Friday, October 26, 2012


Two new blogs from The Lion:

 It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why so many people hate government and the current political system in this country.  At times, government appears to deliberately act for the best needs of the wealthy and powerful and ignores, or even worse punishes, the average citizen.  At times like these, I find myself more often than not in agreement with this "pox on all of their houses" sentiment.

     The Wall Street Journal is reporting states that received part of a $25 billion settlement from 5 large banks that improperly processed foreclosures, have taken these billions and not used them to help distressed homeowners.  Rather, they took the money and used it to close state budget gaps.  More than $1 billion will go into state general funds and not to help people who lost their homes due to the illegal actions of these banks.

     This settlement was trumpeted as a huge victory for homeowners who had been victimized by the banking system.  State attorneys general, like Kamala Harris in California, portrayed themselves as modern day David's going up against and defeating financial Goliaths.  They were fighting the good fight.  Someone had to stand up for homeowners who had been abused and crushed.  Families who had lost their homes unnecessarily would be made whole.  This was publicized as a huge victory for Main Street at the expense of Wall Street.  Now we discover, those who were most directly affected will get little if any help.

     California governor Jerry Brown decided to take the $410 million the state received and put it into existing state obligations instead of using it to help those taken advantage of by greedy and immoral banks.  Attorney General Harris allegedly objected saying the funds should go to counseling and legal aid for distressed homeowners.  However, there is no evidence Harris fought very hard and she appears to have given Brown a pass.

     This outrage comes as CNN highlights a man in Michigan who lost his home to illegal foreclosure, and whose state was a part of this wonderful victory for the little folks, and who received a check for $840 as his portion of the settlement.  As he said, it isn't even enough to pay his rent for one month.

     How do Brown justify this thievery, this shell game, and this betrayal?  They don't.  For them this is business as usual.  They pushed for a quick settlement.  They wanted to avoid a long investigation into the mortgage practices of these banks and they didn't want to pursue criminal charges against anyone.  The banks coughed up a small amount with the guarantee no one goes to jail and no one can be sued.  It is the definition of a sweetheart deal and unfortunately homeowners will not be belles at the ball.

     Years ago I opposed a state lottery because I knew almost none of the money would reach schools.  The California legislature cut back education funding the same amount as the lottery might produce thus cancelling out any benefit.  This is the same government who wants voters to raise their own taxes to fund schools, but refuses to modify Proposition 13 to exclude commercial properties from its provisions which would raise billions of dollars in new revenue (corporations lobby much better than distressed homeowners).

     I believe government has a role to play in leveling the playing field in a capitalist economy.  However, when the capitalists buy access and purchase accommodations and influence politicians so they turn their backs on their constituents, government has been usurped and needs to be changed.

     The banks pay a little one goes to jail...politicians claim a heroic victory...everyday, gum-chewing homeowners and their families get screwed.  It isn't hard to see why so many hate the government and anyone associated with it.  When does Harris run for re-election?


God wanted you to have a baby, but you weren't cooperating, so God had you raped so you could accept this glorious gift.  As cruel, callous and crazy as that sounds, Indiana senate candidate Richard Mourdock suggests it is true and wonders what all the fuss is about.  Mourdock is the poster child for regressive politics.  He is so extreme, what should be an easy win in a very red state, is being rated too close to call.  Mitt Romney has appeared in ads with him and he is the darling of religious fundamentalists and teaparty activists.  However, his remarks may cause some head winds for Romney.

     Mourdock was told by John McCain to apologize or lose his endorsement.  Mourdock apologized.  However, an apology makes no sense.  What exactly is he apologizing for?  Is her sorry he said it because of the political firestorm it caused?  Is he sorry for saying it, but still believes it to be true?  Maybe he is sorry if anyone was offended by his remarks, which would make him maybe sorry.  Since he said it, he must believe it, so what is the substance of his apology?  He claims the remarks were distorted out of context.  If so, what is he apologizing for?

     Romney used the last debate to throw on Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility to hide everything he really believes.  He wants peace, love and sunshine for everyone.  In the hope of appealing to women, Romney was talking about all of us getting along while Obama was promising to get our enemies.  Romney desperately needs women to like him and yet he has aligned himself with some of the most extreme actors in his party.  Romney has not denounced Mourdock.  He simply says he disagrees with him.

     Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, is much more extreme than Mourdock.  Ryan sponsored a bill which would deny a woman an abortion unless she was "forcibly" raped.  (another way to say that is unless the rape is "legitimate")  Ryan supported a human life amendment which would affectively outlaw most forms of contraception along with all abortions.  Both Ryan and Romney support legislation to create a "religious exception" so any employer can refuse to provide health benefits which include contraception simply by claiming it offends his or her morals or religion.  (Obama called Romney on this in the second debate and Romney denied his open support for such a measure)

     According to polls, women don't find Romney as onerous as they once did.  The man who wants to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and overturn Roe v Wade...the man who didn't know any qualified women to include in his cabinet in Massachusetts and opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Act...the man who endorsed Mourdock and picked Ryan as his vice today more attractive to women voters despite them saying in polls abortion is the top issue for them.  Huh?  Romney is trying to double down on this momentum by repudiating everything he said in the last 18 months about putting more soldiers in Iraq, not leaving Afghanistan in 2014, going to war with Iran and appointing Supreme Court justices who would mirror the likes of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, all with the hope women won't find him to be so off-putting and will embrace the kinder, gentler Mormon.  Yet, each time he cloaks himself, he faces colleagues who persist in claiming to speak for God and who appear to shop at Misogynists 'R Us.

     Mourdock has apologized.  Akins in Missouri has apologized.  Romney and Ryan are on an apology tour, begging women not to pay any attention to that man behind the curtain who has been running for president for 8 years.  Whatever he may have said, pay it no heed now.

     My guess is God finds this all quite amusing.  She must get a chuckle out of those who want to portray Her as a rapist or terrorist.  (remember Oral Roberts who God was going to kill if he didn't raise enough money?)  Jerry Falwell claimed Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment because of the sins of New Orleans or who see Her as a serial murderer (the list is too long of Republicans who claimed AIDS was God's wrath imposed on people for being gay)  Maybe amused is the wrong word.  Perhaps God's more saddened and perplexed and disappointed.  Through Jesus She revealed the way to Her was through loving your enemy, turning the other cheek, caring for the least among you, and yet the religious Imams of the Republican party choose to ignore all of these epiphanies in favor of a God who uses rape and bombs and national disasters to kill or hunt anyone who doesn't agree with the Lord of Lords, who sent the Prince of Peace.

     I understand women need jobs, and this economy has taken purchasing power away from them. Obama has been president during this economic meltdown, but the folks occupying Romney Street would force women to bare children, refuse to pay equal wages with men and treat them like second class citizens who need flex-time in the workplace so they can get home and put dinner on the table for their family.

     Richard Mourdock fits in perfectly with a Romney administration.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Tina Henry died on September 15, 2012.  She lived in Borger, Texas, which is near Amarillo.  Her liver finally failed her but her heart and spirit never flagged.  I never met Tina in person.  I couldn't pick her out of a one-person lineup, yet her passing has filled me with profound sadness.  I am lucky and proud to have known her.

     When I was sentenced, the judge (the famously closeted gay Vaughn Walker) agreed I should be sent to Lompoc to serve my time.  Instead, I was put on an airplane and flown to Oklahoma City and then taken on a 14-hour bus ride, (cuffed and shackled with no food) to Beaumont, Texas.  The Beaumont complex is infamous in the federal system and was known as "bloody" Beaumont.  Despite a policy of keeping inmates within 500 miles of their home, I was 90 miles from Houston and light years from my family.  I knew I would never get a visit in Texas.  I was depressed, disoriented and lonely.  I was also scared out of my mind.

     No one in Beaumont knew anything about San Francisco or the Bay Area except it was the "fag" capital of the world and populated by liberal queers and commies intent on destroying this country.  (I wish I were kidding)  I went to my first meeting with my so-called case manager and he looked at me askance asking if I was from San Francisco?  I said yes and he wanted to know how I ended up in Beaumont.  I had no answer and he chimed in, "...well you must have really pissed someone off to end up here because they want to make this as tough as possible on you."  He told me to get out of Beaumont as soon as possible.  "'s not good for you here."

