Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Christianity in Troubled Times


 By Alan Caruba

The vast ignorance of American history by far too many Americans is perhaps demonstrated in the failure to understand that it was the free practice of their interpretation of Christianity by the pilgrims that led to the creation of America. Plymouth colony, established in 1620, put the Atlantic Ocean between them and hostilities they had encountered in England.

To understand the role of religion in America, the First Amendment begins with a prohibition that the states shall make no law “respecting an establishment of religion...” The Founders wanted to make sure that neither the federal, nor state governments designated a particular religion as the only one. We can thank James Madison for that and the other enumerated freedoms.

Religious tolerance, which took some time to become fully established in the colonies and the new nation, has been a significant part of life in America---a nation that has always been predominantly Christian. Easter should remind us of that.

As 2012 came to a close, the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project offered the following numbers regarding the global population of Christians. They were determined to be approximately 2.2 billion worldwide. That’s about one-in-three (32%).

About half of all Christians are Catholic (50%) while an estimated 37% belong to the Protestant tradition. The Orthodox Communion, including the Greek and Russian Orthodox, make up 12% of Christians while those who belong to other branches such as Mormons, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah Witnesses, make up about 1% of the global population.

Though Christianity took root in the Middle East, less than 1% of Christians are found these days either there or in North Africa. The largest concentration is in Europe (26%), followed closely by Latin American and the Caribbean (24%), and sub-Saharan Africa (24%). Most Christians (87%) live in countries where Christians are in the majority. Of the 232 countries and territories in the Pew study, 157 had majorities, but most had relatively small populations.

What surely has to be a cause for concern in America are the results of a Harris poll released in December 2013. While a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults said they believe in God, the figure was down from 82% in earlier years. Belief in miracles, heaven, and other religious teachings were all in decline.

For Christians, 68% expressed a belief that Jesus is God or the Son of God, down from 72%. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%) was down from 72% ten years earlier.

Ranging across various faith groups and other demographics, absolute certainty that there is a God was expressed by 54%, a decline from 66%.

Only 19% described themselves as “very” religious, while 40% described themselves as “somewhat” religious, a decline from 49% in 2007. Nearly one-fourth of Americans (23%) said they were “not at all” religious, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2007 when it was only 12%.

A campaign against the free practice of religion and respect for individual religious values has been in place since the election of President Obama in 2008. It has been particularly evident in the U.S. military, affecting its chaplains and those to whom they minister. There are nearly a hundred cases in U.S. courts resisting the demands of Obamacare and other actions by the administration and those in various states and cities that affect religious beliefs and values.

The introduction and support of same-sex marriage in the United States is a direct attack on a tradition that pre-dates Christianity, Judaism and other faiths. It is fundamentally anti-religious.

Beyond our shores the slaughter of Christians by Muslims in Middle Eastern and nations like Nigeria continues to pose a threat to them and those of other faiths. Islam is the greatest threat to civilization that has existed since its rise began in 632 A.D.

All Americans owe a debt of gratitude to those early pilgrims and to the Founders who understood the value of religion and its free expression. Those who demand that crosses be removed from public lands or that Christmas carols not be sung in our schools do not understand what America is all about. Christians, in particular, must vocally resist such demands and should be joined by those of other faiths.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Declaring War on Americans


By Alan Caruba

You have to be extremely stupid to send a couple of hundred armed government agents to confiscate some bullheaded rancher’s cattle without contemplating how the rest of the nation will interpret your actions.

What was obvious to voters who rejected Barack Obama’s run for the presidency the first and second time was the fact that he lacked any record of competency to be President. The rest voted for him because they wanted to say they helped elect the first black President of the United States and because they believed what this pathological liar said then and since.

The assertion that Obama’s and Eric Holder’s actions and policies are opposed because they are black is absurd. It is an insult to everyone who voted for Obama and to the rest of us.

I love the notion that Cliven Bundy lives in Bunkerville. It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775. What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time. There is no way a militia with small arms can defeat the kind of arms the U.S. government can bring to bear on such a battle, but one has to admire the courage of those people who showed up to confront them. That’s quintessentially American!

Bundy should have paid his grazing rights fees. Other ranchers do. What he has done, however, is bring greater awareness the amount of land that the federal government owns in Nevada and elsewhere, particularly west of the Mississippi, and expose a regime that wants to intimidate Americans with force.

