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Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Illegitimacy of Ginormous Wealth



superrich53115

The political system in the U.S. is currently an unfair, unequal, and unkind system keeping the rich, rich and the poor, poor. It is time to see this and demand change.


Obscene fortunes spread pandemic infections, conspicuously here via toxic “money as speech” across primary campaigns, thus election choices. Echoing the Calvinist fantasy about the favored elect, if today’s billionaires didn’t anoint great wealth as self-justifying, how could they defend their presumption to govern? Even without Calvinism, global tycoons assume election to special status, nothing less than “justification by wealth alone.” So much for acknowledging transparent “outside levers” like employee sweat equity, community infrastructure, technological wizardry, or fossil fuel-driven commerce, let alone WS pump-priming, cheap money, dismal regulations, and regressive taxation? Even the vagaries of good luck cut through “wealth by hard work and genius alone” patter.

To support this faux religion (and real cash), the top rung now purchase incredibly cheap insurance, even when combining costs for lobbyists and campaigns. In fact, the fabulous totals billionaires spend on influence-peddling fall short of ordinary sales taxes. If the infamous Sheldon Adelson tripled his estimated $100 million, election-year payola, that would still not equal 1% of his $32 billions. Were the craven Koch Bros. to multiply their palm-greasing, they’d still fall short of 5% of total fortunes. What mischief accrues from the other 95%? “Citizens United” divided the country but unified plutocratic kingpins, legalizing this “venture capital” to secure what’s “ours stays ours.” Thus, bad wealth distribution corrupts politics, ravages the landscape and assaults majority rule, reinforced by bad morality (the void that is “compassionate conservatism”) and bad religion (wealth is salvation). A trifecta of triumphalism.

Money Equals Wisdom, Too
Thus do robber barons inevitably reprise, if not modernize the divine right of kings, even if our plutocrats can’t directly lop off heads with impunity. You’d think in our advanced modern times the defenses for entitlement would have improved.  But what bright sixth grader can’t demolish distortions of “wealth for wealth’s sake,” namely:
  1. Great wealth (and investment) are job-creators that lift all boats, with prosperity for all.
  2. Climate change, that ornery hoax, has zero linkage to burning forests or fossil fuels, drilling and fracking, mining and development, or farm and industrial pollution.
  3. Only talent, brilliance, and hard work justify why the 1% deserve all the treasures they amass.
And let’s not ignore the political offshoot: amassing a fortune magically elevates your public character and judgment above mere mortals (or fair elections). Money equals more than speech now but grants to tycoons the wisdom of ages, the conviction they know how to run everything. That’s also why “conflicts of interests” only apply to the infidels who dare interfere with the sacred free market. Thus government, when run not by plutocratic agents, steals from the rich only to give to the undeserving poor.  Charles Dickens or George Bernard Shaw, where are you?

The Great Awakening?
All coherent, sustainable cultures, whether tribes or communities, gangs or families, temper the innate selfishness that jeopardizes the “general welfare.” When appetites run rampant, injustice and disorder loom. Even the infamous “law” of the jungle (might make right) co-exists with retaliation against heinous infractions. Thus the guillotine, thus deposing of barbaric tyrants, even revolution.

Will we ever reverse current inequality without disowning blatant commandments spouting growth for growth’s sake and thus wealth for wealth’s sake. One need not live like an indentured slave to insist no one family over time passes on more than, say, fifty or one hundred million dollars. If that much. The war cry against “too big too fail” parallels “too fat a wallet to inherit.” If that means indicting the love of money (plus how size, scale and leverage matter today), we will hardly be the first to inspire the pitchforks of equality against excesses of plutocracy.

In Northwest Coast native populations, regular “potlatches” (initiated by higher ups) reinforced community health by redistributing goods so no one starved, nor disrespected chiefs. In a sensible culture, when one group amasses disruptive wealth, there must be the rebalancing of communal redistribution. The wealthy now afford huge fortresses of all sorts, social, physical legal, and ideological (along with police power). Until we stigmatize wealth for wealth’s sake as a belief system anathema to America’s highest good, thick ruling class barricades will hold firm.

