Friday, July 3, 2015

Bigotry sells in the GOP


Donald Trump is currently running second in the Republican Party polls for president - and second in both Iowa and New Hampshire, too. This clown has gone up in the standings after these remarks. Incredible, isn't it?

Forget the rapist stuff, for the moment. Donald Trump actually thinks that Mexico is sending us their citizens, "the killers, the drug-dealers, the rapists"? Is he really that clueless about the causes of immigration?

We are a nation of immigrants. We're all descended from people who came here from somewhere else (even the Native Americans, ultimately). Our ancestors were people who were willing to risk everything to find a new home. By and large, they weren't wealthy aristocrats, because wealthy aristocrats were doing just fine where they were.

You know, all Republicans might want to take a moment and review these words:
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Richard Carrier: disproving gods with history and science



This is almost 40 minutes long, but well worth watching (or even just listening to).

Bristol Palin and the failure of abstinence



Why do I care that Bristol Palin is pregnant again? Normally, I wouldn't care anything about Bristol Palin - or any other 'celebrity.'

But Palin was the highly-paid spokesperson for abstinence-only sex education even when she'd had one unplanned child out of wedlock. She's still unmarried, and this is her second accidental pregnancy. She should be the spokesperson for the complete and utter failure of abstinence-only sex education.

Of course, that wouldn't pay so well, huh? And it wouldn't fit in with right-wing dogma, which is never fazed by reality.

Still, can you imagine if this had been one of President Obama's daughters? Can you imagine the talk on Fox 'News'? Can you imagine how right-wing pundits would be condemning Obama - and 'black culture' in general? Why no obsession about 'white culture' here?

Even in the 2008 election, with Republicans celebrating the Palin family, including this unmarried mother who was supposedly going to marry the baby's father (which never happened), I thought the contrast was incredible. This was a white, right-wing Christian family, so of course it was fine. And, of course, it would never shake their faith in abstinence-only sex education. Reality doesn't matter to these people.

And then Bristol Palin was hired by Candie's Foundation as a highly-paid 'ambassador' for abstinence. (Did I say "highly-paid"? Apparently, she was paid $262,000 in 2009 alone! Not your typical unwed mother, huh?) Somehow, she'd become a celebrity herself. And somehow, she was supposed to be an expert on teen-pregnancy. Somehow, this was supposed to promote abstinence-only sex education.

Well, now she's pregnant again. Again, it was an accident. Of course, she's still unmarried. But she's still white, too, in a right-wing Christian family. Again, can you imagine if this were one of Barack Obama's daughters?

I'm with Cenk here. If Bristol Palin would admit that she'd been wrong to push abstinence, that would be different. If she came out as a strong supporter of comprehensive sex education, a strong advocate of making birth control easily available to all women, condemning abstinence for failing in real-life experiences, that would be different.

But as far as I can tell, she's not. She's still a well-paid celebrity, for some bizarre reason. This won't stop that. If anything, it will just enhance her as a celebrity. She probably won't change her mind about abstinence. Her parents certainly won't. Right-wing Palin fans certainly won't.

This is faith-based thinking. You don't change your dogma just because it's been demonstrated to be wrong - not even when that's demonstrated over and over again.

But can we just recognize how very, very different this would be if she had been one of Barack Obama's daughters, instead of Sarah Palin's?

An amazing and inspiring speech

PZ Myers puts this perfectly, as far as I'm concerned:
I watched Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney yesterday.

I absolutely despised the talk of “faith in that which cannot be seen”, and I detest the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” — that idea that we’re all wretches in need of saving is part of Christianity’s poisonous power.

But still…that was an amazing and inspiring speech. As a black president, in a black church, who was acknowledging the importance of the black church in black history, and who was delivering a eulogy for a black minister, it was appropriate and beautiful — this was a man proudly embracing the deep history of a people, and giving the best eulogy I’ve ever heard. He not only addressed the personal, but also covering the issues of Pinckney’s activist causes. While the window dressing may jar to this atheist, those causes are shared, and the substance of the speech was moving (even to me!) and important.

