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Thread: Puke Watch

  1. #21
    Atypical is offline
    Issa's Overreach Already Underway.

    Steve Benen / Washington Monthly

    ISSA'S OVERREACH ALREADY UNDERWAY.... The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was tasked with an unpleasant job: identify and explain the events that caused the global economic crash in 2008. Last week, the panel largely wrapped up its work, and blamed ... just about everyone.

    Wall Street banks and their widespread mismanagement shared responsibility in the final report with law federal regulators, credit rating agencies, the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Federal Reserve, and a motley crew of thousands.

    But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the grand inquisitor chairman of the House oversight committee, has a few questions of his own. The conservative Republican has decided the investigation needs an investigation, and according to the Financial Times, has demanded that the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission turn over its emails and related records to the committee for review.

    Keep in mind, there have been no accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the commission; Issa says he just wants to look around and see what, if anything, he can turn up.

    Paul Krugman explained the motivations behind a move like this one.

    [W]hat this is really about is intimidation -- in much the same way that investigations of climate scientists are about intimidation.
    What the GOP wants is to make people afraid even to do research that produces conclusions they don't like. And they don't stop at trying to undermine the research -- they go after the researchers personally. The goal is to create an environment in which analysts and academics are afraid to look into things like financial-industry malfeasance or climate change, for fear that some subcommittee will either dig up or invent dirt about their private lives.

    McCarthy had nothing on these guys.


    This is, by the way, the same Issa who, just three weeks on the job, announced that he wants his committee to have a running list of everyone who files Freedom of Information Act requests.* If this makes you uncomfortable, you're not alone -- it "just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking," said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. "It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good."

    And for good measure, let's also note that Issa last week compared his GOP predecessor -- the melon-shooting Dan Burton of Indiana -- to Abraham Lincoln.

    It's going to be a long two years.

    __________________________________________________ _______

    References to Nazis in political (or other) arguments are usually odious and usually destroy the good points, if any, of the debate. HOWEVER, can anyone read this and not think of the Gestapo or any other type of police state activity.

    There is, in this thread, a prior reference to Issa. If you haven't read it you might find it interesting now.

    *The modern repuke party is a criminal organization - no doubt about it. What do they say about, 'keeping the govt out of our lives'; wanting smaller govt; govt is your enemy - oh wait, they got that right except it's only when they are in power.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 04:39 PM.

  2. #22
    Atypical is offline

    I Know Generalizations Are Dangerous And Frequently Wrong But I Can't Help Myself

    This article and the additional thousand I've seen prove that all conservatives, libertarians and repukes are stupid a-holes (redundant, I know. Atypical)

    Georgia Republican’s bill would do away with driver’s licenses.

    A Republican in Georgia's House of Representatives has introduced a bill to eliminate driver's licenses, arguing that the documents are an unnecessary infringement on personal freedom.

    Rep. Bobby Franklin, who represents the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, defended the bill to skeptical reporters on Monday, who questioned whether it would be a good idea to eliminate oversight of Georgia's drivers.

    "One of your inalienable rights is the right to travel, the right to move about without needing your papers," Franklin told WSB in Atlanta. "You shouldn't have to have permission from the state to exercise a right that has been inalienably given to you from your creator."

    Franklin took tough questions on the bill from a CBS Atlanta reporter who questioned what it would mean if children were allowed to drive cars.

    CBS Atlanta's Rebekka Schramm asked Franklin, “How are we going to keep up with who’s who and who’s on the roads and who’s not supposed to be on the roads?”

    That’s a great question," Franklin said. "And I would have to answer that with a question, ‘Why do you need to know who’s who?’” (WTF - Atypical)

    “What about 12-14-year-olds who want to drive? What would stop them?" Schramm asked.

    “Well, what’s stopping them now anyway?” Franklin answered.

    "Let us answer Franklin’s question right away: Millions of parents are stopping them, in the name of a law that’s unlikely to change anytime soon," Jim Galloway wrote at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Another roadblock: The constant fatalities ... that remind us that driving is serious business."

    Franklin has been in the Georgia House of Representatives since 1996, and his Facebook profile describes him as "the most conservative member of the Georgia General Assembly." (I told you conservatives were stupid. Atypical)

    "Representative Franklin has been called 'the conscience of the Republican Caucus"' because he believes that civil government should return to its biblically and constitutionally defined role," his House website states. (WTF - Atypical)

    Franklin's legislative agenda appears to mirror many of the causes taken up by the tea party movement, including the movement's concerns about the Federal Reserve and fiat money. Last month, Franklin introduced a bill that would require all transactions with the state of Georgia to be paid in silver or gold. (typical repuke idiot - Atypical)

    The proposed law, intended as an effort to move the US towards a gold standard for its currency, would have "catastrophic consequences" for Georgia, Ian Millhiser wrote at ThinkProgress.

