Saturday, November 30, 2013
The creationist crowd continues to fight a rear guard action against science and modernity because both threaten their belief system that is based on the anything but inerrant Bible. Anything that threatens this house of cards construct must be opposed and strenuous efforts continue to sabotage science based school curriculum which might make it clear to little Johnny and Susie that their parents have been teaching them a pile of horse shit based on the ignorant myths composed by Bronze Age herders. Now these Neanderthals have joined forces with the climate change denier crowd. While their agendas are not the same, both groups are motivated by their desire to resist scientific knowledge. Mother Jones looks at the unholy alliance. Here are excerpts:
All across the country—most recently, in the state of Texas—local battles over the teaching of evolution are taking on a new complexion. More and more, it isn't just evolution under attack, it's also the teaching of climate science. The National Center for Science Education, the leading group defending the teaching of evolution across the country, has even broadened its portfolio: Now, it protects climate education too.
How did these issues get wrapped up together? On its face, there isn't a clear reason—other than a marriage of convenience—why attacks on evolution and attacks on climate change ought to travel side by side.
And yet clearly there's a relationship between the two issue stances. . . . . Indeed, recent research suggests that Christian "end times" believers are less likely to see a need for action on global warming.
And now new research by Yale's Dan Kahan further reaffirms that there's something going on here. More specifically, Kahan showed that there is a correlation (.25, which is weak to modest, but significant) between a person's religiosity and his or her tendency to think that global warming isn't much of a risk.
The researcher went on to say that he isn't sure why greater religiosity predicts greater denial of climate change. But in his data—with a representative sample of over 2,000 Americans—it clearly does.
There are two major possibilities. And there is probably some truth to both of them. There is the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" theory. In other words, anti-evolutionists and climate deniers were both getting dumped on so much by the scientific community that they sort of naturally joined forces.
But there's also the "declining trust in science" theory, according to which political conservatives have, in general, become distrustful of the scientific community (we have data showing this is the case), and this has infected how they think about several different politicized scientific issues. And who knows: Perhaps the distrust started with the evolution issue. It is easy to imagine how a Christian conservative who thinks liberal scientists are full of it on evolution would naturally distrust said scientists on other issues as well.
Whatever the cause for this alliance, it does not bode well for science based solutions on a national level. Meanwhile, cities like Norfolk will be forced to go it largely alone as they contend with rising sea levels and idiocy from Republicans in legislatures across America.
Despite its early bluster and refinance of Pentagon orders that required all National Guard units to register married same sex couples for spousal benefits, the Texas National Guard has capitulated to the Pentagon and will not proceed like Oklahoma and drop registration of spousal benefits for all couples, gay or straight, rather than recognizes married gay and lesbian couples. No reason is given, but since the Pentagon provides almost all of the funding and equipment for state national guards, one cannot help but wonder if someone didn't have a "come to Jesus" discussion of possible consequences. Here are details from the Washington Blade:
After initially resisting a Pentagon directive to enroll the same-sex spouses of troops into benefit programs, the Texas National Guard announced on Tuesday that it has come to an agreement that will allow its facilities to process these applications for gay service members.
In a statement on Tuesday, Texas Military Forces said the Defense Department has approved a new procedure in which the Pentagon will provide federal personnel, funding and the use of federal personnel systems to enroll the spouses of all troops — gay and straight — into the benefit system.
According to Texas Military Forces, which comprises the state’s national guard, this agreement resolves the conflict of the edict from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel saying spousal benefits should be available to gay troops everywhere and Texas’ state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Although Hagel said spousal benefits for gay troops, including health, pension and housing benefits, should be available nationwide in August following the Supreme Court decision against Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Texas initially refused to process applications to grant the same-sex spouses of troops a military ID card, citing state law barring same-sex marriage.
After other states, including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi, made similar announcements, Hagel issued a second edict saying he’s directed the National Guard Bureau to ensure states comply, threatening unspecified consequences if they continued to refuse.
According to the National Guard Bureau, the decision from Texas to acquiesce means Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana are the only states that have yet to comply.
On Nov. 7, Oklahoma announced that its state-run national guard facilities are getting out of the business of processing benefits altogether and are directing everyone — gay and straight — to federally-run installations within the state. However, Oklahoma isn’t considered a non-compliant state.
An LGBT advocate, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the purported change announced by the Texas Military Forces is a “crock” because federal funds and systems were already being used to enroll spouses in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. The announced change, the advocate said, is a way for Texas Military Forces to save face as it acquiesced to the Pentagon’s demands.
One thing that I cynically always find entertaining is how the far right always attributes others with their own traits and tactics. A case in point: a Florida Tea Party leader (pictured above) who claims that the Log Cabin Republicans are a "thug organization." Obviously, this woman must have been looking in the mirror as she uttered the statement. The statement is ludicrous for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Log Cabin Republicans might best be described as a bunch of delusional masochists who continue to support a political party that hates them. Second, it's the Tea Party that uses thug tactics to assert its agenda against rational Republicans who - unlike the Tea Party - are not wholly untethered from reality and who are not motivated by hate, religious extremism and racism. The Sun-Sentinel looks at the batshitery that is typical of the Tea Party. Here are excerpts:
An email from Danita Kilcullen, co-founder of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale, has caused a new round of agita in the Broward Republican Party.
Kilcullen’s email, written earlier this month, was apparently a response to an email below, from Andy Eddy of the Broward Log Cabin Republicans, a largely gay group.
She said the Log Cabin Republicans are “a thug organization” which has “all but taken over” the Broward Republican Party.
Kilcullen also makes clear she does not like the proposed federal law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Here's [a portion of Kilcullen's] e-mail:
“We must fight with all we have... We must put pressure on the House like has never been seen before. I'll be damned if I will ever be forced to hire someone with orange hair, body/neck/face covered with tattoos, multiple piercings, or a man in a dress... or for that matter, a demonstrative effeminate male or purposeful butch-looking female. The Log Cabins are the same lobbyist organization that has all but taken over BREC; and besides that, we have someone on the Board of BREC who is using her position to openly put pressure on some BREC members to stand for same-sex marriage.
Can't you feel the Christian love towards others? If the Log Cabin Republicans really want to change the GOP rather than engage self-flagellation, they need to work to have the GOP defeated across the board so that the party will have to either change and come into the modern world or die.
