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Category: Commentary (Page 3 of 9)

Mike Johnson rejects the separation of church and state

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=628702608614710&set=a.426385065513133

Johnson rejects the separation of church and state in our government, saying that the framers’ idea “clearly did not mean…to keep religion from influencing issues of civil government.

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/november-1-2023

New House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) rejects the separation of church and state in our government, saying that the framers’ idea “clearly did not mean…to keep religion from influencing issues of civil government. On the contrary, it was meant to keep the federal government from impeding the religious practice of citizens. The Founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around.”

James Madison of Virginia, the key thinker behind the Constitution, had quite a lot to say about why the government and religion must be kept apart.

In 1772, when he was 21, Madison watched as Virginia arrested itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by the next year, he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices; he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience.

In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights, on which our own Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—would be based. It reads: “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” Madison explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also the representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants.

Madison believed that various religious sects would balance each other out, keeping the new nation free of the religious violence of Europe. He drew on that vision explicitly when he envisioned a new political system, expecting that a variety of political expressions would protect the new government. In Federalist #51, he said: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the diversity of interests, and the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theocracy

To make sure men had the right of conscience, the First Amendment to the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson called this amendment “a wall of separation between Church and state.” In a letter of January 1, 1802, he explained to a group of Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, how that principle made him refuse to call for national religious days of fasting and thanksgiving in his role as head of the government.

Like Madison, he maintained that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship.” “[T]he legitimate powers of government reach actions only,” he wrote, “[and] not [religious] opinions.”

“[T]hat act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’” he wrote, built “a wall of separation between Church & State.” It prevented him from such religious practices as declaring a day of fasting in times of trouble, or thanksgiving in times of triumph.

Notes:

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=628702608614710&set=a.426385065513133

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/01/mike-johnson-christian-nationalism-guns-political-violence/

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-01-02-0027

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/virginia-declaration-of-rights

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-08-02-0163#JSMN-01-08-02-0163-fn-0014-ptr

https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danbury.html#:~:text=The%20unedited%20draft%20of%20the,was%20an%20offense%20to%20republicanism.

https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html

The Rise of the Christofascists

Christian fascism is a term that is used to describe a far-right political ideology that denotes an intersection between fascism and Christianity. It is sometimes referred to as “Christofascism“, a neologism that was coined in 1970 by the liberation theologian Dorothee Sölle.[1][2][3]

Interpretation of Sölle

Tom F. Driver, the Paul Tillich Professor Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary, expressed concern “that the worship of God in Christ not divide Christian from Jew, man from woman, clergy from laity, white from black, or rich from poor”. To him, Christianity is in constant danger of Christofascism. He stated that “[w]e fear Christofascism, which we see as the political direction of all attempts to place Christ at the center of social life and history” and that “[m]uch of the churches’ teaching about Christ has turned into something that is dictatorial in its heart and is preparing society for an American fascism”.[4][5]

Christofascism “disposed or allowed Christians, to impose themselves not only upon other religions but other cultures, and political parties which do not march under the banner of the final, normative, victorious Christ” – as Paul F. Knitter describes Sölle’s view.[6][7]

Donald Trump is greeted by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) on February 4, 2020.Leah Millis / Getty

Donald Trump is greeted by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) on February 4, 2020.
Leah Millis / Getty

The most dangerous movement in American politics today is not Trumpism. It is Christofascism. With the election of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the organized effort to impose the extreme religious views of a minority of Americans on the entire country, at the expense of many of our most basic freedoms, took a disturbing step forward.

Despite Speaker Johnson’s claims of being a constitutional “originalist,” via his elevation by a unanimous vote of his Republican colleagues, he has moved America closer to having precisely the kind of government America’s founders most feared.

There is a reason the word “God” does not appear a single time in the Constitution. The founders were breaking with an England and Europe that were still in the thrall of the idea that rulers derived their powers from heaven above, “the divine right of kings.” But the Constitution explicitly states their view that the powers of government are derived “from the consent of the governed.”

