Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Merry Christmas Lights / Eric Kilby, via FlickrIf one of the minions of the Groper-in-Chief-elect is correct, I may no longer have to post about the Religious Right’s annual — and delusional — “war on Christmas.” According to Corey Lewandowski, erstwhile campaign manager for the next president, then CNN talking head, the phantasmal campaign against Christianity’s winter solstice holiday is over! The Hill reports on his appearance on Fox News, in which he made this declaration (WebCite cached article):

Corey Lewandowski claimed Tuesday evening that people are now allowed to say “Merry Christmas” again because of Donald Trump’s election victory.

“You can say again Merry Christmas because Donald Trump is now the president. You can say it again. It’s OK to say,” Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said on Fox News’ “Hannity.”

“It’s not a pejorative word anymore.”

Whew! Boy, am I glad that’s over! I mean, it’s been ages since I’ve been allowed to say, “Merry Christmas.” Until the Groper-in-Chief’s election, I wasn’t able to utter it. I’d have been arrested, or executed, or something … I’m sure. But now, I can say “Merry Christmas” all I want, without worry. Solely because of the Groper-in-Chief! Hooray!

Wait … what … ? You mean, none of that was true? I could have been saying “Merry Christmas” all this time, if I’d wanted? Really!?

</sarcasm>

To be clear: It has never been illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” No such law or ordinance has ever been proposed, much less passed and enacted, anywhere in the US. Not at the federal, state, county, or municipal levels. It has never happened. Period. And the Groper-in-Chief’s didn’t suddenly and magically dispense with any such laws or ordinances. That, also, has never happened. Period.

It’s long past time for Christianists to grow the fuck up already and stop inventing forms of persecution just because they like thinking they’re being martyred for Jesus. Unfortunately, this compulsion is very strong with them … being inherent in the psychopathology of their faith. Still, that’s no excuse for kvetching and moaning that they’re being prevented from celebrating Christmas, when in reality, they’re not.

Oh, and it’s hilarious that Lewandowski would try to sell the public on his boss’s incredible magical powers, by trumpeting that he made it possible, at last, for Americans to say a phrase they’ve always been able to say. Yeah, that makes a whole fucking lot of sense!

Photo credit: Eric Kilby, 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)As I blogged a little while ago, we now live in a post-truth world. Facts no longer matter, and no one gives a flying fuck about veracity. Worse than merely dismissing the need for reliance on fact, many people now openly express contempt for veracity. Wild speculation and antic sanctimony are what rules them, and anything contrary is viewed as an existential threat to their persons.

This view of veracity not being merely unimportant, but antithetical to one’s own existence, can lead to some very real dangers. I have two examples of this extreme for your consideration.

The first is “pizzagate,” the utterly absurd Right-wing political trope that got so far out of control that a man showed up at a Washington pizzeria and fired a gun there, supposedly in an effort to “investigate” the controversy. The Washington Post has a story on how this asinine foolishness started, how it escalated to gunplay, and — worst of all — how it will never go away — in spite of the fact that there’s not one stitch of evidence to support any of its contentions (WebCite cached article).

The whole “pizzagate” ridiculousness is only a month old … but my other example today has been brewing for years, and doesn’t appear to be letting up. That involves the so-called “Sandy Hook hoax.” The “hoax” here, of course, is that the Sandy Hook shootings are — sadly — not a “hoax” at all. The “hoax” comes from those who keep calling it a “hoax.” This is something we’ve dealt with, here in my home state of Connecticut, since those shootings occurred 4 years ago. USA Today reports on just the latest example of the dangers that keep spinning out of the “Sandy Hook truther” movement (cached):

A Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was a hoax was arrested Monday on charges she threatened the parent of a child killed in the 2012 school shooting.

Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa, Fla., was indicted on four counts of transmitting threats, according to a statement from the United States Attorney Southern District of Florida.…

According to authorities, Richards made a series of death threats against the parent of a child who was killed in the shooting.

Death threats aren’t new to survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting, unfortunately. Truthers have gone after them repeatedly, and no doubt will continue to do so … forever.

Lies such as “pizzagate” and the Sandy hook “truther” movement have power, because those who hold onto them resist correction. No amount of debunking will work. If you ask them, this is because (as they see it) the mass media are debunking it, and the media are not to be trusted. The media lie, you see. All the time. Every time! Without letup. And they can even point to things that — they think — support that view, such as the fact that no chemical weapons were found after the US invaded Iraq on the pretense that chemical weapons were there. (This very example was mentioned in the WaPo article I cited above.)

So in their minds, they’re free to cling desperately, and sanctimoniously, to any laughable, counter-factual trope they want to.

There are many problems with this view. First, just because the media have sometimes been wrong, doesn’t make them “always-wrong.” It just doesn’t work that way. Second, the example of Iraq and chemical weapons is a false one, since it wasn’t the mass media themselves who claimed chemical weapons were there; it was the G.W. Bush administration, and the media simply reported that claim. (And contrary to popular belief, many outlets were skeptical … but without any ability to dig around freely in Iraq themselves, the media’s ability to verify this was limited.) Third, the notion that the mass media are arrayed “against” the folk who cling to their lies is a known psychological phenomenon, the hostile media effect. It is this, coupled with another psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect, which prevents people from giving up the lies they love.

But really, I’m no longer interested in anyone’s excuses for clinging to lies. I really don’t fucking care that distrust of the Clintons and their minions is what ultimately led to “pizzagate.” I mean, I don’t trust them myself … but that doesn’t mean I’m going to buy into that phony trope. I also don’t fucking care that it’s mainly gun fanatics who’re convinced Sandy Hook was a hoax, and they’re concerned someone might take their firearms away. None of that matters to me. All I care about are facts and veracity. I will continue to care about them for as long as I live. If that makes me some kind of hateful, intellectual, elitist ogre, then I guess that’s what I am.

