News Stories That Will Not Surprise You in the Least

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Obama Administration

Item One: Cliven Bundy is a racist a**hole.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

If there were a Nobel Prize for abject and utterly un-self-aware cluelessness, I think Bundy’s remarks on “government subsidy” above would have sewed it up. And that soft shuffling sound you hear is from retreating Republican politicians who suddenly realize they may not want to be associated with Bundy, after all.

Item Two: Conservatives think Latina women lack the gravitas to be serious Supreme Court justices.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s impassioned defense of race-conscious admissions policies Tuesday hit a nerve with conservatives and inflamed an already bitter ideological chasm over race in the Obama era.

The National Review published an editorial trashing the Obama-appointed justice’s blistering dissent as “Orwellian” and “legally illiterate” after the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action.

“Her opinion is legally illiterate and logically indefensible, and the still-young career of this self-described ‘wise Latina’ on the Supreme Court already offers a case study in the moral and legal corrosion that inevitably results from elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law,” wrote the editors of the influential magazine. “Justice Sotomayor has revealed herself as a naked and bare-knuckled political activist with barely even a pretense of attending to the law, and the years she has left to subvert the law will be a generation-long reminder of the violence the Obama administration has done to our constitutional order.”

Appearing on Fox News, Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard said the first Latina justice’s lengthy opinion was driven by “emotion.”

“This was a decision written by somebody who was writing about emotion,” he said, as quoted by the Daily Caller. “It was President Obama’s ‘empathy standard’ — that’s what he was looking for when he nominated her, that’s what I think he got.”

Listen, dudes, next time just call her a silly chickita and tell her to shut up and fetch you a cold Corona and some nachos. Everybody knows it’s what you really want to say, so you might as well say it.

Item Three: Red state governors refused Medicaid funds because they’re spiteful and stupid.

By now it’s pretty clear that the states refusing to expand health coverage under Medicaid aren’t really worried about the expense. They’re motivated entirely by ideological stubbornness — “for no other reason than political spite,” as President Obama said last week.

New figures, in fact, show that the cost to the states of expanding Medicaid is less than previously thought. In February, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the expansion would cost the states $70 billion through 2024. This morning, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noticed a figure in the April update to the C.B.O. report that said the state costs have dropped by a third, to $46 billion. (The price tag is so low over a ten-year period because the federal government will pick up 95 percent of the total amount.)

The real costs to the states will be even less, though, because if they expand Medicaid, they will no longer have to pay for much of the emergency care of uninsured people that now takes place at hospitals and clinics. Estimates of this savings, according to the CBPP, range from $26 billion to $101 billion through 2019.

The 19 states that have flatly refused to expand the program are ignoring these facts. (The issue is under debate in another five reluctant states.) Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, one of the loudest in the “hell, no” chorus of anti-Medicaid Republican governors, claims the state cannot afford even the small fraction of the cost it would have to bear. But the expansion would actually save the state as much as $78 million this year in uninsured costs and $134 million next year, according to the state’s own budgetary analysis. Expanding Medicaid would also add about 15,000 new health care jobs in Louisiana.

Mary Landrieu is talking to Louisianians about the “Jindal gap.” Democrats, take note.

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The Mood of the People

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Obama Administration

A New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows four Senate races in the South doing surprisingly well. Even better, Bill “Always Wrong” Kristol has declared the poll to be bogus. Heh.

Dylan Scott writes,

A poll released Wednesday offers yet another data point showing the politics of Obamacare aren’t as set in stone as the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Embracing Obamacare isn’t necessarily a political loser, and obstructing it isn’t necessarily a winner.

The New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed four Southern states that will help determine control of the Senate this fall. It earned headlines for finding the Democrats in better shape in the Senate races than most would have expected.

But it also assessed the popularity of four governors who have taken vastly different approaches to Obamacare — and the findings are a direct contradiction of the narrative that the law is a loser, plain and simple, especially in states like these.

The poll showed Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who expanded Medicaid under the law, are hugely popular. Their approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than their disapproval ratings; Beebe holds 68 percent approval, and Beshear is at 56 percent.

But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) are at best treading water with their constituents after they declined to expand the program to cover low-income residents. McCrory is middling, with 43 percent approval and 44 percent disapproval, while Jindal is 14 percent underwater at 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval.