Thomas Jefferson said he viewed with “solemn reverence that act of the whole of the American people” which established “a wall of separation between church and state.” George Washington approved a treaty stating, “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” The First Amendment in America’s Bill of Rights states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The principal author of the Constitution, James Madison, in his treatise, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” described 15 reasons why the U.S. government must avoid backing any religion.

Source:

Here’s Why Mike Johnson Is More Dangerous Than Donald Trump

Speaker Mike Johnson Believes God Has Ordained Him

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson doesn’t hide his religion or his belief in the primacy of his Christian beliefs. Quite the contrary. Here’s what he told Sean Hannity Thursday on Fox News: “Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?’ I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview. That’s what I believe.’”

This came the day after he used his precious first remarks as speaker to tell the House and the country that he believes God has ordained him. “I believe that Scripture, the Bible, is very clear: that God is the one who raises up those in authority…I believe that God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment in this time.’”

(He also introduced his “dedicated wife of 25 years” to the nation—and her absence at his acceptance speech—like this: “She’s spent the last couple of weeks on her knees in prayer to the Lord. And, um, she’s a little worn out.”)

Surely, then, when asked about the mass shooting in Maine, this would be a chance for him to speak out against the most sacred commandment—Thou shalt not kill—and use his new divinely ordained power to speak to the need to address the availability of weapons that make murder possible on a quick and massive scale. Right?  Nope.

“The problem is the human heart,” he told Hannity. “It’s not guns. It’s not the weapons. At the end of the day we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves and that’s the Second Amendment…This is not the time to talk about legislation.”

Mike Johnson is now second in line to the presidency.

Source:

What Do You Hear When the New House Speaker Says He’s Been Ordained By God?

Good News

https://americansofconscience.com/

https://americansofconscience.com/

 

Work for justice, but pause to celebrate
We are aware that atrocious, inhumane events are happening both at home and abroad. Because of this, though celebration may seem superficial, it is crucial to recognize that our efforts are leading to the change we seek. While we work for justice, let us also pause to acknowledge the considerable good that pervades our goals and communities.

 

Celebrate good news

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Gratefully,
— Jen Hofmann and the AoCC team

Think that your plastic is being recycled? Think again.

Plastic is cheap to make and shockingly profitable. It’s everywhere. And we’re all paying the price.

Plastic, and the profusion of waste it creates, can hide in plain sight, a ubiquitous part of our lives we rarely question. But a closer examination of the situation can be shocking.

Currently, about 430 million tons of plastic is produced yearly, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)—significantly more than the weight of all human beings combined. One-third of this total takes the form of single-use plastics, which humans interact with for seconds or minutes before discarding.

“The amount of plastic on our planet—it’s like one big oil spill.”

A total of 95% of the plastic used in packaging is disposed of after one use, a loss to the economy of up to $120 billion annually, concludes a report by McKinsey. (Just over a quarter of all plastics are used for packaging.) One-third of this packaging is not collected, becoming pollution that generates “significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean.” This causes at least $40 billion in damages, the report states, which exceeds the “profit pool” of the packaging industry. One paper estimated that the average person consumes five grams of plastic every week—mostly from water. About 95% of the tap water in the United States is contaminated. Microplastics are also widely found in beer, salt, shellfish, and other human foods.

In the United States, only about 5% to 6% of plastics are being recycled each year.

Notably, what doesn’t get reused or recycled does not chemically degrade but rather becomes a fixture of our world; it breaks apart to form microplastics, pieces smaller than five millimeters in diameter. In the past few years, scientists have found significant quantities of microplastics in the further reaches of the ocean; in snow and rainfall in seemingly pristine places worldwide; in the air we breathe; and in human blood, colons, lungs, veins, breast milk, placentas, and fetuses.

The solution to that problem lies further upstream: to address plastic pollution, those who produce plastics need to pay for the damage it causes, and the world will also have to make less of it. We’ll have to develop better, more recyclable products. We’ll also have to find sustainable alternatives and increase what ecologists call circularity—keeping those products in use as long as possible and finding ways to reuse their materials after that.

Source:

Think that your plastic is being recycled? Think again.

