US Citizen Imprisoned in Iran for His Christian Faith Could Face Execution

Imprisonned pastor Saeed Abedin with his family.Credit: American Center for Law and Justice.


US asked to intervene for Christian citizen jailed in Iran

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2013 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith could face execution if the government is not pressured to release him, warned an international religious freedom advocacy group.

“As more individuals and governments around the world take notice of Pastor Saeed’s case, the pressure on Iran to release him and stop violating religious liberty will increase,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the Washington, D.C. – based American Center for Law and Justice.

In a Jan. 14 post on the law center’s website, Sekulow explained that immediate action is essential “as the Iranian regime is clearly bent on rushing through a sham trial that leaves counsel unprepared and in the dark about the nature of the charges against their client.”

Pastor Saeed Abedini, 32, is a U.S. citizen who initially invoked the anger of the Iranian government by helping start house churches after converting from Islam to Christianity.

However, the two parties arrived at an agreement in 2009 allowing the pastor to travel freely in the country if he stopped working with the underground churches. He instead turned his focus toward humanitarian efforts with non-religious orphanages.

Nevertheless, the pastor was arrested in September during a trip to work with those orphanages and visit family, the American Center for Law and Justice said, and he has been imprisoned illegally for more than three months.

Now, Sekulow warned, Abedini is scheduled to go on trial before one of Iran’s most notorious “hanging judges.” (Read more here.)

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 2: High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

There are two ways to campaign for office: hire a consultant or do it yourself.

Consultants cost money; lots of it. They earn this money by raising money. Like lawyers who work on contingency, campaign consultants take home a piece of the money action that the campaign generates. They also run high-dollar, glitzy campaigns that are long on smears, slogans and invective-filled one-liners, all designed to pound home the party line while hiding the actual party agenda.

Candidates who are recruited by political parties get saddled up with a party-approved consultant early on. The candidate signs a contract with the consultant and that ends their contribution to the thinking end of the campaign process. From then on, their job is to meet voters and repeat what they’ve been told to say.

The weird part is that we wonder why they “betray” us once they’re in office. They don’t betray anybody. We just misunderstand. In truth, these party loyalists who ignore the needs of their constituents to line the pockets of the people who paid for their campaigns are keeping their word. This is what they were recruited and created to do.

The other way to campaign, do it yourself, has mostly passed from fashion. A few dinosaurs like me cling to it and manage to get elected, but we’re definitely old school, remnants of an almost forgotten past. Do it yourselfers have to think their way through a campaign. They’ve got to raise their own campaign funds, explain themselves to the voters, design their own media and decide for themselves what they believe.

The best thing about do-it-yourself campaigns is that they are a kind of natural selection process. Genuine idiots can’t get themselves elected in a competitive do-it-yourself campaign. They just don’t have the brains, the tactical sense or the communication skills to become elected officials.

Old-style do-it-yourself campaigns didn’t necessarily produce a bi-annual crop of Washingtons and Lincolns. Those campaigns could be heavy on the schlock and name recognition, light on the issues. Here in Oklahoma, we elected candidates to office named Cowboy Pink Williams and Happy Camp. Will Rogers ran for office decades after the well-known humorist was laid in his grave, and Wilbur Wright managed to get elected to statewide office and then almost impeached, presumably because voters thought he invented the airplane.

None of these colorful candidates would have gotten through in today’s big-money climate. They were elected simply because uninformed voters picked a name on the ballot that sounded familiar. The Cowboy Pinks won when the competition was light.

In a rough and tumble do-it-yourself campaign, and there were lots of them, the best candidate usually won. By best I mean the candidate who could think on his or her feet, learn from mistakes and think tactically under pressure. That doesn’t mean they were the nicest, but in a surprisingly effective way, these races usually elected people who had what it takes to govern.

Money-based consultant-run campaigns, on the other hand, eliminate election based on familiar names by the simple expedient of dumping so much money and advertising on the race that voters become aware that this Wilbur Wright didn’t invent anything. Unfortunately, the money obscures the candidate just as effectively as voter indifference ever could have, and it does it in a far more dangerous way. The old way put a sprinkling of buffoons in office with every passing election. But they weren’t puppets, and they did care about this country. Their damage was limited to their particular office and their personal lack of talent.

Today, instead of a familiar name, we elect a familiar face. The difference is that, while the Cowboy Pinks decided to run and got elected on their own, today’s familiar faces were recruited and are controlled by outside forces. We elect people on the basis of celebrity and how they make us feel in ads that are so dishonest they could never rise to the level of schlock. We don’t know these people. Our votes aren’t any more informed than they were in the days of Cowboy Pink and Happy Camp. They are just more maliciously manipulated.

We are encouraged by advertising to imagine candidates in a certain way that usually has no relation to the people they are. It’s a skillful sort of propaganda that uses advertising that is heavy on long-shots of the candidate walking across the prairie while a lone trumpet plays soulfully and an actor with a resonant voice tells us that the candidate is a series of adjectives that add up to exactly nothing. We come away from these ads, thinking we’ve been told something when in fact all that’s happened is that we’ve been induced into feeling something. We take this feeling and attach it to the candidate. In this way, today’s political advertising induces us to create the candidate in our own minds and then vote for whatever we imagine him or her to be.

These ads, combined with orchestrated internet smears and other propaganda designed to enrage and terrify us to the point that we can’t think, lead us to vote the way the consultant wants. We think we’re voting for a candidate. We’re actually voting for a trumpet solo.

