The government is caught in a lie. Any video evidence would reveal the truth and reveal who is really lying. Either way, it IS a conspiracy, not a conspiracy theory but a real conspiracy.
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10 Ways the U.S. Military Has Shoved Christianity Down Muslims’ Throats
By Chris Rodda, Talk To Action. Posted September 23, 2009.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was founded in 2005 by Mikey Weinstein, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Reagan administration White House counsel, after the harassment his own sons faced as Jewish cadets at the academy led him to discover that the fundamentalist Christian takeover of the Air Force Academy was far from an isolated problem.
It was a militarywide issue that needed to be confronted head on. But it quickly became apparent that MRFF’s initial mission of protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform was only addressing part of the problem.
The evangelizing and proselytizing of Iraqi and Afghan Muslims by private religious organizations and U.S. military personnel also had to be exposed and stopped — particularly the materials and media available via the Internet and television that could be used by Islamic extremists as propaganda for recruiting purposes.
When MRFF began exposing some of what we were finding on the Internet, Weinstein was contacted by two Bush administration national security officials, one civilian and one military, who confirmed that the kind of stuff we were exposing was, in fact, being used as fodder for propaganda, and they urged him to not stop what MRFF was doing.
The most astounding thing, as you’ll see in the list below, is that it’s not the private religious organizations that are most at fault in spreading the crusader message, but the U.S. military.
Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We’re On a Crusade
10. Have top U.S. military officers, Defense Department officials and politicians say we’re in a religious war.
As many will remember, we couldn’t have gotten off to a better start on winning hearts and minds when Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, on his speaking tour of churches in 2003, publicly and in uniform proclaimed that the so-called war on terror was really a fight between Satan and Christians.
He made comments like, “We in the Army of God, in the House of God, the Kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this,” saying that George W. Bush, who had ignorantly called the war a crusade, was “in the White House because God put him there,” and referring to the capture of Somali warlord Osman Atto, said, “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his hometown of Concord, N.C., in December 2006, one of Boykin’s supporters, former Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., pronounced that stability in Iraq ultimately depended on “spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. … Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the savior.”
While few are as overt in their comments as Boykin and Hayes, plenty of other representatives of our government have made it clear that they view the United States as a Christian nation and the war on terror as a spiritual battle, promoting the specious notion that victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is somehow necessary to preserve our own religious freedom here in America.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., in his remarks on the passage of H.R. 847, a 2007 resolution “recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith,” said that “… American men and women in uniform are fighting a battle across the world so that all Americans might continue to freely exercise their faith …”
The most recent Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, in his commencement address at last year’s West Point graduation, invoked the words of Thomas Jefferson, saying that Jefferson would understand the threat we face today — tyranny in the name of religion. Geren quoted a few words from Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and then he said: “Two hundred years after Thomas Jefferson penned these words, your sons and daughters are fighting to protect our citizens and people around the world from zealots who would restrain, molest, burden and cause to suffer those who do not share their religious beliefs, deny us, whom they call infidels, our unalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Neither Franks or Geren, nor anyone else who has suggested the war in Iraq is essential to the protection of the religious freedom of “our citizens,” has offered any explanation of how the outcome of this war could possibly affect the free exercise of religion by Americans.
While none were as widely publicized as those of Boykin, all of these statements, and many others like them, can easily be found on the Internet. Hayes’ Rotary Club meeting remarks, for example, after being published in a few North Carolina newspapers, were reported on the blog B, and quickly spread through the blogosphere, turning a speech at a local Rotary Club meeting into a national story.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, when asked on MSNBC, “What’s your reaction when you hear those words coming from a congressman,” explained why comments like these were such a problem:
“Well, it’s not helpful if this stuff gets back to the Iraqis, and of course in the days of the Internet and the blogosphere out there it’s likely that it could. And you know our troops have enough problems over there just doing their jobs. Having to defend what a U.S. congressman might say, because you know, when you bring up the idea of proselytizing Christianity, to a lot of Muslims, that’s very offensive. And if we can keep religion out of what we’re trying to do over there, which is very difficult, it would be a lot easier for our troops. … When you’ve got a congressman saying that the country — they’re not going to solve their problems until they follow the ways of the savior, it becomes very difficult for the troops to defend those remarks. … If you’re trying to be a unit trainer to, say, an Iraqi battalion, and the battalion religious adviser, the imam, would come in and say look what a congressman said, it just takes away from what we’re trying to do.”
9. Have top U.S. military officers appear in a video showing just how Christian the Pentagon is.
In addition to inadvertently providing propaganda material to our enemies, public endorsements of Christianity by U.S. military leaders can also cause concern among our Muslim allies.
When Air Force Maj. Gen. Pete Sutton decided in 2004 to appear in uniform at the Pentagon in the Campus Crusade for Christ’s Christian Embassy promotional video, a video full of government officials and high-ranking military officers saying things like, “we’re the aroma of Jesus Christ,” he probably didn’t give any thought to the potential ramifications of publicly endorsing this fundamentalist religious organization.
But, not long after appearing in this video, Sutton was assigned to the U.S. European Command in Ankara, Turkey, as chief of the office of defense cooperation. Here’s what happened, according to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s report on the Christian Embassy video investigation:
“Maj. Gen. Sutton testified that while in Turkey in his current duty position, his Turkish driver approached him with an article in the Turkish newspaper Sabah. That article featured a photograph of Maj. Gen. Sutton in uniform and described him as a member of a radical fundamentalist sect. The article in the online edition of Sabah also included still photographs taken from the Christian Embassy video.
“Maj. Gen. Sutton’s duties in Ankara included establishing good relations with his counterparts on the Turkish general staff. Maj. Gen. Sutton testified that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, with religious matters being kept strictly separate from matters of state. He said that when the article was published in Sabah, it caused his Turkish counterparts concern, and a number of Turkish general officers asked him to explain his participation in the video.”
In addition to the Christian Embassy video, MRFF has uncovered a slew of other videos of uniformed military personnel endorsing fundamentalist Christian organizations and military ministries, many of which have missions that include proselytizing Muslims. These videos are easily found on the Internet, providing plenty of potential propaganda material for recruiting by Islamic extremists.
8. Plant crosses in Muslim lands and make sure they’re big enough to be visible from really far away.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf recounted in his autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, in 1990, when U.S. troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, an attempt by a Christian missionary organization to use the military to proselytize Saudi Muslims led the Pentagon to issue strict guidelines on religious activities and displays of religion in the region.
It was left to the discretion of individual company commanders to determine how visible religious services should be, depending on their location’s proximity to Saudi populations, and, in some cases, decisions not to display crucifixes or other religious symbols were made.
There were a few complaints about these decisions, but the majority of the troops complied, understanding that these decisions were being made for their own security. According to Schwarzkopf, even his request that chaplains refrain from wearing crosses on their uniforms was received an unexpectedly positive reaction, with the chaplains not only agreeing with the policy, but going a step further by calling themselves “morale officers” rather than chaplains.
But now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Schwarzkopf’s commonsense policies and priority of keeping the troops safe have been replaced by a flaunting of Christianity in these Muslim lands by troops and chaplains who feel that nothing comes before their right to exercise their religion, even if it means putting the safety of their fellow troops at risk.
Numerous reports and photos received by MRFF, like the one below, as well as photos posted on official military Web sites, show conspicuously displayed Christian symbols, such as large crosses, being erected on and around our military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These large Christian murals were painted on the outside of the T-barriers surrounding the chapel on Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Iraq. In addition to being a highly visible display of Christianity to Iraqis on the base, these photos were posted on an official military Web site.
It is even more important that the Army regulation prohibiting displays of any particular religion on the grounds of an Army chapel, a regulation that protects the religious freedom of our soldiers by keeping chapels neutral and open to soldiers of all faiths, be strictly enforced on our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, as these and other photos collected by MRFF clearly show, violations of this regulation that probably wouldn’t be tolerated on bases in the U.S. are not only tolerated but promoted on our bases in Muslim countries.
7. Paint crosses and Christian messages on military vehicles and drive them through Iraq.
For those Iraqis who may not see the overt displays of Christianity on and near our military bases in their country, there have been plenty of mobile Christian messages painted on tanks and other U.S. vehicles that patrol their streets.
