Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

26 March 2010

Abortion as a Political Football

By Diana Hsieh

My husband, Dr. Paul Hsieh of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine at www.WeStandFIRM.org, recently published an op-ed in the Denver Post on how government welfare and controls in medicine transform controversial procedures from personal decisions into political footballs.

As we've seen clearly of late, that's a huge problem with abortion -- and that's one reason why I'm so disappointed that the most prominent advocates of abortion rights (such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL) supported the recent health care reform bill.

Advocates of abortion rights must learn that they cannot protect a woman's right to choose without advocating markets free of government controls and welfare.

Here is his op-ed:

Turning medicine into political football
Paul Hsieh; Denver Post, 03/24/2010

During President Obama's final push for "universal health care" legislation, his biggest obstacle was not Republicans but rather anti-abortion Democrats let by Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Michigan).

Stupak eventually reached a last-minute deal with the White House on federal funding of abortion services. But no one should be surprised that under government-controlled health insurance, medical coverage decisions will be based on political considerations. Rather, the recent wrangling over abortion will be a mere preview of special-interest battles to come as health care becomes a permanent political football.

Abortion has already been a political football in those sectors of health insurance under government control. In 1985, the Department of Defense denied abortion coverage for women with military health insurance unless the mother's life was in danger. In 1988, the DOD issued additional rules prohibiting women from obtaining abortions with their own private money at military facilities overseas. President Clinton reversed this ban in 1993, but anti-abortion lawmakers reinstated it in 1995 through the defense appropriations bill.

Women covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) have been similarly affected. Over the past thirty years, their abortion coverage has also swung from permitted to highly restricted depending on which political party was in power.

Nor will the problem of politicized health benefits be confined to abortion. ObamaCare gives the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) the authority to determine which preventive health services must be covered by private insurance. The USPSTF is the same group that recently issued controversial guidelines recommending that screening mammography be restricted to women over age 50, despite the fact that medical organizations such as the American Cancer Society have long recommended routine mammography beginning at age 40, based on years of scientific research.

Due to public outrage, the Senate later amended its bill to override the USPSTF guidelines — in this particular case. As with abortions for military families, mammography coverage under government-controlled health insurance was determined primarily by politics and lobbying. Similar lobbying will occur as Americans start demanding coverage for other procedures not approved by the USPSTF, such as virtual colonography (a new method of detecting early colon cancer which President Obama himself recently underwent).

Such lobbying is already a constant feature under the Massachusetts system of mandatory insurance in place since 2006, which was the model for ObamaCare. Under any system of mandatory insurance, the government must necessarily determine what constitutes an "acceptable" policy. This creates a giant magnet for special interest groups seeking to include their favorite benefit in the mandatory package.

Massachusetts residents must therefore purchase numerous benefits they may neither need nor want, such as in vitro fertilization and chiropractor services. Since 2006, special interest groups have successfully lobbied to include 16 new benefits in the mandatory package (including lay midwives, orthotics, and drug abuse treatment) — and the state legislature is considering 70 more.

Although I am pro-choice on abortion, abortion opponents should not be forced to fund another woman's abortion. More broadly, individuals have the right to spend their own money for their benefit according to their values. ObamaCare would violate that right by forcing each person to spend his own money on terms set by lobbyists and bureaucrats, rather than based on his individual needs and values.

Instead of politically-controlled mandatory health insurance, we need free-market reforms that allow consumers to decide which benefits they wish to purchase. Such reforms include eliminating mandatory benefits, allowing insurers to compete across state lines, and allowing patients to use Health Savings Accounts for routine expenses, and low-cost "catastrophic-only" plans to cover rare expensive events.

Not only would these reforms reduce insurance costs by up to 50 percent, they would respect each individual's right to make insurance decisions for himself.

Government-controlled health insurance will mean politically-controlled medicine — not only with respect to abortion but for health services in general. ObamaCare will turn medicine into a game of permanent political football, where the politically favored perpetually pound ordinary Americans without special "pull." Until we replace ObamaCare with free-market reforms, Americans had better get used to being the permanent tackling dummies for special-interest groups.