    Among other things, the U.S. Mint simply does not make very many gold and silver coins — the Mint has even suspended sales of precious medal coins when demand rises above very low levels — so it is unlikely that enough coins even exist to allow Georgia taxpayers to pay more than a fraction of their tax obligations if they are required to do so in U.S. minted gold or silver....

    Gold or silver standards leave a nation completely powerless to control its own monetary policy, often tying inflation rates to completely arbitrary factors such as the rate that gold is mined in South Africa, rather than to the interests of a national economy. Worse, it leaves a nation without one of its most important tools to push back against economic downturns. In the 1930s, the United States was one of the last major nations to abandon the gold standard, and this failure to act was one of the principle causes of the Great Depression.

    According to CBS Atlanta, Franklin co-sponsored all of the first 21 bills introduced in the new House session. Among the bills are one that would criminalize abortion in the state under all circumstances, and another that would prohibit mandatory vaccinations. Yet another bill proposes abolishing the state income tax.

    Daniel Tencer/ Raw Story

    _______________________________

    Okay, I got carried away. But they are incredibly stupid!
    Last edited by Atypical; 01-31-2011 at 09:58 PM.

  3. #23
    Atypical is offline

    Limbaugh Jokes About Detention of NYT Journalists,

    Until He Learns Fox 'News' Reporters Hospitalized.

    Rush Limbaugh is a disgusting human being. But you probably knew that. If you didn't, audio from his show today --- which is broadcast over our public airwaves to some 15 million Americans a day, and even over U.S. Armed Forces Radio --- makes it as clear as ever.

    First, as highlighted by Media Matters, Limbaugh made light of foreign journalists, including two reporters from the New York Times, being rounded-up in Cairo today because being detained while covering a story of huge import to this nation and the world, by a regime that has spent decades torturing such people is, of course, hilarious...


    LIMBAUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, it is being breathlessly reported that the Egyptian army --- Snerdley, have you heard this? The Egyptian army is rounding up foreign journalists.

    I mean, even two New York Times reporters were detained. Now, this is supposed to make us feel what, exactly? How we supposed to feel? Are we supposed to feel outrage over it? I don't feel any outrage over it. Are we supposed to feel anger? I don't feel any anger over this. Do we feel happy? Well --- uh --- do we feel kind of going like, "neh-neh-neh-neh"?

    I'm sure that your emotions are running the gamut when you hear that two New York Times reporters have been detained along with other journalists in Egypt. Remember now, we're supporting the people who are doing this.

    Next, later on in the very the same show, after he's learned that two Fox "News" reporters had been beaten and hospitalized following detention in Egypt, suddenly Rush gives a damn, and says he was just "kidding before about The New York Times"...


    LIMBAUGH: According to Mediaite, Fox News' Greg Palkot and crew have been severely beaten and are now hospitalized in Cairo. Now we were kidding before about The New York Times, of course. This kind of stuff is terrible. We wouldn't wish this kind of thing even on reporters.
    Moral depravity. As appalling as it gets.

    For the record, as White House correspondent Paul Brandus tweeted last night as the round-up was beginning, "79 journalists were killed around the world last year - just for trying to tell a story."

    According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 849 journalists have been killed since 1992.

    Isn't that hysterical, Rush?


    http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8338

  4. #24
    Atypical is offline

    Clarence Thomas Appears to Have 'Knowingly and Willfully' Violated the Rule of Law

    FOR TWENTY YEARS!

    Brad Friedman

    The words "EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW" are famously chiseled above the main portico of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. But is one of the Justices seated in that building, with a lifetime appointment, now receiving special treatment under the law instead?

    Evidence is mounting that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas violated federal law by failing to report his wife's annual salary of more than $120,000 per year from conservative political organizations by checking "NONE" on the box for "Non-Investment Income" for his wife Virginia on judicial Financial Disclosure Reports for the last 20 years.

    According to the "self-initiated amendment" letters [PDF] signed by Thomas as dated Friday, January 21, 2011 and stamped as "RECEIVED" by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Committee on Financial Disclosure on a Saturday, January 22, 2011, the Justice failed to reveal such sources of spousal income even on his original nomination disclosure forms during his contentious 1991 confirmation hearings.

    One of the amendments hastily filed last week by Thomas states that he "inadvertently omitted" spousal income from as far back as 1989 "due to a misunderstanding of filing instructions". Though it has also been reported that he did report other spousal income on some disclosure reports up until 1996.

    Virginia Thomas' income from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, totaling $686,589 from 2003 to 2007 according to Common Cause, was omitted from the forms entirely, as was her Heritage Foundation employment from 1998 to 2003 and other sources of "non-investment income" from as early as 1989.

    When reached by phone for comment on Friday, two different officials at the Judicial Conference were particularly hostile in response to questions from The BRAD BLOG in regard to what appeared to be special treatment afforded the Supreme Court Justice, allowing him to deliver the amendment letters for twenty years of inaccurate financial disclosure forms on a Saturday when the federal government office is not usually open to the public. The swift processing of Thomas' documents, carried out as the news of his false filings was about to break in the media, allowed subsequent news reports to downplay the issue as having already been handled, old news.

