Amy-Jill Levine: Who Did They Say He Was? Jesus in Text and Context

May 24, 2015

Originally posted on Biblical Studies Online:

Professor Amy-Jill Levine (Vanderbilt University) delivered the lecture, “Who Did They Say He Was? Jesus in Text and Context” at Westminster Town Hall, Minneapolis, on March 31, 2015. Levine addresses the question of who Jesus was to the first-century Jews who heard him and sometimes followed him (and sometimes did not).

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Bible Translation Specialists Needed

January 29, 2015

Originally posted on Language of the Heart:

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way for people with years of experience in Bible translation to share all of that experience with aspiring Bible translators?

For many years the only option for this was through translation training centers. Over the years Wycliffe Associates has built dozens of these training centers around the world, benefitting thousands of translators as they gain experience.

But no matter how many training centers we build, they will still be beyond the reach of too many translators.

Fortunately, the Internet provides a helpful alternative!

The current translationStudio app includes fifty Bible stories, and hundreds of pages of translators’ notes linked to these stories, so that local translators have the resources they need to produce the highest quality translation. Upcoming translationStudio releases will include books of the Bible and eventually the entire Bible, along with translators’ notes linked to each verse and passage.

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Truth Anonymous

January 11, 2015

Originally posted on Sects and Violence in the Ancient World:

SparkMany a student has been spared the reading of primary sources by study guides. This is not a new phenomenon. While still regularly teaching Hebrew Bible, I picked up a copy of Cliff Notes, The Bible, to show students how not to get the picture. To be fair, I was teaching future priests, and, despite my progressive outlook, I believe all Christian clergy ought to have read the Bible at least once. I know enough of Christian history to realize that the emphasis on sacred writ is not as ancient as many Protestants think—before the advent of modern literacy rates, scripture reading (and interpreting) was the business of the church. The laity were to receive it in the form of sermons, and so reading the Bible wasn’t really necessary. With the Reformation, however, the Bible became central and preaching became a matter of intelligent interpretation of the same. Today…

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Video Resource: Gospels and Divine Christology, a Discussion with Richard Hays (Gupta)

December 9, 2014

Originally posted on Crux Sola:

This online discussion with Richard Hays happened on December 4, 2014 through Westminster Theological Centre (UK). The title of the discussion was: “Did the Gospel Writers Believe Jesus was Divine?”

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Another election? What we may lose if people don’t see (what I see)

November 1, 2014

It’s 2014, and in a matter of days, we have a very important election ahead of us. Yet, there are a number of very loud progressives who have done nothing but complain since the day President Obama was inaugurated in 2009. No, he’s not perfect. Adults don’t expect perfection. But when they claim that he’s no progressive, well, that’s just an outright lie. What do these folks think “progressive” means? The root word is “progress,” and there has been a lot of progress since January 20, 2009. Admittedly, most progress happened during his first two years, but as I recall, one reason Republicans took back the House was because many progressives thought Obama was a “disappointment,” and Democrats were “spineless.”

Four years later, we progressives have a chance to reverse our incredible screw-up, and still; many progressives prefer to complain about the imperfection of Democrats than to work to get rid of the right wing GOP.

Here is a list of many of President Obama’s accomplishments as President. Every one of them has a citation, so no one can dismiss these as lies. Imagine what he could have done had we not taken away his Democratic majority after 2010. This list is important. Every time someone complains that Obama’s not progressive, send them the link, or print it out and hand it to them. This list is growing constantly, even with an obstructionist Republican Congress trying to stop everything he does.

Being progressive is not about having the correct positions on issues.  Given the obstacles, this President will leave a legacy. If we want to win elections – and in a democracy, that has to be our main goal – we have to make people want to vote for us. That means accentuating the positive, and talking about how great we are, especially compared to the alternative.

Pass this list around to everyone you know, especially those who whine that Obama has done nothing. Then keep being positive, and encouraging people to vote. We can’t allow 2014 to be like 2010.

Here’s What He’s Done

Returned The Executive Branch To Fiscal Responsibility

Within his first week, he signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse.

Created the post of Chief Performance Officer, whose job it is to make operations more efficient to save the federal government money.

On his first full day, he froze White House salaries.

He appointed the first Federal Chief Information Officer to oversee federal IT spending.

He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems. To that end, he also signed the Democratic-sponsored Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, which attempted to put a stop to waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system.

