Next goal for reactionaries – mandate funding for religious schools

Conservatives have spent the past decade warning of the evils of government mandates, how they reduce freedom and damage liberty. But the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is poised to take the cues of far-right legal interests and mandate that states send thousands of taxpayer dollars per pupil to religious schools…

The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, seeks to overturn a Montana Supreme Court ruling that prohibited money from a voucher program to be put toward private religious schools, consistent with the state’s nearly five-decade ban on state aid for religious purposes. Thirty-seven other states have similar “no aid” provisions. But the plaintiffs, bankrolled by a right-wing organization called the Institute of Justice, are not simply trying to allow public voucher funding for religious institutions; they want to require it.

The case will be heard on Wednesday, January 22.

Keep your eyes and ears open, folks. With the short-focus attention span of American media we’re not likely to hear about anything other than the pantywaist impeachment trial of our Fake President – for the next couple of months. Regardless of the likely rigged verdict promised by Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party.

Austrian government falls as rightwing party boss caught trying to sell contracts

❝ The far-right Freedom Party’s Heinz-Christian Strache resigned as vice chancellor and party leader after the video was released by two German news organizations. He acknowledged that the video was “catastrophic” but denied breaking the law.

Chancellor Kurz, a conservative who formed a coalition with the Freedom Party a year and a half ago, said the apparent video sting, in which Strache discusses contracts in return for financial or political favors, was the last straw in the relationship…

❝ “These are shameful images and no one should be ashamed for Austria,” he said of the video. “We need in this sense to rebuild confidence anew. This rebuilding can in this case only happen with a snap election.”

Last we heard, Trump was asking the DOJ if he can pardon crooks in Austria.

Is there a Religious Left in America?


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❝ The religious left is the Sasquatch of American politics. It leaves footprints in the snow but recent sightings of the creature itself are rare, and not always credible.

Progressive politics is dominated by secular ideals and, increasingly, secular voters. In recent decades, the words “Christian” and “evangelical” have been commandeered as synonyms for “white conservative.” Religious liberals never achieved the power of their conservative opposites…The once-explosive growth of conservative evangelicals has stalled. Yet the religious left doesn’t appear to be benefiting much.

Instead, the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated are growing. A 2016 report by the Public Religion Research Institute stated: “Today, one-quarter (25 percent) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest ‘religious group’ in the U.S.”

❝ Yet if ever there were a moment for the left to seize the mantle of religion from conservatives, surely it arrives Jan. 20 at noon. Donald Trump received the votes of four in five white evangelical or born-again Christians. Hypocrisy is as old as humanity, but even hypocrisy has a gross weight limit.

Christian conservatives are now inextricably tied to an incoming president with a long, public history of exploiting the weak, and no documented history of charity, faith or Christian communion or witness. They have endorsed a First Lady whose modeling career included a pornographic photo shoot described by the Trump-friendly New York Post as “girl on girl.” Even among the plaster saints of the religious right, Trump is a heavy burden to bear.

❝ Sojourners is one of the groups seeking to rally the religious left. “Our Constitution’s protection of religious freedom empowers faith institutions to oppose state-sanctioned bigotry and violence and creates strong sanctuaries for those Jesus called the ‘least of these’ in Matthew 25,” said Lisa Sharon Harper…

A coalition of groups has launched the “Matthew 25” initiative to fight an expected barrage of federal policies targeting the most vulnerable — including the poor, immigrants and Muslims. “These people are organizing under the banner of Jesus,” Harper said.

❝ In North Carolina, the liberal “Moral Mondays” movement has been partially credited with the election in November of Democrat Roy Cooper as governor. The success of the movement — named for weekly public demonstrations against the conservative legislature and incumbent governor — is a powerful precedent. It gained momentum not only because of charismatic religious leadership, but because of unusually aggressive Republican efforts to undermine voting rights and cut funding for education and services…

❝ Trump’s regular shocks to decency, along with an expected Republican assault on funding for the poor, will outrage both secular liberals and the religious left. But will that be enough to bring the left’s religious Sasquatch out of hiding?

I have no idea. Being an old cranky geek, I’m less likely to find myself marching than blogging, nowadays.

There was a time when I could count on cellmates who were priests, partners canvassing door-to-door who were nuns, family and friends who learned childhood ethics in Protestant Yankee denominations who dedicated time and effort to the betterment of life on earth – instead of preaching faith in Wall Street dollar$ over old-timey Christian values.

I wish Sojourners well. Same to the brave folks leading the activism of Moral Monday in Confederate and other Republican states. I respect your courage and integrity. As I always have. But, I surely wish you had more friends.

The world’s 25 largest military budgets

The second best example of the invention of political correctness by American conservatives in the 1940’s. The War Department became the Department of Defense [1947/1949 in a couple of steps]. The military budget became the defense budget. Lying hypocrites rule American politics.