How Social Media Abdicated Responsibility for the News

Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker

X, formerly known as Twitter, has, under the ownership of Elon Musk, dismantled its content-moderation staff, throttled the reach of news publications, and allowed any user to buy blue-check verification, turning what was once considered a badge of trustworthiness on the platform into a signal of support for Musk’s regime. Meta’s Facebook has minimized the number of news articles in users’ feeds, following years of controversy over the company’s role in spreading misinformation. And TikTok, under increased scrutiny in the United States for its parent company’s relationship with the Chinese government, is distancing itself from news content. A little over a decade ago, social media was heralded as a tool of transparency on a global scale for its ability to distribute on-the-ground documentation during the uprisings that became known as the Arab Spring. Now the same platforms appear to be making conflicts hazier rather than clearer. In the days since Hamas’s attacks, we’ve seen with fresh urgency the perils of relying on our feeds for news updates.

An “algorithmically driven fog of war” is how one journalist described the deluge of disinformation and mislabelled footage on X. Videos from a paragliding accident in South Korea in June of this year, the Syrian civil war in 2014, and a combat video game called Arma 3 have all been falsely labeled as scenes from Israel or Gaza. (Inquiries I sent to X were met with an e-mail reading, “Busy now, please check back later.”) On October 8th, Musk posted a tweet recommending two accounts to follow for information on the conflict, @WarMonitors and @sentdefender, neither of which is a formal media company, but both are paid X subscribers. Later that day, after users pointed out that both accounts regularly post falsities, Musk deleted the recommendation. Where Twitter was once one of the better-moderated digital platforms, X is most trustworthy as a source for finding out what its owner wants you to see.

https://www.factcheck.org/2023/10/posts-use-fabricated-audio-to-misrepresent-cnn-report-during-rocket-attack-in-israel/

Facebook used to aggregate content in a “News Feed” and pay media companies to publish stories on its platform. But after years of complicity in disseminating Trumpian lies—about the 2016 election, the COVID pandemic, and the January 6th riots—the company has performed an about-face. Whether because of negative public opinion or because of the threat of regulation, it’s clear that promoting news is no longer the goal of any of Meta’s social media. In recent days, my Facebook feed has been overrun with the same spammy entertainment-industry memes that have proliferated on the platform, as if nothing noteworthy were happening in the world beyond. On Instagram, some pro-Palestine users complained of being “shadowbanned”—seemingly cut off without warning from algorithmic promotion—and shared tips for getting around it. (Meta attributed the problem to a “bug.”)

Our feeds continue to create a feeling of transparency and granularity, while providing fewer of the signposts that we need to chart a clear path through the thicket of content. What remains, perhaps aptly, is an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty as war unfolds daily on our screens.

In July, Meta launched its newest social network, Threads, in an attempt to draw users away from Musk’s embattled X. But, unlike X, Threads has shied away from serving as a real-time news aggregator. Last week, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram and overseer of Threads, announced that the platform was “not going to get in the way of” news content but was “not going go [sic] to amplify” it, either. He continued, “To do so would be too risky given the maturity of the platform, the downsides of over-promising, and the stakes.” I’ve found Threads more useful than X as a source for news about the Israel-Hamas war. The mood is calmer and more deliberate, and my feed tends to highlight posts that have already drawn engagement from authoritative voices. But I’ve also seen plenty of journalists on Threads griping that they were getting too many algorithmic recommendations and insufficient real-time posts. Users of Threads now have the option to switch to a chronologically organized feed. But on the default setting that most people use, there is no guarantee that the platform is showing you the latest information at any given time.

More Info: Websites for Fact-Checking

Source:

How Social Media Abdicated Responsibility for the News

Good news

https://americansofconscience.com/

https://americansofconscience.com/

 

Here at CounterPoint, we sort through the 24/7 fire hose of news to try to bring attention to under-heard voices of reason. We’ll continue to do that, but it’s just as important to celebrate good news whenever we can. We’re so grateful to activist Jennifer Hofmann and her Americans of Conscience volunteers for their dedication to turning bad news into positive action.

 

https://americansofconscience.com/

 

Here’s a recent sample:

Jim Jordan tried to help Trump mount a coup. Now he gets to be speaker?