The Cowboy Pinks, Happy Camps and Wilbur Wrights more or less blundered into office, then bumbled around once they got there. There’s nothing blundering or bumbling about the verbal blood baths we call campaigns today. It takes a lot of talent to manipulate the electorate and there’s no lack of it in these consultant-driven races. But this talent is not directed toward representing the people or the good of the country. It’s focused on servicing the needs of the people who paid for the consultants, advertising, polls and think tanks who created this campaign engine in the first place.

Stop and think for a minute. Why should it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected to an Oklahoma House seat that pays $38,400 in salary and represents around 35,000 people? Who would invest that kind of money in something with such a minuscule return?

The answer is that the return is not minuscule; at least not for the money men behind the scenes. They’re not making an investment. They’re certainly not “supporting” a candidate. They’re buying. And what they are buying is control of our government. In exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars they get control of a vote on a budget that runs into the billions; on other votes on bond issues that will put hundreds of millions of dollars through their companies; on tax breaks, government give aways and competitive advantages that, over time, become an endless river of government money.

Why would corporations in Florida and New York, Texas and Mexico care about who represents a single senate or house district in Gotebo Oklahoma? Because money is fluid; it flows from one place to the other. That, and because these legislative seats are the seed corn for bigger crops. They supply the candidates when it’s time to re-load at the national level, where the money goes from huge to unimaginable.

President Obama is an example. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1997,  ran for and was elected to the United States Senate in 2004, and then four years later, to President of the United States. His example is extreme, but it is of a type that is re-played continuously all over the nation. State legislatures are the seedbed of national politics. This process of selecting/grooming/electing candidates who will act as operatives for money interests now and into the future is what the two political parties actually do. It is, as I said in Part 1, about power.

Money spent to gain control of the taxing/regulating/treaty-making/military-sending/contract-giving/appropriating power of government is smart money. It is also destructive, amoral, uncaring money. It harms our country. It endangers our democracy. It threatens our future as a great nation and a free people.

It’s a simple equation:   High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

Obama’s 23 New Executive Orders on Gun Control

Here are the 23 Executive Orders on gun control that President Obama signed yesterday. You can find a complete list of all of President Obama’s Executive Orders here.

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

In Case You Missed It: Obama’s Speech on Gun Control

President Barack Obama, official portrait

Whenever possible, I try to give you original sources and let you think things through yourself. Here is the full text of the press release with President Obama’s speech on gun control.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 16, 2013
Remarks by the President and the Vice President on Gun Violence

South Court Auditorium

11:52 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Before I begin today, let me say to the families of the innocents who were murdered 33 days ago, our heart goes out to you. And you show incredible courage — incredible courage — being here. And the President and I are going to do everything in our power to honor the memory of your children and your wives with the work we take up here today.

It’s been 33 days since the nation’s heart was broken by the horrific, senseless violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School — 20 — 20 beautiful first-graders gunned down in a place that’s supposed to be their second sanctuary. Six members of the staff killed trying to save those children. It’s literally been hard for the nation to comprehend, hard for the nation to fathom.

And I know for the families who are here that time is not measured in days, but it’s measured in minutes, in seconds, since you received that news. Another minute without your daughter. Another minute without your son. Another minute without your wife. Another minute without your mom.

I want to personally thank Chris and Lynn McDonald, who lost their beautiful daughter, Grace, and the other parents who I had a chance to speak to, for their suggestions and for — again, just for the courage of all of you to be here today. I admire the grace and the resolve that you all are showing. And I must say I’ve been deeply affected by your faith, as well. And the President and I are going to do everything to try to match the resolve you’ve demonstrated.

No one can know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented, but we all know we have a moral obligation — a moral obligation — to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again.

As the President knows, I’ve worked in this field a long time — in the United States Senate, having chaired a committee that had jurisdiction over these issues of guns and crime, and having drafted the first gun violence legislation — the last gun violence legislation, I should say. And I have no illusions about what we’re up against or how hard the task is in front of us. But I also have never seen the nation’s conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook. The world has changed, and it’s demanding action.

It’s in this context that the President asked me to put together, along with Cabinet members, a set of recommendations about how we should proceed to meet that moral obligation we have. And toward that end, the Cabinet members and I sat down with 229 groups — not just individuals, representing groups — 229 groups from law enforcement agencies to public health officials, to gun officials, to gun advocacy groups, to sportsmen and hunters and religious leaders. And I’ve spoken with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, had extensive conversations with mayors and governors and county officials.

And the recommendations we provided to the President on Monday call for executive actions he could sign, legislation he could call for, and long-term research that should be undertaken. They’re based on the emerging consensus we heard from all the groups with whom we spoke, including some of you who are victims of this god-awful occurrence — ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands, as well as ways to take comprehensive action to prevent violence in the first place.

We should do as much as we can, as quickly as we can. And we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So some of what you will hear from the President will happen immediately; some will take some time. But we have begun. And we are starting here today and we’re going to resolve to continue this fight.

During the meetings that we held, we met with a young man who’s here today — I think Colin Goddard is here. Where are you, Colin? Colin was one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre. He was in the classroom. He calls himself one of the “lucky seven.” And he’ll tell you he was shot four times on that day and he has three bullets that are still inside him.

And when I asked Colin about what he thought we should be doing, he said, “I’m not here because of what happened to me. I’m here because of what happened to me keeps happening to other people and we have to do something about it.”

Colin, we will. Colin, I promise you, we will. This is our intention. We must do what we can now. And there’s no person who is more committed to acting on this moral obligation we have than the President of the United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Barack Obama. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Good afternoon, everybody.