He may have been a bit off-key, but I was also impressed that he was moved to express himself with a traditional song, and I envy him the ability to open up like that — with the eyes of the entire world on him.

On top of all the court successes this week, this was a remarkable expression of Obama’s identity and goals. I’d vote for him again, despite the many disappointments of his presidency. This is the week that may mark Obama as one of our great presidents (noting that the events of this week were actually a culmination of many years of struggle.) I’m hoping it also marks a turning point in the history of the US.

Or not. To end on a dismal note, six black churches in the South were set on fire last night. That’s also part of an American tradition of terror.

That describes my feelings, too - just perfectly. I'm an atheist. I don't believe any of that religious stuff. But some people do. And it was a very moving speech, even for me.

I'm normally irritated by a politician injecting religion into public issues. But this was a eulogy, in a church, for a minister. If religion isn't appropriate there, where is it? Again, I don't believe that it's true, but I don't get to decide for everyone else. I don't want to decide for everyone else.

And this was definitely where religion and politics intersect. These people were killed because of the color of their skin. But the pastor was also a state senator. And the church itself has a long history of political struggle. The target of this racist attack wasn't selected at random.

Black churches like this one have been critical in the struggle for civil rights because, for centuries, black people weren't allowed to gather anywhere but in a church (and not even then, all the time). For centuries, the only leaders they were allowed were Christian preachers (and not even then, all the time).

All other leaders or potential leaders would be murdered. All other gatherings would be broken up by the white police. Black churches played a huge part in the struggle for civil rights at least in part because black people had no other options.

Even there, it was risky. Even there, brave men and women - and even children - paid a price (as they did just recently).

I disagree with Christianity, because I don't think it's true. That's why I disagree with all other religions, too. But I support freedom of religion, and I support the separation of church and state.

And I can't deny the emotional power of religion. I certainly can't deny the emotional power of this eulogy. It was an amazing and inspiring speech, even if I don't agree with all of it. I still agree with some of it, of course, but it's not necessary for me to agree to recognize it as appropriate.

This was not injecting religion into the political realm. As I can admire beautiful cathedrals or lovely church music, I can - and do - admire this eulogy. There was nothing inappropriate about it. I wish that people wouldn't believe without evidence, but there's a time and a place for such criticisms. This was neither the time nor the place.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bathing in the tears of the religious right



"I would love to bathe in the tears of Republicans who are just like... meh, because they didn't get their way." Heh, heh. That's why I'm posting this. I feel the same way. All the whining from the hate-filled and the bigoted is like music to my ears.

If you don't want to marry someone of the same sex, don't marry someone of the same sex. Problem solved. But if you just want to force your own beliefs on everyone else, you'll have no sympathy from me. Weep on, conservatives.

Of course, this is all about religion. There is no secular reason to ban gay marriage, none at all. This is a free country. Believe whatever you want, no matter how crazy I might think it. But don't force your beliefs on everyone - on anyone - else.

Jaclyn Glenn had other great lines, too. For example: "But... for this guy, marry your lamp. I approve. You're marrying up."

This Supreme Court ruling was great, but it was very close, just 5 to 4. Only one Republican was willing to join the sane justices in this decision. And the others are absolutely furious about that.



Right-wing Republicans already dominate on our Supreme Court, more often making decisions based on what's best for the Republican Party than on the law. (Make no mistake, this decision and the recent decision upholding Obamacare are both very beneficial to the GOP, much as Republicans may hate to admit it.)

And there's another presidential election next year, with the next president almost certainly going to select a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if not for other justices. Even with a Democratic replacement, that will leave the Supreme Court dominated by right-wing Republicans. With another far-right Republican, we'd be screwed for generations.

Still, this is a time for celebration, so let's continue with right-wing tears:



Hmm,... I wonder if bathing in Republican tears will keep me young? Probably just the reverse, huh? Probably turn me into Rupert Murdoch. :(

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's the slavery, stupid!



