The “Ice Man” Cometh and says to hell with law…

A top Department of Homeland Security official reportedly said his agency will not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona authorities.

John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made the comment during a meeting on Wednesday with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, the newspaper reports.

“I don’t think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution,” Morton told the newspaper.

The best way to reduce illegal immigration is through a comprehensive federal approach, he said, and not a patchwork of state laws.

The law, which criminalizes being in the state illegally and requires authorities to check suspects for immigration status, is not “good government,” Morton said.

Immigrant rights’ supporters around the country took to the streets on May 1 to protest Arizona’s new immigration law which seeks to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. Take a look at the massive protests.

In response to Morton’s comments, DHS officials said President Obama has ordered the Department of Justice to examine the civil rights and other implications of the law.

“That review will inform the government’s actions going forward,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler told Fox News on Friday.

Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said ICE is not obligated to process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona authorities.

“ICE has the legal discretion to accept or not to accept persons delivered to it by non-federal personnel,” Napolitano said. “It also has the discretion to deport or not to deport persons delivered to it by any government agents, even its own.”

Morton, according to a biography posted on ICE’s website, began his federal service in 1994 and has held numerous positions at the Department of Justice, including as a trial attorney and special assistant to the general counsel in the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and as counsel to the deputy attorney general.

Border apprehensions in Arizona, where roughly 500,000 illegal immigrants are estimated to be living, are up 6 percent since October, according to federal statistics. Roughly 6.5 million residents live in Arizona.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, said it appeared the Obama administration is “nullifying existing law” and suggested Morton may not be the right person for his post if he fails to enforce federal immigration law.

“If he feels he cannot enforce the law, he shouldn’t have the job,” Sessions told Fox News. “That makes him, in my view, not fulfilling the responsibilities of his office.”

Sessions said the U.S. government has “systematically failed” to enforce federal immigration law and claimed Morton’s statement is an indication that federal officials do not plan on working with Arizona authorities regarding its controversial law.

“They’re telegraphing to every ICE agency in America that they really don’t intend on cooperating with Arizona,” Sessions said. “The federal government should step up and do it. It’s their responsibility.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, said it appeared the Obama administration is “nullifying existing law” and suggested Morton may not be the right person for his post if he fails to enforce federal immigration law.

“If he feels he cannot enforce the law, he shouldn’t have the job,” Sessions told Fox News. “That makes him, in my view, not fulfilling the responsibilities of his office.”

Sessions said the U.S. government has “systematically failed” to enforce federal immigration law and claimed Morton’s statement is an indication that federal officials do not plan on working with Arizona authorities regarding its controversial law.

“They’re telegraphing to every ICE agency in America that they really don’t intend on cooperating with Arizona,” Sessions said. “The federal government should step up and do it. It’s their responsibility.”

Tea Parties vs. Unions in November

The two groups get much different media scrutiny.

By JOHN FUND

Elections this month have enhanced the political clout of two groups widely separated on the political spectrum. The tea party movement stands to play an outsize role in the fall elections now that outsider Rand Paul has swept Kentucky’s GOP Senate primary, while unions provided the muscle for Democrats to win a key special election in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Paul’s victory comes just after Utah Sen. Bob Bennett was denied a place on the primary ballot by a GOP state convention dominated by tea party activists. In Kentucky, Dr. Paul beat a GOP establishment candidate by calling for spending restraint and an end to “Bailout Nation” policies. A new Rasmussen poll shows him leading his Democratic opponent by 25 points. Tea party-backed candidates also won key House primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas this week.

Democrats, fearful of the grass-roots enthusiasm that candidates such as Dr. Paul are able to generate, immediately accused him of being an elitist for holding his victory party at a country club. They also slammed him for suggesting physicians like him deserve to earn “a comfortable living” while supporting an end to farm subsidies.

Liberal attacks on the tea party have flipped completely. Largely gone are dismissals that they are rednecks and rubes. After a New York Times survey found tea partiers are generally better educated and wealthier than the general public, they are now attacked as aloof and out of touch with the concerns of average voters.