The title of Jeff Sharlet’s May 2009 Harper’s magazine cover story, “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian military,” actually comes from one such vehicular message. “Jesus killed Mohammed” was painted in large red Arabic lettering on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, drawing fire from nearly every doorway as it was driven through Samarra.
Other vehicles have sported everything from the Islamic crescent overlaid with the internationally recognized red circle and slash “No” sign to crosses hanging from gun barrels. The photo of the tank named “New Testament” was actually released by a military public relations office.
6. Make sure that our Christian soldiers and chaplains see the war as a way to fulfill the ‘great commission.’
Iraq is crawling with missionaries and evangelists, civilian and military, who show little or no regard for laws or military regulations. Why? Because, in their opinion, the “great Commission” from Matthew 28:19 — “Go and make disciples of all nations” — trumps all man-made laws. It’s hard to find a military ministry whose mission statement doesn’t, in one way or another, include fulfilling the great commission.
Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry, for example, whose goal is to transform our enlisted trainees and future officers into “government-paid missionaries for Christ,” is present at all of our military’s largest basic training facilities, as well as the military service academies and ROTC programs.
The “vision” of another organization, Military Missions Network, is “An expanding global network of kingdom-minded movements of evangelism and discipleship reaching the world through the military of the world.”
Organizations like CCC’s Military Ministry could not succeed in their goals without the sanction and aid of the military commanders who allow them to conduct their recruiting activities on their installations. And there is no shortage of military officers who not only condone but participate in and promote, these activities.
The Officers’ Christian Fellowship, an organization of more than 15,000 officers and operating on virtually every U.S. military installation worldwide, which has frequently stated its mission to “create a spiritually transformed U.S. military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit,” has partnered with Military Ministry.
Describing the duties of a CCC Military Ministry position at Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, for example, the organization’s Web site stated:
“Responsibilities include working with chaplains and military personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out into the world as government-paid missionaries.”
Similar statements can be found for each of the Military Ministry’s many divisions, like this one from their Valor ministry, which targets future officers in ROTC:
“The Valor ROTC cadet and midshipman ministry reaches our future military leaders at their initial entry points on college campuses, helps them grow in their faith, then sends them to their first duty assignments throughout the world as ‘government-paid missionaries for Christ.’ “
Scott Blum, a former CCC program director at the Air Force Academy, said in a promotional video filmed at the academy that CCC’s purpose is to “make Jesus Christ the issue at the academy” and for the cadets to be “government-paid missionaries” by the time they leave.
A Military Ministry instruction manual uncovered by MRFF in 2007 couldn’t be more clear that CCC’s mission is not simply to provide Bible studies to allow Christians in the military to exercise their religion. The manual states flat out:
“We should never be satisfied with just having Bible studies of like-minded believers. We need to take seriously the great commission.”
MRFF found all of the above quotes, as well as the video filmed at the Air Force Academy, on the Internet, which of course means that any Islamic extremist looking for recruiting tools could also find this proof that our military is being groomed to be a force of crusaders.
5. Post on the Internet photos of U.S. soldiers with their rifles and Bibles.
Turning our military into missionaries and crusaders naturally requires a good degree of indoctrination, and Military Ministry knows how to indoctrinate. Basic training installations and the military service academies are what they call “gateways” — the places that young and vulnerable military personnel pass through early in their careers. The following explanation of its gateway strategy appeared on Military Ministry Web site in 2002:
“Young recruits are under great pressure as they enter the military at their initial training gateways. The demands of drill instructors push recruits and new cadets to the edge. This is why they are most open to the ‘good news.’ We target specific locations, like Lackland AFB and Fort Jackson [in South Carolina], where large numbers of military members transition early in their career. These sites are excellent locations to pursue our strategic goals.”
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bob Dees, the executive director of CCC’s Military Ministry, said in the October 2005 issue of the organization’s Life and Leadership newsletter:
“We must pursue our particular means for transforming the nation — through the military. And the military may well be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure. Militaries exercise, generally speaking, the most intensive and purposeful indoctrination program of citizens …”
The indoctrination of basic trainees at Fort Jackson, the Army’s largest basic-training installation, is a program called “God’s Basic Training,” in which the recruits are taught that “The Military = ‘God’s Ministers’ ” and that one of their responsibilities is “To punish those who do evil” as “God’s servant, an angel of wrath.”
Until being exposed by MRFF and taken down, the Fort Jackson CCC Military Ministry had a Web site containing not only its Bible-study materials, but numerous photos of trainees posing with their rifles and Bibles. This was not only allowed by battalion commander Lt. Col. Snodgrass, but there was a photo on the site of Snodgrass posing with the Military Ministry director and battalion chaplain.
This is from one of the group photos that were on the Fort Jackson Military Ministry Web site:
Obviously, no explanation is necessary to see the propaganda value of photos like this.
4. Invite virulently anti-Muslim speakers to lecture at our military colleges and service academies.
In June 2007, Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the American Congress for Truth and author of Because They Hate, delivered one of her typical anti-Muslim lectures at the Joint Forces Staff College.
In February 2008, Walid Shoebat, along with his fellow self-proclaimed ex-terrorists-turned-fundamentalist-Christians, appeared at the Air Force Academy’s 50th annual academy assembly.
Gabriel’s JFSC lecture, including the following quotes from the question-and-answer segment, was broadcast to the world on C-SPAN.
In answer to the question, “Should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation,” Gabriel replied:
“Absolutely. If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Quran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Quran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
As part of her answer to this same question, Gabriel asserted that a Muslim’s oath of office is meaningless:
“A Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to make Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in the long run. A Muslim sworn to office can lay his hand on the Quran and say ‘I swear that I’m telling the truth and nothing but the truth,’ fully knowing that he is lying because the same Quran that he is swearing on justifies his lying in order to advance the cause of Islam.
“What is worrisome about that is when we are faced with war and a Muslim political official in office has to make a decision either in the interest of the United States, which is considered infidel according to the teachings of Islam, and our Constitution is uncompatible [sic] with Islam — not compatible — that Muslim in office will always have his loyalty to Islam.”
Here’s what Gabriel had to say about terrorists entering the U.S. from Mexico:
“Those al-Qaida members and Hezbollah members who are coming into the United States, they are immediately going from the Mexican border into the major cities where there is large Islamic concentration in the United States, such as ‘Dearbornistan’ Michigan …”
And, on the Islamic community in the U.S. and racial profiling:
“We need to see more patriotism and less terrorism, and especially on the part of the Islamic community in this country, who are good at nothing but complaining about every single thing instead of standing up and working with us in fighting the enemy in our country.”
Just as outrageous as Gabriel’s JFSC lecture was the appearance of the “three ex-terrorists” at the Air Force Academy as featured speakers discussing “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.” Shoebat, Zachariah Anani and Kamal Saleem are the three members of this traveling anti-Muslim sideshow. Their claims about their exploits as Muslim terrorists have long been questioned by academics and terrorism experts who have found a plethora of unlikelihoods and outright impossibilities in their stories.
Shoebat has also spoken at Tim LaHaye’s Pre-Trib [Pre-Tribulation] Research Center conferences and John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel events. Anani is a Lebanese-born Canadian citizen who claims to have killed 223 people while a Muslim terrorist. Saleem, under his real name, Khodor Shami, worked for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network for 16 years, was hired by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family in 2003, and founded Koome Ministries in 2006 to “expose the true agenda of [Muslims] who would deceive our nation and the free nations of the world.”
Gabriel’s anti-Muslim screed at the JFSC eventually ended up on YouTube, and articles about the ex-terrorists’ Air Force Academy presentation, which included things like Shoebat’s pronouncement that converting Muslims to Christianity was a good way to defeat terrorism, also ended up online, providing plenty of proof that the U.S. military’s training includes teaching cadets, officers and senior NCOs that Islam is evil and must be stopped.
3. Have a Christian TV network broadcast to the world that the military is helping missionaries convert Muslims.
Travel the Road, a popular Christian reality TV series that airs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, follows the travels of Will Decker and Tim Scott, two “extreme” missionaries who travel to remote, and often dangerous, parts of the world to fulfill their two-part mission to: 1. “Vigorously spread the gospel to people who are either cut off from active mission work, or have never heard the gospel,” and 2. “Produce dynamic media content to display the life of missions, and thus, through these episodic series electrify a new generation to accomplish the great commission.”
