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Who is Rick Perry?

Posted on August 26th, 2011 in Politics,Religion by Robert Miller

From Forrest Wilder's article in Texas Observer

As of today, two of the top three candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination belong to a form of Christian fundamentalism whose radical beliefs are only now surfacing as the extreme right wing views of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry  come more sharply into focus. For many, the threat of having a black President has contributed to the rise of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry as national candidates and there is no doubt that when Rick Perry says “a black cloud hangs over America” he is referring to Obama. Race will be the hidden factor in the 2012 Presidential election, but you will not find it mentioned in the press–it’s a national taboo. Although seemingly divergent in political origins, Perry and Bachmann share an emphasis on a form of Christian fundamentalism that is an un-American plan to enslave the United States in a Biblical Theocracy embodied in what’s known as “Dominionism.” Most of us don’t try to make a habit of acquiring carnal knowledge of Christian fundamentalist religious sects. But, it appears that the race for the Republican nomination for 2012 will involve the most theocratic slate of candidates in history, with the theocratic base of both Bachmann and Perry embedded within an anti-democracy, anti-U.S. Constitution thread: indeed they both favor a Biblical, Christian dictatorship, though they won’t admit to it. But, thanks to a few journalists, they don’t have to.  The radical belief system promoted by Perry and Bachmann has not yet entered the stage of visibility, or microscopic examination, except in a few important articles. And, as their story emerges, it is becoming apparent that their radical religious indoctrination has been shared by very few in America and certainly not by most of the supporters whose donations allow their candidacies to flourish, at least for the moment. With Rick Perry now amping up his run for the Republican nomination (he has never lost an election and has been elected three times to the Governorship of Texas), we are likely to hear more about the radical religious views of both Perry and Bachmann, who share similar beliefs. The sooner the better. They are both doctrinaires of Dominionism and their similarities and differences are elaborated in Michelle Goldberg’s article “A Christian Plot for Domination?” appearing a few weeks ago in the Daily Beast.

Although the versions of their radical fundamentalism are slightly dissimilar, with somewhat different historical and regional origins, both Perry and Bachmann share an identity with far right views that include an “End of Days” prediction that wants to account for everything, including the idea that Global Climate Change is God’s punishment for violating Biblical law, primarily because of abortion and same-sex marriage. It thus has nothing to do with science, which they of course denounce but nevertheless incorporate into the relgious doomsday predictions.  In their religious sects, which claim to have many modern day prophets, they aspire to a Biblical theocracy in America and want to impose the death penalty for things like abortion and same sex marriage.   They don’t support public education because they believe in home education and they dislike the constitution of the United States because it promotes the separation of church and state. You will also want to check out Forrest Wilder’s articleRick Perry’s Army of God” in the Texas Observer, which also has a section called The Perry Trail,” where a more complete description of his positions on a wide spectrum of issues can be found. But, the press adores Rick Perry, because he makes outrageous, highly quotable statements, such as his suggestion that Ben Bernanke, Chair of the FDIC, was guilty of treasonous behavior and added “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we—we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.” Paul Krugman has picked up on the implications and obvious ignorance of Perry’s statements, especially related to the economy. All Republican candidates are now fully insulated from answering any questions posed by those from the political center or from more progressive public figures. The press as well likes Bachmann for many of the same reasons. But rather than quoting these two candidates, reporters should spend more time investigating the origins of their beliefs that helped generate the comments in the first place, mistakenly uttered or not. This is not quite the “devil made me do it” time.

Dominionists believe that the Civil War was fought between the Godly South and the Godless North and that slaves were appropriately treated and should be so treated again someday. Bachmann’s history is also detailed in Ryan Lizza’s article in The New Yorker, Leap of Faith.” These stories are not those of people who turned to Christian fundamentalism because they attended a megachurch and got hooked on the music. These two politicians, now vying for the Presidency of the United States, have committed themselves to a fundamentally anti-American, anti-democratic, Christianized society ruled by Biblical law. Global Warming will cease to be a problem once the earth has been cleansed of abortion, homosexuality and other competing religions. Neither candidate will admit to these beliefs because their objective is to slip into office under the radar screen, but as the articles point out, they do admit to certain beliefs of Dominionism and not infrequently slips of the tongue reveal the underlying principles of those beliefs. Perry has never ducked the opportunity to mix church and state. Yes, should either one get into office, we will not suddenly become a Biblical Christian country overnight, but the power of the Presidency to create new constituencies in the vast stretches of America should not be treated lightly. Remember how the Swift Boaters turned John Kerry’s candidacy upside down and created an image of him where a significant number of voters concluded that he didn’t deserve his Vietnam war medals. That was the result of an extensive campaign with people like T. Boone Pickens financing the effort. The capacity of wealthy corporations and individuals to sway the electorate has only increased since the 2004 election.

