Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Nuremberg Chronicles - Devil and Woman on Horseback (CLXXXIXv) / via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve already blogged a time or two about some of the asinine things retired neurosurgeon — and militant Christianist — Dr Ben Carson has said. The guy clearly is brilliant enough to have had a remarkable medical career; no one can take that away from him. But sometimes he can be an idiot. During an address at the Republican National Convention, as CNN reports, he offered up a “proof” of sorts that Hillary Clinton is a Satan worshipper (WebCite cached article):

At Tuesday’s Republican National Convention, Carson asked attendees if they could elect Clinton given her relationship to Alinsky, who critics have long accused of harboring communist sympathies.

“Let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky,” he said. “He wrote a book called ‘Rules for Radicals.’ On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom.”

Carson asked, “So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?”

So here’s Carson’s “proof”: Alinsky is a Satan-worshipper; Hillary met him once; this means she was his sworn disciple; therefore Hillary worships Satan too. If this sounds a little Glenn Beckian to you, you’re not alone. It sounds that way to me, too.

Alinsky has long been a bee in the Right’s bonnet. They’ve been incensed over the guy since before his famous book, Rules for Radicals, was published. It does contain a reference to Lucifer (aka Satan) in its acknowledgement, but that hardly constitutes any proof that he was a Satan worshipper. Mentions or portrayals of Lucifer (aka Satan) as the original rebel aren’t exactly uncommon in literature. For example, John Milton arguably did this in his famous Paradise Lost. But I don’t know anyone who’d claim Milton had been a Satan-worshipper (quite the opposite, actually).

Also, the degree to which Alinsky was Clinton’s “role model” is open to interpretation, too. Politifact reviewed Carson’s statement, including the relationship between Alinsky and Clinton (cached):

So is Alinsky a “role model” for Clinton? The most direct connection between Alinsky and Clinton is that she wrote her undergraduate thesis about Alinsky and interviewed him before he died. At the time, Clinton was Hillary Rodham and the student government president at Wellesley College.

The New York Times reviewed the 92-page thesis and summarized [cached] her views this way:

“Ms. Rodham endorsed Mr. Alinsky’s central critique of government antipoverty programs — that they tended to be too top-down and removed from the wishes of individuals.

“But the student leader split with Mr. Alinsky over a central point. He vowed to ‘rub raw the sores of discontent’ and compel action through agitation. This, she believed, ran counter to the notion of change within the system.”

It’s also true, as Politifact explains, that Alinsky offered Clinton a job, but she refused it because of her differences with him. That is, not only in words but in her actions, Clinton showed she was no lock-step sycophant of Alinsky.

The problem with Carson’s claim is that his audience (i.e. other militant Christianists) are predisposed to believe this, so the presumption that Hillary is a Satan worshipper is one of those lies that will, no doubt, stick to her (just as the very same folks are convinced President Obama isn’t an American citizen and is a secret Muslim).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Picard facepalm HD / via ImgurI really love it when dissembling people show their true colors. I especially love it when they stumble into doing so and have no clue what just happened to them. A case in point is a Republican Congressman from Iowa, Steve King (of the Neocrusading show-trials five years ago). A week ago it was revealed he kept a Confederate flag on his desk (WebCite cached article); he insisted this was just fine, though, because he has other historical flags there, and his ancestors had fought to end slavery, too.

That’s quite bad enough, but really, pandering to Confederacy lovers is par for the course for a Republican in Congress, so in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal. What is a bigger deal is what King said, this morning, live on national television. Vanity Fair, among numerous other outlets, reports on what he accidentally revealed (cached):

During a panel discussion on MSNBC on Monday evening, Rep. Steve King of Iowa said that white people contributed more to civilization than any other categories or “subgroup of people,” causing a live segment to devolve into on-air chaos.

As the show broadcast from Cleveland, where much of the conservative establishment has gathered for the Republican National Convention, King responded to comments made by Esquire writer Charles Pierce as the panel discussed Monday’s upheaval on the convention floor.

