Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why Limbaugh's Attacks on Pope Francis are an Assault on Christian Faith

Pope Francis Rush Limbaughby Nomad

The other day, Rush Limbaugh passed his own judgement on Pope Francis' papal statement, entitled 'Evangelli Gaudium" (The Joy of Gospel). Limbaugh told his radio audience that the pope's words were straight-out Marxist. Shocking!
This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope... And to hear the pope regurgitating this stuff, I was profoundly disappointed. The idolatry of money, urging "politicians to 'attack the structural causes of inequality' and strive to provide work, health care and education to all citizens."
Limbaugh suggested that the Pope's remarks must have been written for him by a liberal. He also blasted the Pope's analysis on the so-called "trickle-down" economics.
So reading what the pope's written about this is really befuddling because he's totally wrong -- I mean, dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.
Here's another excerpt. "Pope Francis said that trickle-down policy..." We hear about trickle-down policies? "Pope Francis said that trickle-down policies have not proven to work."Oh, but they have.... Trickle-down is human nature! Trickle-down is exactly what happens when you engage in economic activity.... Trickle-down is the magic, and yet here's Pope Francis saying that "trickle-down policies have not been proven to work and they reflect a 'naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.'"
Promoting the magic of trickle-down economics, (even when the dismal effects are destroying the lives of millions of Americans) is not a very convincing counter argument. Trickle-down economics has surely had enough time to prove its validity and all it has shown is that the wealthy can protect their riches better than the rest of us.
Still, Harvard Economist Limbaugh has decided if it worked for him and all his friends, it's worked for the whole country.

(Never mind that Clear Channel, Limbaugh's boss, laid off 1,850 workers -9% of its work force- in 2011.Another trickle down success?)

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Representation Project: A Look at Media Misogyny in 2013

by Nomad


Often advertising images become so much a part of our day to day life that we fail to actually notice how they subtly influence our perceptions. Whether we like it or not, sex sells but the toxic waste of that kind of advertising is the trashing of women. 

Ad Nauseum
But if negative imagery and stereotyping of women (and men, for that matter) originates in advertising, it certainly isn't limited to it. Eventually the images become so pervasive that the messages become a accepted part of the culture. 
Inevitably, the print media and the airwaves slowly but surely become filled to the brim with garbage. 
In no time at all, we find ourselves watching (and then discussing ad nauseum) clips of Miley Cyrus "tweaking" on Robin Thicke- basically what the French call "frottage." Her dancing partner, whose last CD was banned in some quarters for promoting a rape culture, not long ago joked in an interview, "What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I've never gotten to do that before." 
Talk about taking the subject serious.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Compassionate Mob: When Anonymous Crowds Do Great Things

by Nomad


After reading the Laney Christmas story (h/t to zane), I admit I got a tad weepy- but in a good way. Yes yes, it's true: beneath this rhino-skin lies a sensitive jellyfish. 
Despite so much evidence to the contrary, I, like Anne Frank, want to have faith in the goodness of people. Yeah, I want to believe that people are good.
So sue me. I was born this way.

Strangers on a Subway
Last July, another story in the same vein went practically unnoticed.
When a woman slipped between a train and a station platform just north of Tokyo on Monday, about 40 commuters and railroad employees worked together to tilt the 32-ton subway car enough to one side so that she could be pulled to safety.
The Associated Press writes that the train car's suspension system "allows it to lean to either side, according to the Yomiuri newspaper, Japan's largest daily." The woman was not seriously injured and, the AP adds, "after just an eight-minute delay, the train went on its way."
There's no real reason why this story should have attracted very much attention, I suppose. Things like this happen all the time but they hardly ever get much airtime or ink. News networks, like CNN, generally prefer enthusiastic spokespeople and charismatic leaders to interview to help them package things up neatly.

This was another spontaneous act of a compassionate but faceless crowd. The empathetic mob, if you will. Such stories are, to use a cliche, heart-warming. Common at Christmas time. 
With so much evidence of our greedy, perfidious,  violent or  destructive urges, stories like these make us feel happy again to be a human. 
So it's worth taking a closer look I think.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Here are some fun pictures of Santa Claus that I thought you might enjoy. 
Warmest Wishes from Nomad


Nancy Regan and Mr. T
Santa Claus Surfing

Clearly Nancy didn’t  think 
Santa was limited to 
one color.
Contrary to
 popular belief, Santa Claus is no
 couch potato!