More and more, the election of 2012 is shaping up to be the next chapter in American history and with global climate change denial a part of the Republican platform, the election may turn out to determine the future of our planet and the animals we share it with.  We have probably said many times over that this election is special, especially in recent elections, but never before in our history have we faced a list of candidates, bolstered by free-spending wealthy interests, that do not support our own constitutional rights and want to springboard from America to rule the world on a cleansed Christianized planet. Surely you ask, I am joking. My reply is let’s not run the risk of that experiment.

It appears that the presidential  election of 2012 may well come down to electorate turnout. The conservative wing of the Republican Party is energized, mobilized, and wants to keep the House, win the Senate and the Presidency. And, there are these new photo-ID voter requirements that are present in many states that will bias the state against the liberal and progressive vote. Can Obama re-mobilize the 29 million voters that put him into office in 2008, but stayed home for the mid-term election of 2010? The combination of wild enthusiasm for Perry and Bachmann, combined with apathy over the job that Obama is doing, runs the risk of putting someone utterly foreign to our history in the White House. Perhaps Perry and Bachmann will implode under the weight of a little sunshine projected onto their beliefs, and incompetence. But I fear this is an election where those issues may be masked by the economy and the polls which show that most Americans do not think their children will have a better future in life than the life they have enjoyed.

This election will have components, that fly underneath the radar screen of polling numbers and questions. Will you vote for the Republican candidate because he is white? That may be a motivating factor but how many polls will actually ask that question? Perhaps Obama can get his engine and ours revved up with his Jobs bill that he will announce in September, 2011. But somehow, and I hope it’s not true, I fear that Obama will run with only modest enthusiasm because of unfulfilled expectations and the Republican candidate will be greeted by mad cheering crowds dreaming of a new America that cannot be delivered no matter who is President. Obama has to find a way to reverse this trend, not with speeches, but with actions and determination, done without splitting some imaginary line down the presumed center. The country is not center–as polls have long been demonstrating, but veers towards the left on most social issues. Will the Arab Spring spill over into America as it spilled over into Wisconsin? So far in poll numbers pitting Perry against Obama it is 47 to 47.  But, when it’s all said and done, I believe that Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate as he seems more like a bobble-headed doll who resurfaces after each drowning.


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Hydraulic fracking in your neighborhood

Posted on August 23rd, 2011 in Environment by Robert Miller

Hydraulic Fracking Model

Many small communities in America are faced with decisions about whether to allow hydraulic fracking, the process of injecting, under high pressure, water sand and organic solvents into wells to free and collect natural gas for energy use. Thanks to GW Bush, this process has been removed from oversight function by the EPA, so there is virtually no regulatory control on this process and quite often we don’t even know the chemical composition of the slurry pressure ejected into the wells. We do know however, that much of it stays in the ground and carries with it a potential for a disastrous outcome, particularly to water supplies that are housed in adjacent aquafers. One report I read some time ago claimed that benzene derivatives, known carcinogens, were actually part of one analyzed injection cocktail. Interestingly, Governor Rick Perry of Texas just signed a bill (June 2011) that will force fracking companies operating in Texas to post the chemical composition of their fracking fluid beginning in 2012. No other state has passed a similar law. Neighborhood commitments to fracking often start when one member of a community leases drilling rights to one of the gas companies. An action by one person in a town can lead to an avalanche of others signing up to get the financial benefits, but often without understanding the risks or the threat imposed to the public water supply and the value of homes and neighborhoods that typically depreciate. I found it very enlightening to read Stanley Fish’s article in the NYT today, describing a town meeting on the subject of fracking that he attended in Andes, New York. A bunch of sensible people got together and decided their community and small town would be ruined by such drilling practices and resolved to ban the practice of allowing fracking leases in the town. Whether they can make this ban work or not remains to be seen, but the spirit is  willing. For more information on fracking you can visit here.   