     Into this psychological morass came some letters.  People, listeners, wrote and expressed support.  One of those letters came from Tina Henry.  Tina had lived in the Bay Area for some time, but I think she had to move back to her family in Texas for health reasons.  She missed the City and the culture of the Bay Area.  She didn't like Texas very much.  She loved to talk about the Giants and A's and the Forty Niners.  (She loved it when the Dallas Cowboys would get beat).  She would update me on the comings and goings of the various teams.  She was a committed progressive.  She opposed Bush and Iraq and loved to watch Countdown with Keith Olberman.  She would write and give me a blow by blow of Olberman's latest rants and she would listen to the regressive echo machine which is talk radio, and would laugh or be incredulous at the latest from Hanbaugh and company and would pass all of that on to me.  We wrote back and forth about weather.  Most of the time in Texas it's just hot and humid.  It's weather which sucks your soul out through your pores.  When it isn't hot and humid, it's freezing.  We got 3 inches of snow in January one year.  Tina longed for the weather of the Bay Area, as did I.  Our letters were chatty as I told her about everything from my son's cancer diagnosis to my daughter's graduation from law school.  I knew she was having health concerns with her liver and that she was hoping the docs at Texas A&M might figure something out.  They didn't.

     To Tina, I was a disembodied voice she used to listen to on the radio.  We never met.  In that sense she didn't know me from Adam.  However, she found out I was in Texas, and she sat down and decided to write to me.  I was a stranger, for all intents and purposes, and yet she reached out to let me know I wasn't alone.  I wasn't in Texas by myself.  I had a kindred soul in Borges.  Hang in there!

     I can't begin to understand the loss her mother and family must endure with her passing.  She was funny and smart and compassionate enough to reach out to a stranger and throw him a lifeline.  To her immediate family and friends she must have been a source of life and love and happiness I'm sure.

     Where does such empathy come from?  Sitting in Borges, Texas, with serious health concerns of her own, Tina decided to write to reach out to touch another person with her kindness knowing we would probably never meet.  In a world of email, texting, Facebook, iPhones and iPads...a world becoming less personal and more faceless...a world where we "like" lots of persons and things, but extend love and kindness to very few...Tina Henry put pen to paper and would write to me frequently, hoping to cheer me up and give me hope I could survive Texas, all the while knowing she might not.  She maybe knew I would one day get to go home to a place she so wanted to return and yet never would.  Yet, she wrote to keep that place alive for me remind me about all the wonderful attributes of the Bay encourage and remind me I would see it again eventually.

     Matthew 25 lays out the criteria for how to achieve redemption, salvation, and a close intimate relationship with God.  Tina Henry took it seriously and reached out to a prisoner, a stranger, a criminal and fed and clothed me in her caring and support.  She was moved by God's grace, a grace which must have flowed through her to everyone she touched, to strike up a relationship with someone accused of the worst of the worst...a true leper in many people's eyes, (including many of my "closest" friends who have abandoned me completely) and all she saw was someone probably scared, alone, disconsolate and in need of a kind word and gesture.  Tina is an example of exactly what Jesus was referring to in that passage in Matthew.

     I know one thing for sure.  Death is not the final answer.  What the resurrection has taught me is we go ON!  While I don't know the specifics, I do know the way we love now...the way we live now...the way we treat strangers and the least of our brothers and sisters now, will determine the depth of our loving relationship with God.

     On September 15, 2012, Tina Henry was welcomed by the angels and martyrs into the golden city, the New Jerusalem.  She walked into God's open, loving arms and she heard Her say, " ...welcome Tina my good and faithful servant."

     Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace......AMEN

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


   Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan missed his true calling.  He is the ultimate used car salesman.  On the front page of the Wall Street Journal he promises if he and Romney are sent to the White House, they will negotiate a deal with the Democrats to cut taxes by 20%.  How would you pay for such a cut?  How could you avoid increasing the deficit?   How much of a cut would the 1% really receive?  Ryan and Romney both say they will close loopholes and end many deductions to pay for the cut.  Oh, one more thing...they won't tell you which loopholes or deductions until after you elect them.  You have seen the ad which ends with the phrase, " me the Carfax"?  Ryan's answer is just buy the car and find out later if it runs or not...always a recipe for good business.

     This is just hubris and disrespect for the American voter.  It's also desperation.  As Bill Clinton said, the Tax Policy Institute confirmed, and Ryan and Romney know, they cannot cut taxes by 20%, cut capital gains taxes, cut corporate tax rates, end the inheritance tax, while increasing the military budget by at least $1 trillion, and not add to the deficit or raise taxes on the middle class.  In this case it's not the economy, but rather the arithmetic stupid.