Here’s a Bold Idea: Tax the Rich
Fundamentalist blowhards like Mike Huckabee yammer on about “taking back this nation for Christ.”  Fair enough if Christians honor Jesus. For the secular, let’s indict corrupt moneylenders, along with Paul Krugman, as “Wall Street Vampires.”  Or address demolished democracy with FDR’s Four Freedoms. Pick your pitchfork. It ain’t rocket science. When enough folks on the right and the middle join the left to declare war on bloated plutocracy, that critical mass will disrupt the status quo. Compared to getting support for another Middle-East quagmire, organizing a mass confrontation against conspicuous consumption should be less daunting. Cross-cultural integration was the key, across income, religious, ethnic and regional lines, that powered America’s early populism and spawned the redemptive 20th Century.

Progressive Era.
When since the Pilgrims has the great Yankee battleground not set the gospel of rampant exploitation vs. humanistic and spiritual visions, signaled most dramatically by steady advances against racial, ethnic and sexual bigotry. In an era full of darkness, any prospect for reform depends on recalling our own progressive beacon, captured by Sam Pizzigati’s masterpiece, “The Rich Don’t Always Win.”

When do good Americans (even the religious) realize Mammon is eating their spiritual lunch, if not America’s legacy?  Will the gospel of wealth continue to snooker too many people far too much of the time? The greatest positive today is the awesome clarity of inequality: not since the age of Robber Barons has the tension between abusive wealth and common good been more visibly dramatic.  And that first demands shifting a monumentally false, national wealth narrative, then finding the political and legal leverage to put the breaks on a run-away train.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

McCain Urges Military Strikes Against FIFA







WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Calling the Obama Administration’s actions against the soccer organization “weak and ineffective,” Senator John McCain on Thursday proposed military action to “dismantle and destroy FIFA once and for all.” 
“These are people who only understand one thing: force,” McCain said on the floor of the United States Senate. “We must make FIFA taste the vengeful might and fury of the United States military.” 
McCain said that he was “completely unimpressed” by the Department of Justice’s arrests of several top FIFA lieutenants this week, calling the action “the kind of Band-Aid solution that this Administration, sadly, has become famous for.” 
“Rounding up a few flunkies in a hotel is meaningless when the leader of FIFA remains at large,” he said. “I will follow Sepp Blatter to the gates of Hell.” 
McCain requested a four-billion-dollar aid package for moderate elements within global soccer, and said that the United States should be prepared to put boots on the ground in Switzerland. 
Calling the use of force against FIFA “long overdue,” he placed the blame for the group’s alarming growth squarely on the shoulders of the White House. “Barack Obama created FIFA,” he said.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wingnut Week In Review


Republican's Next Top Candidate 2016, Who will ride in the Clown Car?

Image via Donkey Hotey @ Flickr.

GOP Clown Car Follies Rolls Along

Terrance Heath

As of this week, the race for the GOP presidential nomination has eight official candidates, and no front-runner. But it has plenty of gaffes, and promises more to come.

The Republican field grew by two more candidates this week, as former senator Rick Santorum and former New York governor George Pataki squeezed into the GOP’s presidential primary “clown car.” With more candidates expected to announce in the coming weeks, the field is only going to get more crowded, which is only going to make the upcoming debates trickier.

Fox News is handling the GOP debates. That’s bad enough, considering that so far the toughest questions the candidates have faced came from Fox News anchors. Fox has limited participation in the first debate — on August 6 — to the top 10 candidates. By then the GOP field may have swollen to at least 16 candidates, as more wannabes stop flirting with the idea of running, and make it official.

That raises a question: Just what kind of debate format could possibly accommodate 16 (or more) candidates? The most likely to work is probably a game show format, but even a Hollywood Squares format would only accommodate nine candidates. That’s one less than Fox’s cut-off point. So, maybe a “reality television” format is a safer bet. Maybe the RNC and Fox should consider borrowing ideas from “American Idol” or “America’s Next Top Model”?

The next big problem will be finding ten legitimate front-runners, in a primary race that doesn’t have any. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, there are currently five leaders in the race for the Republican presidential nomination — Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Dr. Ben Carson — but they’re all polling at just 10 percent each. 

The only real front-runner is “Undecided,” polling at 20 percent. That’s kind of a problem, unless Fox decides to have the other candidates debate an empty chair. Then again, maybe not, considering how well that turned out the last time.

It’s no wonder “Undecided,” is the only front-runner in the GOP race. Considering how the actual candidates are embarrassing themselves thus far. 

Ben Carson is already cashing in on his candidacy. In a break with “long-standing practice discouraging presidential candidates from collecting cash at the podium,” the National Review reports that Carson will continue making paid speeches “well into next fall.” At $40,000 a pop, no less. 

