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by Peterr

A Few Religious Objections to Hobby Lobby, et al.

6:45 am in climate change, Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Health Care, Judiciary, LGBT, Military, Religion by Peterr

After reading through some of the recaps of the oral arguments at SCOTUS yesterday in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, it appears that some of the justices, and perhaps a majority, are willing to allow private religious objections to trump the laws, regulations, and ordinances enacted by local, state, and federal governments. Just so that no one is surprised later, I thought I’d lay out some of my strongly held religious beliefs now.

I have a strong religious objection to the death penalty, yet for the fifth time in five months, my state of Missouri has spent my tax dollars to carry it out. At the foundation of the Christian church — the Lutheran branch of which I am pleased to serve as a pastor — is the story of the execution of Jesus at the hands of the state and his resurrection three days later, through which God says “No” to the death-dealing forces of the world. My tax dollars are spent at the state and federal level to support exactly this system of vengeance, not justice, which all too often is administered in a way that is irregular at best and occasionally flat out wrong at worst.

I also have a strong religious objection to torture, yet my state and federal government continue to spend millions of tax dollars on that form of torture known as “solitary confinement,” and tens or hundreds or thousands of millions on “enhanced interrogations” and the hiding thereof from the oversight of the courts. Indeed, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to bring the perpetrators and enablers of torture to justice.

I have strong — very strong — religious objections to the unequal treatment of people before the law, yet the Department of Justice seems bent on spending my tax dollars and the tax dollars of similarly-minded folks by the millions to chase the poor and powerless into prison while giving the wealthy and powerful sternly worded letters and a good talking-to. In the financial fraud around the housing market, homeowners are hounded and unscrupulous mortgage dealers are allowed to roam free. During the recent Lesser Depression, homeowners pushed underwater by the practices of their banks have suffered greatly (“We’re sorry, but your equity has disappeared because the property values have fallen so much because we crashed the economy”), yet the SEC and DOJ use my tax dollars to go to great extremes to settle civil litigation with the the banks in such a toothless fashion that the board of JPMorgan Chase gave Jamie Dimon a 74% raise after guiding them through with only a slap on the corporate wrist. And you don’t want to know how strongly I object on religious grounds to the failure of the DOJ to pursue criminal rather than civil penalties . . .

I have viscerally strong religious objections to sexual abuse, yet the military paid for with my tax dollars continues to turn a blind eye to the climate in the military that leads thousands of those in the ranks to not report the harassment, abuse, and rapes they have suffered at the hands of their colleagues and commanders, and that allows far too many of those against whom reports of abuse were filed to avoid accountability. Similarly, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to do this on every US military base and port and outpost.

I have extremely strong religious objections using my tax dollars to administer the public law in secret, with secret judicial proceedings, secret decisions, and secret sentences.

I have powerfully strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to carry out executive decisions made on the basis of secret evidence to violate the sovereign territory of other nations in order to remotely execute those with whom they disagree, without allowing the accused an opportunity to know the accusations against them, to state their case, to respond to the allegations, or even to publicly confront their accuser. I especially object when such executions are carried out against an anonymous targets based on undefined notions of “suspicion” and “association.”

I have seriously strong religious objections to using my local, state, and federal taxes to provide a public education to my child and the children of my neighbors that is incomplete (such as abstinence-only sex education), or based on disproven science, pseudo-conflicts, and unproven beliefs. The earth is round, old, and getting warmer by the day because of human activity. There is no serious scientific objection to these concepts, and I strongly object on religious grounds to using my tax dollars to teach otherwise.

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by Peterr

Romney’s Bain-Based Solution to Greece

6:43 am in 2012 election, Foreign Policy by Peterr

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1%

(I’ve been surprised by Mitt Romney’s forays into foreign affairs. Thus far, he’s done little but parrot tired GOP talking points, that have been used by candidates and pundits for ages. What’s missing is Romney’s personal touch. What’s missing is a foreign policy that draws on his strengths and builds on his own experiences of the world. Imagine the foreign policy approach that the founder of Bain Capital would bring to a situation like Greece . . .)

My friends, our great nation stands apart from the rest of the world, and requires a president unafraid to be the exceptional leader this exceptional nation deserves. Unfortunately, we have been saddled with a timid leader, who fundamentally misunderstands the way the world works. We stand at a unique moment in history, and the Obama administration is clueless about the opportunity they are missing.

I’m talking about Greece.