True to form, righties are claiming the poll is skewed. The Times says it isn’t.

This has to have the GOP worried, though, because they’ve believed all they had to do to secure a midterm sweep was to bash Obamacare, and the new poll shows that isn’t working all that well. Of course, there are other factors impacting these numbers beside health care law. But there will always be other factors, and the poll suggests that running against the ACA is not the magic bullet Republicans thought it was.

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Why We’re Screwed, Part DCCCLXXII

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Obama Administration

Confirming what a lot of us have been saying for at least a couple of decades, see The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades….

… Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago….

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

What they’re doing is looking at median rather than average income, which is what they should have been doing for years. Also, too:

“The crisis had no effect on our lives,” Jonas Frojelin, 37, a Swedish firefighter, said, referring to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. He lives with his wife, Malin, a nurse, in a seaside town a half-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

They each have five weeks of vacation and comprehensive health benefits. They benefited from almost three years of paid leave, between them, after their children, now 3 and 6 years old, were born. Today, the children attend a subsidized child-care center that costs about 3 percent of the Frojelins’ income.

Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period — a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

The article stresses over and over that this didn’t just happen; it’s been creeping up on us for more than 30 years. (And who was President 30 years ago? Wait …. let me guess …). It seems the final year of American preeminence was 2000. (And who was President right after that …. don’t tell me…. it’s on the tip of my tongue …) But what was the reaction on the Right? You got it .. . it’s Obama’s fault. The famously stupid Jim Hoft is running a headline saying “Another Obama Milestone… US Middle Class No Longer Most Affluent in the World” — I’m not linking to the creep — and his brain damaged readers are writing things like

Since Obama has basically wiped out the middle class of America, do you think the democRATs have any chance to keep the Senate in 2014 or the presidency in 2016???
America would be ignorant to vote for democrats again after all that they have done to the middle class and our military.

And it’s because of dimwits like that who vote that we’re screwed.

I don’t know how many times I’ve told some wingnut that as far as I could see, the U.S. middle class does not enjoy a more affluent lifestyle than people of other industrialized nations, and they refused to listen.

Coming on the heels of another study that said the U.S. is officially an oligarchy now, people really should be waking up. But they won’t. Progressives will be saying see? We were right, and the righties will just hide behind some rationalization, like blaming Obama, or trying to claim that if you look at house prices the differences are no big deal.

You can check out the reasons given for economic decline in the article, none of which will surprise you, and none of which originated with President Obama.

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Solar Panels Are the New Al Qaeda

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Obama Administration

Lead by the fossil-fuel lovin’ Koch boys, conservatives have launched a no-holds-barred war on renewable energy.

…The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

“State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

They’re trying to destroy the solar panel industry, because freedom. Devin Drum writes,

We’ve now entered an era in which affinity politics has gotten so toxic that even motherhood and apple pie are fair targets if it turns out that liberals happen to like apple pie. There are dozens of good reasons that we should be building out solar as fast as we possibly can—plummeting prices, overdependence on foreign oil, poisonous petrostate politics, clean air—but yes, global warming is one of those reasons too. And since global warming has now entered the conservative pantheon of conspiratorial hoaxes designed to allow liberals to quietly enslave the economy, it means that conservatives are instinctively opposed to anything even vaguely related to stopping it. As a result, fracking has become practically the holy grail of conservative energy policy, while solar, which improves by leaps and bounds every year, is a sign of decay and creeping socialism.

Does it help that the Koch brothers happen to be oil barons who don’t want to see the oil industry lose any of the massive government support it’s gotten for decades? It sure doesn’t hurt, does it?

If there’s anything that liberals and conservatives ought to be able to agree on, it’s the benefit of renewable power. It’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get. But President Obama made green programs part of his stimulus package, and that was that. When tea-party hysteria took over the conservative movement, renewable energy became one of its pariahs. Griping about Solyndra is ancient history. Today’s conservatives oppose renewable energy for the same reason they’ve gone nuts over Benghazi and the IRS and Syrian rebels: to show solidarity to the cause. Welcome to modern American politics.

If anything, solar panels ought to appeal to American individualism, because you can not only generate your own energy but you can sell energy you don’t need back to the grid. Righties may hate taxes, but apparently they love their utility bills.