“If you’re really optimistic, you can say that this is the last time that old white people will command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, and its public face,” Pierce said. “Of course, I thought this was going to happen after 2012, but thanks for the good work of Congressman King, I was disappointed . . . But I’ll tell you what, in that hall today, that hall is wired. It’s wired by unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”

“This whole ‘white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where have these contributions been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

“Than white people?” host Chris Hayes asked.

“Than—than Western civilization itself, that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world,” King said. “That’s all of Western civilization.”

Let me start by pointing out Pierce’s condescending and dismissive comments about “white people” were pretty snide. I can see how King might have been offended, which appears to have caused him to open up a little too much, but what Pierce said is nowhere near as bad as King’s remarks. Not only are they white supremacist in nature, they’re ahistorical as well. Let’s look at what non-white, non-Europeans have provided to civilization, shall we?

Yes, I get that Rep. King and his white-supremacist cohorts are upset they’ve been eclipsed, culturally and politically. But the cold fact is that “civilization” is not how he, or they, imagine it. Civilizations are enormous entities that embrace many people; they’re both widely spread and widely absorbed. They’re also nearly borderless, with fuzzy edges and lots of overlap. It’s impossible for a single “race” or ethnic group to retain sole control of one. Other sorts of people are touched by civilizations, and then influence them in return. King’s apparent carving up peoples into “groups” and “sub-groups” is pseudohistorical and invalid.

King tried to quell the uproar that erupted after he exposed himself as a probable white supremacist (cached), but he didn’t really back down from his comments … and of course, he can’t, because his fellow “old white guys” who comprise his power-base will go fucking nuts if he were to do so.

By the way, here’s video of King’s vile commments, via Youtube:

Photo credit: mistaspeedy, via Imgur.

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1099 Siege of JerusalemIt’s been a disappointing week for former House speaker Newt Gingrich. He’d presumed himself to be Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump’s choice as running mate, but alas, it was not to be. That “honor” fell to Indiana’s evangelical-in-chief Mike Pence. In the wake of the recent attack in Nice, France (WebCite cached article), the Newtster decided to lash out, just when it became apparent the Trumpster had rejected him. His targets were, as one might suspect, Muslims in the US. As US News & World Report explains, Newtie demanded that Muslims in the US who like “shari’a law” be deported forthwith (cached):

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is responding to Thursday night’s truck attack in France by arguing for the expulsion from the U.S. of any Muslim who believes in Sharia law.

Gingrich is being considered as a possible running mate by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The former Georgia congressman said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” that the U.S. “should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

What’s more, he blamed this attack on none other than President Barack Obama:

Gingrich is calling the attack in Nice, France, which killed at least 80 people, “the fault of Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary, and to tell us the truth, and that starts with Barack Obama.”

Yes, Newtie. It’s certainly the case that Obama metaphorically put a gun to a sociopathic French Muslim’s head and forced the guy to go on a truck rampage through a Bastille Day crowd. Absolutely! Why, it can’t possibly have worked any other way!

I’m curious as to how the Newtster plans to carry out his “test” of American Muslims’ reverence for “shari’a law.” Imagine a scenario in which a Muslim who actually supports “shari’a law” — but who wants to stay so that he can work with the Muslim Brotherhood and President Obama to make sure it’s enforced here — would deal with it:

ICE agent: Mr Muslim, do you believe in “shari’a law”?

Shari’a-loving Muslim: (lying) No!

ICE agent: Oh, well, OK Mr Muslim, you can stay!

Shari’a-loving Muslim: Wow! Thanks, Mr ICE Agent! (goes back to plotting a takeover of the US)

I mean, seriously … what the fuck? I won’t even go into how Newtie-boy thinks the government is supposed to determine which immigrants comes from “a Muslim background.” As I’ve noted many times before, Neocrusaders like Newtie haven’t the first clue what “shari’a law” is, in the first place. As it turns out, it’s not a single iconic entity; it means different things to different Muslims, and is interpreted variously. Also, not all Muslims even want it; many who’ve come to the US have done so because they’re avoiding it!

