Friday, February 6, 2015

Last Call For A Wing And A Prayer Breakfast

So to recap, on Thursday President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that Washington DC uses to feel like America is a religiously tolerant country, and for the most part, it is.

Unless you talk about the historical fact that people did a lot of nasty things in the name of Christianity in the past.  Then, well...this happens.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” he told the group, speaking of the tension between the compassionate and murderous acts religion can inspire. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Now, this historical fact has caused Republicans to go completely nuts in the last 36 hours, as historical facts often do whenever President Obama points them out.  The Catholic League is demanding an apology and the spittle-flecked goons are screaming that this proves once and for all that Obama is a Muslim Sharia imam terrorist who hates America or something.

Ta-Nehisi Coates puts this idiocy to bed.

That this relatively mild, and correct, point cannot be made without the comments being dubbed, "the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” by a former Virginia governor gives you some sense of the limited tolerance for any honest conversation around racism in our politics. And it gives you something much more. My colleague Jim Fallows recently wrote about the need to, at once, infantilize and deify our military. Perhaps related to that is the need to infantilize and deify our history. Pointing out that Americans have done, on their own soil, in the name of their own God, something similar to what ISIS is doing now, does not make ISIS any less barbaric, or any more correct. That is unless you view the entire discussion as a kind of religious one-up-man-ship, in which the goal is to prove that Christianity is "the awesomest."

Obama seemed to be going for something more—faith leavened by “some doubt.” If you are truly appalled by the brutality of ISIS, then a wise and essential step is understanding the lure of brutality, and recalling how easily your own society can be, and how often it has been, pulled over the brink.

It's ugly history, and we teach it precisely so that A) we know what can become of religious demagoguery and B) so that we try not to repeat those mistakes.

Brutality in the name of religion did not magically start existing only after September 10, 2001, folks.

Penalty For Early Celebration

To recap, less than a month after the Paris Charlie Hebdo attacks and the US has zapped another AQAP terrorist leader in Yemen. Tom Joscelyn over at Long War Journal:

A US drone strike in southern Yemen on Jan. 31 killed Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, a senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) sharia official. Nadhari's death was confirmed in a "martyrdom" statement issued by the group via Twitter and other web sites earlier today. 
Nadhari praised the attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices just days after the massacre on Jan. 9. He did not claim responsibility for the operation, but another senior AQAP official subsequently did. 
The AQAP statement announcing Nadhari's death was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. AQAP confirms that Nadhari worked for its sharia committee, and says that three other fighters were killed in the drone strike. 
AQAP portrays the bombing that killed Nadhari as being part of a working agreement between the US and the Shia Houthis rebels who overran Yemeni government positions in recent weeks. The drone strike "came a few hours after the completion of the deal for the Houthis to take control of the administration of the country with an American and regional collusion," the statement reads, according to SITE's translation. "The Houthis have become a loyal partner to America in preserving its interests and executing its plans in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula." 
The Houthis receive at least some support from Iran. And AQAP frequently claims that they are part of an alleged US-Iranian axis that is opposing Sunni Muslims throughout the region.

So again, this is the guy who was basically taking credit for the Paris attacks, and Obama just erased the guy in less than 30 days.  But of course, nobody seems to care here in the states, and the ones that do think he's a war criminal (or in the case of our loyal opposition party, a "tyrant" who is somehow "weak on terrorism" and is "a Muslim agent".)

Optics, I guess.

The Big Kitz Off

Back in October I talked about how Oregon's Democratic Gov. Jon Kitzhaber was in serious trouble of losing to Tea Party Republican Dennis Richardson after revelations that Kitzhaber's fiancee Cylvia Hayes had at one time owned and ran a pot farm near the Canadian border.  Kitzhaber survived re-election, winning by 5 points.

But now more serious allegations of Hayes using the power of the office of "First Lady" have surfaced, and the state's largest paper, the Oregonian, is now calling on Kitzhaber to resign.

Consider, instead, what Oregonians have learned during only the last couple of weeks. First, Hayes received a combined $118,000 in 2011 and 2012 through the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center even as she served as an unpaid energy adviser to Kitzhaber. This income is not fully accounted for on tax forms Hayes provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive. Neither has the governor fully accounted for the money in ethics filings.

A big chunk of Hayes' fellowship money, $75,000, came from the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, a nonprofit that funds clean-energy initiatives such as the low carbon fuel standard. Implementing a low carbon fuel standard is a priority for both Kitzhaber and Democratic leaders in the Legislature. The session's first public hearing on a bill to that end happened on Monday.

How did Hayes end up with a fellowship funded by an organization with an interest in clean-energy policy in Oregon? A Kitzhaber campaign adviser, Dan Carol, helped arrange the funding following Kitzhaber's election in 2010, Budnick and Gunderson reported. Carol subsequently landed a position within the Kitzhaber administration. That position, Willamette Week has reported, pays more than $165,000, making Carol Kitzhaber's highest-paid aide.

Who knew following the trail of "clean energy" money could make you feel so dirty?
Another campaign adviser, Greg Wolf, helped land Hayes a position with the Rural Development Initiatives. The nonprofit, Budnick and Gunderson reported, wanted Hayes to help raise money for a clean economy project - including tens of thousands for which Kitzhaber's support was needed. Wolf, like Carol, later secured a position in Kitzhaber's administration.

Rampant and direct cronyism?  Check. Tens of thousands in kickback to Hayes? Check.  Kitzhaber not even bothering to disclose the money on ethics filings?  Big, huge check.   The editorial board does not mince words, ending with this:

The questions about Kitzhaber's judgment and competence ask themselves. Is he so oblivious that he had no idea that campaign advisers were helping his girlfriend line up employment marked by ethical red flags? Is he really so clueless that he had no idea how much money Hayes collected through her fellowship, which would explain his apparently incomplete ethics filings? Or, alternatively, did he know and fail to act? Both possibilities are damning, and it's difficult to imagine alternatives that are not.

Whether through gross inattention or complicity, Kitzhaber has broken faith with Oregonians. His career in Oregon politics is one of great accomplishment, but his past success does not excuse the mess he has made of the office with which Oregonians entrusted him. He is now less a governor than a source of unending distraction. He can no longer lead Oregon effectively and should resign. His constituents deserve better.

Ouch. We'll see what happens, but while Kitzhaber survived his third term and was re-elected to a fourth, he may not finish it out if this keeps up.


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