1890s Santa
Scary Vintage Santa       
The image of Santa has changed 
over the years, as this photo 
from the 1890s shows.
 But seriously,
would you trust your child 
with a Santa that 
looks like this ?
Even the donkey looks terrified.

___________________________
Update:
Found this video for you all. 
It broke my heart to hear one man say that this humble back pack was the best gift he had ever gotten and this was the best day he had ever had. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Uganda: Where Your Tax Dollars Are Supporting Gay Apartheid

by Nomad

The African nation of Uganda has introduced some of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world. What role has your tax dollars played in supporting the one-man rule in there? How have US evangelists help to foment anti-gay hatred? 

Uganda, the self-designated "the Pearl of Africa" is by many analysts' reckoning, a failed state. Thirty three percent of the population do not have access to safe water and 52% of people are without sanitation. Infant mortality stands at 130 in 1,000, and 26,000 children under the age of five die every year die from diarrhoeal diseases. 
There's also the raging AIDS epidemic, which has reportedly killed somewhere between 52,000 - 81,000 and has orphaned around 1 million children.

Altogether a hard sell for the Ugandan Minister of Tourism.

But if one is looking for a bright side, then Uganda's human rights record isn't it. 
And there is no better proof that the African country is failing by how much its government respects the human rights of all its citizens.

Amnesty International, in its most recent report on Ugandan human rights record, cites abuses to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as commonplace.  Despite investigations by the Uganda Human Rights Commission on accusations of torture by police, "no action was taken to hold law enforcement officials responsible for human rights violations to account, or to grant victims and their families an effective remedy."

The influential Foreign Policy (FP) magazine noted:
“From all appearances, the democratic opening in Uganda is closing and human rights are the collateral damage.
This is not at all shocking or unusual for Uganda. 
In 2011, a UN report heavily criticized President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's leader since 1986, and his government's human rights record is only one step up from a predecessor. Idi Amin.  The report highlighted the numerous problems, such as a plan to allow detention without charge for a period of six months, Museveni's  record of silencing the press, as well as excessive force used by the government against opposition protesters.

Furthermore, the UN report urged the government to  decriminalize homosexuality and legislate against torture. What was the response?

Last week, as reported by the BBC,  the parliament there passed a bill to toughen the punishment for homosexual acts. It will now include life imprisonment and mandatory reporting of all gay activities. In a way, this draconian law could be considered an improvement on the earlier draft which would have under certain conditions, made homosexuality punishable by the death penalty.

Other provisions of the bill are, in this day and age, quite astounding.
The bill requires persons in authority (pastor, teacher, missionary, physician, parent, etc.) to report any knowledge of any offense covered by the act within 24 hours upon pain of 3 years in jail or a hefty fine. Thus, parents could be expected to turn in same-sex attracted children. Relevant to AIDS relief work, there is no exemption in the bill for professionals. If a patient reveals homosexual behavior in the course of AIDS treatment or education, then those hearing the revelation must report.
It is not legislation fit for civilized human beings. It is in fact something Orwellian. Who would want to live under such conditions? Would you?
More importantly, why would any nation in the West feel compelled to support a nation that practices such a legalized discrimination for whatever excuse? 
So why does the United States?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Day of Life: Death Rate Among America's Newborns Highest in the Industrialized World

Infant Mortality
by Nomad

More infants die on their birthdays in the US than any other industrialized nation in the world. But in a nation as wealthy as America, why should that happen? 

A comparison between Sweden -which has one of the lowest rates of one-day old deaths-and the state of Mississippi- which has the highest rate of infant mortality in the US- might provide some clues at reducing the death rate among American's youngest and most vulnerable victims.