The criticism will only mount because tea party activists represent an injection of fresh blood and enthusiasm that threatens Democratic incumbents. They certainly expand the GOP voting base: A March Gallup poll found that 43% were registered independents and 8% declared themselves Democrats.

The rise of the tea party makes Democrats even more dependent on organized labor. In this week’s Pennsylvania special election for the late Jack Murtha’s seat, the AFL-CIO alone sent out 80,000 mailers on behalf of Democrat Mark Critz, along with 100,000 robocalls.

In Arkansas, unions showed their clout by forcing Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a June runoff with labor-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Unions decided to make an example of her after she opposed the “card check” bill that limits the use of secret ballots in union elections. Unions, especially the Service Employees International Union, spent more than $3 million against her.

In contrast to the tea party, there has been far too little scrutiny of the SEIU, whose membership of government and health-care workers is the fastest-growing of any union in the country. Andy Stern, the just retired head of the SEIU, was found to be the most frequent guest at the Obama White House last year, stopping by 22 times between January and September, more than all congressional leaders and cabinet members.

The SEIU’s close ties to the discredited group Acorn have largely been ignored. The same is true for the violence perpetrated by some of its members.

Last August in St. Louis, tea party supporter Kenneth Gladney was set upon by SEIU members during a town-hall meeting on health care. They were apparently angry that an African-American was supporting the tea party and hurled the “n” word at him while beating him to the point where he required hospitalization. St. Louis County officials waited until November to press assault charges against two SEIU members. Four others were charged with interfering with police during the incident. All six have pleaded not guilty.

This week, Nina Easton of Fortune magazine reported on an incident in her Washington, D.C., neighborhood in which 500 screaming, placard-waving SEIU members and allies surrounded the home of Greg Baer, deputy general counsel at Bank of America, to protest bank foreclosures.

“Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked—even on the police,” reported Ms. Easton, a neighbor of Mr. Baer. The protestors finally left, only to descend on the nearby home of Peter Scher, a J.P. Morgan Chase executive. “It appears we’ve crossed into a new era: the politics of personal intimidation,” Ms. Easton concludes.

You can expect friction between tea party activists and union members in coming months. Last month, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gave a speech at Harvard in which he warned that anger at a sour economy was being transformed into dangerous “hatred” by the forces on the right.

At a time of heightened passions such as this election season, anyone who jumps proper political guardrails must be called on any excesses. As tea party members and unions vie for political supremacy this fall, it will be important for the media to scrutinize both and make sure their coverage is accurate and complete. So far the tea party—the new kids on the political block—have gotten far more attention than their union counterparts.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for WSJ.com.

Why I Won’t Be Participating in ‘Draw M******* Day’ (PBUH)/Satire by IOWAHAWK

by Dave: IOWAHAWK

One of the most frustrating things that comes with being one of Eastern Iowa’s top 500 political satire bloggers is dealing with readers who presume to know where I stand on the issues. Worse yet, some even seem to think they can dictate the content of my posts. Like this recent disturbing email from a reader in Crown Point, IN:

Dear Dave,

Long time reader and fan! I trust you are planning to contribute something special for the upcoming ‘Everybody Draw [redacted] Day’ on May 20. Let’s stand up for free speech and let the [redacted]ofascists know they can’t push us around!

Cheers,

Bill C.

or this concerned message that came from an anonymous IP address in Yemen:

Dnt thikning u r to b draw cartooms the Prophet (pbuh) u fukin kaffir

Inshallah i m jihad to behed u and feed ur blood to pigs!!!!!

u r warnd

roast in hell!!!!

What bothers me is the shared assumption of these two readers that I would even consider participation in a cheap provocative stunt like this so-called “Draw M******* Day.” Because if “humor” today means mocking the founder of one of the world’s great religions — one with a proud 1400 year history of art, science, scholarship, and beheadings — well mister, you can count this humble internet funnyman out.

Why I have opted out of this event? It depresses me that our culture has reached such a level of debasement that I feel compelled to list the reasons. Firstly, it is a well known codicil of Islamic law that visual depictions of their holy prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) are strictly prohibited. Like all religions we should respect their views, and the cartoons (which incidentally I have proudly refused to even glance at) seem only to cause hurt. Yes, they hurt the feeling of millions of Muslims. But, ultimately, they also hurt the misguided cartoonists who produce them. Because let’s face it: having a rusty scimitar hack through your neck can’t be a walk in the park.