Paul Hsieh, M.D., is co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine at www.WeStandFIRM.org. He practices medicine in the south Denver metro area.

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22 March 2010

Republicans Endorse Absurd 'Personhood' Measure

By Ari

[From Ari Armstrong's blog:] Colorado Republicans better hope the Secretary of State finds that the "personhood" supporters -- those who want to define a fertilized egg as a person will full legal rights -- don't have enough signatures for the ballot, after all.

Personhood Colorado announced today:

Personhood Colorado, sponsors of the 2010 Personhood Amendment, today submitted 46,671 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

On March 4, the Colorado Secretary of State disclosed that 20.63% of the 79,648 signatures submitted by Personhood Colorado were invalid. As allowed by Colorado law, volunteers then had 15 days to replace the invalid signatures with new, valid voter signatures. That translated to over 1,000 signatures per day.
The Huffington Post also reports the story.

For a comprehensive explanation for why the measure is wrong in theory and horrifying in practice, see the paper on the 2008 version of the measure by Diana Hsieh and me. In brief, the measure if fully implemented would outlaw practically all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and risk to the woman's health; outlaw common forms of birth control including the pill; and outlaw most fertility treatments involving egg implantation.

Even more disturbing, many Colorado Republicans have endorsed the measure. I already knew that underdog candidate for governor, Dan Maes, endorsed it, though he seems confused by some of the measure's implications.

Today I learned from the Christian Family Alliance of Colorado that Ken Buck -- a strong challenger for U.S. Senate -- and both Cory Gardner and Tom Lucero -- who are trying to upset Betsy Markey in the Fourth Congressional -- have also endorsed the measure.

I want to make something clear at the outset, just so no Republicans are surprised later on: I will vote against any candidate who endorses the monstrous "personhood" measure. That is, I will not abstain from voting, I will vote for the Democrat, as my strongest available statement.

Of course, there is still time for any candidate who has endorsed the measure to repent, confess the error of his or her ways, and articulate a position closer to sanity.

Did Republicans somehow fail to notice that the 2008 "personhood" measure got trounced, and overall voters responded negatively to the faith-based politics of the GOP?

Of course, 2010 is a new election cycle, and voters may be so utterly disgusted with the Democrats' handling of the economy that they may vote Republican, regardless of what loons the GOP throws up.

Betsy Markey, for example, has said she plans to vote for the disgusting Democratic health bill, giving me the impression that she has already resigned to losing. (I'm not in Markey's district, thankfully, so I won't have to hold my nose and vote for her, assuming her opponents stick with their foolish endorsements of "personhood.")

Likewise, I don't think either Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff can keep the U.S. Senate seat for the Dems, regardless of who the opponent is. Those two are hard-left Denver Democrats, and they've had to run further left in the primary. Still, it could become a tough race, and "personhood" offers rich ground for effective attack ads. (So far as I can determine, Jane Norton, still the most likely candidate, has remained silent on the "personhood" issue.)

In the governor's race, John Hickenlooper is avoiding a primary and trumpeting his pro-business sentiments and credentials. I think Hickenlooper will be pretty tough to beat. Like Norton, frontrunner Scott McInnis has (so far as I can tell) remained silent on "personhood," but he has tried to toe the anti-abortion line, so the appearance of the "personhood" measure on the ballot could still hurt him significantly. If the measure indeed makes the ballot, voters will be continually reminded about the ultimate aims of the anti-abortion zealots and the severe harms their laws would impose.

Do I despise Democrats or Republicans more? As today's political news illustrates, that depends entirely on which party I'm thinking of at a given moment.

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18 March 2010

Shari'a Law in the West?!

By Gina Liggett

It is difficult to find exact statistics on the numbers of Muslims immigrating to the West from all over the world. I can tell you that in the apartments next door to me there are scores of North African Islamic families, the women wearing traditional head-to-toe cover-up, the families attending the mosque down my street.

But a disturbing fact is emerging: many leaders in immigrant Muslim communities want to pass laws in their new home countries creating a parallel legal system of Shari'a law based on Islamic religious and tribal traditions alongside Western law, which of course is based generally on secular Constitutional principles of individual rights.