Through an executive order, he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Prevented a Bush Depression and Improved the Economy

Pushed through and signed the Democratic-sponsored American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package.” The bill passed, even though only three Republicans voted for it. In a major departure from the previous administration, he launched, a website that allows taxpayers to track spending from the Act.

The Bush-led Great Recession was costing the economy nearly 800,000 jobs per month by the time President Obama took office. But by the end of his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy by  3.5%.

Not only did he completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, he also leaned on the banks and others, and recovered virtually all of the bail-out money.

He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan.

Oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.

Along with Democrats, and almost no Republicans, implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs. Many are of the opinion that he saved the entire auto industry, and even the economy of the entire Midwest. resulted in GM returning to its place as the top car company in the world.

Doubled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which is designed to improve manufacturing efficiency.

Signed the Democratic-sponsored Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system, and create a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown.

Signed the Democratic-sponsored Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices.

Increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect.

Signed the Democratic-sponsored and passed Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures. The bill also provided $2.2 billion to help combat homelessness, and to stabilize the housing market.

Through the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, he and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery.

Initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses.

Created, which allows for online collaboration between small businesses and experts re managing a business. (The program has since merged with

Played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis.

Took steps to improve minority access to capital.

Signed an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to review all federal regulations and remove any unnecessary and/or burdensome regulations from the books.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, saved at least 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors that would have otherwise been lost.

Dismantled the Minerals Management Service, thereby cutting ties between energy companies and the government.

Along with Congressional Democrats, provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession.

Used recovered TARP money to fund programs at local housing finance agencies in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

Crafted and signed an executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.

China’s largest manufacturer, Foxconn, is building a large plant in Pennsylvania

Worked with Apple Computer to get them to build more product here, and thecompany is building two large plants to manufacture products here; one in Texas and one in Arizona

Oversaw increase of manufacturing jobs by more than 500,000 since 2010, and created an institute to invest in more manufacturing jobs in the technology fields of the future.

Ordered all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, leading the way to a national increase.

Ordered the completion of the International Trade Data System, a digital trade record book, by 2016. This move will streamline and simplify the process through which small- and medium-sized businesses set up the export of US goods.

Created a climate in which there have been 55 consecutive months of job growth, totaling more than 10 million jobs, which is roughly 10,000,000 more jobs than Bush created in eight years. is also the longest stretch of private-sector job growth in US history.

Led the country to 64 consecutive months of economic expansion, eclipsing Saint Reagan’s record, by far.

Oversaw a reduction in the dollar amount of the federal budget deficit by two-thirds since taking office.

Reduced the federal budget deficit from 9.8% of GDP in Fiscal Year 2009 under Bush, to 2.9% of GDP in FY 2014.

Under Obama, the stock market has reached record highs, restoring most of the economic losses felt during the Bush Recession, when it reached record lows, adjusted for inflation.

Brought Much-Improved Transparency and Better Government

Signed an order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch.

Signed an order banning anyone from working in an agency they had lobbied in previous years, and put strict limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House.

Held the first-ever first online town hall from the White House, and took questions from the public.

Became the first to stream every White House event, live.

Established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities.

Issued an Executive Order on Presidential Records, which restored the 30-day time frame for former presidents to review records, and eliminated the right for the vice president or family members of former presidents to do the reviews. Provides the public with greater access to historic  White House documents, and severely curtails the ability to use executive privilege to shield them.

Improved aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, and issued new guidelines to make FOIA more open and transparent when processing FOIA requests.

Proposed rules that would streamline the Department of Education’s procurement policies and make them more transparent.

Provided the first voluntary disclosure of the White House Visitors Log in history.

Wall Street Reforms and Consumer Protection

Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.

Along with Congressional Democrats, pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.

By signing Dodd-Frank legislation, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Created rules that reduce the influence of speculators in the oil market.

Fashioned rules so that banks can no longer use YOUR money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests.

Supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation.

Endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that would close offshore tax avoidance loopholes.

Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks that now permits the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and  tax evaders.

Signed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which closed many of the loopholes that allowed companies to send jobs overseas, and avoid paying US taxes by moving money offshore.

Established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses.

Oversaw and then signed a Democratic bill constituting the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.

Through the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, extended the False Claims Act to combat fraud by companies and individuals usingmoney from the TARP and Stimulus programs.

Set up rules for banks in handling legal marijuana money.

Enhanced Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination

Along with Congressional Democrats, advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie in order to be eligible to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping.

Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history.

Appointed first openly transgender Cabinet Official in History.

Changed HUD rules to prohibit gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination in housing

Changed his mind and publicly expressed support for same-sex marriage.

Issued a Presidential Memorandum reaffirming the rights of gay couples to make medical decisions for each other.

Wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families.

Signed the Democratic-sponsored Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.

Signed two executive orders that mirror provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act, because the GOP Congress refuses to pass it. It makes is possible for employees to talk about their salaries without retaliation, and orders salary data collection. These measures will make it harder for employers to pay women less.

Expanded funding for the Violence Against Women Act.

Under his guidance, National Labor Relations Board issued final rules that require all employers to prominently post employees’ rights where all employees or prospective employees can see it, including all websites and intranets.

Advocated that United Nations adopt a policy supporting gay rights worldwide.

Issued an order requiring hospitals to allow visitation by same-sex couples.

Appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.

Helped Democrats in Congress pass and signed the Civil Rights History Act.

Established the White House Council of Native American Affairs, to improve government-to-government relations with Native American nations.

Formed a commission to examine and make recommendations for fixing the broken voting system.

As soon as the Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, he moved to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples.

At a press conference August 9, 2013, gave up a small measure of executive power, promising to create adversarial process in FISA regarding NSA surveillance.

Proposed new HUD rules that would enhance Fair Housing Laws, to give HUD and other enforcement agencies more teeth in enforcing them.

Shattered another glass ceiling by naming Janet Yellen chair of the Federal Reserve beginning Feb. 1, 2014.

Appointed several prominent gay athletes and others, and plans to show US government’s commitment to gay rights to anti-gay Russia.

Ordered a review of capital punishment policies after several botched executions.

Obama’s Department of Agriculture propagated new rules designed to better enforce nondiscrimination when it comes to USDA investigations. These rules also extended nondiscrimination to gender identity.

Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified and strengthened rules prohibiting discrimination against pregnant workers.

Banned all federal contractors from discriminating against gay workers.

Created a requirement in which companies who bid on federal contracts of more than $500,000 must publicly disclose all previous violations of labor law, including unpaid claims for back wages.

Made it illegal for federal contractors with more than $1 million in contracts  to force employees into arbitration to settle workplace discrimination accusations.

The Obama Department of Justice made significant reductions in drug sentencing guidelines for current prisoners, thus releasing thousands from US prisons. This is the first step in 30 years toward reducing the US prison population, which is the highest in the world.

Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, inflation in the healthcare sector dropped to its lowest point in 50 years.

Major Improvements in Foreign Relations, American Status Around the World

Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president during his first six months in office.

As he promised, he gave a speech at a major Islamic forum in Cairo early in his administration.

Helped to restore America’s reputation around the world as a global leader that does the “right thing” in world affairs, at least according to the rest of the world.

Re-established and reinforced our partnership with NATO and other allies on strategic international issues.

Closed a number of secret detention facilities.

Improved relations with Middle East countries by appointing special envoys.

Pushed forward the first realistic Middle East peace strategy in more than a decade, without abandoning the two-state solution.

Pushed for military to emphasize devlopment of foreign language skills.

Offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence.

Refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program, and thus avoid another war that Republicans wanted.

Ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was Republicans (and, unfortunately, progressive Democrats) who prevented follow through.

Ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of torture, or what Bush called “enhanced interrogation.” He ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual.

Ordered all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to be closed.

Released the Bush torture memos.

On his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all  Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention.

In response to the emerging “Arab Spring,” he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them.

Ended the F-22 program, saving $4 billion. Though the single-seat, twin-engine, fighter aircraft cost $358 million each, and the military had 187 built, the F-22 never flew a combat mission. as an aside, that “fiscally conservative” Republican Party fought to keep it.)

Passed the Iran Sanctions Act, to prevent war and encourage the Iranian government to give up their nuclear program.

Ended the Iraq War.

Worked to keep our withdrawal from Afghanistan on track, despite GOP opposition. that commitment in 2014.

Authorized and oversaw a secret mission by SEAL Team Six to rescue two hostages held by Somali pirates.

Through United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, helped negotiate a peaceful split of Sudan into two countries, this allowing for the creation of an independent South Sudan.

Worked with Democratic Congress to make donations to Haiti tax deductible in 2009.

Established a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Issued Executive Order blocking interference and helping to stabilize Somalia.

Established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba, such as allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families and send money to support them.

