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Jim Bakker Compares Christians in America to Jews in Nazi Germany.

You remember Jim Bakker, don’t you? Sure you do. He’s the faux Christian who started the PTL (Praise the Lord) club and TV show in the 1980s. Or perhaps you remember his late first wife, Tammy Faye Bakker, who looked as if she had applied her makeup with a trowel. Maybe you thought Jim Bakker had faded from the public eye, but he’s back, and he’s saying things so crazy and offensive that it seems only fair to call him out for them.

On his new television show, where he peddles his millennial/survivalist tripe, Bakker was speaking with likely 2016 Republican candidate for President, Mike Huckabee. (Yeah, like he’s got a chance of winning outside his home state of Arkansas.) While discussing religious freedom and persecution, Bakker dug deep into his grabbag of moronic hyperbole and referenced Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame, who made disparaging comments about homosexuals and praised the Jim Crow South of his youth. Christians, Bakker declared, are now the victims of intolerance in the United States, and then he went a step too far: he compared the plight of Christians in America to the Jews who perished under Nazi persecution during the Holocaust. Specifically, Bakker said:

“If we all took a stand just like the Robertson family did, they can’t put us all in jail at the same time, unless they did something like they did to the Jews.”  

I wonder if Jim Bakker has any idea how incredibly offensive his callous words are to Holocaust survivors and the memory of the 6 million who perished under the extreme cruelty of the Nazis. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, and though I’m not Jewish, I find it offensive to their memories and service as well.

Now, I understand why Jim Bakker might suffer from persecution (more like prosecution) syndrome. After all, this is a man who, in 1988, was convicted on 15 counts of wire fraud, 8 counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy. Yes, this is the same man who drugged and raped a woman who worked for him, embezzled millions of dollars from his “ministry,” and was originally sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. He appealed his sentence and eventually served five years behind bars. People with that much bad karma in their pasts cannot help but live in fear of what is around the corner or behind the door.

I have some news for Brother Bakker: I am a Christian. I attend church regularly. But I don’t feel the least bit persecuted or in fear that the government may come and toss me into a concentration camp. Personally, I think Jim should apologize, but I’m pretty sure he won’t. Because that would require him to admit that he’s wrong. And while the title of his autobiography is I Was Wrong, does anyone truly believe he means that? Like any hypocrite, he’s just sorry he got caught.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Police Radars Can See Inside Your Home…Are You Paranoid Yet?

As you sit in your home right now and read this article, keep in mind that you could be under a type of surveillance you might have thought was only possible in science fiction. But the truth is all too real, and all too invasive.

Some 50 law enforcement agencies across the United States, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, have, for the past two years, been using what is known as the Range-R radar to peer through walls and see inside of buildings, including private residences. The Range-R works basically the same as a motion detector, though it is much more sensitive and capable of detecting if anyone is inside a house, where they may be located, and if they are moving. And as you might expect, these devices have been placed into service with virtually no notice to oversight courts or the general public. Big Brother, it would appear, is closer than we could have imagined.

Privacy advocates say they are shocked such a system would be used without a vigorous debate on the merits and drawbacks. Christopher Saghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said:

“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic. Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the invasive tools the police have.”

The U.S Marshals Service counters the privacy argument with this all-too-predictable reply, issued by William Saroukas, who is a former Marshal:

“If you disclose a technology or a method or a source, you’re telling the bad guys along with everyone else.”

The U.S Supreme Court has said in the past that police cannot use high-tech sensors unless they first obtain a valid search warrant from a court. Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the court, wrote in a 2013 decision that the core of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure means:

“The right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable government intrusion.”

But with more police departments purchasing and deploying the $6,000 Range-R, until the courts reach a definitive conclusion on the issue, we will be faced with little choice except, like Winston Smith in 1984, learning to love Big Brother.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Surprise! The Rich Are Getting Richer…Much, Much Richer

We’ve heard the expression all our lives: The rich get richer. But never has that been more true than it is right now, according to Oxfam in a report released prior to the annual gathering of the super-rich and policy makers in Davos, Switzerland.