Carly Fiorina’s attention-seeking stunt outside a Clinton event in South Carolina blew up in her face. Fiorina got defensive when reporters had a hard time believing that Fiorina just happened to have a previously scheduled event on the same day, time, and at the same hotel where Clinton happened to be speaking. Here’s hoping someone in Fiorina’s campaign has a working knowledge of anti-stalking laws.

With Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, former Texas governor Rick Perry, and real estate/reality television mogul Donald Trump expected to join the fun in the coming weeks, no wonder “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart is reconsidering his retirement.


Duggar-isms
Writer and LGBT activist Dan Savage wants to do for Josh Duggar what he did for Rick Santorum. Savage called on his Twitter followers to help him coin a new term based on the “19 Kids and Counting” star, who was investigated for molesting under age girls, including some of his sisters, as a teenager.
Savage’s fans did not disappoint.
Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:



Blevens Fire near Roosevelt Lake 50% contained

Blevens Fire

May 28, 2015: 4:00 p.m.


Location:
§  Tonto Basin Ranger District, Tonto National Forest
§  Near the Junction of State Route 188 and 288, east of Roosevelt Lake
§  Approximately 15 miles northwest of Globe, Arizona

Start Date:  May 27, 2015, reported at approximately 4:50 p.m.

Size:  28 acres.  This revised acreage is due to fire mapping this morning

Cause:  human caused, under investigation

Percent Contained:  50%

Personnel:    3 Engines
                          2 Hot Shot crews
1 Very Large Airtanker and Lead Plane – on standby and available
     if needed.

Crews were able to stop the forward rate of spread on the fire last night, and will continue constructing and improving fire lines.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

STDs on rise among AZ seniors


Lynn Brown Rosenberg, author of “My Sexual Awakening at 70,” a book about her personal experience, said she urges fellow seniors to educate themselves about sex. State figures show a rise in sexually transmitted diseases among those age 55 and older. (Cronkite News Photo by Mackenzie Concepcion) 

"60 is the new 40" when it comes to sexual activity

By MACKENZIE CONCEPCION
Cronkite News 

PHOENIX – Health officials have good news and bad news when it comes to Arizona’s senior set.

The good news: People are living longer and staying active longer. That includes remaining sexually active well into old age.

The bad news: In an environment that includes more liberal attitudes toward sex, divorce and affairs, more senior citizens are catching sexually transmitted diseases.

“We think of older adults being disinterested or asexual, but that’s not true at all. We’re sexually active well into our eighth and ninth decades,” said Marianne McCarthy, associate professor and researcher with Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Center for Healthy Outcomes in Aging.

“But as people get older, they tend not to practice safe sex as often as you’d think,” she added.

According to an annual report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, though people 15 to 29 years old reported more STDs – also known as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs – than any other age group in 2013, rates among Arizona residents 55 and older are rising.

According to the statewide data, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have all risen from the previous year. But the report notes gonorrhea is spreading faster among people over the age of 40.

In adults over the age of 55, the gonorrhea rate increased to 6.8 cases per 100,000 people in 2013 from 4.9 the previous year, the report said.

And the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, which reported more than half of the STD cases in the statewide evaluation, shows even larger increases in its 2014 data.

According to the county report, gonorrhea rates for Maricopa County’s older population jumped from 6.1 to 12.7 between 2012 and 2014.

Denise Millistine, senior associate consultant at the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic Division of Women’s Health Internal Medicine, said gonorrhea is particularly easy to spread because the symptoms are hard to identify.

“A lot of people don’t have symptoms that they distinguish from how they feel normally,” she said.

Millistine said there’s no evidence that an aging immune system would make people more susceptible to STDs. But she said physiological changes could possibly ease the spread of bacteria.

“There are changes in the tissue that occur,” she said. “Trauma is more likely to cause micro-tears in thinning tissue, which would allow organisms to get in more readily.”

The trend in STD rates could also relate to the fact that that people are living longer, healthier lives, said Georgia Hall, a gerontologist, director of Gerontology and Geriatrics at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine in Phoenix and member of the Arizona Department of Health Services Healthy Aging Advisory Board.

“They say 60 is the new 40,” she said. “People are working longer and maintaining sexual activity.”

Arizona’s population is aging. According to the Department of Health Services, there will be as many people over the age of 65 as those under 15 within the next decade.
Hall also said the spread of STDs among the older population could mean the age group has changed its attitude toward sexual behavior.

