Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Waaah!I just blogged about some insane reactions to the Ebola outbreak. But now I’d like to comment on some Christianists using it as a promotional tool. This isn’t new for them, of course; their appeals to what I call “disaster theology” are old hat. There’s a reason they use this tactic: First, because people talk a lot about disasters and crises, and they’re well-covered in the media, so these guys hope to ride these stories to more attention than they’d have gotten otherwise; and second, because it’s a way of playing on fear, and fear is a way of hooking their audience, and — they hope! — reel in more donations.

The first example comes from Pastor John Hagee and is reported by Right Wing Watch with accompanying video (WebCite cached article):

“I want every American to hear this very clearly,” Hagee said, citing Joel 3 to warn that God will judge any nation that seeks to divide up Israel and declaring that “our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment.”

“There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun,” Hagee continued, “because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now.”

“We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola,” he stated, as well as threats from Islamic radicals and even civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri all as a result of God’s judgment on America due to Obama’s policies

Hagee is a rabid Christian Zionist, one of those Christians who claims to love and support Israel, but what they’re really doing is agitating for that nation to (somehow) trigger Armageddon. (Specifically, what they hope is that Israel will do something to elicit a massive attack from “the kings of the east” as related in Revelation 16:12.)

Now, I have no idea why he thinks President Obama is “dividing up Israel.” My guess is he’s referring to the “two-state solution.” Unfortunately for the obnoxious little troll Hagee, that isn’t Obama’s invention. Not at all! It actually predates him by decades. In fact, it predates even the creation of Israel. Its origins can be traced to the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Peel Commission in 1937. Of course, that partition never happened, nor did the subsequent UN partition proposal which came along 10 years later. The current manifestation of the “two-state solution” began with the Oslo Accords in 1993; since then, it has been the policy of every US president — Democrat (Clinton, Obama) and Republican (the Younger Bush) — to pursue a two-state solution. It’s no more Obama’s policy than it was Bush’s or Clinton’s, nor is it (in principle, anyway) much different from any number of other plans that have been floated for the last few decades. (And I’ll leave alone the fact that Israel was “divided” in ancient times by the Hebrews themselves.) Why God would choose this particular moment to savage the country with Ebola, when Palestine-division plans had been tossed around for most of the 20th century and all of this one to date, isn’t really evident. At least, Hagee doesn’t bother to explain it.

The troll’s claims about Ebola being a pestilence sent due to “Obama’s” plan to divide Israel, conflict with what another pastor has said about it. A North Carolina pastor, Raw Story reports, says it’s because gay marriage is now legal, and the epidemic will grow worse as new states enact it (cached):

A Baptist pastor is warning that God will escalate the Ebola crisis when North Carolina begins performing same-sex marriages.

During his Sunday sermon following a series of court actions that effectively struck down North Carolina’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, Berean Baptist Church Pastor Pastor Ron Baity suggested that homosexuality was a sign of the End Times.

“So the book of the Revelation is about End Times events and what happens when this world is destroyed by fire, when the stars and the universe and the sun and the moon, like untimely figs cast from a tree, are just completely done away with and annihilated,” he said, telling his congregation to focus on what the Bible said would happen before that.

“Listen, folks, it’s on,” he announced. “You might as well get ready for it. It’s on. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to say to the churches… It’s just a matter of time before our constitution in our churches will be overturned like our state constitution just been overturned this week. I mean, it’s coming.”…

“You think Ebola is bad now, just wait. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else. My friends, I want you to understand, you can’t thumb your nose at God, and God turn his head away without God getting your attention.”

Of course, Baity threw into this sanctimoniously-outraged sermon the obligatory references to Sodom and Gomorrah, referring to the common Abrahamic-religious legend that YHWH incinerated those two cities because of homosexuality — even though this assumption isn’t really supported by the Bible itself. Like most Christofascists, little Ronnie is upset over the existence of gays and would rather they all went away so he wouldn’t have to deal with them or have to treat them like fellow human beings.

Expect more, not less, of this sort of thing as the Ebola crisis keeps getting the mass media’s attention. Fierce religionists aren’t going to turn up their noses at something that useful.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ebola Facts - v by SouthernBreeze, on FlickrIt’s old news by now that Ebola virus has been on a tear through three different west African countries. It’s also not news that a man came to Texas from Liberia carrying Ebola and eventually died of it in a Dallas, TX hospital. What’s more, it’s also not news that two nurses who’d cared for him have contracted it (cached). All of that is bad enough. But the reaction to these stories has been … well, the phrase “fucking insane” may not quite do it justice.

