Sunday, May 19, 2019

TIME's new cover: ‘Now I am speaking to the whole world.’ How teen climate activist Greta Thunberg got everyone to listen
“When I grow up, I want to be able to look back and say that I did everything I could.”

Scientists in the United States have detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere since records began, sounding new alarm over the relentless rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions..26

Eugene V. Deb's Canton Speech, 1918

From Eugene v. Debs's Canton Speech. Chicago: Socialist Party of the United States, 1918.

      To speak for labor; to plead the cause of the men and women and children who toil to serve the working class, has always been to me a high privilege; (applause) a duty of love.
      I have just returned from a visit over yonder (pointing to the workhouse) (laughter) where three of our most loyal comrades (applause) are paying the penalty for their devotion to the cause of the working class. (Applause.) They have come to realize, as many of us have, that it is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right of free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world. (Applause.)
      I realize that, in speaking to you this afternoon, that there are certain limitations placed upon the right of free speech. I must be exceedingly careful, prudent, as to what I say, and even more careful and more prudent as to how I say it. (Laughter.) I may not be able to say all I think; (laughter and applause) but I am not going to say anything that I do not think. (Applause.) But, I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward on the streets. (Applause and Shouts.) They may put those boys in jail--and some of the rest of us in jail--but they cannot put the Socialist movement in jail. (Applause and Shouts.) . . .
      There is but one thing that you have to be concerned about, and that is that you keep four-square with the principles of the international Socialist movement. (Applause.) It is only when you begin to compromise that trouble begins. (Applause.) So far as I am concerned, it does not matter what others may say, or think, or do, as long as I am sure that I am right with myself and the cause. (Applause.) There are so many who seek refuge in the popular side of a great question. On account of that, I hope, as a Socialist, I have long since learned how to stand alone. (Applause.)
      Why should a Socialist be discouraged on the eve of the greatest triumph in all history of the Socialist movement? (Applause.) It is true that these are anxious trying days for us all--testing days for the women and men who are upholding the banner of the of the working class in the struggle of the working class of all the world against the exploiters of the world; (applause) a time in which the weak and cowardly will falter and fail and desert. They lack the fiber to endure the revolutionary test; they fall away; they disappear as if they had never been. On the other hand, they who are animated with the unconquerable spirit of the Social revolution, they who have the moral courage to stand erect and assert their convictions; stand by them; fight for them; go to jail or to hell for them; if need be--(applause and shouts) they are writing their names, in this crucial hour--they are writing their names in fadeless letters in the history of mankind. (Applause.) . . .
      Are we opposed to Prussian militarism? (Laughter.) (Shouts from the crowd of "Yes." "Yes.") Why, we have been fighting it since the day the Socialist movement was born; (applause) and we are going to continue to fight it, day and night, until it is wiped from the face of the earth. (thunderous applause and cheers.) Between us there is no truce--no compromise. . . .
      Socialism is a growing idea, an expanding philosophy. It is spreading over the face of the earth. It is as useless to resist it as it would be to try to arrest the sunrise on the morrow. It is coming, coming, coming, all along the line. . . . Here, in this assemblage (applause) I hear our heart beat responsive to the Bolsheviki of Russia. (Deafening and prolonged applause.) Yes, those heroic men and women, those unconquerable comrades, who have, by their sacrifice, added luster to the international movement. Those Russian comrades, who have made greater sacrifices, who have suffered more, who have shed more heroic blood than any like men or number of men and women anywhere else on earth, they have laid the foundation of the first real Democracy that ever drew--(great applause) the first real Democracy that ever drew the breath of life on God's footstool. (Applause.) And the very first act of that immortal revolution was to proclaim a state of peace with all the world, coupled with an appeal, no to the kings, not to the emperors, not to the rulers, not to the diplomats, but an appeal to the people of all nations. (Applause.) There is the very birth of Democracy, the quintessence of freedom. They made their appeal to the people of all nations, the Allies as well as the Central powers, to send representatives to a conference to lay down terms of peace that should be Democratic and lasting. Here was a fine--here was a fine opportunity to strike a blow to make democracy safe in the world. (Applause.) Was there any response to that noble appeal? And here let me say that that appeal will be written in letters of gold in the history of the world. (Applause.) Was there any response to that appeal? (From the crowd "No.") Not the slightest. . . .
Wars have been waged for conquest, for plunder. In the middle ages the feudal lords, who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine--whenever one of those feudal lords wished to enrich himself, then he made war on another. Why? They wanted to enlarge their domains. They wanted to increase their power, their wealth, and so they declared war upon each other. But they did not go to war any more than the Wall Street junkers go to war. (Applause.) The feudal lords, the barons, the economic predecessors of the modern capitalist, they declared all the wars. Who fought their battles? Their miserable serfs. And the serfs had been taught to believe that when their masters declared and waged war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another, and to cut one another's throats, to murder one another for the profit and the glory of the plutocrats, the barons, the lords who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the war; the subject class has always fought the battles; the master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, and the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose--including their lives. (Applause.) They have always taught you that it is your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at a command. But in all of the history of the world you, the people, never had a voice in declaring war. You have never yet had. And here let me state a fact--and it cannot be repeated too often: the working class who fight the battles, the working class who make the sacrifices, the working class who shed the blood, the working class who furnish the corpses, the working class have never yet had a voice in declaring war. The working class have never yet had a voice in making peace. It is the ruling class that does both. They declare war; they make peace.
"Yours not to ask the question why; Yours but to do and die."
      That is their motto, and we object on the part of the awakened workers.
      If war is right, let it be declared by the people--you, who have your lives to lose; you certainly ought to have the right to declare war, if you consider war a necessary. (Applause.) . . .
      If the war was over tomorrow, all of the prison doors would open. They just want to silence this voice during the war. The cases will be appealed, and they will remain pending in court many a month, perhaps years. What a compliment it is to the Socialist movement for telling the truth. The truth will make the people free. (Applause.) And the truth must not be permitted to reach the people. The truth has always been dangerous to the rule of the rogue, the exploiter, the robber. So the truth must be suppressed. That is why they are trying to drive out the Socialist movement; and every time they make the attempt, they add ten thousand voices proclaiming that Socialism has come to stay. (Applause.). . .
      What you need is to organize, not along curved lines, but along revolutionary industrial lines. (Applause.) You will never vote in the Socialist republic. You are needed to organize it; and you have got to organize it in the industries--unite in the industries. the industrial union is the forerunner of industrial Democracy. In the shop is where the industrial Democracy has its beginning. Organize according to the industries, and minimize all the Gompers. Get together. United, very often your power becomes invincible. Organize to get up to your fullest capacity. Organize. Act together. And when you organize industrially, you will soon learn that you can manage industry as well as operate industry. You can soon find that you don't need the idle for your masters. They are simply parasites. They don't give you work. You give them jobs taking what you produce and that is all. Their function is to take what you produce. You can dispose of them. You don't need then to depend upon for your jobs. You ought to own your own tools; you ought to control your own jobs; you ought to be industrial free men instead of industrial slaves. Organize industrially. Make the organization complete. Then unite in the Socialist party. . . . Then, when we vote together and act together on the industrial pledge, we will develop the supreme power of the one class that can bring permanent peace to the world. We will have the courage. Industry will be organized. We will conquer the public power. We will transfer the title deeds of the railroads, the telegraph lines, the mills, the great industries--we will transfer them to the people; we will take possession in the name of the people. We will have industrial political Democracy. We will be the first free nation, whose government belongs to the people. Oh, this change will be universal; it will be permanent; it looks towards the light; it paves the way to emancipation. . . .
      Yes, we are going to sweep into power in this nation and in every other nation on earth. We are going to destroy the capitalist institutions; we are going to recreate them as legally free institutions. Before you very eyes the world is being destroyed. The world of capitalism is collapsing; the world of Socialism is rising.
      It is your duty to help build. We need builders of industry. Builders are necessary. We Socialists are the builders of the world that is to be. We are all agreed to do our part. We are inviting--aye, challenging you this afternoon, in the name of your own manhood, to join us. Help do your part. In due course of time the hour will strike, and this great cause--the greatest in history--will proclaim the emancipation of the working class and the brotherhood of all mankind. (Thunderous and prolonged applause.)