I'm old enough that this wasn't even in doubt when I went to school. No, I didn't experience the Civil War firsthand - I'm not quite that old - but I went to school before the right-wing really got busy rewriting history.

Of course, that was in Nebraska. Maybe the South had it's own version of history even then, I don't know. But I've been shocked to find that a majority of Americans today don't know that slavery was the cause of the Civil War - as proclaimed by the Confederate states, themselves.

It wasn't any of these bullshit claims about "states' rights," and certainly not about "small government." It was about slavery. Period.

Slavery isn't accepted these days, so right-wingers are trying to rewrite history, that's all. But what's shocking is how successful they've been. Apparently, young people are the least likely to understand the central role of slavery in the rebellion. And that's an embarrassment to our whole country.

What if science worked like religion?



Short and sweet, this should make you think.

Christian science


Funny, isn't it? Right-wingers tend to be just fine with religion dictating politics, as long as it's their own religion. The separation of church and state? No such thing, right? Well, not when it comes to their religion, at least.

But even when it's their own religion, it has to be their own politics, too. Even for Catholics, the Pope needs to keep his nose out of climate science (and into birth control, gay marriage, abortion, and wherever else right-wing Catholics want him).

Clearly, religion is what they use to browbeat other people to their way of thinking. And they're faith-based, so they're going to believe whatever they want to believe, even when the 'infallible' head of their own church says otherwise. It really is pretty funny.

On the Pope's side, this still demonstrates the problem with faith-based thinking. Remember in school, when you were taking a multiple-choice test? If you just guessed at the answers, you'd get some of them right. However, that didn't mean that guessing was the best way to determine the right answer.

It's the same way here. The Pope got this one right - and I'm very glad of that - but he's still wrong, wrong, wrong about many other things because his mechanism for determining right from wrong is... well, pretty much nonexistent. Faith is indistinguishable from delusion and wishful-thinking, and so it's a terrible way of separating reality from fantasy.

Liberal Christians get many more things right than the Pope does, but faith is still a terrible way of determining the truth of anything. We need to listen to science on scientific matters, because science is evidence-based. Science has clear mechanisms for separating reality from delusion and wishful-thinking.

(And it's absolutely hilarious hearing right-wing Republicans claim that we need to leave science to the scientists when they reject the scientific consensus themselves. Hell, I would love it if Republicans actually left science to the scientists. The whole problem is that they don't.)

Finally, that last part - Exxon sending a lobbyist to the Vatican - is the perfect encapsulation of what's wrong with our world, don't you think? Big Oil sending a lobbyist to convince a religious leader to change his mind about a scientific issue? How does it get any more ridiculous than that?

I have a radical suggestion: When it comes to scientific issues, let's listen to the worldwide consensus of scientists working in their own field of expertise. Too extreme for you? Well, I did say it was radical, didn't I?  :)

Instead, I'm sure we'll continue with this model:



Mike Huckabee is "so nutty I can’t even talk"


This was on Fox News talk radio - The Alan Colmes Show, apparently. Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley had a great reply to this:
COLMES: Mike Huckabee has said if only someone had concealed carry or if concealed carry had been allowed that the outcome might have been different in that church.

RILEY: That is so ridiculous. I mean I knew these people. I’m looking at their pictures right now in front of me. They weren’t going to be carrying handguns. You want an 87-year old retired lady or you want a minister to be carrying a handgun or a 78-year old retired lady that used to work for the city of Charleston? That is so insane. You want those elderly people carrying handguns? Is that the best we can do in America? That is so nutty I can’t even talk. It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy. We want everybody to carry a gun and then you have everybody carrying a gun and then somebody gets upset and pull it out because they got it handy and they got mad all of a sudden and rather than argue, or take a swing at somebody, they just kill them. It’s crazy, that is insane.

Amen! It's crazy. It's insane. But that's right-wing ideology.

