Archive for the “Fuzzy Thinking” Category

Examples of fuzzy thinking, illogic, absurdity, etc.

Ted CruzA few days ago the Faith & Freedom Coalition held a conference, and most of the GOP presidential candidates showed up to promise this Christofascist collective that they’ll be dutifully Christofascist presidents, if elected. This is normal stuff, so it hardly merits much notice.

One of those Christofascist candidates, however, used this event to announce that the rest of the field isn’t sufficiently Christofascist. And he added a claim that’s so preposterous and idiotic that I just can’t avoid remarking on it. As the National Journal reports, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz actually thinks Democrats want to enact “mandatory gay marriage” (WebCite cached article):

“More than a few Republicans, sadly, even more than a few Republicans running for president in 2016, chose that moment somehow to go rearrange their sock drawer,” Cruz said. “I’ll tell you this, I will never, ever, ever shy from standing up and defending the religious liberty of every American.”…

He said religious liberty is no longer a priority for both Republicans and Democrats. “The modern Democratic Party has decided their commitment to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any willingness to defend the First Amendment,” Cruz said.

Yes, folks, you read that right. Teddy thinks Democrats want to force each American to marry a gay partner. I mean, what else could “mandatory gay marriage” be? Isn’t that what the word “mandatory” means? How can he say that’s what Democrats want? If he or anyone else can offer any evidence this is Democrats’ goal, I’d love to know about it. But I suspect nothing of the sort is going on, and Teddy fabricated this notion in order to terrify his audience.

It’ll help to understand the truth about Ted Cruz. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a popular and fanatical preacher, and has preached dominionism, a Christian theocratic movement. His son Teddy is not much less extreme. Also, no one who belongs to the Faith & Freedom Coalition actually wants anyone other than themselves — i.e. conservative fundamentalist Christian white men — to have any “freedom” at all.

At any rate, the whole idea that gay marriage might become “mandatory” is so childish and laughable, it’s unbelievable that a sitting U.S. Senator would claim it’s coming. But Teddy did just that. Be afraid, folks … be very, very afraid.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in April 2015 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Jennifer Simonson | MPR NewsHere’s a follow-up to my last blog entry. Archbishop John Nienstedt is out, Religion News Service reports, as the head of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican on Monday (June 15) launched a major housecleaning of the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accepting the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt along with that of a top Nienstedt aide, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche.

The moves come a little over a week after authorities charged the archdiocese for failing to protect children from an abusive priest and days after Pope Francis unveiled the first-ever system [cached] for disciplining bishops who do not act against predator clerics.

As noted in the article, not only has Nienstedt had trouble dealing with allegation of abuse by his priests, including the possibility that someone on his staff may have destroyed evidence in a criminal case, he’s engaged in some questionable behaviors of his own.

Nienstedt’s resignation, therefore, has been a long time coming … too long, as it turns out. Although some have praised Pope Francis for this and other similar moves, the cold fact is that it’s too little, too late. The Pope finally got around to closing the barn door only after nearly all the horses got out.

The time for the R.C. Church to have taken strong and decisive action against abusive clergy and their enablers in the hierarchy, was a dozen years ago or so when the abuse had been known and the worldwide scandal really began to snowball, with various countries’ investigations coming in and demonstrating just how extensive it was. The abuse happened for decades — if not centuries — and by virtue of the hierarchy’s (until-recently) successful cover-ups and resistance to doing anything, a lot of the perpetrators and their enablers managed to evade punishment. For every cover-up artist like Nienstedt who’s now forced to resign, a dozen predecessors had already managed never to be held accountable for what they did. It’s a travesty — especially in an institution that claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet. The truth about them is that they wouldn’t know morality if smashed them in the face and knocked them out.

Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson / Minnesota Public Radio.

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St Paul Cathedral 2012Note: There’s been some news today about this archdiocese; see my next blog post for information.

The worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal continues slowly to churn out news stories, because the R.C. Church’s hierarchs continue covering up for abusive priests — years after they’d said they’d do a better job of policing them. The latest such story, as reported by the New York Times, comes out of Minnesota and involves an archdiocese, not a person, criminally charged with complicity (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

The charges [cached] and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say they were underage when a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them from 2008 to 2010.

The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese.

