Feds' War on Religion
Anyone who knows me knows that for my whole life, I've been a huge supporter of our U.S. military personnel, whom I congratulate about their victory in Iraq. But when our president and officials in the U.S. Department of Defense exchange a war abroad for a religious war at home, can't we see that something else is seriously awry in this administration?
It's one thing to watch "merry Christmas" be omitted from signs in your favorite department store but quite another to see Bibles withheld from wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It's true! On Dec. 2, the Family Research Council reported that it had discovered a memo released in September at the esteemed military hospital, in which Navy officials announced that "no religious items (including Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."
Thank God for those in the FRC, as well as Rep. Randy Forbes and other members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, who demanded to meet with officials at Walter Reed and in the Navy about the matter. Just a few days ago, Vice Adm. John Mateczun confessed that the memo had not been properly evaluated and was being rescinded, and Walter Reed posted a public apology on its website.
But imagine if the FRC had not found this memo. Imagine how many others like it aren't found and are circulated around the federal government.
If you think this is an isolated incident, consider the following dozen-plus examples reported in the past six months alone by the FRC and Rep. Forbes' office and a few of my own I found, which document how religious freedom and Christian liberty in particular have been limited, quarantined, omitted or outright obliterated.
--The Air Force Academy apologized for merely announcing Operation Christmas Child --a Christian-based charity and relief program designed to send holiday gifts to impoverished children around the world.
--Yet the Air Force is building an $80,000 Stonehenge-like worship site for "earth-based" religions, including "pagans, Wiccans, druids, witches and followers of Native American faiths."
--The Marine Corps considered tearing down a Camp Pendleton cross meant to honor fallen heroes.
--Air Force officials stripped religious curriculum from a 20-year-old course on "just war theory."
--The Department of Veterans Affairs censored references to God and Jesus during prayers at Houston National Cemetery.
--The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed the $662 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which included a repeal of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states: "Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy."
--The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled new health care rules that ignore basic conscience protections for medical workers with faith-based objections to abortion and contraception.
--Officials at HHS denied funding for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' successful program for sex trafficking victims because of the church's teaching on human life.
--Administration officials refused to intervene in the closing of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
--President Barack Obama has lobbied for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would trample on the faith of employers in hiring, firing and promotion decisions.
--The Pentagon released new regulations that force chaplains to perform same-sex "weddings" despite their religious objections.
--Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demonized other countries' religious beliefs as an obstacle to radical homosexual rights.
--Just this past week, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation sent a letter to officials at Travis Air Force Base, demanding the removal or transfer of a Nativity scene and a menorah that are part of a larger holiday display on the base.
What is going on in the U.S. military? Why is it so difficult for the feds to understand the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, which says they "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?
And how many of these restrictions of our religious liberties are direct results of President Obama's being in office? And if these occurred in just the past six months, imagine what would happen in another four years if Obama were to be re-elected. Our service members, as well as our devoted military Christian chaplains, deserve better.
Gone are the days when the commander in chief rallied the troops and nation with a religious presidential call as Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt did. FDR declared in his Christmas address to the nation Dec. 24, 1944 (the first Christmas after D-Day):
"Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will. ... We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth, in which all the nations of the earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come."
Why Thomas Friedman Abetted Anti-Semitism
After a lifetime of studying the left, I have concluded that leftism is a form of moral poison. It causes otherwise decent and kind people who take it into their systems to say and/or do cruel and sometimes evil things.
While not specifically about the left, a major new scholarly book, "Pathological Altruism" (Oxford University Press), explores this phenomenon of people wanting to do good things yet ending up doing bad. It applies to The New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who has a deep altruistic urge to bring peace to the Middle East. But because he sees the world through the liberal/left prism, he says morally reprehensible things -- statements that individuals associated with hate-filled, non-altruistic groups and ideologies would make.
In his Dec. 13 column, yet another of his attacks on Israel and its supporters, Friedman wrote: "The standing ovation (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) got in Congress this year was ... bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."
If a non-Jew had written this, he would have been severely condemned for writing something outright anti-Semitic. The notion that Jews manipulate the levers of power in Western societies for their own nefarious ends is probably the most enduring of all the West's Jew-hating myths. It was a staple of Nazi anti-Semitism and is the single most repeated charge of those in the Arab and larger Muslim worlds who seek to annihilate Israel, since its purpose is to convince people that non-Jews who support Israel have been paid off by Jews.
But Friedman, who is a Jew and a liberal, can get away with it -- even though it is so morally repulsive that Jew-haters can now assert they are merely quoting a well-known Jew. Who's going to call him on it? The New York Times?
To his credit, one congressman did condemn Friedman. Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-N.J.) released this statement: "Thomas Friedman's defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish State of Israel, in his New York Times opinion piece today, is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the U.S. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he's aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the U.S.-Israel relationship and its American supporters.
"I gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation, not because of any nefarious lobby, but because it is in America's vital national security interests to support the Jewish State of Israel, and it is right for Congress to give a warm welcome to the leader of such a dear and essential ally. Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology."
Friedman's charge, as Rothman points out, is not only "scurrilous, destructive and harmful" to Israel, but it is also a lie. The Congress of the United States -- including Republicans who have virtually no Jews in their district or state -- supports Israel for the same reasons Harry Truman recognized Israel against the advice of the U.S. State Department, Richard Nixon saved Israel during the 1973 War despite his anger at Jewish liberals, and Dick Cheney vigorously supported Israel despite Wyoming's having almost no Jewish population. They all believed that Israel shares America's moral values, while Israel's enemies (who happen to hate America as well as Israel) do not.