Second, it violates my American sense of fair play. I firmly believe all religions deserve my respect — depending on how they respect me. Yes, it is true that in the past I have sometimes made fun of various world religious faiths: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddism, Rastafari, Wicca, Scientology, Global Warmingism, that filthy cult of Wisconsin Synod Lutherans. Equally, without malice, and without issue. But trust me, once any of them starts emailing me credible violent death threats, I guarantee they’re gonna start challenging Islam for top spot in Dave’s weekly religion respect rankings.

Third, this insipid “humor event” has disturbing racist overtones. It is a needless provocation targeted at one billion people around the world of the Islamic race, and the millions of people — of every color and every nationality — who each year genetically convert to the Islamic race. Contrary to popular hysteria no more than 15% of these people with Islamic DNA have a genetic belief in killing blasphemers. Okay, 25% tops. The point is, by insulting M******* (PBUH) these cartoons will only result in radicalizing the vast majority of moderate genetic Muslims, who, at worse, probably only want to make blasphemy a Class II felony.

Fourth, all this ostentatious caterwauling about “free speech” and “preserving Enlightenment values” seem to me to be nothing but a cheap excuse for a few low-brow jokesters to engage in juvenile humor. For example, ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth MacFarlane, whom I understand is planning an upcoming episode of the popular infidel TV cartoon in which Stewie and Griffin family dog Brian take turns anally raping Islam’s holy prophet (PBUH) while singing show tunes. “After slamming Jesus and Christians countless times, I would qualify as the biggest hypocritical pussy in Hollywood if I didn’t give that psychotic medieval child molester the vigorous cartoon anal raping which he so richly deserves,” MacFarlane has reportedly said.

Iowahawk's view on upcoming Family Guy Prophet rape: wrong

Please, spare us your artistic sanctimony Seth. Your pretentious concerns about “hypocrisy” are no more convincing than those of the Brooklyn Museum, reportedly planning a new installation featuring Chris Ofili’s Elephant Dung Prophet and Andres Serrano’s Piss Be Upon Him. Or programming executives at Comedy Central, who have recently reversed a laudable policy against mentions of Islam with their all-new “M******* Mocking Monday” programming block — conveniently (and unsurprisingly) timed for May rating sweeps week. Be honest, Seth MacFarlane: your puerile obsession with anally humiliating the holiest figure of Islam through musical cartoon has more to do with Nielsen ratings than any of your pie-in-the-sky Hollywood “artistic integrity.” It’s obvious this is only a cheap tasteless ploy to draw attention to yourself and away from people like me who would never in a million years think of depicting Islam’s holy prophet (PBUH) at all, let alone getting backed-doored by a filthy cartoon dog.

So no; As a responsible humorist I will not, indeed cannot, sanction this disgusting and nihilistic ‘Draw M*******’ (PBUH) sideshow. Yes, we still have Freedom of Speech in this country. But there comes a time when a man must look deep inside himself and muster the courage to exercise his Freedom of Not Speech. And if having that courage also means not having his house firebombed, hey, win-win!

Unions to spend $100M in 2010 campaign to save Dem majorities

By Kevin Bogardus and Sean J. Miller

At least two influential unions will spend close to $100 million on the 2010 election, with most of those funds going to protect incumbents.

Union officials told The Hill they plan to help endangered members — particularly freshmen — who made politically difficult votes in a year during which an anti-incumbent mood has filled the country.

And the number will be even higher since the AFL-CIO declined to give its figures.

While the labor movement has displayed an aggressive tack in Democratic primaries, including supporting some challengers over incumbents, it remains concerned about the party retaining its congressional majorities.

As a result, it plans an enormous spending spree to help ensure Democratic control of Congress.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) plans to spend in excess of $50 million during the 2010 campaign, part of which will fund “a massive incumbent protection program,” according to Gerry McEntee, president of the union.