Let me begin by thanking our Vice President, Joe Biden, for your dedication, Joe, to this issue, for bringing so many different voices to the table. Because while reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one.

Over the month since the tragedy in Newtown, we’ve heard from so many, and, obviously, none have affected us more than the families of those gorgeous children and their teachers and guardians who were lost. And so we’re grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here, and recognizing that we honor their memories in part by doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again.

But we also heard from some unexpected people. In particular, I started getting a lot of letters from kids. Four of them are here today — Grant Fritz, Julia Stokes, Hinna Zeejah, and Teja Goode. They’re pretty representative of some of the messages that I got. These are some pretty smart letters from some pretty smart young people.

Hinna, a third-grader — you can go ahead and wave, Hinna. That’s you — (laughter.) Hinna wrote, “I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children…I love my country and [I] want everybody to be happy and safe.”

And then, Grant — go ahead and wave, Grant. (Laughter.) Grant said, “I think there should be some changes. We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook…I feel really bad.”

And then, Julia said — Julia, where are you? There you go — “I’m not scared for my safety, I’m scared for others. I have four brothers and sisters and I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them.”

These are our kids. This is what they’re thinking about. And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing — not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.

And that’s why, last month, I asked Joe to lead an effort, along with members of my Cabinet, to come up with some concrete steps we can take right now to keep our children safe, to help prevent mass shootings, to reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.

And we can’t put this off any longer. Just last Thursday, as TV networks were covering one of Joe’s meetings on this topic, news broke of another school shooting, this one in California. In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing.

So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe’s task force. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.

And I’m going to do my part. As soon as I’m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.

We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans. We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence — even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.

And while year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.

These are a few of the 23 executive actions that I’m announcing today. But as important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress. To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act — and Congress must act soon. And I’m calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away.

First: It’s time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. (Applause.) The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That’s not safe. That’s not smart. It’s not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers.

If you want to buy a gun — whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller — you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. This is common sense. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks — including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members, according to one survey. So there’s no reason we can’t do this.

Second: Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines. (Applause.) The type of assault rifle used in Aurora, for example, when paired with high-capacity magazines, has one purpose — to pump out as many bullets as possible, as quickly as possible; to do as much damage, using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.

And that’s what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot 70 people — 70 people — killing 12 in a matter of minutes. Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater. A majority of Americans agree with us on this.

And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to “listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of [military-style assault] weapons.” (Applause.)

And finally, Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this. Since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm Todd Jones, who will be — who has been Acting, and I will be nominating for the post. (Applause.)

And at a time when budget cuts are forcing many communities to reduce their police force, we should put more cops back on the job and back on our streets.

Let me be absolutely clear. Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting, or sport, or protection, or collection.

I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown. That’s what these reforms are designed to do. They’re common-sense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people.

And yet, that doesn’t mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement. If it were, we’d already have universal background checks. The ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines never would have been allowed to expire. More of our fellow Americans might still be alive, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and graduations.

This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.

The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different — that this time, we must do something to protect our communities and our kids.

I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe. But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it. And by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country. We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those congressional districts, where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important. It can’t just be the usual suspects. We have to examine ourselves and our hearts, and ask ourselves what is important.

This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, enough; we’ve suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue — then change will come. That’s what it’s going to take.

In the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, “I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.” (Laughter.) Julia, I will try very hard. But she’s right. The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do.

Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them what’s more important — doing whatever it takes to get a A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade? (Applause.)

This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we’ve also long recognized, as our Founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of, and by, and for the people. We are responsible for each other.

The right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The right to assemble peaceably, that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness — fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech, and high school students at Columbine, and elementary school students in Newtown, and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate, and all the families who’ve never imagined that they’d lose a loved one to a bullet — those rights are at stake. We’re responsible.

When I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private time with many of the families who lost their children that day. And one was the family of Grace McDonald. Grace’s parents are here. Grace was seven years old when she was struck down — just a gorgeous, caring, joyful little girl. I’m told she loved pink. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a painter.

And so just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her paintings, and I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office. And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace. And I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her, and most of all, I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now — for Grace. For the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give. For the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victim to senseless violence each and every day. For all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s do the right thing for them, and for this country that we love so much. (Applause.)

Thank you. Let’s sign these orders. (Applause.)

(The executive orders are signed.) (Applause.)

All right, there we go. (Applause.)

END
12:17 P.M. EST

Book Review: Polemic Trying to be a Satire

The join in the conversation about Operation Screwtape, The Art of Spiritual Warfare, or to find a link to buy a copy, go here

BC OperationScrewtape 1

To be honest, I stopped reading Operation Screwtape about 20 pages or so before the end because I just found it too tedious to go on. That action (or in-action) highlights one of my two major criticisms of the book. It’s not interesting.

I’ll get to the other criticism in a minute, but I want to focus first on the not very interesting part. 

Operation Screwtape, by best-selling author Andrew Farley, is a frank imitation of the fictional technique C.S. Lewis used in his classic, The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters is a work of fiction in which a veteran demon named Screwtape attempts to instruct his protégée, Wormwood, in the methods needed to lead a new Christian away from the faith. It is illustrative satire at its best.

I wouldn’t compare Lewis’ book to this one except that the author invites such comparison by his choice of names and that one of the reviewers who made it to the book jacket says, “Operation Screwtape channels the creativity and wit of C. S. Lewis.”

That, in my humble opinion, is not true. Operation Screwtape has none of the creativity and wit of The Screwtape Letters. For starters, it does not have a story line. It does not have characters, unless you assume that anything that is written in the first person has a “character.” 

