That was then

This Starbucks “tempest in a red cup” has me thinking. When I was a kid, I remember Christians being saddened and upset by the commercialization of Christmas and the increasing tendency of merchants and manufacturers to appropriate Christmas messages as a way of promoting their products for materialistic profits. Today’s Christians howl and threaten boycotts against vendors who fail to commercialize Christmas enough. And when I look at the gap between then and now, I see Rupert Murdock buying a network, and using it to spread pro-business propaganda dressed up as traditional conservatism, or conservative traditionalism, or whatever you want to call it.



Kentucky City to help defraud gullible investors

As PZ Myers reported a little while ago, the latest scam from Answers In Genesis is to sell junk bonds to gullible investors—bonds that AiG has no binding obligation to ever pay back. Classic sucker bait, right? Anybody who knows anything at all about investing is going to steer clear of the giant red flags all over this investment.

But there’s a new twist in this sweet little con game. Everyone knows that government bonds are a much more sound investment than ordinary junk bonds. So why not sell your junk bonds through some government office, in order to trick people into thinking they’re getting government bonds instead of junk bonds? Ken Ham apparently has enough inside influence to make it happen.

A city in Kentucky may soon offer $62 million in securities for prospective investors to help aid the completion of a Creationist theme park and replica of Noah’s Ark.

Beginning next month, Williamstown may oversee the amount of taxable securities for investors to the project overseen by Answers in Genesis, reported Brian Chappatta and Priya Anand of Business Week.

Yes, for a mere $100,000 dollars, you too can purchase a “lifetime family pass,” allowing you to enjoy a full day of overcooked french fries and half-baked mythology for as long as the park remains profitable. And if it never does return a profit, AiG gets to keep all of your money, absolutely free.

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A surprising enemy

Over at, they’re reporting that the dishonestly-named “Defense of Marriage” Act has an enemy that may surprise you.

One of the nation’s leading gay-rights advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, has formed a coalition of major companies calling for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It’s no surprise, of course, that the HRC in Washington would use its considerable clout to organize big businesses to fight DOMA, the law that excludes recognition of same-sex marriages.

What will be a surprise to many is that one of the first companies to join the effort was Marriott International Inc., which was founded by a devout Mormon, John Willard Marriott.

Granted, they may be more motivated by the potential for an increased consumer base—more marriages mean more honeymoons, and those honeymooners need a place to stay—but still, this is a great sign.

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The ongoing redistribution of America’s wealth

Ed Brayton writes about Romney’s latest ploy: accusing Obama of planning a major “redistribution” of wealth—the “socialist” boogeyman. As Ed notes, redistribution of wealth isn’t a new thing. It’s going on right now.

Crop subsidies, for example, go almost entirely to huge agribusiness interests, to the tune of billions of dollars per year. The billions in tax subsidies for oil companies are also redistribution of wealth, but it’s redistributing it up rather than down. Romney never seems to mention those things to the fabulously rich people at his $50,000 a plate fundraisers, likely because a lot of them are a good deal richer because of such redistribution.

This is one area where the left may have common interests with rank-and-file conservatives. Conservatives know that a lot of the tangible wealth generated through their honest labor is being shifted to people who didn’t do the work to earn it. But they haven’t followed the money. They think the poor are taking it, but the poor haven’t got it. And neither, for that matter, does the government. Our multi-trillion-dollar debt is because the government is distributing wealth it doesn’t even have yet. And 85% of the wealth is ending up in the pockets of the top 20%, with most of it being concentrated in the hands of a very few families.

We need to end this lobbyist-driven, obfuscated, and manipulative redistribution now. The last thing we need is someone like Romney running the program.

Neiman Marcus vs. battered women

I’m likely to find time in short supply for the next few weeks as the day job intensifies, so I’m going to supplement my original posts by highlighting what some of the other FtB folks are posting (hey, that’s what networks are for, eh?). Today’s link goes to Ashley Miller and her story on a ritzy, high-end clothing store that likes to sic their lawyers on a charity benefitting a shelter for abused women. Shame, Neiman Marcus, shame.

