Archive for December, 2009

Limbaugh Taken to Hospital With Chest Pains

From Fox News

A Honolulu television station is reporting that conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been taken to a hospital with chest pains.

KITV reported Wednesday that paramedics responded to a call at 2:41 p.m. from the Kahala Hotel and Resort where Limbaugh is vacationing.

The station, citing unnamed sources, said paramedics treated Limbaugh and took him to The Queen’s Medical Center in serious condition.

Queen’s spokeswoman N. Makana Shook says the hospital is unable to comment on the report.

Television station KHON quoted unidentified sources saying Limbaugh was taken from the hotel in an ambulance.

Limbaugh was seen golfing at Waialae Country Club earlier this week. The country club is next to the Kahala Hotel and Resort.

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Latest Commentary

UK Jurists Make Jewish Religion Illegal

By Jerry A. Kane

In a recent five to four decision, the former House of Lords, renamed the Supreme Court, has twisted the classic liberal principles of equality and human rights into a tyrannical Gordian knot.

The court ruled that Judaism’s way of defining its members for over 3,500 years is contrary to section one of the Race Relations Act of 1976 and therefore illegal. The ruling resulted from an admissions dispute involving a boy known as M to an Orthodox Jewish secondary school. M’s mother converted to Judaism after giving birth to M. In keeping with Orthodox rules, Jewishness is passed through the female line and since M’s mother did not convert to Judaism until after M’s birth, the boy was not born of a Jewish mother and was denied admission to school.

The court intervened and ruled that M was denied admission on racial grounds, so now the Jewish school must decide whether to follow the precepts of their religion or the law of the land. In denying religious schools the freedom to prefer admittance to children from relevant faiths, the court has barred such schools from maintaining their religious culture which is necessary for their success.

The court’s ruling dictates that Orthodox Jewish schools are not entitled to discriminate against the enrollment of non-Jews in schools specifically designed to educate Jews. The court’s anti-discrimination ruling does not refine the principle of equality under the law; it actually opposes the principle. 

If equality means that all people have the right to be treated equally under the law, then anti-discrimination laws mean that some people have the right to be treated differently. The court’s decision not only imposes secular human rights over all religious belief systems, but it also takes power and freedom away from people of faith by subjecting their teachings to the authority of secular beliefs.

Secular humanism is now an officially protected belief system under civil and human rights law, which means that religious freedom and rights of conscience are made subject to its ideology.

In truth, the ruling advances the notion that religious views are forms of superstition and less legitimate than secular views and furthers the secularist agenda to marginalize people of faith, dictate what they believe, and drive religion from the public sphere.

Ousting the specter of religion from political discourse and opinion making was also advocated by Thomas Paine, one of the great voices of the American Revolution. Paine attacked organized religion in general and Christianity in particular because he felt that belief in a providential God was harmful to a free society. He once asked Benjamin Franklin to critique an essay in which he argued against belief in a particular Providence “that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons.”

Franklin warned Paine not to publish a piece that would “unchain the tiger” and do nothing but create enemies and be of no benefit to others. He cited a French proverb, “He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face,” to point out to Paine his self-destructive, over-reaction to a non-existent problem. Franklin asked Paine, “If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?” and continued to admonish him saying:

“[T]hink how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security.… You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.”

Franklin chided Paine for bludgeoning religious precepts unnecessarily and for running a fool’s errand in thinking that he could change mankind’s general sentiments on religion. Franklin was more aligned with Edmund Burke’s than with Paine’s reasoning in presupposing that man is instinctively a religious creature.

The court’s ruling enforces a militant secularism that does not respect religious belief and regards religion as the problem in society. The court’s decision could extend beyond Jewish schools and have far-reaching effects for large sections of society. A broad interpretation of the ruling could require evangelicals not to discriminate against homosexuals and transsexuals when choosing clergy or require Roman Catholics not to discriminate against women or married men when choosing candidates for the priesthood.

Now that the five supreme jurists have joined with militant secularists in the culture war against Jewish schools for their policy on admissions, people of faith in the UK face a serious challenge if they want to protect religious liberty and maintain a free society.

Liberty means nothing if it doesn’t include the freedom of conscience to believe and practice a particular religion. Democratic governments have the right to dictate where the line is drawn between religious freedom and civil liberty, that is, church doctrine should not determine laws and laws should not determine church doctrine.