The Screwtape Letters is satire. Operation Screwtape, on the other hand, is polemic that claims to be satire. The target of this polemic is, as nearly as I can tell, organized Christianity. That’s fine, if you want to write it. There’s plenty of meat there. But it takes more than ironic expressions to make a good satire. 

The other problem I have with the book is what I think is it’s viewpoint. The viewpoint is clothed in the ironic way it’s expressed, so I have to more or less derive it. But it appears to me that the author is pushing his own brand of Christianity, which is divorced from the 2,000 year tradition of the institutional church. Again, I have no problems with him holding this viewpoint. I just don’t share it. 

My feeling is that Operation Screwtape has some good and valid points mixed in with an individualistic Christian teaching that, in at least some ways, flies in the face of what has been constant Christian teaching for 2,000 years. I am aware that many sincere Christians share the author’s beliefs. However, I can not recommend the book for anyone who doesn’t.

If you are not one of the “I love Jesus but hate the Church” crowd, there’s little here that would make it worthwhile to plow through this book. If the book was an interesting read, I could recommend it on that basis. For instance, Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth uses the same device to attack Christianity. But it’s such a good read, that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it on its literary merits. If, on the other hand, Operation Screwtape advanced new ideas, or even old ideas with a new twist, it would be easy to recommend the book based on that. 

But I found it tedious to read and basically more of the same old stuff I’ve seen on many blogs and in essays and magazine columns. 

My advice is to get a copy of The Screwtape Letters and read it if you want satire of this sort. Or you might read Letters from the Earth and The Screwtape Letters back to back and compare them with one another. That would be fun. 

This book is not. 

Two Men Euthanized in Belgium Because They Were Losing Their Sight

Speak of slippery slopes and it will never happen.

Identical twin brothers were recently euthanized in Belgium because they were losing their sight. This, in a country which allows doctors to legally murder (euthanize) children and people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Neither one of these two groups of people is competent to give informed consent.

Also, the practice of harvesting organs for transplant from the corpses those who have been murdered by euthanasia complicates things since it gives doctors a financial motive for killing their patients.

The question: When you pass laws that make your doctor your executioner, how do you ever trust your doctor again?

The Blaze article describing the twins’ medical murder reads in part:

Twin brothers in Belgium who were deaf since birth, lived in the same apartment and worked as cobblers were euthanized by lethal injection last month after they learned they were losing their eyesight as well.

The identical 45-year-olds couldn’t bear the thought of eventually not being able to see each other any more, the Daily Telegraph reported. It was an unusual cased based on Belgium’s law, which allows euthanasia by request if the doctor also considers the patient in unbearable pain.  New additions to the law also allow for euthanasia of children and patients with Alzheimer’s, according to the Telegraph.

These men, though, were not terminally ill or physically suffering in the traditional sense …

… The Telegraph pointed out that in 2011 about 1,133 patients were euthanized. If euthanasia as a practice wasn’t controversial enough, it also noted that some of the organs of patients euthanized in the country were being harvested. With a shortage of some organs for transplant, this would raise the issue of patients who might not otherwise be candidates for euthanasia potentially being cleared anyway. (Read more here.)

Gay Marriage Trumps Freedom of Conscience in European Court

Standing Against Christian Persecution

Gay marriage trumped freedom of conscience in the European Court of Human Rights yesterday.

The Court handed down rulings on four contentious cases which had been brought before it by British citizens. In three of the cases, it ruled with the British government and against the citizens.

Here’s how it went:

1. British airways employee Nadia Ewelda won the right to wear a cross around her neck to work without being fired. Part of the reasoning was that other British Airways employees were allowed to wear religious symbols of other faiths, including turbans and scarves.

2. A British nurse lost the right to wear a cross around her neck to work. The Court based this ruling on the idea that the cross might somehow pose a job hazard by accidentally touching an open wound or something.

3. Two other British citizens, a registrar and a relationship counselor, lost their cases. They had been fired for refusing, on the basis of their religious beliefs, to participate in civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples.

Religious groups are hailing these rulings as “victories,” based on the lone case that allowed a flight attendant to wear a cross to work. This which confounds me. Christians consistently lose in the courts, as the many atheists who buzz by this blog every time I write on the subject try to remind us, and I think these rulings are no exception to that.

One of the things that struck me about these rulings is that they were so specific. Evidently, the European Court of Human Rights does not rule on broad issues of law in the same manner that our Supreme Court does. These rulings were basically, “We uphold this case, but not this.” If the court ruled on principles of law rather than just the specific cases, it didn’t come through in the news stories I read.

I’m not sure what that means in terms of the scope of these rulings. If these truly are specific rulings on specific cases and not on broad points of law, then that could be significant in terms of impact. I’m not saying that’s how it is. I don’t know.

I may not understand the scope of these rulings, but I do know that they were not a “victory” for Christians or freedom of conscience. I also think they were a harbinger of what’s to come for all of us.

Advocates of gay marriage here in the United States are quick to say that re-writing the legal definition of marriage will not impact religious liberty, that no one will be forced to perform gay marriages if it is against their conscience. This clearly flies in the face of the collective experience throughout the Western world.

So far as I know, in every country that has legalized gay marriage, or, as in the case with this ruling, civil partnerships, it is just a matter of time, and usually not much time, before people are losing their jobs because they do not want to participate in performing these marriages.

The Los Angeles Times article describing these court cases reads in part:

By Emily Alpert
January 15, 2013, 1:14 p.m.
A Christian employee was wronged when British Airways insisted she remove the small cross she wore around her neck, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.