With the Republican Party increasingly pushing a voter disenfranchisement agenda reminiscent of the bad old days of Jim Crow, it is perhaps not a stretch to argue that an 1860's mentality has overtaken the GOP, except that now the prevalent mindset in the party is more akin to that of the Southern secessionists. Just as the break away Baptists who became the Southern Baptist Convention used the Bible to justify slavery, the Christofascist GOP base likewise uses the Bible to justify hate and discrimination against a wide array of people. A column in the Richmond Times Dispatch ponders what this toxicity will mean for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination process. Here are some column highlights:
Will the Republicans nominate Chris Christie for president in 2016? Not if my reading of historical forces is correct. Christie’s landslide re-election victory in New Jersey should tell Republicans that they have a better chance of winning power with candidates who can reach out beyond the Republican base than with those whose extremism alienates Independents and Democrats.
But Christie has run afoul of the base’s adamant insistence on “purity” in adhering to the party line.
How will the base now weigh electability against purity? The presidential politics of 1860 provide an answer, my premise being that the spirit that drives the Republican Party in our times is a re-emergence of the spirit that drove the South in the years leading up to the Civil War.The re-emergence of those old patterns consists not just of calls for nullification and even secession but also deep attitudes, including antagonism toward compromise and intolerance of deviation from party orthodoxy.The South’s treatment of Sen. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois in 1860 gives a preview of how the GOP base is likely to treat Christie in the competition for the 2016 GOP nomination.Douglas had been a consistent ally of the South and its slaveholding ruling class. He had no objections to slavery. He was as racist as any American of that time. . . . . But toward the end of the decade, two major overreaches by the South hurt Douglas. The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision imperiled Douglas’ political survival in Illinois — in ways that Abraham Lincoln exploited in their famous debates. And then the Buchanan administration’s embrace of the fraudulent constitution put forward by the pro-slavery faction in Kansas made a mockery of Douglas’s idea of popular sovereignty.In dealing with these two challenges, Douglas departed from the complete loyalty the Southern Democratic leaders required. When the Democratic Party nominated Douglas for president in 1860, Southerners bolted the convention and nominated a candidate of their own.This split in the Democratic Party created the opportunity for Abraham Lincoln to be elected president of the United States . . .How important was purity to the Southerners of that time? Consider this: Southerners thought the election of Abraham Lincoln so terrible that they responded to it by breaking up the Union. But those same Southerners were not willing — in order to prevent Lincoln’s election — to join forces behind the candidacy of an insufficiently pure Douglas.If I’m right that this same spirit now dominates the Republican primary electorate, Chris Christie will be rejected just as Stephen Douglas was. Obedience to the party line, and damn the consequences.
Frankly, the sooner the GOP self-destructs (or, more unlikely, wakes up and throws the Christofascists/Tea Party out of the party), the better off the country will be. The big question is that of how much damage will be done to America in the interim while the equivalent of rabid dogs control the GOP base.
I do not adhere to many Democrat positions, yet given the ugliness of today's Republican Party - a sickening mix of greed, racism, homophobia, religious extremism and open hatred toward those deemed to be "other" - I often find that I have no choice but to back Democrat candidates. A perfect example is the just past Virginia elections where the Christofascist controlled Virginia GOP nominated truly insane and vicious candidates for all three statewide offices. Another example is the GOP's efforts to sabotage the Affordable Health Care Act yet offer nothing to replace it other than a return to system that is not only the the most costly in the world and but also the least efficient . And what about the millions of uninsured? They are to be left to simply sicken and die. Even as the GOP base congratulates itself on its adherence to Christian values and the mantra of personal responsibility. A column in the New York Times looks at this sabotage effort. Here are excerpts:
I just spent 15 minutes on my local health care exchange and realized that I could save a couple hundred dollars a month on my family’s insurance. Of course, I live in Washington State, which has a very competitive market, a superbly functioning website and no Koch-brothers-sponsored saboteurs trying to discourage people from getting health care.
California is just as good. It’s enrolling more than 2,000 people a day. New York is humming as well. And Kentucky, it’s the gold standard now: More than 56,000 people have signed up for new health care coverage — enough to fill a stadium in Louisville.
This is terrible news [for the GOP], and cannot be allowed to continue. If there’s even a small chance that, say, half of the 50 million or so Americans currently without heath care might get the same thing that every other advanced country offers its citizens, that would be a disaster [for the GOP].But not to worry. The failure movement is active and very well funded. . . . . The Republican Party started a failure campaign earlier this year, but then the strategy got sidetracked in a coercive government shutdown that cost us all $24 billion or so. With the disastrous rollout of the federal exchange, Republicans now smell blood. A recent memo outlined a far-reaching, multilevel assault on the Affordable Care Act.
It’s hard to remember a time when a major political party and its media arm were so actively rooting for fellow Americans to lose. When the first attempt by the United States to launch a satellite into orbit, in 1957, ended in disaster, did Democrats start to cheer, and unify to stop a space program in its infancy? Or, when Medicare got off to a confusing start, did Republicans of the mid-1960s wrap their entire political future around a campaign to deny government-run health care to the elderly?Of course not. But for the entirety of the Obama era, Republicans have consistently been cheerleaders for failure. They rooted for the economic recovery to sputter, for gas prices to spike, the job market to crater, the rescue of the American automobile industry to fall apart.
This organized schadenfreude goes back to the dawn of Obama’s presidency, when Rush Limbaugh, later joined by Senator Mitch McConnell, said their No. 1 goal was for the president to fail.
Does this mean we throw in the towel, and return to a status quo in which insurance companies routinely cancel policies, deny health care to people with pre-existing conditions and have their own death panel treatment for patients who reach a cap in medical benefits?
The Republican plan would do just that, because they have no plan but to crush the nation’s fledgling experiment.
Where was the media attention when thousands of people were routinely dumped once they got sick? When did Republicans in Congress hold an oversight hearing on the leading cause of personal bankruptcy — medical debt? All of that is what we had before. And all of that is what we will return to if some version of the Affordable Care Act is not made workable.
Not too sound too dramatic, but I increasingly do not understand how decent, moral people can support today's GOP. Of my friends that remain Republicans, sadly most are motivated by greed. They care nothing for the less fortunate and focus solely on paying less in taxes being to short sighted to understand we all pay when millions of Americans - many of them children - go without health care coverage.
