called me to this...I see him opening doors to more churches, more Christians, to really bring them together and say you want Christians in leadership."

Pastor Beckett adds that the city now has an exceptional number of high school teachers, coaches and principals that are believers and that now nearly 85% of staff candidates are Christians. (Beckett also authored a chapter in C. Peter Wagner's book, Breaking Strongholds.) Pastor Gordon Houston states that God has turned the school system around...'

Embedding has been disabled for the Transformations video, so I can't have it in this post, but you can watch the entire thing here.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gender Card

Above video: h/t (en)gender. Last Palin posting for a while. No, really, I promise.

I just finished my first Ancient Greek class at Fordham University today. I'm the oldest student in the class. Actually I'm the only student old enough to legally buy beer. Actually when I became old enough to legally buy beer, none of the other students had even been born yet. Yeah, I'm the oldest student in the class.

My professor said, "Unless you're Siamese twins with a bong this semester, it is impossible for you to fail this class."

I'm older than my professor, as well.

We Get Letters

I just received this email, and rather than responding to it directly, I thought that I'd post it along with some of my thoughts. Names have been redacted to protect the innocent.

‘…OK, before I start just an observation. There is not a single nonwhite person at the Republican Convention. I have yet to see one…’

Before I start, another observation. One of the best lines from the Democratic Convention wasn’t spoken by Senator’s Obama or Binden. It was by Al Gore:

‘…Some of the best marketers have some of the worst products…’

‘…OK ...Some of this is the conversation we had when I was in Dallas when you said that Obama was going to win and I said while I hoped he would I had a bad feeling. I still have a bad feeling. Maybe it's that good old paranoia about your own team ... but as Johnny Fever says, "When everyone is out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking!" There was a great line at the end of Bill Maher's Real Time in the spring during his New Rules segment where the new rule was "nobody is allowed to say anymore that the American people are smarter than that ... they're not." You know me and know I'm an idealist but I have gotten to the point where I have seen too much not to agree with Bill Maher here. I think the turning point was re-electing President Bush in 2004. After all we'd been through and even though the candidate we threw up there was about as interesting and inspirational as a bowl of oatmeal, there should have been no chance of the president getting re-elected. It shouldn't have even been close. And yet, look what happened….’

Last night Kathy and I went to see The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s new production of Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People.’ Here’s the plot synopsis:
‘…Dr. Thomas Stockmann is the popular citizen of a small coastal town in Norway. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value and as such, the baths are the pride of the town. However, as the baths are starting to succeed, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town's tannery are contaminating the baths causing serious illness among the tourists. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution, which would come at a considerable cost to the town. But to his surprise, Stockmann finds it difficult to get through to the authorities. They seem unable to appreciate the seriousness of the issue and unwilling to publicly acknowledge and address the problem because it could mean financial ruin for the town. As the conflict ensues, the Mayor warns his brother that he should "acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community". Stockmann refuses to accept this, and holds a town meeting at Captain Horster's house in order to convince the people to close the baths. The townspeople - eagerly awaiting the prosperity that the baths are believed will bring - refuse to accept Stockmann's claims, as his friends and allies, who had explicitly given support for his campaign, turn against him en masse. He is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an "Enemy of the People." In a scathing rebuke of both the Victorian notion of community and the principles of democracy, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, which is easily led by self-advancing demagogues. Stockmann sums up Ibsen's denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote "...the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone."…’

It’s actually the identical plotline to ‘Jaws.’ One of the best lines of the play came during Dr. Stockman’s trial, when he asks the town if “the majority of the people in the world are intelligent, or if the majority of the people in the world are stupid.” To answer his question, by definition half of the people in this country have an IQ below 100. Recognizing this is not an act of cynicism or reflective of a lack of idealism. It’s recognition of reality. It’s why President Bush could get caught in bed with the proverbial dead girl or live boy and his approval ratings still wouldn’t go down below 28%.

‘…There's something simply Orwellian about it. The Gingrich/Rove/Bush/Cheney and now McCain/Palin Republican Party creates alternate realities out of thin air and literally millions upon millions of American people fall in lockstep behind them despite the fact that not only are they nonsensical, not only are they factually inaccurate, but they often completely contradict what they have been saying about themselves. The Democratic Party is starting to get better about actually standing up and saying the emperor has no clothes ... but the really scary thing is that the people who believe this (and it's about 50% of the country) IT DOESN"T MATTER. They just shift the narrative. Create a new reality that reinforces their smug sense of superiority. Redefine life, the universe and everything and move on…’

Having worked in what is essentially an advertising position, I can honestly say that’s how it’s done. Never underestimate the power of cognitive dissonance:

‘…Two things bother me about Sarah Palin. The first is that she is so obviously not just Ferraro or Eagleton (the Quayle comparison doesn't work ... she's not substanceless, she's just made of real scary substance) but Ferraro and Eagleton wrapped into one. She is obviously a gimmick pick and a Hail Mary and she's obviously got multiple flaws any one of which could rise to the tragic level of Eagleton's shock treatments. But despite that we look at this pick as insulting and shameless, the fact is that these are shameless people and they have convinced millions of Americans not only that they shouldn't be ashamed of it but that those of us who are questioning this, who have the gall to stand up and connect some dots and say that 2+2=4 are sexist and mean and outright liars.