Paul Krugman: “To reuse an old line from Brad DeLong, at this point right-wing paranoia is worse than you can possibly imagine, even if you take into account the fact that it’s worse than you can possibly imagine.”

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All Your Billionaires Are Belong to Us

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

John Hinderacker the Power Tool is livid that there’s a billionaire out there who has pledged support to … Democrats. This is unnatural; it violates the God-ordained order of things.

Billionaire hedge fund operator and “green” energy magnate Tom Steyer has pledged $100 million in the 2014 election cycle to help Democratic candidates who oppose the Keystone pipeline and who favor “green” energy over fossil fuels. Steyer claims to be a man of principle who has no financial interest in the causes he supports, but acts only for the public good. That is a ridiculous claim: Steyer is the ultimate rent-seeker who depends on government connections to produce subsidies and mandates that make his “green” energy investments profitable.

I don’t know John Steyer and have no idea where his head is. It may very well be that he’s taken a good, hard look at the world and reality and decided that, sooner or later, fossil fuel energy will be as extinct as the dodo and that the future will be green, and he might as well prepare himself to cash in.

To which I say, good for him. Imagine what the world would be like if the Koch Brothers suddenly had the same epiphany. Among other things, they’d stop subsidizing climate change denialism, and then maybe we’d actually be able to do something to, you know, save the planet. See, for example, Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks; Who Funds Contrariness on Climate Change? and Inside Koch’s Climate Denial Machine.

And by the way

Koch Brothers likes to champion themselves as crusaders against the welfare state. But a new report shows that they took $88 million of your taxpayer dollars while demanding that governments stop wasting taxpayer dollars. In total, $110 billion goes out to corporate welfare projects from state and local authorities. This does not even include money coming from federal sources.

In other words, the Tool is angry that Steyer is doing exactly what the Koch Brothers are doing, except he’s doing in a way that benefits Democrats. It’s unnatural, I tell you … Although I do find it amusing that a tool like the Tool uses the term “rent-seeker” as an insult. He sounds almost like a socialist.

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Doubling Down

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Obama Administration

There are two sides of the Obamacare story today. Progressives are pumping their fists and declaring, HOO-yah. Conservatives are shaking their fists and declaring they will defend the Alamo to the last, um, man. Or something.

From what I can tell, opinion polls on the ACA haven’t changed much over the past several months, and a small majority still disapprove of it. It will be interesting to see if this week’s news will move the needle.

Still, as Josh Marshall writes,

As I noted recently, GOP policy analysts are pretty clear now that Obamacare isn’t collapsing, hopes of the politicals notwithstanding. And strategists have started to hint that flat opposition – repeal with no alternative that provides something like the same range of benefits – may no longer be viable from a political standpoint.

Of course, in the Obamacare gotterdammerung bubble, Obamacare is on its last legs and President Obama will soon resign and ask the country for mercy as he’s hustled off by federal marshals to stand trial for Obamacare and socialism. Back on planet earth though reality-based opponents see the writing on the wall.

What’s next for the deniers? Joan Walsh predicts they’re going to go after the subsidies.

McCarthy also tacks on an ugly parenthetical, asking “how many received a subsidy (raising concerns about fraud).” Brian Beutler at the New Republic calls this an effort to “welfarize Obamacare,” to stigmatize it and also make it subject to the same hysteria about “fraud” that conservatives use to smear other social programs. …Still, a high rate of subsidies will let the GOP continue to demonize the “takers” vs. the “makers.” But some of them are going to have a big problem: A lot of the takers will turn out to be their voters.

Some guy at the Weekly Standard is saying the debate will be over when the American people say it’s over. Although, of course, by “American people” he means “right-wing think tanks.” And he says, “Repeal, now more than ever!”

The problem is, even many of the more demented wingnuts realize they can’t just repeal without taking a huge political hit. If they had something credible to replace the ACA they might use that, since the law still isn’t that popular. But they don’t. And they’re not going to. Greg Sargent writes,

The American public doesn’t believe there is any Republican alternative to the health care law.

That’s borne out in polls — more on that in a moment — but it’s rarely confirmed by Republicans themselves. . . .