AFSCME spent roughly $67 million on its political activities in 2008. But the $50 million slated for the 2010 elections is the largest expenditure the union will make in a midterm election, according to union officials. The money will go to help defend the union’s top tier of eight Senate seats and 34 House members.

“We have got to protect the incumbency in the House. We have got to protect the incumbency in the Senate,” McEntee said. “It is going to be hard. Those tea-baggers are out there. There is an anti-incumbency mood out there.”

After the top tier, there will be a second tier of House candidates AFSCME will be monitoring and will step in to help defend if they become endangered by GOP challengers.

“We are not out there looking for new seats. We have our hands full the way it is,” said McEntee, who has been a key voice in pushing labor to play in Democratic primaries.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend $44 million in total on its 2010 election program. The union spent $85 million on its 2008 campaign, according to union officials.

SEIU has a list of 15 top-priority House districts across the country that it plans to campaign in to protect members who voted for the healthcare reform bill. Among those who will see support from the national union are Reps. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

“In the past, we have not paid as much attention to incumbent protection as we have this year,” said Jon Youngdahl, national political director for the SEIU. “In the past, decisions were made on electoral opportunities and this year decisions are being made on the healthcare reform accountability.”

For the SEIU, the 2010 campaign began in the fall of 2009 during the House’s first healthcare reform vote. The union has already spent $3 million on three rounds of television ads thanking members for backing the legislation.

A third labor group said it plans to spend big in 2010 but wouldn’t get into specific numbers.

Karen Ackerman, the AFL-CIO’s political director, told reporters on Wednesday that the labor federation will be active in 18 states, will campaign in gubernatorial and Senate races and will likely have a role in 60 to 70 House races this election.

She declined to give a dollar amount.

“The field is very large, maybe even more races than there was in 2008,” Ackerman said. The AFL-CIO official said the labor movement sees 2010 as “a very hard election, maybe the hardest yet” and wants to see the “many, many good progressive members of Congress” return to Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be the most important test of labor’s efforts to save incumbent lawmakers. Based in a state with high unemployment and a high home foreclosure rate, Reid is facing a tough reelection race this year. Consequentially, unions are revving up their general-election campaigns three months earlier than usual, as soon as Reid’s Republican challenger is picked in the June 8 primary.

“It’s our single focus. Harry Reid has done more for the state — more than anyone in history,” said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, which has more than 200,000 members.

The state labor federation has a three-pronged program in place: a worksite initiative, from construction sites to casinos, where workers will lobby other workers to vote for Reid, target union members for door-to-door campaigning and then direct-mail pieces paid for by the national union.

Thompson said he believes the labor vote will be key to Reid’s reelection, estimating it makes up to 32 to 34 percent of the vote in Nevada. “We are right now putting everything in place. The people who will be running the campaign are in place. The structure is in place. We are ready to go,” Thompson said.

Another senator who will have stout labor backing is Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

“We are going to devote more resources to the 2010 campaign than we have ever done in any prior campaign,” said Steve Smith, communications director of the California Labor Federation.

Electing California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) as governor and reelecting Boxer to the Senate are the state federation’s two highest priorities. But the labor group is also looking to protect a trio of House members based in the Central Valley region who took tough votes in favor of healthcare reform.

California Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D), Jim Costa (D) and Jerry McNerney (D) could be facing stiff GOP opposition this November. Smith said the 2.1 million member-strong union has been preparing for months, microtargeting non-union members in the region who share the same priorities with labor to find more votes for the Democrats.

“Given where they are, it’s never an easy proposition. We are going to make sure that we stand up and they are reelected and sent back to Congress,” Smith said.

Unions are aware that some of the most endangered incumbents in 2010 are the freshmen who voted for the healthcare reform bill.

In Virginia, labor groups are moving to protect freshman Reps. Gerry Connolly (D) and Perriello.

“Definitely, Tom Perriello will have priority with us,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, the secretary-treasurer of the Virginia AFL-CIO. “Along with Gerry Connolly, they will definitely get protection for the healthcare vote.”

The union has some 15,000 members in Connolly’s district and 2,500 in Perriello’s whom it plans to mobilize ahead of November.

Crouse-Mays said the union would also support Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a 14-term incumbent who didn’t vote for the healthcare bill. “He’s still a 28-year incumbent who’s been there for working families in the past,” she said.