Houghton Mifflin Company

When America’s Most Prominent Socialist Was Jailed for Speaking Out Against World War I

After winning 6 percent of the vote in the 1912 presidential election, Eugene Debs ran afoul of the nation’s new anti-sedition laws  READ HERE

The Canton, Ohio Speech - Marxists Internet Archive

Eugene V. Debs Article. ... The Canton, Ohio Speech, Anti-War Speech ... 
Transcribed/HTML Markup: John Metz for the Illinois Socialist Party Debs Archive ...

Eugene V. Debs at Canton, Ohio - National Archives
Mar 27, 2019 - Eugene Debs delivers his famous antiwar speech at Canton, Ohio, June 16, 1918. This photograph was used as Government Exhibit Number ...

The speech that made Debs Convict No. 9653 |
Jun 15, 2018 - One hundred years ago, Eugene V. Debs spoke out against the First World War in a speech in Canton, Ohio — and was given a 10-year prison ...



There's nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you're so great your name will never be forgotten and who's that great? The most important thing is your life little guys. You're worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don't let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we've got to fight for liberty or whatever their word is there's always a word.Just say mister I'm sorry I got no time to die I'm too busy and then turn and run like hell. If they say coward why don't pay any attention because it's your job to live not to die. If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life you say mister you're a liar Nothing is bigger than life There's nothing noble in death. What s noble about lying in the ground and rotting. What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again? What's noble about having your legs and arms blown off? What's noble about being an idiot? What's noble about being blind and deaf and dumb? What's noble about being dead. Because when you're dead mister it's all over. It's the end. You're less than a dog less than a rat less than a bee or an ant less than a white maggot crawling around on a dungheap. You're dead mister and you died for nothing.