But judges rejected claims by three other British Christians who claimed they had been discriminated against in the workplace, including two who had refused to provide their services to couples of the same sex.

Religious freedom is “one of the foundations of pluralistic, democratic societies,” the European court wrote, but religious freedom can nonetheless be restricted where it “impinges on the rights of others.”

Judges decided 5-2 in favor of Nadia Eweida, who was sent home without pay for violating the British Airways uniform code more than six years ago. At the time, its rules banned any visible jewelry. Eweida returned to work several months later after the company changed its policies, but continued to press her case against the British government for failing to protect her freedom of religion.

The European court found that British courts had failed to strike a fair balance between her rights and British Airways’ wish to “project a certain corporate image.” Other employees had already been allowed to wear other kinds of religious apparel, including turbans and head scarves, without any impact on the British Airways brand, it added. The court ordered the British government to award Eweida more than $2,600 in damages and $40,000 for expenses.

“I feel vindicated, that Christians have been vindicated, both here and in Europe as well,” Eweida told the BBC after the decision was issued, a cross visible around her neck.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he was “delighted” by Tuesday’s decision, a rare bit of British government praise for the European court. The ruling was also cheered by rights groups.

“Nadia Eweida wasn’t hurting anyone and was perfectly capable of doing her job whilst wearing a small cross,” said Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil liberties group Liberty. “British courts lost their way in her case and Strasbourg has actually acted more in keeping with our traditions of tolerance.”

Religious conservatives were also pleased Eweida had triumphed, but their enthusiasm was dampened by the fact that the European judges turned down the three other discrimination claims. Although it sided with Eweida, the court said a British hospital was justified in barring a nurse from wearing a crucifix because it could touch an open wound or a patient might pull on it. Protecting health and safety were more weighty reasons to ban the cross than buffing a corporate image, it concluded.

Judges also rejected the claims of a relationship counselor and a former registrar who balked at providing their services to same-sex couples. The counselor was fired for violating company policies that he had agreed to; the registrar was disciplined and warned that if she did not perform civil partnerships, she would be terminated.

Christian groups argued that other registrars could have performed the service. “What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold,” said Mike Judge, spokesman for the Christian Institute, in a statement Tuesday. (Read more here.)

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 1: Your Vote = Their Power

Your Vote = Their Power 

Politics is about power.

The two political parties are not political parties as we once knew them. They are consortiums of special interests. They operate on behalf of these interests for one purpose: to get and keep power.

Everything else they say is a lie.

The next time you feel like bowing down to your political party, remember this, and stand upright.

Don’t bend your knee to the R and the D. Register for whichever party, or as an independent, as you please. Vote according to your own understanding and conscience. I have no desire to influence you in that. But do not confuse your party’s trumpeting claims of moral superiority with actual moral superiority. Do not, ever, take the cross down off your mantelpiece and put the Republican elephant or the Democratic donkey in its place.

Both parties actively encourage such idolatry. They do it because they benefit from it. They win elections with the votes of people who slavishly follow them and believe in them as if they were Christ Himself. Winning elections is how political parties get power. Power is how they control the purse strings and the facilities of government. Power is the payback for lying to you.

They get power by lying to you. They keep it by almost but not quite fulfilling their promises. Holding you on a leash of unfulfilled expectations by always trying but failing to do the things they promised when you voted for them is axiomatic to making sure that you keep coming back to them again and again. If they actually did what they said they would do, the vote-getting engine would go dead. It takes showmanship and adept political choreography to create an unending series of cliff-hanger battles that will keep you focused and rooting for your team.

It also requires an excuse for repeatedly failing to deliver. Political parties have to hide the obvious. They can’t just say, sure we’re the party of life, but even after 40 years of trying, we’re still too dumb to find a way to overturn Roe. The other guys can’t say, of course we’re the party of the American worker, but we’re such idiots that after 40 years of deep thinking we still can’t come up with a way to stop exporting your jobs. Even the most besotted kool-aid-drinking party loyalist might gag on this.

So … what’s a political party to do when it has no intention of doing anything it says but it wants to make sure that the voters don’t figure this out? Easy. They tell you that the Other Party is the Devil. They claim that they are still your white knight, trying desperately to ride to the rescue, but the Other Party, those black-hearted wraiths from the deepest pit of political hell, overcome them in spite of their heroic efforts. The only way to make this work is if the two parties play off against one another so they can keep the attempt-failure cycle spinning. If either one of them decided that the thing to do was represent the people, the jig would be up.

In truth, political parties have no use for working people except for their votes. Political parties don’t care about either a woman’s right to chose or an unborn baby’s right to life. What they do care about is using those issues to motivate you to send them money and march to the polls on election day to deliver your vote.

That’s how they get power. Power is what they want, and they will tell you anything it takes to get you to give it to them.

It’s a simple equation: Your Vote = Their Power.

What about the various alliances political parties form with religious groups? You know, the lefty churches who have mutilated the Gospels one way to suit the Ds, and the righty churches who have mutilated the Gospels the other way to suit the Rs.

Here’s how that works when the television cameras are off. Religious groups don’t have the power of government. They can’t enact taxes or call up armies. They can’t pass laws or issue mandates. Those are all powers of government. However, religious groups do have a potent power of their own. People think their religious leaders speak for God. They listen to religious leaders because they believe in their prophetic and moral voice.

We live in a country where the way you get control of the power of government is to win elections. You win elections by getting lots of people to vote for you. You can’t win elections by telling voters “I’m going to go in there and represent special interests and do things that will take away your livelihood, cost you your home and that fly in the face of every moral belief you cherish.” That’s not a winning strategy. So, they lie.