Season two of the series ended with three episodes filmed in Afghanistan. To film these episodes with the aid and participation of the Army, the TV show missionaries were permitted to be embedded with U.S. troops as “journalists.” They stayed on U.S. military bases, traveled with a public-affairs unit and accompanied and filmed troops on patrols — all for the purposes of evangelizing Afghan Muslims and producing a television show promoting Christianity.
The Department of Defense Public Affairs regulations violated by the military in its participation and assistance in producing this program are staggering, not to mention the regulations governing embedded journalists, the laws of Afghanistan and other military violations documented in the content of the program, which included an outrageous violation of the CENTCOM’s General Order 1-A, which prohibits any proselytizing in the Middle Eastern theater of operations.
In complete disregard of this bedrock standing order, the Army facilitated the evangelizing of Afghans, which included the distribution of New Testaments in the Dari language, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.
According to ABC News Nightline, which did a segment on the missionaries after MRFF exposed that the Army had allowed them to be embedded, “Decker and Scott said the military was aware of the purpose of their trip.” In the interview Scott stated, “They knew what we were doing. We told them that we were born-again Christians, we’re here doing ministry, we shoot for this TV station, and we want to embed and see what it was like.”
As these video clips from the program show, the missionaries were able to just waltz into Afghanistan, without any of the advance approval and planning required for embedded journalists, and, within two days, be embedded with an Army unit.
Although the Army’s participation in the Travel the Road program, which, according to a Travel the Road publication, is viewed by more than 3 million people worldwide, is the most incredible example of the stupidity of broadcasting to the world that the U.S. military was aiding missionaries who were trying to convert Muslims, it is far from the only example.
On Sept. 10, 2008, the Discovery Channel’s Military Channel aired a two-hour program, “God’s Soldier.” Filmed at Forward Operating Base McHenry in Hawijah, Iraq, the program’s credits say it was “produced with the full co-operation of the 2nd Infantry 27th Battalion ‘Wolfhounds.’ “
The co-producer of “God’s Soldier” was Jerusalem Productions, a British production company whose “primary aim is to increase understanding and knowledge of the Christian religion and to promote Christian values, via the broadcast media, to as wide an audience as possible.”
Bible-verse text captions appearing between segments of this two-hour program, which focused on a evangelical Christian chaplain, Capt. Charles Popov, included, “I did not come to bring peace, but the sword,” and, “Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may stand your ground.”
This was one of Popov’s prayers in a scene in which he was blessing a group of soldiers about to go out on a patrol:
“I pray that you would give them the ability to exterminate the enemy and to accomplish the task that they’re been sent forth by God and country to do. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.”
That prayer is followed by a scene in which Popov, sounding an awful lot like CCC Bible study, says to the soldiers:
“Every soldier should know Romans 13, that the government is set up by God, and the magistrate, or the one who wields the sword — you have not swords but 50 cals and [unintelligible] like that — does not yield it in vain, because the magistrate has been called, as you, to execute wrath upon those who do evil.”
The scene that tops them all, however, is one in which Popov is setting up a nativity pageant for Christmas — using the unit’s Iraqi interpreters to play some of the roles. Popov describes this as some sort of cultural exchange, with U.S. troops recognizing Ramadan, and Muslim interpreters, in turn, celebrating Christmas.
The stupidity of this is astounding. The U.S. soldiers participating in a Muslim religious observance are not risking death by doing so, but the Muslims, in a country where many consider converting to Christianity a death-penalty offense, are.
Broadcasting to the world via the Discovery Channel that Army personnel were putting Muslims in a Christmas pageant is absolute insanity and couldn’t be a better recruiting tool for Islamic extremists.
2. Make sure Bibles and evangelizing materials sent to Muslim lands have official U.S. military emblems on them.
What better way to say to Muslims that the U.S. military is officially Christian than to have official U.S. military emblems stamped on hundreds of thousands of Bibles floating around Iraq and Afghanistan?
Over the past few years, MRFF has amassed quite a collection of military Bibles — some produced by private organizations, and others officially authorized by the military — prominently sporting the seals of the various branches of the military and other official military emblems.
The latest addition to the collection is a photo from an officer serving in Iraq, who e-mailed this photo of a Bible being distributed in Iraq with both the Multi-National Corps — Iraq and I Corps seals imprinted on its cover.
And, it isn’t just Bibles. Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne Division, referring to a special military edition of a Bible study daily devotional published and donated by Bible Pathways Ministries, told Mission Network News that “the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this copy, and they’re using it to minister to the local residents,” and that his “division is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers.”
Just like the many civilian missionaries who see the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a window of opportunity to evangelize Muslims, Llanos said, “The soldiers are being placed in strategic places with a purpose. They’re continuing to spread the Word.”
This daily devotional being used by the 101st Airborne Division “to minister to the local residents,” has military branch seals on its cover, giving the impression that it is an official military publication. And, while these logos are sometimes used without permission, and may have been on this particular book, the Iraqis and Afghans don’t know that.
Then there are the Bibles sporting the military logos that actually were produced with the permission of the Pentagon, one of them designed by Pentagon chaplains. Revival Fires Ministries, “at the request of the chief chaplains of the Pentagon,” has been shipping these Bibles to Iraq via military airlift since 2003, and, according to a ministry press release, this “full Bible is designed and authorized by the chief chaplains of the Pentagon.”
The poster boy for promoting these Bibles is Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Brian K. Waite, who has appeared in uniform at three of the annual camp meetings of Revival Fires founder Cecil Todd, and endorses the ministry, also in uniform, on the Web sites of Todd and his son, evangelist Tim Todd.
Just before becoming a Navy chaplain, Waite wrote a virulently anti-Muslim book in which he held that Islam itself is responsible for terrorism, and compared Islam, which he doesn’t even consider a real religion, to Nazism.
Not long after his book came out, it was revealed that he had plagiarized much of the book and fabricated some of the endorsements on its cover. Not only does Cecil Todd clearly hold the same anti-Muslim views expressed by Waite, but so does Tim Todd. In fact, Waite’s photo and endorsement of those Pentagon-endorsed military Bibles appeared right next to the following statement on Tim Todd’s Web site:
“We must let the Muslims, the Hare Krishna’s, the Hindu’s, the Buddhist’s and all other cults and false religions know, ‘You are welcome to live in America … but this is a Christian nation … this is God’s country! If you don’t like our emphasis on Christ, prayer and the Holy Bible, you are free to leave anytime!'”
1. Send lots of Bibles in Arabic, Dari and Pashtu languages to convert the Muslims.
Worse than any English-language Bibles, even those stamped with official U.S. military emblems, are the countless thousands of Arabic, Dari and Pashtu Bibles making it into Iraq and Afghanistan, often with the help of U.S. military personnel.
In his autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf recounted his run-in with Franklin Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse — an incident that made it clear that the Saudis’ fears and complaints of Christian evangelizing were not unfounded. While some of the Saudis’ fears, the general explained, had resulted from Iraqi propaganda about American troops disrespecting Islamic shrines, the attempt by Samaritan’s Purse to get U.S. troops to distribute tens of thousands of Arabic-language New Testaments to Muslims was real:
“The Saudi concern about religious pollution seemed overblown to me but understandable, and on a few occasions I agreed they really did have a gripe. There was a fundamentalist Christian group in North Carolina called Samaritan’s Purse that had the bright idea of sending unsolicited copies of the New Testament in Arabic to our troops. A little note with each book read: ‘Enclosed is a copy of the New Testament in the Arab language. You may want to get a Saudi friend to help you to read it.’ One day Khalid* handed me a copy. ‘What is this all about?’ he asked mildly. This time he didn’t need to protest — he knew how dismayed I’d be.”
*King Fahd appointed Lt. Gen. Khalid Bin Sultan al-Saud as commander of Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces as Schwarzkopf’s counterpart.
This was the incident that, as mentioned above, led to the implementation of strict guidelines on religious activities of military personnel. As also mentioned above, the adherence to and enforcement of regulations clearly aren’t what they were back then.
Converting Iraqis and Afghans is a pet project of numerous private organizations (some with the help of the military), as well as military personnel and military organizations. Some missionaries even take jobs with DoD contractors to gain access to Iraqis.