The International Political Economy of Actually Existing Capitalism: 
Rethinking Globalisation and the Retreat of the State 


This thesis presents an alternative tradition of classical Marxism capable of understanding what appears to be a shift in power from states to markets over the last two decades. It provides a theory of international political economy which explains both state ownership and control of the economy and its relinquishment, as aspects of ‘actually existing capitalism’ on a global scale. It is argued that this approach is superior to both Weberian-influenced International Political Economy (IPE), and the current tradition of classical Marxism in International Relations (IR), in that it has the potential to provide a deeper understanding of the apparent ‘retreat of the state’ as an aspect of so-called ‘globalization’. The core contribution of the thesis is a critique of the current classical Marxist approach in International Relations and the proposal of an alternative which differs in its analysis of the space, time and motion of capitalism. It is argued, through a rereading of Capital volumes 1 to 3, that this alternative is truer to Marx’s intentions. It is further argued that this more nuanced understanding of capitalism is well-represented through the writings of Hilferding, Bukharin, and Lenin, and is identifiable, though underdeveloped, in the work of contemporary Marxists influenced by these theorists. This alternative tradition of classical Marxism provides an understanding of capitalism in phases of both ‘nationalization’ and ‘privatization’, deepening our understanding of capitalism as it ‘actually exists’. The thesis has two main tasks. The first is to show that both Weberian-influenced IPE and classical Marxism in IR have an inadequate model of capitalism, a theoretical limitation that has become evident in the globalization debate over ‘the retreat of the state’. The second is to suggest an alternative theory of capitalism based on a rereading of Capital volumes 1-3. This theory of ‘actually existing capitalism’ is better able to capture the complexity of changing state market-relations including what is superficially described as the ‘retreat of the state’.

Introduction The Privatisation Revolution as the ‘Retreat of the State’ 1

Chapter 1 The Globalisation Paradox 13
1.1 Introduction 13
1.2 The Globalisation Thesis 15
1.2.1 The Nation State 17
1.2.2 The World Market 22
1.2.3 State-Market Relations 28
1.2.4 Paradox Within 35
1.3 The Internationalisation Counter-thesi s 37
1.3.1 Paradox Retained 40
1.4 An Attempt at Transcendence 41
1.4.1 Paradox Lost? 44
1.4.2 Paradox Postponed 47
1.5 Conclusion 50


Chapter 2 Weberian Pluralism: The Separation of State and Market in IPE 55
2.1 Introduction 55
2.2 Why IPE? 57
2.2.1 IPE on Interdependence 58
2.2.2 The IR Counter-thesis 60
2.2.3 Third Wave Interdependence Theory 62
2.2.4 IPE Beyond Interdependence 66
2.3 The IPE Method 70
2.3.1 Weberian Pluralism 1 1
2.3.2 The Spectre o f Weber in IPE 75
2.4 A Classical Marxist Critique 83
2.4.1 A Marxist Critique o f Weberian pluralism 83
2.4.2 A Marxist Critique o f IPE 86
2.5 Conclusion 94

Chapter 3 Classical Marxism: The ‘Apparent’ Separation of State and Market in IR 96
3.1 Introduction 96
3.2 The Empire o f Civil Society 98
3.3 Rethinking Empire o f Civil Society 108
3.3.1 The Poverty o f Analogy 109
3.4 Rethinking the ‘Apparent’ Separation of State and Market 117
3.4.1 The Purely Political State 117
3.4.2 The State Debate and the Relative Autonomy Trap 122
3.4.3 A Tale o f Two Sovereignties 125

3.5 Conclusion 130


Chapter 4 Rereading Capital: From Volume One to Volume Three 137
4.1 Introduction 137
4.2 The Dialectical Method in Capital 139
4.3 The Geographical Scope of Capital 147
4.3.1 The Country Model o f Capitalism 148
4.3.2 Reading Capital 152
4.3.3 The Society o f Capital 156
4.4 The Historical Trajectory of Capital 161
4.4.1 Arrested Development 162
4.4.2 Reading Capital 165
4.4.3 The History o f Capital 169
4.5 The Core Dynamic of Capital 172
4.5.1 The Pristine Law o f Value 173
4.5.2 Reading Capital 177
4.5.3 The Dynamic o f Capital 183
4.6 Conclusion 186

Chapter 5 Imperialism and World War: Competing State Monopoly Trusts 188
5.1 Introduction 188
5.2 Hilferding 192
5.2.1 Historical Trajectory 192
5.2.2 Hilferding Revisited 202
5.3 Bukharin 209
5.3.1 Geographic Scope 209
5.3.2 Historical Trajectory Extended 214
5.3.3 Bukharin Revisited 222
5.4 Lenin 226
5.4.1 Core Dynamic 227
5.4.2 Lenin Revisited 234
5.5 Conclusion 239

Chapter 6 Cold War: State Capitalism and Beyond 241
6.1 Introduction 241
6.2 The Russia Question 247
6.2.1 Orthodox Trotskyist Position 247
6.2.2 New Class Theories 249
6.2.3 Internal Theories o f State Capitalism 251
6.2.4 International Theories o f State Capitalism 254
6.3 The State Capitalist Answer 258
6.3.1 Geographic Scope 259
6.3.2 Historical Trajectory 260
6.3.3 Core Dynamic 261
6.4 Beyond Russia 267
6.4.1 State Capitalism and Free Wage Labour 268
6.4.2 The Nationalisation Revolution on a Global Scale 275
6.5 Beyond State Capitalism 283
6.5.1 Geographic Scope 284
6.5.2 Historical Trajectory 287
6.5.3 Core Dynamic 293
6.6 Conclusion 297


Chapter 7 Actually Existing Globalisation 303
7.1 Introduction 302
7.2 Globalisation in Practice 303
7.2.1 The 1970s 305
7.2.2 The 1990s and Beyond 313
7.3 Globalisation in Theory 323
7.3.1 Geographic Scope 323
7.3.2 Historical Trajectory 326
7.3.3 Core Dynamic 332
7.4 Rethinking States and Markets 338
7.4.1 A Riposte to Volume One Marxism 338
7.4.2 A Rejoinder to IPE 341
7.5 Rethinking the Retreat of the State 343
7.5.1 The Globalisation Paradox Resolved 343
7.6 Conclusion 346

Conclusion The Privatisation Revolution as Post Cold-War Reconstruction 348

References 366


‘We have lost Australia for now,’ warns climate scientist in wake of election upset

The unexpected victory of conservatives in Australia's election is bad news for the future of global climate action.