     Think about Ryan's offer.  If you just elect them on the come...on a sign of trust, they will tell you afterwards all the various ways the 1% will benefit and the middle class will be had.  Who would go for such a deal?  Are there really Americans who would ignore Ryan's budgets or Romney's 47% comments and elect them without requiring they spell out their plan?  Are there really voters who would pretend Ryan didn't vote for two wars and a prescription drug benefit without paying for them, and letting future generations come up with the cash, while at the same time cutting the taxes of the top 1% by trillions of dollars?  Both Romney and Ryan have supported privatizing Social Security and Medicare.  They would turn Medicaid over to the states forcing millions of poor Americans to go without medical care.  Romney supports Ryan's budget plan which would decimate food stamps, affordable housing grants, Head start and virtually every aspect of the social safety net.  Do you think if they are elected they will abandon all of these principles and plans?  Who among you believes a party, which refused for 4 years to compromise, will suddenly want to come to the table in the spirit of what's best for the nation?  A candidate, like Romney, who is the darling of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adleson, Richard Mellon Scaife and all of Wall Street is going to offer a proposal which raises their tax burden?  I'm ready to offer some beachfront property in Arizona.  Will there be takers?

     These comments by Ryan should insure his and Romney's defeat.  They think we are fools or dunderheads.  They have no respect for average Americans.  They think we can be conned.  They actually are running for office without offering any details about how they would govern in office...and they honestly believe this is something American voters will embrace.

     Taxes are not the only place where this chutzpah shows itself.  Despite all the heat they are trying to generate about the attacks in Libya, when pressed by Joe Biden, Ryan could not articulate any specific differences between his and the administration's position.  This is equally true with Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and the Arab Spring.  While attacking Obama, they offer nothing of substance to differentiate how they would act differently.  In the same breath, as Romney and Ryan claim they will repeal Obamacare, Romney says his alternative will keep the most popular parts of Obama's plan, but offers no details as to how he could pull that off.

     The reason for all this vagary and lack of detail is plain to see.  Ryan and Romney cannot win the election if they tell the truth.  If they tell the American people they will raise taxes on the middle class, and end Medicare and Social Security as we know them, reduce taxes on the rich, pour trillions into a military budget which already spends more than all other military budgets in the world combined...if they admit they will gut the Dodd/Frank financial reform legislation and let Wall Street return to its profligate ways, hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency so it can't regulate coal, oil or natural gas (particularly when it comes to fracking and ground water contamination)...if they come clean about their intentions to destroy unions, cut Pell Grants for middle class college students, block the new consumer protection agency from regulating banks, credit card companies and internet privacy and are willing to start another ground war in the Middle East....if they stay true to their promise to end abortion, appoint more Scalias to the Supreme Court, deny women access to most contraception and end a woman's choice over her body and reproductive you think they can win?  It would be a massacre.

     Ryan's plea to elect them without knowing what they will do in office is tacit admission they can't tell the truth and are hoping Americans will vote for them just  because...

     I didn't think it was possible to be more insulted by two candidates than it was when they essentially said they don't care about half the electorate and won’t be representing them if elected, but I was wrong.  Ryan and Romney have so little respect for the average American, they think they can promise everything and reveal nothing and be elected.  Perhaps it isn't Ayn Rand who is their patron reality its P.T. Barnum.

Monday, October 15, 2012


 Two new posts from The Lion...

A Pew research poll on religion in America revealed as many as 20% of the American populace claims no affiliation to any particular religion.  This is the highest rate of "nones" ever recorded.  The number of Americans who self-identify as having no religious preference is equal to the numbers who identify as evangelical Christians.  This is a dramatic change in the religious landscape, and it appears to be growing.

     Of those who make up the "nones" category, only about 3% are atheists.  The largest segment does not reject spirituality or belief in some kind of Supreme Being, but they are open to an endless variety of approaches to such questions.  The largest age group of "nones" are under 30.  Politically, the "nones" are as progressive as evangelicals are regressive.  It's possible the two groups could cancel each other out in future elections.