The AHA Foundation Exposes Abusive Islamic Practices

This information came to my attention from an organization called the AHA Foundation, which was started in 2007 by the extraordinary Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As I described in my review of her book Infidel, published in the March 2008 edition of American Atheist, Ms. Hirsi Ali escaped a repressive and tortuous Islamic-tribal upbringing in Somalia, refused an arranged marriage, renounced Islam, escaped to Holland, educated herself about Western ideals, and got elected member of Dutch Parliament. She is now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an activist against the repressive anti-human-rights practices of Islam.

The mission of the AHA Foundation is to:

  • Investigate acts of violence against females in the West in the name of Islam;
  • Inform relevant law enforcement, courts, political leaders, journalists, writers, child protection groups, community and civil rights organizations that are active in dealing with domestic violence and in protecting the rights of women and children;
  • Influence policy makers against introducing Shari'a law as a legitimate alternative legal system in the West.
The Misogynistic Practices of Shari'a Law

Many in the Muslim world claim Shari'a law does not come from the Koran. But the more fundamentalist and tribal sects of Islamic immigrants want to import laws that have been interwoven for centuries into their cultural traditions. These barbaric practices overwhelmingly violate the individual rights of females. I often wonder what goes on in the homes of my North African Muslim neighbors.

From the AHA Foundation website, these laws include (I have edited the information for brevity):
  • Child Brides: minors married off to older men.
  • Forced or "Arranged" Marriages: A girl's resistance to this marriage often leads to severe beatings or an "honor" killing.
  • Forbidden Divorces: Women who seek divorce from abusive husbands find they are obstructed by not only their husbands but their fathers, brothers and in-laws, preventing them from seeking or obtaining a divorce. Many of these women often become victims of beatings or honor killings.
  • Loss of Child Custody by the Mother: In many divorce cases the mother is no longer allowed to have custody of her child older than seven. Many western ex-wives of Muslim men find themselves in this position.
  • Guardianship: A woman must always have a male guardian from whom she needs permission for all her activities. This ranges from asking permission to leave the house to seeking permission to sign contracts, accept jobs, etc. This concept applies to all women, and the legal age of maturity in the West is not recognized.
  • House Arrest: Girls and women who are seen to be too liberal or westernized are forbidden to go out of the house without a male escort; resistance to this often leads to punishment or even an "honor" killing.
  • Domestic Slaves: Girls as young as 10 or 11 years who work as housemaids as unpaid domestic slaves. These girls do not go to school. They are often orphans, and their only family often consists of relatives who abuse them. Sometimes they are illegal immigrants.
  • Female Genital Mutilation: This horrific, ultimate example of sexual torture is a world-wide, culturally-sanctioned practice inflicted upon girls between the ages of 4 and 14. Many Muslims argue that the practice has nothing to do with Islam. Female genital mutilation is not in the Koran, but it is included in a Hadith (a saying of the prophet). The fact is, in the West, Muslim communities are almost the only ones that practice it. It is to ensure virginity until the girl's wedding day. The ritual may not be Islamic per se, but it serves the Islamic purpose of ensuring that a girl remains a virgin till she is married.
  • Polygamy: Polygamy is a part of Shari'a law. Those men who practice it may have one civil marriage and, in addition, two or three Shari'a marriages. In the UK, a number of these polygamous marriages are "legally recognized."
  • Honor Beatings: This is a beating of a girl or a woman for refusing to comply with the family code of honor and engaging in behavior deemed by the family to be shameful. Ignoring the rules of house-arrest; resisting a forced marriage; seeking a divorce; dating; dressing in western attire; wearing make-up; or simply taking non-Muslims as friends; these and a whole series of activities are seen as an invitation to be beaten. The beatings are intended to be corrective. If the girl complies, normally punishment ceases.
  • Honor Killings: Honor-killings are mostly pre-meditated and are often carried out with the knowledge and help of family members and other relatives. When the corrective beatings fail to dissuade a girl/woman from complying with the wishes of her family or giving up the behavior they consider shameful, the family may conclude that the only way they can regain the 'honor' lost through the girl's 'shameful' behavior is to kill her. The plotting can take days, weeks, months and even years.
  • Deportations/Kidnapping: Some families or husbands will not go so far as to kill a disobedient daughter or wife. Instead they trick her into going back 'home' (native country) on vacation; then they confiscate her passport and force her into marriage or whatever it is they want her to do. Some families prefer to take a disobedient girl to the country of origin and kill her there, as they can escape punishment for the murder or get a low prison sentence for their action.
It is most noteworthy that Ayaan Hirsi Ali suffered most of these crimes during her life before escaping to the West, including genital mutilation at about the age of nine. What is most shocking and demoralizing is that the women themselves enable the perpetuation of this abuse in their communities, obviously out of fear and lack of power. I call this "Stockholm Syndrome" on a society-wide scale.