The UK isn’t suffering from a crisis of human rights; it is suffering from a crisis of democracy. To override the Book of Deuteronomy, overturn 3,500 of teachings, and criminalize a private Jewish school’s Jews-only admittance policy is tantamount to telling Orthodox Jews that the UK no longer tolerates their beliefs or recognizes their right to worship God.

Will politicians and jurists ever learn that the only way for people of different races and religions to live together peacefully in a free society is when they mind their own business?

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Sen. Dodd, D-Conn., slashed aviation security funding for pet constituency

By Mark Hemingway

Now that our attention is focused on airline security measures thanks to the failed airline attack on Christmas Day, it’s worth mentioning that one senator took money away from aviation security to line the pockets of a constituency that supported his presidential campaign in a big way.

Back in July, Senator Chris Dodd, D-Conn., proposed an amendment reducing aviation security appropriations by $4.5 million in favor of firefighter grants — a notoriously inneffective [sic] program. In fact, the money was specifically “for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems.” [emphasis mine] The amendment was also sponsored by Sen. Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Carper, D-Del., but Dodd deserves to be singled out here because the firefighters union is a pet constituency of his. In 2007 he campaigned all through Iowa with the firefighters union. It was one of the few distinguishable features of Dodd’s ill-fated presidential bid.

The text of the amendment is below:

(Purpose: To provide additional funds for FIRE grants under section 33 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974)

On page 77, between lines 16 and 17, insert the following:

SEC. X (a) The amount appropriated under the heading “firefighter assistance grants” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” under by title III for necessary expenses for programs authorized by the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 is increased by $10,000,000 for necessary expenses to carry out the programs authorized under section 33 of that Act (15 U.S.C. 2229).

(b) The total amount of appropriations under the heading “Aviation Security” under the heading “Transportation Security Administration” under title II, the amount for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems under the first proviso under that heading, and the amount for the purchase and installation of explosives detection systems under the second proviso under that heading are reduced by $4,500,000.

(c) From the unobligated balances of amounts appropriated before the date of enactment of this Act for the appropriations account under the heading “state and local programs” under the heading “Federal Emergency Management Agency” for “Trucking Industry Security Grants”, $5,500,000 are rescinded.

— Beltway Confidential

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The Drudge Report links to this video of Max Baucus (D-MT) slurring his words and rambling endlessly while on the Senate floor.



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“Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files which, therefore, will be beyond the ability of Congress, American law-enforcement, the media, and the American people to scrutinize?”


Obama gives foreign cops new police powers in U.S.

Sovereignty apparently set aside as agency exempted from law

By Bob Unruh

A little-discussed executive order from President Obama giving foreign cops new police powers in the United States by exempting them from such drudgery as compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is raising alarm among commentators who say INTERPOL already had most of the same privileges as diplomats.

At David Horowitz’s Newsreal, Michael van der Galien said the issue is Obama’s expansion of President Ronald Reagan’s order from 1983 that originally granted those diplomatic privileges.

Reagan’s order carried certain exemptions requiring that INTERPOL operations be subject to several U.S. laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. Obama, however, removed those restrictions in his Dec. 16 amendment to Executive Order 12425.

That means, van der Galien wrote today, “this foreign law enforcement organization can operate free of an important safeguard against government and abuse.”

“‘Property and assets,’ including the organization’s records, cannot be searched or seized. Their physical locations are now immune from U.S. legal or investigative authorities,” he wrote.

Obama’s order said he was removing the Reagan limitations on INTERPOL:


“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288), and in order to extend the appropriate privileges, exemptions, and immunities to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12425 of June 16, 1983, as amended, is further amended by deleting from the first sentence the words “except those provided by Section 2(c), Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act” and the semicolon that immediately precedes them,” he wrote.

At the ThreatsWatch.org website, authors Steve Schippert and Clyde Middleton gave their interpretation of the result.

“In light of what we know and can observe, it is our logical conclusion that President Obama’s Executive Order amending President Ronald Reagans’ 1983 EO 12425 and placing INTERPOL above the United States Constitution and beyond the legal reach of our own top law enforcement is a precursor to more damaging moves,” they wrote.

“When the paths on the road map converge – Iraq withdrawal, Guantánamo closure, perceived American image improved internationally, and an empowered INTERPOL in the United States – it is probable that President Barack Obama will once again make America a signatory to the International Criminal Court. It will be a move that surrenders American sovereignty to an international body whose INTERPOL enforcement arm has already been elevated above the Constitution and American domestic law enforcement,” they said.