     None of this should be surprising to anyone who has observed the state of religious denominations over the last 50 years.  While people search for meaning in their lives, churches have failed to provide for their congregation's needs.  As young people grow up, they look around for the influence of churches and religion in their lives and the life of their nation and they are unable to be moved or excited.  One Baptist leader railed against this secularist trend and used it to try and rally a "godless" nation back to the straight and narrow.  He is whistling past the graveyard.

     When people under 30, or people who used to be attached to a church, look around today what do they see?  They see a nation where the rich get richer and the poor poorer.  In the middle of a presidential election, they notice neither candidate talks about poverty, hunger, homelessness and the continuing rise of these conditions.  They see a country which has spent over a trillion dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As much as $15 trillion has been spent bailing out Wall Street and big banks.  Tax policy enables the rich to avoid paying taxes and results in unreasonable burdens on everyone else.  At the same time they see food banks begging for becoming the preserve of the money for job training...affordable housing disappearing in city after city...millions lacking medical insurance and millions more lacking the basics to survive.

     What do they see as church's priorities while so many Americans struggle to find work and food and shelter?  The Roman Catholic Church, Mormon and Baptist churches, as well as many others, fight to keep same sex people from getting married.  Women are under attack from churches for their desire to control their bodies and reproductive lives.  Women also watch as churches treat them like second-class citizens denying them access to the altar or the pulpit.  It is impossible not to be aware of a Catholic who champions an economic policy based on an atheist, Ayn Rand, and a Mormon who totally denies the communitarian roots of his religion.

     When you look around this nation, what are the most visible manifestations of a commitment to Jesus or the Torah?  Mega-churches continue to suffer from an edifice complex and trumpet the large numbers they attract to their "shows" on Sundays.  Calls for more, for the least of our brothers and sisters, are few and far between from the biggest and the best of God's shepherds.  A social conscience is almost impossible to find.  Why should anyone affiliate with a church in this country when it is so hard to see how believing in God or Jesus causes any of them to act any differently than the faceless corporations who are the new "gods" so many Americans find attractive?

     The crisis is acute.  Survey after survey shows young people are abandoning the churches of their parents.  Protestant, Catholic or Jewish groups are struggling to find a message which resonates with those under 30.  (and many much older)  In the Catholic Church the problem is exacerbated by a clergy whose average age is approaching 70.  The numbers of priests continues to decline with few coming along to replace them.  Isn't it time to read the writing on the wall?  Protestant denominations have a lot of clergy, but fewer people in the pews to minister to.

     At the same time as the "none's" numbers are growing, surveys show they are still looking for purpose in life.  They are still searching for meaning and looking for something to fill a values and spiritual gap they all feel.  They want to be part of feel connected to make a positive difference in their lives and the life of their community.  What is clear is more and more of them don't see any of that coming from the morally and spiritually bankrupt mainline denominations in this nation.

     There are some exceptions to this erosion of attachment.  Where people are challenged and inspired they respond.  In San Francisco at places like St. Anthony's, Martin de Pores or Oakland at St Vincent de San Jose at Sacred Heart Community Services you will find young people and people of all ages lining up to help and serve.  Across this country, groups like AmeriCorps and the Peace corps continue to draw and on Jesuit college campuses the Jesuit Volunteer Corps continues to grow even as it asks seniors to postpone careers and volunteer to work with the poor and those in need of resources and support.  Volunteerism among the "nones" is rising and they are looking for opportunities to make a difference.  What is ironic is the very institutions who should provide the moral and spiritual needs of these folks, fail miserably.  How is it that Americans who refuse to be associated with any church are more progressive than those groups who purport to follow the tenets of the little Jewish carpenter from Nazareth?

     Matthew's gospel says individual salvation will be based on how you treat the hungry, naked, sick, prisoners and anyone who is least in our eyes.  Mainstream religion is losing its ability to attract new adherents because it has abandoned this perspective and failed to inspire or show the presence of God in the world.  This is not rocket science and those church leaders who claim to be mystified by the current trends need to return to their roots.  They need to act in the world in a way which reveals the presence of God and calls on others to join them.

     As it stands now, most churches have more in common with the moneychangers than they do with Jesus and the "nones" just won't pretend anymore or be hypocrites.  They will continue to seek fulfillment and spirituality, and if churches engage in such actions they may be attracted.  If they don't, the "nones" will do it on their own.