    Moreover, Thomas' 'inadvertent omissions' appear to be in violation of U.S. federal law, in contradiction to suggestions from the Los Angeles Times' original reporting on this matter last weekend. That report, breaking the story publicly, quoted a judicial ethics expert from Northwestern University School of Law as asserting that Thomas' failure to report his wife's income was "not a crime of any sort."

    It would appear that the law professor was wrong.

    Closer examination of the original disclosure forms that Thomas filed and signed year after year, quite directly suggest crimes were committed, though none of the mainstream corporate media reports on this issue, to our knowledge, have bothered to focus on that point. According to the statute clearly printed on the disclosure reports filed by Thomas, just below his signature on each, the Supreme Court Justice could be held accountable for his omissions by penalties under the U.S. Code including as much as a $50,000 fine and up to one year imprisonment, or both, for each violation of the federal law. Even stricter penalties are also a possibility --- at least if one believes that even U.S. Supreme Court Justices are subject to the Rule of Law...


    [DOCUMENT at BRADBLOG]

    'Not a Crime of Any Sort'?

    Thomas has maintained that the omissions of his wife Virginia's "non-investment income" salary --- from the Heritage Foundation, the Liberty Coalition, a "Tea Party" political group she founded in 2009, and a number of Congressional Republicans for whom she work --- were "inadvertent". He quickly moved to file amendments to years of false disclosure reports as the governmental watchdog organization Common Cause sent a letter [PDF] to the Secretary of the Judicial Conference just over a week ago, seeking an investigation and possible referral to the Attorney General, and as the Los Angeles Times worked on breaking their story that weekend.

    The Times article included a quote from Northwestern University School of Law professor, Steven Lubet, downplaying the seriousness of the apparent violations of law, by stating his belief that they were "not a crime of any sort":

    "Steven Lubet, an expert on judicial ethics at Northwestern University School of Law, said such an infraction was unlikely to result in a penalty. Although unfamiliar with the complaint about Thomas' forms, Lubet said failure to disclose spousal income "is not a crime of any sort, but there is a potential civil penalty" for failing to follow the rules."

    However, the disclosure forms (here is the one he filed for 2009 [PDF], for example, as submitted in 2010) as signed by Thomas in the final "Certification" section, attests that the information provided on the report, "including information pertaining to my spouse", was "accurate, true, and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief".

    The penalties for falsifying those documents are noted in ALL CAPS on the Financial Disclosure Report itself, just below the Justice's own signature as follows:

    "NOTE: ANY INDIVIDUAL WHO KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY FALSIFIES OR FAILS TO FILE THIS REPORT MAY BE SUBJECT TO CIVIL AND CRIMINAL SANCTIONS (5 U.S.C. app. 104)"


    http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8331

    ________________________________________________

    The rest is at this link. Read it and be disgusted at this pukes arrogance. Scalia's toady is above the law apparently - and he is on the "Supreme" Court. So much for ethical behavior from this conservative and respect for law and order. And he JUDGES US!

    For those interested, read something about the court's change in legal behavior over the last 10-15 years. The conservatives in charge of this institution are destroying it.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 04:49 PM.

  5. #25
    Atypical is offline

    Read This And See What they Are Doing To This Country

    GOP Presidential Hopefuls Are Alienating the Rest of the World by Fusing Christian Superiority with Blatant Revisionist American History

    Fusing American exceptionalism with Christian superiority, Republican presidential hopefuls act to alienate our allies -- just when we need them most.

    January 10, 2011 AlterNet / Andrew Belonsky

    Generations of American politicians have long proclaimed the United States the greatest nation in the world to win over voters. And it very often works.

    Now a new breed of Republican leaders -- politicians like former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Mike Pence and Sen. Marco Rubio -- are working overtime to reclaim the well-worn idea of "American exceptionalism" as their own.

    Rather than using a traditional “we’re number one” cheer, however, these and other GOP leaders, all potential 2012 contenders, have created a new hybrid narrative, one that fuses blatantly religious ideology with fiscal conservatism. While it’s a practical tactic for securing elections here at home, this brand of American greatness puts our nation in a precarious international position.

    Tea Party leaders are fusing a notion of Christian superiority with revisionist American history to create a new exceptionalist narrative. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who led the Tea Party insurgency in the midterm elections for U.S. Senate, proclaimed the Tea Party movement to be a “spiritual renewal” in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. And in a November 2010, speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Mike Pence of Indiana, who is said to be exploring a White House bid, made an explicit connection between American free enterprise, exceptionalism and Christianity.

    "The free market is what made America’s economy the greatest in the world," Pence declared. "To renew American exceptionalism, we must recognize that our present crisis is not merely economic, but moral in nature... As we seek to build national wealth, we must renew our commitment to the institutions that nurture the character of our people -- traditional family and religion.”

