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Archive for February 4, 2017

Buy Senator Ernst’s Vote

Or DeVos, too.

A gofundme page has sprung up to try to outbid DeVos for Ernst’s vote:

Betsy DeVos gave* $2,600 to Sen. Joni Ernst, whose vote is now pivotal inDeVos’s nomination fight (If one more Republican commits to vote “no” DeVos loses). We suggest raising $2,601.00 to outbid** DeVos and get OUR senator to vote no on the Ernst nomination!

*This according to
**Actually if we meet our goal the money will go to Planned Parenthood of Iowa

What Prompts Excommunication?

even this guy understood

I sent this email to the bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. Since Catholic officials occasionally see fit to call out Catholic politicians for their stand if they favor abortion, I was curious what the Church stand is for Catholic politicians whose actions will hasten the death or suffering of thousands. I seriously do not expect an answer.

Bishop Robert Morlino
Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin

Bishop Morlino,

Something has been troubling me as the new administration and the new congress in Washington is working to take healthcare away from the poor and middle class. The savings from this action is supposed to be returned to mostly wealthy individuals and businesses in the form of tax cuts.

Along with that, there will be cuts in programs for the poor such as food stamps among others. There is also a move to cut Social Security and Medicare which most older Americans depend on to live a life with at least some small sense of dignity as they age. Voucherizing Medicare as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wants to do will literally result in early death for probably thousands of Americans. Ryan wants older Americans to buy health insurance on the open market which will be way too expensive for most elderly. They will also most likely have pre-existing condition clauses that will not cover most ailments of the elderly. In short it will be a death sentence for many.

Changing Social Security to a program run by Wall Street and administered by equity firms will result in many older Americans going bankrupt because of the inconsistencies of markets and the high fees which equity firms will extract. This coupled with the changes in Medicare that will make it nearly impossible for the elderly to survive.

Added to that is the push to cut Medicaid. Most think this will mainly be geared toward the poor, but much of the Medicaid in this country is used by the elderly in nursing homes and other such arrangements. Cutting Medicaid will of course also significantly hurt the poor.

Along with that Ryan has let it be known that the Children’s Health Insurance Program is also due for cuts and will be used as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to give in on cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Given that, here is my question. All that I have described above seems to be very much in violation of Catholic teachings. Yet we hear nothing about it. Such policies will result in thousands of early deaths and needless suffering. It seems especially grievous since money saved from these cuts is targeted to be returned to people and businesses who really don’t need it as others suffer.

In 2004, the Catholic Church made a very public display of excommunicating presidential candidate John Kerry for his stand on abortion.

I believe Paul Ryan is a member of the Roman Catholic religion residing in your diocese. Ryan is not just voting on policies described above, but as Speaker is creating and championing such policies. When such public policies will result in such suffering and death, especially in the richest country ever, shouldn’t the Church speak out on this as they did with Kerry?

Or is there some major difference in these situations that I am failing to see?

[editor’s note: On Thursday Trump called for the end of the Johnson amendment that allows churches to remain untaxed so long as they stay out of politics. This is already pretty much ignored. Trump believes Churches should be allowed to be involved in politics.

This was one of the founders biggest concerns. They had experienced the detrimental effects of church-state commingling in 18th century Europe.]

Americans Leaving Religion In Droves

Samantha Bee explains the marriage of evangelicals and the extreme right. This is in 2 parts. The second part is below. This part is 10 minutes.

This is not news to anyone who spends time on the internet. The Pew organization does a periodic survey on American views on many things including their views toward religion.

This is a very encouraging trend in America. From the days that Columbus landed in Hispaniola, religion has been used to justify everything from the mass slaughter of Native Americans to the keeping of slaves to the current day practices of stealing from the poor and giving to the rich through laws enacted by a well paid corporate congress.

Pew followed up that survey with a study to make some sense out of why what had been a moderate trend had turned into a flood. You can view the reasons at the link. One paragraph seems to capture an essence that doesn’t seem to be followed up on:

“But there are other reasons people give for leaving behind their childhood religion. One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.”

However this only seems to touch on what seems to be an unexplored underlying reason: religious involvement in our secular political lives that have imposed misshapen religious beliefs as laws that discriminate, deny healthcare or otherwise marginalize humans because a person’s lifestyle does not line up with religion’s concept of acceptable human behavior.

In this country Christianity has been the prevailing religion since the inception of the US. Thus much of the religious involvement in politics has been in solidifying Christianity’s position. Much as any business lobbies for laws that give them an edge.

But what may be even more obscene and obnoxious to the millions leaving religion is the way politicians manipulate the religious to support positions that are or at least should be in direct opposition to the teachings of their religion. This is done almost exclusively by the Republican Party. A great example of this is simply the maneuvering the Republican Party did to have religious leaders endorse for president a man who was thrice married, openly cheated on his wives, openly cheated his customers, openly cheated his workers or vendors, openly told easily disputed lies at every turn, discriminated based on religion and skin color, mocked the disabled and in the past treated religion with scorn.

Yet the lust for power by religious leaders in this country that they not only willingly, but enthusiastically endorsed this anti-religious bigot because they believed they would get a seat in shaping policy that would be favorable to their prejudices and beliefs.