All have found ways to circumvent the prohibitions on sending religious materials contrary to Islam into the region. There are literally thousands of people involved, and hundreds of thousands of Arabic and other native-language Bibles, tracts, videos and audiocassettes have made it into Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Christian comic books, coloring books and other materials to evangelize Muslim children.
A recent Al-Jazeera English news report showed U.S. troops at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan discussing the distribution of Dari and Pashtu Bibles to the locals, a blatant violation of CENTCOM’s General Order 1-A. The report showed stacks of these Bibles on the floor, so they were undeniably there, despite the regulations prohibiting the shipping to Iraq or Afghanistan of any bulk religious materials contrary to Islam.
In the Spring 2004 issue of Gatherings, the newsletter of the International Ministerial Fellowship, Army chaplain Capt. Steve Mickel described the evangelizing he was doing while passing out food in the predominantly Sunni village of Ad Dawr:
“I am able to give them tracts on how to be saved, printed in Arabic. I wish I had enough Arabic Bibles to give them as well. The issue of mailing Arabic Bibles into Iraq from the U.S. is difficult (given the current postal regulations prohibiting all religious materials contrary to Islam, except for personal use of the soldiers). But the hunger for the word of God in Iraq is very great, as I have witnessed firsthand.”
Obviously, by citing the regulation prohibiting the materials he was passing out as something that was hindering his proselytizing, Mickel was admitting that he knew he was violating regulations.
Another Army chaplain, Lt. Col. Lyn Brown, in an article titled “Kingdom Building in Combat Boots,” stated:
“But the most amazing thing is that I was constantly led to stop and talk with Iraqis working at the coalition provisional authority. I learned their names, became a part of their lives, and shared Jesus Christ by distributing DVDs and Arabic Bibles.”
The private organizations sending Bibles in Arabic and other native languages into Iraq and Afghanistan are too many to count, and many boast of the help they get from military personnel to distribute these Bibles. Here are a few quotes from some of these organizations:
“OnlyOneCross.com recently sent a case of Arabic Bibles to a Brother who is working in a detention center in Iraq.”
The Salvation Evangelistic Association, which has soldiers in Iraq that their ministry converted at Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri, now has these soldiers distributing the Arabic Bibles for them:
“Many young men in training at Fort Leonard Wood were converted to Christ. The Lord led us on to preaching in Army camps in the U.S., Korea and the Philippines. We are now supplying Arabic Bibles for distribution by our troops in Iraq.”
But, topping the stupidity list, is a lieutenant colonel who was being so stupid that a missionary had to tell him that he was putting his troops and other people in danger. The missionary was from Liberty Baptist Tabernacle, which had already shipped 20,000 Arabic “soul-winning booklets” into Iraq, with more on the way. This officer, who knew the missionary from the States, went to his hotel and offered to use his troops to protect the people who were attempting to convert the Muslims.
This is from the insane story of what this genius of an officer did to meet with the missionary, copied from the ministry’s Web site:
“On another note, a dear Christian friend, that I had met some 10 years prior, who was a deacon of an independent Baptist church in Missouri was also in Iraq. I was totally unaware of this. He was in the Missouri National Guard and holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonial. Col. Koontze immediately contacted me when he found out I was in-country. He was made aware of my being in Baghdad by a pastor friend of his that he had spoken with in the States.
“Through his command intelligence office, he located the hotel I was staying at. When he came to the hotel, I was sitting outside with the other pastors on the hotel’s terrace, waiting for Robert Lewis [Global Resource Group-Director], who was going to meet with us that afternoon. Col. Koontze must have had 15-20 soldiers with him; they literally blocked off the entire city block with tanks and humvees to secure the area. He then walked into the lobby asking if anyone could tell him where Pastor Furse was. As he was saying those words, he spotted me and immediately said, ‘It’s good to see you again Bro. Furse.’
“At first, I did not recognize him, until he took his helmet off. We spoke for about 20 minutes at one of the tables on the terrace of the hotel; all the while the tanks and humvees were being lined up and down the main street in front of the hotel. After renewing acquaintances, I had to tell him that it would probably be best if he and his unit left as soon as possible.
“The Iraqi people in the hotel and those on the street were to say the least, very concerned. I did not want to bring that much attention to the hotel; for fear that terrorists would target the area as well [over the previous four or five days, we had heard sporadic AK-47 gunfire going off just blocks away from the hotel]. Col. Koontze agreed fully with me on that assessment and ordered his unit to leave quietly and as quickly as possible.”
There are also videos, like the one below from Soldiers Bible Ministry of a chaplain admitting that Swahili-language Bibles are being sent in to Iraq to evangelize the Ugandan workers employed by the U.S. military. In this video, Army chaplain Capt. Chris Rusack boasts about managing to get the Swahili Bibles into Iraq, in spite of the regulations prohibiting this. Referring to this shipment of Bibles, Rusack said:
“Actually, they’re in Baghdad right now. Somehow, the enemy tried to get ’em hung up there. There was a threat they were gonna get shipped back to the States and all that. We prayed, and they’re gonna be picked up in a couple of days. God raised someone up right there in Baghdad that’s gonna go — a Christian colonel that’s stationed there in Baghdad, and he’s gonna go and get the Bibles …”
In April, Soldiers Bible Ministry entered into an official partnership with an organization called Heart of God International Ministries. To announce this partnership, Heart of God sent out an e-mail about Soldiers Bible Ministry, featuring the Swahili Bible story as an example of the “supernatural things God is doing in Iraq.”
“Right now there are about 200 men from Uganda protecting 100 U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq near Babylon. These men from Uganda have been having dreams, and these dreams have been of Jesus Christ as the messiah, which led them to begin asking questions about Christ to the chaplain. Many of these former Muslims have come to Christ.”
The e-mail ended with this fundraising pitch for Soldiers Bible Ministry:
“The signs of the times are all around us … Jesus, the messiah, is coming back soon. It is our responsibility to make sure every man, woman and child has had the opportunity to meet the Lord Jesus Christ. Seize every opportunity to share the good news … seize this opportunity to put the word of God into the hands of U.S. troops and allied forces.”
In spite of their blatant violations of military regulations, Soldiers Bible Ministry is heartily endorsed on their Web site by none other than the Army’s chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver: “Thanks so much for your invaluable ministry of the word to our Soldiers.”
In addition to Bibles, other Arabic-language Christian books are being shipped into Iraq and Afghanistan for distribution by our troops. The January 2009 newsletter of Worldwide Military Baptist Missions, for example, included these images of their English-Arabic proselytizing materials.
This is from the caption for these photos:
“In 2008, we shipped over 226,000 gospel tracts, 21,000 Bibles, New Testaments and gospels of John (to include English-Arabic ones!) and 404 ‘discipleship kits’ to service members & churches for use in war zones, on ships and near military bases around the world.”
And, last, but certainly not least, there is Jim Ammerman, a retired Army colonel and conspiracy theorist who heads a Department of Defense-authorized military chaplain-endorsing agency called the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, which endorses 270 military chaplains and chaplain candidates.
MRFF has demanded, for a number of reasons, that the DoD investigate CFGC and revoke Ammerman’s endorsing authority, as I wrote in a recent post titled “MRFF Demands DoD Revoke Authority of Chaplain Endorser Who Suggested Democrats Should Be Executed.”
Among the reasons for MRFF’s demands is that Ammerman, working with an organization called the International Missions Network Center, set up a network of 40 of his chaplains serving in Iraq to receive and distribute Arabic Bibles in order to “establish a wedge for the kingdom of God in the Middle East, directly affecting the Islamic world,” as he said in one of the CFGC’s newsletters, and which IMNC called the “true reconstruction” of Iraq.
See more stories tagged with: pentagon, muslims, crusade, islamic world, christian organizations
For more of Chris Rodda’s work, visit LiarsforJesus.com.
Remember the Kirk Cameron/Ray Comfort video promoting their new “revised” version of On the Origin of Species (with a 50-page introduction written by Comfort that he thinks “debunks” evolution)?
Comfort and Cameron are planning to give away free copies of the book at colleges across the country on November 19th in an effort, I presume, to set a Guinness World Record for miseducating the most people in one day.