Islamic Fundamentalists in the West Push for Shari'a Law

If you think these laws from the Dark Ages aren't invading the West, think again. As one example, in Britain in 2008, Shari'a law has been upheld under a legal maneuver called "arbitration."

Other western countries -- including Canada and the United States -- are being intimidated by certain Islamic leaders to follow suit and have Shari'a law legally enforceable.

The AHA foundation presents a detailed report of specific examples in the West where these practices have in fact occurred.

In No Way Should Shari'a Law Be Allowed to Infect the West

These Muslim communities must not be allowed to create a parallel set of barbaric laws under some Western rationalization of respecting "multiculturalism." A society built upon ideals of upholding individual rights must not enable morally heinous laws that legalize the abuse, sexual torture, or murder of women and girls in the name of religious/cultural practices.

Anyone forcing their daughter to marry an uncle 50 years her senior; tribal women participating in a ritual to mutilate a girl's genitalia; male relatives physically assaulting a girl for wearing jeans; families enslaving a girl to be their housekeeper -- these people should be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed according to U.S. law.

We must fight hard as a culture to preserve the historic greatness embodied in the ideals of American individual rights and freedoms, and not decay into a decrepit mishmash of religious and tribal ritualism.

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11 March 2010

Colorado Amazon Affiliates

By Diana Hsieh

I've been frantically busy this week with attempting to undo some major tax damage done by Colorado's Democratic legislature and governor. This post is off-topic for CSG, but the issue is too important to ignore.

Due to a horrible new law (HB 1193) recently passed in Colorado, Amazon terminated all of its "Amazon Associates" accounts in Colorado. (Amazon Associates is an affiliate program: members earn a small commission on Amazon sales via their links.)

I'm a Colorado Amazon Associate -- or I was. I'm sickened by the whole fiasco. In an instant, the new law meant that so much of my past work was wasted and so many of my future plans were derailed.

Many on the left blame Amazon, but that's not fair in the slightest. The Colorado government -- our legislators and governor -- created this mess by its imposition of an "Amazon Tax" with HB 1193. Given its Colorado-based affiliates, that law would have crippled Amazon with an onerous and expensive confusion of red tape, plus a crazy patchwork of local taxes. The only way for Amazon to extricate itself from that nightmare was to terminate the Affiliate Program.

If you're interested in this issue, read my blog post, Colorado Screws Amazon and Its Affiliates, as well as Ari Armstrong's lengthy analysis, Stop the "Amazon Tax"!.

I've also created a super-quick web site, to be expanded and updated soon: RepealTheAmazonTax.com. If you want to help pressure the Colorado legislature to repeal this awful law, please join the low-volume e-mail list, NoAmazonTax @ GoogleGroups.

And please, spread the word!

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08 March 2010

The Separation of Church and State

By Diana Hsieh

I want to strongly recommend this recently-released lecture by Onkar Ghate on "The Separation of Church and State," given at OCON in 2009. It was particularly stellar.

The Separation of Church and State
By Onkar Ghate

With religion on the rise in America, maintaining the separation of church and state is now a pressing issue. This talk begins with an examination of the contemporary debate about the principle of separating religion from government. Dr. Ghate argues that both sides of the contemporary debate are mistaken and explains why today even most well-meaning Americans are unable to mount a tenable defense of the principle. To understand what the principle actually means, Dr. Ghate then considers some of the history behind the principle, focusing on John Locke's crucial contributions. Finally, Dr. Ghate sketches what a full philosophical argument for the separation of church and state looks like.