First, we have the inevitable political reaction from Republicans using this as another way of tearing into Barack Obama’s hide. Their reactions range from the calm yet still irrational, demand that the CDC’s director resign (cached), which will accomplish nothing whatsoever, as well as demanding travel bans from the affected countries (cached), which also isn’t likely to do much good, to the extreme and ridiculous, such as bundling several crises into one big, neat package of hate, sanctimony, and paranoia by claiming ISIS/ISIL/IS fighters have contracted Ebola and are (cached) trying to get over the country’s southern border to infect Americans en masse (cached) — there is, of course, no evidence of any such conspiracy. And then there’s the garden-variety wingnut Religious Right wackiness of claiming Obama caused (cached) the Ebola crisis as a way of “taking over” or something (cached) — as though that makes any sense at all.

But on top of all this, we have a number of other asinine reactions (cached):

That’s not the limit of the insanity, but it’s enough to illustrate what I’m talking about. It really needs to fucking stop already.

I’m with Shepard Smith of Fox News. Please watch as he decimates the (largely media-driven) insanity:

Smith cites influenza, which annually kills thousands of Americans, as a much greater danger than Ebola, but I can think of another, that being Enterovirus D68, which currently is something of a problem in the US. Although Ebola is more deadly than either of these, Americans are incredibly less likely to contract it. Which means it’s not something they have any reason to be terrified about. The panicking lunacy is enough to make me tag this post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”

OK, people, I get it. You don’t want Ebola. Really, I understand. I don’t want it either. But this blind panic isn’t going to help you avoid it. I’ll tell you what will: Calm down, grow up, and get over it, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: SouthernBreeze, via Flickr.

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Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies. (PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com: http://www.quitor.com/cat-with-glasses.html)In case you hadn’t heard by now — and I assume most of my readers have — gay marriage is suddenly legal in a number of states (WebCite cached article). Naturally, this has brought the insanity out of the Religious Right, who just can’t tolerate the idea that gays should actually be allowed to live normal lives. I can hardly hope to catalog all the wingnutty craziness that has, and will, erupt from them over it. That would be impossible. Only Google has a data center with enough storage for that!

But I can report on one particular paranoiac reaction that defies history. It comes from the Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state of North Carolina; the Asheville Citizen-Times reports on some GOP functionaries’ reaction to a gay-pride flag flying over City Hall (cached):

A decision allowing that a two-story rainbow flag be flown at City Hall had more to do with supporting civil rights than jumping into political conflict over same-sex marriage, Mayor Esther Manheimer said Friday.…

Former City Councilman Carl Mumpower and Chad Nesbitt, a former chairman of the Buncombe County GOP, said council violated state open meetings law by not holding vote during an official meeting in public.…

Nesbitt and Mumpower in their statement included a depiction of a Nazi flag flying from City Hall.

“I am equating their methods with the Nazi movement,” Mumpower said. “They are indifferent to the rule of law and indifferent to the vote of the people. And that’s Adolph Hitler all over again in a different disguise.”

This is where I find it necessary to call a big fucking time out.

First, if the best these sanctimoniously-enraged good ol’ boys can come up with is to trot out an old reductio ad Hitlerum, their argument was over as soon as it began. The Right bellowing appeals to Hitler and the Nazis every time they’re confronted by something they don’t like, is exceedingly childish, and it’s long since gotten old. These guys desperately need new material — and fast.

Second, gay rights advocates absofuckinglutely are not Nazis, no matter how much one hates them. It’s not hard to understand why this is the case. It’s because, as I’ve blogged before, details matter. They have not taken over the federal government and then: 1) outlawed all other political parties; 2) nationalized state governments; 3) deployed their own militia out to control the streets; 4) abolished labor unions; or 5) arrested their opponents en masse and imprisoned them in concentration camps … just to name a few of the specific things the Third Reich did.