In the space of one week they have gone from crucifying Barack Obama on the cross of inexperience because he's only been in the Senate for 4 years to saying that Sarah Palin's experience as governor of a state 1/4 the population of Brooklyn and mayor of a town the size of some high schools (Oh, but it has a STRONG mayoral system) qualifies her to be VP for someone who actuarially has a 1 in 3 chance of not surviving 8 more years. And to this, millions of Americans nod like thoughtless bobbleheads…’

When your marketing is failing, change it. When your narrative is failing, change it. This will work in today’s political climate because the political media falls into the same category as the rest of us – ½ of them have IQ’s less than 100, and plenty of the rest are mendacious people whose only interest lies in being part of the Georgetown cocktail weenie circuit. One thing to note during this whole Governor Palin event is the RNC’s accusing the media of being unfair to her, more than accusing Obama of doing that. This has two results – first is the reflexive reaction that the media will have to avoid to be seen to be unfair. They will tack right as a result. The second is to tie the media to the ‘cosmopolitan elite,’ thus fanning the flames of the 1990’s culture wars, now being brought back.

‘…It was one thing when you had John McCain being a wolf in sheep's clothing and still trading off the straight talk express bullshit from 2000. Maybe people just haven't paid attention since then. I can forgive people for that. You watch Mad Max and you think Mel Gibson is some harmless, good looking action hero and you never noticed that he turned into a monomaniacal freakshow. But almost from the moment you were introduced to Sarah Palin it was obvious to anyone paying attention that there are serious problems here. And yet millions and millions of people believe any fact that interferes with their desire to love her was manufactured by a "biased, leftwing media machine." (They're probably thinking like Johnny Fever, too).

(BTW, I was listening to an afternoon drive show on KMOX yesterday when the host was going on about how if you didn't think the mainstream media in this country had an ultraliberal bias you weren't paying attention. I tried calling in to point out to him that when you are hosting a conservative drive-time radio show on the most powerful (by wattage) radio station in the whole middle of the country and your lead-in is Rush Limbaugh, you probably shouldn't be talking about left-wing bias in the news. Unfortunately, I didn't get through.)…’

Actually it was fortunate that you didn’t, as it would have been a complete waste of your time. That kind of media thrives on confrontation, and is much better at it than you or I. It’s actually an old debating strategy: by setting up those kinds of rules of dialogue, they are counting on the vaporlock one gets when agitated and angry. Nothing muddies the waters of discourse as much as a lie told loudly and proudly.

So what to do? I’ve found that humor and nonsense work the best. When I went to a Jerry Falwell prayer revival back in college, I didn’t scream at him (much as I wanted to), because he was a master at dealing with such confrontations. Instead, after his babbling on about militant gays, Nazis and communists, I calmly walked up to him and said loudly that I was a ‘Militant gay Nazi communist and I wanted to have his baby.’ He actually had no idea what to say to that – it was totally out from left field, and he actually babbled incoherently for a while, totally losing his audience. Then they dragged me from the church while I yelled, ‘Remember, Jerry, the Lord is forgiveness.’

Fun theater, but the larger issue is that in a debate when one side ‘goes nuclear’ with idiotic arguments, pretending to play by the rules of logic when actually flouting them, then the best strategy is to go guerilla. My pointless stunt made no damn bit of difference, but if instead it had been part of a more organized effort, it would have made his message look moronic. A good example is the photoshopped Governor Palin image of her head pasted onto the bikini clad woman with an automatic rifle. Pass that one on. It’s damn funny, because it’s actually true, even though it’s false.

‘…But the other thing that bothers me about Sarah Palin ... rather really frightens me about Sarah Palin ... is that this is more than just some bizarre political strategy to try to attract the radical feminists and the 700 Club in one fell swoop and keep the Republican Party in office. I truly believe this is part of something much bigger that doesn't even really involve the Republican Party except that it's the most convenient vehicle for this group to hold power.