Friday, November 29, 2013
I have often lamented the domestic spying that has been engaged in by the NSA and the invasion of citizens' privacy that has been a direct result. The usual suspects who rally around the flag and support anything alleged to be helping in the "war on terror" simply don't want to admit that such spying can be - and not seems to have been - misused to smear those the NSA decides it doesn't like. A case in point: the NSA has been monitoring the use of Internet porn by Muslims who the NSA labels as "radicalizers." No proof of wrong doing by the targets seems to have prompted the spying. Rather, the targets merely have said things the powers that be do not like. And the details of porn usage was intended to be used to destroy the targets' credibility in their communities. Using this standard, the NSA ought to be spying on the porn use of fundamentalist Christians in the Bible Belt who support Tea Party calls for secession and who at the same time use more Internet porn that nearly anyone else in America. Slate looks at the NSA's porn problem. Here are excerpts:
In the Huffington Post today, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim have an investigative piece reporting that the NSA has been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it views as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a way of discrediting them. Whether it followed through on that proposal is not clear.
At first blush, this seems rather ho-hum as spying scandals go. Gathering dirt on an enemy’s sex life is one of the oldest tricks in the spying book. That the NSA carried out its surveillance via the Internet does not inherently any better or worse than bugging someone’s bedroom ceiling fan. And it’s certainly less messy and ethically troubling than trying to ensnare someone by sending a sexy double-agent to seduce him. . . . . The unstated subtext: Remember, we’re talking about people who are trying to kill us here.
But are we really? It’s one thing to crow about Osama bin Laden’s apparently extensive library of explicit content. But from the Huffington Post’s report, it’s far from clear that the objects of the NSA’s latest porn-hunt are “valid terrorist targets.” Of the six people mentioned in the secret document, none were accused of being personally involved in any terror plots.
Yet the NSA document justified targeting all of them on the grounds that their audience “includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message.” Well then!
Will the NSA be publishing their peccadillos next? Of course not, insist government officials, brushing aside reminders that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI once infamously collected quite similar dossiers on the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. “The abuses that involved Martin Luther King occurred before Edward Snowden was born,” snorted Baker, the former NSA general counsel. He said there’s no reason to believe the agency would overstep its authority by spying on U.S. citizens for political reasons today.
Actually, there is. The whole cascade of Snowden revelations amounts to a glaring reminder that secret agents with broad access to people’s personal information and little to no public oversight have little incentive to err on the side of caution or respect for privacy. The scandal here has little to do with the agency’s methods—snooping on people’s porn habits via the Internet—and much to do with the trouble it has distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate targets.
Ask yourself this: Would you be shocked if the next expose revealed that the NSA had also collected records of porn sites visited by some U.S. citizens with no connections at all to militant extremists? If so, then you and Stewart Baker can rest easy. If not, it’s clear we have a bigger problem here than the NSA and its apologists would care to admit.
I for one would not be surprised or shocked by anything the NSA might do. It seems to see itself as above the law and entitled spy on anyone it wants, be they foreigners or American citizens.
While implementing the Affordable Health Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, has had a difficult - maybe even disastrous roll out - the Republican Party seems to be putting all of its eggs in the Obamacare basket and hoping that it will blind voters to all else, even though that did not save Ken Cuccinelli's batshit crazy ass here in Virginia. And this blindness to reality is especially prevalent in the Kool-Aid drinking Christofascist/Tea Party base of the GOP. Hence the continuing push by the GOP base to nominate extremists like the trio of crazies nominated by the Republican Party of Virginia at its
coven meeting convention last Spring. A piece in Think Progress looks at new analysis that suggests that the drift towards extremism in the GOP may backfire and aid the Democrats in gaining seats in the House of Representatives. Here are highlights:
Call it the Todd Akin effect: nominating an extreme candidate can halve a party’s chance of holding on to a House seat, according to a brand-spanking new political science paper. It’s a finding that has important implications for the future of the increasingly-polarized Republican Party and the often-contentious debate over gerrymandering.
Andrew Hall, a graduate student in Government at Harvard, developed a measure based on who donates to a given candidate. . . . . Hall found an enormous effect: when an extreme candidate wins a House primary in either party, there’s “a 11-13 percentage-point decrease in the party’s share of the general-election vote, and a 38-49% decrease in its probability of victory.” The more extreme the candidate, the more towards the higher end of these estimates you’d expect the extremism penalty to be.
Once a party has taken a seat because of their opponents’ extremism, it’s gone for a long, long time. Incumbency confers huge advantages on House members, which means that the extremism penalty isn’t just a one-election thing according to Hall’s data: “the nomination of an extremist today continues to cause an equally large decrease in the party’s expected probability of victory and vote share even four terms, or eight years, later — the farthest downstream that redistricting allows us to examine.”
Halving a party’s chance to win a House seat for years is an insanely large effect and, unsurprisingly, Hall finds that it has implications for what happens in Congress down the line.
[I]f he’s [Hall's] right, there are two interesting implications for American politics. First, they point to yet another way that the Republican Party is playing Russian Roulette with its political future. It’s well-established at this point that, while both parties have gotten more ideological in recent years, the Republicans have gone way further off the deep end. . . .
The extremism penalty is unlikely to offset the GOP’s geographic advantage on its own, but combined with unfavorable long-term demographic trends, it could play a role in weakening the GOP’s stranglehold on Congress’ lower body.
Which brings us to the second point, gerrymandering. . . . . The gerrymandering and extremism argument may be tough to parse, but Hall’s research suggest it’s critically important to understanding the future of the Republican Party and, by extension, American government.
As the boyfriend and I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday while starting to decorate the house for the holidays, when the cast from Kinky Boots began to perform, I couldn't help but wonder how quickly the Christofascists would erupt in spittle and convulsions. Apparently, not long at all. World Net Daily, a/k/a Wing Nut Daily, carried the expected spittle flecked screeds lamenting the end of "family values" and attacking New York City and NBC as near demonic. The self-centeredness of these people who seek to force conformity with their fear and hate based views never ceases to amaze me. The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the eruption of batshitery that the Kinky Boots performance unleashed amongst the Bible thumpers. Here are excerpts:
Conservatives just couldn’t enjoy our national day of thanks without going berserk over some event that doesn’t fit their tightly-wound vision of what America is “supposed” to be. At yesterday’s 87th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the cast of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” performed, ruining the entire day for the nation’s right wing nuts.
