That’s IT!!! Climate Change and the Republicans

As Mark notes just below, GOP climate denial is coming to bite Willard in the behind.  But this still begs the fundamental question: of all the issues in the world, why has the Republican Party developed such an incredible antipathy to doing anything about or even acknowledging the reality of anthrpogenic climate change?  After all, there are policies that good conservatives could support to mitigate climate change — most notably, a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

And then suddenly, it dawned on me.  Mark has previously noted one profound truth about the current GOP, viz.:

Today’s Republican Party is a coalition between those who want to repeal the Progressive Era and those who want to repeal the Enlightenment.

The problem with such a coalition, of course, is that the two wings feel strongly about policies that have little to do with each other.  Many if not most hedge-fund managers are pro-choice and believe in the separation of church and state; many evangelical Christians do not feel that closing the carried-interest loophole puts us on the Road to Serfdom (although that might be changing).

Now consider the climate issue: climate change policy represents a perfect sweet spot, a place where plutocrats and theocrats can agree not for expedience but in principle.

Plutocrats like the Koch Brothers hate climate change regulation because it is regulation; it is an example of the government telling them that they cannot do something because it might hurt other people, and of course the Koch Brothers (like all toddlers) hate being told that they are not perfect.  For theocrats, the necessity of climate change policy means acknowledging the reality and validity of scientific investigation; it requires conceding that not all possible knowledge is contained in Scripture.

So when a plutocrat declares that climate change is a hoax, theocrats will vigorously nod their heads.  The two wings of the Republican coalition are worshipping a different God — theocrats worship the God of the Book of Revelation, and the plutocrats worship Ayn Rand — but because climate change answers their deepest ideological needs so perfectly, they can agree.  Any attacks on climate policy by one wing reinforce the prejudices of the other wing.  That’s not the case with, say, banning abortion in the case of rape, or expanding tax shelters in the Caymans.

It’s a match made in…well…somewhere.

Deus vult!

A Dominican priest isn’t impressed with Todd Akin’s moral theology.

Richard Mourdock’s moral theology leaves Jeremy Paretsky, O.P., Professor of Scripture at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, unimpressed. Fr. Paretsky writes:

There is a problem with people using theological language loosely, in that the principles tacitly invoked can come back to bite them in the ass. Specifically, to say that anything that happens is by God’s will says everything and nothing: it says no more than that creation as such exists by the will of God, who in a single act incorporates all contingencies. Will is confused with desire, which is a function of the human will. No distinction is made between God’s providential will (whereby he cares for creation) and permissive will (whereby contingencies are incorporated into that care). To say that life begun by rape is God’s will fails to make this distinction. It is equally true by the same loose use of language to say that abortion subsequent to rape is also God’s will. And for that matter any inanity uttered by a politician is also God’s will, a contingency which I hope the Almighty will take into account in his providential will for us all.

Just imagine for a moment a reporter asking Mourdock, “Congressman, if a woman has an abortion, is that also God’s will?” But I doubt I’ve lived a holy enough life to deserve such a supreme moment of uncovenanted grace. And neither have you, sinner!

Update Corrected. Have to learn to keep my wingnuts straight.

A little bit of martyrdom

An Iranian woman deals with a meddlesome clerk.

This is almost too good to be true, but I can’t imagine why the Iranian state media would have made it up. Apparently some hajatolislam encountered a woman he considered inappropriately dressed and ordered her to “cover herself up.” When she told him that he could instead cover his eyes, he repeated the order. She then pushed him to the ground, kicked the crap out of him, and put him in the hospital for three days.

Which reminds me: Whenever I see a poster that says “Violence is not the answer,” I always wonder “What was the question?”

Gershom Gorenberg explains in one minute why most Jews will support President Obama

“They can put Hatikvah in the Republican platform,” but GOP positions on gay marriage, immigration, women’s issues, etc. are hardly calculated to assuage Jewish fears regarding Republicans’ basic stance towards people different from themselves.

Gershom nails things from several thousand miles away:

“Jews are a religious and ethnic minority in the United States. Their greatest, deepest most basic interest is in a pluralistic America, and in the acceptance of difference….Are you willing to accept people who are different from you?”

“They can put Hatikvah in the Republican platform,” but GOP positions on gay marriage, immigration, women’s issues, etc. are hardly calculated to assuage Jewish fears on this basic point.

This just in: God Warns GOP of “The Fire Next Time”

A press release from the Executive Office of the Most High.





Breaking His long silence on partisan politics, God today linked the weather problems that have forced the cancellation of the first day of the Republican National Convention to divine displeasure with GOP positions and what He called the “abominable blasphemy” of linking His name to policies in direct violation of His word.

“I promised Noah I would never again flood the entire world,” said the Creator of Heaven and Earth. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t send a hurricane wherever that Limb of Satan called the Republican Party plans to meet. I did it four years ago, and hoped they’d get the message. But their hearts are harder than Pharaoh’s, so now I’m spelling it out for them. And if water doesn’t work, there’s always fire: ask the Men of Sodom what happens to those who oppress the stranger and the poor.”