According to Wikipedia, “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers America's public lands, totaling approximately 247.3 million acres, or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages 700 million acres (2,800,000 km) of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state, and private lands. Most public lands are located in western states, especially Alaska. With approximately 10,000 permanent employees and close to 2,000 seasonal employees, this works out to over 21,000 acres (85 km) per employee. The agency's budget was $960,000,000 for 2010 ($3.79 per surface acre, $9.38 per hectare)

 I can understand the need for national forests and reserves, but I have concerns that those reserves are used as an excuse to deny access to massive energy sources that lie beneath their surface. If the U.S. didn’t own most of Nevada, Bundy would not need to pay grazing fees. Most certainly, his ancestors didn’t. The other excuse, that the government is trying to protect an endangered tortoise, is just part of the environmental movement’s efforts to keep energy sources from being available to all of us. Endangered species is pure fiction.

What worries me and many of my blogger colleagues is the prospect of a renewed effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding what is essentially a fairly minor dispute between it and Bundy. Showing some common sense, the BLM backed off its initial effort.

I don’t think the BLM response to Bundy was exclusive to the agency. That decision needed to be sent up the line as far as the White House. Indeed, it was likely initiated by the White House.

Even more scary is the fact that only Fox News channel had reporters on the scene. No other major television news outlet set journalists to record the event. How much in league with the White House does the media have to be to ignore two hundred armed government agents descending on a ranch in Nevada?

I suspect that a lot of Americans and most certainly those who live in the rural areas of the nation are going to remember the Bundy face-off with the BLM come the November midterm elections. While most voters are crowded into the cities on the East and West Coasts, there are a lot of others in “flyover country.’

When you add in all the folks who lost their healthcare insurance and others who have discovered they can’t even buy a policy until next January, that’s going to be a voting bloc that could decimate Democratic Party candidates.

All tyrannies over-reach at some point and we are seeing that occur in the White House. The nation is fortunate to have the House controlled by Republicans and now needs a Senate as well in order to dispense some much needed justice on behalf of Americans.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the White House responds to the May 16 “Operation American Spring” being organized to bring a million or more to Washington, D.C. to participate in an event that will demonstrate the breadth of the unhappiness that has spread since Obama’s first election and is gaining momentum since his second.

The White House response will tell us all a lot about its current state of mind. Whatever it has in mind is likely to leak. The best thing about Washington, D.C. is its inability to keep a secret. The worst thing is the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Starting Holy Week with Murders


By Alan Caruba

There’s something very sad about the murders in Kansas City that began the holy week for Jews—Passover—and the forthcoming Easter for Christians. The two events are closely linked biblically and historically. The murders are a rebuke to both faiths.

There is irony and tragedy in the murder of William Lewis Corporon and his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood. Both were Christian as was the third victim, a woman, who was Catholic. The first two were visiting a Jewish community center to participate in a music contest. The other victim was killed at a Jewish retirement community.

The alleged perpetrator is Frazier Glenn Cross who was identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having been involved in the white supremacist movement for most of his life. Fox News reported that he “founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and was its “grand dragon” in the 1980s before the Center sued him for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against blacks.”

I cannot even imagine what it must be like to devote one’s entire life to hating blacks and Jews. Hatred is a corrosive emotion and the complete opposite of the values that both Judaism and Christianity embrace.

Michael Siegal, chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, said “no community should have to face a moment such as this one. Today, on the eve of Pesach, we are left to contemplate how we must continue our work building a world in which all people are free to live their lives without the threat of terror.”

The key element in his statement is “all people.”

Around the world today terror is the primary weapon of those who would impose Islam on everyone while killing thousands of their own believers and, in the case of Israel, threatening death to an entire nation of Jews. It must be noted that thousands of Arabs are Israeli citizens as well.

It reminds one that the Nazi death camps and deliberate killing of others in the last century not only killed Jews, but millions of Christians as well. According to Wikipedia:

“In addition to Jews, the targeted groups included Poles (of whom 2.5 million gentile Poles were killed) and some other Slavic peoples; Soviets (particularly prisoners of war); Romanies (also known as Gypsies) and others who did not belong to the Aryan Herrenvolk "Aryan master race"; the mentally ill, the deaf, the physically disabled and mentally retarded; homosexual and transsexual people; political opponents such as communists, social democrats and socialists; and religious dissidents, i.e. members of Jehovah's Witnesses.[2][3] Taking into account all of the victims of Nazi persecution, they systematically killed an estimated six million Jews and mass murdered an additional eleven million people during the war. Donald Niewyk suggests that the broadest definition, including Soviet civilian deaths would produce a death toll of 17 million.

One can only conclude that humans are a very dangerous specie, inclined to kill its own for reasons that focus on religion, politics, and other factors.