Robert Creamer: Time to Just Say No to Giant Corporate “Parasites” — and Recognize Them for What They Are
from The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com by Robert Creamer
1 person liked this
Sounds like a movie script. Giant parasites stalk the American landscape disguised as benign upstanding participants in the “free market.”
The dictionary defines parasite as:
“An organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.”
In fact, there are a number of major corporations in America who do very little productive work — never making products or delivering services that benefit their consumers. Instead, the profits they earn and the big CEO salaries they pay are derived by sucking or skimming a portion of the dollars they have convinced the Government to send through their corporate accounts — generally to perform a function that is or ought to be an inherently governmental function.
Ironically, many of these corporate parasites are the loudest defenders of “free markets” and the most vociferous opponents of “government takeovers,” when in fact they exist by feeding off the taxpayers.
Three examples have been in the news of late:
1). Banks that provide government guaranteed student loans. The house voted yesterday to end its four-decade practice of subsidizing private lenders to make student loans. Since the 1960s, the government has subsidized banks to lend students money and guaranteed lenders against loss if students defaulted.
But since the early 1990s the government itself has done direct lending for many student loans and avoided paying the subsidy to the banks. Why, after all, should banks take a percentage of every dollar to generate loans if the taxpayers guarantee the loan in full? In fact, it turns out that the government – which, after all, has a responsibility to provide higher education to its citizenry — can provide loans directly at a much cheaper price than it can through the banks.
In fact it’s estimated that eliminating the subsidy to the banks will save $40 billion that can be transferred into the Pell Grant program that provides college grants to moderate and low income students.
2). Private military contractors that provide security services. One of the things that defines civilized society is that the government has a monopoly on the use of lethal force. Yet over the last decade private military security firms have exploded. They have been hired with increasing frequency to do essentially governmental security functions. We’ve seen the results in the murders of civilians by Blackwater operatives in Iraq. And the growth of free-standing, mercenary armies that are available for hire by governments around the world is a danger to international security.
But these contractors are also economic parasites, since they charge a great deal more to do functions that could otherwise be performed by the government. In fact, most of their personnel are trained by the American military. After they leave the service and go to work making much more than they would if they re-enlisted for another turn with the Army or Marines. Then, the Blackwaters of the world turn around and bill their people out at huge markups so that the taxpayers — who paid for their training in the first place — have to pay a corporation for the privilege of hiring them back at much higher rates.
3). Private health insurance companies. These are the granddaddy of all parasitic operations. Remember that every other industrial society has long since decided that financing the health care of its citizens is an inherently governmental function — that it is cheaper and much more consistent with our values — to provide health care to all as a right.
With that approach, every other industrial society pays 50% less than we do per person for health care and, according to the World Health Organization, 36 countries have better health care outcomes than we do in the U.S.
Remember that health insurance companies don’t provide an iota of health care services. They do hire an army of claims agents to deny claims for coverage, and another army of salesmen and admen to sell you policies that you would automatically have in most other countries. They simply take your money, skim off profits and CEO salaries and then — once they get their end — pay for your health care.
We know that the one thing government does very well is managing insurance pools. Medicare and Social Security are two of the most successful programs in history. And the health care financing authorities in countries like France and Spain are pretty good at it too.
The so-called “Medicare Advantage” program is a great example of a side-by-side comparison of how the private insurance companies compare with government run insurance programs. Medicare Advantage was set up by the Bush administration and Republican Congress to allow private insurance companies to skim off a share of Federal Medicare dollars. Originally, the private insurance companies claimed they would provide these services more efficiently than the “government.” But it turned out they required a 14% to 19% subsidy above the normal costs of Medicare.
As the Economic Policy Institute has pointed out, “In a nut shell, Medicare Advantage plans are private plans funded through Medicare to provide similar benefits, but at a 14% higher cost on average, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent Congressional agency. Eliminating these overpayments would free up $157 billion over 10 years, a substantial down payment on health care reform.”
Now the private insurance industry is battling tooth and nail to prevent a public health insurance program from competing for its non-Medicare business. They want to continue to skim their share off of every health care dollar they can.
In fact, they hope that the final insurance reform bill will require people to buy their products without any competition from a public plan or rate regulation to limit the amount they can skim into the hands of Wall Street investors and CEO’s.
That’s why President Obama has proposed that the final health insurance reform bill include a robust public health insurance option that doesn’t leave us with a mandate to buy insurance from a monopoly of private insurers (that are, by the way, also exempt from the anti-trust laws). That would just guarantee a government-mandated stream of revenue on which the private insurance companies can feed.
Of course, corporate parasites like these have always existed. But they have burgeoned over the last several decades as some of the best and brightest graduates of our universities have been convinced that they would be “chumps” to go out and create products and services that provide value to the economy. Much better to work for a corporate parasite that can make huge sums of money simply by convincing government to keep directing huge streams of revenue through its corporate coffers and then slicing off its share as the money comes by.
It’s time for the age of the corporate parasite to come to an end — otherwise, we’re the “chumps”.
Robert Creamer is a longtime political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.
More on Banks
“Remember: This is America. It’s still the land of the free, the home of the brave… and this is a life and death issue.”
… We can amass as many of these books as possible, remove the 50 page intro, and then donate perfectly good copies of ‘Origin of Species’ to schools, libraries, and Goodwill. We can actually make this into something positive.If you are in college, then you are in a good position to help. Check your campus on November 19th, and if you see a group distributing copies of the book, then get as many as you can. Get a copy for yourself, ask if you can have extra copies for your friends, ask your friends to go ask for copies, and ask other people you see carrying the book if you can have their copy.
The Confederate Leviathan
Ronald Bailey | September 18, 2009, 1:45pm
Last night I was dining with an acquaintance who hails from the North and who is an amateur historian specializing in the Grand Army of the Republic. My acquaintance is often asked to lecture on the GAR at Civil War meetings and reenactments. He claimed that most Civil War buffs are chiefly focused on Confederate armies and interest in Union armies is minimal.
We got to talking about the Confederate battle flag and what is symbolizes today. Some people wave it around as a symbol of states rights, which I take to refer to the rights and political powers that individual states possess in relation to the federal government. Supporters of the states rights doctrine aim to restrict the growing powers of the federal government and the often unstated implication is that states are better guarantors of individual rights than is the federal government.
As our discussion continued, my dinner companion asked, “Did you know that the Confedaracy introduced conscription well before the Union did?” I admitted that I did not know that. We kept talking about various violations of liberty–other than the horrific atrocity of slavery– pioneered by the Confederacy. For a quick summary, my companion directed my attention to the blog Civil War Memory run by local historian Kevin Levin. In a recent post, Levin asks,
… is the record of the Confederacy one of limited government and respect for individual rights?
The answer is, no. As evidence, Levin lists the following Confederate violations of liberty:
Conscription (before the United States)
Tariff (higher than the 10 to 15 percent rate proposed by Hamilton in his Report on Manufacturers (1791)
Confederate National Investment in Railroads (amounting to 2.5 million in loans, $150,000 advanced, and 1.12 million appropriated)
Confederate Quartermasters leveled price controls on private mills and were later authorized to impress whatever supplies they needed.
Government ownership of key industries
Government regulation of commerce
Suspension of habeas corpus (According to historian, Mark Neely, 4,108 civilians were held by military authorities)
So, to repeat Levin’s question to would-be defenders of states rights: Are you sure that you’re waving the right flag?
Addendum: Take a look at the 2004 Reason column “Wrong Song of the South: The dangerous fallacies of Confederate multiculturalism” by David Beito and Charles Nuckolls. They correctly conclude:
If the Confederate multiculturalists believe in liberty, as many of them assert, they will stop waving the Confederate Battle Flag, abandon the cause of a nation state that championed an unforgivable violation of inalienable rights, and embrace the rich American heritage of individualism.
Disclosure: I was born in Texas and grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia
Sotomayor Issues Challenge to a Century of Corporate Law
By JESS BRAVIN
WASHINGTON — In her maiden Supreme Court appearance last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a provocative comment that probed the foundations of corporate law.
During arguments in a campaign-finance case, the court’s majority conservatives seemed persuaded that corporations have broad First Amendment rights and that recent precedents upholding limits on corporate political spending should be overruled.
But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong — and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.
Judges “created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons,” she said. “There could be an argument made that that was the court’s error to start with…[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics.”