Third, Hitler and his minions in the Nazi party were certainly not friendly to gays. There is no goddamn fucking way they’d ever have flown a gay-pride flag over anything. Quite the opposite, they despised gays in every possible way! Gays were among those whom they first rounded up and imprisoned, then exterminated (along with Jews, Dom/Romani, and other minorities). One of the pretenses for Hitler killing Ernst Röhm, his head of the SA (i.e. the Sturmabteilung or “brownshirts”), was that he was gay. To suggest the Nazis might have done anything in support of gays, is contra-factual and idiotic.

Because of all this, I’m placing Mumpower and Nesbitt in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. I’m sure they’ll be happy to end up there, surrounded by lots of their fellow Christofascists who likewise have hurled ad Hitlerums around in ridiculous and juvenile fashion.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: I get it. Really. Honest, I do. I get that these hyperreligious nutcases don’t like gays. They don’t want to treat gays like human beings. They’d much rather not even know that gays exist. Gays creep them out. I understand that. I truly do. But … I don’t fucking care! The cold fact is that gays exist, they are human beings just like everyone else, and it’s fucking long past time for the world to accept it. These Religious Rightists don’t have to like it, and I doubt they ever will — but they do have to get over it and move on with their lives, fercryinoutloud. Just knock off the lying bullshit already.

Photo credit: PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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A historical event that Jefferson County schools would not be able to teach kids (In case you were taught by Jefferson County schools, or for some other reason don't recognize it, this was the fall of the Berlin Wall) / PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia CommonsConservatives have strange ideas about how teaching works. For instance, a lot of them think teaching evolution in science classes — which is currently the only known scientific explanation for our planet’s diverse life forms — is a form of persecution against Christianity and part of an effort to abolish that religion. Also, a lot of them think teaching kids things like slavery will cause kids to hate their country or something. They also worry that teaching kids about things will somehow force them to do them; e.g. teaching kids about communism will convert them to communism.

That the teaching of history, in particular, doesn’t work the way conservatives think it does, should be rather obvious. For instance, my 4 years in university learning medieval history didn’t make me into a crossbowman, swordsman or jouster, even though I learned about medieval military methods and read about a lot of tournaments.

An example of the outright-fucking insanity that erupts when conservatives get their hands on history curricula can be seen in this report by the New York Times on recent actions by the Jefferson County, Colorado school board (WebCite cached article):

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

The Times article explains that the board’s conservative majority (3 to 2) has been stirring up trouble for several months, including driving out a 12-year superintendent. They’re really angry, and appear to have fallen for the prevailing conservative myth that public schools are nothing more than Marxist indoctrination camps.

In addition to the false notion that teaching kids about civil disobedience will force them all to become perpetually “civilly disobedient,” they appear to forget that civil disobedience has been used to promote conservative ideals and even to bring about changes that American conservatives approve of. Have they forgotten so soon about things like a western Rightist’s decades-long unrepentant refusal to obey federal law (cached) — a sterling example of civil disobedience if ever there was one? Or about the “Brooks Brothers riot” (in which Rightists working for G.W. Bush campaign used civil disobedience to try to derail the 2000 election recount in Florida)? Or have they forgotten about protests around the world, especially in eastern Europe, that toppled many communist regimes in 1989? Or even that many of their own number want the incumbent president removed from office, and wouldn’t object to civil disobedience or even revolt in order to make that happen?

My guess is, they’re blissfully unaware of this. They tend to be authoritarian, and demand unthinking adherence to authority. That they sometimes, themselves, object to some authority figures just doesn’t register with them all that often. In other words, they’re hypocrites — fiercely decrying civil disobedience if they find it inconvenient, but using it like a tool whenever they feel as though they can. Wah wah wah, little babies.

Photo credit: PsiCop modification of Sue Ream photo, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Haredi crowd aisle after refusing to sit next to women on flight /  Photo Credit: Amit Ben Natan, via Shalom LifeAir travel is a nightmare these days, as everyone knows. What with TSA’s laughable “security theater” antics — which includes making passengers take off their shoes, belts, and throw away their coffees and sodas at security checkpoints — there’s the problem of cramped flights jammed with cranky people. Well, a bunch of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men on a flight from JFK in New York to Israel recently did their best to make this already-bad situation much worse for their fellow passengers. This debacle, Canada’s Shalom Life reports, stemmed from the fact that none of them would sit next to a woman (WebCite cached article):

Passengers aboard an El Al flight from New York’s JKF airport to Israel claim that hundreds of ultra-Orthodox passengers demanded that they trade places with them before takeoff, saying they cannot sit next to women.

