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Archive for May 24th, 2016|Daily archive page

A DARK, UNSEEN ROOM: RELIGION TRUMPS LAW

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2016 at 3:08 am

Adolf Hitler had a warning for the Indiana legislators who passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A warning they should have heeded–but didn’t.

It all started on June 22, 1941.

On that date, Hitler ordered his powerful Wehrmacht to invade the Soviet Union.

Less than two years earlier, in August, 1939, he had signed a “non-aggression” pact with his longtime arch-enemy, Joseph Stalin.

Since then, his army had conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France.

Adolf Hitler with his generals

Now, he believed, it was time to “settle accounts” with the Soviet Union.

Only there could Germany obtain the “living space” it “needed” for its expanding population.

So at 3 a.m. on June 22, 1941, Hitler once again launched an invasion.

At first, Hitler–no doubt like the Indiana legislators–felt giddy with excitement.

Turning to Alfred Jodl, his chief of operations of the Wehrmacht,  he said: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”

German soldiers marching through Russia

But soon afterward–almost as if he had just looked into the future and seen that he had none–he told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”

That certainly proved true for Hitler.

Within four years, he was dead and the Red Army occupied Berlin.

And now the law of unintended consequences may be coming true for Indiana.

On March 26, 2015, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so.

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  And signed into law by a Republican governor.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence 

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Mike Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events.  Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press.  The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed–like Hitler–that he was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis.

The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL.

“Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL.

“Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

Click here: Whoops: Indiana’s Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Act Opens the Door For the First Church of Cannabis | Alternet

And Levin had a personal comment for the governor who had made it all possible:

“Dear Mikey Pence…

“DUDE!.. keep crapping all over the state.. and I will plant a seed of LOVE, UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION in each pile you leave.. and it will grow into a big skunky cannabis tree. Crap away Mikey.. Crap Away…”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state.

But worse may yet come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have pushed upon that door “into a dark, unseen room.” 

What will happen when:

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.)
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the basis for their demands?  

Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy nightmare.

ROME IS U.S.

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2016 at 12:56 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

Poster for Spartacus

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba, slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus.

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome.  Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus, the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and stands ever ready to oppose his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”  

Draba defeats Spartacus in their gladiatorial bout, but refuses to kill him. Instead, he throws his spear at Crassus and is immediately slaughtered by Roman guards.  

Soon afterward, Spartacus leads 70 other gladiators  against their Roman masters, forms an army of freed slaves, and marches against Rome.

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, so, too, are billionaires now buying the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

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Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denied he had any selfish motives for shelling out so much money to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Unfortunately, Gingrich was not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney relied heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters included executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Like Adelson, Bain has directly profited from the losses of others.  

Fast forward to 2016:

In early May, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. Nevertheless, at least this much has leaked: 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign. This could exceed $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump is bragging that he’s “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This myth has been a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

Donald Trump

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs–outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads–that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech–the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid–or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas.  These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire–like Spartacus and Cleopatra–hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.” But it has happened here–and it’s happening right now.

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