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How Sex-Trafficking Redefines the Battle for Social Justice

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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An event that went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media in 2012 perked up the ears of the Obama administration when it sparked a movement that ignited the hearts of 40,000 young evangelicals. Today the “End It” movement, fueled by a new generation of social conservatives, could impact the culture in ways their elders only dreamed.

Louie Giglio, a pastor in Atlanta, is the founder of the annual Passion Conference that launched “End It.” The young people behind the movement are a new brand of abolitionist. They don’t need to stand on a Bible to raise awareness that slavery is wicked. Nor do they have to convince the general public that kidnapping young girls and selling them into the sex trade is wrong. This is an opportunity for the church to shed a light into the darkest corners of the earth in a way that impacts lives.

End It,” along with a coalition of 12 other non-profits like LOVE146, are raising awareness, and the money needed to do something about it–like wading through the darkest cavities of human depravity to rescue these girls. Reaching those lost without hope is a chance to bring everyone to the table and put right vs. left aside. That is, if both sides truly care about real justice.

However, that’s not always the case.

From a recent article over at BuzzFeed titled, ”A New Mission for the Religious Right:

“The event received only marginal press coverage, but the White House took notice. A few weeks later, senior Obama adviser David Plouffe sat down in the White House with Joshua Dubois and Michael Wear, the president’s ambassadors to America’s believers. Plouffe had seen data that suggested young Evangelical voters were up for grabs in the upcoming election, and he wanted to know how the president could appeal to that demographic, according to someone with direct knowledge of the meeting. They discussed a range of tactics, and at the end of the meeting Plouffe asked which single issue could make the biggest difference in courting young Christians.

“Human trafficking,” Wear responded.”

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The Latest Outbreak of Golden Calf Syndrome

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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There’s this great story in the Torah that goes a little something like this. The leaders of Israel went up on a mountain for a private conference with God, per His request. With the bosses away, the Israelites decided to throw a party. Grateful to their God for freeing them from slavery, they shaped a golden calf to symbolize Him, worshipped the calf as God, and partied on. When the leaders came back down from the mountain, they were less than pleased. Tablets were smashed, God rained justice, there were a lot of irreversible layoffs. The common understanding of the tale says that God destroyed the Israelites because they worshipped the calf as a god. In reality, their sin was creating an image of God that suited their own liking, then worshipping Him as they wished.

Hollywood, and American culture in general, suffers from Golden Calf Syndrome. Whether you blame it on the instant gratification of social media or simple human impatience, God doesn’t communicate every 5 seconds in 140 characters or less. That’s not enough for us as a culture, so we’ve made a nasty habit out of satiating our need for the Almighty by forcing Him into a box of our own liking. Habit has become trend to the point that we don’t even realize when we’re trying to force God into our mold.

Take, for instance, the conservative Christian idol-worship of Matthew McConaughey for “daring” to use the name “God” in a sentence at the Oscars. Upon remarking on the huge stretch of the imagination performed by Christians (and some Jews, I’m sure) in thinking that McConaughey’s use of the G-word somehow referenced the God of scripture, the common, rather lackluster response I received was best phrased as, “Take it where you can get it.”

One comment, however, caught my eye.

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6 Reasons Why The Good Wife Trumps House of Cards

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 - by David Forsmark

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Here is your one and only warning: I am going to discuss some House of Cards plot points from season two. But don’t write and say I spoiled the show for you. The writers did that.

While the first season of House of Cards was hardly realistic, the plotting–especially the moves of its main character, Congressman Frank Underwood–was adroit and fascinating.

But in season two Frank Underwood has gone from being an amoral scheming man of unquenchable ambition to a monster with fewer human feelings than Tony Soprano—much fewer.  Unlike Breaking Bad, where we saw a man’s gradual slide from compromising with evil to embracing it, House of Cards lurched into full-blown sociopathy with jarring fashion.

So if you tuned back in to House of Cards this season looking for moments of sheer brilliance like Frank Underwood’s eulogy at the funeral of the girl who drove off the road while texting about the giant-peach water tower—with its mix of pathos, compassion and, yes, self-interest–you will be severely disappointed.

Instead, we are treated to an impenetrable plot about Chinese trade negotiations and illegal campaign finance, and the way Frank is going to use it to undermine the president since he is next in line. But nearly everything about this plot is not how it would, or could, happen in real life—and is weirdly confusing and obvious at the same time.

Worst of all, the House of Cards’ ideological slip is showing, with a complete nonsensical portrait of a “Tea Party” senator who votes “no” on the biggest entitlement reform since entitlements were invented because… well, just because he’s an idiot.

This is in sharp contrast to the CBS legal/political drama The Good Wife. Most of the campaign events and media kerfuffles make sense—as does the public’s reaction to them.  You can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys (or the smart guys from the stupid guys) by their ideology (although extreme leftists like a global warming obsessed federal judge are generally the kookiest characters).

But best of all, good people can do less than admirable things they shouldn’t in the heat of the moment, while antagonists are not always evil or stupid, they are just on the other side of the issue. Though sometimes they are evil or stupid.

Kind of like life outside the political bubble.

Oh yeah, and here’s how every Eliot Spitzer/Anthony Weiner/Mark Sanford press conference should end:

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HBO Girls Just Wanna Have Boys

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The most insightful line in this week’s episode of Girls came from guest star Louise Lasser, playing wheelchair-bound senior artist B.D., who observed: ”I hate watching television because all the old women are shells… and it just hurts to be a shell.”