 Vice President Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan went at each other in Kentucky hoping to secure the votes of independent and undecided voters.  After the debate, the analysis started and revealed the sorry state of political discourse in this country.  Comment after comment focused not on the substance of each man's statements, but on how they looked and comported themselves.  They might as well have been wearing bikinis on the New Jersey boardwalk.

     CNN cut to its panel of experts and the first comment from David Gergen was, "...on substance I call it a draw, but Biden's body language and aggressive interruptions could cost him."  What?  What on earth does that mean?  Gloria Borger chimed in with, "...they disagreed on almost everything, but Ryan may have been more appealing as he appeared earnest and calm."  Are you kidding?  This is what passes for analysis?  If they disagreed on everything, then analyze the differences and articulate them.  What is a draw?  They disagreed on everything to a draw?  It is a non-sensical comment.

     On CBS, the comments again were style vs. substance.  Nora O'Donnell observed Biden was too aggressive and his eyes were rolling and he laughed too much.  (similar to comments about Gore sighing too much in his debate with Bush)  What is this, New York Fashion week?  Virtually no one made comments on the substance of the encounter, and when they did they focused in on the exchanges over the embassy attack in Libya.  Libya really?  The number one issue for Americans is the economy and jobs.  Yet, the subject of Libya garners the most attention from media analysis?

     What the Vice Presidential debate proved conclusively is the punditocracy, and news media in general, are incapable of reporting on anything substantial.  The question was not whether either man lied or obfuscated...whether they stonewalled or refused to answer questions...whether their differences were significant or whether their positions are consistent with previous stances.  Instead a "feisty" Biden confronted a "calm" Ryan and they represented a "generational" clash while they tried to "boost" the fortunes of Obama in Biden's case, or continue Romney's momentum in Ryan's performance.

     After the debate we got the ubiquitous "instant polls".  America was waiting breathlessly to know how "won".  This is what these news shysters do best.  The real goal of the corporate media is to keep the focus on the horserace and ignore the details.  Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi points out if you prohibited news programs from talking about polls, they would have to go dark due to the lack of ability or desire to cover anything else.  Without polls, what would they be left with?  They would actually have to analyze and evaluate information.  They would have to do research.

     This week's Rolling Stone deconstructs Romney's tax returns from 2010 and 2011 and the analysis is devastating.  Romney has used foreign trusts and tax shelters to shield tens of millions of dollars from taxation.  It raises serious questions about his tax return from 2009 and whether it would show a payment of a serious penalty to the I.R.S. (and why Romney would not want it to be released) This is one story in one magazine and yet, no main stream media outlet has done anything even closely approaching such an effort including the business channels.  Without polls, these various news departments would have nothing to report.  Without pictures of the Libyan embassy in flames, they would have nothing to show you which explain why such a non-issue rises to such prominence in their coverage.

     Corporate media is not interested, in fact it purposely avoids, substantive content.  It's not flashy and doesn't grab attention.  It's not visceral enough and not "hot" enough.  It also doesn't serve their purpose for existing.  Do they want Americans to understand all the benefits corporations receive in the tax code and their influence on American economic policy?  Do they want to empower the occupy movement?  Do they want to see a rise in populist rhetoric and public policy which could break up their monopolies and introduce competition into the industry?  They need the status quo, and offering a beauty contest instead of a debate help's to reach their goal.

     One other dirty, insidious secret operates here as well.  True analysis is going to upset someone.  If pundits observe Ryan rarely answered a question...if they point out the willingness of Romney to go to war over Israel...if they show the inconsistencies and lies in what Romney and Ryan say now vs. what they have been saying weeks ago...they could alienate some of their audience or their sponsors.  They open themselves to accusations of partisan politics and the regressive echo machine would crank into gear and attack.  If they point out Obama's increased use of drones...his policy of killing Americans without due process...his failure to control Wall Street or bring even one criminal charge against anyone...his surrender to insurance companies in his health care plan...they will upset the other side of the political spectrum.  It is much better to focus on dyspeptic eye rolling and rude behavior because this is far safer than real reporting.

     Watch the next debate.  Listen to Obama and Romney.  Notice how often Romney shifts positions or Obama fails to address a question.  Note substantive differences and then watch and read the analysis and see if there is any match whatsoever.  It's a disgrace and embarrassment for these "pundits" but one they gleefully embrace because the pay is good and the workload light.