Elohim pointed out that His position on maltreating immigrants and low-income people had been made explicit in both the Book of Deuteronomy and the Sermon on the Mount. “What part of ‘The stranger among you shall you not oppress’ would you like me to explain more slowly? Is it some sort of mystery that I insist that the poor be fed and clothed? Or that I insist that My worship take precedence over the idolatry of Mammon, the Money-God?” said The Man Upstairs.

“And as to persecuting those whom I, in My wisdom, have made to love those of their own sex,” said the Lord of Hosts, “let Me point you to the words of My servant David, who found that Jonathan’s love for him was sweet, surpassing the love of women.” Addressing the religious leaders, both Christian and Jewish, who have joined the Republican coalition, he added “If you clowns would stop thumping your damned Bibles for a minute, maybe you’d have a chance to read them instead.”

God will not be taking questions on His stance, referring all reporters to His published Word, the Holy Bible. He quoted a maxim somehow excluded from the Book of Proverbs: “As the tech support people say, read the f*cking manual.”



Credit where due: “Christian” historians reject David Barton

Some people still believe that the truth will set you free.

Ed Kilgore is fully justified in doing a dance on the grave of David Barton’s reputation. It turns out that Barton, famous as a “Christian historian” (where “Christian” means “fundamentalist”), is not much of a scholar: the title of his latest book, The Jefferson Lies, turns out to be self-referential, and “Christian” publisher Thomas Nelson has withdrawn the book. That leaves Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachmann looking pretty silly, and I’m happy to join Kilgore in chortling about that.

But it’s worth noting that the publisher was reacting in part to the fact that other “Christian” historians denounced Barton’s work, rather than rallying around their teammate. It’s hard to overstate how much that matters. It means that they and I are – across a wide gulf of disagreement – still engaged in the same basic enterprise, along with the classicists and the microbiologists and the social psychologists: trying to make sense of the world and trying to tell the truth about what we have found. In a world where “Christian” politicians have mostly forsaken the liberating power of the truth and embraced in practice the post-modern notion that – since everything is contestable – there is no actual bedrock of fact and logic on which we can all stand together – it’s good to know that some “Christian” academics are still scholars first.

Footnote I put “Christian” in scare quotes not to challenge the sincerity or the orthodoxy of anyone’s beliefs, but to reject the market-segmentation strategy that would deny the term “Christian” to most of the Christian legacy. According the the current spurious categories, “Christian” books don’t include the works of Augustine or Erasmus or Tillich, and neither Byrd nor Bach wrote “Christian” music.



Shorter Dana Milbank

Accusing gay people of pedophilia is mainstream conservatism and mainstream Christian advocacy.

Claiming that gay people molest children is mainstream conservatism and “mainstream Christian advocacy,” so it’s wrong to call a group that uses that accusation to whip up hatred against gays a “hate group.”

If I were a Christian or a conservative, I’d resent that.


One one point, Milbank borders on simple dishonesty. He quotes a 1999 FRC remark from the SPLC website, suggesting that SPLC is simply digging up stray decade-old remarks. But he omits this, from the same website, and attributed to the head of the FRC:

“While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
— FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010

“Mainstream”? Really?

Republican Jewish Values: Rabbi Isaac Jeret

I suppose that the “Rabbi” in the title should be used with very heavy quotation marks.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who attends a large synagogue in the South Bay complained to me about her rabbi.  “He doesn’t talk about God,” she said.  “He doesn’t talk about spirituality.  He doesn’t talk about Torah.  All he talks about is Israel, and everything is straight down the Likud line.”  Depressing, but not surprising, I thought.

What I didn’t know is that the rabbi in question is alleged to have been a thief in service to the Republican Party:

In response to the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 and the Carmel forest fires in Israel in December 2010, members of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay, like so many others, wanted to donate money to help the victims. So, many of them directed donations through Rabbi Isaac Jeret’s discretionary fund.

But their money never made it to organizations working on the ground in Haiti and Haifa.

Jeret, who led the 500-member Conservative congregation in Rancho Palos Verdes for seven years, allegedly not only did not send the money where he was supposed to, but instead he is believed to have taken money from his discretionary fund to make political donations to congressional campaigns across the country, according to Timothy Weiner, the synagogue’s treasurer from September 2009 through June 2012, who participated in an internal investigation of the matter.

I’m not sure what is more outrageous here: that allegedly Jeret 1) didn’t spend the money where he said he would; 2) that he spent it on campaign contributions, which is illegal and threatens the Shul’s tax-exempt status; or 3) that he decided to give the vast majority of the money to Republicans.  (That’s a joke, but not by much.).