When it comes to smell tests this one stinks to – dare I say it – high heaven. Formerly religious members, especially younger ones can’t stand the smell. Discrimination as endorsed by church leaders especially reeks to them as our country becomes more and more of a melting pot. The Travel Ban for Muslims from certain countries while Christians were exempt from the ban was an especially grievous example of religious discrimination to many.

The extreme right wing Republican Party manipulated the evangelical Christians years ago to sign up as endorsees and fellow players in the hate and fear campaign of the Republican Party. Religious leaders did so to enhance their earthly power. Then played their congregations as fools as they endorsed laws that were in direct opposition to Christ’s teachings.

The other factor in the awakening of our populace – especially the young – to the scam of Christianity mixing with the radical Republican Party is the internet.
Christianity mixing in politics in this country is as old as the country. However it hasn’t been quite so open because the news media of the day seldom covered this marriage until something happened that couldn’t be ignored or covered up.

Being negative to religion, especially to Christians or in some concentrated areas of Catholicism, Catholics, could cause a newspaper or magazine to endure a boycott that could sink them. Not only was the publication itself endangered when taking on religion, advertisers could be caught up in the battle and could be a casualty if seen as endorsing an attack on religion. Thus better not to do it.

So most bad news concerning religion was simply not covered. One only need look at the cover ups concerning the Catholic Church and the pedophile scandal. If you have seen the movie “Spotlight” you get a feeling for the power of the Catholic Church in Boston.

An open and neutral internet has allowed the dissemination of information through forums and social media and person to person. The days of powerful religions controlling information at present no longer exists. This is one reason why net neutrality is so important.

If you look at cable TV there are hundreds of religious stations and conservative news outlets that report on religions the old way. There is no non-religious or atheist programming. On the neutral internet, access to information is currently unimpeded. Therefore if you would like to see atheists discussing religious doctrine it is easily accessible on the internet.

Humans are instinctively curious. They want to know how things got the way they are. When they are able to search and find on their own about the mix of religion and politics the reaction is usually repulsion. May we keep the internet open.

Here is part two of Samantha Bee’s presentation on the marriage of evangelicals and the extreme right wing Republican Party. (7 minutes and very funny)

1,000 Across The State Join Iowa Workers To Speak Out

Matt Sinovic
Friday Feb.3, 10:46 AMMatt Sinovic (
In Case You Missed It: 1,000 join Iowa workers to speak out
Contact: Matt Sinovic, (515) 423-0530

News Compilation:

Overview: Iowa workers spoke out at 7 different press conferences Wednesday, advocating for the collective bargaining rights of public employees, and against the changes to those rights under Chapter 20 of Iowa code being discussed behind closed doors by the Republican-controlled legislature. At every event the public workers who spoke were greeted by overflowing crowds, with a total of nearly 1,000 gathering across the state.

Despite calls from working families to be included in discussions with the legislature, Republicans seem prepared to move forward to take away the rights of roughly 180,000 public workers, adversely impacting their families and local communities.

The attacks are moving forward despite the fact that Chapter 20 is a bipartisan law, passed by a Republican legislature and signed by Governor Robert Ray, and that it has given Iowa public workers and taxpayers a voice in bargaining for more than 40 years. And despite that fact that the process works: since implementation, there have been no public worker strikes, and a very small percentage of negotiations result in arbitration, only 2 percent last year.

Sioux City Journal Coverage (full story below)

SIOUX CITY | A group of union members in Sioux City urged Gov. Terry Branstad and majority party Republican leaders in the Iowa Legislature to back off still unspecified plans to dilute the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Amy DeGroot-Hammer, an official with a local teacher’s union, was one of four people who spoke as part of an organized statewide push Wednesday to get the attention of legislators. Speaking to a group of more than 60 people, DeGroot-Hammer criticized what she called closed-door plans to tinker with collective bargaining rights, as established in Chapter 20 of the state code.

“All we have heard are rumors on what could be done to us,” DeGroot-Hammer said.

Some possibilities have been floated — implementing a so-called statewide master contract for health insurance, allowing an arbitrator to choose a midpoint in negotiations, requiring unions to recertify annually — but none has yet showed up in bill form. A master contract would establish one health insurance program for all public employees, and public employees in varying occupations across Iowa currently have various health insurance programs.

DeGroot-Hammer said it is critical to maintain the existing workers’ rights to collective bargaining, which she said have enabled 180,000 public employees and their families to live a solid middle class existence. DeGroot-Hammer said it is unsettling that no statehouse lawmakers campaigned on changes to collective bargaining, yet now the possibility of tinkering is being heard.

DeGroot-Hammer, of Sioux City, is a board member of the Iowa State Education Association Siouxland unit. The event was attended by teachers, deputies, firefighters, social workers, building and trades workers and bakers.

Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said he’s been a union member for more than 30 years and seen the good aspects of Iowa’s collective bargaining law from the perspective both of being a deputy and later on the management side. Drew said Iowa rules have resulted in a good working relationship for workers and management to iron out differences.

“We work together,” Drew said. “Chapter 20 works and there is no need to delineate it.”

Rick Stewart, of Sioux City, a member of the Iowa Federation of Labor, noted there have been no public sector strikes since Chapter 20 was set in place in 1974.

“This is political theatrics… a personal attack, that has no merit,” Stewart said.

Other union groups held events Wednesday across Iowa, including in Cedar Rapids, Mason City, Waterloo and Ottumwa.