In pictures: The January 6 Capitol riot https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/03/politics/gallery/january-6-capitol-insurrection/index.html

In pictures: The January 6 Capitol riot | Shay Horse/NurPhoto/Getty Images https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/03/politics/gallery/january-6-capitol-insurrection/index.html

Jordan is not an outlier in the House GOP cosmos. His pugilistic advocacy of phony Trump narratives—the 2020 election was rigged; there was no Russian attack on the 2016 election; Trump did nothing wrong when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dig up dirt on Joe Biden; the current prosecutions of Trump are Deep State plots—is in sync with the positions expressed by most House Republicans. Yet in one area, Jordan has distinguished himself: He was one of the small number of House GOP members who actively schemed with Trump to overturn the results of the last presidential election.

On January 6—a day of violent chaos and insurrection—Jordan spoke with Trump by phone at least twice. As the committee noted, Jordan “has provided inconsistent public statements about how many times they spoke and what they discussed.” That day Jordan also received five calls from Giuliani, and the two connected at least twice in the evening, as Giuliani was attempting to encourage members of Congress to continue objecting to Biden’s electoral votes. In the days after January 6, Jordan spoke with Trump White House staff about the prospect of presidential pardons for members of Congress.

Days after the November election, he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in front of the Pennsylvania state Capitol. He spread election conspiracy theories within right-wing media. He endorsed Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s bogus claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had robbed Trump of electoral victory. He called for a congressional investigation of electoral fraud for which there was no evidence and demanded a special counsel be appointed. He endorsed state legislatures canceling vote tallies and selecting their own presidential electors. He urged Trump not to concede. He demanded Congress not certify Joe Biden’s victory in the ceremony scheduled for January 6, 2021.

If his fellow Republicans elevate Jordan to speaker, they will be fully embracing Trump’s attack on the republic, and a profound threat to democracy will now be coming from inside the House.When Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said to Trump that the Justice Department couldn’t “snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election,” Trump responded, “I don’t expect you to do that. Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”

Many Republicans endorsed Trump’s Big Lie about the election. But Jordan was one of only a handful of congressional Republicans who actively conspired with Trump to overturn the election results. As he runs for House speaker, Republicans appear eager to ignore that. Yet by embracing Jordan, they tie themselves further to that attack on democracy and the Constitution.

Source:

Jim Jordan tried to help Trump mount a coup. Now he gets to be speaker?

Go, Iris Mogul!

Iris Mogul, a high school student who started a banned books club, is photographed with one of her favorite books during the “Walk for Freadom” kickoff event on Sunday, October 1, 2023 in Coral Gables, Florida. The march began at the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ and ended at Books & Books. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.comRead more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/coral-gables/article279931759.html#storylink=cpy

Iris Mogul, a high school student who started a banned books club, is photographed with one of her favorite books during the “Walk for Freadom” kickoff event on Sunday, October 1, 2023, in Coral Gables, Florida. The march began at the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ and ended at Books & Books. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

 

Since she was little, Iris Mogul has always loved reading.

When The 16-year-old junior at the Academy Academy for Advanced Academics in South Florida learned that her English teacher was considering not teaching a Toni Morrison book because of the state’s political environment, she decided to start a banned book club.

There were 300 books removed from Florida schools last year, according to a list released by the Florida Department of Education. Nationally, the American Library Association found that the number of books facing challenges for censorship is up 20 percent for the first eight months of this year compared to 2022. That includes more than 800 books in school districts across 37 states.

“It was kind of like a double whammy because it’s like an act of resistance… and it’s a way to start a book club and talk to people,” said Mogul, a student in a dual enrollment program at Florida International University. As part of Florida’s expanded “Parental Rights in Education” law, one parent or community member can object to instructional material or a school library book. The law, signed in May, requires the book or materials to be removed within five days of the objection and remain unavailable to students until the issue is resolved. More books were pulled from shelves in Florida public schools than in any other state last school year.

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, we really appreciate being able to share a bit of positive news…

Social Media is a (Largely) Lawless Cesspool

Governments from Pakistan to Mexico to Washington are woefully unequipped to combat disinformation warfare. Eastern European countries living in Russia’s shadow can teach us how to start fighting back, but only if our politicians decide to stop profiting from these tactics and fight them instead.