The unexpected victory of conservatives in Australia’s election Saturday is bad news for the future of global climate action, warn climate experts.
Polls had suggested that the Labor Party, which supports strong climate action, held a narrow lead in recent days. But in the end, Prime Minister Scott Morrison won re-election as his Liberal Party (which is actually conservative) swept to victory.
“Australians elected someone who once brought a lump of coal into Parliament urging us to dismiss the warnings from climate scientists, and to dig up more coal instead,” Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, an Australian cognitive scientist, told ThinkProgress in an email. “There is little doubt that his government will do precisely that.”
“We have lost Australia for now,” warned Penn State climatologist Michael Mann in an email.  “A coalition of a small number of bad actors now threaten the survivability of our species,” he said.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

America was never a Christian nation: Constitutional attorney demolishes right-wing myths about the Founding Fathers

18 MAY 2019 


American Fairy Tale

The Origin of American Conspiracy Theories

As I reported last year, nothing did more to elect Donald Trump than the belief in America as a “Christian nation.” By that measure, nothing could be more timely than a book that takes that myth head on and fundamentally destroys it. Such a book has just been published: “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American” by Andrew L. Seidel, a constitutional attorney who works for the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Seidel is far from the first author to address the historical myths and confusions of political philosophy that sustain Christian nationalism. But no one has written a book quite like this before, because of its sweep, its depth, its viewpoint and its tone. “The Founding Myth” goes far beyond debunking the false history that Christian nationalists advance to a detailed examination of how biblical principles are fundamentally at odds with our constitutional order. The rare exceptions at the time of our founding — biblical support for slavery and the subjugation of women — do not reflect how we view the Constitution today.

In addition, the fact that the Constitution has evolved, and was designed to do so, points to another sharp contrast with the unchanging edicts of the Bible, many of which simply go ignored today in order to preserve the mythic appeal. Seidel also examines how linguistic trappings — “In God We Trust” on our currency, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. — do not reflect deep principles of national political philosophy, but rather episodes of national weakness and political opportunism that cloud and obscure our true heritage.

To explore the book more fully, Salon interviewed Seidel by phone. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

As you pointed out the beginning of your book, Christian nationalism was the strongest indicator support for Donald Trump in 2016, but a lot of people still don’t understand what that term means. So to start off, what is Christian nationalism, and what is the nature of your argument against it?

Christian nationalism is basically the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, built on Judeo-Christian principles, but somehow we have sort of strayed away from this religious founding, and that we need to get back to it. It’s not an idea that is based on facts or history or reality. It is revisionist, and it is, I think, one of the greatest threats our country faces right now.

Your book is divided into four parts. The first concerns the founding era itself, and you first take up George Washington, who was very private and circumspect with respect to religion, and never took communion. But a very contrary image of his has been popularized, most notably around the myth of his prayer at Valley Forge. What should people know about the reality of Washington and how that contrary image came to be so widely believed?

The Valley Forge prayer didn’t happen — we’re pretty certain about that. We know where that story originated. It originated from a religious writer, a guy named Mason Weems, who really set out to sell books. He wasn’t trying to tell historical truths or record history as it happened. He wanted to sell books and didn’t care about the truth. He’s the same writer who gave us the myth about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and ironically not being able to tell a lie about it. That was also fabrication.

So we know that the source is suspect. We also know that it didn’t show up until pretty late in the publication of his book. The book had gone through more than 20 editions before that story was added to it. So there’s really no evidence that it happened at all. But, by portraying Washington as this pious figure, modern politicians are able to imitate him in a very easy way. So instead of doing the hard things that Washington did — being quiet and reticent about your power, about your personal religion — all they have to do to be like the father of our country, is get down and act pious, get on one knee and pray. It brings the father of our country down to this imitable level, instead of the inimitable man he was. I think that’s one of the reasons you see this deliberate attempt to repaint him as this pious man.

More broadly, you address the distinction between individual religious views — which varied among the founders — and what went into America’s founding documents, including but not limited to the Constitution. You discuss how religion and morality were not seen as synonymous by the founders. Could you give the illustration of each of these points and explain why they’re so important?

First, going to the religion of the founders, the central point I try to make in this book is that this is a fascinating debate — and there have been tons of books written on what exactly the founders believed — but really it is not central or even relevant to the debate that the Christian nationalists want to have, the argument they are trying to make.

What’s far more relevant is whether or not the founders chose to separate state and church — which we know they did, and almost all of them agreed on that point. Even if the Christian nationalists could prove that all the founders were Jesus-rose-from-the-dead, Bible-beating Christians, the way many evangelicals are today, even if they could prove that, that doesn’t get them anywhere. They still have to show that those beliefs influenced the founding of this country and what I’m trying to show in the book is that they absolutely did not.

