Questioning assumptions, left and right - We lead off with a pair of recent books, one striving desperately to undermine our confidence, and the other trying just as hard to snap us out of our fu...
23 hours ago
|Chasing down a pirate in Distant Worlds - Universe|
|My first game of Universe. Mine is the light blue empire (the darker blue circle, NE of my colonies, is an ally).|
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
American politics took a Game of Thrones-worthy plot twist on Tuesday as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary by a 12-point margin to Dave Brat, an underfunded right-wing challenger. ...
From day one — literally, the night of President Obama’s first inauguration — Cantor was leading the charge to not just oppose Obama, but to delegitimize him — denying him the conciliatory, bipartisan policy style he campaigned on, and turning even policy successes into the kind of grueling partisan battles that voters dislike. It was a deeply cynical maneuver, but a successful one. Cantor helped unite the Republican caucus around this scorched-earth strategy, and played a major role in the 2010 campaign that leveraged the grim results of that strategy into a new majority.
In 2011, Cantor became Majority Leader thanks in part to the winning challengers he recruited and funded. In the midst of a still-sputtering economy, he introduced a three-word mantra that would define his now-abruptly-ended time as Majority Leader: “Cut and Grow.” ...
The “Cut and Grow” strategy worked like an anvil works as a life preserver. It dragged down an economy that desperately needed rescue. ...
The 2011 debt-ceiling standoff is the height of Cantorism, a perfect illustration of big angry talk and economically counterproductive results. Republicans began to describe the routine increase in the debt ceiling as a favor to Obama, for which they needed concessions in order to “give” it to him. The debt ceiling is an accounting formality that has catastrophic results if left undone, but in one of the great acts of political spin in the past few years, Cantor called it a “leverage moment” to make President Obama capitulate to the Republican ideological agenda.
The result was a miserable summer of collapsing consumer confidence and slowed job growth. Cantor wouldn’t even stay at the table for the negotiations he forced to happen with his debt-ceiling extortion.
After months of efforts to end the (completely optional) crisis, Congress passed and the President signed the Budget Control Act, which created the pointless “supercommittee” process and eventually led to sequestration, a blunt-instrument package of cuts, including cuts to programs like Head Start and Meals on Wheels. Sequestration was terrible policy - It was yet another drag on an economy - and, even after his strategy made it happen, Cantor still complained about the sequester and blamed Obama for it.
If you want to know Eric Cantor’s legacy, it’s not just about the forces that he encouraged and that backfired on him last night. It’s a political style and an ideology that actively set back the economy, time after time. His cynical advocacy of “Cut and Grow” has had real negative consequences.
He tried to ride the tiger into battle, and the tiger ate him. His loss is richly deserved and poetically just, but it comes too late.
Eric Cantor will be fine — he’ll get a lobbying job, board-of-director seats, “visiting fellow” offers at think tanks, Wall Street Journal op-eds, and of course a full Congressional pension. If only the thousands of people whose unemployment came from his policy choices could be so lucky.
One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.
This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. ...
But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.
Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. ...
So what then were the real origins of the religious right? It turns out that the movement can trace its political roots back to a court ruling, but not Roe v. Wade.
In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero.
Paul Weyrich, the late religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw his opening.
In the decades following World War II, evangelicals, especially white evangelicals in the North, had drifted toward the Republican Party—inclined in that direction by general Cold War anxieties, vestigial suspicions of Catholicism and well-known evangelist Billy Graham’s very public friendship with Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Despite these predilections, though, evangelicals had largely stayed out of the political arena, at least in any organized way. If he could change that, Weyrich reasoned, their large numbers would constitute a formidable voting bloc—one that he could easily marshal behind conservative causes. ...
But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. ...
The Green v. Connally ruling provided a necessary first step: It captured the attention of evangelical leaders, especially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related “segregation academies,” including Falwell’s own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.”
One such school, Bob Jones University—a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.
Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation.
Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.
But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale. ...
By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the IRS “against independent schools,” but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.
The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.
1. God is Silent
If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn't leave someone else to do this, as if an infinite being were short on time. And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages. God would deliver the message himself, directly, to each and every one of us, and with such clarity as the most brilliant being in the universe could accomplish. We would all hear him out and shout "Eureka!" So obvious and well-demonstrated would his message be. It would be spoken to each of us in exactly those terms we would understand. And we would all agree on what that message was. Even if we rejected it, we would all at least admit to each other, "Yes, that's what this God fellow told me."
Excuses don't fly. The Christian proposes that a supremely powerful being exists who wants us to set things right, and therefore doesn't want us to get things even more wrong. This is an intelligible hypothesis, which predicts there should be no more confusion about which religion or doctrine is true than there is about the fundamentals of medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, or even meteorology. It should be indisputably clear what God wants us to do, and what he doesn't want us to do. Any disputes that might still arise about that would be as easily and decisively resolved as any dispute between two doctors, chemists, or engineers as to the right course to follow in curing a patient, identifying a chemical, or designing a bridge. Yet this is not what we observe. Instead, we observe exactly the opposite: unresolvable disagreement and confusion. That is clearly a failed prediction. A failed prediction means a false theory. Therefore, Christianity is false. ...
Right from the start, it fails to explain why believers disagree. The fact that believers can't agree on the content of God's message or desires also refutes the theory that he wants us to be clear on these things. This failed prediction cannot be explained away by any appeal to free will--for these people have chosen to hear God, and not only to hear him, but to accept Jesus Christ as the shepherd of their very soul. So no one can claim these people chose not to hear God. Therefore, either God is telling them different things, or there is no God. Even if there is a God, but he is deliberately sowing confusion, this contradicts what Christianity predicts to be God's desire, which entails Christianity is the wrong religion. Either way, Christianity is false.
A man accidentally shot and killed himself while driving Wednesday afternoon down a Tennessee highway, Chattanooga TV station WTVC reported.
James Anthony McKenzie, 49, shot himself in the thigh with a .45 caliber handgun as he drove, Meigs County Detective Scott Wiggins said. A call came in for deputies to respond to a seizure, he said, but when they arrived McKenzie had apparently bled to death from the wound in his thigh.
The man was in the car alone, according to WTVC, and deputies were trying to determine how the gun discharged. McKenzie held a valid permit for the firearm.
When a lone gunman armed with a shotgun at a small Seattle university stopped firing at students to reload, another student pepper-sprayed him and subdued him with the help of others and prevented more deaths, police said.
All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.
ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”