“For an added and disturbing wrinkle, INTERPOL’s central operations office in the United States is within our own Justice Department offices. They are American law enforcement officers working under the aegis of INTERPOL within our own Justice Department. That they now operate with full diplomatic immunity and with ‘inviolable archives’ from within our own buildings should send red flags soaring into the clouds,” they said. [emphasis mine]

“Ultimately, a detailed verbal explanation is due the American public from the President of the United States detailing why an international law enforcement arm assisting a court we are not a signatory to has been elevated above our Constitution upon our soil.”

International Criminal Court

Records show that the original order designated INTERPOL as a public international organization. Reagan had extended “appropriate privileges, exemptions, and immunities,” but kept it subject to searches and seizures under appropriate legal circumstances.

Obama’s decision, analysts have concluded, exempted Interpol from all restrictions.

“This international law enforcement body now operates – now operates – on American soil beyond the reach of our own top law enforcement arm, the FBI, and is immune from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests,” ThreatsWatch reported.

At the Patriot Room, it was explained there is a reason for a certain level of immunity.

“Before we get our knickers in a bunch, there is logic to this immunity. While we like our Constitution and laws, other countries like their Constitution and laws. It doesn’t matter if the concept of personal freedom is more expansive here. If we expect immunity in their country, we have to extend it to them here.”

But with Obama’s change, “It means that we have an international police force authorized to act within the United States that is no longer subject to 4th Amendment Search and Seizure.”

Anthony Martin at the Examiner noted the international agency now can operate in the U.S. [will with] “full immunity” from U.S. laws and “with complete independence from oversight from the FBI.”

At National Review Andy McCarthy asked, “Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files which, therefore, will be beyond the ability of Congress, American law-enforcement, the media, and the American people to scrutinize?”

At UNDispatch, which is a blog on the United Nations, Mark Leon Goldberg, who explained he worked at Interpol’s headquarters in France in 2002, said there isn’t much danger of INTERPOL agents whisking Americans off to jail. But he confirmed, “As to the specific reason why the Obama administration would decide, last week, to extend to INTERPOL the same suite of diplomatic privileges that are typically accorded to international organizations? I don’t have a good answer for that. My sense is that it probably has something to with the accessibility of INTERPOL’s secure criminal databases (on things like stolen passports and the like).”

But the Obama critics at the Obamafile weren’t convinced.

“By this EO, Obama has conferred diplomatic immunity upon INTERPOL, exemption from being subject to search and seizure by law enforcement, exemption from U.S. taxes, and immunity from FOIA requests, etc. … Does INTERPOL have a file on Obama – or his associations?”

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Passengers help foil attack on Detroit-bound plane

By Jim Irwin

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) – An attempted terrorist attack on a Christmas Day flight began with a pop and a puff of smoke – sending passengers scrambling to subdue a Nigerian man who claimed to be acting on orders from al-Qaida to blow up the airliner, officials and travelers said.

The commotion began as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying 278 passengers and 11 crew members from Amsterdam, prepared to land in Detroit just before noon Friday. Travelers said they smelled smoke, saw a glow, and heard what sounded like firecrackers. At least one person climbed over others and jumped on the man, who officials say was trying to ignite an explosive device.

“It sounded like a firecracker in a pillowcase,” said Peter Smith, a passenger from the Netherlands.

“First there was a pop, and then (there) was smoke.”

Smith said one passenger, sitting opposite the man, climbed over passengers, went across the aisle and tried to restrain the man. The heroic passenger appeared to have been burned.

Afterward, the suspect was taken to a front-row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned. Multiple law enforcement officials also said the man appeared badly burned on his legs, indicating the explosive was strapped there. The components were apparently mixed in-flight and included a powdery substance, multiple law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel. Dutch anti-terrorism authorities said the U.S. has asked all airlines to take extra precautions on flights worldwide that are bound for the United States.

The incident was reminiscent of Richard Reid, who tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes, but was subdued by other passengers.

Multiple law enforcement officials identified the suspect in Friday’s attempted attack as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. He was described as Nigerian.