It’s true there are murderous, savage Muslims in the world. There’s no doubt of it! It’s also true that some of them are right here in the US and have carried out horrific attacks in the name of their fierce religiofascism. But with that said, a proper response to one form of religiofascism is not to be religiofascist right back at it! Meeting sanctimonious rage with more sanctimonious rage, doesn’t cure the sanctimonious rage. A lot of the American Muslims whom the Newtster would like to deport, aren’t our enemies — and might even be our allies. All it takes is to spend some time figuring out what they’re all about, in order to know the difference. Castigating them all in one swoop, based on the bogeyman of “shari’a law,” isn’t going to cut it. It’s time for Newtie and his fellow Neocrusaders to fucking grow the hell up for once and stop acting like spoiled children. Their juvenile act is getting really old.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Robert JeffressIt’s amazing how resistant many conservative Christians are to the idea that, perhaps — just perhaps! — too many blacks (mostly men) are dying at the hands of police (often white) in confrontations that didn’t necessarily have to end that way. As a rule, conservatives tend to be very distrustful of government as a whole, so theoretically at least, one would think they’d be predisposed to question police officers’ motives and actions. But in the face of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, they’ve become sanctimoniously outraged that anyone might ever question the judgement of any police officer anywhere in the country. In their minds, all killings by police must automatically be viewed as “righteous kills,” so that means anyone who disagrees must be “anti-cop” and want all police killed. Or something.

Since their petulant refusal to accept even the remotest the possibility of error or even criminality on the part of an officer contradicts their overall anti-government philosophy, it’s fair to wonder why this is so. Well, evangelical megapastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas revealed at least one reason for this, as Raw Story explains, when he appeared earlier today on Fox & Friends (WebCite cached article):

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, lashed out at what he called “bogus ministers” who did not preach about having “respect for the police.”

“The New Testament says in Romans 13:4 that law enforcement officers are ministers of God sent by God to punish evil doers,” he opined. “When you think about it, police officers are just as called by God to do what they do as pastors and priests are called by God. And I think we need to remind our members of that.”

Now, Jeffress cited Romans 13:4, but I’ll quote the whole passage in question (including that specific verse):

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

If Jeffress — following Paul — is correct, then questioning any police officer’s actions is un-Christian, since as representatives of the state, they’ve been appointed by the Almighty as his/her/its direct agents and therefore are sacred, inviolate, and ever-perfect. This passage from the epistle to the Romans is often cited in Christian circles to back up authoritarianism and the presumption that government is always right and that total obedience to the state is a Christian virtue. Back in my fundie days, this passage and a few others were bandied about this way.

But let’s face it, these folk are selective in how they apply their principle of Biblical authoritarianism … and Jeffress himself shows exactly why, in this very same segment on Fox:

The megachurch pastor also claimed that President Barack Obama had “exacerbated the racial divide instead of healing it.”

“I’m afraid the president, just like he did with conservative Christians after the beheading by ISIS of Christians, it seemed like he wanted to blame conservative Christians in the past,” he said, “instead of putting the blame when it belongs.”

Note that Jeffress — who had just moments before pontificated on how Christians are required by Jesus to submit wholly to the government and to their rulers — just questioned his own president, accusing him of having rhetorically gone after police and “conservative Christians.” So while he advocates unquestioning acceptance of all police officers’ words and actions, he refuses to do the same for the president’s. Hmm. I see more than a little hypocrisy here, not to mention cherry-picking. I’m guessing Jeffress is unaware his own Jesus clearly and unambiguously forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.