    DeMint, meanwhile, offered his own take on the same idea: "You cannot be a real fiscal conservative if you do not understand the value of a culture that’s based on values," DeMint said in his speech at the Values Voter Summit in September. "When you have a big government, you’re going to have a little God. You’re going to have fewer values and morals...."

    And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a GOP presidential hopeful, had this to say last August: "To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.” In these politicians’ collective view, exceptionalism isn't only about our country's unique character; it's a divine calling.

    Pastor Tony Campolo, the liberal evangelical preacher who served as an adviser to former President Bill Clinton, told Newsweek's Lisa Miller, "The marriage between evangelicalism and patriotic nationalism is so strong that anybody who is raising questions about loyalty to the old, laissez-faire capitalist system is ex post facto unpatriotic, un-American and by association non-Christian." Fiscal and social conservatism have become one.

    Nowhere has the alignment of American exceptionalism and right-wing Christian theology been more dangerous than in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Since the free market includes the entire globe, conservatives claim, our biblically inspired, capitalism-driven democratic values must be exported, an idea that threatens our international standing.

    It’s this theology that drives the international exploits of a secretive group of Capitol Hill elites -- including Jim DeMint and Mike Pence -- known alternately as the Fellowship or the Family. The Family made rare headlines last year, when it was revealed the group had supported the Ugandan lawmakers who proposed an anti-LGBT bill that would make certain practices punishable by death.

    The organization also operates the C Street House in Washington, where, according to Jeff Sharlet, author of C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, DeMint is "ideologically influential." And that ideology, as the senator told the right-wing magazine, World, in August 2009, includes the belief that "[t]he decline of America's power and prestige has been directly related to the secularization of our country."

    But the Family’s influence on U.S foreign policy doesn’t begin or end in Uganda, or on the subject of LGBT rights. The group has also helped former Somali dictator Siad Barre buy arms, and facilitated U.S. support for various other despots, including Indonesia’s Haji Muhammad Suharto and Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti. And now the Family’s congressional members are ascendant in the U.S. Capitol; most of them are allied with the Tea Party movement, and in an unprecedented position to shape our nation’s policy.

    Still, the Family and its members don’t have a monopoly on American exceptionalism-spouting evangelicalism, even in Uganda.

    Huckabee likewise has links to the forces behind the African nation’s “kill the gays” bill, thanks to his friendship with Rev. Lou Engle, an outspoken opponent of LGBT people who last year, at the height of the controversy, invited one of the bill’s foremost proponents, Pastor Julius Oyet, onto the stage at a revival he headlined in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

    Meanwhile, in Florida, Tea Party insurgent Marco Rubio of Florida shaped his electoral stump speech around the idea of American exceptionalism, a theme he trumpeted again during his victory speech, insisting, “The vast majority of [Americans believe] that the United States of America is simply the single greatest nation in all of human history, a place without equal in the history of all mankind.”

    And, like his party peers, Rubio’s Christian Americanism has worrisome roots: Glenn Beck's "historian" friend David Barton, leader of the conservative Christian group Wallbuilders, which frequently questions the validity of global warming and contends that church and state were never meant to be separated.

    "Christianity is the religion that shaped America and made her what she is today," Barton wrote on his Web site. "In fact, historically speaking, it can be irrefutably demonstrated that Biblical Christianity in America produced many of the cherished traditions still enjoyed today."
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 04:50 PM.

  6. #26
    Atypical is offline

    Conclusion

    Huckabee, too, has ties to Barton, whom he calls "maybe the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America's early days, and Palin draws inspiration from Bartons revisionist history, claiming that the Founding Fathers never meant to separate church and state.

    The former Alaska governor, whose ignorance of foreign policy was famously revealed during her 2008 run for the vice presidency, waded into the international arena recently by embarking on a "humanitarian mission" to earthquake-ravaged Haiti's cholera camps. Though some suggested that Palin wanted to bolster her foreign policy credentials ahead of a 2012 run, she insisted her presence was simply part of her obligation as a good American. "We are so fortunate in America, she said, and we are responsible for helping those less fortunate."

    The trip wasn't simply about spreading love, though. It was organized by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian nonprofit headed by Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelical powerhouse Billy Graham, that come under fire for putting missionary work ahead of material assistance.

    The New York Times in 2001 described Samaritans Purses religious work in the aftermath of two earthquakes in El Salvador: "An American evangelical relief group that is using private donations and United States government money to help victims of two earthquakes has blurred the line between church and state as its volunteers preach, pray and seek converts among people desperate for help," the Times reported. And leader Graham has been criticized for calling Islam a "wicked" religion.

    Seen in that light, Palin's nascent foreign policy suddenly becomes less about diplomacy and more about American-made proselytizing.

    The stage for the Christian-inspired notion of American exceptionalism was set, ironically enough, by a man many in the Religious Right view as a disappointment, President George W. Bush, who along with his neoconservative allies, relied on the doctrine of American exceptionalism to justify the invasion of Iraq. Its our sacred duty to deliver democracy to the masses, the reasoning went: "The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity," Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address.