One law enforcement official said the man claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaida to detonate the plane over U.S. soil, but other law enforcement officials cautioned that such claims could not be verified immediately, and said the man may have been acting independently – inspired but not specifically trained or ordered by terror groups.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

Intelligence and anti-terrorism officials in Yemen said they were investigating claims by the suspect that he picked up the explosive device and instructions on how to use it in that country. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

The man was being questioned Friday evening. An intelligence official said he was being held and treated in an Ann Arbor, Mich., hospital. The hospital said one passenger from the flight was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, but referred all inquiries to the FBI.

Melinda Dennis, who was seated in the front row of the plane, said the man involved was brought to the front row and seated near her. She said his legs appeared to be badly burned and his pants were cut off. She said he was taken off the plane handcuffed to a stretcher.

One law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mutallab’s name had surfaced earlier on at least one U.S. intelligence database, but he was not on a watch list or a no-fly list.

The suspect boarded in Nigeria and went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit, Rep. Peter King, the ranking GOP member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN. A spokeswoman for police at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam declined comment about the case or about security procedures at the airport for Flight 253.

Dutch airline KLM says the connection in Amsterdam from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit involves a change in carrier and a change in aircraft.

Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest with a heavy load of transit passengers from Africa and Asia to North America, strictly enforces European security regulations including only allowing small amounts of liquid in hand luggage that must be placed inside clear plastic bags.

A spokesman for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Akin Olukunle, said all passengers and their luggage are screened before boarding international flights. He also said the airport in Lagos cleared a U.S. Transportation Security Administration audit in November.

“We had a pass mark,” Olukunle said. “We actually are up to standards in all senses.”

Nigeria’s information minister, Dora Akunyili, condemned the attempted bombing. She said the government has opened its own investigation into the suspect and will work with U.S. authorities.

“We state very clearly that as a nation we abhor all forms of violence,” Akunyili said in a statement issued Saturday.

London’s Metropolitan Police also was working with U.S. officials, a spokeswoman said, and searches were being conducted in that city. The spokeswoman would not provide additional details, including what connection the suspect had to London or what was being searched. She spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

Delta Air Lines Inc., which acquired Northwest last year, said a passenger caused a disturbance, was subdued, and the crew requested that law enforcement officials meet the flight.

Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane’s descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”

“Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic,” he said.

Federal officials said there would be heightened security for both domestic and international flights at airports across the country, but the intensified levels would likely be “layered,” differing from location to location depending on alerts, security concerns and other factors.

Passengers can expect to see heightened screening, more bomb-sniffing dog and officer units and behavioral-detection specialists at some airports, but there will also be unspecified less visible precautions as well, officials said.

The FBI and the Homeland Security Department issued an intelligence note on Nov. 20 about the threat picture for the holiday season, which was obtained by The Associated Press. At the time, officials said they had no specific information about attack plans by al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

President Barack Obama was notified of the incident and discussed it with security officials, the White House said. Officials said he is monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates from his vacation spot in Hawaii.

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If the electorate does not rid Washington of the leftist politicians now controlling our affairs, we will be celebrating a Communist Christmas here in the United States.

Christmas under Communism

By Jeffrey Folks

I lived for two years in Eastern Europe, during and shortly after the end of the Communist era. In those two years, my wife and I celebrated a traditional Christmas, complete with festive decorations, Christmas cards, modestly wrapped gifts, a holiday meal, and a two-foot plastic Christmas tree that we came upon at the local market. Though our holiday was quite simple, Christmas was nonetheless celebrated joyfully in our hearts. It was accompanied by the knowledge that this day is indeed special because it commemorates the origin of a redemptive faith in human potential. The communist state could not keep us or others among the ex-pat and local population from reciting the biblical story of the birth of Christ.

What it could do was prohibit all public manifestations of the profound religious tradition that had once dominated the hearts and minds of most Eastern Europeans.

I recall trudging through the snow to classes scheduled for Christmas Day — trudging for two miles each way to avoid riding the absurdly overcrowded buses reeking of unwashed humanity. It seemed odd to find faculty conducting classes as usual and students milling about the university cafeteria, and not a word to suggest that the day was different from any other. There were no greetings of “Merry Christmas,” no exchanges of cards or presents, no looks of anticipation or wonder.