She said this might have something to do with people from the free love generation of the 1960s getting older.

“The hippies are going into Medicare,” Hall said. “Their societal attitudes – their attitudes toward being faithful to one person – may not be the way it was with their parents or grandparents.”

Changing attitudes are occurring nationwide, according to a 2014 global Pew study showing that more than half of the U.S. population thinks premarital sex is either morally permissible or not a moral issue.

Marianne McCarthy, researcher at ASU’s College Nursing and Health Innovation, said many assisted-living facilities are taking a more social approach to health care, making it easier for residents to make connections.

“The ones that are based on social models of care where you encourage social interaction through activities – that’s where that’s happening,” she said.

Pepper Schwartz, sex and relationship expert for AARP, said it’s easier than ever for older people to meet up with the advent of Internet dating.

“The fabulous thing about the Internet is they can find out who’s really out there they might never have run into otherwise,” she said.

Schwartz said drugs like Viagra and Cialis are also increasing older males’ sex drive, which she said may decrease with age.

“Libido is always, in part, psychological,” she said. “The fact is that there is a lot more confidence with these drugs, and it does affect desire in a positive direction.”

Meanwhile, Schwartz said, older people have “an especially abysmal record” of condom use.

Jennifer Bass, communications director with the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, said many people 55 and older are singles trying to find new partners after long marriages that ended in the death of a spouse or separation.

And according to a study published in the scholarly journal Demography, there are a lot of older singles these days. Data show U.S. divorce rates among people over the age of 35 have doubled between 1980 and 2010.

Bass said safety often isn’t a priority among these singles because they were never educated about it.

“They’ve been out of the market for quite a while. So they don’t really know about protecting themselves,” Bass said. “They’re not worried about becoming pregnant, but they might not think about the consequences relating to STIs.”

Lynn Brown Rosenberg, author of “My Sexual Awakening at 70,” a book about her personal experience, said she urges people her age to educate themselves about sex.

She said she personally benefitted from opening her mind 15 years after her husband’s death, when she was 69.

“My education came from my own exploration,” Rosenberg said.

She said she didn’t learn anything useful about sex from her parents or from her school when she was growing up and suspects this may be the case for others from her generation.

“I’d been kind of repressed with strange messages I received when I was young,” Rosenberg said. “My parents told me, ‘Only prostitutes enjoy sex.’”

Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of education and history at New York University and author of “Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education,” said there is little evidence indicating that sex education in public schools can even influence students’ sexual behavior or increase use of protection.

“The burden on sex ed is extraordinarily high,” he said. “We’re actually asking it to change the choices people make outside of school, and I think we don’t have a lot of evidence that it can do that.”

Georgia Hall, gerontologist with the UA College of Medicine in Phoenix, said health care professionals need to address the problem by communicating more effectively with their older patients.

“We have to change our mindsets about the lives of older adults,” she said. “We need more education, and the issue needs to be more out in the open because people are suffering.”

  STDs in the Report:  
• Gonorrhea: Very common STD that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. Most women and some men do not show symptoms. Gonorrhea can be cured with a prescription dual therapy treatment.
• Chlamydia: Another common STD that can damage the reproductive system. Symptoms may not appear until several weeks after transmission. It can be cure with prescription treatment. But it is necessary to test again after three months because repeat infections are common.
• Syphilis: STD that cause long-term complications if not treated properly. It occurs in three stages according to symptom: primary, secondary, latent and late. It is curable with antibiotics.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New fire ablaze east of Roosevelt Lake

Blevens Fire

May 28, 2015: 9:30 a.m.


Location:
§  Tonto Basin Ranger District, Tonto National Forest
§  Near the Junction of State Route 188 and 288, east of Roosevelt Lake
§  Approximately 15 miles northwest of Globe, Arizona

Start Date:  May 27, 2015, reported at approximately 4:50 p.m.

Size:  approximately 75 acres

Cause:  human caused, under investigation

Percent Contained:  10%

Personnel:    3 Engines
                                  2 Hot Shot crews

Crews were able to stop the forward rate of spread on the fire last night, and will spend today constructing and improving fire lines.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bernie is officially in the race

Bernie Sanders. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Bernie Sanders. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders Officially Launches Democratic Presidential Campaign

By Al Jazeera America and Associated Press
27 May 15
 
Self-described democratic socialist will challenge presumed frontrunner Hillary Clinton from the left
ermont Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off his long shot presidential campaign Tuesday with a pitch to progressives in the Democratic Party and others who want change from a “rigged economy” that favors the rich.