Religious beliefs don’t claim ownership of any of the ideas that your mind generates. One of the examples I used in the book was vaccines and blue jeans. They were developed by Jewish individuals, but we don’t call them Jewish blue jeans. It wouldn’t make any sense. The same thing holds for the idea that we’re a Christian nation. Even if you could prove that the founders were Christian, it wouldn’t make any sense to call ourselves a Christian nation. So that’s the first one.

The second one is really important because the fallback to that is, “Well they wouldn’t have been these moral individuals if they weren’t believers. And they knew that religion and morality were important for a democratic republic.” That second part is true. They did think that religion and morality were important for a democratic republic, but they thought of those as two very separate things.

For these educated upper-class men, who have the time and energy and education — and libraries, for that matter — to think about moral questions, and investigate moral questions, they didn’t need religion. But for most of the people who didn’t have the time, didn’t have the education, didn’t have the libraries, they needed simple rules that they could apply to their own everyday life, which shook out for the founders as religion being important. So actually, if the Christian nationalists are right, that argument cuts against their position. Because it shows that the founders didn’t need religion to be moral, meaning they were not likely religious, meaning they didn’t use those religious principles to found our country.

The Constitution is starkly godless. Its only religious references are to prevent intermixing church and state. So Christian nationalists hang a lot on a few scattered phrases in the Declaration of Independence. What’s wrong with doing that?

A couple of things. First, they have to prove that the Declaration is one of the founding documents, and broadly that term is probably acceptable. But it was fundamentally a document of destruction, it destroyed the political bonds — “dissolved,” in the words of the Declaration — which connected us with Great Britain.

Now, in it, Jefferson did lay out the sort of political philosophy that informed the United States, but that was the idea that the power comes from the people, not from God.

If you look at the language of the Declaration, if you focus on those four supernatural references, you’re missing the forest for the trees. Because it begins, and the whole document really centers on, humanity and what is happening in this world, not in some future or some supernatural framing. It begins “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the bands which have connected them with another.” I mean, it’s “human events,” “one people,” “another people.” It is very, very focused on the here and the now.

Even if you buy into the Christian nationalists’ argument, none of those references, not a single one, is Christian. They could have said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by Jesus with certain inalienable rights.” But they deliberately chose not to do that. They choose to use the phrase “their creator,” instead. And none of those phrases — with the exception of “creator” — show up in any of the bibles from that time anyway.

You also brought out the stark distinction between American colonial history, typically focused disproportionately on New England, and the founding of America as an independent nation. What are the most important things that people get wrong and blurring them together?

Great question. By focusing on New England, you’re obviously leaving out a whole lot of the country. I think the No. 1 thing that people get wrong about our colonial era is that people fled here — especially the Puritans and the Pilgrims — that they came to the New World for religious freedom. That is not true. They fled religious persecution, that’s true. But that is not the same thing as coming for religious freedom. When they got here, they established some of the most repressive theocratic regimes that this continent ever saw. When the founders looked back on that history, they looked at those governments as an example of how not to build a nation or state.

The second part of your book is “The United States versus the Bible.” One chapter is titled “Biblical Obedience or American Freedom.” Could you talk about this opposition in attitudes and philosophy?

Sure. This also plays a lot into the Declaration of Independence itself, which was this document which was rebelling against this king, who was the defender of the faith. Even though the divine right of kings was gone by that time, he certainly believed himself to be instilled in that position by God.

The Bible demands obedience. The Bible is very, very clear on this point, many times over. The Judeo-Christian God demands obedience. And not just to himself, but also to the rulers that are on earth. Romans 13 is all about obedience to the earthly rulers. So here you have a country that was built on rebellion, versus a book that is all about obedience, and the two are in fundamental conflict. That’s an important point that I try to make throughout the whole book. If you really pay attention to Judeo-Christian principles, and what those principles are — throughout the Bible, throughout the Ten Commandments — and look at the principles America holds dear and was founded on, the two are really diametrically opposed to each other. They’re in fundamental conflict. It does make it fair to say that these principles are un-American.

That leads to one striking quote from that part of the book, “America’s justice system demands proof of guilt to avoid punishing innocence, the Judeo-Christian god intentionally harms innocents to punish the guilty.” Could you elaborate on that because that’s a very striking comment that I think might strike some people as weird or unfathomable.

Yes, I think so, and that’s partly because we — many Americans — have rose-colored glasses when it comes to the Bible. But you don’t have to go farther than the Ten Commandments, for instance. In the Ten Commandments, God says, in Exodus 20, “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children to the third and fourth generation of those who denied me.” So you have God in the Ten Commandments themselves, which are supposed to be the most moral laws known to man, promising to punish not just innocent children and grandchildren, but great- and great-great-grandchildren for the sins of their parents.

That is just something our justice system would never, never countenance, absolutely not. It is un-American to punish children for the crimes of their parents. In fact, it says something along those lines in the Constitution in talking about treason. It says that “no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood,” which specifically means that somebody found guilty of treason, their children will not be punished for that. So we have a fundamental conflict again between the biblical God promising to punish innocent children and the Constitution prohibiting it.