"Is that the best we can do in America?" I hope not.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

GOP 2016











The race to politicize


It looks like the Confederate flag - that symbol of racism, slavery, and treason - might come down from flying over the South Carolina capitol (or it might not). As Jon Stewart says, that's the very least they could do.

But I wouldn't expect any more than that. Racism is not just alive and well, it's used for political advantage by the Republican Party. As long as that's successful, they'll continue using it.

Forgive Dylann Roof?



This is the judge saying that - the white, Southern judge presiding over this case of race-based murder.

Funny, but I never heard this kind of talk immediately after incidents of Muslim terrorism. Were we so concerned about the terrorist's family then? Were we so ready to forgive, immediately, without the terrorist expressing any regret for his actions whatsoever?

I wonder what's so different about Dylann Roof? Gee, there must be something...

Monday, June 22, 2015

John Oliver: online harassment



Believe it or not, this video clip has received thousands of down-votes.

Yeah, I thank my white penis every day! (Or I will now, at least.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why conservatives won't recognize race-based gun violence

Take a look at this very perceptive essay by Aurin Squire at TPM:
We live in an age where mass shootings are so common that there is now a template for politicians to plug in the victim’s names, the date and location of the massacre, and synonyms for words like “tragedy” and “horror.” In the last 36 hours, we've heard ersatz condolences filled with hollow words, anodyne phrases about "unimaginable" horrors.

But the Charleston church shooting that left nine African-Americans dead while they prayed is not an inexplicable tragedy. It simply took white rage and racism and conservative political race-baiting to their logical conclusions. It echoes a disturbing trend in right-wing media inflaming fringe factions, encouraging maximum armament, and then turning around after a tragedy and saying “we had no idea this would happen.”

On Wednesday night, South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley trotted out a boilerplate statement, calling the shooting a “senseless tragedy.” One could excuse this choice of words as a rushed assumption issued in real time, but as more and more details about Dylann Roof surfaced, conservatives refused to face the music. One by one, politicians and pundits acted like this terrorist act was one of life’s great unsolvable mysteries.

“We don't know the motivation of the person who did it," Rudy Guiliani said yesterday. "Maybe he hates Christian churches. Maybe he hates black churches or he's gonna go find another one. Who knows." Donald Trump, in a tweet yesterday, said the crime was “incomprehensible.”

Last night, a Wall Street Journal columnist wrote: "What causes young men such as Dylann Roof to erupt in homicidal rage, whatever their motivation, is a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity. It is no small solace that in committing such an act today, he stands alone."

At this point, Roof’s bigotry has become clear in myriad ways. Yet as late as this afternoon, when cornered by a reporter and asked if the shooting was racially motivated, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said “I don’t know.” This means Bush is either incapable of basic logic, or he has willfully decided to blind and deafen himself to one of the nation’s biggest problems.

After all we’ve found out about Dylann Roof, how can we still say we “don’t know” why this happened?

The survivors from inside the church claimed Roof said African Americans “rape our women” and are “taking over our country.” His statements are deranged fiction, but they don’t live in isolation. They exist not only on a historical continuum of racially motivated violence, but within a current narrative of white people “losing the country” and the reactive violence of rural militias and domestic terrorists. Republican governors’ complicity in fostering a dangerous cocktail of political bigotry and easy-access guns has never been clearer than after this latest mass shooting. While it is true that bigots and violent people will always exist, a persistently racist culture nurtures small-minded hatred, and politicians provide them with tools to realize it.

It is no secret that one of the baubles of the conservative movement is the Confederate flag, which appeared on Roof’s license plate. It is a symbol of white supremacy and slavery, and it is also a symbol that is a part of South Carolina's official government as the flag flies in the capital. When questioned about her state’s continued support for it, Governor Haley shrugged it off.