Sanders vowed to make income inequality, campaign finance reform and climate change mitigation his leading issues as he takes on Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about,” the self-described democratic socialist said in remarks prepared for his rally. The event came several weeks after Sanders announced his candidacy. But this time there was with free ice cream from Ben and Jerry's, the Vermont-based ice cream company co-founded by longtime Sanders supporters.

In a policy-heavy announcement speech delivered from Burlington, Vermont — where Sanders once governed as mayor — the senator vowed to fight for initiatives such as a “Medicare for all” single-payer health care program and universal pre-K schooling.

Sanders is trying to capture the support of left-leaning Democrats wary of Clinton — a group that has pined for months for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to get in the race.

But while Warren remains committed to the Senate, repeatedly saying she won't run for the White House, Sanders is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing: reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program.

Clinton is in a commanding position by any measure, far in front of both Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is widely expected to get into the race Saturday.

Yet Sanders' supporters in New Hampshire say his practice of holding town hall meetings and people-to-people campaigning — a staple in the nation's first primary state — will serve him well.

“Toward the Vermont border, it's like a love-fest for Bernie,“ said Jerry Curran, an Amherst, New Hampshire, Democratic activist who has been involved in the draft Warren effort. “He's not your milquetoast left-winger. He's kind of a badass left-winger.”

Sanders, an independent in the Senate who often votes with the Democrats, has raised more than $4 million since announcing in late April that he would seek the party's nomination. He suggested in the interview that raising $50 million for the primaries was a possibility. “That would be a goal,” he said.

Whether Sanders can tap into the party's Warren wing and influence Clinton's policy agenda remains unclear. But he has been on the forefront of progressive causes as Clinton has seemed to be tacking to the left.

He has introduced legislation to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Clinton's campaign has signaled that she intends to make debt-free college a major piece of her campaign.

Comments
 
+14 # DPM 2015-05-27 09:31
Clinton will say anything. Sanders means what he says!
 
 
+10 # grandma lynn 2015-05-27 09:34
Hillary appears to be "tacking to the left"? For appearances, only. She's in the big-thing loop of politics and long-time "been there." Sanders always speaks his truth, his understanding. No fakery. If only he can buck the nay-sayers who think Hillary has it sewed up. I just sent him $100.
 
+9 # tedrey 2015-05-27 09:52
Sanders has a chance if:

1) We strangle this kneejerk "Sanders doesn't have a chance" meme, which is pushed by both the Dem and Rep establishments for obvious reasons.

2) At the proper moment Liz Warren tells her admirers that Sanders has her blessing.

3. The US war machine hits another massive setback and Sanders takes the proper advantage of it to say the war money will be better used at home.

It can happen. I'm working for it. All the alternatives seem much worse.
 
+6 # librarian1984 2015-05-27 10:11
Make a donation to Senator Sanders' campaign, even if it's $5 or $10. If millions of people use SCOTUS-specifie d free speech (i.e. money) to show support, it will scare the beejeezus out of Clinton AND the right.

Why have we given a chance to every form of conservatism but never a populist agenda? By definition it should appeal to more people!
 
+9 # vt143 2015-05-27 10:35
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, THIS IS AMERICA'S LAST CHANCE. Believe it. We are devolving into a medieval economy and if we don't do something radical right now there will be no turning back. Big money and corporations are making all of the choices in this country. Bernie has the vision and integrity to try to turn this country around. I have never given a dime to a political candidate but I am giving money to and will work for Bernie.
 
+5 # HowardMH 2015-05-27 10:57
Go Bernie Go. He is the first one that gets my attention and vote in 2016
 
+6 # ritawalpoleague 2015-05-27 11:03
And, tedrey, when, as you so well put it, the "kneejerk meme" of 'Sanders is a socialist and nobody can or will vote for a socialist' we also have to strangle well when it arises.

The Scandinavian 'socialist' countries (and, yes, Bernie is a Scandinavian style socialist) are more advanced currently than this soooo broken down and messed up 'corruptocracy' country of ours is.

Those of us who realize that we are in dire plus need of real McCoy change, need to be made aware that such change does not come from the 'middle of the roaders', such as Hillary Clinton. Does not matter how Hillary says all she can to con us and convince us that she is a 'liberal/progre ssive Democrat'.