But lies, when they are such obvious lies as these have become, need a cover. What better cover than the moral gloss of religious leaders, lending their prophetic and moral voice to your self-serving, special-interest-supporting agenda?

Party leaders don’t care about religion and they don’t respect the religious leaders they con into supporting them. I know this. Let me repeat that: I know it. I’ve seen heads of denominations go in to talk to legislative leaders. These preachers are all puffed up and sure of themselves when they walk in. They are certain that these men who they got elected and who promised them, gave them their word, that they would be for something like, say, pro life legislation, just don’t understand what they are doing when they are killing this legislation. These religious leaders are sure they can set things right. I’ve had them tell me so in just those words.

“I’m going to talk to him and set things right,” they say. They are so sure, so certain of themselves and their relationship with these powerful men.

Then, I’ve seen them come back out of those meetings on their knuckles and their knees, totally bamboozled and beaten.

What’s even more disheartening is that I’ve never, with the single exception of the Catholic Bishops, seen even one of these religious leaders stand back up like men and go to war with the legislative leader. They smarm around to me and tell me things like “I’ve got to maintain contact with the Speaker,” or “I don’t want to lose access.” One of them even told me, “He lets me have his personal cell phone number.”

They keep on supporting these liars. What’s worse, they let them kill the pro life bills behind closed doors and never call them to task over it. They support them in the next election, proclaiming as if it was true that this is a 100% pro life politician.

I want to emphasize that I have seen and heard this myself. I’ve seen it not once, but over and over with different legislative leaders in different sessions of the legislature. If you want to know why nothing ever changes, this is a big part of the reason.

This is painful to witness. It hurts. I’ve argued with these religious leaders and tried unsuccessfully to get them to grow spines. I’ve railed at these legislative leaders for being hypocrites and bullies. When I do this, religious leaders hang their heads and shuffle their feet. The politicians usually turn mean and try to take revenge on me inside the process somehow. As for me, I go home and pray and go to confession and then pray some more.

I cling to certain scriptures. One of my favorite Psalms has the words, “If I fly to the highest heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in hell, You are with me. Your right arm sustains me.” Another one begins, “Contend, Oh Lord, with those who contend with me.” And a third says, “Oh Lord, how many are my foes … many are saying to me, ‘There is no help for you in God. But you are a shield around me.”

I pray these Psalms and I ask God to remind me of my own sins, to not let me sink into the pit of self-righteousness or bitterness, but to help me remember that I am just an instrument in His hands, to be used as He sees best.

That’s how I get through it. But it is difficult, and it’s getting more so. The government is doing more and more harm to the people. It is even attacking the Constitution and our basic freedoms. Religious leaders who have allowed themselves to become shameless political groupies for the two parties feed the contempt that supports a surging secularism. There is a war on, and we are losing it.

If you are a Christian, the only side you have in this war is Jesus’ side.

We all want someone else to come in and do the dirty work for us. We want “them” whoever they might be, to save our country, protect our freedoms and work in our interests. That’s probably why we are so eager to believe the absurd, repetitive lies the two political parties tell us. But the fact is that if we want to be saved we’re going to have to do it ourselves, and some of the first people we need to be saved from are both these pernicious political parties and their lying manipulations.

My first bit of advice as I wind down Part 1 of this series is to take down the donkey or the elephant and put the cross back up on your home altar. Give up your false idol of political party and turn back to the Only God, the only One Who can save you, and me, and our great nation, America.

 

 

GPS Leads Woman 900 Miles Out of Her Way

Sabine Moreau, a 67-year-old women from Belgium, wanted to go about 90 miles to pick up a friend at a train station. But instead she followed the directions from her GPS all the way to Croatia, 900 miles away.

She told the press that she wasn’t paying attention.

Here’s the story:

Put too much faith in technology and you may wind up in Croatia. A 67-year-old woman from Belgium learned that the hard way after she followed (faulty) directions from her GPS device.

The woman only wanted to go about 90 miles from her hometown of Hainault Erquelinnes, Belgium, to pick up a friend at the Brussels train station. Her GPS device sent her about 900 miles to the south before (during the second day of driving) she realized that something was amiss. It’s unclear if she entered the address incorrectly or if the GPS was faulty.

Discovery explains that the driver, Sabine Moreau, stopped twice for gas, slept on the side of the road, and “even suffered a minor car accident” along the way. She told El Mundo that she wasn’t paying attention. (Read more here.)

Gorgeous George, the Vatican’s First Pin-Up

Public stardom is difficult for anyone to handle. Based on the outcomes we’ve had with several “star” priests, I would say that clergy don’t handle it any better than anyone else.

That said, I have to admit that I’ve noticed the nice-looking man standing in the background in several photos of Pope Benedict XVI. I wasn’t aware until today that the Italian press had dubbed the good father “Gorgeous George.”

I tend to associate the moniker “gorgeous george” with a small monkey who is the lead character in a series of children’s books. A reader pointed out that, even though I remember him as “Gorgeous” the monkey is actually “Curious George” and that “Gorgeous George” was a famous wrestler. Somehow, that makes it funnier to me.

For all that, I have to admit that the priest in question is, as I said, a nice-looking man. But I don’t faint or anything when I look at him. Of course, I’ve got an exceptionally good-looking fellow that I see across the dinner table every night.

Maybe that’s why I can’t get beyond “nice-looking” in my description of the new Vatican hunk.

My reserved assessment is evidently a minority report. Not only has the Italian press gone loopy over him, but Vanity Fair has now put Archbishop Georg Ganswein on its cover.