What’s more, I’ve searched and searched, but have yet ever to find that President Obama has ever blamed ISIS’s beheadings, police killings of blacks, or the public reaction to such killings (e.g. the BLM movement) on “conservative Christians.” He never used words to that effect, that I know of. I challenge Jeffress to show that Obama explicitly stated “conservative Christians” (using those words) were behind either. Go ahead, Pastor. Prove your contention — if you dare! Citations, please, or it didn’t happen. And if it didn’t happen, that would make you a lying liar for Jesus.

Here’s video of Jeffress’s appearance, if you care to view it:

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PATraditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church have had a difficult time with a lot of what Pope Francis has said and done since he assumed office. They’ve complained about him, dismissed him, ignored him, and otherwise tried to act as though none of his innovations was ever offered.

An example of this, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, comes from Archbishop Charles Chaput (WebCite cached article):

Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as cohabitating unmarried couples, must “refrain from sexual intimacy” to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has asserted in a new set of pastoral guidelines.

Released Friday, the guidelines instruct clergy and other archdiocesan leaders on implementing Amoris Laetitia, a major document on family that Pope Francis issued in April.

His six-page instruction, which appears on the archdiocesan website, may be the first of its kind issued by the bishop of any American diocese in response to Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “the joy of love.”

Acknowledging that it is a “hard teaching,” Chaput goes on to say that Catholics in same-sex partnerships, those remarried without a church annulment, and cohabitating persons may not serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors, or dispense Communion.

Allowing persons in such “irregular” relationships, “no matter how sincere,” to hold positions of responsibility would “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” according to Chaput.

I get that, as a bishop, Chaput is entitled to issue these sorts of directives, and that as a prince of the Church he can govern its affairs and enforce its doctrines as he sees fit; if gay, cohabiting, or remarried Catholics don’t like it, they can leave their Church. That’s absolutely the case. What’s harder to understand is why Chaput, or any leader within the Church, could be so determined to slam the door of the Church in the faces of some of its lay members. The R.C. Church in the US has been on the wane for years. Traditionalists like Chaput are working to push even more folks out. It’s a dysfunctional way to operate.

But hey, what could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such important sacred considerations?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré / Crusades / Crusade against the Moors of Granada / via Wikimedia CommonsIronically, on the heels of the bakery massacre in Dakha, Bangladesh, I offer two more examples of a movement I call the Great Neocrusade … a campaign by militant American Christianists against Islam and Muslims here in the ‘States. Ever since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, this movement has gone from being more or less rhetorical, and has manifested physically in the form of retribution against Muslims (as well as non-Muslims erroneously thought to be Muslims).

The first item I have is from Buzzfeed News, which reports on an attack in front of a Brooklyn mosque (WebCite cached article):

Two teenage Muslims boys were viciously beaten outside a Brooklyn mosque early Sunday morning as their attacker called them terrorists, according to Mohamed Bahe, the director of the mosque.

The incident allegedly happened around 1:18 a.m. at the Muslim Community Center of Brooklyn in Sunset Park, after lengthy evening prayers common during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Police initially said they had no record of the incident, however photos provided to BuzzFeed News showed multiple officers and police vehicles at the scene.

The NYPD denies this was a “bias” incident, however, they already lied to Buzzfeed about having been called to the scene and had to be confronted with contrary evidence before admitting otherwise … so their claims can hardly be taken at face value.

In the next item, WKYC-TV in Cleveland reports a foreigner had been falsely arrested as a terrorist in Avon, OH (cached):

The City of Avon and the Avon Police Department issued a statement of apology to a hotel patron the Avon Police Department arrested last week after a miscommunication over ties to ISIS.…

On Wednesday, June 29, the Avon Police Department received a 911 call from the sister of a woman who was working as a desk clerk at the Fairfield Inn and Suites on Colorado Avenue.

The caller reported her sister told her there was a male in the lobby “in full head dress with multiple disposable phones pledging his allegiance to ISIS.”