South Carolina hasn't exactly left its racist history behind. Haley has consistently sided with more guns, fewer voting rights, and fostering a conservative culture of fear and suspicion. Last year, she signed a new and even more expansive bill for concealed weapons and easier access to guns in her state. She was applauded by the NRA for this bill. In an age where abortion clinics are bombed, elementary school children are gunned down on a cyclical basis, and lone gunmen have unlimited access to machine guns, the idea of expanding gun rights seems inconceivable, especially in a state where a gun-related death happens every 14 hours.

Meanwhile, South Carolina was one of the first to add more restrictions on voting after the Supreme Court cut away at the Voting Rights Act and Republicans continue to pursue new voting rights restrictions aimed at black and Latino citizens.

Let me repeat one sentence from that: It echoes a disturbing trend in right-wing media inflaming fringe factions, encouraging maximum armament, and then turning around after a tragedy and saying “we had no idea this would happen.”

Right-wing politicians push irrational fear - and absolute hysterics about our first black president - while also encouraging gun ownership and use. The gullible become even more fearful and more filled with hate, while also seeing "2nd Amendment remedies" as the solution to every problem.

But when angry loons actually act in the direction they've been pushed, then conservatives are astonished. How could anyone have predicted this? It certainly can't be racism, because racism no longer exists (except for the discrimination white men face, of course).

Here's what Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal said:
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal on Friday suggested that "institutionalized racism" was not a driving force in the massacre of nine people Wednesday night at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina because it "no longer exists."

Fox 'News' actually pushed the idea that this was an attack on Christianity! Well, it can't be racism, right? Racism is just what that evil Kenyan in the White House fosters among the thugs he leads, in his attempt to take our country away from us real Americans.



Meanwhile, South Carolina still flies the Confederate flag - a symbol of racism, slavery, and treason - over the state capitol. Statues of Confederate leaders are proudly displayed in the state. Street names are named after racists and slave-owners.

Of course, to other white people like him, Roof was just "a conservative with a lot of 'Southern pride.'" Sure, he made a lot of racist jokes, but that's considered normal in South Carolina (in Nebraska, too).

Of course he was angry. What right-winger isn't angry? After all, 'those people' are taking over our country, right? And don't get me started about those damned Mexicans. As Donald Trump says, they're all drug dealers and rapists, with Mexico determined to send us all of their worst. (OK, there might be a few good people mixed in with the rapists. It's possible, at least, Trump magnanimously concedes.)

And what do you do with an angry white conservative? You give him guns, of course. After all, what if Barack Obama plans to invade South Carolina after the military finishes with Texas?



But right-wing politicians and pundits are just astonished when these things happen. Well, no one could have predicted violence, right? Hysterical anger, racism pushed for political gain (the GOP's 'Southern strategy' is alive and well), and deadly firearms easily available everywhere certainly can't be blamed for any violence that results. Who could even imagine such a thing?

And racism no longer exists in America - except when our racist president and the brown rapists Mexico keeps sending across our border discriminate against white men, of course - so it can't be that.

On the other hand, we know we have a war on Christmas and a war on Christianity in America, right? Poor Christians, only 71% of the population, are bullied and discriminated against by the 3% of Americans who are atheists (not to mention the .9% who are Muslim). Well, as Jesus said, the well-armed will inherit the Earth. And if you're struck on one cheek, bust a cap in their ass.

Right-wingers won't recognize race-based attacks because they don't want to. They won't recognize the problems inflammatory, racist rhetoric and an abundance of guns pose because they don't want to. Right-wing politicians certainly won't recognize the part they've played in this and other attacks because they don't want to.

And since they're faith-based, rather than evidence-based - and, more to the point, so are their supporters - they don't have to. Reality doesn't matter to any of them, because they all live in the right-wing fantasy world of their choice.

___
PS. There has been plenty of good commentary about this incident. Here's Jon Stewart, for example. And here's Larry Wilmore. Watch them. Seriously.

Monday, June 15, 2015

John Oliver: Torture



You know one of the worst things about this? At least one of our nine Supreme Court justices gets his information about how the world works from fictional television shows!

