Saturday, April 11, 2009

"A New German Christianity is Born"

That's the title of a recent post at Talk To Action by Bruce Wilson.

castle from Bruce Wilson on Vimeo.

I can't necessarily call this the strangest thing I've ever seen, but it is definitely different. Wilson's description seems sufficiently apt:
In short, this is footage from a German ministry near Tubingen, of a summer 2007 religious ceremony held at Hohenzollern Castle - the traditional seat of the Prussian kings and emperors.

It features Germans dressed as Teutonic knights wielding a sword, a golden mace, and a chalice... and a voice track sung in Hebrew. Towards the end of the video, the Prussian flag melts into the Star of David.


The video I am presenting here is unaltered, as it was originally created by its maker/s, except that I increased the contrast and color saturation levels.

This spring, along with the Talk To Action commenter known as "Ruth", I will air our evolving understanding of what this video represents. But, to make things suitably brief I'll say this: Christianity is changing.

That change has been described through the work of David Barrett - whose World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200 should be a basic desk reference for all who purport to write, in a professional capacity, on religion and politics. Barrett was only the chief editor - there were many people involved in the project that produced World Christian Trends. The goal of the project was to produce good empirical data that could be used to further the Christian evangelizing of the world. Like a Bible, World Christian Trends is mammoth - over 900 pages of onion-skin, triple spaced columns. It takes a magnifying glass to read.

The typologies of Christianity to be found in World Christian Trends strongly indicate this: Sarah Palin's Christianity 'has no connection to historic Christianity.' In other words, Palin's Christianity is very, very new. Indeed, it's off the map: as is, demonstrably, the form of Christianity practiced by Rick Warren and Ted Haggard.

As detailed in Barrett's World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200, since the 1980's a new form of Christianity which, according to the book, has "no connection to historic Christianity" has come to encompass over 4% of the world's population" the Third Wave: 295 million Christians by AD 2000. Third Wave Christians seek to raise the dead and perform healing miracles, and they believe they must convert the whole world to Christianity, and 'perfect' the Christian church, in order to bring about the return of Jesus Christ.

Christianity is changing.

I personally found something rather unnerving and creepy about Sarah Palin's brand of Christianity, from the moment that I was first exposed to it. At the time I was tempted to view the brand of Christianity espoused by Palin and her ilk as some sort of weird Medieval throwback, especially to the extent that these folks seem to obsess a good deal about witches and exorcisms. As I read more of Wilson's blogging on the topic, I've found good reason to seriously question my original impression and realize that this so-called Third Wave Christianity is weird all right, but weird in a way that is arguably unprecedented. However this particular movement is characterized, I find Jay Taber's description of it as a new axis of bigotry quite apt.

Whoever seems to be spearheading this particular evangelical movement is adept at modern media manipulation - including of course the cooption of terms used by progressive movements of the recent past. An example of this is the cooption of the term "rainbow coalition" to promote a paranoid intolerance of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. For those of us who are Gen Xers, we probably recall that the Rainbow Coalition is a reference to the relatively progressive coalition of religious and secular activists promoting the advancement of civil rights during the 1980s. In the US, where much social and political discourse has been framed in a right-wing manner for much of my lifetime (to such an extent that the arguably hardline rightist government of the Obama regime passes for "progressive"), Third Wave Christian evangelicals are quite poised to capitalize on the political scene in the very near future. Their brand of Christianity is very much one of empire - much as the early Catholic Church was in the 4th century ADE - and quite antithetical to the rather subversive message that Jesus was spreading during his brief life. Be forewarned.

What's next in the Ward Churchill wrongful termination suit?

Now that Churchill has won the first round, there are some questions about what happens in the next few weeks when Judge Naves has to rule on such matters as reinstatement. The folks at The Race to the Bottom have been providing detailed analysis of the trial including attempts to address such questions. The basic gist is that Churchill should probably prevail when it comes to CU's paying Churchill's legal fees as well as CU being required to reinstate Churchill to his faculty position. I say "probably" only because judges don't always follow precedent, and even when they try to follow precedent there may be enough in previous rulings that is sufficiently ambiguous and open to interpretation. In addition, Judge Naves is probably facing enormous political pressure - given the politically incorrect nature of Churchill's writings - to make Churchill's victory a pyhrric victory. For the time being, I'm cautiously optimistic that the good professor will prevail and that academic freedom is slightly less tenuous than I had feared.