The Jewish Journal, in an attempt to be fair and balanced, reports that Jeret gave money to both Republicans and Democrats, and that is true.  But at least in the public listings of the $11,500 in contributions that he made in 2008 and 2010, $9,500 went to the GOP, and in 2010, all $7,500 went to Republicans — $7,000 to one Congressmember, Dan Rohrabacher.  Rohrabacher represents the district in which the congregation is, but he’s in a safe seat: this was clearly designed to be sent to House GOP candidates all over the country.

To be sure, Democratic Jewish leaders are hardly without sin — no one is — but I have never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of the alleged use of a rabbi’s discretionary fund.  And in any event, Jeter — who unsurprisingly, has resigned his post — was hardly a bit player.  He gave a speech at the Republican National Committee dinner in October 2010, where, shortly before suggesting that President Obama had “bowed down” before foreign leaders, he said:

I pray that a majority in the House and the Senate emerges in November that champions these traditional and historic American values and principles and calls upon the President of the United States to abide by them in the discourse and conduct of American foreign-policy.
Apparently, among “these traditional and historic American values” are stealing from your congregation, opening them up to legal danger, and doing so for the purpose of supporting a party that wants to create American plutocracy and destroy Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
It will be interesting to see where Jeret winds up.  He need not worry: Sheldon Adelson will surely take care of him.  No doubt he will figure out some way to either start his own think tank or work for a place like the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  And when he does, he will probably rail against the “dependence” of poor people and about how progressives threaten Israel.  Just wait.



Sheldon Adelson: A Shande Fur de Goyim

The phrase is Yiddish, and it means “a disgrace in front of the Gentiles.”  Abbie Hoffman famously used it in the Chicago Seven trial to describe the (Jewish) judge.  Whether it was true for the judge is open to question, but right-wing anti-Zionist Sheldon Adelson is working hard to make it apply to him.

Not content with making the Republican Party his wholly-owned subsidiary, Adelson is now trying to prohibit anyone from criticizing him.  He has brought a lawsuit against the  National Jewish Democratic Council for defamation: NJDC repeated a public claim, made by a plaintiff against Adelson, that Adelson approved of prostitution in his gambling properties in Macau, China.  NJDC has struck back, and is not intimidated:

“Referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures — as we did — is wholly appropriate,” NJDC said in a statement. “Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.”

The statement called Adelson’s lawsuit a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP, a term used for legal maneuvers aimed not at obtaining justice but silence.

“We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary,” NJDC said. “We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.”

It seems quite absurd that repeating a claim made in a public lawsuit is actionable.  Adelson’s strategy appears to be just to wear down his opponents with litigation fees — a strategy perfected by, among others, the Church of Scientology.

Here’s what will really be interesting — and potentially disgusting.  If a “public figure” sues someone for defamation, then he has to prove that a statement was made with “reckless disregard” for the truth.   While I haven’t seen the complaint, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adelson claim that he is private figure: he’s just a businessman minding his own business, and these terrible awful people have defamed him.  Yes, he has made campaign contributions, and set up his own SuperPAC, but so what?  He is just exercising his First Amendment rights as a citizen.  Surely that can’t make him a public figure.

In other words, someone who has vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat President Obama, has personally bankrolled much of the Gingrich Campaign, and is now spending tens of millions for Mitt Romney (and has personally lobbied Romney to free Jonathan Pollard), in now trying to intimidate and bankrupt his political opponents.  And he will use the First Amendment to avoid all public accountability.  And the Supreme Court will probably buy it.

So yes: that is being a shande fur de goyim.  There are some other Yiddish phrases I could also use to describe Adelson.  But maybe the commenters can come up with them.

By the way: elections matter.

No! he explained

Neither Chik-fil-A’s zoning permits nor the tax exemption of the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs should not depend on whether they behave decently. Do the phrases “freedom of speech” and “free exercise of religion” ring any bells?

The anti-gay political activity of the Chik-fil-A chain is ample reason for individuals and other businesses to boycott the chain.

But it’s not a reason for public officials in Boston or San Francisco or Chicago or Washington DC to threaten to deny it the permits it needs to expand. That’s called “freedom of speech.” It’s in the Constitution, right there in the First Amendment.

The refusal of a church in Mississippi to marry a black couple is ample reason to make fun of the church and its members.

But it’s not a reason to call for the IRS to revoke the church’s tax exemption. That’s called “the free exercise of religion,” and it’s also in the First Amendment.

C’mon, folks, is this stuff really that hard to figure out?

Footnote Note that the claim that churches could lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to marry same-sex couples was one of the obviously false, but politically potent, charges made by the Mormon Church and the Knights of Columbus to pass the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in California.

Of course it wouldn’t violate anyone’s religious freedom if the Southern Baptist Convention (having long abandoned its tradition of congregational independence in order to purge non-fundamentalists) were to step in and force a change in the offending church. If the SBC doesn’t step in – in the face of, for example, the Parable of the Good Samaritan and St. Paul’s proclamation that ethnicity and social status don’t matter within Christianity – then it  would be fair to question the SBC’s Christian orthodoxy: but not its tax exemption.