By contrast, Passover and Easter focus on survival and sacrifice in the face of evil. Both acknowledge and celebrate the role of our Creator. Holy week for both Jews and Christians is a good one to concentrate on the values that they both teach and uphold. It is also a week (among all the others) to dedicate ourselves to opposing those for whom hate is their only reason to exist.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

America Loves Booze and Pot


By Alan Caruba

In 1919 the eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” in the United States and by 1933 the era of prohibition was over when the twenty-first Amendment rescinded it. Alcohol consumption was and is a social problem, but sometimes the government is not the right vehicle for dealing with them.

The United States is a huge market for what are deemed illegal drugs and, for many years, marijuana has been among them. That prohibition is now going the way of the earlier effort to make alcohol consumption illegal. Questions remain as to whether this is a good thing or not.

A study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health whose results were released in February examined automobile deaths resulting from marijuana use while driving. The data was gathered from six states that perform toxicology tests on drivers involved in fatal accidents. It found that drugs played an increasing role in such accidents, accounting for more than 28% in 2010, 16% more than in 1999 and marijuana was the main drug involved in the increase, contributing to 12%, compared to only 4% in 1999.

“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” said Dr. Guohua Le, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. “If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of a driver who is not, but the driver under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana then increased to 24 times that of a sober person.”

Those numbers will rise in the years ahead because two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational use of marijuana and twenty states allow medical use. Observers of the trend predict that a dozen more states are expected to legalize marijuana in some form over the next several years. One study has projected a $10 billion legal marijuana industry by 2018.

More than a dozen members of Congress have sponsored legislation aimed at reforming federal marijuana laws and the federal government allowed Colorado’s and Washington’s laws to take effect last year. Medical use has gained public acceptance and the Federal Drug Administration recently gave the green light to a clinical study in its efficacy in children with severe epilepsy. The Department of Health and Human Services has approved a study that will examine its effect on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

President Obama recently signed a Farm Bill that legalized “industrialized hemp production” for research purposes in the twelve states that permit it after a decades-long war on cannabis that is clearly winding down.

The use of marijuana took off in a big way in the 1960s, a decade famed for many liberal causes and a generation of young people that rejected opposition to it. In many ways, legalizing marijuana has been a liberal cause.

In early April, the Washington Times reported that “Billionaire philanthropist George Soros hopes the U.S. is going to pot, and he is using his money to drive it there. With a cadre of like-minded, wealthy donors, Mr. Soros is dominating the pro-legalization side of the marijuana debate by funding grass-roots initiatives that begin in New York City and end up affecting local politics elsewhere. Through a network of nonprofit groups, Mr. Soros has spent at least $80 million on the legalization effort since 1994.” The American Civil Liberties Union has been a leading advocate of marijuana legalization efforts.

The legalization can be seen as a liberal versus conservative political issue, but I think it is more an issue of public opinion regarding the use of marijuana, particularly as regards the fines and jail terms that have been imposed. We do this for those who abuse alcohol and logic suggests such laws will be applied to pot users as well, reducing the more aggressive fines and jail terms.

A new Time magazine polls found that 75% of Americans believe that the sale of marijuana will eventually become legal across the nation whether they supported legalization or not. The Pew Research Center conducted the polls in mid-February among 1,821 adults, finding that the number of people in favor of legalizing pot continues to grow. Four years ago 52% percent said they thought marijuana use should not be legal, but now 54% are in favor of legalization.

Most believe that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. While 69% believe that alcohol was more harmful to society, a large majority, 76%, believe that people convicted of possession of small amounts of pot should not have to serve jail time. I concur with that. I also support its use for medical purposes.

For better or worse, all societies evolve and change. The Prohibition era gave rise to organized crime to provide the booze Americans wanted to drink and the efforts to decriminalize marijuana now reflect a growing acceptance of its use for either medical or recreational use.

More drivers will die as a result, either from its use or from being in fatal accidents with those who do. Its use in the work environment will cause accidents that range from minor to fatal. It is extraordinarily curious that, while Americans have been subjected to a huge campaign to restrict smoking, the restrictions on marijuana use are being eliminated. I am not sure I see any difference here.

Americans love booze and love pot. What the long term effects on our society will be are unknown, but there will be effects.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The War Within the GOP


By Alan Caruba
 
I started out a Democrat because my parents were Democrats. When I was old enough to conclude that the Democratic Party was so socialist I could not remain one, I became a Republican. In her nineties, even my Mother registered as a Republican. Times change and people change. Now I am considering registering as an independent. I am waiting for the outcome of the November midterm elections.
 
My decision will depend on how many Tea Party movement candidates are elected and my hope is that it will be a wave election that rejects so many Democratic candidates that power in the Congress--particularly the Senate--returns to the GOP. Then I will watch to see how much action they take to reverse the damage of Obamacare and other programs in much need of reform, replacement and rejection.
 