 

Suzanne Smalley

Governments from Pakistan to Mexico to Washington are woefully unequipped to combat disinformation warfare. Eastern European countries living in Russia’s shadow can teach us how to start fighting back, but only if our politicians decide to stop profiting from these tactics and fight them instead.

A screenshot from a video shared widely on social media purporting to show a Hamas fighter downing a helicopter, which is actually pulled from the video game Arma 3.

Video game clips purporting to be footage of a Hamas fighter shooting down an Israeli helicopter. Phony X accounts spreading fake news through fictitious BBC and Jerusalem Post “journalists.” An Algerian fireworks celebration is described as Israeli strikes.

These are just a few examples of the disinformation swirling around the conflict between Hamas and Israel, much of which has been enabled by X, formerly known as Twitter, and by platforms like Meta and Telegram.

The platforms have also been used to terrorize. In one instance, a girl found out that a militant had killed her grandmother after he broadcast it on a Facebook livestream. Meta did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

X owner Elon Musk promoted two particularly virulent accounts spreading disinformation in a post that was viewed 11 million times before Musk deleted the tweet a few hours later.

One of those accounts, @sentdefender, was described by Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR) expert Emerson Brooking as both “absolutely poisonous” and often retweeted “uncritically.”

Read More: Hacktivists take sides in the Israel-Palestinian war

X removed some of the most blatantly fake tweets, often hours after they were posted, but purveyors of disinformation like @sentdefender still operate freely.

A spokesperson for X replied to a request for comment by saying to “check back later.”

The platform announced changes to its public interest policy over the weekend, according to a post on its safety channel. The post said X has seen an increase in “daily active users” based in the conflict area in the past few days and that more than 50 million posts worldwide have discussed the attack.

The use of video game and recycled news footage to spread false information about the conflict is a growing trend, making it even more difficult to root out disinformation, according to Dina Sadek, a Middle East research fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.

“We’re laser-focused and dedicated to protecting the conversation on X and enforcing our rules as we continue to assess the situation on the platform,” they said.

The post said X will remove newly created Hamas-affiliated accounts. It also said it is coordinating with industry peers and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) “to try and prevent terrorist content from being distributed online.”

X said it is “proactively monitoring” for anti-semitic accounts and has “actioned” tens of thousands of posts sharing graphic media and violent and hateful speech.

On Tuesday, European Commissioner Thierry Breton sent a letter to Musk, cautioning that X is spreading “illegal content and disinformation.” EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) mandates that large online platforms such as X remove illegal content and take steps to quickly address how they impact the public.

“Given the urgency, I also expect you to be in contact with the relevant law enforcement authorities and Europol, and ensure that you respond promptly to their requests,” Breton wrote. He advised Musk that he would be following up on matters related to X’s compliance with DSA.

“I urge you to ensure a prompt, accurate, and complete response to this request within the next 24 hours,” Breton said.

The difficulty of rooting out disinformation is made more difficult by the growing trend of using video games and recycled news footage to promote falsehoods about the conflict, said Dina Sadek, a Middle East research fellow with DFR. Telegram has been a major vehicle for disinformation, she added, likely because it doesn’t restrict how often users can post and because the content is sent as a text message.

List of social platforms with at least 100 million active users

https://guides.stlcc.edu/fakenews/spotfakenews

https://guides.stlcc.edu/fakenews/spotfakenews

“The second that you think something happened you can give them a boost and give them pictures from the incident,” she told The Record. “There’s just the speed of how things happen when on messaging applications and some of those have large numbers of subscribers.”

Sadek said it is too soon to detect patterns in the disinformation being disseminated — both in terms of the amount and which side’s supporters are most active — but she said she has seen it emanate from all sides of the conflict.

Stanford disinformation scholar Herb Lin told Recorded Future News that he predicts the propaganda war will intensify significantly in the coming weeks, citing Russia’s likely support to Hamas due to its friendly relationship with Iran.

“They have a quick reaction disinformation force,” he said. “They have the ability to react promptly to this sort of stuff and the first people to get on the air tend to dominate the messages for a while.”

Learn more: https://guides.stlcc.edu/fakenews/spotfakenews

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