A female artist with a successful career, bemoaning her state in relation to what she sees on a screen: It really is as pathetic as it sounds, this legacy of the second wave feminist notion that sex is the purpose of a woman’s existence, therefore once her looks are gone, she is nothing more than an empty, useless receptacle. Still, it’s an odd statement coming from a woman with a successful career, right?

Perhaps Girls has debunked another second wave feminist myth: “Career” is not permanent salvation from Friedan’s dreaded boredom and emptiness. Take it from famous French actress/bombshell Catherine Deneuve, who recently remarked on the secret to aging well:

“I think it’s different for men and women,” Deneuve said. “I think for men it has more to do with a fulfillment of what they do in their life, their social life, their work. I think for women, it’s more private. It has more to do with a personal fulfillment with a life, love and children, and work also, but not as the first main thing, I think.”

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Fear and Loathing in White Guy-ville

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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City folk have always looked on their country neighbors with superstition. According to John Podhoretz at the Weekly Standard, this suspicion has carried a clearly political bent since the days of W. His evidence: Scary white dudes, like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Bill Henrickson (Big Love) from middle America invading your TVs.

“In Difficult Men, Brett Martin’s book about the remarkable writer-producers who brought television to new cultural heights, Martin notes that there was something explicitly political at work in the early days of what he calls television’s “Third Golden Age.” Americans “on the losing side” of the 2000 election, Martin writes, “were left groping to come to terms with the Beast lurking in their own body politic.” As it happened, “that side happened to track very closely with the viewerships of networks like AMC, FX, and HBO: coastal, liberal, educated, ‘blue state.’ And what the Third Golden Age brought them was a humanized red state. .  .  . This was the ascendant Right being presented to the disempowered Left—as if to reassure it that those in charge were still recognizably human.”

…It’s the depiction of the worlds in which they live that is so striking, even more so in the series that have come along since the body politic’s shift to the left, beginning in 2006. The canvas on which these characters are brought to three-dimensional life isn’t a “humanized red state” at all, but rather the red state of liberal horror fantasy.”

Podhoretz concludes: “Still, rich Hollywood folk making mincemeat out of poor rural folk is another element of the ongoing American culture war that should not go unremarked.”

Fair enough, although any critical studies grad could tell you that whitey from the sticks, especially them man-folks, have been derided for a long time among the educated liberal elites who fill television’s coveted writers’ rooms. Educated liberal elites, mind you, who are primarily white dudes.

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the Irish Way: Get Drunk!

Monday, March 17th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Saint Patrick’s Day is an outrageous celebration of my Irish heritage. On that day adult Americans of all ethnic backgrounds feel free to wear green derby hats and shamrock necklaces, pack into bars and pubs to drink green beer and, if they’re really serious about celebrating the Irish way, end the day by vomiting and passing out in the gutter.

I’m offended by this, and it has to stop! Okay, just kidding. I don’t care a bit. The Irish are a fully integrated ethnic minority in America and St. Patrick’s Day is proof. You know your heritage is not an issue when you can poke fun at yourself.

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I don’t know how to make the Martin Luther King holiday as genuinely warm, funny, and celebratory as St. Patrick’s Day, but I’d like to try. Just last month a school system had to apologize for serving a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon on Martin Luther King Day. How sad that the African-American holiday commemorating such a great man is about grievances and not praise. Why shouldn’t we all celebrate Martin Luther King day with soul food, vibrant African designs and colors in our decorations and celebrations, and a sense of fun and gratitude?

I fear that instead of moving towards celebrating Martin Luther King Day as a positive affirmation of African-American heritage, we’re moving in the other direction. Columbus Day has come under such attack that this brave Italian hero and explorer is accused of genocide and celebrations in his honor are protested. The very word “Christmas” has been banned in some schools. How long before someone wants to ban St. Patrick’s Day?

May this never happen. Long may the green beer flow in the pubs of America on St. Patrick’s Day. May the green derby hats continue to be perched on the heads of all, may the Leprechaun decorations continue to be ridiculous and offensive, and may you always feel free to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

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images courtesy Shutterstock: Patryk Kosmider

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Purim: The Cure for Vashti Feminists

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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There are a lot of great lines in the megillah of Esther. The one most often quoted comes from Mordecai: “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position for such a time as this.” It smacks of drama and makes for an excellent movie poster catchphrase. But, it wouldn’t hold half its meaning without the point-blank observation of evil Haman’s wife, Zeresh.

Upon listening to his frustration over Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him, Zeresh tells her husband to hang Mordecai. But, when she finds out Mordecai is a Jew, she does a complete 180 and admits:

If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is a Jew, you will not get the better of him; on the contrary, your downfall before him is certain.

And this is before Esther convinced the King not to massacre the Jews. It’s refreshing to know our reputation precedes us. But it isn’t a reputation we Jews are always glad to have; we aren’t exactly in it for the fame. In fact, like Esther, our first instinct is to keep our heads down and fit in with the rest of the crowd.

Speaking of “the crowd”, modern feminists have managed to twist the humble Jewess into the villain of the tale, instead opting to celebrate the Persian Queen Vashti for her refusal to appear before the King at his whim. Think: Her body, her self, Persian style. Docile, compliant Esther, meanwhile, is a mere pawn whose beauty comes in handy to persuade the patriarchy to let her live another day. This simplistic interpretation, totally ignorant of the promise and perspective of God, relies on the feminist myth that a woman’s worth is in her ability to manipulate her body to her advantage. Esther could never be considered a hero to these women, because she was inspired by a sense of purpose that outweighed the importance of her own skin.