A More Realistic Approach to “Defense” and National Security

Created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat.

Authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010.

Restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush.

Signed and pushed through ratification a new SALT Treaty.

Negotiated and signed a new START Treaty that will lst until at least 2021.

Through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq.

Developed first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

Returned our focus to Afghanistan, stabilized the country, and began the process of withdrawing our troops from the country.

Negotiated a deal with Afghan govenment, to withdraw troops and military support, while assisting in rebuilding and modernizing of the country.

Took steps to severely weaken al Qaeda and limited their ability to terrorize the world.

Negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India.

Took decisive action to use NATO to limit the slaughter of innocents in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple the despotic Khadaffy government and determine their own fate.

Got Egyptian President/dictator Mubarak to leave the Egyptian government to the people, to determine their own fate.

In 2011, reoriented American focus from the Middle East to the Asian-Pacific region by simultaneouly engaging China and crafting new alliances with Asian countries uncomfortable with Chinese behavior.

Restored federal agencies such as FEMA to the point that they have been able to manage a huge number of natural  disasters successfully.

Authorized Navy SEALS to successfully secure the release of a US captain held by Somali pirates and increased patrols off the Somali coast.

Has repeatedly beefed up border security

Ordered and oversaw the Navy SEALS operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

Established the Homeland Security Partnership Council, which will attempt to enhance the nation’s ability to “address homeland security priorities, from responding to natural disasters to preventing terrorism, by utilizing diverse perspectives, skills, tools, and resources.”

Breaking with presidential tradition, especially recent tradition, instead of just attacking Syria in the wake of chemical weapons attacks on Syrians, Obama ordered a full report on the decision-making process, should he decide to order one.

Instead of holding hearings and trying to create a political football, quietly captured a suspect who actually committed the Benghazi terrorist attack. He is also getting a lot of useful information from the suspect.

Returned Government to Treating Soldiers and Veterans with  Dignity and Respect

Provided active combat troops with better body armor.

Created Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program for military personnel, in order  to improve the quality of their medical care.

Put an end to the Bush-era stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan beyond their enlistment date. (personal note: my son will be in harm’s way for six fewer months with Obama as president, so you know I love this one.)

Along with Congressional Democrats, supported and signed Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans.

Along with Congressional Democrats, ushered through largest spending increase in 30 years for Department of Veterans Affairs, with money to go to improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities.

Created the Green Vet Initiative, which provided special funding to the Labor Department to provide veterans with training in green jobs.

Initiated and signed a recruitment and employment plan to get more veterans into government jobs.

Oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals.

Signed the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, which ensures that spouses of military personnel who are forced to move because their spouse is posted for military duty will be able to avoid state taxes in their temporary residence.

Issued an Executive Order to improve access to mental health care for veterans, military personnel and their families.

was able to get Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons without military firing a single shot or dropping a single bomb.

Along with Congressional Democrats, not only reauthorized families of fallen soldiers to be able to visit when the body arrives at Dover AFB, but also provided funding for it.  Ended the media blackout on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers.

Funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with an extra $1.4 billion to improve veterans’ services.

Refocused the Federal Government on Education, Made Rational  Reforms

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

Created the Race to the Top program, which encouraged states to come up with effective school reforms and rewards the best of them.

Oversaw major expansion of broadband availability in K-12 schools nationwide.

Oversaw major expansion in school construction.

Also through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he put $5 billion into early education, including Head Start.

Signed the Democratic-sponsored Post-9/11 GI Bill, also known as GI Bill 2.0

Oversaw expansion of the Pell Grants program, to expand opportunity for low and middle income students to go to college.

Along with Democratic Congress, passed and signed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provided an extra $12.2 billion in funds.

Took major new steps to protect students from ineffective for-profit colleges through “gainful employment” measures, whereby schools have to demonstrate that its students actually find work to get federal aid.

Repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process, thus us creating greater accountability.

Reformed student loan program, to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate.

Created a rating system for colleges, so that those applying for student financial aid know better what they’re paying for.

An Adult View on Science, Technology and Health Care

Created a Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity in government decision-making.

Opened up process for fast-tracking patent approval for green energy projects.

Eliminated Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, and provided increased federal support for biomedical and stem cell research.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, committed more federal funding, about $18 billion, to support non-defense science and research labs.

Signed Democratic-sponsored Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of Americans living with paralysis.

Expanded the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families, to cover more first-time mothers.