Musical Interlude: Miles Davis

The classic tune "So What" from the album Kind of Blue.

Fujimori's lesson

Peru's former dictator (technically "prime minister") Alberto Fujimori was recently found guilty of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The lesson to be learned is fairly straightforward: preside over crimes against humanity, and you're not guaranteed to get away with it indefinitely - even in your own country. That's a lesson not only for the movers and shakers in the Bush II regime, but also for those who make up the current Obama regime to the extent that the latter appear bound and determined to continue along the path of the former.

Say hello to

Facts About Goldman Sachs. The corporation Goldman Sachs is trying to shut down the blog, not too surprisingly.

Change you can believe in, eh?

I know that it's becoming repetitive, but I could have seen Obama's approach to habeas corpus a mile away. In short, the Obama years look to be just like the Bush II years, except with "hope". Once Bush II and his henchmen managed to successfully turn the theory of the "unitary executive" into reality, there was no way that his successors would be able to refuse access to that much power. Whatever the most immediate Bush II successor, The Pope of Hope, might have said on the campaign trail, sober analysts would have discounted the rhetoric and expected the reality to be considerably different once Obama was installed into office. The reality thanks to the War on Terra is that the US no longer operates under anything other than the mercy of a unitary dictator who rules by fiat. Other than a few superficial linguistic changes, the song remains the same: if you are deemed a "terrorist", the Obama regime claims, just as the preceding Bush II regime, the right to hold you indefinitely. Here is what Glenn Greenwald has to say:

Back in February, the Obama administration shocked many civil libertarians by filing a brief in federal court that, in two sentences, declared that it embraced the most extremist Bush theory on this issue -- the Obama DOJ argued, as The New York Times's Charlie Savage put it, "that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team." Remember: these are not prisoners captured in Afghanistan on a battlefield. Many of them have nothing to do with Afghanistan and were captured far, far away from that country -- abducted from their homes and workplaces -- and then flown to Bagram to be imprisoned. Indeed, the Bagram detainees in the particular case in which the Obama DOJ filed its brief were Yemenis and Tunisians captured outside of Afghanistan (in Thailand or the UAE, for instance) and then flown to Bagram and locked away there as much as six years without any charges. That is what the Obama DOJ defended, and they argued that those individuals can be imprisoned indefinitely with no rights of any kind -- as long as they are kept in Bagram rather than Guantanamo.

Last month, a federal judge emphatically rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that the rationale of Boudemiene applies every bit as much to Bagram as it does to Guantanamo. Notably, the district judge who so ruled -- John Bates -- is an appointee of George W. Bush, a former Whitewater prosecutor, and a very pro-executive-power judge. In his decision (.pdf), Judge Bates made clear how identical are the constitutional rights of detainees flown to Guantanamo and Bagram and underscored how dangerous is the Bush/Obama claim that the President has the right to abduct people from around the world and imprison them at Bagram with no due process of any kind...


In the wake of Judge Bates' ruling that foreign detainees shipped to Bagram at least have the right to a hearing to determine their guilt, what is the Obama DOJ doing? This:

The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight. . . .

Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, which is representing the detainees, condemned the decision in a statement.

“Though he has made many promises regarding the need for our country to rejoin the world community of nations, by filing this appeal, President Obama has taken on the defense of one of the Bush administration’s unlawful policies founded on nothing more than the idea that might makes right,” she said.

In late February, I interviewed the ACLU's Jonathan Hafetz, counsel to several of the Bagram detainees, who said:

What happened was, these people were picked up in this global war on terror, were brought to Guantanamo in 2004, and once Guantanamo became subject to habeas corpus review, the administration basically, the Bush administration stopped bringing people there, and started bringing them to Bagram, and Bagram's population has shot up, and it's become in some sense the new Guantanamo. . . . And so what you have is you have a situation where the Bush administration, was free to, and the Obama administration will continue to be free to, create a prison outside the law.

The Obama DOJ is now squarely to the Right of an extremely conservative, pro-executive-power, Bush 43-appointed judge on issues of executive power and due-process-less detentions. Leave aside for the moment the issue of whether you believe that the U.S. Government should have the right to abduct people anywhere in the world, ship them to faraway prisons and hold them there indefinitely without charges or any rights at all. The Bush DOJ -- and now the Obama DOJ -- maintain the President does and should have that right, and that's an issue that has been extensively debated. It was, after all, one of the centerpieces of the Bush regime of radicalism, lawlessness and extremism.