    But Bushs crusade to spread that purportedly divine gift ended up looking a lot more like imperialism than exceptionalism, costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, stretching our military capabilities and tarnishing our nation's name.

    "The administration's belief in its own good motives explains much of its failure to anticipate the highly negative international reaction to the war," wrote Francis Fukuyama in his book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy. The former presidents model, emulated by todays GOP leaders, remains flawed, putting too much faith in a presumed destiny, and not enough in pragmatic cooperation.

    Perhaps more dangerous than depleted military resources are accusations that we wield our military might for religious reasons, as happened during the Bush administration, when the presidents foreign policy memos came complete with Biblical passages.

    And, yes, the image of Bush as a missionary had a detrimental impact on our foreign standing: U.S. approval rating fell below 50 percent among the populations of longtime allies France, Germany and Spain, and took a particularly devastating hit in Arab nations, where our ratings plummeted to the single digits and people regularly complained of American jingoism.

    Proclamations of Americas singularity began even before the nation's founding, when, in 1630, preacher John Winthrop, drawing on the New Testament Book of Matthew, told Puritans en route to colonial Massachusetts, "We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."

    But "American exceptionalism didnt always convey Americas greatness. The term, attributed to French theorist Alexis de Tocquevilles classic work Democracy in America, simply corresponded with the unique set of circumstances, like our geographical isolation and wide open spaces, that allowed our nations evolution. "The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, wrote Tocqueville, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one."

    President Barack Obama appears to know this history of the exceptional idea, and used it to help spread his message of American humility on the international stage, a move that won applause from allies and recriminations from Tea Party Republicans. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism," Obama told the Financial Times of London in 2009. "We have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional."

    Reacting to the president, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came out swinging. "President Obama's secular socialist philosophy is profoundly in conflict with the heart of the American system and is a repudiation of the core lessons of American history," Gingrich contended at Liberty University last October. [American exceptionalism is] a term which relates directly to our unique assertion of an unprecedented set of rights granted by God.

    Furthermore, Gingrich likened those who dont agree with his perspective, tacitly including President Obama, to Cold War-era Soviets, saying, We have not had such an important national conversation about basic realities and basic truths since the late 1940s. In the period 1946-1950 [when] Americans had to come to grips with an existential threat to their very survival as a free people.

    Gingrich wasnt the first of these men and women to draw a parallel between Democrats like Obama and socialist Soviets, of course. Jim DeMint also tried to discredit Obama on the grounds of American exceptionalim. "We now see all too clearly that the hope and change the Democrats had in mind was nothing more than a retread of the failed and discredited socialist policies that have been the enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world," DeMint told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010.

    Conservatives collective misreading of Obama's exceptionalism ignores one of the commander-in-chief's key comments to the Financial Times: "I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world toward peace and prosperity and recognizing that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone."

    The president has a valid point: the days of the American empire have passed. No matter what leaders on the Right want to believe, our demands and chest-puffing no longer yield the foreign policy results to which weve grown accustomed. As a waning superpower, we need as many friends as possible. And the exclusionary religious and fiscal brand of American exceptionalism that DeMint, Pence, Palin and colleagues are championing may further alienate our allies -- just when we need them most.

    _______________________________________________
    This thread contains other references to the group, The Family, and the danger that these religious politicians and their followers pose. Be afraid.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 04:55 PM.

  7. #27
    Atypical is offline

    Religion Is Just A Business - A Very Big And Profitable Business

    Americans United/Joseph L. Conn

    Senator’s Report Seeks No New Laws To Rein In Predatory ‘Prosperity Gospel’ Preachers – And Recommends Repeat Of Church-Electioneering Ban

    Texas-based TV preacher Kenneth Copeland takes in millions in tax-deductible donations each year. He and his wife Gloria live in a $6.2 million “parsonage” on 25 acres of land by a lake. He has a private cattle ranch, a power plant and oil and gas wells and drives several Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a Mercedes Benz, a Cadillac and a Corvette convertible. His tax-exempt Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) has a fleet of airplanes and its own private airport.

    Copeland has told associates that he is personally a billionaire, and his Pentecostal colleagues gave him and Gloria a $2.1 million cash “gift” to celebrate his 70th birthday and their 40th anniversary in ministry.

    Operating as a church and almost entirely outside the purview of federal tax authorities, Copeland answers only to a KCM board stacked with family members and friends.

    And, soon, if U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and his Religious Right allies have their way, Copeland will be able to use his mega-ministry to intervene in partisan political campaigns.

    In a move that shocked many observers, Grassley and Senate Finance Committee staffers concluded their three-year investigation into the financial irregularities of tax-exempt television ministries with a report that makes no recommendation for additional governmental oversight. And, to compound the controversy, the staff report recommends repeal of the federal tax law ban on church electioneering.