So how does Mr. Friedman, whom I assume is an honorable man and well-intentioned seeker of peace in the Middle East, write something that is equally mendacious and hateful, that abets anti-Semitism and that labels every pro-Israel congressman and senator a political whore?
Because he is a man of the left. When good people adopt the leftist worldview, they eventually support ideas and say things that are cruel. Thomas Friedman did not write this anti-Semitic libel because he is an anti-Semite. Of course he is not an anti-Semite. He wrote it because he is a leftist.
Leftism poisons everything it influences -- from journalism to the arts to universities to religion to government to male-female relations. And ultimately leftism poisons character. This does not mean that everyone with left-wing views becomes a bad person, and it doesn't mean that everyone with conservative views is a good person. Both judgments are untrue and foolish.
But it does mean that leftism leads to pathologic altruism, i.e., bad things done by people with pure intentions. Just as Mahatma Gandhi's hatred of violence led him to tell the Jews of Europe not to resist Hitler, so too has leftism led decent people who would weep at Israel's destruction to mouth the very same lies about Israel as those who seek its annihilation.
Should it be Gingrich?
If Newt Gingrich were being nominated for sainthood, many of us would vote very differently from the way we would vote if he were being nominated for a political office.
What the media call Gingrich's "baggage" concerns largely his personal life and the fact that he made a lot of money running a consulting firm after he left Congress. This kind of stuff makes lots of talking points that we will no doubt hear, again and again, over the next weeks and months.
But how much weight should we give to this stuff when we are talking about the future of a nation?
This is not just another election and Barack Obama is not just another president whose policies we may not like. With all of President Obama's broken promises, glib demagoguery and cynical political moves, one promise he has kept all too well. That was his boast on the eve of the 2008 election: "We are going to change the United States of America."
Many Americans are already saying that they can hardly recognize the country they grew up in. We have already started down the path that has led Western European nations to the brink of financial disaster.
Internationally, it is worse. A president who has pulled the rug out from under our allies, whether in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, tried to cozy up to our enemies, and has bowed low from the waist to foreign leaders certainly has not represented either the values or the interests of America. If he continues to do nothing that is likely to stop terrorist-sponsoring Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the consequences can be beyond our worst imagining.
Against this background, how much does Newt Gingrich's personal life matter, whether we accept his claim that he has now matured or his critics' claim that he has not? Nor should we sell the public short by saying that they are going to vote on the basis of tabloid stuff or media talking points, when the fate of this nation hangs in the balance.
Even back in the 19th century, when the scandal came out that Grover Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock -- and he publicly admitted it -- the voters nevertheless sent him to the White House, where he became one of the better presidents.
Do we wish we had another Ronald Reagan? We could certainly use one. But we have to play the hand we were dealt. And the Reagan card is not in the deck.
While the televised debates are what gave Newt Gingrich's candidacy a big boost, concrete accomplishments when in office are the real test. Gingrich engineered the first Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 40 years -- followed by the first balanced budget in 40 years. The media called it "the Clinton surplus" but all spending bills start in the House of Representatives, and Gingrich was Speaker of the House.
Speaker Gingrich also produced some long overdue welfare reforms, despite howls from liberals that the poor would be devastated. But nobody makes that claim any more.
Did Gingrich ruffle some feathers when he was Speaker of the House? Yes, enough for it to cost him that position. But he also showed that he could produce results.
In a world where we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available, the question is whether Newt Gingrich is better than Barack Obama -- and better than Mitt Romney.
Romney is a smooth talker, but what did he actually accomplish as governor of Massachusetts, compared to what Gingrich accomplished as Speaker of the House? When you don't accomplish much, you don't ruffle many feathers. But is that what we want?
Can you name one important positive thing that Romney accomplished as governor of Massachusetts? Can anyone? Does a candidate who represents the bland leading the bland increase the chances of victory in November 2012? A lot of candidates like that have lost, from Thomas E. Dewey to John McCain.
Those who want to concentrate on the baggage in Newt Gingrich's past, rather than on the nation's future, should remember what Winston Churchill said: "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." If that means a second term for Barack Obama, then it means lost big time.
White House backs Biden on “Taliban isn’t US enemy”: "The White House on Monday defended Vice President Joe Biden for saying that the Taliban isn't an enemy of the United States despite the years spent fighting the militant Islamic group that gave a home to Al Qaeda and its leader Usama bin Laden while he plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks. 'It's only regrettable when taken out of context,' White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the vice president's remarks in an interview published Monday."
The death of privacy: "There is an important case that will reach the Supreme Court early next year that also relates to how the advances in technology impact on our liberties. It involves the police use of GPS positioning devices in investigations. Currently, the police use the devices without a court order or any judicial oversight. ... For many, the sheer volume of information obtained constitutes an illegal search and is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, but the case is much more important than that."
Soaking the rich won’t grow the economy: "We tried soaking the rich in the past, but the resulting revenue loss was more than we possibly could afford today. Individual income tax rates of 20-91 percent under Eisenhower brought in only 7.7 percent of GDP. Lower tax rates of 14-70 percent from 1964 to 1981, thanks to President Kennedy, brought in 8 percent of GDP. A top tax of 28 percent from 1988 to 1990 brought in 8.1 percent of GDP. By contrast, raising the capital gains tax to 28 percent from 1987 to 1996 thwarted stock sales and clearly cost the Treasury a bundle. What was fairer about high tax rates that were not paid?"
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)