“Don’t suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews. For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction; but you and your father’s family will perish,” Mordecai warns before adding, “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this.”

Vashti Feminists like to think the story is about Esther using her body to pursue the King’s favor. In reality, Esther pursues God’s purpose for her life and the life of her nation, Israel. She didn’t choose to sacrifice her body to the Persian King’s whims. On the contrary, Esther chose to devote herself, body, mind and spirit, to the living promises of God. The King, the death decree, even evil Haman, all of them were nothing more than plot devices in the ongoing love story between God and Israel. Esther, Queen of the Shadchans (Matchmakers) arrived on the scene as a reminder that “relief and deliverance will come”.

Esther was just a regular Jewish girl, redirecting her focus away from herself and onto the bigger picture of God’s plan for humanity. Crowned with the desire and humility to walk in faith, she is remembered as a Queen among her people. Vashti-feminists are oblivious to this plan and the honor it bestows, because their focus remains on the image in the mirror, not the person within, let alone the others who may be around.

Thank God, Esther decided that fitting in with the crowd was a bad idea. Had Esther followed feminist mantra, she would have dismissed Mordecai’s warning and followed the example of Queen Vashti, only to wind up exiled or dead. Instead, she trusted that God’s plan involved every part of her, including her beauty, and used all of her gifts to that end. Typical feminists favor Vashti because they worship tragic beauty; Biblical feminists admire Esther because she plays to win.

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How Glenn Beck Wants to Shape the Culture

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Conservative media icon Glenn Beck recently spent time with National Review‘s Eliana Johnson, and their time together has led to a revealing profile of a man who is changing his focus little by little from tackling hard news to impacting culture.

Beck shared the inspiration for his move toward culture: none other than Walt Disney.

The item that most inspires him right now is a prospectus of Disney World, hand-colored by Walt Disney himself, which he has propped against a window — or at least, a photocopy of it. He keeps the real item, which he won at an auction three years ago, at his home in Dallas. “I’m now the owner of every book written on Walt Disney in any language,” he says. He doesn’t know exactly how many that is. A year ago, he distributed a biography of Disney to the members of his staff. “I said when I left Fox that this half of my career is going to be shaped more by Walt Disney than anything else,” he says.

His interest in Disney is symbolic of the shift in his attention and efforts toward culture and away from politics. He had a realization: “Culture is the lead. That’s the dog. The news is the tail.”

He pulls out a piece of early publicity on Disneyland, points to a paragraph, and reads aloud. “Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America and it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world.” Beck, known to burst into tears at a moment’s notice, looks like he might do so right now. “That’s what we’re gonna do,” he declares. “That’s how I intend on impacting culture. To do that.”

 

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Obama, Disinformation Czar: In Amerika, We Have No Enemies

Saturday, March 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Good and evil do exist, just not in the realm of political conversation — in America, that is.

Thursday, Crimean parliament member Refat Chubarov posted his outrage over the vote of 78 out of 100 of his fellow parliamentarians to secede from Ukraine and reunify with Russia. Even the failures of Google Translate can’t bungle the shocking truth out of his statement:

Those of my colleagues – Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC who voted just crazy!
clear that they do the will of others …
Mind left them!

Only an expert intelligence agent, like Vladimir Putin, could have staged such a successful political takeover. First, he sends in armed, masked gunmen, then follows them with Russian troops who supposedly arrive to save the day. As a result, “Crimean lawmakers unseated the provincial government Feb. 28 under the eye of armed Russian soldiers and appointed pro-Russian politician Sergei Aksyonov, whose party got four percent of the vote at the last election in 2010, prime minister.”

True to his KGB roots, Putin’s disinformation campaign is well underfoot on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to Kremlin-backed Russian news media. Too bad for the dictator, not all of his subjects are loyal. In a bold move that took the Internet by storm, Russia Today news anchor Liz Wahl submitted her resignation from the state-controlled news show live on air, stating: ”I am proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth and that is why after this newscast I’m resigning.”

The best the American president can do, however, is paint a picture of moral equivalency while calling on the UN to mediate Putin’s illegal land grab. In a statement that included an acknowledgement of Russia retaining its “basing rights in Crimea,” President Obama placed the new Ukranian government on the same level as Putin’s Russia, urging, “Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians.”

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Why the Non-Stop Punchline Shouldn’t Come as a Surprise

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Mega spoiler alert regarding the new Liam Neeson flick Non-Stop via Breitbart. Stop reading now if you’d like to be surprised when you go to the theater to see Lady Mary on the big screen.

The hero of the movie about a plane being hijacked is an observant Muslim.

Wait, it gets better.

The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.

It gets worse…

After 9/11,  this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.

And now…

The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.

It gets worse…

The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.

It gets worse…

The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.

Screw you, Hollywood.

Wikipedia’s summary of the film had a kinder, gentler, more bureaucratic approach to the biased plotline:

…as soldiers who were appalled by the lack of security at U.S. airports before 9/11, they hoped that framing [Neeson] as a terrorist will lead to drastically increased security.

Great. A propaganda film that uses the American military to advocate for the increased empowerment of the TSA. What next? A film featuring American soldiers deployed on the edge of the communist world spending their precious time dressing up in drag, defending  gay rights on base? (Cue musical number Springtime for Obama.)