Despite being created by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, despite winning six Tony Awards, conservatives screamed about “family values!” and “the children!,” whose lives, apparently now will be devastated.
WorldNetDaily, that bastion of birtherism that thinks Obama is gay, wrote that “Kinky Boots” “left a lot of viewers scratching their heads, shaking their heads, and wondering what happened to the family friendly tradition.”
One commenter there complained, “Just when I thought NYC and NBC couldn’t get any lower. Next year they will have LGBT Poll dancers. This is despicable and disgusting beyond belief. NBC, you should be ashamed. But when you have people like Ed Shultz and Andrea Mitchell you have no shame.”
Another, “Our country is morally bankrupt! To allow such a mockery of everything sacred is despicable! If Macy’s allowed this, there should not be one person show up for the parade next year. Those are sick people who need help… not to be paraded in front of children and the whole world. It’s an embarrassment for America of which I am very ashamed.”
Click the link above to see more of the batshitery. Meanwhile, what is truly despicable and disgusting beyond belief is the venomous hatred the "godly folk" have for so much of humanity. WWJD?
While Pope Francis' newly released “apostolic exhortation" is not addressed specifically at the economic agenda of the Republican Party - i.e., a regulation free, unrestrained capitalism with the social safety net eliminated so that taxes can be lowered for the wealthy - the things and mindset that Francis condemns certainly encompasses the GOP agenda. While Francis calls for selflessness and care for the unfortunate, the GOP as exemplified by the Koch brothers advances greed and disdain for the poor. The Raw Story looks at more of Francis' exhortation which seems only too appropriate on so-called Black Friday. Here are highlights:
Into this morass of economic confusion steps Francis with clarifying force:
Pope Francis is a pontiff who has constructively broken all the rules of popery – so far to widespread acclaim. He’s faulted the Catholic church for its negative obsession with gays and birth control, and now he has expanded his mandate to economics with a groundbreaking screed denouncing “the new idolatry of money“.As the Pope wrote in his “apostolic exhortation“:The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings.His thoughts on income inequality are searing:How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.The pope’s screed on “the economy of exclusion and inequality” will disappoint those who considers themselves free-market capitalists, but they would do well to listen to the message. Francis gives form to the emotion and injustice of post-financial-crisis outrage in a way that has been rare since Occupy Wall Street disbanded. There has been a growing chorus of financial insiders – from the late Merrill Lynch executive Herb Allison to organizations like Better Markets – it’s time for a change in how we approach capitalism. It’s not about discarding capitalism, or hating money or profit; it’s about pursuing profits ethically, and rejecting the premise that exploitation is at the center of profit. When 53% of financial executives say they can’t get ahead without some cheating, even though they want to work for ethical organizations, there’s a real problem.Nearly all of us are likely to experience it. Inequality has been growing in the US since the 1970s. Economist Emmanuel Saez found that the incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% in the three years after the financial crisis, while the majority of people struggled with a disappointing economy. The other 99% of the population grew their incomes 0.4% during the same period.As a result, federal and state spending on social welfare programs has been forced to grow to $1tn just to handle the volume of US households in trouble. Yet income inequality has been locked out of of the mainstream economic conversation, where it is seen largely as a sideshow for progressive bleeding hearts.One-fifth of Americans, or 47 million people, are on food stamps; 50% of children born to single mothers live in poverty; and over 13 million people are out of work. Children are now not likely to do as well as their parents did as downward mobility takes hold for the first time in generations.The bottom line, which Pope Francis correctly identifies, is that inequality is the biggest economic issue of our time – for everyone, not just the poor. Nearly any major economic metric – unemployment, growth, consumer confidence – comes down to the fact that the vast majority of Americans are struggling in some way. You don’t have to begrudge the rich their fortunes or ask for redistribution. It’s just hard to justify ignoring the financial problems of 47 million people who don’t have enough to eat.
Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.
Despite all these hard facts, I received a comment on a post that blasted the hypocrisy of the Christofascists and the GOP for their indifference to the poor. The author who was apparently affiliated with a fundamentalist church whined that Christ never directed followers to push for government help for the poor. While technically this might be true, Christ certainly advocated supporting political figures who sought to cast the poor aside like disposable garbage (especially if they are of a different race). And I don't see the Koch brothers and other advocates of unfettered capitalism stepping up and giving billions to charities that serve the less fortunate. And don't get me started on the "godly folk" who tithe to their churches so that pastors and televangelists can live the good life while others go hungry right in the towns and cities where their so-called "ministries" are based. Locally, Pat Robertson is a prime example of such hypocrisy. Oh, and yes, the Vatican could stand to shed much of its wealth to help the poor if Francis is honest in his statements.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
In a much needed move, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS have issued proposed rules that would limit the political activities of supposed non-profits which have made a mockery of the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) which bars political activity by entities treated as non-profit charities. While entities of both sides of the political spectrum have abused the rules, few do so more than the self-labeled "family values" organizations which receive taxpayer subsidies even as they engage in political activities that seek to disenfranchise citizens and disseminate hatred towards other citizens. It is long past time that these organizations either stay out of politics or give up their tax-exempt status. Here are highlights from the New York Times on the proposed rules:
The Obama administration on Tuesday moved to curb political activity by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, with potentially major ramifications for some of the biggest and most secretive spenders in American politics.New rules proposed by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would clarify both how the I.R.S. defines political activity and how much nonprofits are allowed to spend on it. The proposal covers not just television advertising, but bread- and-butter political work like candidate forums and get-out-the-vote drives.Long demanded by government watchdogs and Democrats who say the flow of money through tax-exempt groups is corrupting the political system, the changes would be the first wholesale shift in a generation in the regulations governing political activity by nonprofits.[T]he proposal also thrusts the I.R.S. into what is sure to be a polarizing regulatory battle, with some Republicans immediately criticizing the proposal on Tuesday as an attack on free speech and a ploy to undermine congressional investigations into the agency’s handling of applications from Tea Party groups.Political spending by tax-exempt groups — from Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, to the League of Conservation Voters — skyrocketed to more than $300 million in 2012 from less than $5.2 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.Much of the money has been funneled through chains of interlinked nonprofit groups, making it even harder to determine the original source.And unlike political parties and “super PACs,” political nonprofits are permitted to keep the names of donors confidential, making them the vehicle of choice for deep-pocketed donors seeking to influence campaigns in secret.[T]he I.R.S. proposal could have an enormous impact on some of the biggest groups, forcing them to either limit their election spending or register as openly political organizations, such as super PACs.[U]nder the new proposal, a broad swath of political work would be classified as “candidate-related political activity” and explicitly excluded from the agency’s definition of social welfare. Those activities include advertisements that mention a candidate within 60 days of an election as well as grants to other organizations making candidate-related expenditures.Distributing voter guides, for example, would automatically count as political activity.