President Obama and his timid socialist allies in Europe look at Greece and all they see are problems. High unemployment, rising interest rates, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and so on. My friends, I have spent my life dealing with situations like Greece. It’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity.

My plan is simple, and it starts like this: the United States should buy Greece.

We should buy Greece, bring in new management to tighten things up, sell off some assets and build up others, let go of unnecessary workers, impose a new corporate culture of austerity instead of entitlement, clean up the corporate balance sheet, and put the nation back on its feet. And with my years of experience at Bain, I’m just the guy to do it.

But time is of the essence. Now is the time to strike a deal. Greece is in deep trouble with its creditors, and they have nowhere to turn but to the US. The maxim “buy low, sell high” tells you everything you need to know. The price will never be lower, and every day we wait is money we lose.

I know about turning around troubled companies, and I can see all kinds of opportunities with Greece. For instance, what corporate titan wouldn’t happily pay through the nose for a home address like 101 Avenue of the Gods, located on Mount Olympus? Can’t you hear Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankfein: “I live on Mount Olympus. Where else would a Master of the Universe reside?” If we carefully identify a small number of sites on that legendary mountain, we could set off a bidding war among the richest men on earth for the most exclusive address in the world. Yes, I know that Mount Olympus is a national park. That’s why this idea is possible — Greece already owns the mountain. But like failing companies all over the world, Greece isn’t taking advantage of what it’s got. By keeping the number of homes to a minimum, it keeps the exclusivity factor high, which means the prices will be astronomically high, and these few homes will not interfere with the park in the least. We could even prohibit roads and driveways to these Olympian retreats, and require helicopter access only.

This is but one example of how the United States can clean up the mess that Europe is in, and make money at the same time. Of course, it takes money to make money, so let me address the obvious question: where will the money to purchase Greece come from? Here, the answer is hidden in plain sight: sell Maine.

That’s right: sell Maine.

According to this 2007 state-by-state breakdown of federal revenues and expenditures, the federal government spent $4221 more per person in Maine than we collected in revenue. That kind of drain on the federal government is precisely why our deficit is running unchecked. There are other states that are more of a drain on the Treasury, but they have more historical value (Virginia), oil (Alaska), or beauty (Hawaii). Others, like the two Dakotas or Mississippi, might be candidates for sale, but they are much less likely to bring in a price anywhere near what Maine would attract. DC is the biggest drain of all, of course, but selling it would entail huge one-time expenses related to relocating much of the federal government, thus cutting deeply into the proceeds of the sale.

Who would buy Maine? Several nations come to mind. First, of course, would be Canada. There is a shared border, and many shared interests and industries. With a new Quebecois government making noises about secession, Ottawa might be interested in turning Maine into a new province, or adding it to an already existing province like Nova Scotia.

A second potential buyer would be Iceland. Their small nation is having pollution problems thanks to Alcoa, and Maine would be an attractive site for relocating their population while allowing Alcoa to continue using Iceland’s energy resources without impacting Iceland’s cities, towns, and villages. Icelanders could still lead their lives connected to the ocean, without the problems of their current location.

The third, and potentially best buyer, would be Qatar — a nation with money to burn. The emir has a couple of dozen children, and there are bound to be rivalries that need to be kept in check. Purchasing Maine might be the solution the emir needs, allowing him to set up new entities for them to administer. To those who say “but what would a desert nation want with a forested state like Maine?” the answer is simple. Relief. Temperatures are rising, and being able to get away from the heat for a while might be very, very attractive. In addition, if Qatar were to purchase Maine, it would give them a geographic presence much closer to Wall Street, which is the center of the world. Given Qatar’s wealth, it only makes sense that they would like to be as connected to our great financial capital as possible. Qatar also has the best dressage competitors in the Middle East, and a presence in North America would help them connect with our own great horse industry.

There might also be a dark horse bidder, in the form of a corporate buyer (or a consortium of companies). What would HSBC or ICBC pay to have their own country, with laws written by their own Board of Directors?  I don’t know, but I’d be willing to entertain whatever they might offer.

Buy Greece, and sell Maine. We unload an asset that is a drain on our balance sheet, and use the proceeds of the sale to buy an undervalued property elsewhere. This, my friend, is the kind of bold leadership that I would bring to the White House.

Buy low and sell high. It’s the American way, it’s the Romney way, and it’s the right way.

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image h/t: DonkeyHotey