As bizarre as it may seem, the plotline of Non Stop shouldn’t come as a surprise. Liam Neeson, the film’s star, has been contemplating converting to Islam since filming Taken 2 in Istanbul in 2012:

Movie star Liam Neeson has admitted he’s afraid to convert to Islam because of how locals in his home town would take it.

The Northern Irish actor thinks Islam “is the answer” after experiencing the Muslim call to prayer while filming Taken 2 in Istanbul.

But the 61-year-old doesn’t want to go all the way because people in Ballymena, Co Antrim, may be annoyed with his decision.

…“It wouldn’t go down very well in Ballymena.

“They would say to me, ‘You’re a Muslim? Are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim?’ ”

Perhaps he’ll be able to answer that question in Non Stop 2. Having edged out Son of God for top rating at the box office this weekend, it doesn’t look like the blatantly anti-American tone will disappear anytime soon, despite the lackluster ratings. Casting suggestion for the sequel: Katy Perry as the flight attendant demonstrating an appropriate use of a Muslim pendant as a non-blasphemous work-wardrobe accessory. It’d be nice to see her cover up for a change.

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18 Year Old Sues Parents for Tuitution, Living Expenses

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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A good working definition of discipline may be the aligning of perception with reality. I may perceive that I can eat pizza and cupcakes without consequence. But reality will bear a different result.

Children who go without discipline enter adulthood with an unrealistic sense of entitlement. One young adult, newly loosed upon the world, just set a new bar. The Los Angeles Times reports:

A New Jersey high school honor student, who is also an athlete and a cheerleader, has sued her parents for school money after she says they kicked her out of their home when she turned 18, the Daily Record of Parsippany, N.J., reported.

Rachel Canning’s father told the newspaper that his daughter isn’t telling the whole story and that she moved out because she didn’t want to do chores or keep a curfew, among other disagreements.

[Her father says,] “She’s demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn’t want to live at home, and she’s saying, ‘I don’t want to live under your rules.’”

The young woman argues “she’s an unemanicipated student,” whatever that means, and her parents should therefore pay her tuition along with living and transportation costs.

Her attitude proves emblematic of that embraced by the culture at large, particularly in relation to public entitlements and subsidies. She would force her parents to sustain her life without submitting to their terms. Similarly, rent-seeking constituencies condone the use of force against taxpayers while resisting any accountability.

If the account of Canning’s parents can be believed, her costs would be covered if she chose to abide by their rules. Instead, she demands to live as she wills, while demanding support from her parents.

A hearing on the case is set for today. Look for additional commentary here at PJ Lifestyle, and listen to extended reaction on my Fightin Words podcast.

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4 Surprises from the Academy Awards

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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As long as I can remember, I’ve been a sucker for the big awards shows: the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Emmys. Even when I haven’t seen the movies or shows or listened to the albums and songs receiving awards, I still find myself fascinated by the peculiar celebratory atmosphere of awards night. While I’ve lamented in the past that the awards shows – particularly the Grammys – lack the dignity they once possessed, I can usually count on the Oscars to capture the glamor of old Hollywood. I have to admit: I don’t care about what people are wearing or about who wins — I just enjoy the competition and the tradition that has carried on for 86 years.

Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony was no exception. The film industry turned out in all its finery to honor the best of 2013. The show provided moments both wacky and touching, and the telecast included plenty of high and low points. From host Ellen DeGeneres’ celebrity pizza order (complete with $1,000 tip), to John Travolta’s mangling of Idina Menzel’s name, to Pink’s powerful rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the Oscars didn’t disappoint (unless you’re a fan of Saving Mr. Banks, in which case the nominations disappointed). I walked away from the 86th annual Academy Awards with a few surprising observations. Allow me to share them with you.

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Thank God! Who Is He, Again?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Matthew McConaughey thanked God for his Oscar win last night and the conservative crowd went wild.

McConaughey’s speech sparked a feeding frenzy for conservatives to outdo each other when it came to applauding him, while simultaneously taking shots at liberals. Rick Perry tweeted Monday morning, saying, “Texas boy counting his blessing.” His tweet linked to a Breitbart piece titled “Matthew McConaughey Praises God in Acceptance Speech, Hollywood Crowd Grows Quiet.” On Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s site, the speech ran as “Matthew McConaughey rattles Oscar crowd, wins hearts by thanking God.” Fox News got in the game with the headline, “Matthew McConaughey one of few to thank God in Oscar acceptance speech.” And so on.

As the Daily Beast points out, McConaughey’s God-nod was most likely reassuring to a Christian population that’s been ostracized more than not:

In recent decades, religious figures are often found more often in niche movies, wrote Cieply, or if they are in major pictures, they “are often hypocrites and villains, driving plot lines that make, at best, a token bow toward the virtues of a faith-based life.”

One need look no further than a recent episode of the hit Scandal, in which the evangelical female vice president who murdered her gay husband claims she is not culpable because the devil made her do it.

Fair enough. I’m sure the Son of God giddiness also contributed to the Tweetfest, despite the fact that McConaughey never did specifically go beyond the name “God,” let alone drop “Jesus” during the speech. He did, however, express conviction that Miller Lite is served in heaven, which I’m sure won over the Duck Dynasty crowd.

What most conservative Oscar watchers failed to lavish with praise wasn’t the mere thanking of God, but the praising of Him by singer Darlene Love. The career backup singer celebrated 20 Feet From Stardom’s Best Documentary win by singing the refrain from the hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow:

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

The refreshingly simple, faith-laced, joyful lyrics made up the majority of her acceptance “speech” and were received with a full-house standing ovation led by an incredibly enthusiastic, non-religious Bill Murray. Where’s the barrage of Tweets about that?