After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.
“Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions,” said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.
“I don’t want to draw too much from one comment,” says Todd Gaziano, director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. But it “doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that she respects the corporate form and the type of rights that it should be afforded.”
For centuries, corporations have been considered beings apart from their human owners, yet sharing with them some attributes, such as the right to make contracts and own property. Originally, corporations were a relatively rare form of organization. The government granted charters to corporations, delineating their specific functions. Their powers were presumed limited to those their charter spelled out.
“A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible,” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1819 case. “It possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.”
But as the Industrial Revolution took hold, corporations proliferated and views of their functions began to evolve.
In an 1886 tax dispute between the Southern Pacific Railroad and the state of California, the court reporter quoted Chief Justice Morrison Waite telling attorneys to skip arguments over whether the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause applied to corporations, because “we are all of opinion that it does.”
That seemingly off-hand comment reflected an “impulse to shield business activity from certain government regulation,” says David Millon, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.
“A positive way to put it is that the economy is booming, American production is leading the world and the courts want to promote that,” Mr. Millon says. Less charitably, “it’s all about protecting corporate wealth” from taxes, regulations or other legislative initiatives.
Subsequent opinions expanded corporate rights. In 1928, the court struck down a Pennsylvania tax on transportation corporations because individual taxicab drivers were exempt. Corporations get “the same protection of equal laws that natural persons” have, Justice Pierce Butler wrote.
From the mid-20th century, though, the court has vacillated on how far corporate rights extend. In a 1973 case before a more liberal court, Justice William O. Douglas rejected the Butler opinion as “a relic” that overstepped “the narrow confines of judicial review” by second-guessing the legislature’s decision to tax corporations differently than individuals.
Today, it’s “just complete confusion” over which rights corporations can claim, says Prof. William Simon of Columbia Law School.
Even conservatives sometimes have been skeptical of corporate rights. Then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist dissented in 1979 from a decision voiding Massachusetts’s restriction of corporate political spending on referendums. Since corporations receive special legal and tax benefits, “it might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere,” he wrote.
On today’s court, the direction Justice Sotomayor suggested is unlikely to prevail. During arguments, the court’s conservative justices seem to view corporate political spending as beneficial to the democratic process. “Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said during arguments last week.
But Justice Sotomayor may have found a like mind in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights,” Justice Ginsburg said, evoking the Declaration of Independence.
How far Justice Sotomayor pursues the theme could become clearer when the campaign-finance decision is delivered, probably by year’s end.
Write to Jess Bravin at email@example.com
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And here’s a link to Stephen Colbert’s video bit, “Corporations Are People Too”:
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|The Word – Let Freedom Ka-Ching|
The Liberal Majority and How To Win With It
By Ian Welsh Friday Sep 18, 2009 5:00pm One constant theme which needs dealing with is the idea that the country is more conservative than liberal and that centrists are needed to hold off horrible conservative things from happening.
More than that, this is an argument for oligarchy. What I see is that the majority of people, in poll after poll, want single payer. A huge majority want the public option, yet odds are decent you won’t even get that.
When people talk of left-center coalitions the center part include a large number of Senators (like Diane Feinstein) who won’t do what the majority of their constituents want them to do. At this point centrist = captured by monied interests.
Odds are if Obama wanted single payer, the House could pass it. It’d be close, but they could get it done. The House is the more representative body of the two bodies, the Senate is deliberately retrograde.
When I look at the US what I see is a banana republic, because it doesn’t act like a democracy. I see people who think that the Senate, or even the House, actually does what the American people want. Again and again, Congress does things that the majority disagree with. In 2006 the Dems were elected to end the war in Iraq, for example, and refused to do so (though again, the House at least went through the motion, the Senate didn’t even make an effort). Oh, Congress will sometimes do what the majority want—when that’s what it was going to do anyway.
The plan to fix this is simple enough and always has been.
Obama was a right wing democrat and this was clear early. This was clear even in the primaries and certainly into the election. Once he was chosen as the nominee the best idea was to not to work for him or give him money, because he could win or lose without netroots or progressive support (it was a drop in the bucket compared to what he was getting elsewhere and was not decisive for him), and to instead take that time and money and spend it on electing progressive members of Congress, where that amount of money and volunteers could be decisive.
People who hold progressive and liberal policy views are a much larger proportion of the population than the right wing crazies are, they are in fact a majority of the population, though you’d never know it from listening to the gnashing of teeth of some folks.
If the right wing crazies could capture the Republican party, liberals and progressives, who already make up the largest block in the House, and who massively outnumber Blue Dogs, can certainly do the same to the Democratic party.
If, of course, they stop telling themselves self-excusing lies about how the country doesn’t agree with them on basic issues like healthcare, when, in fact, the country does. Americans may not call themselves liberals, but when you look at their actual policy positions they are more liberal on most (not all, but most) issues than they are conservative. That’s a gap in self-perception it should be possible to jump.
It takes real work for the centrists and right wing to keep Liberals and Progressives down. Notice that almost all of Obama’s whipping is towards the left, towards progressives, not to the right. The right wing of the Democratic party is more or less doing what he wants (forget the rhetoric, again, look at who he and Rahm whip), it’s the left wing he’s scared of, because if they got their act together they could stop him from passing anything. The Blue Dogs in the House do not currently have a veto, the Progressives, if they want to use it, do. And that’s why they get the back side of Obama and Rahm’s hand so often.
The left is the most dangerous force in American politics today. The entire resources of the lobbying industry and of centrist Democratic interests are required to keep it in check, not just during legislative season, but during elections, when the DCCC and the DSCC do their very best to make sure that progressives don’t win primaries, and when they do, that they’re starved of resources.
So time to spine up. If you’re a left wing Democrat, you belong to the scariest force in American politics. The crazy right will have some good cycles yet to come, mainly due to Democratic establishment incompetence and preference for mushy middle candidates but demographics are against them. Don’t write Republicans off yet, but they are failing. You—the left—is the rising force, and everyone in the center and the right, is doing everything they can to keep you down.
Don’t let them, and don’t believe lies about how you’re some tiny minority whom the American people don’t agree with.
America, I Love You. Americans, On the Other Hand…
By Evan Handler
Actor, author, screenwriter, and journalist
I have found the last week to be one of the most politically dispiriting of my adulthood. After President Obama’s address to the nation on health care, I posted an opinion piece on Huffington Post which garnered well over 600 comments, as well as dozens of emails sent directly my way. The piece was in support of strong health care reform legislation, including a “public option,” and used my own history of overcoming acute myeloid leukemia, as well as my wife’s Italian family’s health care experiences in that country, as reference points. Most responses were of the “Thank you for saying what I’ve felt” variety, and it’s always gratifying to be told I’ve said something important, or made someone else feel heard.
The strong minority current won’t surprise anyone who’s followed the health care debate, or most any political discussion, over the past couple of years. A vocal minority has let me know, over and over again, that they don’t want the government taking any more of their money; that they want to be able to decide how to spend and invest their own money; that they don’t want to have to pay for anything for anyone else; and — the big time, firecracker, most-consistent comment of all — they don’t want any Americans to have government-subsidized health care insurance if one single, goddamn, fucking, disgusting illegal immigrant might be able to get their hands on it, too.
Okay. I get it. And here’s my response to both groups.
First, to those opposed to any European-styled government subsidized health insurance option: I found every one of your arguments to be small-minded, selfish, fear-driven, ill-informed, self-serving, and — most crucially — detrimental to the long-term interests of the United States of America. As I indicated in my last piece, the oft-stated logic of “government out of my life” is a fantasy existence you’ve never experienced, and that you’d whimper in fear over were you ever subjected to it for an instant. Make a list of the industries you’re aware of: medical, chemical, automobile, steel, housing, whatever. Each and every one of them would crush you with glee without government regulations if it added to their profits by one one-millionth of a percentage point. They’d sell the juice they squeezed out of you as a refreshment drink, if they could get away with it. As corrupt and inefficient as your government is (and it clearly is), it’s the only thing keeping you alive moment to moment. Reform it, by all means. Keep it honest. Throw out the bums who aren’t protecting you adequately enough. But, end its involvement in your life? Scale it back? You’re kidding yourself. That’s a joke. Take one look back at history (please, just one look!), and see how workers, and children, and consumers are now protected where they were once injured and exploited. That’s called “progress,” and we’re hoping to add a little more.