Expect plenty of shrieking and flying spittle from the far right in particular and "family values" hate groups like FRC and NOM.
The boyfriend (we plan to marry in the Spring) and I will have dinner today with his dad, one of his brothers, my youngest daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter and step-granddaughter at a restaurant located at the former officers' club at Fort Monroe, now a National Monument. It's a cold but beautiful day and the view across Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic Ocean should be spectacular. We decided to foregoing dinner at home after last years extravaganza with over 25 guests. We have much to be thankful for and plan to enjoy the day.
Sadly, many in the LGBT community are not as lucky and I recall depression filled Thanksgiving in the first years after coming out. My message to those in the dark place I was once in, please stay positive and know that time is on your side and that things will get better. That said, there are some who are truly in need: homeless LGBT youth who have been discarded by the selfish, self-centered families which cannot deal with the "embarrassment" of having a gay child or family members. Many of these toxic parents and families cloak themselves in feigned piety and "godliness" as justification for their despicable actions. A guest post at Joe My God reminds of the needs of these homeless LGBT youth. Here's the post:
We deal with a twofold tragedy every day at the Ali Forney Center. The first part is that hundreds of thousands of parents drive their children from their homes because they cannot accept having an LGBT child. The second part is that fewer than one tenth of homeless kids in this country can access a youth shelter bed. Hundreds of thousands of terrified, devastated kids are out on the streets tonight with nowhere safe to lay their heads.
Recently I met a girl in Minneapolis who told me about being out on the streets at 16 in the frozen Minnesota winter. She found a bus driver who would allow her to ride the city bus all night. But one night when he was off duty and she didn't have the bus fare, she shivered in the snow, fearing she would die in the cold. Another boy told me of being thrown out of his home in a suburb of Atlanta by a homophobic aunt. Having nowhere to go, he spent three days and nights in the woods near his house, with no food or water, crying and terrified and wanting to die. Finally he staggered out onto a sidewalk and collapsed of dehydration and was hospitalized.
Many kids turn to prostitution, having no other way to support themselves. Deon became homeless in Houston when he was 15. He also rode the buses all night, and would shower in the morning at a friend's house before heading to school. One night he was propositioned while waiting for the bus, and was offered money for sex. Deeply exhausted from his long nights on the bus, he reluctantly accepted. He told me that he felt so ashamed and humiliated by the experience, that he spent over an hour in the shower at his friends house that morning. He was weeping uncontrollably and didn't want anyone to see him like that. Deon lives with us now. Yesterday he told me that at his job at H&M clothing store, he has a portion of his income taken out of each paycheck. He uses this money to sponsor an orphan in Zimbabwe. He was beaming with pride when he told me this. I am more proud of him than I know how to say.
At the Ali Forney Center we respond to LGBT kids in the most horrifying situations imaginable. We respond with food and shelter, with job training and medical care. We work with kids from all over the country. Last year we cared for over 1,000 kids. As important as it is to house and feed these kids, it is just as important to affirm their basic human worth as LGBT people. It is important to show that they belong to our community, that they are valued and loved.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the kids who live with us, that they can have the opportunity to be healed of their terrible wounds. And I am thankful for the community of support that allows us to do this beautiful work. I am especially thankful to Joe and the JoeMyGod community for standing by us year after year. I am especially thankful for the amazing support we received last year when Hurricane Sandy destroyed our drop-in center.
I ask you to consider supporting our kids at this time. We have 200 kids on the waiting list for our shelters tonight, and have to rely on the support of the community in this time of sequestration and government cutbacks. Donations can be sent to us by mail at: Ali Forney Center, 224 West 35th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10001. Donations can be made online here.
|Facilities at Ali Forney Center|
Greed - both at the corporate level and individual level - is destroying Thanksgiving. I personally plan to boycott retailers that are open today and depriving their employees of a family holiday and day off from work. Instead, I will focus my purchase this holiday season at retailers who respect their employees and that are closed today. Think Progress has a compilation of stores to avoid and stores that deserve your patronage.
Here are retailers to boycott as well as those deserving of your support:
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Radio Shack told ThinkProgress that it will be closed “In honor of Thanksgiving and the time-honored tradition of gathering with family and friends.” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook reportedly reversed some stores’ decisions to open because he felt that it’s important for workers to be with their families.
Other stores say their workers are excited to work on the holiday. But at Kmart, which will open the earliest starting at 6 a.m. on Thursday, workers have reported being denied their requests to take the day off. Other workers may be volunteering to work because they get so few hours normally and need the extra money. Some may not have the vacation days to take the holiday, as the United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee all workers get paid vacation time.
But the stores that open early may not even see a benefit. They risk a big consumer backlash, with half of consumers saying they disapprove of the early hours. Two different polls have found that the vast majority don’t plan to shop on the holiday anyway. Shoppers and workers have also been petitioning stores to stay closed and give their employees a day off.