In answering that you anticipated my next question. The third part of your book is entitled “The Ten Commandments versus the Constitution,” and in that you argue that each of those Ten Commandments is actually opposed to principles of the Constitution. So could you just pick one of them and explain the core of your argument about it, so that people can understand the kind of arguments you’re making in this section?

Let’s just take the first one, “I am the Lord your God,” which also goes on to say, “you shall have no other gods before me.” You’ve read it, so you know that what exactly the Ten Commandments are is not clear from the Bible, not clear in a particular religion, but let’s just take the First Commandment. It’s easy, that statement is fundamentally opposed to one of America’s founding values, religious liberty. It is in perfect conflict with the First Amendment, which guarantees everyone religious liberty — you can worship no god or as many gods as you want, and it does not have to be the god of the Bible. You could not write a rule that conflicted more perfectly with America’s founding value of religious liberty than the First Commandment.

You point out that when people do monuments of the Ten Commandments they leave out parts, like where slavery is endorsed. Can you say something about that?

Yes. If you go and see any of the monuments of the Ten Commandments that remain on public land, almost all of them are heavily edited, which itself tells us something, I think, very critical and important. If these rules really did influence the United States and our founding, and if these rules really were moral law, we wouldn’t need to amend them, to leave out the barbaric and awful parts, such as punishing innocent children or slavery, which is recognized twice in the Ten Commandments, or treating women as chattel. The Ten Commandments would appear on these monuments as they appear in the Bible, but they don’t, because they don’t reflect American values and principles.

You just mentioned two things that stood out that I wanted to ask about, which are biblical values that actually did influence our founding that we’ve now rejected, meaning slavery and the subjugation of women. So could you talk about that, the fact that one way in which you could say the Bible influenced our founding is something that we’ve now rejected.

I think that is true. I think it is fair to say — and I do concede this influence in the book — that Judeo-Christianity, especially the Bible, influenced how this nation dealt with slavery, and how it dealt with women, both at the founding and throughout a good chunk of our history. And it doesn’t reflect well. These were bad values that any nation needed to shake off and get away from. But it’s certainly true that if you would like to believe that up to the Civil War, all the arguments for slavery were biblical — and it’s also true that there were some abolitionists who are highly religious and tried to use the Bible to argue for abolition — but anybody who has read the Bible can tell you that the slaveholder has a better side of the theological argument. The Bible when it comes to slavery is very, very clear that’s perfectly fine. It’s much harder to argue against slavery using the Bible.

And that’s just one example. We saw during the segregation era, too, where all these Southern segregationists were turning to the Bible and using it to justify segregation. And of course, the treatment of women in the Bible is abhorrent. I don’t know that there’s another word for it, they are treated like property in the Ten Commandments and throughout the Bible. Many of the women who would be central characters don’t even have names in the Bible, which just reflects how they were viewed by the writers of the time. That idea did work its way into a lot of American law and government for a long time, unfortunately. Thankfully we’ve gotten away from that in recent years.

So I think it’s fair to say that not only was America not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, it’s a good thing it was not. And those few principles that did influence the founding and did infiltrate our government and laws, we have worked diligently to get away from for decades and centuries.

Finally, in the fourth section of your book on American verbiage, you deal with public slogans — “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” “God Bless America” — which had nothing do with America’s founding, but are rhetorical favorites for Christian nationalists. The common theme, as you describe, seems to be that they emerged and gained a foothold in times of national fear and weakness. Most striking to me was how “In God We Trust” emerged during the Civil War, even as the South wrote their constitution, modeled on the U.S. Constitution, they very consciously added God and made it a central argument that they were protecting the Constitution. What should we learn from that history?

That was one of the more fascinating things I learned: There have been pushes throughout U.S. history to put God into the U.S. Constitution. It is a deliberately godless document and at the time that it was drafted there was pushback against it because it was deliberately godless. People said, “Hey, you left God out. We gotta put him back in.” And there been pushes throughout our history, including even before the Civil War, to amend it to improve this religious language, and actually there was another massive attempt to do that during the 1950s, when “In God We Trust” is added to paper money, when the National Day of Prayer was passed.

But it is pretty striking how the South, which rebelled against this nation so that it could continue to enslave people, did so with God’s sanction, the sanction of the Bible, and incorporated that in their governing documents. And they did so deliberately, they believed they were fighting for God: Deo vindice was their motto, “God the vindicator” or “God the defender.” So they thought they were doing God’s work, and the Bible really backed them up on that.

There’s so much in this book. I’ve only asked a small fraction of the questions I wanted to ask. So I’ll finish with a question I always like to ask: What’s the most important question I didn’t ask? And what’s the answer?

There are other books out there about this history, and about the idea that we’re a Christian nation. I guess the question would be, what makes my book different? I think the answer is there are two big differences. First, as soon as you debunk the Christian nation myth — I think a lot of Americans understand we’re not a Christian nation — but as soon as that myth is abandoned, it’s abandoned in favor of this subtler argument that, well, our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. So my book actually focuses on that second myth, because it pervades all the other Christian nationalist arguments. If America was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, or if those principles are fundamentally opposed to the values that America was founded on, then everything that the Christian nationalists believe, including their core political identity, falls. So that’s the first difference.

The second difference is one of approach. Other books sort of offer these gentle corrections to the Christian nationalists: Here’s what history tells us, you guys are actually wrong on the history, you may not know this, this is what the founders really said, this is what the founders really believed, and kind of left it at that. But correction is not enough. Otherwise you wouldn’t have President Donald Trump, who rode a wave of Christian nationalism into office in 2016.