. . .Kaiser’s tracking polls on health care — the gold standard — neatly demonstrate that Americans don’t believe there is any Republican alternative. Its March poll found that only 29 percent of Americans want to repeal Obamacare, but in that category, only 11 percent of Americans want to repeal the law and replace it with an unspecified GOP alternative. In February some 12 percent were in that latter category. In October it stood at 13 percent. And so on.

The GOP “repeal and replace” strategy relies on keeping replace vague. It relies on a gamble that voters won’t notice that the actual choice Republicans are offering them is to stick with Obamacare or to return to the old system. The map is so bad for Dems that Republicans could win the Senate in spite of the problems with this strategy. But even so, there is a basic nuance in public opinion that continues to go underappreciated. The most likely explanation for the combination of continued disapproval of Obamacare and continued opposition to repeal is that many Americans may not like what the law requires in exchange for its good stuff – or beyond that perhaps they don’t like the health system and are skeptical it can be made better — yet they understand that Obamacare is the only set of solutions we’re going to get

The political question is whether Republicans can keep their bluff going all the way to November.

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The Obamacare Effect

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Obama Administration

Be sure to see “Saved by Obamacare,” by fiction writer Elizabeth Hand. The article is not fiction; it’s about her experience with the ACA and why she’s grateful for it.

The wonder is, why isn’t the Administration, or some progressive group like MoveOn making ads with such stories to run in mass media? I honesty don’t understand. Maybe somebody is doing this, but I haven’t seen it. Or maybe powder is being saved until we’re closer to the midterm election. But they don’t want to wait too long, I don’t think.

At this point it’s obvious to all but the most demented that the ACA is working about as well as originally hoped. Which is to say it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad.

Speaking of which, as conservatives are trying to suss out White House manipulation of the Census Bureau, Obamacare keeps on doing exactly what it was intended to do. This week the Congressional Budget Office found that Obamacare will cover more people for less money than initially estimated, and that insurance premiums likely will not spike next year, thus driving a stake through three core conservative attacks on the health law.

Health insurers, who just last month were floating anonymous warnings of massive premium increases, are now starting to warm to the state health exchanges. “At least two major national insurers intend to expand their offerings,” reported Politico on April 16, “although a handful of big players like Aetna, Humana and Cigna, are keeping their cards close for now. None of the big-name insurers have signaled plans to shrink their presence or bail altogether after the first rocky year. And a slew of smaller health plans are already making moves to join more states or get into the Obamacare business for the first time.”

Ezra Klein writes that Republicans suffer from Obamacare Derangement Syndrome.

Today, the right struggles with Obamacare Derangement Syndrome: the acute inability to see Obamacare as anything but a catastrophic failure that the American people will soon reject. For those suffering from ODS, all bad Obamacare news is good news, and all good Obamacare news is spin. In this world, delays of minor provisions in the law prove that the entire structure is collapsing, while surges of millions of people enrolling in insurance don’t prove anything at all.

ODS has kept Republicans from updating their mental model of how Obamacare is doing. To them, the law’s disastrous rollout proved that it was doomed. The fact that it recovered beyond anyone’s expectations — literally, not a single analyst or policymaker I spoke to in December thought it credible that the exchanges would sign up 7 million by April, much less 7.5 million — hasn’t made much of an impression.

Most of them aren’t changing their rhetoric in light of changing realities. This is mostly because they’ve put themselves in a box with the base. They’ve been telling the base that no terms but unconditional surrender will be accepted — repeal, in other words — and the base will interpret any GOP waffling or compromise as failure.

There are still many good critiques to make of Obamacare. But Republicans don’t want to critique Obamacare. They want to stop it. Repeal it. They want to make it the hill big-government liberalism dies upon. And those in the party who know better continue to be cowed by those in the party who don’t. So long as Ted Cruz is going to New Hampshire promising that Obamacare can be stopped, no Republican can step before the faithful and outline a plan for how it can be tweaked.

And they can’t come up with an alternative plan, because the ACA WAS their alternative plan.

The other problem for the White House is that many think Obamacare is basically working despite the Obama administration’s best efforts. The roll-out really was a disaster, the law remains unpopular, and estimations of the Obama administration’s competence are still low. The public would gladly flock to a political party that had a real plan for improving Obamacare, and a serious claim to being able to manage it more professionally. Luckily for the Obama administration, ODS ensures Republicans are still far, far away from being that party.