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Protests against the use of Alberta Tar Sands begins at White House

Posted on August 21st, 2011 in Energy,Environment,Politics by Robert Miller

Alberta Tar Sand Field

Last Saturday, a group of demonstrators in Washington DC began what may be the largest protest in decades for what is a combined  environmental and greenhouse gas emission issue. This protest is an effort to stop the transport of Alberta tar sands oil in the planned 1600 mile pipeline that will run all the way from Northern Alberta, Canada, across stretches of American farmland, to reach the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline will transport some 830,000 barrels of oil per day. This is not a traditional source of oil. The tar sands must be heated and then diluted with water to be suitable for pipeline transportation. It is an expensive process that adds to the carbon footprint of the project. The protest comes at a time when the State Department is assembling its final recommendation and report to President Obama, which will be completed by the end of this month. After that the Obama administration will have 90 days to decide whether it’s in the national interest to proceed with construction of the pipeline. This Keystone XL project has been the focus of concern for environmentalists and climatologists because, the burning of tar sand oil increases carbon emissions by 40 percent over that from more conventional petroleum sources. In addition, the mining of tar sands is destructive to the boreal forests  or Taiga of Northern Alberta (740,000 acres of forest land will be destroyed). The oil and gas industry is claiming that 20,000 jobs will be created, so Obama’s decision looks more difficult than it would have been if the economy had now been producing large numbers of jobs, something that will not happen anytime soon.

As of yesterday sixty five protestors have been arrested, including Bill McKibben, head of 350.org.  Although Congress has weakened the ability of the EPA to control greenhouse gas emissions, the pipeline call is exclusively Obama’s. It doesn’t go through Congress, so Obama’s promise in the campaign of 2008, to champion the reduction of greenhouse gases will be on the line with his decision. A few days ago, Bill Mckibben wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post summarizing the situation and reminded us about Obama’s words during the Presidential nomination process: this is “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Three years later this sounds a little hollow.

James Hansen, perhaps the best known climate scientist in the world, has warned us about the threat of greenhouse gases, and sent out a note on June 11, 2011 warning about the dangers of using the Alberta tar sands as a source of fuel. According to his analysis, the Alberta tar sands contain about 400 gigatons of carbon dioxide (once burned as fossil fuels), enough to raise the carbon dioxide level in

Before and After Alberta Tar Sand Mining

the atmosphere by 200 ppm. His projection is dire: if we allow the Alberta tar sand oil to be implemented as a fuel source, we run the danger of forcing the environment into a tipping point in which it won’t matter what we do in controlling greenhouse gas emissions in the future. As he says “game over.” In time, the polar ice caps and Greenland ice will melt, the sea levels will rise by 270 feet and the planet will become far more inhospitable to humans and most of the animals around us. So, does Obama hold the future of humanity in his hands with this decision? This issue is not structured like one in which a compromise can be reached–you either use the tar sands or you don’t and you either expose the planet to a riskier long-term carbon problem or you don’t. Quite understandably, these are not the kinds of decisions that any President would like to make, but Obama has shown a complete lack of zeal for stamping his Presidency with  an environmental component. We know exactly what Obama’s predecessor GW Bush would have done–he was in the “drill baby drill” corner. Obama is not the same kind of leader we had in Bush, so there is still some hope that this source of oil will not be tapped–that it will be left in the ground and instead use this moment to begin the process of developing alternative sources of energy as part of a new jobs program. What I find interesting about this event in Washington, is that I first saw news coverage of the protest through The Guardian, a British newspaper (they are often way ahead of the NYT in developing leading stories) followed by Common Dreams, who linked to that article and I have yet to see any television news coverage of the event. In today’s NYT an editorial appears that describes how the State Department has already delivered two flawed reports on the environmental impact of the pipeline plan. It seems the news media wants to regard this as a non-event and if so, that will make Obama’s decision that much easier. We are at a moment in history when environmentalism has virtually no political clout and it seems a serious attempt at job creation is without political momentum as well.


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