According to Gallup, currently an estimated 42 percent of voters today self-identify as independents Those who identify themselves as Republicans fell to 25 percent.  In 2013 Gallup reported that 41 percent regarded themselves to be conservative or very conservative, but that was the lowest since Obama took office in 2009.
 
A recent Rasmussen poll found that 59% of GOP voters say that Republicans in Congress are out of touch with the Party’s base. I suspect that’s because the base is more conservative than its elected representatives. Conversely, Democrats are quite happy with theirs.
 
The emergence of the Tea Party movement has dramatically demonstrated the unhappiness of voters with the direction the nation has taken since Obama was elected in 2008. At the heart of their displeasure are the dreadful state of the economy and the growing fear of a Big Government that extends more and more control over all aspects of their lives.
 
The internal debate within the GOP is showing up in commentaries among its pundits. It reflects to some degree the fears of its establishment elites who have managed to serve up John McCain and Mitt Romney, both of whom lost because they waged campaigns devoid of any serious criticism or confrontation with liberalism. The Party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
 
They suffered as well from an incessant Democratic Party campaign to define Republicans as indifferent to the poor, aligned with large corporations, and hostile to illegal immigrants, homosexuals and women.
 
With the help of the mainstream media, these themes are constantly repeated. Meanwhile, cities and states run by Democrats are going bankrupt thanks to their devotion to spending and alliance with public service unions. You could line up the agendas of the Democratic Party and the Communist Party USA side by side and find very little difference.
 
Unfortunately, there are voices in the GOP that sound more like Democrats than Republicans. The most visible to emerge is Jeb Bush, a former Florida Governor, whose informal recent remarks sound like Democrat-light. He could have better articulated the need for immigration reform, but he did not. This is a common problem among too many Republicans in office or running for one, no matter what the issue may be.



Jeb Bush favors Common Core, a federal program of education standards that represent why education in America is failing and has been for a very long time. Regrettably, his brother, George W. Bush advocated “Leave No Child Behind” with its comparable standards. Parents today are clamoring for charter schools to save their children from the indoctrination imposed by teachers unions since the 1960s. Democrat demands for pre-kindergarten programs are just a further intrusion into their lives.
 
In a Wall Street Journal commentary, former Florida Governor, William W. Galston, characterizes the war within the GOP as being between “the social conservatives and defense hawks that Ronald Reagan created in the late 1970s” and the current GOP leadership who think those values should be abandoned to entice youth, women, and homosexuals. He expressed the war as a generational one between younger and older Republicans.
 
“The tea party offers nothing except nostalgia for a demography that is in retreat and a Constitution that never was,” said Galston. “By contrast Mr. Bush wants to run as a conservative unafraid of the future.” His wish for a campaign that avoids mud-slinging betrays a timidity that could cost the GOP another loss if he were to become its presidential candidate. My view is that Republicans, as per the Rasmussen poll, want a candidate and a Party that would more boldly fight Democratic Party and liberal lies.
 
In a March commentary by Karl Rove, the former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, had nice things to say about the party’s reformers such as Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and governors such as Bobby Jindal, Rick Snyder, Scott Walker, and John Kasich. He cited their efforts to help the poor, but left unsaid was that they are poor because they are either a permanent class of the poor or the result of Obama’s failure to turn the economy around.

Rove could well have mentioned Tea Party favorites such as Senators Cruz, Lee, and Paul who are reinvigorating Republican principles and giving voice to them.
 
The GOP is not about the poor. It is about the middle class and too many are sinking into poverty thanks to Democratic programs emphasizing spending, borrowing, and expanding programs such as food stamps, unemployment payments, and an increase in the minimum wage. All of Obama’s blather about income inequality is aimed at those who think such programs will help the economy, but all they do is undermine it.
 
“Conservative reformers seek to broaden opportunity, increase prosperity for every American, restore the value of work, and strengthen markets, competition and choice,” said Rove. “If successful, their efforts would help the GOP among middle class voters.”  That could have been written by a member of the Tea Party movement.
 
“It is hard to overstate how much the Republican Party is hurt by the persistent belief of many voters that its candidates are out of touch and do not care about people like them,” said Rove. That's the message of the Democratic Party and always has been. It is a message that mainstream media repeats.
 
The Tea Party movement, however, is overcoming that message and the success of Republican governors and the popularity of its candidates suggests that many Americans see the movement as the salvation of the nation. The Republican Party too often looks pale by comparison and that must change.
 
© Alan Caruba, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014