So this book really is an assault on the Christian nationalists’ identity. Not only are Christian nationalists wrong, but their policies and their identity run counter to the ideals on which this nation was founded. Christian nationalists are un-American. And that’s a fight we need to be having. We can show true facts and true history and use it to refute their fake news all day long, but at its core, this is a fight about what it is to be an American.

Right now their lies are driving public policy, they’re driving education, immigration, civil rights, women’s rights, minority rights, LGBTQ rights, our foreign policy. Judges now are deciding cases on the basis of these lies and myths. So it’s not just culture war issues. Put simply, these lies are destroying our country and they’re gnawing away at our liberty. We, the people, have a duty to stand up to these lies, and to the bullies pushing them.

So I’m way up on my soapbox now. I’ll get down now and end with this: Patriotism has no religion. I think I say that in the introductory chapter of my book. Christian nationalists are seeking to change that. This fight, at its core, is about what it is to be an American and it’s a fight that we cannot afford to lose.


Alberta School Officials Refuse To Say If Taxpayers Paid For Field Trip to Anti-Abortion Rally

Local teacher's association says public resources should not be used to subsidize the costs of an anti-abortion rally





May 13, 2019

School district officials in Red Deer are refusing to disclose if Alberta taxpayers were billed for a fleet of buses that sent “a lot” of students to the annual March for Life anti-abortion rally in Edmonton.

“I’m not interested in speaking to you,” Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Chair Anne Marie Watson told PressProgress when asked who paid for the fleet of buses.

According to Alberta Politics, which first raised questions about the buses last week, “the majority of the 1,000 or so marchers” at the anti-abortion rally were “made up of high school students bused into town from places like Red Deer and Barrhead and the teachers who shepherded them.”

A parental permission slip obtained by PressProgress indicates administrators at Red Deer’s St. Joseph’s High School informed parents that the school had arranged transportation to the event and that the cost for attending “the event itself is free.”

Permission slip sent to parents at Red Deer’s St. Joseph’s High School

Administrative staff confirmed to PressProgress the school “chartered” buses and lined-up substitute teachers to cover for teachers who were chaperoning students at the rally, which urged political action against abortion laws.

“It sounds like a lot went,” one administrative staffer at the high school admitted.

The staffer directed questions about who paid for the field trip to school district officials. The school district, in turn, directed questions back to the high school.

The high school principal declined to comment.

Kelly Aleman, President of the Alberta Teachers’ Association Local in Red Deer, said such expenses are a misuse of public resources, noting “there would be an outcry” from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney if schools used “public funds to take a position on a social issue.”

“I’d be curious to know the perspective of the Premier,” Aleman said.

“During the student GSA walkout, (Kenney) said he’d prefer if students stayed in class and kept protesting to their own time.”

In a statement to PressProgress, Alberta’s ministry of education suggested that only local school trustees are “accountable” for “local policy decisions.”

“School jurisdictions have flexibility to make local policy decisions,” said a ministry spokesperson. “School board trustees are elected and accountable to the citizens in their local communities.”

Four of Red Deer’s Catholic school trustees all declined comment when asked if public funds were used to send students to the anti-abortion rally.

The same school district refused to disclose how it paid for buses that sent students to the same rally last year. In 2017, the school district made national headlines after Red Deer Pro-Life, a local anti-abortion group, delivered a presentation to studentsthat featured a video comparing abortion to the Nazi Holocaust.

The Red Deer Pro-Life representative also instructed students that it is “not okay” for women to have abortions, even if doing so would “remind her of her rapist.”

Adriana LaGrange, who Kenney appointed as Alberta’s education minister earlier this month, previously served as a trustee with the Red Deer Catholic School District and was the long-serving president of Red Deer Pro-Life.

LaGrange was one of 52 United Conservative Party nomination candidates who won their nomination with the help of anti-abortion groups that quietly work to stack nomination meetings with the goal of installing candidates sympathetic to a social conservative policy agenda.

 Postmedia hires former Kenney staffer to lobby Alberta government on involvement in ‘energy war room’