“The United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. An estimated 11,300 newborn babies die each year in the United States on the day they are born. This is 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.”
More day-old babies die in the US than in 68 other countries, including Egypt, Turkey and Peru.
The study cited premature births as being one major cause. Globally, 35 percent of all newborns that die are pre-term. In the United States, this is also true.
“Many babies in the United States are born too early. The U.S. preterm birth rate (1 in 8 births) is one of the highest in the industrialized world (second only to Cyprus). In fact, 130 countries from all across the world have lower preterm birth rates than the United States,” the report reads.
The study suggests that politics and culture might play a role in the causes for the United States' poor record.

It's not all bad news but it's bad enough. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the rate of deaths of first year infants has been in decline from 24,586 U.S. babies in 2010 to 23,910 in 2011. This has been achieved primarily through effective affordable health care. especially with access to health care to all women of childbearing age and and other specific prenatal initiatives.
*     *     *
More children die at birth in India than anywhere else, followed by Nigeria, Pakistan and China,  the report finds. Finland and Sweden have the lowest rates of newborn deaths in the world.
Certainly poverty might explain the contrast between India and Sweden. But that doesn't explain the differences between Sweden and the United States.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Obama's Dubious Legacy: Intimidation of Whistle-Blowers using the Espionage Act?

Obey- Uncle Samby Nomad

It's a sad fact of political reality. Candidates' views change once they enter into office and many of their noble aspirations seem to be left at the door once they take charge. It is related, no doubt, to practicalities of modern politics. Until one is actually in the hot seat, it is easy to be idealistic and pedantic. 

The Promise of Open-Sourced Government
Unfortunately, looking over Obama's record, it is hard not to be more than a little disappointed, with the president's own turnaround, especially in regards to his approach to whistle-blowers. One might have expected people like Cheney and all his cronies to go after "enemies of the state" with a sinister vindictiveness. (He was after all the closest Darth Vader ever got to being president.)
But Obama? This was the candidate that promised a change.

Back in November 2007, at a speech on the Google campus, Obama said what geeky Google-ites wanted to hear, that he would use technology to make government more accessible to the public. He would, he told the crowds as president he would insure that government information became more freely available.

And as a senator, Obama also pushed for and co-sponsored legislation in late 2007 that strenghten the Freedom of Information Act, initiated under Carter, and practically destroyed under Bush.
As outline in his campaign speeches, Obama planned to embrace cutting edge tech so that Americans could have access to administration records.
Among Obama’s proposals are the creation of internet databases for lobbying reports, ethics records and campaign finance filings as well as a “contracts and influence” database to track federal contractors’ spending and lobby efforts.
 What we got was Citizens United.
There will also be a readily available online database of corporate tax breaks, the posting of non-emergency legislation on the White House web site for public view and comment and cabinet-level town hall meetings on broadband.
I suppose, it is fair to ask, is open-sourced government even possible? It's never been tried but that's not to say, some aspects can't be applied.
In any case, such revolutionary solutions were certainly vote-catching after long and painful years in which, under the Bush/Cheney regime, politically-damaging information could easily be classified and never see the light of day.
As Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, said at that time:
“The openness community will expect a complete repudiation of the Ashcroft doctrine.” 
The Ashcroft Doctrine allowed the Bush administration to withhold information requested through FOIA whenever legally possible. (Ironic, isn't it? that the link to Department of Justice web site explaining the Ashcroft doctrine leads nowhere? We can't see what it was so we can't compare it to what has replaced it.)

It didn't take long for Obama to go into secrecy mode soon after becoming president. It might have been dismissed as the usual campaign promises or of a politician biting off quite a bit more than he could chew regarding what he could actually do if elected.
However, things were worse than that. Change might have happened but it was not quite the change the voters had been promised.

Monday, December 16, 2013

HuffPo: House Republicans Attempt to De-Fund Defunct ACORN.. Again

by Nomad

Trying to decide the "dumbest" thing that the House of Representatives has done lately is a real challenge, But that mission appears to have certainly gotten a whole lot easier. Recently House Republicans decided to include a provision in spending bills which would forbid all requested government aid from being used for an organization that ceased to exist over three years ago.

Zach Carter, writing for Huffington Post, supplies the details of this legislative lunacy brought to you by the ever- impressive Texas Republicans. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) both sponsored bills which included a provision that not one cent of these government funds would go to the activist group known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) "or its subsidiaries or successors."
 