I wish Archbishop Ganswein good luck with his new international pin-up status. It’s not easy, being a religious celebrity.

Reuters has the details:

ROME (Reuters) - Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Pope Benedict’sprivate secretary, who has been dubbed “Gorgeous George” by the Italian media, is now a real-life cover boy.

The prelate has landed on the cover of Vanity Fair.

The cover on the Italian edition of the magazine shows the 56-year-old archbishop smiling, his blue eyes beaming, above a headline that reads “Father Georg – It’s not a sin to be beautiful.”

The magazine calls Ganswein “The George Clooney of St Peter’s” and says it dedicated a cover story to honor his recent promotion to the rank of archbishop and as recognition of his growing power inthe Roman Catholic Church.

A spokeswoman for the magazine said Ganswein was not interviewed for the article and did not pose for the cover photo, which she said was a close-up of an existing picture. (Read more here.)

Obama Says He Will Use Executive Orders as Part of Gun Control Package

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama has indicated that he will use executive orders to side-step Congress in his push for gun control.

The use of executive orders has grown over the decades. In my opinion, it has reached the point that it verges on making Congress obsolete. Aside from whatever issue is in question at the time executive orders are used, there is another, underlying issue.

Is Congress going to be reduced to a bombastic cypher? Are we in effect electing a dictator for four years when we elect a president? Has agency rule-making power, as in the case of the HHS Mandate, become a sort of unelected shadow government?

Congress has ceded its natural functions to other entities by virtue of its unwillingness to perform those functions itself. Congress has the power to belay executive orders and agency mandates. But it won’t use it because it is chasing its own legislative tail by focusing all its efforts on constant partisan wrangling. This partisan brinksmanship has reached the point that it is damaging this country directly and destroying the balance of powers indirectly.

Nature and government abhor a vacuum. If Congress refuses to use the powers it is given under the Constitution, some other governmental entity will take them up. In this case, the president, by means of executive orders and faceless agency bureaucrats, by means of regulations and mandates, are usurping Congress’s rightful function.

That means that we the people are being dealt out of the discussion. The president is the one official who should be elected by all the people, but thanks to the electoral college and modern targeted campaigning, that is no longer true.

Both presidents Bush and Obama were elected by means of targeted campaigns aimed at sections of the voters in electorally important states. These campaigns ignored the rest of the country. In November 2012, this resulted in a win for President Obama that was achieved by the odd combination of an electoral landslide coupled with a razor-thin win in the popular vote.

More and more, the president is not elected by all the people, but is, just like members of Congress, elected by targeted coalitions of special interest groups in key areas.

The result is a government so fractured and focused on itself that it no longer even attempts to govern the country. Both sides in these contentious debates about gun control, the deficit and our unending cycle of wars are focused on winning, not on governing. What I mean by that is that they are focused on what it takes to enact the law. Period.

So we have the sorry spectacle of a president who flat-out says he will use executive orders to wire around Congress on one of the most contentious issues facing the country. This is a disastrous move for the country. It can and will create more divisiveness and anger in an already divided and angry nation.

The Associated Press article discussing President Obama’s plans for the upcoming gun control debate reads in part:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing powerful opposition to sweeping gun regulations, President Barack Obama is weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone, congressional officials said. But the scope of such measures is limited.

The steps could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal background check database, striking limits on federal research into gun use, ordering tougher penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Obama is expected to unveil his proposals Wednesday, barely over a month since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., thrust the gun issue into the national spotlight after years of inaction by Obama and lawmakers.

At the same time Obama is vowing not to back off his support for sweeping gun legislation that would require congressional backing — including banning assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and instituting universal background checks — despite opposition from the influential gun lobby.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said at a news conference Monday.

“My starting point is not to worry about the politics,” he said. “My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden’s gun task force and is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself, using his presidential powers.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress. (Read more here.)

God Sells Magazines. God and Obama Sell Lots of Magazines.

Big names sell magazines.

Eye-catching covers sell magazines.

Eye-catching covers with big names sell lots of magazines.

Who’s got the biggest name of all?

Let’s look

Double big names, with an Asian twist. How New Age.

The biggest name of all.

And of course, our ultimate destination.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Introduction

Stop slogan-voting. Stop hate-voting. Stop being manipulated.

We are in a fight for religious freedom in America. Religious freedom is sometimes called the “first freedom.” It is, after all, enshrined in the First Amendment. But there is another reason to call it the “first freedom.” Religious freedom is the basic human freedom on which other freedoms are built. It strikes to the core of our souls, of who we are as individuals and how we view ourselves and other people. All the questions of human worth and the proper relationship of government to the individual person have their genesis in the right to religious freedom.

If the government takes on itself the power to subjugate religious institutions, to bring them under its heel, it will also take onto itself the power to, as Elizabeth I said, “open a window” into its citizen’s souls. That is what is at stake.

The only hammer we the people have in this debate is our vote. Like the good citizens we are, we do vote. We vote. And then the people we elect proceed to represent the same special interests they represented before we voted. We change the people who hold office, but we can’t change the direction of government. It’s as if we pull a lever and find it’s not connected to anything.

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about all this; praying about it, and trying to decide what I can do in my small Oklahoma world to aid in this fight. I think that the truth is our best weapon.

I am going to write a series of posts which I will publish here on Public Catholic every Monday. I want to use this series to tell you the truth about politics as I understand it. That means I’m going to tell you some things you don’t want to hear, including things about we the people that we don’t want to face. What I’m going to say isn’t The Truth. It’s not absolute. It’s not part of the eternal verities by which we all should seek to live. It’s not anybody’s gospel, not even mine. It’s just how I honestly understand the process and what I think is true about our situation.