McConaughey returned to his pot-smoking, bongo-banging self by the end of his speech, concluding with:

…whatever we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to and whoever it is we’re chasing — to that I say, alright, alright, alright. And then I say, just keep livin’.

It’s a generic statement that illustrates God is “whatever” and “whoever” and, therefore, “alright, alright, alright.” I have yet to read a conservative commentary that points out the many ways this level of ambiguity has eroded our nation’s ability to put faith in the God of our ancestors, let alone have faith in ourselves, both as a free nation and as individuals with free will. But hey, that’s cool; an actor said the G-word on stage and it got captured by social media, which makes it count.

Alright, alright, alright.

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The 8 Most Overrated Musicians

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in three parts in April and May of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the count-down? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

The “Academy of the Overrated” scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1978) is meant to get us to hate Diane Keaton just before Woody Allen changes his mind and falls into bed with her.

Yes, as Mariel Hemingway’s character puts it, Keaton and her beau are “creeps” — but mostly because their “academy” inductees are so gauche, as is their decision to inflict their pretentious pillow talk onto hapless acquaintances on a public sidewalk.

Let’s face it:

Some artists really are overrated, especially today when words like “genius” and “classic” (and the current go-to empty-calorie adjective “iconic”) have been neutered by lazy, know-nothing writers.

First, we prick the inflated reputations of 5 rock and pop stars with XY chromosomes and little else to recommend them.

#5: Pink Floyd

Let’s tackle Roger Waters’ reputed antisemitism first, since it lets me put off having to actually talk about his dreadful “music” for a bit.

Waters made news most recently when New York City’s famous 92Y, under pressure by Jewish groups, cancelled his scheduled lecture.

I’m not a fan of anybody trying to get someone else’s public appearances cancelled, and not just because it’s happened to me.

What’s unusual about this particular instance, however, is that critics’ “accusations” against Waters are true.

Some will object that “anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism” and if we existed on a pure and sterile plane of Platonic forms, they’d be right.

But here on planet Earth, anyone who’s engaged a rabid “anti-Zionist” in “conversation” knows that within moments, their opponent will slip up and spit out some slur upon “the Joooozzzz!!!”

I save myself time and simply assume that long-time anti-Zionists are Jew-haters, because life is too short and I have laundry and stuff to do.

I’ll leave you with this hilarious piece of evidence, then:

Those who grew up with Pink Floyd’s 1979 double album “The Wall” will remember it as the perfect antidote to the crueller aspects of teenage life. Chronicling the mental breakdown of a pop star, the rock opera rages against suffocating parents, tyrannical teachers and social conformism. The story concludes with the hero hauled before a nightmarish court, where everyone in his life testifies as an adversarial witness. Before the defendant can say a word in his own defense, the judge bellows a guilty verdict: “The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There is no need for the jury to retire!”

I was reminded of this scene Saturday while attending a session in New York of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a self-appointed people’s court that has met periodically since 2009 to sit in judgment of Israel. (…)

Another reason to be reminded of “The Wall”: Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief lyricist, was a member of the jury.

I grew up trying to avoid The Wall.

It was ubiquitous in my steel mill home town — a whining drone blaring from every paneled suburban basement and tricked-out Chevy van.

But those of us who’d discovered punk wanted nothing to do with the overproduced bellows of millionaire dinosaurs like Pink Floyd.

We didn’t learn until decades later that Johnny Rotten himself was a secret fan, his band’s sartorial protestations to the contrary.

That doesn’t make Pink Floyd’s music any more palatable, however.

Had their efforts been presented matter of factly, I’d give them a pass.

But every Floyd album was held up by under-read, musically unsophisticated teenage boys as a deep, profound commentary on society (man!!!) as well as an example of superior performance and production.

They’d show off their stereo system using Dark Side of the Moon, sounding like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas:

“Check it out! One instrument comes out one speaker, and another instrument comes out the OTHER speaker!!”

Have you, now a sober adult, actually listened to Dark Side of the Moon lately?

Can you scrape off enough encrusted nostalgia to acknowledge that album’s sheer awfulness?

And while those Wizard of Oz weirdies aren’t Floyd’s fault, they’re not helping matters, either.

Also: Pink Floyd’s album covers were singularly hideous.

When I scream “The Who are better than that stupid band you like,” I’m thinking about Pink Floyd first and foremost.

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18 Reasons Why You Wish You Were in Israel Right Now

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

With 49 states buried in snow and most schools in the northeastern U.S. looking at anywhere from 7-10 snow days to make up, our country is ready for a warm up of national proportions. Throw on your heat lamps, put on a bathing suit under that fleece, and cuddle up to these 18 (the number of chai or “life”) warm images of sun, beach and desert (sweet, hot desert) from Israel.

Waking up before sunrise - totally worth it! </p>
<p><a href=Just an abundance of #beauty. #HulaValley #Israel #freedom #River #Mountain #Green

Good morning! בוקר טוב! Bonne journee! Доброе утро! Всем прекрасного солнечного дня! #flowers #instaflowers #nature #4simply4 #ig_treasures

Flowers of the Negev Desert. Цветы пустыни Негев. #israel #ig_israel #gf_israel #e_srael #hapitria #allunique_pro #israeli_moments #Israel_PhotoGraphers #ig_treasures #4simply4 #nature #desert #negev #naturehippys #Naturehippys #ig_captures #ig_captures_nature #power_group #ihavenicepic #nature_uc #awesome_foto #floralfix #_nature_features #ig_diamondshotz

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The New Morality: Crying Over Served Cake

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

sign

In this day and age, why would you be stupid enough to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone services?