Obama EPA reversed research ethics standards which allowed humans to be used as “guinea pigs” in tests of the effects of chemicals, to comply with numerous codes of medical ethics.

Conducted a cyberspace policy review.

Provided financial support for private sector space programs.

Oversaw enhanced earth mapping, to provide valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use.

Along with Democrats in Congress, ushered through and signed a bill authorizing FDA to regulate tobacco. As a result,  the FDA has Ordered Tobacco Companies to Disclose Cigarette Ingredients and banned sale of cigarettes falsely labeled as “light.”

Through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provided $500 million for Health Professions Training Programs.

Increased funding for community-based prevention programs.

Oversaw a 50% decrease in cost of prescription drugs for seniors.

Eliminated the Bush-era practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies on price.

Two weeks after taking office, signed Democratic-sponsored Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which increased the number of children covered by health insurance by 4 million.

Urged Congress to investigate Anthem Blue Cross for raising premiums 39% without explanation. Democratic Rep. Waxman responded by launching a probe, and Anthem Blue Cross put increase on hold for two months.

Ushered through and signed Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to at least 30 million more people, ended many common insurance company practices that are often detrimental  to those with coverage.  He also established, so that taxpayers could keep up with developments.

Through ACA, allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26.

Through the ACA, provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small business to provide health insurance to their employees, and 29 million people will receive tax breaks to help them afford health insurance.

Through the ACA, expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

Through the ACA, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of your premium actually goes to pay for patient care.

Provisions in the ACA have already resulted in Medicare costs actually declining slightly this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The increase in 2011 was 4%, which is very low compared to the average 12% annual inflation rate during previous 40 years.

Since passage of the ACA, health care inflation is at its lowest level since 1960.

Created the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, to strengthen the government’s ability to respond to the continuing domestic HIV epidemic, after years of Republicans weakening the government’s ability to deal with the crisis.

Expanded space exploration and discovery options to include more players.

Through the Connect America Fund, pushed through and received FCC approval for a move of $8 billion in subsidies away from telephone landlines to assist lower-income rural families in accessing broadband.

In the wake of the West Fertilizer tragedy, in which an entire small town was devastated by an explosion at a fertilizer plant, in part because Republican negligence let the company do whatever it wanted, formed the Chemical Safety and Security Working Group, to work on measures to prevent another such event.

By 2014, the Affordable Care Act dropped the number of uninsured Americans by 22.3%, which amounts to more than 10.3 million people with insurance who didn’t have it before. Only 13.9% of Americans are uninsured, a drop from 18.9% in 2013.

The Affordable Care Act has increased the life expectancy of Medicare greatly.

Strengthened the Middle Class and Families, and Fought Poverty

Worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care to working families.

Cracked down on companies that were previously denying sick pay, vacation and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare tax payments through abuse of the employee classification of independent contractor.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , cut taxes for 95% of America’s working families.

Tax rates for average working families are the lowest since 1950.

Extended and fully funded the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax for 10 years.

Extended discounted  health coverage under the COBRA health insurance law for the unemployed from 9 months to 15 months, and he’s also extended unemployment benefits more than a few times.

Provided  a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps).

Signed an Executive Order that established the White House Office of Urban Affairs.

Included the Buffet Rule in his 2014 budget proposal, thus trying to fulfill a campaign promise, to make sure tax rates are fair between the rich and the middle class.

Used the fiscal cliff negotiations to extend for five additional years the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides tax credits to families for college-related expenses, thus saving those families up to $10,000.

Increased protections for those who are unemployed and are seeking a government job.

Updated and modernized overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

With First Lady Michelle Obama, passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which will improve nutrition in schools and make children healthier.

In his continuing effort to make college more affordable and accountable, will begin rating colleges with regard to affordability and value.

Initiated a reform of federal job training programs, to make them more relevant to the current economy and the job market.

Under Obama, the bottom 95% of taxpayers are paying lower federal income taxes than at any time in the last 50 years, including under Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Concrete Steps to Improve The Environment and Address Our Energy Needs

Doubling federal spending on clean energy research.

Pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars.

Created a program to develop renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents.

Reengaged in the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions agreements talks, and proposed one himself. He also addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, officially reversing the Bush era stance that climate change was a “hoax.”

Fully supported the initial phase of the creation of a legally-binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide.

Required states to provide incentives to utilities to reduce their energy consumption.