The best example? “In God We Trust” – which including adding “under God” to the American pledge of allegiance [1956/1957]. Again, the lead-in to full-blown rightwing domination of populist ideology in this nation in the 1940’s. Courtesy of the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy.

I don’t recall anyone since – in the Democratic Party – trying to reverse this political correctness, in the decades since their institutionalizing.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Here comes the next Congressional attack on your privacy

One Senator vows to filibuster this bipartisan assault on our privacy.


Ron WydenCraig Mitchelldyer

Legislators have published an official draft of a controversial new encryption bill, a measure seeking to compel company assistance in decrypting private communications in the wake of the San Bernardino case. Dubbed the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016, the official text is slightly modified from the version that leaked last week, but contains many of the same provisions that had infuriated privacy activists last week, including a broad view of the information providers would be expected to turn over upon request.

So far, technology and privacy groups have been hostile to the bill, including the Software Alliance, the App Association, and the ITIF. The ACLU called the earlier draft “a clear threat to everyone’s privacy and security.” If the bill does pass, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has pledged a legal effort that would keep the measures “tied up in the courts for years.”

But the most vocal opposition has come from within Congress itself. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) went so far as to pledge a filibuster of the bill if it reaches the Senate floor. “This flawed bill would leave americans more vulnerable to stalkers, identity thieves, foreign hackers, and criminals,” Wyden said in an official statement. “And yet it will not make us safer from terrorists or other threats.”

…The bill’s authors made it clear they would not allow encryption systems to remain indifferent to government orders. “No entity or individual is above the law,” said Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)…

For many a Democrat in the last 70 years, kissing any butt with a badge is considered a safe road to re-election. The tradition of a few Liberals like Senator Wyden barely survived the Reagan years. The rightwing Republican assault on anything to the Left of Attila the Hun was generally confronted with whimpering and self-defensive collaboration.

Trump’s quote of the evening

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I know Trump has said this before, so technically it’s hardly new. Still, I mean, it’s…it’s…oh hell:

❝I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. Remember that. Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 percent and 5 percent unemployment. The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent. Do you think if we had 5 percent unemployment, do you really think we’d have these gatherings?

Yeah, Trump “heard” 42 percent recently. You betcha. Trump hears a lot of things, sort of like Joan of Arc. In any case, I assume Trump keeps saying this because it goes over well with his audiences. Why might this be?

Trump fans are really bad at arithmetic.

Trump fans know an ungodly number of unemployed people in their immediate circle of friends.

Trump fans are really eager to believe the government is lying to them.

Trump fans don’t actually know what unemployment is.

Trump fans don’t really have a clue what he’s saying. It’s just mumbo jumbo delivered with authority, and they love it.

I dunno. Could be all of the above, I suppose.

Seems reasonably inclusive.

Political hacks whine about ISIS driving Toyota trucks


Here’s a militia convoy in Libya – with armament captured from Gaddafi’s army

Toyota has been put on the spot by the U.S. government, which has asked the Japanese car maker to explain just how Islamic State has got hold of hundreds of its four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The Toyota Hilux pickup — a model similar to the Toyota Tacoma that’s sold in the U.S. — and Toyota Land Cruisers have become fixtures in the terror group’s propaganda videos…

“Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand,” said one former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Mark Wallace….

This crap article doesn’t quote any official government complaint – just whining from news-as-entertainment sources and one out-of-work political appointee.

Wallace is currently chief executive for the Counter Extremism Project, which aims to expose terrorists’ financial networks. “I don’t think Toyota’s trying to intentionally profit from it, but they are on notice now and they should do more,” Wallace added.

The Counter extremism Project was founded by a group of unemployed Bush hacks mostly well-known as pimps for Israel’s apartheid Netanyahu government. Starring former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman.

Questions about ISIS’s use of the vehicles have circulated for years, with the terror group believed to have repurposed older Toyota trucks as well as acquiring hundreds of new vehicles. In a recent ISIS parade, more than two-thirds of the vehicles were white Toyotas with black emblems, and there also were small numbers of other brands such as Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Isuzu…

Tracking who buys and sells used trucks and cars in the Middle East is a farce that could only be thought up by the American flavor of right-wing creep.

The fact is the Toyota HiLux is the most popular pickup truck in the world. Reliable and durable, they last for years. Most of what you see on the tube are diesel-powered, produced by Toyota in Thailand. Bought, stolen or volunteered to serve just about every insurgency and counter-insurgency. They satisfy the needs of most folks in the Middle East regardless of end use. Pretty much everyone in desert country buys white cars and trucks.

Once in a while you see a repainted Chevy – a present from American taxpayers to the Iraq Army – abandoned by soldiers running as fast as possible in the opposite direction from ISIS.