There are plenty of ways to avoid entering into a business transaction without having to appear discriminatory at all. When I worked for a private repair shop and encountered a client who seemed to be more trouble than they were worth for whatever reason, we used to simply say, “I am sorry, but we cannot provide service.” If people questioned why (which they did, very often and with plenty of attitude), we just kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, we cannot provide the service.” No one interpreted us as being discriminatory, or went as far as attempting legal action. We were simply annoying, so they moved onto a business that was willing to enter into the transaction. No harm, no foul.

That is the beauty of the free market: You have choices. If a bakery simply said “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” and left it at that, a gay couple denied service might interpret the owner’s choice as being discriminatory, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. You can’t sue based on an inference. Progressives, however, rely on the courts to push their agenda because Big Government is their god. So the minute you breathe a hint of something that could be misconstrued as an opportunity for a lawsuit, they gain home-court advantage.

By simply saying, “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” you may be opening yourself up to some annoying picketing and internet memes, but what’s the worst that will do? Throw you in the same court as Chick fil-A? We all know how well that protest worked out. The bottom line is, you’re letting the free market decide your fate, not the courts.

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Legal Scholars Said Arizona Law Was ‘Egregiously Misrepresented’ by Critics

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

24802255_SA

The CNN headline screams: “VETOED: Governor says ‘no’ to anti-gay bill.”

Saying she has not heard of “one example where business owners’ religious liberties has been violated” in the state and that the bill was too broad, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial SB 1062 .

SB 1062 is that bill that would have allowed business owners to discriminate against gays and deny them service in restaurants and bakeries, right?  Have you gotten the message (from virtually every news outlet and even from the NFL) that the bill was all about — and only about — Arizona’s attempt to impose some version of Jim Crow laws on homosexuals? If so, you’ve been misled. But you’re probably not alone because the bill was so widely misrepresented.

In fact, nearly a dozen religious-liberty scholars wrote a letter to Governor Brewer prior to her veto, saying that SB 1062 “has been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics.” The group included individuals on different sides of the same-sex marriage debate and those from a variety of religious and political perspectives. All said that “many criticisms of the Arizona bill are deeply misleading.”

The letter noted that the federal government and eighteen states have Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) that require the government to have a compelling interest before burdening a person’s religious exercise. The legal scholars assert that the standard makes sense. “We should not punish people for practicing their religions unless we have a very good reason.” Arizona has had a RFRA in place for nearly fifteen years with only a handful of cases and little controversy. SB 1062 merely sought to clear up two ambiguities in the existent law:

It would provide that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and it would provide that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion.

But nothing in the amendment would say who wins in either of these cases. The person invoking RFRA would still have to prove that he had a sincere religious belief and that state or local government was imposing a substantial burden on his exercise of that religious belief. And the government, or the person on the other side of the lawsuit, could still show that compliance with the law was necessary to serve a compelling government interest. [Emphasis original]

Contrary to the widespread misreporting,  this was not an “anti-gay” bill and nothing in the text of the bill would have overtly permitted businesses to deny services or “discriminate” against anyone. It merely would have made clear that individuals and businesses could raise religious liberty as a defense in certain cases. Arizona’s current RFRA, parts of which were copied verbatim from the federal law, left some ambiguity as to when that defense would be appropriate:

So, to be clear: SB1062 does not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons. It says that business people can assert a claim or defense under RFRA, in any kind of case (discrimination cases are not even mentioned, although they would be included), that they have the burden of proving a substantial burden on a sincere religious practice, that the government or the person suing them has the burden of proof on compelling government interest, and that the state courts in Arizona make the final decision.

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Beyond ‘Turn Away the Gay,’ How About Consent in All Relationships?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Arizona

If I approached ten random people on the street and asked them whether “relationships should be consensual,” ten out of ten would likely answer yes. I mean, what’s the alternative? People should be able to force themselves on each other? It’s a no-brainer.

Yet, if I asked the same ten people whether “a business should be able to deny service on the basis of race or sexual orientation,” seven or eight would probably answer no.

How do we reconcile that? Do we believe relationships should be governed by mutual consent, or not?

In the wake of Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s veto of S.B. 1062, a bill which by some accounts would have expanded the freedom of association in that state, we do well to consider the true nature of Jim Crow. Today, we all agree that the laws which emerged at the state and local level in the century following the Civil War mandating racial segregation clearly violated individual rights. But what about those laws made them a violation of rights? Was it the fact that they discriminated on the basis of race? Or was it the fact that they kept individuals from utilizing their judgment?

By replacing Jim Crow laws with anti-discrimination laws, all we did was change whom the state victimizes. Instead of mandating segregation, we mandated integration. We went from forcing people to abstain from relationships to forcing them to engage in them.

Who speaks for consent? Why have we never tried letting people choose whom they enter into relationships with, and whom they do not? How did we solve the offense of Jim Crow by inverting its trespass?