The Oxfam report warns that within the next two years–by 2017–the top 1% will have accumulated more wealth than the remaining 99% of people on the planet. You read that right: on the planet! So the warnings we have been reading about over the past several years would appear to be accurate in suggesting that the rich have gotten progressively wealthier while the rest of us have either stayed at even or slipped backwards in the global economy.

The specifics of the report are, to put it mildly, sobering:

“In 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on the planet,” Oxfam says.

And the most often cited source of wealth for this uber-wealthy elite is money from investments and a connection to Wall Street. Oxfam estimates that members of what it calls the “world’s richest” club–think Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg–make, on average, $500,000 a minute. Yes, a half million for every minute of the day.

Here’s another example of how out of proportion the income gap has grown across the world: In 2010, it took 388 billionaires to be valued at a level equal to the wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population. In 2014, that number decreased to 80.  So  3.5 billion people put together owned the same amount as 80 wealthy people. And the gap, Oxfam says, is only growing with each year.

The blame for this widening gap in wealth may be partially due to “expansionary monetary policy,” i.e. government and national banks such as the Federal Reserve in the U.S. buying more and more government-issued debt in an attempt to stabilize both national and international economic systems. Since the wealthy are more heavily invested in stocks and equities than others, they reap the benefits of these financial safeguards.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The rich are very different from you and I.” And they’re getting richer by the minute.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Timeless Wisdom From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Had he not been prematurely taken from us by an assassin’s bullet, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 86 this year.

Even though he is gone, Dr. King’s words of wisdom, peace, and love live on. Here are some of my personal favorites:

1. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”

2. “There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

3. “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

4. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

5. “We are not wrong, we are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

6. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

7. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

8. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

9. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

10. “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

11. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

12. “The time is always right to do the right thing.”

 

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Brownback’s Topeka Miracle Fizzles Out

Cut taxes to increase revenues. We’ve been hearing this mantra from Republicans since the days of Ronald Reagan. And guess what? It doesn’t work any better now than it did back then, as Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is finding out the hard way.

Kansas, as a result of Brownback’s overly aggressive tax-cutting plan in his first term as governor, is now facing a budget shortfall of nearly $650 million in the coming fiscal year. Brownback, who had originally said he wanted to eliminate all state income taxes, now says he still plans to do away with state taxes, but will do so at a slower pace than originally proposed.

To replace the revenue lost through his “march to zero” plan for income taxes, Brownback is now calling for increases in taxes on tobacco and alcohol, a move which critics say disproportionately affects lower and middle class citizens in Kansas. Such taxes have been proven to be regressive, according to State Senator Laura Kelly. And many residents of Kansas will simply avoid the tax increases–which would triple the price of a pack of cigarettes–by leaving the state and buying their smokes and brews in Missouri, which would mean Kansas doesn’t get a single dime of additional tax revenue.

Nick Gardinier, the manager of a liquor store in Wichita, said the proposed “sin tax” increases are not fair to working people:

“I think it’s wrong. I think they should be getting their money from other sources instead of giving all the tax breaks that they’ve been doing to like Koch and big business, and now they’re coming back on the little people.”

Adding to the hypocrisy surrounding Governor Brownback’s latest tax increase is the fact that the plan he has put forward is almost exactly the same as the one his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, recommended during the 2014 Kansas gubernatorial race.

And Brownback’s revenue enhancement package is far from certain to pass, despite the fact that the state legislature is controlled by Republicans. The President of the Kansas Senate, Susan Wagle, said, in response to Brownback’s proposal:

“He’s proposed some revenue enhancements that I think the Legislature will have a great difficulty passing. That’s tax increase.”

With the blind leading the blind in the Sunflower State, it certainly looks like Kansas’ financial woes could easily get worse before they get better.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org