Under Obama, our dependence on foreign oil has dropped to its lowest rate since 1985, and continues to drop. Meanwhile, consumption is way down because of reduced driving and higher mileage standards.

Improved siting, review and permitting stations for power plants, in an attempt to seriously improve the nation’s electric grid.

Following the neglect of Bush’s eight year reign, he reengaged in a number of treaties and agreements designed to protect the Antarctic.

Created tax write-offs for purchases of hybrid automobiles, and later he and Democrats morphed that program into one that includes electric cars.

Established a quadrennial review of our energy infrastructure, to encourage a modernization of the grid, and to encourage the transition away from fossil fuel use.

Mandated that federal government fleet purchases be for fuel-efficient American vehicles, and encouraged that federal agencies support experimental, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Got BP to cough up $20 billion to establish Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, to reduce the need for taxpayer funds to be used for compensation and clean up. (Note: it took 20 years to get $1.3 billion for the Exxon Valdez spill. )

Oversaw and pushed through an amendment to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Actively tried to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to eliminate the liability limits for those companies responsible for large oil spills.

Became the first President to simply say “Climate Change is a fact,” and set up the first federal government protocols for dealing with the impacts of climate change.

Initiated Criminal and Civil inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Asserted federal legal supremacy to bar Texas from authorizing new refinery permits on its own.

Set up new, stricter standards limiting power plant emissions.

Strengthened the Endangered Species Act.

Strengthened protection for wildlife, and expanded enforcement of laws against wildlife trafficking.

Obama EPA improved boiler safety standards to improve air quality, and save 6500 lives per year.

Through the EPA, attemped to take steps to severely limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, to increase their efficacy in humans.

Through new EPA regulations, he created a pretext for closing the dirtiest power plants in the country, by limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic gasses.

Increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%

Announced greatly improved commercial fuel efficiency standards.

Announced a huge increase in average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg in 2010 to 35.5mpg starting in 2016 and 54.5 starting in 2025

Issued an Executive Order to facilitate investments in industrial energy efficiency that will help create jobs, while strengthening US manufacturing. Increased efficiency could save businesses $100 billion over the next decade.

Through an executive order, set up the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which will to oversee Gulf Coast restoration efforts in the wake of the 2010 BP oil splll. The money to fund the restoration efforts comes from fines against BP.

Through executive actions and bypassing the ineffectual Republican Congress, announced the most comprehensive plan to combat climate change in a generation.

Ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021. (Republicans are trying hard to kill it.)

Oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers.

guided the country into a 418% increase in solar power capacity between 2010 and 2014.

Bypassed Republican opposition in Congress and ordered EPA to begin regulating and measuring carbon emissions.

Oversaw a tripling in the use of wind power to generate electricity. For the third year in row, the United States led the world in increased wind power capacity.

Ordered the federal government to incorporate climate resilience and climate science into all international development in which the United States engages.

Fast-tracked regulations to allow states to enact fuel efficiency standards that exceeded federal standards.

Fast-tracked increased fuel economy standards for vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. It was the first time such standards had been increased in a decade.

Oversaw establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, to create more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies.

Obama EPA reversed a Bush-era decision to allow the largest mountaintop removal project in US history.

Ordered the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances.

Obama EPA ruled that excess CO2 is a pollutant.

But That’s Not All…

Nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the court’s history, and the women represent only the third and fourth women to serve on the court, out of a total of 112 justices.

Appointed the most diverse Cabinet in history, including more women than any other incoming president.

Eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and rescinded the global gag rule.

Loosened the rules and allowed the 14 states that legalized medical marijuana to regulate themselves without federal interference.

Signed national service legislation, increasing funding for national service groups, including triple the size of the Americorps program.

Signed an Executive Order that will speed up deployment of a more comprehensive broadband infrastructure.

Signed an Executive Order creating jobs immediately by instructing them to reduce the time needed for review and permitting of infrastructure projects.

Signed a bill that provided $4.3 billion in additional assistance to 9/11 first responders.

Signed an Executive Order pledging support for efforts to end the global problem of violence against women and girls.

Signed the Claims Resolution Act, which provided $4.6 billion in funding for a legal settlement with black and Native American farmers who had been cheated out of government loans and natural resource royalties in the past.

To help those communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, issued an executive order setting up the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and asked Congress to approve $60 billion in supplemental assistance to aid in storm recovery.

Produced 23 Executive actions designed to make it easier for law enforcement to identify those who shouldn’t have guns, thus helping them enforce the law.