What was celebrated instead was the secular holiday of New Year. Special market tables had been set up offering a meager selection of cheaply printed New Year’s cards and miserable trinkets for the children: wooden pop guns, cheap plastic dolls, and an especially dubious treat — a rubber chicken already plucked of its feathers. With classes and work suspended for the holiday, families gathered for New Year’s meals and fellowship. Meanwhile, state television broadcast the same old promises: the advent of another remarkable year of sham efficiencies and faked production quotas.

Despite the pretense of religious toleration that marked the last decades of Communism, no one seemed to care any longer. The communist state, it seemed, had succeeded in eradicating Christmas as a public holiday. As my vintage Rough Guide, dedicated to “the continuation of a free, nonaligned and Socialist Yugoslavia” puts it, religious faiths have “experienced a waning of worship” since the rise of Communism (The Rough Guide to Yugoslavia, London 1985: p. 51). At the time that I lived in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, religious practice was not just waning: it seemed confined to a diminishing population of frail old women (though it now appears to have made a remarkable comeback, flourishing as believers are no longer discouraged from practicing their faith by neighborhood informants and government spies).

Christianity can survive long periods of oppression, but in the meantime, individual lives can be terribly harmed. In Eastern Europe, hundreds of millions of human beings suffered though a grinding half-century of Communist rule. Lacking the wisdom and inspiration of traditional faith, generations passed through life like hollow men passing from Communist youth leagues to Communist workers’ associations to communist pensioner schemes.

Yet one of the inescapable paradoxes of Communism is the fact that the godless state, which professes the virtue of materialism, can then so completely fail to provide even the material necessities that most in the West take for granted. Although there were rubber chickens and wooden pop guns in the market, there was a general absence of everything else. By the time Christmas rolled around, there was little variety of food, and milk had disappeared from the stores. Fresh fruit, including oranges and bananas, vanished entirely, as did all fresh vegetables, except for an aging stock of potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Other than some suspiciously outdated and moldy-looking sausages, meat was in short supply. What there was, along with the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and sausages, was the bland production of the state canneries: jams, jellies, canned vegetables and fruits, potted meat and chicken, and an adequate quantity of bread to be washed down with ample supplies of locally produced plum brandy, beer, and wine.

It might seem that the state had at least provided an adequate caloric intake, but every day I saw people of all ages, from young women with infants cradled in one arm to old men in ragged suits, fumbling through garbage bins for bread crusts and bones.

Christmas was also accompanied by the unrelieved cold. The Communist state had guaranteed heating and electricity for all, just as it had guaranteed universal free medical care, but blackouts were frequent and long, and water shortages predictable: two days off, one day on. Every night, the heat was turned off at nine o’clock. I slept in a cold room under a mountain of blankets, sometimes lying awake as my breath rose like smoke in the moonlight. Then I got very sick, but I refused to be taken to the hospital for fear of being made sicker.

Each morning, a shabbily dressed population reemerged on the streets, crouching against the cold, beaten down by hardship, hunger, untreated disease, and the extinction of all human dreams. Walking the streets of a Communist city in late December, with the unshoveled snow packed down into a treacherous sheet of ice, shivering because no matter where one went, inside or out, one would still be cold — this was the reality of a Communist Christmas.

But it was not just the bleak physical conditions that ground people down and caused them to die in their forties and fifties. For generations under Communist rule, life passed with nothing more wondrous or resplendent than the material facts of work, consumption, and reproduction. During the Communist era, most people in Eastern Europe grew up as confirmed atheists, smug in the certainty that nothing really mattered except getting along in life and securing as much of society’s meager production of goods and services as possible. From this there was no reprieve except cheap alcohol and foul, locally produced cigarettes. For decades, the dismal sight of middle-aged men slumped over smoky barroom tables was ubiquitous in Belgrade and Sofia.

That hopeless future seemed to await many of my bright and curious students. Even at a young age, I felt, they were already cynical and defeated. This, of course, was not their fault, for they had been instilled with the firm belief that the noise spewing from a new boom box or television set was more precious than the words relating the birth of Christ and all of the other elements of their traditional faith. They seemed to accept this materialist view with little hesitation or questioning. They even considered themselves lucky since they were more up to date — more cosmopolitan than their ancestors, who had huddled in cold churches in the expectations of the mysterious recitation of a miracle.