The Christian right is as dangerous an entity as our nation has known in the past century. More dangerous than the Klan (and sharing similar roots) because the Klan is not subtle and the Christian right is. The Christian right wraps itself in the flag and in the "values" of "America" ... language that is code for white people feeling superior and comfortable. This is not anything you don't know. And you probably know this as well. The Christian right is funded by a small group of incredibly wealthy (and, to my mind, absolutely psychotic) people who believe in narrow interpretations of the Book of Revelation and are trying to secure luxury boxes for the rapture…’

The best recent book on this subject is Jeff Sharlet’s ‘The Family,’ which I read while I was in France, and I can't recommend highly enough. It covers the religious fundamentalists that have a power base in Washington, DC, and which I have covered in my blog in various ‘Family Circus’ posts. But Mr. Sharlet also contrasts them with the more mainstream fundamentalist churches, and goes into the civil war starting up between those who worship power (‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…’ [Romans 13:1-7]); those who worship money (the prosperity gospel churches); and those who honestly worship god – the devout hardline Protestants who came to America in the first place and started forming thriving churches in the 19th century until the early 20th.

Fundamentalist churches have been in a schism since the Scopes trial in the 1920s drove a wedge between those who believed in political involvement and those who don’t in the movement. What’s happened since the 1980s is that those in the ‘power’ churches have essentially been using those other Fundamentalist churches as a source of labor and votes. But fundamentalism is far, far from monolithic.

‘…The whole schism that is happening in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion (of which Christ Church, Plano is an epicenter). Where do you think these African Anglican bishops are getting the coin to fly around everywhere? It's from this group of ultrafundamentalists who aren't even Episcopalian but see the Episcopal Church as an incredibly well-placed vehicle to instigate a worldwide ultrafundamentalist takeover of a mainline denomination. I know I'm sounding like Steve Carlton here, but there've been some really good "follow the money" pieces done here ... and there's also enough creepy stories about this stuff in the Bush White House to make me believe it…’

One thing to remember about that is that the power players, the Sciaffes and the other billionaire conservatives behind all of this, didn’t start the schism, but rather took advantage of one that already existed. The embers were there – they just fanned it. But like I mentioned – two can play that game. Fundamentalism has massive schisms – and the ‘power’ movement is being led by those with not enough honor to preach the gospel. It’s obvious to us – but I think it’s starting to become obvious to them as well. Hence…

‘…Well, horror of horrors for this group, not only are they poised to lose power but they are poised to lose it to a black man. Republican insiders have said that McCain was dead set on Lieberman until James Dobson and others came to him and then all of a sudden, Voila! Sarah Palin. She is the Hail Mary not of the McCain campaign but of the Christian right. They know she will be one heartbeat away and if you don't think they will be praying for McCain to die as soon as she takes the oath...’

Exactly. You don’t do a Hail Mary pass from a position of strength. The political religious right has more lying on this than McCain. Who do you think’s going to take the fall if McCain looses? It’s do or die time for them in the Republican Party. Senator McCain’s upsetting the game board happened because he looked at the pieces and saw that he was screwed. So did the religious right – their original position was to sit out the election so as to claim credit for McCain’s loss. Clearly they rethought their position, or at least Karl Rove did. And it’s the ultimate problem of Governor Palin – she was chosen to win votes, not to govern.

‘…But it's the combination that's truly scary. McCain's impulsivity and hair-trigger temper and tunnel vision and hawkish, ultraright conservative views and Sarah Palin's absolute psychotic perversion of Christianity and willingness to do anything to get what she wants. John McCain is right ... she is his soulmate. Together they are Satan.

In a sensible world, there would be no choice ... it would be as obvious to everyone as it is to you and me what is going on. But our nation has shown such an incredible -- and rapidly growing -- capacity for self-deception. It has gone beyond two parties with similar goals and two competing ideas of how to get there. It is to the point where you have one party dealing with reality and the other simply not. And millions upon millions of Americans are choosing to line up behind fiction rather than fact.

In a sensible world, I would be champing at the bit for the debates. But the debates don't matter. Bush-Kerry and Bush Gore proved that. What matters is the idiotic spin after the debates. Gore wiped the floor with Bush and the spin was that he was wooden. Kerry wiped the floor with Bush and the spin was that he was boring and even mean. Obama could wipe the floor with John McCain and the spin could still screw him. Biden could wipe the floor with Palin and the spin could be that he was condescending or mean….’

I agree with you on that one. However, knowing that will help Biden – The best strategy would be for him to debate her like a governor and not a hockey mom.

‘…I still have hope Obama will win. I still think it's a better than 50% chance he will. I get that hope from Zogby but mostly because if he can stay the Obama he showed last Thursday night then the power of his commitment and the power of his ideas and the power of his inspiration and charisma should carry the day. I went to an Obama organizing meeting tonight and I'm going to be working phones and registering voters in St. Louis all month. I'm not giving up. I'm fighting with every bit I have because I think with the Palin VP selection the stakes just got incredibly high.