Expanded trade agreements to include stricter labor and environmental agreements such as NAFTA.

Oversaw funding of  the design of a new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.  He protected the funding during the recent budget negotiations.

Oversaw and passed increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

And Did You Know?

Despite the characterizations of some, Obama’s success rate in winning congressional votes on issues was an unprecedented 96.7% for his first year in office.  Though he is often cited as superior to Obama, President Lyndon Johnson’s success rate in 1965 was only 93%.

And of course…

Despite the odds, became the first black president and then, was reelected by a wide margin

The Fever and the Fear: Conservative American Christians and Judgment at Nuremberg

September 30, 2014


Thank you for voicing the concerns of many of us.

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:


Yesterday I wrote about the lack of empathy among conservative American Christians and I drew some comparisons to the German Christians of the 1920s and 1930s who despite their reservations supported ultra-right wing parties and later the Nazi Party. As I mentioned yesterday this was brought about by the fear and hate propagated by those who had lost their favored status after the collapse of the Kaiser Reich, and especially the fear of what many Christians believed was the threat of atheistic Socialists and Communists. Their brief experiment with democracy which was devastated by political battles amid the 1919-1920 Weimar Inflation which destroyed the financial security of most Germans as well as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 which brought about the Great Depression made many receptive to the “Nazi Gospel.”

I think that conservative American Christians are going the same direction as they get swept up in the…

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Prepare for a Long and Brutal Ideological War Against the Islamic State

September 14, 2014


Padre Steve sum it up well!

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:

“This war differs from other wars, in this particular: We are not fighting armies but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.” William Tecumseh Sherman

Note: Please know, I have been to war, I have seen its devastation and heartache and I came back changed from the experience. I hate it. That being said, despite being a progressive who hates war, I am also a realist. I am not one that finds any romance or glory in war, but I know that sometimes it becomes unavoidable. In the past few articles I have written about the nature of war, the kind of war we are now engaged in with ISIL and some of the ethical and moral compromises that could easily be made in such a war.

President Obama came into office as a President determined to end the…

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Why Do You Respect Obama, Adrienne?

September 6, 2014

Originally posted on life of a female bible warrior:

The above expresses my frustration and my feelings perfectly. These days, I feel that I can recognize real Christians by how they treat the president of the United States. God has given us explicit instructions about our leaders in government and what is expected out of our behavior, public and private, where they are concerned. Many Christians do not give a hoot what God has said in that bible they allegedly read.

I’m certainly not perfect either in my daily life, but I am continually seeking others wiser than myself in the ways of the Lord to learn from and model myself after as I grow spiritually. People who mistreat our president are not people I want to emulate or learn from.

There are Christians who do not understand why I defend and stand up for President Barack Obama. I could write lengthy posts about various reasons, but the most…

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I Want My Christianity Back – Without the Ugly Baggage

July 31, 2014


A well said article that speaks for many who have left the haters at the side of the road.,

Originally posted on TIME:


This article originally appeared on Patheos

I don’t like telling people I’m a Christian.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of being a Christian; I’m not – at all. It is just that the word “Christian” comes with so much ugly baggage.

Telling someone I’m a Christian means I must immediately follow it up with, “but not that kind of Christian.” It’s like saying, “Yeah, sure, these are some mind bogglingly ugly suitcases, but I’ve got the coolest stuff on the inside of them. No, really, I do.”

It’s just not worth the effort; and, frankly, I’m tired of lugging these ugly, heavy things around.

Truthfully, I don’t blame people who assume that if you’re Christian you’re anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, anti-real equality, anti-other religions and pretty much anti-anything else that one small but loud subset of Christians find offensive or threatening.

It completely makes sense. It’s why I don’t want to use…

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Parallels between Tea Party Ideology and the Ante-Bellum South

July 18, 2014


Sometimes they say the truth hurts, and other times it just needs to be said.

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:


I read a lot of political commentary and as a historian as well as a theologian I try to carefully examine mass movements such as the modern Tea Party Movement from a historical, theological and moral point of view. To do this as dispassionately as I can I look to history and attempt to find parallels to other movements and ideologies in the country concerned. For example if I am examining a movement in France, I look to French history for precedent, the same for any other country or region.

In regard to the Tea Party movement I have watched it since its inception in the fall of 2008 not long after I returned from Iraq. At the time I saw it as a protest against the massive failure of the American economy during the housing and stock market collapse involving the big banks and investment firms on Wall…

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