• Lobbyist registration reveals company that publishes newspapers in at least 34 Alberta communities has hired former UCP campaign director Nick Koolsbergen to lobby Alberta government
• Documents filed with the Alberta Lobbyist Registry reveal that Canadian media behemoth Postmedia — which owns the National Post, Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Vancouver Sun, The Province, Ottawa Citizen and many others — is actively seeking to become “involved” in Premier Jason Kenney’s “energy war room.”
• The lobbying records state Postmedia hired Kenney’s former campaign director Nick Koolsbergen to “discuss ways Postmedia could be involved in the government’s energy war room.”
• A filing in Albertas lobbyist registry indicates Postmedia will lobby the government on ways to be involved in the government’s “energy war room.”
• Kenney proposed the creation of a “war room” during Alberta’s most recent election campaign.
• The war room — which the UCP said in its campaign platform will run on a $20 million budget — will “fight fake news and share the truth about Alberta’s resource sector and energy issues.”
• In his victory speech, Kenney made it clear that Alberta would take an aggressive stance against any negative attention directed at the province’s energy industry.
• Kenney named several organizations, including prominent charities, environmental groups and multinational companies, suggesting they may be early targets of the war room.
• Postmedia Network Inc. has hired former UCP Chief of Staff and campaign director Nick Koolsbergen to lobby the Alberta government "To discuss ways Postmedia could be involved in the government's energy war room." #ableg#cdnpoli #postmedia
• Link:… …
• Postmedia hires lobbyist who will ‘win high stakes campaigns’
• Koolsbergen has deep political roots, having taken on the role of chief of staff for the United Conservative Party in October 2017.
• He remained with the party, as campaign director, during the most recent election campaign.
• Koolsbergen also worked briefly as former B.C. premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff, according to his LinkedIn profile.
• Koolsbergen announced earlier this month on Twitter that he had left his role with the UCP and had founded a new group called Wellington Advocacy, a firm that would work in “government relations” and “help companies and candidates win high stakes campaigns.”
• Wellington Advocacy boasts its team has “a decade of working alongside Stephen Harper on the campaign trail and in office.”
• Less than ten days after Koolsbergen announced his new company, Postmedia filed documents to have Koolsbergen lobby the new UCP government on its behalf.
• Postmedia plans to lobby the Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, Alberta Environment andParks, the Executive Council, the Premier’s Office, Alberta Energy and Alberta Legislative
• Assembly, according to documents filed with the Alberta Lobbyist Registry.
• The lobbying records contain few details as to how exactly Postmedia plans to become “involved” in the energy war room.
• ‘An abrogation of everything that we as news media are supposed to stand for’
• Postmedia purchased the Sun newspaper chain in 2015 and went on to merge the newsrooms of the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun, as well as the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun.
• The Competition Bureau reviewed the acquisition, but did not oppose the purchase despite the fact it meant the chain took ownership of both dailies in three major cities: Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.
• At the time of the purchase, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey said he intended to maintain separate newsrooms, but less than a year later the chain announced it was laying off 90 journalists and merging newsrooms in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.
• Sean Holman, a journalism professor at Mount Royal University, called the lobbyist registration “disturbing.”
• “If I was to speculate about what they might be doing here, I would think that they would be discussing branded content or custom content that Postmedia could provide in the service of this war room,” Holman said.
• In an emailed statement, Postmedia’s vice president of communications, Phyllise Gelfand, told The Narwhal that “Postmedia has engaged Wellington Advocacy with respect to the commercial content area of the business and the previously announced Alberta government’s energy war room.”
• “This sort of exposes the problematic nature of that kind of business,” Holman said.
• “Is it appropriate for a news media organization to be providing political custom content while at the same time reporting on politics? And how does that impact trust in that media organization?”
• Holman said having newspapers looking to profit from a “government operation that is designed to punish a certain kind of speech” is “problematic.”
• “Media organizations certainly shouldn’t be in the business of working in support of that type of activity. It’s an abrogation of everything that we as news media are supposed to stand for.”
• The Edmonton Journal recently ran a “built on trust” ad campaign. Photo: Mack Male / Flickr Postmedia told local papers to endorse conservatives
• During the most recent election campaign, the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun publicly endorsed the UCP and then-candidate Kenney, writing “voters should choose the UCP.”
• “Kenney has shown force of will and determination to accomplish tasks some believed impossible,” the editorial staff wrote.
• “The election is about who can best lead Alberta …. That person is UCP Leader Jason Kenney.”
• In 2015, then editor-in-chief of the Edmonton Journal, Margo Goodhand, told Canadaland that the paper was “asked to endorse” the Conservative party during that provincial election campaign by Postmedia leadership in Toronto.
• All four major Postmedia papers in Alberta ran endorsements of the Conservative Party in 2015.
• Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey has long been known to be a conservative supporter, having financially contributed to conservative campaigns in the past.
• Postmedia also reportedly told its papers to endorse the federal conservatives in 2015.
• “This was a decision made by the owners of the paper,” tweeted Paula Simons, at the time a columnist at the Edmonton Journal (Simons is now an independent senator).
• The admission prompted CBC’s Charles Rusnell to question the ethics of “an American hedge fund telling an Alberta newspaper which federal Canadian party to endorse.”
• In 2014, a presentation was leaked that detailed a partnership between Postmedia and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
• Later that year, we revealed that Postmedia had been running editorial content paid for by the oil industry without any labelling to indicate it was sponsored content.
• Holman said it seems there is more and more reason to believe “Postmedia has ceased to be a news media organization and has become a political organization.”
• And, he said, that raises concerns about the future of democracy in Alberta.
• “If the major dailies are unable to do their job to hold power to account and inform the citizenry, then that does not speak well for the future of democracy in Alberta,” Holman said.
• “When a jurisdiction lacks a robust fourth estate, that leaves them vulnerable to political authoritarianism and subversion of democracy.”— With files from Emma Gilchrist
• Update Friday, May 17, 4:17 p.m. MST: This article was updated to reflect that Postmedia’s vice president of communications, Phyllise Gelfand, provided a brief statement in response to The Narwhal’s questions.
• Sharon is an Alberta-based writer and reporter.
• Her essays, interviews and long-form nonfiction have been published by The Walrus, Harper’s,…
Lobbyist registration reveals company that publishes newspapers in at least 34 Alberta communities has hired former UCP staffer Nick Koolsbergen to lobby Alberta government