I will never forget the awful reality of Communism or believe that it can ever be anything other than the hell it was. The facts of the last century should be enough to put an end to that vicious ideology forever, but now I find that many in our own government support something similar. Barack Obama has lost no time at pointing the country toward socialism during his first year in office. Given the chance, he will soon transform our dear country into a socialist state in which liberty will be restricted and private property much reduced. Unless he is stopped in the elections of 2010 and 2012, Obama, with the support of a compliant Congress, will extend control and regulation to every part of our lives, from prenatal care to the seizure of half of our estates  — and often more than half — after death. With the assistance of a subservient media, he will create a propaganda machine designed to control the outcome of future elections.

I have tried to describe my experience of communism, but soon it may not be necessary to journey back in time and outside our borders to know what a Communist Christmas is like. If the electorate does not rid Washington of the leftist politicians now controlling our affairs, we will be celebrating a Communist Christmas here in the United States.

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According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly six in 10 Americans from all religions blend their faith with New Age and Eastern beliefs, like astrology, reincarnation, and the spiritual — not just physical — benefits of yoga.

This new religious mixture has more to do with making reality than it does with discovering it, and more to do with power than it does with truth. It’s an amoral, anything “spiritual” goes joyride on the road to Shambala.


Americans Surprisingly Flexible About Religion and Faith

Nearly Six in 10 Americans Blend Their Faith With New Age Beliefs

By Dan Harris and Wonbo Woo

A new poll finds Americans are doing a tremendous amount of personalizing  picking and choosing from a diverse variety of religious traditions. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly six in 10 Americans from all religions blend their faith with New Age and Eastern beliefs, like astrology, reincarnation, and the spiritual – not just physical – benefits of yoga.

“What we’re really finding here that we haven’t known before is how much Americans mix and match their religious beliefs and practices. That is, how often people who are regular churchgoers also believe in things like astrology and reincarnation,” said Alan Cooperman of the Pew Forum. “Individual Americans hold within themselves elements of diverse religious traditions. And they practice in many cases, more than one faith.”

Rabbi David Ingber was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, but abandoned Judaism in his 20s. He studied Taoism, martial arts and yoga as part of what he calls his “spiritual journey.” After a decade away from the faith, he felt called back to Judaism.

“When I came back to Judaism, in my early 30s, I brought back my experiences that I had had in my 20s.”

Ingber became a rabbi and founded a congregation in New York City called Romemu – its slogan is Judaism for mind, body and spirit. He leads his congregation in yoga and incorporates meditation into his services.

“I do think that it’s a level of maturity involved in being so secure in your own root tradition that you can dabble, that you can borrow and that you don’t feel that it’s in some way sacrificing your own identity,” Ingber said.

The Pew survey also finds that a quarter of Americans sometimes attend services of a faith or denomination other than their own.

Glenda Somerville was raised in a strict Catholic family — her father is a Roman Catholic deacon and her mother is deeply religious. Somerville still considers herself a Catholic, but regularly attends Protestant services, and attends retreats and prayer groups with non-Catholics.

“I’m not just Roman Catholic,” she said. “I believe in worshiping with other people because I do believe that God embraces all of us — so I refuse to just ignore other people in their denominations.”

Somerville has been particularly moved by the role of women in churches, like Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Md., where she often attends Sunday services.

“There are women who are ministers who understand and provide the message from a woman’s perspective,” she said. “And I don’t necessarily get that from Roman Catholic priests.”

“I’ve been in Hindu temples, I’ve been in Sufi ceremonies, I’ve participated in various rituals associated with yoga and meditation associated with Buddhism,” said Jayne Tear, a member of the Jewish Romemu Center in New York City.

“Any place where people are getting in touch with their own sense of the divine. It would be an honor for me to be in the room.”

The poll further found that nearly half of the public, 49 percent, report having a “Religious or mystical experience& a spiritual awakening.” That’s up from 22 percent in 1962.

And 29 percent of Americans say they’ve felt in touch with someone who died — that’s up from 18 percent in 1996.

America has always had a thriving, competitive religious marketplace. But the pollsters say they’re surprised at how much individual religious opening they found, and they’re unsure about why it appears to be growing. Intermarriage is one possible contributing factor, but the pollsters don’t think that fully explains it.

Ingber has a different thought. “There is a way for those who love God to love God together, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do now is we’re trying to say let’s go beyond the labels.”

As Tear said, she is proud of her faith, but she believes God is bigger than any one religion.

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The Senate bill is not just a new health system but also “a new welfare and tax system” that will warp the labor market. Given the incentives of these two-tier subsidies, employers with large numbers of lower-wage workers like Wal-Mart may well convert them into “contractors” or do more outsourcing. As more and more people flood into “free” health care, taxpayer costs will explode.