Greenwald also notes that there is something very strikingly similar about Bush II's groupies and Obama's groupies on this issue: one dare not criticize "Dear Leader". Sadly this results in some rather blatant hypocrisy as the Obamabots now trumpet or at least make excuses for one of the very abuses that they would have unrelentingly criticized Bush II for. Those critical are to be dismissed as extremists, naive, etc. It will be worth keeping in mind that there are a few of us out here who aren't particularly impressed by the sort of cult of personality that has come to dominate American politics, and for whom principles are supreme. Here's a real shocker: if it was bad when Bush II detained people indefinitely, it's equally bad when Obama does it. For those still caught up in all of Obama's flowery rhetoric, before getting your panties in a bunch read that last sentence and think very carefully before trying to defend what Obama is doing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Videos from Crackerstan

From the Glenn Beck Tea Party:

Glenn Beck's latest FauxNews rant wherein he douses an actor with liquid poured from a gas can and holds up a lit match (via Media Matters):

For the above, David Neiwert's commentary is quite pertinent. As I understand it, the governor from Texas, Rick "How's My Hair" Perry, was on Beck's show following that performance, leading to this rather deranged exchange:
But that's not really the interesting part. Alex Koppelman added, "Unfortunately, not captured in the video is what happened next, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry came on and Beck asked, 'Governor, you're regretting being on this program at this point, are you not, sir?' Perry responded, 'Not at all, Glenn Beck. I'm proud to be with you.'"

Yup - Perry is apparently "proud" to be on a television show with a host who might be arguably barking mad. Perry of course faces a formidable primary challenge soon, and probably realizes that unless he sufficiently motivates his party's base that he will soon be out of a job. I can see why a few of the more sober conservative analysts left standing are feeling a bit creeped out. There's always been a sort of paranoid edge to movement conservatism that has periodically reared its ugly head - from the McCarthy hearings about a decade before my birth, to the John Birchers that I occasionally found on college campuses in the 1980s - but these cats were viewed by most mainstream Republicans as on the fringe and thankfully not to be taken seriously. Now we're looking at a party that has successfully brought the fringe right into the mainstream and in which paranoia is all that's left to offer.

Answer: For Dreier, it was easier than one might imagine.

Bernie Madoff may have made a fair number of headlines - justifiably so given his reputation for running the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of humanity. However, according to Megan McArdle, Marc Dreier has Madoff beat on sheer audacity:
But Dreier is more like the classic con man of legend, stage and screen: an amoral, audacious rapscallion who pulls off a massive fraud mostly because no one can believe anyone would do anything so crazy:

According to prosecutors, for more than four years Dreier sold hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of bogus debt obligations to nearly 40 investment funds run by 13 of the nation's most sophisticated asset managers, including the likes of Fortress Investment Group, Elliott Associates, and hedge funds later acquired by Perella Weinberg Partners and Blackstone Group. Throughout its existence the scheme could have collapsed at any instant, if just one of dozens of duped hedge fund officials had ever run into real estate developer Sheldon Solow - the head of the duped company supposedly issuing most of the notes - at a cocktail party.

As Dreier dug himself ever deeper into criminality and debt, he resorted to ever more desperate measures to postpone the day of reckoning. He and his accomplices talked their way past receptionists of companies they weren't affiliated with; plopped themselves down in empty conference rooms; and then hosted meetings at which they pretended to be people they weren't. The scam succeeded for as long as it did because none of his victims could conceive that anyone of Dreier's stature would act with such monumental recklessness, selfishness, and self-destructiveness.