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This blog is extremely critical of the hypocrisy of the Christofascists and other self-professed conservatives, especially those within the GOP, who blather incessantly about upholding Christian values yet act in ways that make per-revelation Ebenezer Scrooge look like the world's greatest philanthropist. These "godly Christians" and their political whores within the GOP are ugly, nasty people and ought to be excoriated by the media. Sadly, usually, much of the media is afraid or too lazy to expose this rampant hypocrisy. Interestingly, Nicholas Kristof has put out op-eds in the New York Times on Republican/conservative efforts to demolish America's social safety net. In a column today, he looks at the attacks he has received and the callousness of these self-centered modern day Pharisees. Here are excerpts:
When I’ve written recently about food stamp recipients, the uninsured and prison inmates, I’ve had plenty of pushback from readers.A reader named Keith reflected a coruscating chorus when he protested: “If kids are going hungry, it is because of the parents not upholding their responsibilities.”A reader in Washington bluntly suggested taking children from parents and putting them in orphanages.Jim asked: “Why should I have to subsidize someone else’s child? How about personal responsibility? If you procreate, you provide.”After a recent column about an uninsured man who delayed seeing a doctor about a condition that turned out to be colon cancer, many readers noted that he is a lifelong smoker and said he had it coming.Such scorn seems widespread, based on the comments I get on my blog and Facebook page — as well as on polling and on government policy. At root, these attitudes reflect a profound lack of empathy.A Princeton University psychology professor, Susan Fiske, has found that when research subjects hooked up to neuro-imaging machines look at photos of the poor and homeless, their brains often react as if they are seeing things, not people. Her analysis suggests that Americans sometimes react to poverty not with sympathy but with revulsion.So, on Thanksgiving, maybe we need a conversation about empathy for fellow humans in distress.[M]any of today’s poor are small children who have done nothing wrong. Some 45 percent of food stamp recipients are children, for example. Do we really think that kids should go hungry if they have criminal parents? Should a little boy not get a curved spine treated properly because his dad is a deadbeat? Should a girl not be able to go to preschool because her mom is an alcoholic?As Warren Buffett puts it, our life outcomes often depend on the “ovarian lottery.” Sure, some people transcend their circumstances, but it’s callous for those born on second or third base to denounce the poor for failing to hit home runs.John Rawls, the brilliant 20th-century philosopher, argued for a society that seems fair if we consider it from behind a “veil of ignorance” — meaning we don’t know whether we’ll be born to an investment banker or a teenage mom . . . . That’s a shrewd analytical tool — and who among us would argue for food stamp cuts if we thought we might be among the hungry children?As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that the difference between being surrounded by a loving family or being homeless on the street is determined not just by our own level of virtue or self-discipline, but also by an inextricable mix of luck, biography, brain chemistry and genetics.Low-income Americans, who actually encounter the needy in daily life, understand this complexity and respond with empathy. Researchers say that’s why the poorest 20 percent of Americans donate more to charity, as a fraction of their incomes, than the richest 20 percent. Meet those who need help, especially children, and you become less judgmental and more compassionate.And compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but a mark of civilization.
Kudos to Kristof for calling these scrooges out.
As readers may recall, while Archbishop of Milwaukee, now Cardinal Timothy Dolan transferred $50 million in archdiocese funds into a cemetery trust fund to shield the funds from claims of over 600 sex abuse victims. Now, Pope Francis has an opportunity to send a message that he is indeed different than his predecessors and members of the morally bankrupt Church hierarchy who managed the worldwide sex abuse cover up conspiracy with no regard for children and youths, caring only about protecting Church funds. Will Francis order funds transferred to replace those hidden by Dolan and make compensation available for victims of predator priests. It is a true test and how the Vatican responds will speak volumes. WTAQ-TV has details. Here are highlights:
MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - The Vatican is being asked to do what a U.S. judge in Milwaukee refuses to do -- make $50 million available to victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests.
Creditors in the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy case wrote a letter to an office in the Vatican that handles sex abuse cases. It asked top church leaders to revoke an order that allowed former Milwaukee Archbishop Tim Dolan to create a trust fund to maintain cemetery plots for Catholics in the archdiocese.
Federal Judge Rudolph Randa of Milwaukee decided earlier this year to allow the church to protect the cemetery trust funds from the creditors -- almost 600 of whom are victims of sex abuse by priests over a number of decades. Randa said the trust was protected under the freedom of religion clause in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.
While courts should not interfere with internal affairs, hiding millions of dollars like Mafia dons to further screw over victims of abuse is far outside the limits of the First Amendment. Shame on Judge Randa.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Although Mark Obenshain has requested a likely futile recount, some sane Republicans (admittedly, an endangered species) have mounted an effort to make sure pro-business, non-social issues extremist are nominated in 2014 and going forward in Virginia. Yo make this happen, of course, the first step will be kill party conventions being used as the nominating vehicle. Whenever the convention model is used, the nominees end up being far right and non-electable. Needless to say, the Christofascist/Tea Party forces will NOT be happy. The Roanoke Times looks at this much needed development towards moderation. Here are excerpts:
Former Virginia congressman Tom Davis told Bloomberg reporters last week he’s working with other mainstream Republicans to establish an organization that would support statewide candidates less wrapped up in divisive social issues and more interested in making the commonwealth a better place to live.
Oh, yeah, they’d also like to win a few elections here and there.
Bloomberg called it an “intra-party revolt.” That’s a bit of hyperbole, but certainly it’s a more useful reaction than the usual whimper uttered by traditional Republicans while in a fetal position after their party’s latest election loss.
Davis’ goal is to have his group up and running by early next year in order to raise money from business-oriented Republicans who have increasingly disengaged from politics, turned off by rash and feckless ideologues.
Wyatt Durrette, the GOP candidate for governor in 1985, has joined Davis in the initiative. The two men may not be household names throughout Virginia, and are rarely acknowledged by their own party, except to rebuke them, but they represent a breed of pragmatic leaders the GOP needs to re-engage.
Davis is a fan of primaries and plans to use the fledgling organization to nudge Republicans in that direction.
It’s also true that even if the GOP had held a primary this year, there’s a decent chance that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would have won the nomination, just as he did with this year’s convention.
But Davis wisely is not fixating on the past. He understands that primaries broaden a party’s base, attracting independents and young voters. They shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to ideological purity, but as a necessity for political survival.
While Davis’ group is focused on statewide offices, more viable nominees at that level can help with recruitment of stronger legislative candidates down-ticket.
Any one of a half dozen factors might have changed this year’s election outcome and put a Republican in the governor’s mansion. The GOP must focus on the ones over which it has control.
The Salvation Army is seemingly trying to rehabilitate its image after a history of homophobia which has prompted many LGBT activists - Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project is an example - have urged the LGBT community and the general public to walk past the Salvation Army's kettles without donating a dime. Adding insult to injury, the Salvation Army has been heretofore directing those staying at its facilities to fraudulent "ex-gay" ministries. A piece at Huffington Post by my friend Wayne Besen spotlighted the problem. Here are excerpts (Note: I get credit for helping expose an "ex-gay" fraud - I still have in my possession evidence of Michael Johnston's "moral fall" to quote Peter LaBarbera, a/k/a Porno Pete):
The Salvation Army has a new campaign to debunk "the myth of LGBT discrimination." They want people to believe that they aren't anti-gay or bigoted. Here is what they have to say on their website:
For years, Facebook posts, forwarded emails and rumors have been leading some people to believe that The Salvation Army does not serve members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. These accusations simply aren't true. ...