Arizona’s S.B. 1062 aims too narrowly, and at the wrong target. While businesses should be able to deny service to customers whose needs conflict with the owner’s religious conscience, that stands as only one example of a broader principle which must be applied universally. All relationships should be consensual. Indeed, the case for gay marriage rests upon that very notion. Rather than focus on whether a gay couple should be able to marry or whether a vendor should be able to deny them service, let’s broaden our consideration to whether individuals ought to define their own relationships in all contexts.

No one should be able to force themselves on someone else, ever, under any circumstances. Embracing that maxim and applying it to public policy would settle many of these divisive social issues.

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The New Morality Makes Animals of Us All

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

deadbirds

First exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon in 1765, Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s ”A Girl With a Dead Canary” was designed to evoke much the same emotion as PETA member Sarah Segal’s proposed memorial to chickens who were killed in a truck accident last month in Georgia. It seems like a tacky comparison that may even be read as an insult to a well-done and even pretty (if bizarre) work of 18th century art, but the bottom line is that both pieces were created for the same purpose: To tug at viewers’ heartstrings while affirming the moral superiority of a particular cultural class.

According to British historian Simon Schama, ill-fated French King Louis XVI introduced the “cult of nature” to the throne, “replacing couches and courtisans with [the] tenderness and simplicity” of Marie Antoinette’s toy farm and the well-crafted embrace of wildlife in art. “Tears were especially prized as evidence of feeling,” Schama explains, noting that, “people wept when they saw” Greuze’s painting. “Feelings …the shallow kind were embraced by the fashionable elite.” It was the attempt of a king and class to portray themselves as perfect, superior human beings.

So it goes with the Roadkill Memorial, albeit in a much more blatantly political format. A tombstone designed to dwarf roadside memorials to mere human victims of vehicular death, the proposed memorial is intended to remind all drivers to approach all of their animal relations with reverence:

Cascada said the tombstone’s visibility would make drivers’ more wary of people and chickens alike, thereby helping to avoid unnecessary accidents and preserve the lives of chickens in transport. …But Cascada acknowledged the reality of the chickens’ final destination, making the “Go Vegan” phrase a key takeaway.

“The more people who go vegan, the fewer chickens are in this situation to begin with,” she said.

Simply stating that “meat is murder” isn’t enough anymore. For PETA, the time for mere sloganeering is over. Humans are animals, don’t you get it? You’re all slabs of meat now, and some are much more important than others.

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Noah Flooded with Potential for Interfaith Battle

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

All week I’ve been seeing anti-Noah posts popping up on Facebook from Christian friends who are convinced that the not-yet-released Darren Aronofsky epic must be a liberal, secularist perversion of the biblical story, morphing Noah into a drunk and spouting an anti-human, pro-environmentalist message. Where’d the controversy come from? According to Jordan Hoffman at the Times of Israel, entertainment trade mag Variety needed to drum up readership on a slow news day:

A strange agenda group for “faith driven consumers” sent out a push-poll asking if people who hadn’t yet seen the film if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed film… which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”

In other words, a bunch of opt-in Christians were asked if they were ready to see what some scarf-wearing artiste from Jew York City had cooked up with his liberal and probably homosexual friends when, you know, they weren’t drinking blood and hoarding gold. Some 98% of respondents said that, no, they were not satisfied.

It would have been a nothing story had the press release not been picked up by Variety (one of the main entertainment trade publications) on a particularly slow news day. The Internet ran with headlines that basically read “98% of Christian audiences are enraged by ‘Noah!’” forcing Paramount, which has already had plenty of tsuris with this film, to issue an explanatory press release of their own.

The stereotypes Hoffman plays with in his commentary entertainingly highlight the unspoken rift between Jews and Christians when it comes to biblical epics. We, for the most part, stand back while Christians re-interpret our history, our people, our nation, and our sacred text in light of their own slightly Aryan (why are ancient Israelis consistently blue-eyed Brits?) Sunday School memories. This time, however, a Jewish writer/director has paired with a Jewish writer to bring a Torah story to the silver screen. That interpretation has caused Christian uproar, something the filmmakers prepared for when they sought out production partner Rob Moore, who is both a vice chair at Paramount and a devout Christian who supports the film.

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FCC Monitors Your News, Komrade

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
obama-brownshirts-tpc

Image from the agitprop stock at the brilliant People’s Cube.

On Thursday, Glenn Beck declared:

“Ask yourself the question: Why isn’t anyone talking about this? This is one of the most disturbing stories I have ever heard in my entire broadcast career,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “The FCC has now decided that they need to monitor the newsrooms. They need to figure out how story selection works in the newsroom.”

The renegade broadcaster’s vitriol comes in response to a Fox News story (covered by PJ Tatler’s Bryan Preston) on the Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN) proposed by the FCC last May that was supposed to commence this week in Columbia, South Carolina:

 The FCC explained that it wanted information from television and radio broadcasters “to ascertain the process by which stories are selected, station priorities (for content production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CIN’s and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

The FCC has identified eight CINs, or key topics that the government believes should be covered.

According to the actual FCC report, the eight CINs are:

1. emergencies and risks, both immediate and long term;
2. health and welfare, including specifically local health information as well as group
specific health information where it exists;
3. education, including the quality of local schools and choices available to parents;
4. transportation, including available alternatives, costs, and schedules;
5. economic opportunities, including job information, job training, and small business
assistance;
6. the environment, including air and water quality and access to recreation;
7. civic information, including the availability of civic institutions and opportunities to
associate with others;
8. political information, including information about candidates at all relevant levels of local governance, and about relevant public policy initiatives affecting communities and neighborhoods.