In Illinois, unions are working to protect Foster and Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D), two freshman members who voted for the healthcare bill.

“The action is going to be in Halvorson and Foster, so we’re going to put a lot of effort there,” said Jerry Morrison, executive director of the SEIU’s state council. “That would always be our first [priority], especially in the off-year, to protect our incumbent allies. There’s going to be a lot of activity at the federal level this year.”

The union plans to focus on voter registration, early voting and then get-out-the-vote efforts, Morrison said. “Debbie’s district, the first time she ran, I think we registered 18,000 new voters in high-Democratic-performing precincts, which helped her.”

Foster will have more difficulty this cycle because his district, which was formerly held by GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert, is more Republican. “It’s just a tough district,” Morrison said. “But Foster’s been very good — he’s taken some really tough votes and I think people are really energized to get out there and go work for him.”

The SEIU is also targeting the state’s open Senate seat and the House seat vacated by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

A similar strategy is being used in Ohio by the state’s branch of the SEIU. “We have already made contributions to candidates who supported working families in Ohio,” said Anthony Caldwell, a union spokesman.

Caldwell noted that freshman Reps. Boccieri, Mary Jo Kilroy (D) and Steve Driehaus (D), who voted for healthcare reform, are all expected to have tough reelection races. “We want to make sure those folks return to Congress come January,” he said.

One member who won’t be getting support: Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio). He angered labor groups by voting against the healthcare bill and will have to go without their help in his reelection bid.

FDIC: ‘Problem’ Banks at 775

By MICHAEL R. CRITTENDEN

WASHINGTON—A total of 775 banks, or one-tenth of all U.S. banks, were on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s list of “problem” institutions in the first quarter, as bad loans in the commercial real-estate market weighed on bank balance sheets.

Poor loan performance in other sectors also continued to hurt banks, with the total number of loans at least three months past due climbing for the 16th consecutive quarter, FDIC officials said in a briefing on Thursday.

“The banking system still has many problems to work through, and we cannot ignore the possibility of more financial market volatility,” FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said.

There were 702 on the FDIC’s “problem” bank list at the end of 2009 and 252 at the end of 2008.

FDIC officials said they expected the number of failed banks to peak this year after climbing steadily over the past three years. Regulators have shut 72 banks so far this year, more than double the number closed by this time last year. Ms. Bair said regulators were preparing for a steady pace of additional closures through the end of the year. A total of 237 banks have failed since the beginning of 2008.

The failures continue to strain the FDIC’s fund to protect consumer deposits, although officials signaled they were confident they had enough cash on hand to deal with the expected spate of failures, without having to assess new fees on the banking industry. The agency’s deposit insurance fund stood at negative-$20.7 billion at the end of the first quarter, a slight improvement from the end of 2009.

“We have the necessary industry-funded resources to complete the cleanup,” Ms. Bair said, in a reference to the fees that the agency assesses on banks for insuring their deposits.

Banks, squeezed by problem loans and the continued recession, responded by reducing their lending. The industry’s total loan balances grew by 3% during the quarter, but the increase was due to accounting changes that required banks to bring securitized assets back onto their balance sheets. Without taking into account these accounting changes, lending would have declined for the seventh straight quarter, as banks cut back across most major lending categories.

“There is a lot of credit distress still in the mortgage-portfolio area,” FDIC Chief Economist Richard Brown said at the FDIC briefing.

FDIC officials said they saw some signs for optimism. The total $18 billion, first-quarter profit reported by U.S. banks and thrifts was the highest since the first three months of 2008 and more than triple the profit recorded in the first quarter of last year. More than half of insured banks reported growth in net income during the quarter—the highest level in more than three years—and firms set aside less money to reserve for future losses.

The FDIC data suggested that the largest U.S. banks were faring better than their smaller rivals. The former enjoyed the largest year-over-year increase in earnings and saw the biggest reduction in loan-loss reserves, or the money they must set aside to account for future, expected losses on loans. Ms. Bair said the rate of decline in lending by larger banks also slowed in each of the past two quarters.