More than 20 percent of all residents staying at The Salvation Army's youth homeless shelter in St. Paul voluntarily identified themselves as gay or lesbian. ...However, the organization still has a ways to go before I can tell people to drop change in their buckets.For example, I discovered today that The Salvation Army refers clients to at least two "ex-gay" ministries. The first group in question is Harvest USA, which was an affiliate of Exodus International (formerly the world's largest ex-gay group), before Exodus disbanded. According to Harvest USA's website:Harvest USA began in 1983, as an outreach ministry in Center City, Philadelphia to the homosexual community to provide hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The ministry reached out to men and women who heard the gospel and desired to leave behind the gay lifestyle.The second group in question is Pure Life Ministries. This is the sexual addiction group where "ex-gay" activist Michael Johnston was sent after attorney Michael Hamar and I caught him having bareback orgies with men. (Johnston is now an employee of this ministry.) Here is what the group is saying on its website:Whether you're addicted to masturbation, ensnared in Internet pornography, struggling with homosexuality, or merely battling an onslaught of impure desires, you've come to the right place.How can The Salvation Army expect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and the people who love and support them to donate when the organization gives referrals to noxious ministries that try to pray away the gay?
Apparently, the pressure paid off because, the Salvation Army has ceased the referrals. Wayne has more on the Truth Wins Out website:
CHICAGO – Truth Wins Out commended The Salvation Army today for removing links to two notorious “ex-gay” ministries that it had listed as sexual addiction resources. The move is consistent with the organizations new campaign against LGBT discrimination.
Truth Wins Out’s Associate Director, Evan Hurst, reached out to The Salvation Army this afternoon and expressed our concerns. As a result, the offensive webpage listing “ex-gay” programs was removed, and The Salvation Army responded with the following letter:“We thank The Salvation Army for acting swiftly and decisively in addressing our concerns about links to ‘ex-gay’ organizations,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “This is a step in the right direction and congruent with their anti-discrimination campaign. We hope this action leads to further progress in gaining the full confidence and trust of the LGBT community.”
We sincerely appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention. As you know, The Salvation Army strives to live out our mission of meeting human need without discrimination. Our doors are always open to anyone who seeks our help, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We simply do not discriminate against the people we serve or the people we hire.
We have removed the page of referrals for sexual addiction centers. Truthfully this was an old page that had been archived but was reposted when we launched our new website last month. We apologize for our oversight and any confusion this may have caused. The Salvation Army does not consider homosexual orientation a sin. Please know that we serve anyone who comes to our doors without discrimination.
The Daily Beast reports, the strategy seems to be actually backfiring and causing more late term abortions. As with so many things, the GOP and ultimately the Christofascist party base are making things worse. It's a situation where the GOP/Christofascist opposition to science based sex education - they prefer abstinence only sex education - results in more teen pregnancies, not less. Here are article highlights:
Right wing politicians who are push laws to restrict a woman’s access to later-term abortions presumably do so because they don’t want women having abortion after 20 weeks. But new research from medical school-based scholars finds that other policies that conservative Republicans are pushing, including restrictions on access to clinics as well as constrained access to health insurance, actually result in more women seeking later-term abortions. In other words, not only are Republicans hypocrites—but their hypocrisy is backfiring.
Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport are professors in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. Between 2008 and 2010, Foster and Kimport studied the cases of 272 women who had received an abortion at or after 20 weeks of gestation, as well as of 169 women who received first-trimester abortions.
The study found that young, low-income women are disproportionately more likely to seek abortions at or after 20 weeks. That’s partly because of the compounding circumstances young low-income women are more likely to face. Many in the study were either raising children alone, were depressed or using drugs or were experiencing domestic violence or tension. Half of the women having later-term abortions were unemployed, compared with just one-third of women having first-trimester procedures.
But the barriers to accessing abortion services weren’t limited to the conditions of these women’s lives but the context of medical access in their communities. Foster and Kimport found that first-trimester and later-term abortion seekers ranked roughly the same in terms of delays due to “not knowing about the pregnancy” or “trouble deciding about the abortion." But there were four barriers to abortion services that affected late-term abortion seekers twice as much as those who had first-term procedures:
1. Not knowing where to go for an abortion2. Difficulty getting to the abortion facility3. Raising money for procedure and related costs4. Difficulty securing insurance coverage.
Right wing legislative attacks on abortion facilities across the country have only made the first two factors worse. Thanks to archaic and absurd restrictions Republicans in Texas have imposed on abortion providers in the state, a woman in El Paso, Texas, will now have to drive 560 miles—over a 16 hour trek—to San Antonio to access her right to have an abortion. The Texas law has also restricted what doctor’s can tell their patients about abortion options.
At the same time, in the last two years, many states have enacted restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion services. For instance, eight states prohibit insurance policies underwritten in the state to cover abortion services. Eighteen states restrict abortion coverage in public employee insurance plans. Thirty-five states prohibit Medicaid from covering abortions. And 23 states have restricted coverage for abortions within the new health plans to be offered in Obamacare exchanges. Beyond the insurance issue, Republicans cutting food stamps while refusing to raise the minimum wage keeps poor women poor—and further constrains their options.
So, to be clear, right wing conservatives who supposedly don't want women to have later-term abortions are passing legislation in states across our country that have the effect of driving more women, especially poor young women, to have later-term abortions.
Most Americans - at least those outside of the GOP's Christofascist/Tea Party/white supremacist base - and most business interest want to see comprehensive immigration reform. Yet Republicans who are always only to happy to prostitute themselves to the GOP's toxic base remain the primary obstacle to need reform. Indeed, John Boehner (a pathetic excuse for a human being, in my view) has flatly stated that no vote on the bill passed by the Senate will occur in the House of Representatives. What are reform advocates to do? Start targeting Republicans and putting heat on them. A piece in the New York Times looks at the strategy. Here are highlights:
As House Republicans have all but ruled out the possibility of passing any sweeping legislation before the end of the year, immigration advocates are operating with an increased sense of urgency. Their goal is to pressure lawmakers like Mr. Tipton to support an overhaul, creating a call for action from Republican House members that they hope Speaker John A. Boehner and his leadership team will find impossible to ignore.
But persuading Mr. Tipton, a two-term lawmaker who rode into office on the Tea Party wave in 2010, to support any broad immigration legislation will be a tough sell.