(86 min., with Q & A)

Audio CD; 2-CD set: $20.95
For an understanding of the philosophic foundation of the secular government, including the problems with the standard attacks on and defenses thereof, you won't find anything better. Most people in the audience were surprised and delighted by the discussion of John Locke on faith. I wasn't surprised, but I was delighted! I've always taught a class on "Faith and Reason" in my Introduction to Philosophy courses, and Locke is undoubtedly the highlight. While he defends faith, his defense is such that faith cannot sustain any foothold in cognition. (Locke is far, far better than Thomas Aquinas on this issue... but that's a subject for a future podcast.)

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04 March 2010

The Roots of Political Freedom

By Diana Hsieh

Political freedom requires valuing each person's life and happiness on this earth as an end in itself -- not merely as a means to secure some unknown afterlife.

Political freedom requires respect for the authority of each person's rational judgment -- not deference to the supposed commands of God and his earthly representatives.

Political freedom requires justice in dealings with others -- not conformity to arbitrary rules and commands of scripture.

Political freedom requires people to make their own way in the world by their own efforts -- not dependence on favors granted by God for abject pleading.

Political freedom requires regarding other people as innocent until proven guilty -- not as sinful by nature.

Political freedom requires taking life on this earth seriously -- not regarding it as a trial run for the next life.

Religion cannot be a foundation for political freedom. If mankind were a mass of wretched, sinful, unworthy servants seeking the bliss of the afterlife, with almighty God presiding over them as absolute lord, then religious dictatorship would be the only proper political system. Thankfully, that's not the case.

So if you think that freedom is a Christian value, think again.

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03 March 2010

Conservative Deceit about Christian Liberty

By Ari

[From Ari Armstrong's blog:] Some of my fellow Coloradans wish to outlaw the birth control pill and subject my wife to the death penalty if she takes it, yet today David Limbaugh dismisses as "paranoia" concerns about "the intersection of Christianity and the public square." Limbaugh is amazed by "how much [critics] fear something that represents such a little threat to them."

Let us review, shall we? Many Christians in the United States advocate the following political goals:

  • Outlaw all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and risk to the woman's health, from the moment of fertilization, with criminal penalties extending to execution.

  • Outlaw all fertility treatments, birth control (including the pill), medical research, and medical treatment that may involve the destruction of a fertilized egg.

  • Impose mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds before a woman may obtain an abortion. (This is a marginal step toward the goal of complete prohibition.)

  • Outlaw all expression involving consenting adults that is arbitrarily deemed "obscene." (Various Christians want to outlaw all material deemed pornographic.)

  • Force Americans to subsidize religious institutions for "faith based" welfare.

  • Expand welfare (the forced redistribution of wealth) because of Biblical principles of helping the less-well off.

  • Imprison American adults for consuming various drugs, including marijuana taken for medical purposes, regardless of the level of police powers necessary to achieve this goal. (Some Christians even want to return to alcohol prohibition.)

  • Require religious prayer and religious instruction at tax-funded schools.

  • Deny equal protection under the laws to homosexuals, including the right to form romantic contracts and adopt children.
A few Christians want to execute homosexuals and adulterers and explicitly call for theocracy (see Christian Reconstruction or the comments of a Christian radio host.)

No, nothing to worry about!

Limbaugh makes a couple of basic mistakes in his article. First, he pretends that the only relevant issue is freedom of expression. Second, he pretends that the only debate is between "the left" and Christian conservatives. Obviously the left with its campaign censorship laws and media controls at least matches conservative Christianity in its hostility toward free expression. Unfortunately, as seen with President Obama's expansion of President Bush's "faith based" welfare, the left increasingly mingles politics with religion as well.

True, many Christians fight for liberty in at least some areas. Whether that effort flows from Christian doctrine, or is ultimately incompatible with it, is a debate for another day. But for Limbaugh to dismiss as "paranoia" concerns about the efforts of many Christians to base politics on religion is ludicrous.