Read more at Neiman Marcus attacks Women’s Shelter over name.

Troublesome Labor Day post

I’m sitting comfortably at home today, enjoying the Labor Day holiday, and wrestling with a post I want to write. Labor Day seems like a good day for it, because it’s about wage earners. But it’s giving me trouble.

Here’s what I want to say: I want to point out that most of the nation’s wealth is produced by wage earners—people who receive money in return for the productive work that they do in generating the goods and services that make up the nation’s wealth. But not everyone is a wage earner. There are other people who receive money, not as payment for goods/services produced, but because of their economic status.

Conservatives are famous for resenting the fact that the very poor are collecting welfare checks without working for them, but the fact is that the very rich do the same thing. It’s called “capital gains” instead of “welfare,” but no matter what you call it, it boils down to money you receive, not as wages for what you produce, but simply as a reward for being at either extreme on the financial spectrum. Investment, after all, is an alternative to acquiring money through earning wages.

That’s roughly what I want to say. I want to point out that liberals and conservatives (in the rank-and-file, at least) have shared concerns, in that wage earners are being asked to shoulder an unfair proportion of the burden of funding non-wage earners—an inequity that stems in large part from the fact that our laws are being written by people who are non-wage earners and who are stacking the deck in their own favor. That’s why taxes on wages are so much higher than the taxes on non-wages.

There’s an element of truth there that’s important and needs to be said. I’m just having trouble saying it.

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The joblords

In some parts of the world, the government is relatively weak, and the real power lies in the hands of the warlords. I think we’re rapidly approaching a similar situation in the United States, at least economically: the government is relatively weak financially, and the real power is being concentrated in the hands of the joblords. Sure, they prefer to be called “job creators,” and they pay people to call them that on TV, but seriously, how many jobs have they been creating lately? They’re not job creators, they’re joblords, holding the rest of the country hostage to their demands, and threatening to withhold jobs, or even downsize, if the legislature does not crank out policies more favorable to the joblords increasing financial and political power.

A while ago my son and I were talking politics and he said an interesting thing. I forget his exact words, but they were something like this: our Founding Fathers made a very wise decision when they wrote the separation of church and state into the Constitution. Now we need someone to figure out how to do the same thing for the separation of business and state.


The cost of discipleship

The Christian faith isn’t just a story about how to get to heaven in the next life, it a way of walking by faith in all areas of your life.

“We’re going to show you how to get wealth and use it for the building of his kingdom,” [Ephren] Taylor shouted to the congregation one morning in 2009. It was all part of what he called his “Building Wealth Tour,” which crisscrossed the country touting his investments and financial advice.

It’s a popular theme in Christian circles. God actually wants you to be wealthy and successful, and people like Taylor are called by God to help share this good news. But?

But according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, what Taylor was actually peddling was a giant Ponzi scheme, one aimed to “swindle over $11 million, primarily from African-American churchgoers,” that reached into churches nationwide, from [Eddie] Long’s megachurch in Atlanta to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church congregation in Houston.

Ah. The cost of teaching yourself how to uncritically swallow whatever men tell you in the name of God. Of course, the difference between Taylor and megapastors like Long and Osteen is that the latter two don’t promise to ever give the money back. Gullibility costs you either way, but the latter way goes unpunished.

via ABC News.

Phone companies want fewer consumer protections

What do you do when consumer protection regulations are interfering with profits? Well, if you’re as big as AT&T, you just buy yourself some new laws.

The industry is pushing Senate Bill 135, referred to as “the AT&T bill” by its sponsor and others because it originated with that company’s lobbyists. The bill would strip the Kentucky Public Service Commission of most of its remaining oversight of basic phone service provided by the three major carriers — AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell — such as the power to initiate investigations into service problems.

via Kentucky telephone companies pushing for option to end basic service | Politics and Government |