To those who insisted, “I don’t use public transportation, my local taxes pay for my town’s sidewalks, I don’t use this, I don’t use that,” yours are idiotic arguments. The concrete under your feet, the steel used in elevators, the earthquake and flood resistant building codes, the dams that don’t break and drown you, the cars that (hopefully) don’t fall apart as you’re driving them, the airplanes that don’t (usually) land on your head — every single thing that keeps you safe every day of your life is provided to you by a government standard or regulation. Argue with me about it all day long; go ahead and take offense at my use of the word “idiotic.” None of it changes the fact that you wouldn’t survive a week if you were really in it on your own, and that your resistance to recognizing it is a much bigger problem than 11 million people who entered this country illegally. You, in your refusal to acknowledge your interdependence with everyone else, are a bigger problem than they are.
As to those immigrants, and the rage I’ve seen inspired by them, just give me a break. You’re all immigrants. Every one of you. Every one of your pink, overstuffed, jiggly “American” asses is stuffed full of tortillas, or pancetta, or paella, or schnitzel, or knockwurst, or moussaka, or Dublin Coddle, or whatever the fuck your ancestors ate before they crawled their way over here. And, when they got here, someone hated them just as much as you’re hating whoever’s newest here now, and fought against their having anything you now enjoy.
If it’s only the illegal entry that’s an issue for you, let me ask you this: If you lived in Country A, where you and your family were starving, and you knew you could get a job in Country B, are you telling me you wouldn’t sneak across a border to feed them? Of course you would. And, if the people of Country B kind of, sort of allowed it, and benefited tremendously from your willingness to harvest their crops, or work on their assembly lines, or vacuum their offices, or clean their children’s school toilets for pennies, it would be pretty shitty treatment, indeed, to turn you away from an emergency room if you got got sick, like I’ve heard recommended in terms of the undocumented residents of the United States.
As to those undocumented residents, get ready to have your blood really boil. They’re not going anywhere. No one is going to round them up and send them home, other than in token gestures to calm you down, and no amount of mistreatment is going to force them to run home in any meaningful numbers. What needs to happen, and what will happen, is that they be put on track to gain legal residency status, so that they will pay taxes, and be rightfully protected from all the evils I’ve outlined above, just like the rest of us human beings living here. The reason it needs to happen and will happen is that it’s the more cost efficient thing to do. It’s cheaper than keeping them here as a marginalized population, with all the costs included in that, and it’s cheaper than the impossible process of gathering, prosecuting,and sending them away. Really, when will enough be enough? Don’t you realize, can’t you realize, that all the change you’re fighting against — just like the protections that are now taken for granted, but that someone fought against once-upon-a-time — will happen, eventually, whether you like it or not?
That last bit is the only thing that comforts me right now. No matter how hard the nitwits (and the clever ones who manipulate them) fight, eventually everything they despise will come to pass. Gays will get married and enjoy equal protection. There will be some form of government-subsidized health care coverage for all. And the vast majority of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants currently here will be granted some degree of permanent residency status. These things will all happen, even if it’s thirty more years until they do, because they need to. They are the most correct solutions. (Don’t tell me, “There’s no right or wrong. We just happen to disagree.” Nonsense. I don’t accept it. There is right, and there is wrong, and those against strengthening protections for those least able to protect themselves are wrong.) The joke is that, by fighting, and delaying, those who think it’s just “unfair,” or that providing rights or protections for others will “cost too much,” or who want “the government out of my pocket,” will make the final tab so much higher than if the reforms were implemented now. The costs of exclusion are astronomical, from ER care for those with no coverage, to cultural warfare and political campaigning, and eventual (lost) lawsuits by those who’ve been trampled upon.
My prediction is that, finally, one day, with fewer fireworks than anyone could now expect, with more of a groan of exhaustion than much celebration, enough of the opposition will have seen enough carnage to come to their senses, or have discovered they can love the gay children they’ve given birth to (imagine that!), or had a catastrophic illness themselves, and the right laws will come into play, and the country will change. But what will we have gained from the long delay?
As to those who agree with some, or much, of what I say, you’d better get off your asses right now. I mean right now. The greedy and the foolish are ruling the day, even after they lost an election (and even though they hold no majorities, either in government or in population). Because they’re working harder. They’re yelling louder. Their hatred is out hustling your good will by a mile. How many of them showed up in Washington, fifty-thousand, or 1.5 million? It doesn’t matter. Because no bigger demonstration existed to demand government-subsidized health insurance be available to those who want it. Were there facts shouted at the town hall meetings, or lies? It doesn’t matter. Because there was no larger force, to sing “I Ain’t A-Scared of Your Lies, ‘Cause I Want My Health Care,” to the tune of the old civil rights song “I Ain’t A-Scared of Your Jail, ‘Cause I Want My Freedom.” That would have made the evening news. Because it would have taken a spectacle, and used it as a jumping point to create a bigger, more powerful, one. Because it would have framed the effort for what it is, a struggle for what should be a civil right. And, at least for one small day, a news cycle would have been won, instead of lost.
Oh, the mail I’ll get now. The comments will scream that I don’t know what I’m talking about, because one or two of my facts might not be perfectly correct, or phrased. People will take offense, and say I’ve lowered the level of dialogue with my language. But there is no dialogue. One glance at the comments section to my last post, or at my emails this week, and you can see. Dialogue is over. There is no convincing those who will not listen to reason.
It’s funny to remember and compare such a small incident, but it applies. When I still lived in New York, I owned a small apartment in a co-op building. There was a security guard who patrolled the block at night, and he was paid by voluntary contributions from those who chose to give. Ten dollars a months was the requested amount. Ten dollars a month, from people who owned Manhattan real estate, in order to make the block a bit safer, and a bit cleaner. But payments to the guard’s salary were dwindling, so a survey was done, and it became clear that while 50% of the people on the block were contributing, our building had a participation rate of only 30%. At a board meeting, some of my neighbors said, “I don’t go out at night. Why should I have to pay for a security guard when I don’t go out at night?”
“Well, would you rather have to step over broken glass and used condoms during the day, when you do go out?” I asked. “Would you rather have noise and music from groups that gather at night, or hear screams from people being robbed, or worse?” It didn’t matter. They weren’t moved.
So we did what the law allowed us to do. We took a vote, and we made the ten dollars a month a mandatory part of the building’s monthly maintenance charges. We went from 30% participation, to 100%. In other words, we stopped trying to reason with them, or make them understand, or agree. We used our majority, and we rammed it down their throats. It’s time now to do the same. This is a war we’re in. Not a shooting war (and I condemn anyone who takes up arms on either side of it, like some have already done at supposed “Town Hall Meetings”). It’s an ideological war. And the longer it takes to recognize and acknowledge that fact, the longer it will take for our society to throw off the outsized influence of those who are willing to wage one from the other side.
So, if you feel inspired, if the words of the last post meant something to you, do something. Don’t write to me on Facebook, or merely pass the article on there (though I thank you for doing so this past week). Call Senators and Congressmen/women. Flood their phone lines. Send them emails. Shout out to them from the street. Carry signs. Gather. Organize. Call ten friends, or a hundred, or fifty-thousand, or a million-and-a-half, and go to Washington. Scream and shout. Wage war. Insist.
We were once a nation of such potential. A nation built on the pride of its self-proclaimed superiority. We’ve been embarrassing ourselves in front of the world since shortly after 9/11, 2001. In spite of a change of leadership, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Shame on the citizens who are trying to obstruct, and shame on the politicians who pandered to them this past week.
The words on the Statue of Liberty, liberators of concentration camps, inventors and innovators throughout the twentieth century. And what’s the United States’ most recent contribution? Collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and eleven million brown, yellow, and red-skinned people who’ll be denied the privilege of paying money to purchase health care insurance. Hooray for the red, white, and blue.
Evan Handler’s latest book is “It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive.”
What Makes People Want to Play Rock Band and Guitar Hero?