Obama’s Middle Name Ignites Textbook Battle

by: William La Jeunesse

Who’s more important: Christopher Columbus or John Smith?

Clara Barton or Ruby Bridges?

Ruby Bridges or Dolores Huerta?

Is the story of Nathan Hale too gruesome for first graders?

Will history books refer to the 44th American president as Barack Obama, Barack H. Obama or Barack Hussein Obama?

Late into the night, the Texas Board of Education considered these and other questions for the state’s social studies curriculum. The debate has set off a culture war, pitting conservatives against democrats in a battle that attracted 40,000 e mails from parents, teachers and academics from around the nation.

The curriculum covers grades kindergarten through high school, and yet after 12 hours of debate the board had only just begun talking about its biggest challenge – high school standards – at 9 p.m. Thursday.

All day long the board dropped, added and swapped the names of historical figures and events into and out of the standards. It began with 1st graders. John Smith was dropped, as was Nathan Hale, not because he wasn’t important, but because, according to one teacher, ‘the kids couldn’t get past the hanging.’

Despite deep political differences, the debate remained polite until the topic focused on President Obama. Then it got personal. Lawrence Allen, a black former high school principal from Houston offered a motion to enter President Barack Obama’s name in a section of the curriculum that recognized significant dates in U.S. History.

David Bradley, a white businessman from Beaumont, motioned that the president’s legal name should be used, Barack Hussein Obama. “I think we give him the full honor and privilege of his full name.”

“I am getting pretty fed up with this,” said Democrat Mary Helen Berlanger. “You don’t have to be derogatory. We don’t always put in Jefferson in William Jefferson Clinton.”

“The intent behind what you are doing I think is pretty obvious,” said Republican Bob Craig.

“This is our first black president,” said board member Mavis Knight, who is black. “You are making it sound humiliating.”

“I ask the member to withdraw the motion and move forward in a dignified manner,” said Democrat Rick Agusto.

Bradley did, but said under his breath, he did so, “to put an end to the whining.”

Knight shot back, “I don’t consider it whining.”

Moments later Craig motioned to add Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to a list of women who have made significant contributions. It passes, but another motion weakens the language, by changing the wording. Instead of study that “includes” women like Sotomayor, the standards now reads women “such as” her.

Berlanger bristled again. “I have been listening all night to you add names” but the board can’t include her.

At 12:10 a.m. the meeting adjourned, 15 hours after it began, with the board giving preliminary approval to the U.S. History since 1877 curriculum. The so called Block of Seven, a group of social conservatives won almost every battle they fought, strengthening the study of the Founding Fathers, free enterprise, eugenics, the extent of Soviet spies during the cold war that helped explain the ‘Red Scare’ and motivate Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

They also succeeded in including study of the Black Panthers during discussion of the Civil Rights Era, the internment of Germans and Italians, as well as the Japanese during WWII, and the economics standards now require teachers to consider the “solvency” of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Fox News’ Lindsay Stewart contributed to this report.
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Resenting African Christianity

By Mark Tooley

Fast growing African Christianity, both evangelical and Catholic, is transforming global religion and affecting American Christianity, particularly its debates over homosexuality. The U.S. Episcopal Church, of course, has been prominently roiled by controversy since its 2003 election of an openly homosexual bishop, now joined by a newly elected openly lesbian bishop. African Anglican bishops, overwhelmingly conservative, have steadfastly encouraged the global Anglican Communion to sanction U.S. Episcopalians for their heterodoxy. But the Anglican Communion’s authority is mostly symbolic, and the Episcopal Church governs itself. A new communion, the Anglican Church in North America, is largely for orthodox former Episcopalians, many of whom have placed themselves under the authority of African bishops.

Considerably less publicized but no less significant is the United Methodist Church, which now almost uniquely among liberal-led, old-line denominations continues to affirm orthodox teachings on marriage and sexual ethics. The traditionalist stance, dismaying to its liberal elites, is thanks partly to the denomination’s growing African membership. Unlike the U.S. Episcopal Church, which is almost entirely U.S. members plus some small dioceses from Latin America and Taiwan, United Methodism is more fully international, with about one third of its members in Africa. Amid growing United Methodist churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, among others, and a U.S. church losing about a 1,000 members weekly, the 11.4 million denomination likely will soon be majority African. At the church’s next governing General Conference in 2012, probably 40 percent of the delegates will come from outside the U.S., even further diminishing liberal hopes.