It is a story so bizarrely ridden with bureaucratic newspeak that it reads like a spoof from the pages of The People’s Cube. If only we were so lucky.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who first raised awareness of the CINs in the Wall Street Journal, warned:

The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.

This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?

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George Clooney Didn’t ‘Save Puppies from Nazis’ In Monuments Men

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

In spite of the fact that the new WWII flick The Monuments Men is peppered with Hollywood royalty like George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon, its idealism and patriotic tone has induced mental vomiting among the cultural elite.

Case in point is Philip Kennicott’s scathing criticism of the film in the Washington Post titledGeorge Clooney saves Puppies from Nazis.“ Ironically, Kennicott misses the point of the movie and then uses the same point to argue his case against it.

In yet another twist of fate, our new series exploring the works of Ernest Becker beginning with The Birth and Death of Meaning sheds a different light on the movie, Kennicott, the Allied Forces and Hitler.

Let’s start with Kennicott, who writes:

“If you care about art, you are obliged to loathe the film “The Monuments Men,” a star-studded history drama that purports to tell the story of American efforts to rescue and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis in World War II…“Monuments Men” is so bad I will save you the trouble and expense of seeing it with the following summary. To make the film a bit more coherent, I’ve substituted the word “puppies” for art.

Over in Europe, the Second World War is raging, and Clooney is very worried about the puppies. He takes this concern directly to Franklin Delano Roosevelt… He explains to the President of the United States the basics of the allied invasion of Germany. He uses a big map with arrows on it, with the Russians coming in from the east, and the allies moving in from France and Italy. Caught in the middle of these armies are a whole lot of puppies. Clooney says he doesn’t want to live in a world without puppies.

Roosevelt tells Clooney to go save the puppies and there ensue several derivative scenes in which Clooney rounds up a rag-tag gang of misfit puppy lovers who all agree to help him return the puppies to their rightful owners.”

His opening with, “If you love art you are obligated to loathe the film” should give you your first whiff of a fermented ideology. The basis of his argument begins by informing us of our obligation to accept his emotions and condescension as the standard of righteousness, and our allegiance to art. Then Kennicott proceeds to obscure the gravity of the facts by replacing it with warm fuzzies–then ridiculing the absurdity.

Like a fresh gulp of air in a stale room of smoke and mirrors, this film is based on American history not yet rewritten–even in Hollywood.

And that alone makes it worth a closer look.

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Manufacturing Disney Guilt By Association

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Disney Guilty

No one in the entertainment industry bears the brunt of ire like Disney. For decades, Walt Disney the man and the company he founded have taken hits from critics, reporters, and historians. On far too many occasions Disney has come up against agents of disinformation trying to tarnish its founder, and the company at large finds itself the target of media hatred. From the antics of its former child stars – as if the studio could be responsible for their personal behavior – to the recent attempts to deface Walt Disney that seem to come from out of nowhere, members of the media try to attach any scandal they can to Disney, manufacturing a type of guilt by association.

Two recent stories in the UK’s Daily Mail signal this trend. In one article, a trio of would be child molesters work for Walt Disney World, while in the other, a Disney voice actor displays his anti-Israel hatred for the world to see. Disney has no direct involvement in either case, yet the authors of both pieces go out of their way to make the Disney connection in the headlines and in opening paragraphs.

Disney fired the Arabic voice of Donald Duck after he published an anti-Israel tweet:

Disney has dropped the voice of Donald Duck in the Middle East after he said Israel should be demolished.

Wael Mansour no longer works for the global corporation – whose founder Walt Disney was famously accused of being racist and anti-semitic – after he tweeted: ‘I truly wish #Israel is demolished, I hate Zionism, I have so much hate inside me with every single child they murder or land they seize’.

He insisted his message was ‘anti-Zionist‘, claiming Israelis were just a bunch of Polish / Ethiopian immigrants roughly 70 years old‘.

Note the dig at Walt in the second paragraph there – more on that later. Mansour sent the initial tweet in August of 2013, and he announced his firing earlier this month, also via Twitter.

He told his 5,000 Twitter followers: ‘Disney decided I am no longer the official voice of Donald Duck in it’s middle-east dubbed cartoons because of an anti Zionism tweet. Proud!’

His total has since rocketed to 30,000 followers.

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Those Silly, Savage Homophobes

Monday, February 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

northernliberalelites

Bethany Mandel’s article on the irony of permitted homophobia in the African-American rap community rightly highlighted the Left’s patronizing racism towards both African and Hispanic Americans. She smartly pointed out pop culture’s double standard when it comes to reacting to anti-gay statements from Christian whites versus blacks or Hispanics. But the argument needs to be pushed further, lest we fall into the Progressive Left’s divisive Minority trap.

The underlying racism of the Progressive Left is the kind of upper-class willful ignorance rooted in eugenic supremacist theory that’s currently being swept under the rug of “progressivism,” a fanciful term for 21st century Marxism. No one could possibly believe that the same people who promote marriage equality, affirmative action, and amnesty are subconsciously racist. Unless, of course, they looked at the philosophy underlying those seemingly righteous political beliefs.

One need look no further than the Grammys for proof. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, white boys with bad rapping skills being lathered up with awards by an audience righteously congratulating themselves for marrying gays on stage to the tune of Same Love. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the white messiahs saving rap from its inherent anti-gay nature with cornball lyrics referring to his beloved genre as “a culture founded from oppression.” What next? Rapping about the ironies of 40 acres and a mule with a prop carpetbag?

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