I really wish I could say "the American people are smarter than this." But Bill Maher is right ... they're not…’

Yep, they’re not. I read an analysis on all of this relating the popularity of Governor Palin among the base to those fans of reality TV.: ‘Look at the hockey mom on the cooking show! Why, that could be me!’

‘Look at the hockey mom in the White House! Why, that could be me!’

America, where anyone can grow up to be President. We’re all taught that like it’s fucking scripture. The dark side of democracy – the crazy person on the subway has the same right to vote as you do, and will cancel out your vote to boot.

‘…Oh ... and Rudy Giuliani is just an asshole…’

I truly hope that this isn’t some new revelation to you.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Praying for Gas

Oh, those many years ago, when YouTube first started, it became known as the go-to resource for bloggers who had no idea what to post on at that particular moment. Sarah Palin is turning into this month's YouTube, so I decided to kill two birds and start with a video of Governor Palin addressing the graduating class of commission students at her one-time church, Wasilla Assembly of God, back in June of this year.

I actually do have something to post on - I just finished my first class today at General Theological Seminary; I'm taking a class in the Old Testament, the first of two, and it promises to be an edifying time. Sadly, I have much to learn, as I am apparently too unaware of many things in the Bible. Such as the importance of natural gas to the Lord:

'...Religion, however, was not strictly a thread in Palin's foreign policy. It was part of her energy proposals as well. Just prior to discussing Iraq, Alaska's governor asked the audience to pray for another matter -- a $30 billion national gas pipeline project that she wanted built in the state. "I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that," she said...'

Later she goes on about the various wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being part of 'God's Plan.' For the full video of the speach, you can go here.

Also this year, the Good Governor decided that a state program benefiting young unwed mothers without a place to live for themselves or their new child was receiving too much money. So she used a line-item veto to cut its budget. By 20%. Atrios put it best:

'...Just think about this one for a moment. Palin is rabidly anti-choice, wanting it to be illegal in all cases except when the mother's life is threatened. This is a program which provides housing for teen mothers "in need of a place to live," presumably due to the fact that their parents and sperm donors are somewhat less than supportive. Despite this, these young women choose (that word!) to have their babies. And the program which might give them, and their newborns, a place to live is something Palin cuts the funding for. Maybe they can go live with the bears...'

Change we can believe in.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Yesterday, Greg Sargent asked the question on everyone's mind:

'...What else will come out today? After all, there are still six hours left until September 2nd...'

This after posting the complete rundown of where things stand, Palin-wise:

'...On the same day that the Republicans were forced to dramatically cut back their convention activities, the Palin Meltdown unfolded with extraordinary speed. It's worth pondering the totality of what happened today, in a mere half day...

* The news that Palin once backed the Bridge to Nowhere went national.

* It emerged that Palin has links to the bizarro Alaska Independence Party, which harbors the goal of seceding from the union that McCain and Palin seek to lead.

* The news broke that as governor, Palin relied on an earmark system she now opposes. Taken along with the Bridge to Nowhere stuff, this threatens to undercut her reformist image, something that was key to her selection as McCain's Veep candidate.

* The news broke that Palin's 17-year-old daughter became pregnant out of wedlock at a time when the conservative base had finally started rallying behind McCain's candidacy.

* Barely moments after McCain advisers put out word that McCain had known of Bristol Palin's pregnancy, the Anchorage Daily News revealed that Palin's own spokesperson hadn't known about it only two days ago.

* A senior McCain adviser at the Republican convention was forced into the rather embarrassing position of arguing that McCain had known about the pregnancy "last week" -- without saying what day last week he knew about it.

* It came out that Republican lawyers are up in Alaska vetting Palin -- now, more than 72 hours after it was announced that she'd been picked.

* Palin lawyered up in relation to the trooper-gate probe in Alaska -- a move that ensures far more serious attention to the story from the major news orgs...'

Well today we have his answer. Courtesy of Time Magazine:

'...Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving "full support" to the mayor...'

Oh, and Harpers Magazine has done the apparently now-standard journalistic exercise of looking into Governor Palin's church and pastor:

'...Since becoming governor in 2006, Palin has attended the Juneau Christian Center, where Mike Rose serves as senior pastor. Her previous pastor was David Pepper of the Church on the Rock in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla — a church that “was kind of a foundation for her.”...'

Some choice quotes from her Pastors:

'...Mike Rose, senior pastor at Juneau Christian Center: From a July 28, 2007 sermon: “Do you believe we’re in the last days? After listening to Newt Gingrich and the prime minister of Israel and a number of others at our gathering, I became convinced, and I have been convinced for some time. We are living in the last days. These are incredible times to live in.”

David Pepper, senior pastor at Church on the Rock: From an November 25, 2007 sermon: “The purpose for the United States is… to glorify God. This nation is a Christian nation...'