    The report, posted on the Finance Committee website, details staff interaction with six multi-million-dollar “prosperity gospel” ministries. Two of them – Joyce Meyer Ministries and Benny Hinn’s World Healing Center Church – cooperated with the investigation. But four offered limited cooperation or none at all – Randy and Paula White’s Without Walls International Church, Eddie Long Ministries, Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Creflo Dollar Ministries.

    Turning to other sources, committee staff documented a pattern of lavish lifestyles and dubious use of donated funds by several leaders of these outfits. Top officials live in palatial homes, often owning more than one. (The Whites, now divorced, had a $2.7 million house in Tampa and a $3.5 million condo in the Trump Tower in New York City.)

    Ministry officials take tax-free “housing allowances” for themselves and often classify staffers, friends and relatives as “ministers” so they too can protect income from taxation by the Internal Revenue Service. Top pastors sometimes pocket “love offerings” – huge sums of cash collected from supporters – and no one knows whether the money is reported as income.

    This Finance Committee information was obtained despite stonewalling from some mega-ministry leaders. According to the report, employees of the ministries were threatened with retribution – divine and otherwise – if they cooperated with the investigation.

    Even former staffers told the committee that they were afraid to provide statements for fear of being sued.

    Said one ex-employee, “The Copelands employ guerrilla tactics to keep their employees silent. We are flat out told and threatened that if we talk, God will blight our finances, strike our families down, and pretty much afflict us with everything evil and unholy.”

    Despite these findings, Grassley and his staff recommended no immediate changes in federal law to rein in the apparent ministry abuses. Instead, they called for creation of an independent commission led by an evangelical Christian agency to study a variety of tax issues. Among them: a proposal to repeal the ban on campaign intervention by churches and other religious groups.

    Said the Grassley report, “The electioneering prohibition…should be repealed or circumscribed with respect to churches and other Section 501(c)(3) organizations (other than private foundations) because ‘the game is not worth the candle.’”

    Tax law experts and civil liberties activists were aghast.

    “I have to wonder what these Senate staffers could possibly be thinking with this breathtakingly wrong-headed suggestion,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “It’s a sign that this investigation has gone seriously off course.”

    Lynn noted that the probe got under way because of widespread allegations that several high-profile TV preachers were abusing their church status by living lavishly while raking in millions of dollars tax-free every year. Issues of church-based politicking had not been raised during the investigation.

    Lynn said if these ministries were abusing their non-profit charitable status, then more accountability and oversight might be in order. Yet Grassley’s staffers have recommended doing away with the “no electioneering” rule, which would only turn these same ministries loose in the world of partisan politics to do what they will with little or no oversight.

    “If these multi-million-dollar ministries are already misusing their donations for personal gain, imagine how much more dangerous they would be operating in the world of partisan politics,” said Lynn. “I don’t want to see Pat Robertson and other TV preachers using their tax-exempt empires to give backing to favored candidates, and I don’t think most other Americans want that either.”

    Americans United has led the fight to maintain the federal tax law ban on partisan politicking by houses of worship and other religious organizations. A phalanx of Religious Right leaders has aggressively fought to repeal it or undermine its effectiveness so that fundamentalist churches can be forged into a disciplined voting bloc.

    AU’s Lynn testified in Congress in 2002 when U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and his allies attempted to get Congress to scrap the restriction. The move drew support from TV preachers and a few ultra-conservative religious groups, but most religious denominations did not support it. After several forays in the House, Jones finally gave up the battle and so far has not introduced the bill in the current Congress.

    With Grassley’s new move and the change in power in the House, however, a renewed push in Congress is almost certain. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a Tea Party favorite and Religious Right stalwart, has assailed the tax law ban.

    In addition, sectarian lobbies and right-wing political forces have waged a relentless crusade to undermine the law.

    The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based legal group founded by TV preachers, sponsors an annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” that encourages pastors to break the law by endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. Each year, a handful of clergy have done so.

    ADF lawyers organized a May 2008 meeting with Grassley’s staff to demand that the electioneering restriction be lifted and to insist that religious organizations be kept free of any significant new governmental oversight. Among the attendees were representatives of the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the National Religious Broadcasters and others.

    Observers believe Grassley and his staff wilted under the Religious Right pressure.

    Grassley is a conservative Republican with historically close ties to the Religious Right. He has a 100 percent “true blue” rating from the Family Research Council’s lobbying arm for his votes in the 111th Congress.

    But Grassley’s TV preacher inquiry, launched in November 2007, soured his friends’ view of him. Things got so bad that Grassley, a five-term senator, was denied a seat in the Iowa delegation to the 2008 Republican National Convention. The GOP party apparatus in the state is dominated by the Iowa Christian Alliance and its cronies.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 02:43 PM.

  8. #28
    Atypical is offline

    Conclusion

    Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Grassley eviscerated his drive to clean up the prosperity gospel outrages. Instead of new legislation insisting on more openness and accountability, the issue will be turned over to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), a Winchester, Va.-based agency.

    Top ECFA officials have been asked by Grassley to lead an independent national effort to review accountability and tax policy issues affecting churches and other religious organizations.