By Gary Marcus
Director of the NYU Infant Language Learning Center, and Professor of Psychology at NYU
In some ways, Guitar Hero and Rock Band seem like the stupidest games on earth. Colored discs scroll down a TV screen, and eager participants mash colored buttons in time with what they see. You press a red button when you see a red disc, a blue button when you see a blue disc, and hold your fire when you see nothing. Rinse, lather, and repeat; that’s about all there is to it. Since the sequence and timing are provided by the game software, you don’t really even need to know the songs. There’s no need to strategize ahead (as in chess); no need for big muscles (as in basketball), and no need to bluff past one’s opponent (as in poker). Few games demand less of the player; I suspect monkeys could be trained to play, and know for a fact that robots can cruise through Guitar Hero on Expert.
Yet the two games together have grossed over three billion dollars, and received extensive coverage in highbrow outlets like The New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly.
What is the appeal of a game that demands so little of the human mind? Part of it of course lies with the music; the latest Rock Band comes complete with Beatles music, and for people like me, who grew up listening to music, no body of music is more compelling. (For people with rather different tastes, there’s Guitar Hero: Metallica and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, with Steely Dan allegedly on its way, although Jimmy Page swears there will never be a Guitar Hero: Led Zeppelin).
Still, at $60, the game costs as much as 4 or 5 albums, and the game takes more work to play. Why mash buttons on a video game controller, when you could put Sgt. Pepper on your CD player, or learn to play a real guitar? If an alien scientist came to observe humanity, they’d find a lot of things puzzling, but few would be as puzzling as Guitar Hero.
* * *
Some games, of course, could be seen as practice for the real world; Monopoly could be viewed as preparation for a career in real estate, chess for the art of war. Many evolutionary psychologists believe that play evolved as way to ease children into their ultimate adult responsibilities; chasing your friends in a game of tag prepares you for the bison hunt on which your life will later depend.
Whether you buy that theory or not, the plastic “guitars” in Guitar Hero have little to do with real guitars; there are no strings, and no frets, there’s no soundhole, and no jack to hook up to an amplifier, either; except for a bit of clattering, the plastic pseudo-instrument makes no sound at all. And there’s no room for genuine creativity, as there would be with a real instrument. A real apprentice guitarist must spend hours and hours practicing scales and chords, and learning about the relation between melody and harmony; an aficionado of Guitar Hero skips straight to the songs, and may well never learn the difference between a major scale and a minor.
Economists would be puzzled, too. It generally costs the same amount or even less (once you factor out the costs of the plastic guitars) to buy the songs on iTunes as to get them in a package for your Xbox, and if you buy them on iTunes, you can play them over and over, wherever you want, in the car, or in the gym, and not just when you stand in front of your television set. You also aren’t stuck suffering through the abominable mid-80’s Hair Metal, in order to “unlock” the next song that you actually like.
What gives? If it’s not practice for a career in music, and it’s not efficient or rational from an economist’s perspective, what is it that drives people to play these games?
* * *
It’s a lust for power.
Not, mind you, of the sort that allows one to rule the world, but the sort that allows one to control one’s own world.
Dozens of studies over the years have shown that human beings are happier when they believe themselves to be in control. In one famous set of studies, participants were asked to solve simple arithmetic problems while sitting in a room in which sudden blasts of noise occurred at random intervals. One group of subjects had no choice but to listen, the others had a panic button they would be allowed to press if the noise became too much. Though few participants actually pressed the button, the mere feeling of control made the entire experience considerably more bearable. In another famous study, dogs were put in an environment in which nothing that they did correlated with their situation; so-called “learned helplessness” — essentially a form of depression — was the result.
Alas, although humans are very fond of being in control, we aren’t always so good at telling whether we actually have it. As Harvard psychologist Dan Wegner has argued in The Illusion of Conscious Will, Oujia boards were designed to trick people into thinking they didn’t have control when they really did. Guitar Hero is designed to do the opposite.
Inferring control is really an exercise in inferring causality; we want to know whether A causes B, but sometimes all we know is that when A happens, B happens too. In technical jargon, we infer causality from temporal contingency.
Games like Guitar Hero set up one of the most potent illusions of temporal contingency I’ve ever seen: if the player presses the button at the right time, the computer plays back a recording of a particular note (or set of notes) played by a professional musician. The music itself is potent and rewarding — Keith Richards really knows how to bend a note — but the real secret to the game is what happens is that fact if you miss the button, you don’t hear the note.
The brain whirs away, and notices the contingency. When I push the button, I hear Keith Richards; when I fail to push the button (or press the wrong button, or press it late), I don’t hear Keith Richards. Therefore, I am Keith Richards!
* * *
It’s not simply that you hear the songs (which bring pleasure) but that the game skillfully induces the illusion that you yourself are generating the songs. You aren’t paying $60 to hear the songs; you’re paying $60 to trick your brain into thinking that you are making them. Your conscious mind may know better — and realize that it’s all just a ruse — but your unconscious mind is completely and happily fooled.
Is that worth $60? If you want to feel like Keith Richards, the answer is surely yes.
Katrina’s Lessons Are as Important as 9/11’s
By Casey Gane-McCalla
Assistant Editor for BlackPlanet.com’s NewsOne
Last Friday was the 8th anniversary of 9/11. The previous week was the 4th anniversary of Katrina. While the media covered a lot of the 9/11 memorials, concerts and memories, it seemed as if the legacy of Katrina got very little attention. Both events have had a great impact on our country, but it seems as if politicians and pundits only learned something from 9/11.
I’d like to think that the lessons of 9/11 would be: Be extremely cautious about domestic terrorists, don’t train militant religious fanatics to fight your enemies, because they might come back to bite us and treat all threats against our country seriously.
While people in the media talk about the lessons of 9/11 very often, it is rare to hear pundits and politicians talk about the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. While 9/11 left 2,998 people dead or missing, Hurricane Katrina left 2,536 people dead or missing and displaced over one million people.
But 9/11 changed several ways the government operates in terms of foreign and domestic polices, while Katrina changed very little. After 9/11, we invaded two countries, started the patriot act and changed airline travel as we know it.
Katrina has caused no significant changes in US policy. What the world saw after Katrina, was a natural disaster inflamed by poverty, segregation and racism. While the government may not have been able to stop the hurricane, the U.S. could have definitely prevented the racism and poverty that made Hurricane Katrina way worse than it should have been.
Hurricane Katrina was an embarrassment to the United States. Despite its great wealth, the U.S. could not take care of its own. After Katrina, George Bush’s approval rating was 45%, half of the 90% it reached after September 11th.
Hubert Humphrey once said, “A nation is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Congress should not ignore the plight of our nation’s poorest and sickest beneficiaries any longer.”
The judgment on George Bush from his reaction to Katrina both domestically and internationally is part of his legacy forever. Still, it seems as if the lessons of Katrina have been lost on the Republican party.
The Republicans obviously have not learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, as they continue to disregard poor, disenfranchised people, which is reflected in their opposition to health care.
Diseases, like hurricanes, affect everybody. Yet, as in Katrina, the rich seem to be protected against them, while the poor and minority populations are vulnerable and often left with no help to protect themselves against them.
If the next Katrina comes as a virus (like Swine Flu), once again the rest of the world will see how America treats its poorest and sickest beneficiaries. That is why we need health care for every citizen. If America has learned anything from the lessons of Katrina, it is that America must protect all of its citizens, regardless of economic or racial backgrounds.
Katrina was a reminder of the poor people who are rarely on TV and not seen or heard. These people are Americans, not third world refugees. They are entitled to the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness given to us in the Declaration of Independence. Just like the government is responsible for trying to help its citizens from disaster, it should be responsible for taking care of its citizens from diseases and health risks.
Protecting our citizens and keeping our country safe is no just about bombing countries that we think our threats. Not all threats come from Islamic extremists. Hunger, poverty, crime, natural disasters and diseases also threaten the safety of our country and citizens. If we can spend billions of dollars to invade other countries to keep our country safer, we should sacrifice to make the country safer for all of our citizens from natural disasters and diseases.
It is time to heed the lessons of Katrina. We are one country and all of our citizens are important, rich and poor, black and white. When a government gives an every man for himself attitude towards disease and natural disasters, it reflects badly on our country. It is the duty of our country to protect its citizens not only against terrorist attacks, but also against natural disasters and diseases as well. That’s why we need to make sure every one of our citizens has the right to health care.