Democrats, perhaps optimistically, hope to get Mr. Tipton to sign on to the broad bill they recently introduced, which includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Immigration advocacy groups hope to show him that there could be political consequences if he does not take steps to help overhaul the nation’s immigration system.According to the most recent census, Mr. Tipton’s district, which covers nearly the entire western half of the state as well as part of its southern border with New Mexico, is 24 percent Hispanic. Combined with the large agricultural businesses on the Western Slope, the demographic forces alone would seem to compel Mr. Tipton to support some form of immigration overhaul. President Obama won the state narrowly in both 2008 and 2012, and Mr. Tipton won re-election last year with 53 percent of the vote.
This month, a coalition of immigration advocates, as well as labor and religious groups, inaugurated the “Cost of Inaction,” a voter education and outreach campaign that targets nine House Republicans, Mr. Tipton included, to push for a vote on an immigration overhaul before the end of the year.
We feel that to move them, we have to awaken the electoral vulnerability that Republicans face, both specific Republicans that have large and growing immigrant electorates and also the party as a national party,” said Tom Snyder, the immigration campaign director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., one of the groups behind the campaign. “It’s very hard to think about them winning a presidential election with an immigrant electorate that’s growing and overwhelmingly hostile to the party.”
Immigration advocates are hoping that Colorado is particularly primed to be on the forefront of their push in Congress.“There is not a part of our state, from the agriculture economy to the tourism economy to the high-tech economy, that is not reliant on our having a functioning immigration system and is not compromised by the broken system we have today,” said Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, who was part of the group that drafted the Senate’s immigration bill. “What puzzles me about this issue is why it becomes partisan when it’s in Washington, D.C. It’s not partisan in Colorado.”
As noted previously on this blog, the human genome project has scientifically confirmed that the Adam and Eve of the Book of Genesis never existed as historic people. Thus, the story of the serpent, the fruit from the tree of knowledge and mankind's fall through the sin of Adam and Eve never happened. Obviously, this blows the Hell out of the Christian story line and the need for a redemptive Messiah to atone for mankind's sinfulness. Some denominations are trying to merely ignore this reality which has blown apart Christianity's entire premise as violently as the U-boat torpedo ended the Lusitania's reign as a queen of the seas. Other denominations - e.g., the Southern Baptist Convention - that have stupidly held to the inerrant truth of the Bible are desperately seeking to fabricate a revised story line that avoids the total collapse of the story of the Fall and Christ's redemption. A piece in Why Evolution is True looks at this desperate endeavor. Here are excerpts:
Busily engaged in apologetics, BioLogos has a new post on the never-ending kerfuffle about the meaning of Adam and Eve: “Why the church needs multiple theories of original sin.” It’s by Loren Haarsma, who has a doctorate in physics from Harvard and teaches it at Calvin College (he’s also the co-author, with his wife Deborah, of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design).
The cynical—but correct—answer to the title question is: “Because science showed that there isn’t an Adam and Eve, so you have to make up stuff to save the meaning of Jesus.” And indeed, that’s precisely what theologians do, though of course they don’t admit it. Instead, they pretend that the scientific results showing that humans didn’t evolve from a single pair of ancestors simply means that we must reinterpret the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. But, as usual, theology cannot solve this problem, though Haarsma pretends that diligent theological study and proper interpretation of Scripture will yield an answer. It’s a prime example of how religious tenets are not only disproven by science, but, more important, how religion, unlike science, is powerless to find truth.
The facts first. Sheehan et al., building on an earlier paper by Li and Durbin (references below), calculated that the minimum population size associated with the worldwide expansion of humans out of Africa about 60,000 years ago was 2,250 individuals . . . . Note: 2,500 is larger than two.
Normally, such a scientific trashing of scripture could be absorbed, at least by liberal theologians. They’d just reinterpret Adam and Eve as metaphors. But that causes big trouble on two counts. First, if there really were 2,500 or more ancestors, then all of them must have transgressed to bring original sin into the world. That is hard to fathom: did everyone do something bad at the same time?
Second, if Adam and Eve were metaphors, and the source of original sin is mysterious, then we have no idea why Jesus died. After all, his death and Resurrection occurred precisely to save us sinful humans from the transgressions of Adam and Eve. If you have to turn that story into a metaphor, then Jesus died for a metaphor. That’s not very palatable to Christians.
But before Haarsma even gets to the science (whose truth he gracefully admits, because he has to), he discusses how the Church has historically dealt with the problem of atonement. The answer is that they’ve considered multiple theories and can’t settle on one.
A variety of scenarios are being proposed by Christian scholars today for how we might understand the Adam and Eve of Genesis 2, and their disobedience in Genesis 3, in light of modern science.
1. Some scenarios propose Adam and Eve as two individuals living in Mesopotamia just a few thousand years ago, acting not as ancestors but as recent representatives of all humanity. As our representatives, their disobedience caused all of humanity to fall into sin.[E]ach of these has its own set of problems if you want to save the idea of original sin. The first raises the problem of how the transgressions of two people could infect the entire species.
2. Other scenarios propose Adam and Eve as two individuals, or as literary representations of a small group of ancient representative-ancestors, selected out of a larger population, living in Africa over 100,000 years ago at the dawn of humanity; they were ancestors—but not the sole ancestors—of all humans today . . .
3. Other scenarios propose that Adam and Eve’s disobedience in Genesis 3 is a symbolic retelling of the story of every human who, over our long history, became aware of God’s claims on how they ought to live, and then disobeyed.
The second scenario, which proposes that Adam and Eve could be “literary representations” (i.e., made up) of an entire group of ancestors, also fails to explain how that whole group became infected with original sin.
The final alternative, if you wish to save original sin, is the one employed by more sophisticated theologians like Peter Enns (reference below). Enns, formerly a biblical scholar at BioLogos, but presumably expelled from Paradise by his science-y transgressions, simply says that the whole scenario is metaphorical. . . . In other words, the Adam and Eve story is fictional.
[T]he whole problem is this: what, exactly, is God’s revelation in Scripture? It used to be a literal interpretation of Adam and Eve, and still would be had science not taken that off the table. But maybe original sin is metaphorical, too, and perhaps even Jesus is! Indeed, maybe God isn’t loving and good, either. After all, he’s pretty much of a hateful bully in the Old Testament.