While what I say is not The Truth, my ideas are certainly informed opinions. I’ve spent many years in elected office and many more on the political sidelines. I’ve been on the inside of at a least one of the critical issues we face as a nation,

You can disagree with me all you want. It doesn’t bother me in the least. My goal isn’t to manipulate you into thinking as I think. My goal is to jump-start your understanding and to inspire you to begin thinking for yourself.

We the people are giving away the power of our vote by letting ourselves be manipulated into hate-voting and slogan-voting. It’s time to stop.

Bishops Call for Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage for Life

Nine Days Of Prayer, Penance And Pilgrimage

On January 22nd and January 25th our nation will remember the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Since that tragic decision, more than 55 million children’s lives have been lost to abortion, and the lives of millions of their parents have been shattered.

As part of the bishops’ recent call to prayer, “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” will take place January 19-27, 2013.

This time period, focusing on the theme of pilgrimage, includes:

Blessings of pro-life pilgrims (en español)
(See page 10, 2012 Respect Life Program Liturgy Guide)

Novena – Sign up for daily emails below, or text “9days” to 99000 to receive it through daily text messages!

Youth and young adult activities (“Pro-Life Profiles” and a high school age video contest)

Closing Eucharistic Holy Hour
Text “9days” to 99000
To receive this novena by daily text messages!

To sign up for the Novena, go to the USCCB website or click on the link in the sidebar to the right of this post.

It’s Not About Us or This Country. It’s About Them.

It is not, ever, about us.

It is not, ever, about this country.

Congress is once again heading for another titanic fight over a deadline. This time it’s the debt limit.

Now, I ask you, what would you consider important enough to shut down the government, damage America’s credit rating (all you credit card holders out there, think what happens to your payments when your interest rate goes up) and further traumatize an already traumatized citizenry?

The HHS Mandate? Would saving the First Amendment be enough reason?

Nope.

Ending our cycle of continuous wars? Would stopping the hemorrhage of money and lives that results from always being at way with somebody, somewhere be worth it?

Nope.

What would matter enough to our elected officials for them to push this country to the brink of a full-blown economic shut down and depression. Here, in the words of one of these elected officials, is what’s good enough for them:

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,”

That’s it, folks. Mano y mano. Show the president that we’re for real. Get our side up on the political score board.

We’re talking respect for us from the big guy. Anybody stupid enough to elect us is probably also a total fool. We can “frame our message” so that they’ll let us get away with it.

The Politico article discussing the latest looming nation-endangering political temper tantrum reads in part:

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,”

House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or shutting down the government, to force President Barack Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.

The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”

Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

The country would eventually default if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit, which the Treasury estimates will hit in late February or early March. The government would shut down if House Republicans instead were to refuse to extend the law funding current government operations on March 27.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/behind-the-curtain-house-gop-eyes-default-shutdown-86116.html#ixzz2Hy7M9Fpw

If Your Computer Goes Wacko, Don’t Blame Obama

If your computer goes wacko, don’t blame Obama.

NASA scientists say the sun itself is getting testy these days, and the way things are turning (literally) we might be in line to get a blast of that testiness here on planet Earth.

Solar flares, which have been relatively quiescent in recent history, are revving up. Not only that, but the sun is rotating and the planets are aligning in such a way that one of these blasts might be on a trajectory to collide with us. Thanks to the ozone layer, all we’re likely to notice are Northern lights, cranky computers and other electrical glitches.

Given our computer-dependent, electronics-controlled way of life, that could make for some interesting happenings.

Here is the forecast, straight from SpaceWeather.com:

CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of M-classsolar flares, and a 10% chance of X-flares today. The probable source would be big sunspot AR1654, which is squarely facing Earth. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.

ARCTIC AURORAS: A stream of solar wind is blowing around Earth and buffeting our planet’s magnetic field. Although the pressure of the wind has not been strong enough to trigger a full-fledged geomagnetic storm, auroras are nevertheless dancing around the Arctic Circle. Peter Rosén sends this picture from Kiruna in the Swedish Lapland: 

Ohio School District Defies Freedom From Religion Foundation

It isn’t civil disobedience. It’s disobedience of bullies with a word processor.

Refuse to let them tell you what to do.

That’s all it takes to stand up to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the self-appointed United States Supreme Court in absentia who rains down threatening letters on unsuspecting government officials at laser printer speed.

Just don’t do what they tell you to do.

A case in point is the Jackson Country School District in Ohio. They’ve decided to keep a portrait of Jesus right where it is, despite receiving their personal copy of the ubiquitous FFF threat.

The Christian Post article describing this situation reads in part:

By Anugrah Kumar , Christian Post Contributor
January 12, 2013|2:55 pm

Hundreds of community members hailed a school district in Ohio for deciding to let a portrait of Jesus Christ stay at the hallway of a middle school, which was threatened with a lawsuit by Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“I’m certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wis. who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down,” Jackson County School District Superintendent Phil Howard told WKKJ.

In a Jan. 2 letter to the district, the FFRF demanded the portrait, which hangs in the Jackson Middle School building, be removed, saying it is unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity.

Howard said the portrait – placed in 1947 by a local chapter of the Young Men’s Christian Association – is one of several displays in the school’s Hall of Honor. “We’re not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn’t hurt anyone.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/jesus-portrait-to-stay-at-ohio-school-defying-atheist-demands-88147/#XigDdUag7uk2vOat.99

BBC Video of Paris March for Marriage

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