This case involves a catastrophic, consistent refusal to monitor and discipline Fr Wehmeyer, over the course of about 15 years or so. The archdiocese was repeatedly told about Wehmeyer’s antics, yet the abuse continued unabated. Wehmeyer finally was convicted in 2013 — not that the archdiocese did much to help bring that about.

At any rate, as this story explains, Fr Wehmeyer continued abusing kids in his care many years after the US R.C. bishops supposedly established a new “zero tolerance” policy, back in 2002. I guess “zero tolerance” must not mean what most of us think it means.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Newport Patch / Stain Below Jesus Painting in Newport Church Seen as a Sign from GodYet another miracle has the Ocean State all agog. This time it’s inside a church in Newport. The Providence Journal, among a number of media outlets, reports uncritically on a stain on the wall beneath a painting of the crucified Jesus (WebCite cached article):

For years, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church didn’t say much about the rust-colored stain running beneath the 12th Station of the Cross painting of Jesus.

Some never noticed it.

Others, without knowing what was causing the mark, didn’t want the 140-year-old Episcopal church to become a roadside curiosity or tabloid headline.

But this spring the church has turned a spotlight on the odd little stain, which in the right light appears to have trickled like blood directly from a painting of Jesus’ crucified feet onto the plaster of the church wall.

On Sunday, the Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey’s sermon addressed the “mysterious red mark,” suggesting that, whether of earthly or divine origins, it was evidence of Jesus’ presence in the church.

So this thing’s been there for no-one-knows-how-long, but suddenly — because the church’s minister mentioned it in a sermon — it became news? Why? I have no idea. I guess Rhode Island must have had a slow news day or something.

For the record, it looks to me as though it’s a rust stain from plumbing in the wall behind the painting or from the frame itself. Parishioners shouldn’t have to keep cleaning it up; instead, they should take down the painting, fix whatever causes this stain, clean the stain that’s already there, and paint over it. But why do I doubt they’ll do that, when this is attracting interest in their church?

The idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with his/her/its time than plant a rust streak in the wall beneath this painting, is just flat-out fucking ridiculous. I mean, seriously. S/he/it has an entire universe to run, fercryinoutloud. It’s arrogance of the highest order for this Newport church to presume to have this much of the Almighty’s attention. Besides, there are a lot better ways for the Christian God to make himself evident to people, than this, if s/he/it actually wished to make him/her/itself evident.

Photo credit: Newport Patch.

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PZI 02In a bit of news I don’t find surprising coming out of Pakistan — teeming as it is with sanctimoniously-enraged Islamofascist idiots — the head of one of that country’s political parties called on his country’s military to attack a class of people he views as terrible enemies. As the New Indian Express reports, the enemy he wants wiped out, are — rather unbelievably — women wearing jeans (WebCite cached article):

During a press conference at a local hotel in Islamabad, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman asked the Pakistani armed forces to launch a military operation against women wearing jeans all over Pakistan.

According to him, the immodesty of women is the cause behind earthquakes, inflation and other kinds of disasters.

Fazlur Rehman went on to say that a woman who is not covered like a ‘sack of flour’ is a mobile weapon of mass destruction for her state and that Pakistan has multitude of such nuclear missiles in all its major cities.

Rehman then blamed ‘immodest women’ for the Baluchistan crisis, lack of energy supply and the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan.

Rehman’s misogyny here is just another example of what I call “disaster theology,” which here in the ‘States is a pastime of the Religious Right, as I’ve blogged any number of times. It’s really a childish way of making a point.

Photo credit: Jason Staten, via Flickr.

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#CharlieCharlieChallenge Vine screenshot / via USA TodayMost of my readers will, no doubt, already have heard of something called “the Charlie challenge” (or perhaps more correctly, “the Charlie Charlie challenge”). Apparently this is something teens must do to entertain themselves, because … I guess … the poor little things just don’t seem to have any other entertainment options left (I mean, it’s not like they have TV, radio, video games, Netflix, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, or any of thousands of other outlets to occupy their time).

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, the idea is to line up two pencils in a cross formation, one balanced on the other, with “yes” and “no” marked in the quadrants they border, then talk to them (and to some putative Mexican demon), flip out when they move on their own, then post videos of all this on the Internet to impress one another. Or something.