Liberal church activists are reluctant to acknowledge that African Christianity has a firm mind of its own, preferring condescendingly to portray it as primitive and easily manipulated by conservative U.S. religionists. It is true that much of African Christianity is new, somewhat similar to fast growing, early American frontier revivalism in its earnest faith, populism, and strong sense of the supernatural. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia of 2001, Africa was less than 10 percent Christian in 1900 but was over 45 percent Christian by 2000. (This compares to Islam’s growth in African from 32 percent to 40 percent.) About 20 percent of the world’s Christians now live in Africa, and rates of active church attendance are higher in Africa than in much of old Christendom. One Congolese bishop estimated that more Congolese are in a United Methodist Church on a typical Sunday than in all the United States.

But liberal U.S. church activists usually sorely underestimate the depth and richness of African Christianity, including its intellectual traditions, some of which date to the early Church Fathers. Infamously, revisionist retired U.S. Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong once derided African Anglicans for having “moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity,” while condemning Third World “religious extremism” and “Pentecostal hysteria.” In the patronizing spirit of Bishop Spong, some liberal activists claim African church leaders, in their opposition to liberal U.S. church trends, especially about sex, are merely U.S. pawns. A recent example comes from a Massachusetts watchdog of conservative groups called Political Research Associates, which commissioned a Zambian clergyman from the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts to expose the supposed manipulation of African churches. His report of last year, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia,” outlines the conspiracy, which claims more or less that African Christianity’s opposition to homosexual causes essentially originated in America. California mega-church pastor Rick Warren is one of the identified conspirators, as is my own Institute on Religion and Democracy.

“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” breathlessly intoned the report’s introduction. “Africa’s antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A.” The report views debates over homosexuality through the American and Western left’s own secular political prism and its preoccupation with endless diversity, obsessive individualism and resistance to transcendent authority. It does not even try to understand African Christianity’s own worldview, rooted in Scripture, orthodox church teaching, and responsibilities beyond the self.

Condescension towards African Christianity guided a recent United Methodist attempt to sideline growing African churches by creating a new, U.S. only regional conference that would potentially create its own rules while excluding the Africans. Ostensibly this exclusion would empower the Africans by releasing them from concerns about the U.S. church. Endorsed by the church’s Council of Bishops and a two-thirds vote at the denomination’s governing General Conference in 2008, the restructuring required ratification by two thirds of the voters at local annual conferences last year. Mournfully, the bishops released the voting results early this month. (See my assistant Connor Ewing’s article.) Almost without precedent, over 60 percent of the nearly 50,000 United Methodist voters at conferences around the world rejected the bishops’ plan. Most revealingly, over 94 percent of African voters, evidently not wanting this kind of “empowerment” by exclusion, voted no.

Undoubtedly United Methodist liberals will craft new attempts to marginalize the growing African churches. And U.S. Episcopalians will largely ignore the protests of the nearly 80 million member Communion, now dominated by large African churches that increasingly dwarf the dwindling U.S. denomination’s 2 million in both numbers and vitality. How persuasive will the emptying old-line churches of New England and California be against the arguments of hundreds of millions of African Christians?

Obama’s Thuggocracy

By Andrea Tantaros- FOXNews.com

From the G.M. bondholders, to the Black Panthers at polling stations, to ACORN to the mobs showing up at the homes of private citizens, Obama is running a Hugo Chavez-style thuggocracy.

This past Sunday, in one of the most aggressive and offensive intimidation tactics to date, hundreds of members of the largest union – the SEIU – stormed the front yard of Bank of America deputy general counsel Greg Baer’s home. The angry mob had bullhorns, signs and even broke the law by trespassing to bully Baer’s teenage son, the only one home at the time, who locked himself in the bathroom out of fear.

This is what unions do. They pressure politicians into spending too much. They push government into bad policy decisions. They sacrifice the private sector for the public sector. And now, they trespass and break the law only to scare the children of private citizens to get their way.
If you think the unions are working along, think again.