    ECFA board member Michael Batts, an accountant, will chair a special Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations. ECFA President Dan Busby will also be a member, and ECFA board president Mark Holbrook will serve in an ex-officio capacity. Other members have not yet been named, and no timeline for action has been announced.

    Among the issues the commission plans to address are: whether churches should file the same highly detailed annual information return that other nonprofits must file (Form 990); whether legislation is needed to curb abuses of the clergy housing allowance exclusion; whether the current prohibition against political campaign intervention by churches and other nonprofits should be repealed or modified; and whether legislation is needed to clarify tax rules covering love offerings received by some clergy.

    ECFA was formed in 1979 in part as a response to proposed federal legislation intended to curb fund-raising abuses by religious charities. Religious leaders insisted that voluntary efforts by the nonprofit sector were preferable to new laws.

    But ministries are not required to join the agency, and many major players do not. Its existence did not prevent the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker scandal in 1987 or others like it.

    Critics fear Grassleys request for the ECFA study will lead nowhere.

    Prominent tax lawyer Marcus Owens told The New York Times he is disappointed with Grassleys move.

    He could have said we should change the law here and here, said Owens, who is the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division. But passing this task on to another group that isnt really equipped to do it is probably going to result in a report that is going nowhere. So in a sense, its like Grassley didnt want it to go anywhere.

    Leaders at the Trinity Foundation, a Texas-based evangelical Christian group that monitors and exposes TV preachers misconduct, took the same view.

    Trinity President Ole Anthony told Religion Dispatches Sarah Posner that ECFA has no teeth to force televangelists to change their profligate ways. TV preachers, he said, will continue to tell their followers that donations to their ministries are necessary so that God will bless the donors with a supernatural return.

    The most desperate and weakest in our society are being raped by these guys, Anthony said.

    Anthony, whose foundation worked with the Senate committee staff to document some of the abuses, said two issues should have been addressed: conversion and inurement. Conversion is the improper use of non-profit ministry resources and personnel to bolster the TV preachers for-profit endeavors. Inurement is excessive compensation and other use of ministry assets for personal benefit.

    Ministry misconduct would likely be compounded if Congress repeals the ban on church electioneering. TV preachers and other mega-ministry leaders could then curry favor with favored candidates, and receive even more preferential treatment in return.

    The issue is particularly important for Religious Right leaders as the 2012 election approaches. They hope to defeat incumbent president Barack Obama and elect a Congress that is even more favorable to their agenda.

    In 2008, Religious Right leaders were split among several Republican candidates. This year, they are hoping to align behind one White House hopeful to maximize their influence.

    Well get behind a candidate earlierand there will be less fracture, said Mat Staver, dean of Liberty Universitys School of Law.

    Staver has formed an organization called the Freedom Federation that he says will bring together leading Religious Right organizations. The effort, he asserts, will really help to bring evangelical leaders and policy leaders together to talk and vet [candidates] as opposed to being isolated and making conflicting decisions.

    If the non-profit electioneering ban were repealed, it would make it much easier for Religious Right groups and ultra-conservative religious organizations to marshal their formidable resources on the political scene.

    Ironically, all of this focus on religious involvement in partisan politics comes at a time when Americans are more convinced than ever that clergy shouldnt endorse candidates. A new poll shows that Americans opposition to pulpit-based electioneering has reached an all-time high.

    Rasmussen Reports, a New Jersey-based polling firm, announced in December that only 12% feel its appropriate for their local religious leader, such as a parish priest, minister, rabbi or imam, to suggest who they should vote for. Seventy-nine percent (79%) do not find such suggestions appropriate.

    The question was straight-forward; it read, Is it appropriate for your local religious leader, like your Parish Priest, minister, Rabbi or Imam, to suggest who you should vote for?

    But polls and public sentiment dont matter much to mega-ministry leaders. Only the possibility of official scrutiny does, and the Grassley retreat means that the threat has gone away, at least for now.

    In a Jan. 7 letter to donors, Copelands ministry celebrated the end of the Grassley investigation as a victory of biblical proportions.

    Sen Grassleys office stated that there were no findings of wrong doing within Kenneth Copeland Ministries and therefore no penalties were levied against KCM, the missive exulted. It was Gods faithfulness and your prayers and support that truly made the difference. Thank you for standing with us for freedom and justice for all people of faith.

    The Scripture from II Kings, Chapter 6 comes to mind at this moment, the letter continued. Youll remember Elisha and his aide were surrounded by forces aligned against them. When his assistant was full of panic, Elisha prayed Lord open his eyes. Then he looked up and saw all of the hosts and angels in full battle regalia. And Elisha said, There are more with us than there are with them. This is a great truth for you to remember in your daily walk of faith.

    Join us in thanksgiving to God and in continued prayer for those who represent us in the United States Congress, the Copeland missive concluded. Jesus Is Lord.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 04:56 PM.