I don’t quite get it, but then I’m a curmudgeonly old guy who’s just not “hip” enough to understand the importance of it. Or something.

At any rate, this supposed paranormal game is getting a lot of play in the mass media. I guess reporters are bored, too, and have run out of stories to investigate. Or something. Here, for example, is a piece by USA Today on this topic (WebCite cached article); here’s Time magazine’s story on it (cached); and here’s CNN’s piece on the subject (cached). All of this constitutes yet another example of the “paranormal as news” trope that’s infected journalism for a number of years. Yawn.

The usual suspects have lined up to declare that the Charlie challenge is, in fact, the supernatural (or maybe more precisely the preternatural) at work, and have taken to whining and bellyaching about it, warning teens not to partake. For example, a Catholic priest has ordered people to avoid it, calling it “a dangerous game” in which demons truly are summoned (cached).

There are so many things wrong with all of this, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, contrary to the legend that accompanies “the Charlie challenge,” there’s no “Charlie” demon in Mexico (cached). People in Mexico, who speak Spanish for the most part, would give their legendary demons Spanish names, like “Carlos,” instead. Second, there’s no such thing as a demon … nor is there any Satan, or devils, or anything else of the sort. They do not exist — period.

Third, the supposed “paranormal” effect is rather easily explained, in a mundane fashion, using conventional science. The (UK) Independent, among other outlets, goes into it (cached) … although I suspect those who truly believe in the paranormal aren’t going to buy that it’s merely “gravity” doing it. They’ll just insist it couldn’t possibly be anything that simple … because, you see, they were there, and simply “know” it couldn’t be!

I suppose a skeptic like myself could perform a test, by setting up the pencils — without markings and without the required incantation/question — and then see what the pencils do on their own. But I doubt any “true believers” would really care about the results of that test. Yeah, they like to whine and gripe that skeptics are “closed-minded” and won’t just take their word for the bullshit they fabricate; but ironically they, themselves are “closed-minded” to any possibility that their paranormal B.S. might be invalid. Hmm.

Photo credit: #CharlieCharlieChallenge Vine screenshot / via USA Today.

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Hartford, CT: First Church of the Nazarene / Hartford Courant photoNote: New reporting just came in on this story; please see updates below.

There’s been a rash of shootings in my home state’s capital over the last week or so. One of the more disturbing of those happened Sunday morning, the victim being a church pastor. As the Hartford Courant reports, police now think it might have been a hate crime (WebCite cached article):

City police said Tuesday they are investigating the possibility that the shooting of a pastor outside his church on Sunday was a hate crime.

“The church is very accepting of and open to the LGBT community,” Deputy Chief Brian Foley said. He said the attack on the minister is “obviously troubling to the police department and the city.”

The Rev. Augustus Sealy was shot in the leg and shoulder while planting small U.S. flags on the lawn of The First Church of the Nazarene at 932 Capitol Ave. at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. His wife, Dr. Sharon Sealy, said his femur was shattered, and doctors had to put a metal rod in his leg. The shots came from a moving vehicle.

Since this was first reported there was murmuring here in the Nutmeg State that the Rev Sealey had been shot because he’s a Christian or because he’d been putting up Memorial Day flags, by anti-Christians (more specifically, of the Muslim sort) or by flag- or military-haters respectively. Conspiracy theories based on these assumptions have been brewing, mostly centered on Leftist antagonists (e.g. Muslims acting on Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s orders).

But the possibility this may have been an LGBT-related hate crime, if true — and right now I emphasize that “if” — that would seem to point, instead, toward some agent of the political Right. Yet it might turn out to be something else entirely, since that seems, to me anyway, a little far-fetched. As the Courant article explains, and I mentioned initially, there’s been a spike in violence in Hartford, so really, not much can be ruled out, not even a case of mistaken identity.

Update 1: Today Hartford police released more information on this case. It seems this shooting was related to another that took place shortly after, and it may have been an effort to divert police from the “real” target (cached). So the “hate crime” scenario appears less likely than before, although police haven’t yet fully ruled it out.

Update 2: Hartford police no longer view this as a “hate crime” (cached):

[Police] also said that there is no evidence the shooting of the pastor was in anyway a hate crime. Instead, it appears to be a random crime in which the pastor was not specifically targeted.

I guess that’s it, then.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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