“It was an 11-hour long nightmare,” one of the passengers summed up her experience.…

According to the passengers who were on the plane, their fellow ultra-Orthodox travelers refused to sit next to women prior to the takeoff, which not only delayed the flight, but caused actual chaos to ensue on the plane.

“People stood in the aisles and refused to go forward,” said Amit Ben-Natan, a passenger who was on board the plane.

“Although everyone had tickets with seat numbers that they purchased in advance, they asked us to trade seats with them, and even offered to pay money, since they cannot sit next to a woman. It was obvious that the plane won’t take off as long as they keep standing in the aisles.”

I’m not quite sure what horrific thing would have happened to any of these guys if they’d actually shut their faces and sat down next to women. Would they explode? Would they catch some kind of disease? Do they have “girl cooties” that the Haredi just can’t allow to infect them? What, exactly, is the point of this sort of juvenile and idiotic shit-fit? Someone please tell me, because I can’t figure it out. Perhaps that’s because I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted godless agnostic heathen and can’t comprehend such holy matters. Or whatever.

Something that didn’t help at all, was that the El Al flight crew actually indulged these incredible religionistic crybabies:

Passengers claimed that though the El Al flight crew informed them they do not have to agree to a switch, the flight’s captain said over the PA system that the flight would not take off as long as people were standing.

“This is completely inconsiderate of the non-haredi travelers. I don’t know many airlines that would allow their passengers to act like that,” said Bar Natan.

What Bar Natan said is true. I’ve never heard of any airline crew tolerating disruptive passengers, especially while a plane is still on the ground and they can kick the malcontents off easily.

Note that, even once the plane was in the air after they’d pitched their fit over the presence of women, the Haredi compounded it all by creating even more trouble while in transit:

It seems that after takeoff a large portion of the haredi travelers took to the isles to pray which, according to their fellow travelers, crowded the isles and caused the flight to be unbearable.

Again, it seems the flight crew indulged these guys because they allowed this to occur. Well done, El Al! How nice of you to bend over happily for your ultra-Orthodox brethren. Their irrational, childish, metaphysically-rationalized wishes, after all, are vastly more important than getting a plane in the air on time or making other passengers comfortable. The rest of the passengers must be treated like shit compared to the all-important Haredi. What they say goes, and everyone else can go fuck off. It’s mandatory … for some reason, again that I can’t fathom, and again that’s probably due to my being an insolent, cold-hearted godless agnostic heathen, not gifted with sacred insight into such godly matters.

Photo credit: Amit Ben Natan, via Shalon Life.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Archbishop Nienstedt / Jeffrey Thompson/MPR NewsThe R.C. Church has been having trouble lately up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis has been dealing with a few controversies over the last year or so. But something else has come up. As Minnesota Public Radio reports, a Catholic parish’s musical director was fired because he married his same-sex partner (WebCite cached article):

Archbishop John Nienstedt has asked the music director of a parish in Victoria, Minn., to resign after learning that the man married his long-time male partner last weekend, according to a letter from the parish priest [cached].

“Our beloved Director of Music, Jamie Moore, married his long-time partner Garrett this past weekend,” the Rev. Bob White, of St. Victoria Catholic Church, wrote in a letter to parishioners posted on the parish website this week. “Since Jamie’s marriage conflicts with official Church teaching, Archbishop Nienstedt asked for Jamie’s resignation.”…

In a written statement to MPR News, Nienstedt said he was “consulted about the employment matter and I responded by saying the teachings of the Church must be upheld, including the pastoral response of working with an employee whose actions are contrary to the Catholic faith.”

Note that these two accounts differ a bit. Rev White explicitly says Nienstedt asked for Moore’s resignation; the archbishop said he’d merely been “consulted” about it. Thus, Nienstedt implies it was the priest, not himself, who requested the resignation. Although he doesn’t exactly deny any involvement in the decision, he does downplay his part in it. The priest’s account, on the other hand, doesn’t suggest his role was anywhere near that remote.

Note that his Excellency’s thinking on the matter is clouded by his wingnutty beliefs about gays, which MPR News helpfully relates:

[Nienstedt] has also said that “homosexual inclination is a result of some psychological trauma” that occurs before the age of 3.

I have no idea what evidence Nienstadt has to support this insane hypothesis. I’d love for him to divulge it — if he dares. I doubt he will, of course, since there probably isn’t any.