These protests, the ones storming Wall Street bank lobbies and now the private homes of bankers, are likely being carefully coordinated with the White House to increase their profile against the financial fat cats and help pass disgraced Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s financial regulatory bill.

Remember, when the White House visitor records were finally made public, it was SEIU boss Andy Stern who was the most frequent guest.

There are also no coincidences in politics. The bill passed the Senate last night.

From the G.M. bondholders, to the Black Panthers at polling stations, to ACORN to these assaults on private citizens, Obama is running a Hugo Chavez-style thuggocracy. Like Chavez, he gets non-official “allies” to act as his henchemen and do the intimidation work. Obama provides the narrative and tells the story of “greed” while the SEIU provides the muscle. This is about power, not prosperity.

This time it’s gone too far.

Unions see the writing on the wall. The goose that laid the golden egg is bleeding on the operating table – and they’re the ones who killed it. They are bankrupting local and state governments, and putting a strain on the federal budget. Unions have also put us at a major trade imbalance. The stimulus has gone to create more public sector union jobs. These jobs cost on average, 30K more than their private sector equivalents.

Take New York State, for example, once upon a time there was manufacturing, a robust Wall Street engine of growth, Fortune 500 companies aplenty. That “Empire State” is no more. The unions lobbied to ensure that these companies were taxed to death and made it extremely challenging to do business — so much that it became easier to do business in communist China.

Let’s be clear, I’m not defending Bank of America. I’m defending the American tax payer from organized labor who has bled them dry and the politicians who have been too weak to stand up to their gangster ways.

Unsurprisingly, the SEIU has made no apology for their behavior toward Baer’s family. Their spokespeople argue that the protest was over home foreclosures under Bank of America’s watch, but that still doesn’t give them the right to break the law. It also doesn’t allow them a carve out like they demanded in the health care bill for their costly Cadillac insurance plans. It’s absurd that in a recession, the unions feel they deserve special treatment because they are connected to the party in power. If that’s what they’re arguing they need to stand up and say it.

In this economy, you can’t punch someone without feeling it yourself. Punch the bank, they stop making loans, thus hurting the private sector. Punch the private sector, you hurt the markets. Hurt the Street and you hurt the pensions funds, in fact, the very same ones unions are going gangster to protect.

We now know, there is nothing they won’t do, nobody the unions won’t intimidate. And the president, who promised to preside over an administration free from special interest influence, should be held accountable. As long as we continue to feed the unions, the country will continue to decline. It’s time to stand up to this behavior with the same muscle they’ve used to bully our country all these years and send a message loud and clear: we will not be intimidated.

Andrea Tantaros is a conservative columnist and FoxNews.com contributor.

Singapore, Hong Kong surpass US in competitiveness

By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER

GENEVA (AP) – Singapore and Hong Kong are the world’s most competitive economies, an annual survey said Friday, demoting the United States from the top spot for the first time since 1993.

The study lists 58 economies according to 328 criteria that measure how the nations create and maintain conditions favorable to businesses – a formula that had favored the U.S. for 16 years.

“They are so close in the rankings, that it would be probably better to define them as a leading trio,” said Stephane Garelli, professor at the Lausanne, Switzerland-based IMD business school, publisher of the World Competitiveness Yearbook.

Despite high unemployment and debt, and continued market instability, the United States was better placed than European nations and others to attract new investments and help companies grow.

“The U.S. has weathered the risk of the financial and economic crises thanks to the sheer size of its economy, a stronger leadership in business and an unmatched supremacy in technology,” Garelli said.

Switzerland and Australia rounded out the top five. Then came Sweden, Canada, Taiwan, Norway and Malaysia.

China continued its rise in the survey, reaching 18th and highlighting that it is no longer dependent on foreign markets buying up its cheap exports. It led fellow emerging economies India, 31; Brazil, 38; and Russia, 51.

Debt-laden Greece actually improved in the 2010 ranking, rising six places to 46th.

Venezuela ranked last for the fifth year in a row, preceded by Ukraine, Romania, Argentina and Croatia.