Someday historians may look back at 2013-2014 and conclude the terrible ACA website rollout worked in Democrats’ favor. It persuaded Republicans that a no compromises opposition to Obamacare would be a winning issue for them in 2014, and now they are so utterly committed to that I don’t think they can change. But neither do I think it will work for them all that well.

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The End Is Nigh

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blogging

I just finished a first draft of the last chapter, which means I have a complete first draft of The Book. I may actually be done with it someday. And it’s just over 61,000 words. I started out to write 20,000. Sigh.

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Tax Day Links

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Obama Administration

I finished the tax forms yesterday, which for me is a day earlier than I usually get them done. Yay. Here’s some random links:

Peter Bergen and David Sterman, CNN: U.S. right wing extremists more deadly than jihadists

If Little Lulu sees this, will she demand an apology from CNN on behalf of conservatives?

Budget Office Lowers Estimate for the Cost of Expanding Health Coverage Obamacare is working, folks. Of course, what Faux News viewers see is a report by the bleeping American Enterprise Institute that Survey shows ObamaCare sending premiums rising at fastest clip in decades. Right now I haven’t had enough coffee even to guess how AEI managed to massage the data to come up with that headline.

For your comedy break: Marsha Blackburn says the GOP led the fight for women’s equality. Sort of the same way the Confederate States of America led the fight to end slavery, perhaps.

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Christian Persecution Porn

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Obama Administration

Another book preview.

The golden age of biblical epic films may be over, but the golden age of Christian persecution films may have just begun. Eric Brown of the International Business Times reported that an independent film titled God’s Not Dead has grossed more than $34 million in its first three weeks in theaters. Moviefone reported that the indie film was the fifth highest-earning film on the weekend it opened, in March 2014. The highly promoted Divergent and Muppets Most Wanted were among its competition.

The film, which I have not seen, depicts a college student whose philosophy professor demands the class write “God is dead” on a piece of paper, sign it, and hand it in. The student, a Christian, refuses. I assume several other things happen to fill the film’s running time. Eric Brown writes,

“Russell Wolfe, CEO of “God’s Not Dead” distributor Pure Flix, admitted in an interview with the Blaze, the Glenn Beck site, that the film is, by and large, ‘preaching to the choir,’ saying that ‘God’s Not Dead’ helps ‘people know more of why they believe what they believe.’ But what values is the film teaching? Between the film’s abusive Muslims and angry atheists, the biggest take-home is that everyone is out to get Christians.”

I read that not just one, but two indie Christian persecution films are scheduled for release later in 2014, both named Persecuted. This is from a press release about one of them:

“PERSECUTED tells the story of a modern-day evangelist named John Luther, played by SAG Award-nominated and Saturn Award winning actor James Remar ( X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, ‘Dexter’, DJANGO: UNCHAINED, WHAT LIES BENEATH, RED). Luther is the last hold out for a national endorsement to make sweeping reform in freedom of speech. As the government is mandating political correctness while covertly waging a war against religious organizations, a U.S. Senator, portrayed by Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Davison (X-MEN, ‘Lost’, ‘Castle’), and his political allies create a sinister plan of denial and scandal to frame John Luther for murder. Suddenly his once normal life is turned upside down as he becomes a fugitive vowing to expose those responsible. It is a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the moral ethics and freedoms of America.”

Since “mandating political correctness” usually is code for being called out for telling jokes involving black people and watermelons, I attempted to find out what awful thing is being mandated. It appears to be a hypothetical “Faith and Fairness Act” that would require religious broadcasters to present all religious points of view when presenting their own point of view. Well, yes, that would be dreadful. I shudder at the thought of anyone on the Christian Broadcasting Network attempting to present a Buddhist point of view.

The other Persecuted is set in the old Soviet Union and involves Evangelicals being pursued by KGB agents, but Miranda Blue at Right Wing Watch says the film is “clearly meant to be an allegorical tale about the United States today.”

But if that’s not enough Christian persecution porn for you, a “Stories of the Persecuted Church” boxed set of six more Christian persecution films on DVD is available from ChristianCinema.com.

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