Change Nobody Believes In

From The Wall Street Journal

A bill so reckless that it has to be rammed through on a partisan vote on Christmas eve. And tidings of comfort and joy from Harry Reid too. The Senate Majority Leader has decided that the last few days before Christmas are the opportune moment for a narrow majority of Democrats to stuff ObamaCare through the Senate to meet an arbitrary White House deadline. Barring some extraordinary reversal, it now seems as if they have the 60 votes they need to jump off this cliff, with one-seventh of the economy in tow.

Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world’s greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new “manager’s amendment” that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations. Democrats are barely even bothering to pretend to care what’s in it, not that any Senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote at 1 a.m. this morning. After procedural motions that allow for no amendments, the final vote could come at 9 p.m. on December 24.

Even in World War I there was a Christmas truce.

The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and unpopular is being forced on the country shows that “reform” has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. An increasing roll of leaders in health care and business are looking on aghast at a bill that is so large and convoluted that no one can truly understand it, as Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted on the floor last week. The only goal is to ram it into law while the political window is still open, and clean up the mess later.


Health costs.

From the outset, the White House’s core claim was that reform would reduce health costs for individuals and businesses, and they’re sticking to that story. “Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn’t read the bills,” Mr. Obama said over the weekend. This is so utterly disingenuous that we doubt the President really believes it.

The best and most rigorous cost analysis was recently released by the insurer WellPoint, which mined its actuarial data in various regional markets to model the Senate bill. WellPoint found that a healthy 25-year-old in Milwaukee buying coverage on the individual market will see his costs rise by 178%. A small business based in Richmond with eight employees in average health will see a 23% increase. Insurance costs for a 40-year-old family with two kids living in Indianapolis will pay 106% more. And on and on.

These increases are solely the result of ObamaCare—above and far beyond the status quo—because its strict restrictions on underwriting and risk-pooling would distort insurance markets. All but a handful of states have rejected regulations like “community rating” because they encourage younger and healthier buyers to wait until they need expensive care, increasing costs for everyone. Benefits and pricing will now be determined by politics.

As for the White House’s line about cutting costs by eliminating supposed “waste,” even Victor Fuchs, an eminent economist generally supportive of ObamaCare, warned last week that these political theories are overly simplistic. “The oft-heard promise ‘we will find out what works and what does not’ scarcely does justice to the complexity of medical practice,” the Stanford professor wrote.

Steep declines in choice and quality. This is all of a piece with the hubris of an Administration that thinks it can substitute government planning for market forces in determining where the $33 trillion the U.S. will spend on medicine over the next decade should go.

This centralized system means above all fewer choices; what works for the political class must work for everyone. With formerly private insurers converted into public utilities, for instance, they’ll inevitably be banned from selling products like health savings accounts that encourage more cost-conscious decisions.

Unnoticed by the press corps, the Congressional Budget Office argued recently that the Senate bill would so “substantially reduce flexibility in terms of the types, prices, and number of private sellers of health insurance” that companies like WellPoint might need to “be considered part of the federal budget.”

With so large a chunk of the economy and medical practice itself in Washington’s hands, quality will decline. Ultimately, “our capacity to innovate and develop new therapies would suffer most of all,” as Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier recently wrote in our pages. Take the $2 billion annual tax—rising to $3 billion in 2018—that will be leveled against medical device makers, among the most innovative U.S. industries. Democrats believe that more advanced health technologies like MRI machines and drug-coated stents are driving costs too high, though patients and their physicians might disagree.

“The Senate isn’t hearing those of us who are closest to the patient and work in the system every day,” Brent Eastman, the chairman of the American College of Surgeons, said in a statement for his organization and 18 other speciality societies opposing ObamaCare.

For no other reason than ideological animus, doctor-owned hospitals will face harsh new limits on their growth and who they’re allowed to treat. Physician Hospitals of America says that ObamaCare will “destroy over 200 of America‘s best and safest hospitals.”

Blowing up the federal fisc. Even though Medicare’s unfunded liabilities are already about 2.6 times larger than the entire U.S. economy in 2008, Democrats are crowing that ObamaCare will cost “only” $871 billion over the next decade while fantastically reducing the deficit by $132 billion, according to CBO.