Almost as an afterthought, Dreier is alleged to have filched about $40 million from his clients' escrow accounts - including $10 million that he stole after his arrest before authorities could get a receiver appointed to seize control of his law firm and ambulance it into bankruptcy. To the 260 innocent attorneys who toiled for him at Dreier LLP's tony offices in Manhattan, Albany, N.Y., Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, and Stamford, Conn., Dreier bequeathed unpaid salary checks, unreimbursed expenses, lapsed malpractice and health insurance policies, potential civil liability, and untold damage to reputations. An attorney's stock in trade is sound judgment and wise counsel. "To have hitched one's star to a thief," as a lawyer for one of Dreier's former partners puts it, is a stain that won't easily wash out. Most of Dreier's betrayed former colleagues did not return calls or e-mails, and all but one of those who did asked not to be identified.
The entire article on Marc Dreier makes for an interesting read. McArdle asks a question at the end of her post:
How did he look himself in the mirror in the morning?
For Dreier, it was easier than one might imagine. That answer is based on the assumption that Dreier is some sort of psychopath, which could well be the case. I'll refrain from making a diagnosis for reasons I think are obvious, but I will note that some of his behaviors and mannerisms as described in the article on Dreier are pretty consistent with those exhibited by psychopaths, including the tendency to be very self-absorbed, emotionally absent, predatory, and requiring a near constant stream of novel stimulation; to that add an apparent inability to form and maintain long-term business or personal relationships, an apparent inability to work well with others or to respect an organizational structure, a great deal of "job hopping", and an inclination toward brazenly manipulating others and one might at least admit that some serious red flags were being raised for anyone who could see them. If he is what I suspect he might be, I seriously doubt he ever has or currently feels any remorse for what he's done, nor does he have the capacity to empathize with his fellow human beings.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oh, there's a social security crisis alright!

However, it's a crisis fueled by - you guessed it - the Pope of Hope and his henchmen:
Dean Baker in USA Today:

In effect, the cutters are proposing that the government default on the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund: U.S. government bonds that were purchased with money raised through the designated Social Security tax.

It is truly incredible, and unbelievably galling, that anyone in a position of responsibility would suggest defaulting on the government bonds held by the Social Security trust fund at the precise moment that the government is honoring trillions of dollars of bonds issued by private banks.

While the government has no legal or moral obligations to pay off the banks' debts to wealthy investors (who presumably understood the risks they were taking), the Social Security bonds carry the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution:
In case you've missed it, the Federal Reserve has guaranteed gigantic amounts of bonds issued by banks (see "bank debt" here). Thus, as Baker says, the Social Security cutters don't just want us to default on U.S. government bonds essentially belonging to Social Security recipients. They want us to do that at the same time we're paying off Citigroup's bonds.
There's a Social Security crisis all right, and Barack and his friends are part of it.
I have tried to warn folks that Obama is highly wed to neoliberal orthodoxy. That was apparent from just a cursory perusal of his statements on the campaign trail, and his choice of economic advisors not only on the campaign trail but once installed in the White House. Basically, neoliberals work to exploit economic crisis (in no small part caused by neoliberals) in order to gut social support networks and transfer wealth to the filthy rich. It is crucial that we make note that the regime has never seriously entertained the idea of defaulting on, say, Citigroup's bonds. Those are apparently to "important." On the other hand, some pitance of financial support for those retired or disabled - payed for by the way with our tax dollars - is entirely expendable during the current depressed economic conditions. Just as the biggest threat to social security was the Bush regime, it appears that Obama is every bit a threat if not more so. Unlike Bush, Obama is slick enough to keep up the appearance of being "helpful."

Shorter Betty Brown:

We Texans can't even pronounce nuculer much less these dang old Asian names.

Crying wolf

Check this out:

ISTANBUL — “Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option.”

Benjamin Netanyahu 2009? Try again. These words were in fact uttered by another Israeli prime minister (and now Israeli president), Shimon Peres, in 1996. Four years earlier, in 1992, he’d predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

You can’t accuse the Israelis of not crying wolf. Ehud Barak, now defense minister, said in 1996 that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004.

If you remember the fable of the boy who cried wolf, you might want to recall what happened once the villagers realized they were being played.

Our propagandists have their work cut out for them

Now that we've reached the end of the end of history, let's simply make note of a recent Rasmussen poll which found only 53% of American adults prefer capitalism to socialism. The numbers are even more dramatic for adults aged 30 and under.

A promising life and career cut short by a drunk driver

Angel rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed early this morning in a hit-and-run car accident. The driver who killed him was arrested and charged with manslaughter and driving under the influence.

About that protester who died at the G20?

You know, Ian Tomlinson, the guy the London police claimed they desperately "wanted" to help but were blocked by an angry mob of protesters? Well, it turns out there is video footage debunking that claim - he was attacked by police. That's right - the guy was killed thanks to police violence. It's safe to say that any skepticism regarding the claims made by the police department and passed on without sufficient question in the corporate controlled media regarding the incident were entirely warranted. Ian's death was no "accident."Could have seen that one coming a mile away.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

If you've been paying attention this isn't exactly news

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued its report about the involvement of medical and helping professions in perpetrating torture in US-run gulags. You can download the document here.