     There is a real choice in November.  From Supreme Court nominations to the environment to the survival of the middle class and to a nation in which all boats rise.  It's all up for grabs.  It really is clear who represents what position.  It's just the corporate media isn't interested in that choice.  So this will remain a swimsuit competition and a debate about who has better legs.

Friday, October 5, 2012


1,000 pastors intend to get political on Sunday, October 8.  They will rise to their feet to be a part of Pulpit Free Sunday, an event in which they will make political sermons and endorse specific candidates.  They want to call attention to the fact churches, as 501 C(3) charities, are prohibited from engaging in direct political action and prohibited from endorsing candidates.  They are daring the I.R.S. to take away their tax-exempt status.  The I.R.S. should grant them their wish.

     The first amendment has clear exceptions.  You can't yell fire in a crowded theater...if you join the military you lose some of your first amendment rights...the same in prison...public schools can't use the first amendment to proselytize.  Every pastor and church can choose not to be a non-profit charity.  They can choose to pay all the appropriate taxes and, with that choice, they can say anything they wish from the pulpit and in their Sunday bulletins.  The first amendment need not be an issue.  These regressive church leaders want to have their cake and eat it too.  They want all the benefits of tax-exempt status, without having to conform to the restrictions which accepting the benefits requires.

    When a church is tax-exempt, it is freed from having to pay property taxes on their physical plant.  For just the Catholic Church alone in this nation, it results in millions of dollars in lost revenue.  When someone puts a dollar in the collection basket, it is tax deductible.  In fact, there are numerous ways people can give property, stock, inheritance and other monies to a church and all of it is tax deductible.  All this tax revenue is lost to the city, county, state or federal government.  All of this revenue has to be made up for by other Americans who are not members of the church or even believers of any kind.  American taxpayers are asked to subsidize these religious institutions even if they are atheists.  Of greater concern, these same taxpayers could find themselves subsidizing churches whose political views are completely antithetical to their own.  These pastors want to get political without any accountability to the taxpayers who are supporting them to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year.

     Within a particular church, this issue of accountability further strains the ties between us.  If you contribute a dollar to a church, it is theirs to use as they see fit.  In the Roman Catholic Church in America, once you contribute, all that money belongs to the bishop.  He can steal it, lose it, spend it any way he sees fit, including child support for children he conceives, and there is nothing you can do about it.  The Catholic bishops of California contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Proposition 8, outlawing same sex marriage (the Mormon Church did as well).  This, despite polls showing a majority of Catholics are in favor of such marriages.  Most churches are not monoliths of political opinion.  There are deep differences and the political restrictions on their activity is designed to prevent contributions from being used to support politics to which many members of the congregation may have objections.

     The restrictions on a 501 C (3) entity are not specific to churches.  They apply to all non-profit organizations.  The fact they are subsidized by the general public, a public which may vehemently disagree with a particular political stance, means they give up the right to be politically active in order to gain the benefits of not paying taxes.

     If church leaders are chaffing under the current situation, the solution is simple.  Rescind the non-profit status of your church.  Give up the tax benefits you enjoy now and you will be free to say and do whatever you wish.  If this truly is a constitutional issue, it's in your hands to solve it.  The question I have is how many of these patriotic church folk, who so desperately want to participate in the public, political debate, do you think will give up their tax-exempt status?

     Free Pulpit Sunday is an exercise in hypocrisy.  These churches want to have political influence without giving up any of the benefits of being tax-exempt.  They want to continue to be subsidized out of the general fund, by people who vociferously disagree with them, and yet not abide by the regulations.  They are losing the war on a variety of moral issues from same-sex marriage to contraception to abortion, and they want to fight back.  However, they are not committed enough, zealous enough, divinely inspired enough to fight these battles on their own.  They want you and me to fund them and keep them afloat.  It is duplicitous and has nothing to do with the first or any other amendment.  It is a naked power grab and they figure the I.R.S., and Obama in an election year, won't dare do anything about it.

     If these churches insert themselves into the political fray, the I.R.S. should immediately suspend their tax-exempt status.  They should pay property taxes and donations no longer would be tax deductible.  Then we can see how sincere they are.  I suspect these pseudo-pharisees will squeal like stuck pigs and demand the freedom to politicize their sanctuaries while hiding under the umbrella of a tax code they have no respect for.

     Hmmmmm, I wonder what Jesus would advise?