Yet some 98% of the total cost comes after 2014—remind us why there must absolutely be a vote this week—and most of the taxes start in 2010. That includes the payroll tax increase for individuals earning more than $200,000 that rose to 0.9 from 0.5 percentage points in Mr. Reid’s final machinations. Job creation, here we come.

Other deceptions include a new entitlement for long-term care that starts collecting premiums tomorrow but doesn’t start paying benefits until late in the decade. But the worst is not accounting for a formula that automatically slashes Medicare payments to doctors by 21.5% next year and deeper after that. Everyone knows the payment cuts won’t happen but they remain in the bill to make the cost look lower. The American Medical Association’s priority was eliminating this “sustainable growth rate” but all they got in return for their year of ObamaCare cheerleading was a two-month patch snuck into the defense bill that passed over the weekend.

The truth is that no one really knows how much ObamaCare will cost because its assumptions on paper are so unrealistic. To hide the cost increases created by other parts of the bill and transfer them onto the federal balance sheet, the Senate sets up government-run “exchanges” that will subsidize insurance for those earning up to 400% of the poverty level, or $96,000 for a family of four in 2016. Supposedly they would only be offered to those whose employers don’t provide insurance or work for small businesses.

As Eugene Steuerle of the left-leaning Urban Institute points out, this system would treat two workers with the same total compensation—whatever the mix of cash wages and benefits—very differently. Under the Senate bill, someone who earned $42,000 would get $5,749 from the current tax exclusion for employer-sponsored coverage but $12,750 in the exchange. A worker making $60,000 would get $8,310 in the exchanges but only $3,758 in the current system.

For this reason Mr. Steuerle concludes that the Senate bill is not just a new health system but also “a new welfare and tax system” that will warp the labor market. Given the incentives of these two-tier subsidies, employers with large numbers of lower-wage workers like Wal-Mart may well convert them into “contractors” or do more outsourcing. As more and more people flood into “free” health care, taxpayer costs will explode.

Political intimidation. The experts who have pointed out such complications have been ignored or dismissed as “ideologues” by the White House. Those parts of the health-care industry that couldn’t be bribed outright, like Big Pharma, were coerced into acceding to this agenda. The White House was able to, er, persuade the likes of the AMA and the hospital lobbies because the federal government will control 55% of total U.S. health spending under ObamaCare, according to the Administration’s own Medicare actuaries.

Others got hush money, namely Nebraska’s Ben Nelson. Even liberal Governors have been howling for months about ObamaCare’s unfunded spending mandates: Other budget priorities like education will be crowded out when about 21% of the U.S. population is on Medicaid, the joint state-federal program intended for the poor. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman calculates that ObamaCare will result in $2.5 billion in new costs for his state that “will be passed on to citizens through direct or indirect taxes and fees,” as he put it in a letter to his state’s junior Senator.

So in addition to abortion restrictions, Mr. Nelson won the concession that Congress will pay for 100% of Nebraska Medicaid expansions into perpetuity. His capitulation ought to cost him his political career, but more to the point, what about the other states that don’t have a Senator who’s the 60th vote for ObamaCare?


“After a nearly century-long struggle we are on the cusp of making health-care reform a reality in the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said on Saturday.

He’s forced to claim the mandate of “history” because he can’t claim the mandate of voters. Some 51% of the public is now opposed, according to National Journal’s composite of all health polling. The more people know about ObamaCare, the more unpopular it becomes.

The tragedy is that Mr. Obama inherited a consensus that the health-care status quo needs serious reform, and a popular President might have crafted a durable compromise that blended the best ideas from both parties. A more honest and more thoughtful approach might have even done some good. But as Mr. Obama suggested, the Democratic old guard sees this plan as the culmination of 20th-century liberalism.

So instead we have this vast expansion of federal control. Never in our memory has so unpopular a bill been on the verge of passing Congress, never has social and economic legislation of this magnitude been forced through on a purely partisan vote, and never has a party exhibited more sheer political willfulness that is reckless even for Washington or had more warning about the consequences of its actions.

These 60 Democrats are creating a future of epic increases in spending, taxes and command-and-control regulation, in which bureaucracy trumps innovation and transfer payments are more important than private investment and individual decisions. In short, the Obama Democrats have chosen change nobody believes in—outside of themselves—and when it passes America will be paying for it for decades to come. [bold emphasis mine]

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