  Rep. John Culberson

Rep. John Carter 
The bills, which have nothing to do with ACORN were introduced on May 28/29 and will be voted on this week.
 
The Culberson bill makes budget appropriations of $73.3 billion for military construction and for veteran affairs "to support the military and their families and to provide for the benefits and medical care for our nation’s veterans."
 
Similarly, the Carter bill which makes $38.9 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Homeland Security, carries the same prohibitions against ACORN.
If you happen to be a Tea Party person and are mathematically challenged you might want to know that between those bills, (whatever their merits), the requests total over $113 billion from the budget.
Call it a budget sequestration backtracking.
 
In any case, as Huffington Post noted, similar provisions in both bill declare that:
None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.
Has nobody informed either of them that Congress had already banned federal funding for ACORN back in the fall of 2009?
 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why The Proposed Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Renders the Tea Party Powerless

by Nomad

Here's a little Interesting news. Reuters is reporting today that:

Budget negotiators in the U.S. Congress have reached a two-year agreement aimed at avoiding a government shutdown on January 15 and setting federal government spending levels through October 1, 2015.
While it might seem like a step in the right direction, it is hard not to be a little cynical about the deal. Even as a first symbolic step toward a real bipartisan compromise, the fine print reveals some horrors for the unemployed. (I'll talk about that at a later date.) What's more interesting is the underlying motive for the Republican party to offer any deal at all.  

This budget deal,  hammered out by Washington Democrat Senator Patty Murray, and Republican Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, may be bipartisan but it is hard to see why anybody would claim it was progress. (One site actually hailed it as "a new era of cooperation." Where have these people been the last five years, I wonder!)
Congressional negotiators reached a modest budget agreement Tuesday to restore about $65 billion in automatic spending cuts from programs ranging from parks to the Pentagon, with votes expected in both houses by week's end.
Now, sixty-five billion might seem like a large figure to you and me but when it comes to government spending it is practically nothing. A superpower can spend that money much faster than you can blow your nose.

In fact, these were spending cuts to the budget which have now been restored. So count that as a step back from the reducing government spending. Shrinking big government, (except when it came to the military) has been the rallying cry of the Republicans since Reagan's day. 
Reducing government spending was supposed to be what the last budget bust-up in Washington was all about. Remember that shutdown thingy?

And that turned out to be a political disaster for Congress, but especially for the Republicans. So it is no surprise that somebody in the party would be happy to avoid a repeat of that disgrace next January. 
Apparently the leader of the House John Boehner-who, in the end, just wants to be loved, sent Pretty-boy Ryan into the thick of the negotiations. It was probably a wise but cynical move on his part.
Clearly the Tea Party will take one look at this and begin frothing at the mouth.

Delusions over Tea Time
Despite the damage done to the Republican party in October, threats of shutting down government -basically holding the government hostage-was the only weapon that the Tea Party minority had. This deal effectively takes that loaded pistol out of the hands of the petulant baby.
And this baby has a nasty disposition and has some old Republicans scared for their political lives.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Henry Wallace and The Last Progressive Party

Henry Wallace Quoteby Nomad

(image courtesy of MoveOn.org)

The quote on the right comes from Henry A. Wallace's book, “Democracy Reborn.”  Today the book is not so easy to find and Wallace's name means very little to most Americans.
Nevertheless I think the man deserves a little attention because, when you look over his words and ideals, Wallace seems- in some ways- ahead of his time.
For example, he also wrote:
“Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion."
That sounds achingly-familiar to the speeches made during the Occupy movement.
Henry Wallace was the 33rd Vice President of the United States under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was the closest he ever got to the White House. Before that, Wallace had served as Secretary of Agriculture during the dust bowl days which saw Americans desperately fighting for survival.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Madela and Reagan: The Truth that Right-Wing Republicans Would Rather Forget

by Nomad

With the long-predicted death of Nelson Mandela, we can expect to hear a lot of swell things being said in memorial about this man's courage and humanism as he led his nation toward greater equality. Both sides of the political spectrum are bound to say a lot of things in praise of Mandela and his work and life. In the next few days, you will hear about the evils of apartheid and how much better the world is without it.
However, there's another point that none of us should forget. When it came to apartheid, the Reagan Republicans were definitely on the wrong side of history.

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