Actions speak louder than words, and while Hillary has been 'bought off' while groveling to the villainaires, Bernie Sanders has been not merely pretending to be a people server, but has actually been one consistently for years and years now. He's our hope for a peaceful implosion vs. bloody revolution to get going.

A Sanders/Warren ticket in '16 would be an absolute winner, 'cause.....

SANDERS PANDERS NOT, TO THE 1% (and neither does Warren).

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Who the right blames for declining Christianity?

Conservatives think hip-hop and gay people are somehow behind falling rates of American Christianity. (photo: Thinkstock/Tim Macpherson/Getty Images)
Conservatives think hip-hop and gay people are somehow behind falling rates of American Christianity. (photo: Thinkstock/Tim Macpherson/Getty Images)

Hip-Hop, gays and those damn lying liberals

By Amanda Marcotte, Rolling Stone

26 May 15
 
The percentage of Christian Americans is dropping, and conservatives are blaming everyone but themselves

hristianity's demographic death grip on the United States continues to loosen its hold, new polling data from the Pew Research Center shows. The percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christian dropped from over 78 percent of the population in 2007 to 70 percent in 2014 – a decline of five million people. Most of this shift is attributable to people abandoning religion entirely; the percentage of Americans who have no religious affiliation grew, over the same time period, from 16 percent of the population to nearly a quarter of it. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down: Millennials represent the most non-affiliated demographic of all, with more than one in three young adults saying they don't have a faith.

This shift is inciting panic among conservatives, particularly those who like to argue that ours is a "Christian nation." After the release of the latest data, right-wing pundits immediately started casting around for anyone – anyone but themselves, of course – to blame.

So whose fault is it, according to the right? 

Hip-hop. Bill O'Reilly has long been consumed by apparent anger over the fact that music has changed since his youth, and that so many black people make money off it. But even for him, this one was a stretch: "There is no question that people of faith are being marginalized by a secular media and pernicious entertainment," he whined on his Fox News show. "The rap industry, for example, often glorifies depraved behavior, and that sinks into the minds of some young people: the group that is most likely to reject religion." 

(No one tell him about "I Am a God." He'll never stop talking about it.) 

The gays. Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, argued that the problem is too-liberal churches, particularly those that allow "female and lesbian ministers." Former Christians "have left their churches because of social issues and the evolution of their churches to social areas they didn't want to go and don't feel comfortable being in," he said, adding that "less than one million gay activists" have been able to "steamroll an entire country." 

Limbaugh didn't explain why people who hate gays would take the rather extreme measure of abandoning their faith rather than just switch churches to one that teaches homosexuality is wrong – there are certainly plenty of those out there. 

Politicians who aren't anti-abortion enough. At an event in New Hampshire last week, Rick Santorum praised himself for being the only anti-choice Republican who really, truly, for real wants to strip women of their rights – even though the politicians he was accusing of indifference have passed more than 200 laws restricting abortion over the past four years. 

He then argued that those other Republicans' relative lack of fanaticism is what's leading to dwindling numbers in the pews. "A quarter of Americans are now non-religious," he said, referencing the Pew numbers. "The bottom line is, if you want to change the country, you've got to find someone who is bold enough to lay out a vision." And ladies, has Rick Santorum ever got a vision for you! 

Lying liberals. David French of the National Review took a different tack. He blamed liberals for the "constant demonization of faithful Americans" and argued that media portrayals of him and his fellow homophobic misogynists are "built on a foundation of lies." Contrary to what those lefties want you to believe, he says, "churchgoing Americans are among our most generous, most loving and most selfless citizens." 

As blogger Roy Edroso pointed out, this is an amusing angle for French to argue, because, regardless of what other churchgoing Americans are up to, French is most definitely not a "loving" and "generous" citizen. He's constantly raging about same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, no-fault divorce and the "sexual revolution." Liberals don't need to paint Christians as a bunch of haters. David French is doing a fine job of that all on his own.

There's a great irony in all this conservative anger at Americans for leaving the church, since they're really the ones to blame. As the Christian polling group Barna recently noted, the public increasingly associates Christianity with "preventing gay marriage and a woman's freedom to control her body" and "mixing religious beliefs with political policy and action." And no wonder Americans draw that conclusion, given that we're subjected daily to a barrage of Christian right pundits and politicians spouting off about gay people, women and their "slut pills" and "legitimate rape." If Americans conflate religion with hate, the Christian right only has themselves to blame.