Tuesday, May 5, 2009

* A Mountain of Sermons does not make a Sermon on the Mount – Catholic Bishops across America are criticizing Notre Dame University for inviting Barack Obama to speak at its commencement and receive an honorary doctorate degree on May 17, 2009. “Obama’s abortion rights record clashes with a fundamental church teaching.” There has been no mention of Obama’s core principles on programs that help the poor, the sick, the less educated, civil rights, individual freedoms and his stance against torture. It is another case of out of the womb, out of mind. It is another case of one-issue leadership in a multi-issue world. Please let me know if I missed the Catholic Bishops position paper on the more than 100,000 post-womb lives aborted as a result of the Iraq invasion.

* Speaking of religion 1 – In a Pew Research Center survey that I found startling, “More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified.” Perhaps devoted study of the bible does not allow sufficient time to understand the laws of the United States of America or the context of humane behavior. Perhaps “study” does not necessarily lead to “understanding.” There was a time when I felt that organized religion contributed to the humanizing of the individual. There also was a time when I believed the Tooth Fairy left money under my pillow.

* Speaking of religion 2 – Something that all of us should find disturbing is a just released video from Afghanistan “showing that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan have been instructed by the military’s top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Soldiers also have imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, the two dominant languages of Afghanistan.” Perhaps ironic but certainly pathetic and disgusting, the video was recorded at the huge U.S. base in Bagram “one of the main sites used by the U.S. military to torture and indefinitely detain prisoners.” First the U.S. initiates the Iraq war on false pretenses and then conducts a war in Afghanistan with a religious element. As if our military did not have enough problems in the Muslim-dominated countries where it currently battles, we are now making these wars Crusades. In 1950 historian Sir Steven Runciman wrote a resounding condemnation about the Crusades: "High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed … the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God.” I would suggest that history, far from being a straight line, is a vicious circle fueled by stupidity and myopia. God save us!

* Pandemic cable news – World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Gregory Hartl noted that the public may misunderstand the word "pandemic." The term refers to where an illness spreads, not its severity. Recall that 36,000 Americans die each year from the flu. No one knows at this time what the future holds for the H1N1 (Swine) flu but one healthful health tip may be to watch less television “news.” This prescription would reduce pandemic panic.

* A Democratic financial virus in the Senate – A bill introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to allow homeowners in bankruptcy to renegotiate mortgages with banks was defeated last week. Fifteen Democratic senators voted against the bill that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to mediate adjusted mortgages. Some senators may have legitimately felt that a contract should not be altered. Some senators may have felt that it would give judges too much power. And some senators may be too beholden to the financial industry, having received campaign contributions from this powerful sector. Following the defeat of this legislation Durbin commented, “And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

The Center for Responsive Politics, at their website opensecrets.org, lists some of the Democratic senators that voted against the bill and the amount of money they have received over their career from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate Sector:
Max Baucus (D-MT) $4.6 million
Thomas Carper (D-DE) $2.2 million
Byron Dorgan (D-ND) $1.1 million
Tim Johnson (D-SD) $3 million
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) just under $1 million
Ben Nelson (D-NB) $2.7 million
Mary Landrieu (D-LA) $2.4 million
Mark Pryor (D-AR) $1.3 million
Arlen Specter (D-PA) $5.7 million

When a legislator’s pockets are filled by special interests how are we to know whether a vote was cast based on principle and philosophy or a result of fulfilling the interests of the donor. Do the legislators even know any more? Until there is public financing of elections this conflict of (our) interest will infect the democratic and legislative process.

* Speaking of Nebraskan Ben Nelson – Last week he said that he would oppose legislation that would give people the option of a public health insurance plan. Last week a poll released by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that 66 percent of Americans back the creation of a public health plan that would compete with private plans. So what is Nelson’s problem with a public plan? Are you sitting down? Nelson’s opposition is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a "deal breaker." Conclusion: Ben Nelson puts the interests of private insurance companies over the interests of the people of Nebraska and the people of the other 49 states. One wonders how much money the health insurance industry has spent to ensure Nelson’s support. As a Senator, Nelson already benefits from an excellent publically funded health care plan. His derriere is covered. Can you say, “Public financing of elections?”

* Viral lies by the energy industry ~ what is that odor? – The economic interests of oil and gas companies, as usual, override the health and welfare of the American people and the planet that supports our survival. “For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming… But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.” My conclusion: For the past almost two decades energy industry propaganda talking points, supported by politicians in their pockets, were knowingly based on fossil bullshit.

* The specter of Specter – I have yet to encounter anyone in my state of Pennsylvania excited about Arlen Specter sprinting from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Specter fled the GOP after he saw the strong polling numbers of his likely primary opponent, conservative Pat Toomey. Everyone does agree that the move was a survival maneuver by Specter to prolong his political career. Regardless of party affiliation, something that Specter cannot run from is his voting record that includes: failing to cast votes against torture and unauthorized wiretaps, voting for the Patriot Act renewal, backing the costly Bush tax cuts for the well-to-do and paving the way for Bush appointees to the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen whether opportunistic Arlen gets a free ride on Democratic coattails to another term in office.

* Priests are no more necessary to religion than politicians to patriotism.”
John Haynes Holmes (1879 – 1964) a prominent Unitarian minister and pacifist, noted for his anti-war activism.


Sue Katz said...

The idea that American soldiers are doubling as paid Christian evangelicals in a non-Christian country is freaky indeed. Surely this has to be stopped and there needs to be consequences for this maniacal chaplain. Man, I hope they don't occupy MY neighborhood.

Ruth Z Deming said...

Oh, the egregious sins of our lawmakers, Stephen! If home ownership is the backbone of our economy and our goal as independent adults, why would senators shoot down ideas of leniency from banks? Ah, of course. Greed! The sin of venality, I believe they call it.

And health insurance! How does that Nebraska politician think he'll ever get re-elected (hopefully he won't) for opposing public health insurance?

Great reporting as always, Mr. W.