Friday, December 14, 2007

Short Libbed

Andrew Sullivan is amazed "to watch Rich Lowry and Charles Krauthammer begin to panic at the signs of Christianism taking over the Republican party," and John Cole asks, "Where the hell has Lowry been the last decade?"

Someone named "Mark I" at Redstate thinks that voters should keep asking the candidates questions about their religious beliefs, but the candidates should stop answering them. Mark also tells us that it's a mistake to conclude that religious tests are inherently bad.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it seems to be based upon the assumption that all religions are equal. This is clearly not true. Modern mainstream Christianity and Judaism are not prone to violent suppression of non-adherents. The jury is still out on Islam. The practice of Islam in some parts of the world includes violence against unbelievers and apostates. A Muslim candidate must therefore distance himself from more radical elements in his religion to remain viable, and justifiably so, while a Christian or Jewish one does not.

Similarly, some religions have rituals that are just bizarre. Would a snake handler deserve no scrutiny of his beliefs if he were an otherwise credible candidate for office? What about a Pentecostal? Would it be out of bounds to ask the candidate if he/she ever spoke in tongues? A Satan worshipper? No questions? A wiccan?

I guess it was lucky for 18th and 19th century Americans that Thomas Jefferson didn't engage in this line of reasoning. If he had, no avowed Christian -- Protestant or Catholic -- would have been able to attain public office, given what had been going on for two centuries and more at the time Jefferson was born.

McQ hails "another sign of progress" in Iraq: oil production is up. Well, I can understand McQ's excitement. After all, he's still all aglow from his American Petroleum Institute-subsidized oil country junket. Oh-- that reminds me. I have to figure out a way to get to work on Monday -- my gas tank's empty and I won't have the $32 or so bucks to fill it with $2.83 cents-a-gallon gas (at Citgo -- Exxon and Shell and BP are at least a dime a gallon higher) until payday.

Dan Froomkin reports that Pres. Bush is planning to veto the torture-banning legislation currently in the House. Not that the United States tortures, of course -- but still, at some point we might have a need for "forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding." On the other hand, maybe not.

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with their latest figures on income inequality. Here's how bad it is: In the two-year period 2003-2005, the growth of the income gap resulted in $400 billion dollars moving from the bottom 95% of the population to the top 5%. Bernstein's money quote: "If this is the ownership society at work, I think we need to have a serious talk with the owners."

But of course the owners don't care. It's not them suffering and going without. Apropos of which, this New York Times article from November 26 is about the growing supply and demand problem that food pantries are having. In a few words, the demand is skyrocketing and the supply is shrinking:
Food banks around the country are reporting critical shortages that have forced them to ration supplies, distribute staples usually reserved for disaster relief and in some instances close.

“It’s one of the most demanding years I’ve seen in my 30 years” in the field, said Catherine D’Amato, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Food Bank, comparing the situation to the recession of the late 1970s.

Experts attributed the shortages to an unusual combination of factors, including rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate.

“We don’t have nearly what people need, and that’s all there is to it,” said Greg Bryant, director of the food pantry in Sheffield, Vt.

“We’re one step from running out,” Mr. Bryant said.

“It kind of spirals,” he added. “The people that normally donate to us have less, the retailers are selling to discount stores because people are shopping in those places, and now we have less food and more people. It’s a double, triple, hit.”

The Vermont Food Bank said its supply of food was down 50 percent from last year. “It’s a crisis mode,” said Doug O’Brien, the bank’s chief executive.

For two weeks this month, the New Hampshire Food Bank distributed supplies reserved for emergency relief. Demand for food here is up 40 percent over last year and supply is down 30 percent, which is striking in the state with the lowest reliance on food banks.

“It’s the price of oil, gas, rents and foreclosures,” said Melanie Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank.

Ms. Gosselin said household budget squeezes had led to a drop in donations and greater demand. “This is not the old ‘only the homeless are hungry,’” she said. “It’s working people.”

Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology and political science at the University of Arizona, agreed, saying: “The overall picture is that household incomes are kind of stuck. There’s very little way to increase income, and most people have a very heavy debt load. Any event that increases your costs is really, really troublesome, because you’re already stretched thin.”

I feel like I should be wearing one of those advertising signboards around my neck, saying, "Ask me about this."

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