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01 March 2010

Obama's "We Are the World" Atruism Is Not Just Good Christian Works

By Gina Liggett

In my last post, Obama's Black Liberation Theology: Rescuing the World, Paul Hsieh asked:

Do you know how much of this global altruism also took place under white liberals (such as President Clinton), or under a white Christian Republican (like President Bush)? In particular, is President Obama's pursuit of this kind of "save the world" altruism significantly greater under his presumed guiding philosophy Black Liberation Theology than with those other Presidents?
Thanks for your question, Paul. I believe that it is driven by different values. To answer it in depth would be beyond the scope of this blog. But I think a couple of key examples will elucidate the underlying altruistic positions of Clinton, Bush, and a representative service-oriented global Christian organization, contrasted with Black Liberation Theology's teaching about America's global responsibility.

As most know, former Presidents Bush and Clinton partnered to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. The purpose of the charitable organization is much the same as what Obama sold to America (with American tax dollars):
To help the Haitian people reclaim their country and rebuild their lives. Our immediate priority is to save lives. The critical needs in Haiti are great, but they are also simple: food, water, shelter, and first-aid supplies. The best way concerned citizens can help is to donate funds that will go directly to supplying these material needs....There is no greater rallying cry for our common humanity than witnessing our neighbors in distress. And, like any good neighbor, we have an obligation and desire to come to their aid.
The William J. Clinton Foundation is Clinton's philanthropic organization focusing "on worldwide issues that demand urgent action, solutions, and measurable results -- global climate change, HIV/AIDS in the developing world, childhood obesity and economic opportunity in the United States, and economic development in Africa and Latin America."

In his video on the website, Clinton directly states what his global values are. He speaks about "our common humanity," that we live in an "interdependent world ... with shared values, responsibilities and benefits ... where everybody counts, where everybody deserves a chance, where everybody has a responsibility to fulfill ... We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more."

George W. Bush's altruism was best exemplified by his "compassionate conservatism":
Government cannot solve every problem, but it can encourage people and communities to help themselves and to help one another. Often the truest kind of compassion is to help citizens build lives of their own. I call my philosophy and approach "compassionate conservatism." It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and on results. And with this hopeful approach, we can make a real difference in people's lives. (April 2002)
The World Council of Churches, a worldwide community of more than 340 Christian churches of many different denominations serves to "speak out with a strong voice to promote peace, justice and care for God's creation." Also, to help "churches join hands to serve people forgotten in today's world."

Enough on these altruists.

Black Liberation Theology, on the other hand, doesn't try to sell emotion-provoking exhortations about our "common humanity," "making a difference in people's lives," "shared responsibility" or "service."

It is out for revenge. It is out for "justice."

James Cone, the founder of Black Liberation Theology, said:
What does black theology have to say about the fact that two-thirds of humanity is poor and that this poverty arises from the exploitation of the poor nations by rich nations? ... Thus, in our attempt to liberate ourselves from white America in the U.S., it is important to be sensitive to the complexity of the world situation and the oppressive role of the U.S. in it.
Obama's former pastor for 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, excoriated the U.S. for what his calls a "terrorist" foreign policy in a speech responding to the September 11 attacks.

Black Liberation Theologian Dwight Hopkins explains that global welfare is a form of "justice" in response to the alleged egregious crimes of American capitalism:
[T]he past rise of capitalism and its existence today suggest a fact of capital accumulation by ruling-class families of the globe (primarily based in the United States and Europe) who keep their monopoly over God's resources by taking capital from people of color and the Third World. Injustice against God comes from monopolized capital, which is stolen from blacks, other people of color, and Third World nations ... [We must] return God's capital and resources back to the poor (i.e., the majority world community)...
You might find this kind of preposterous bombast from modern Marxists and other anti-American "liberationists," but not from "common humanitarians" like Clinton, "compassionate conservatives" like Bush, or world-wide organizations of Christians doing the good works of Jesus.

Obama came of spiritual age in the Black Liberation Church. He is a proven enemy of capitalism. His priorities for global welfare were set very high at the first opportunity. He surrounds himself with spiritual advisers from the Black Liberation community (as well as a couple of garden variety Christian liberals).

So, my answer is basically "Yes." Obama's global welfare is about what Black Liberation Theology says is a justifiable duty America has to the rest of the world.

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