Avon Police then received a second 911 call from the desk clerk’s father who also requested assistance on behalf of his daughter.…

Officers, with guns drawn, ordered the man to drop his phone and get on the ground. After the man didn’t initially respond to the commands of the officers, police continued to give commands until the man complied and laid down.

Officers arrested the man, conducted a search, and did not find any weapons.

Contact was then made with the front desk clerk and responding officers found the man never made any statements related to ISIS, and there had been a miscommunication about the situation between the desk clerk and her relatives.

So, two liars called 911 to report a Muslim “pledging his allegiance to ISIS” and cops stupidly fall for it. Nice.

Look, as I’ve blogged so many times before: I get it. Really. I do. Honest! I understand the sanctimonious furor here. I get that Muslims around the world, and even here in the ‘States, have lanched terror attacks. I also really get that the Islamists who launch these attacks are enraged religionists who can’t and won’t tolerate anything that doesn’t jibe with their own beliefs, hence their terrorism. Yes, I get all that. Really!

What I don’t understand is the assumption that each and every Muslim in the world must be a terrorist, too, and that all Muslims are required to kill as many “infidels” as they can. The number of Islamist terrorists in the world is actually very small. If all Muslims everywhere were terrorists, then terror attacks would be going on in pretty much every city in the world, each and every day. With over 3 million Muslims in the US, the carnage would have to be truly staggering. There’d have to be dozens of Islamist terror attacks, and hundreds of deaths, each day in American alone.

Seems to me the way to deal with one bunch of violently-intolerant religiofascists isn’t to be violently intolerant right back at them. But hey, what could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such things?

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'Islam violent?! How dare you!!!' / Jack Higgins, Chicago Sun-Times / via CAIR ChicagoOnce again, the world has been treated to an example of the sanctimonious piety of the so-called “religion of peace.” This time, Islamist militants stomped into a bakery in an upscale neighborhood of Dakha, Bangladesh’s capitol, and as CNN reports, a bunch of innocent people are now dead (WebCite cached article):

Bangladeshi troops stormed an upscale bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave Saturday morning, ending an 11-hour siege by militants who killed 20 people and two police officers, officials said.

It was the deadliest and boldest act of terror in a country that has become increasingly numb to ever-escalating violence by Islamist militants.

The victims — most of them foreigners — were among roughly three dozen people taken hostage when attackers stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery on Friday evening with guns, explosives and other, sharp weapons Friday evening, authorities said.

CNN goes on to explain that this is the most savage and audacious of a number of Islamist attacks in Bangladesh in the last year or two. Several of these were very public events, too. I’ve even blogged about some of them. Among the reasons the militants have been able to organize as well as they have, is that Bangladeshi officials have been doing the dance of triangulation … i.e. trying to appease them in the hope that they’ll stop, but at the same time going after them just enough to be able to say they’re going after them. That a lot of officials have more or less openly said they don’t blame the militants for what they’ve done, hasn’t helped.

CNN also explains that, while ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood has accepted responsibility for this attack, it’s thought another group — al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (aka IQIS) — carried out this attack.

Note, too, this attack comes on the heels of the attack a couple days ago on the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey. As Maajid Nawaz explains in the Daily Beast, this has been a particularly savage Ramadan, and that’s been ISIS’s plan (cached). They’ve called for a worldwide “month of jihad,” it seems.

Sadly, many Christianists will react to all of this with a rather vile kind of sanctimonious glee. They’ll think — and maybe even say out loud — something like, “You see? Islam is an inherently-violent religion! This proves it! We Christians aren’t like that, we’re peace-loving!” It’s true that savagery of this sort is, at the moment, more or less a product of Islamism. But with that said, Christians need to accept their religion isn’t immune to this sort of thing, either. There really is such a thing as Christian terrorism, even if there’s a strong tendency not to admit it. And the way to deal with the raging intolerance of Islamist militants is not to be fiercely intolerant right back at them. OK?

Photo credit: Jack Higgins/Chicago Sun-Times, via CAIR Chicago.

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