Given Nienstedt’s nuttiness on the subject of gays, his refusal to rein in child-abusing priests, and the possibility that he or someone who worked for him may have destroyed evidence of kiddie-porn possession by one of his priests, I suspect the liar here is Nienstedt and not the Rev White. Although I certainly can’t be sure of that.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News.

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Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02You could say the archdiocese of Hartford is the gift that keeps on giving … for agnostic bloggers like myself, anyway. Some two and a half years ago, this is the outfit whose attorney, Jack Sitarz, achieved a new high in low, during a civil trial over child abuse by a priest, by not only claiming the abuse wasn’t harmful because the victims “liked it,” but then by doubling down on that claim later in the same trial. (This is in spite of the fact that minors cannot by law be construed as consenting to sexual activity. Even I know this, and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not sure how Sitarz got away with it.) Fortunately, the jury didn’t fall for Sitarz’s nasty and reprehensible maneuver (WebCite cached article).

Well, the archdiocese isn’t done scraping up new ways to evade responsibility for the abuse that it knew Fr Ivan Ferguson had been guilty of. They’ve appealed the verdict, the Hartford Courant reports, and demand the Connecticut Supreme Court invalidate the law that allowed the suit in the first place (cached):

The Archdiocese of Hartford is seeking to have the state Supreme Court overturn a $1 million verdict in a priest sex abuse case while at the same time reversing a state law that extended the amount of time in which accusers may file a lawsuit against it.

In February 2012, a jury in Waterbury awarded a former altar boy $1 million after a trial in which the victim, identified in court papers as Jacob Doe, testified that he and another friend were repeatedly molested and sexually assaulted by the Rev. Ivan Ferguson and a friend of the priest.

The diocese is asking the Supreme Court to overturn that verdict based on a variety of claims — including that the trial judge erred by not allowing an expert witness to testify for the church and by allowing the jury to hear testimony from a deposition of Ferguson.

But the most controversial argument is the claim that a state law last updated in 2002 — bumping to 30 years the statute of limitations for when a victim of sexual abuse may file a lawsuit — is unconstitutional and should be stricken.

What the archdiocese conveniently leaves out of the discussion, is just how long ago it knew the abuse had been going on, and even after it knew about the abuse, purposely chose to put Fr Ferguson back in a place where he could abuse more kids:

At the trial, testimony showed that when former Archbishop John F. Whealon confronted him about the 1979 allegation, Ferguson admitted to the abuse. Ferguson was sent to a treatment facility in Massachusetts. Two years later, Whealon appointed Ferguson priest director of a Derby school.

Ferguson and his boyfriend were accused of abusing Doe and his childhood friend at, among other places, the rectory to which Ferguson had been reassigned in Derby. At the time of the abuse, from 1981 to 1983, the boys attended the school. Ferguson died in 2002.

Now, I know some of the Catholic Church’s defenders here in Connecticut. Most of them are convinced no Catholic clergy ever abused any kids; that plaintiffs and their lawyers fabricated claims solely to extort money from a totally-innocent Church. It’s all a pack of malicious lies, you see, cooked up by greedy trial lawyers. While I agree some trial lawyers are greedy, and also agree it’s possible some plaintiffs are exaggerating or lying for profit, the cold facts are:

  1. Clerical child abuse has occurred within the Catholic Church;
  2. It happened all over the world, not just in Connecticut;
  3. The Church hierarchy knew damned well it was going on;
  4. The bishops happily and giddily continued putting kids in harm’s way by redeploying abusive clergy all over the place;
  5. And they actively interfered with secular authorities’ efforts to prosecute it, stifling investigations and even refusing to obey mandatory-reporting laws.

So am I impressed with these apologists’ objections? Fuck no. I’m nowhere near as stupid as they seem to think I am.

It’s long past time the archdiocese of Hartford stopped making ridiculous excuses, such as “the victims liked it,” grew the hell up already, and owned up to what they did. In this case, that was was to knowingly put Fr Ferguson in a place where he could abuse Jacob Doe and his friend. Pitching fits and whining in court over “unfair” legislation, is not accountability, and not what anyone ought to expect of Jesus’ representatives on earth. If you’re a Catholic and don’t like hearing this … well, it’s time you fucking grew up too, and started holding your own Church accountable, even if your bishops refuse to do so on their own.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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