It might be that former Vice-President Dick Cheney does, too, but I suspect he just makes up whatever he wants to believe.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sobering new report


More bad news from researchers:
MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

They call those humans 'Republicans,' and if worse comes to worst, one of them may be elected President of the United States next year.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ugly, racist, and un-American



This is more about the right-wing response to that Texas pool party incident I mentioned yesterday.

Disgusting, isn't it? We saw the videos of this. Those kids were not out of control. There was absolutely no danger to this rogue cop. The kids were just completely confused about why he was treating them like that.

Even the police chief in McKinney didn't support the actions of his officer: "He came into the call out of control, and as the video shows, was out of control during the incident. I had 12 officers on the scene, and 11 of them performed according to their training."

And here, a former police officer talks about what went wrong there. But the right-wing media automatically blames the black kids. And the interview with that white neighbor is just embarrassing.

Brandon Brooks, the 15-year-old white kid who shot that video, is impressive, though. There's cause for some optimism, I guess. But it's the 21st Century, people. Isn't it about time to abandon racism,... even in Texas?

Republican economics


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A dangerous black mob,... I guess



Disgusting, isn't it? It's not just that these things happen occasionally, either. They happen all the time.

Well, they always have, I'm sure. We're just seeing them happen now, because of cell phones. Without that, we wouldn't have the evidence, and most white people would simply not believe it. (Many still don't.)

I'm with Cenk. I'm starting to think that racism in America is much, much worse than I expected - and I wasn't complacent about it to begin with.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sarah Haider: Islam and the necessity of liberal critique



This is a superb talk, isn't it? How could anyone - other than an Islamic fundamentalist, perhaps - object to this?

As PZ Myers notes, we need to walk a tightrope:
While we aspire to oppose the idea of Islam while supporting the humanity of Muslims, there are among us people who are literally opponents of the right of Muslims to even exist. I do not want to be confused with Pamela Geller or the gun fondlers holding a “freedom of speech” rally while holding guns. We are polarized: one side wants to give people autonomy and respect their choices, even their bad ones, while the other wants to nuke Iran. It makes it even more difficult to point to the evils of the Qu’ran when doing so is cheered by militarists and anti-immigrant forces that wants to use the wickedness of religion selectively, to oppress non-Christians.

It also doesn’t help that there are people on the left, our allies, who are so concerned with defending the rights of Muslims (which I support!) that they overlook the crimes provoked by Islam, to the point that, for instance, supporting Charlie Hebdo is regarded as evidence of Islamophobia. That’s nonsense. I can condemn the murders of cartoonists, and the fact that I do not add any kind of qualifying “but” does not make me Pam Geller’s fellow traveler. It means that I reject any and all excuses for violent intolerance.

But, as Haider asks, “can we not stand against all oppressions, stand for equal rights while simultaneously working against bigoted narratives within religion?” I think we can. It’s just hard and requires walking a narrow tightrope. It does mean, of necessity, that us white Western opponents of Islamic idiocy do need to add careful qualifiers when speaking about Islam that are not necessary when discussing Catholicism or Protestantism.

That’s OK. There is an unavoidable asymmetry in our relationship to the various world religions. It should not prevent us from making that liberal critique of religions outside our shores.

I agree, though I don't see it as all that difficult. Well, it might be difficult to get our opponents on the right and the left to understand it.

I support freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I don't just tolerate those rights, I celebrate them. And I celebrate diversity. People, Muslims or otherwise, have the right to believe whatever they want. Period.

Like everyone else, they don't have the right to do anything they want, necessarily. And, like everything else, I can criticize, or even ridicule, their beliefs, if I want. As they can ridicule mine. I don't find any of that difficult.

But the devil is in the details, I guess. Like PZ Myers, I don't want to be seen as supporting Pam Geller. And intimidation is not freedom of speech. On the other hand, blasphemy is. And drawing cartoons isn't an incitement to riot, let alone murder.

Incidentally, secular bloggers are being murdered in Bangladesh and threatened in other Islamic countries. Please support the CFI Emergency Fund to help these people. It's the least we can do.