  9. #29
    Atypical is offline
    Horrifying: New GOP-Backed Bill Will Let Doctors Refuse to Save the Lives of Pregnant Women AlterNet

    Sometimes there really aren’t words for what passes as “pro-life” in the United States. The “Protect Life Act” overrides the requirement that ER doctors treat every patient and do what’s necessary to save the patient’s life, regardless of the patient’s identity or ability to pay — the Act allows doctors to refuse necessary care to a pregnant woman if that care will kill the fetus.

    In other words, it gives doctors the green light to let pregnant women die if they have a life-threatening condition and need an emergency abortion. We know that women’s lives have been saved by abortion (and that some number of people don’t approve of the whole life-saving thing). It’s not surprising that a few religious blow-hards think it’s better for women to die instead of receiving therapeutic abortions, but to encode the view that you don’t have to save a pregnant woman’s life into federal law? That is truly sick — and shockingly cruel, even for the usual “pro-life” suspects who regularly use their ideology as a tool to punish women.

    Also? It’s not like letting the pregnant woman die saves the fetus, so there’s no “protecting life” here. When the woman dies, the fetus dies too. The entire purpose of this bill is to allow ideologues to refuse necessary, life-saving care to patients, if those patients happen to be pregnant. It’s disgusting. I hope, at the very least, that this will be widely publicized, and will show the rest of the country what a far-right “culture of life” really looks like — it’s not particularly life-affirming to anyone with a uterus.

    By Jill Filipovic | Sourced from Feministe

    Posted at February 4, 2011,

    __________________________________________________ _______

    This is from the crowd that wants a leaner, smaller, "get government out of my way" focus.

    Apparently, they want to tell you, your doctor, your clergy and anyone else involved what it is THEY want!
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-04-2011 at 09:07 PM.

  10. #30
    Atypical is offline

    This Is Where We Are Headed - Guess Who Likes It That Way

    Idaho pharmacy board is OK with pharmacist who was OK with woman bleeding to death

    Remember the Idaho pharmacist who was OK with letting a woman bleed to death? To recap:

    Last November, a nurse at Planned Parenthood called a Walgreen's pharmacy to fill a methergine prescription for her patient. Methergine is used to prevent or treat bleeding from the uterus. It is prescribed following procedures involving the uterus, including childbirth and abortion.

    Rather than do her job and fill the prescription so the patient would not risk bleeding to death, the pharmacist demanded to know whether the patient had undergone an abortion. This information is, of course, irrelevant to counting pills and putting them in a bottle, as is a pharmacist's job, and an invasion of the patient's right of privacy.

    The nurse says she cited federal patient privacy laws and refused to answer.

    "The pharmacist said, 'Well, if you're not going to tell me that and she had an abortion, I'm not going to fill this prescription.' And then our practitioner said, 'Why don't you tell me another pharmacy that I can call or another pharmacist that can dispense this medication for my patient?' And the pharmacist hung up on her," said Kristen Glundberg-Prosser of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.

    Planned Parenthood subsequently filed a complaint with the Idaho Board of Pharmacy, which investigated the matter to determine whether the pharamcist's refusal was indeed protected by Idaho's newly minted Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Professionals law, which allows medical professionals, including pharmacists, to refuse to do their jobs if it offends their oh-so-delicate conscience.

    Well, the Idaho Board of Pharmacy has made a determination:

    The Idaho Board of Pharmacy will not take action against a Nampa pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription ordered by a Planned Parenthood nurse.
    In a letter issued Thursday, Executive Director Mark Johnston wrote that the board had concluded its investigation into the incident and found no violations of state laws the board is tasked with enforcing.

    But here's the kicker:

    But according to the Board of Pharmacy’s response, the Idaho Pharmacy Act does not require a pharmacist to fill a prescription. Even if the conscience law was used incorrectly, the pharmacist did not violate the Idaho Pharmacy Act by refusing to fill the prescription, the board found.

    And as for the pharmacist putting the patient's health in danger? The Board disagreed:

    The board's investigation confirmed that the patient received treatment elsewhere and therefore no 'grave danger' was realized...By your own account, the pharmacist was not presented with any information that would have reasonably led the pharmacist to believe that any type of emergency existed.

    So in other words, since the patient ultimately received the medication she needed, and didn't bleed to death, the pharmacist did nothing wrong. Not that the pharmacist knew at the time whether the patient would be able to get her prescription filled elsewhere. The pharmacist didn't care. But according to the Board, the pharmacist did nothing wrong, but shame on the nurse for not explaining that the patient could be in grave danger if she didn't get the medication she needed. If only the nurse had said, "No, see, she really needs this medication..." Well, then, the pharmacist still had the right to say no.


    So apparently, pharmacists in Idaho, whose job is supposedly to provide medication to patients, aren't actually required to provide medication to patients. Don't approve of the medication? Or the doctor prescribing it? Or the patient who needs it? No problem! After all, in Idaho, there's no law that says you have to actually do your job -- even if it means putting patients' lives in danger.

    (h/t) Amie Newman at RH Reality Check)

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