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

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CT Comptroller Kevin Lembo / CT News Junkie file photoAt the outset, I have to concede this is something of a tempest in a teapot. We aren’t talking about very much money here, and the stakes aren’t very high, on either side of this conflict. Still, it is an example of someone daring to take on a well-known and vocal Religious Right group, which is actually rare, since they’ve been so successful at intimidating others and bullying them into acquiescence.

Now then, on to the story … !

The state of Connecticut has a program by which its employees can have money deducted from their paychecks and sent directly to a number of charitable organizations. To be included in this program, charities must sign up and agree to abide by certain standards. But in the case of the American Family Association, that proved to be a problem. CT’s comptroller, Kevin Lembo, whose office administers the program, wants to find out if the AFA is actually living up to that agreement; but as CT News Junkie reports, the AFA is none too happy about that (WebCite cached article):

After asking a Christian organization that’s against LGBTQ rights for more information about how it conforms with Connecticut’s nondiscrimination clause to qualify for state employee payroll deductions, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo became the group’s newest target.

The American Family Association, a Mississippi-based group that is known for its anti-gay and anti-transgender boycotts of businesses, is flooding Lembo’s office with calls and emails. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Lembo said his office had received 4,455 emails from people associated with AFA.…

Last week, Lembo, who is the Connecticut’s first openly gay constitutional officer, announced that his office was investigating [cached] whether the group conforms with the anti-discrimination policy for the Connecticut State Employee Campaign for Charitable Giving program. Lembo said the group signed the anti-discrimination clause, but their website seems to offer a different story.

As one would expect, the AFA went ballistic over Lembo’s investigation. It probably didn’t help that Lembo is openly gay. They claim his move is an “attack” on their religious freedom, and Lembo’s way of trying to wipe out devout, dutiful Christians like themselves … but it’s not. At stake here is just one very small question: Whether or not the AFA is allowed to remain in CT’s payroll-deduction program for state employees. That’s all. Nothing more. Whether they’re in this program or not, will not change their lives in the slightest. It won’t force them to give up their beliefs. It won’t close any of their churches, it won’t rip Bibles out of their homes or hands. It won’t do anything of the sort, even if they claim it would. What’s more, as CTNJ explains, we’re talking about a small amount of money:

Between 2011 and 2016, AFA has receive $202 from three state employees. Since the group is part of a larger group of 13 charities within the account, it’s unknown exactly how much it received in undesignated funds. The group of 13 charities under the Neighbor to Nation heading received a little more than $4,000 a year between 2011 and 2014.

That kind of money isn’t going to make or break the AFA. It just won’t, no matter how sanctimoniously enraged they may be at this insolent, profane gay man who dared take them on, even in a small way such as this.

Really, the problem here is with the AFA. They reached an agreement with the state of CT in order to be included in this program, and that agreement included anti-discrimination terms, which they haven’t abided by, and which they even insist they’re obliged to ignore by dint of their religious beliefs. In other words … they signed an agreement whose terms they damned well knew, from the very start, that they never intended to live by. They weren’t coerced into signing up for that program or signing that agreement; no one put a gun to their heads and forced them to do so. They did that of their own volition. It now appears they did so dishonestly. I salute the Comptroller for pointing out their duplicity and for taking them on … even if the end result won’t accomplish very much (at best, the AFA will be deprived of a few hundred dollars a year in contributions, should they be removed from the program).

Really, for me — as I stated at the beginning of this post — what’s significant here is that Lembo was even willing at all to try to take on the AFA. Most of the time, public officials won’t contend with Christofascists. Rather, they tend overwhelmingly to bend over for them and give in to their bullying tactics. This is how they’ve succeeded as much as they have over the last three or four decades. They always seem to resort to their claim of sincere belief and “religious freedom,” as though this means all of humanity is required to knuckle under to all their demands, all the time, and that they’re never to be questioned, ever, for any reason. The world doesn’t work that way, and there’s no reason officials should act as though it does.

Photo credit: CT News Junkie.

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Shellie Sylvestri, via KNOE-TVThis year’s annual edition of “the War on Christmas” rages on. This is something I’ve blogged about ad nauseam; it’s a propaganda trope in which American Christianists pretend that their religion is being wiped out, initially via an insidious campaign to outlaw the celebration of Christmas.

This is delusional, of course; Christianity is in no danger in the US, and people are still free to celebrate Christmas. That won’t change … but you can’t tell Christianists that. They refuse to accept it, and claim their religion is standing at the precipice of total destruction and that they’re just a moment away from being killed off.

The latest skirmish in this annual juvenile exercise comes from the fine Bible Belt Bobble Bayelt state of Louisiana. KNOE-TV in Monroe, LA reports on a battle that erupted over — of all things — atheist billboards (WebCite cached article):

The Atheist Americans holiday campaign debuted in Monroe yesterday with two digital billboards near Hwy 165 and Pecanland Mall.

“It’s definitely a strong Christian community and a lot of strong believers in this area,” says Kyle Klitzke of Monroe.…

The billboards lasted less than two hours in Monroe before the billboard company, Outfront Media, suggested the organization take it down.

Nick Fish, program director for American Atheists, took the words right out of my mouth:

“They need to get over themselves and realize this is a country with a lot of viewpoints, and they’re not the only ones with a view on this,” Fish says.

He’s absolutely correct that Louisiana’s Christianists “need to get over themselves” and understand that they’re not the only ones … but they never will do so. They view the fact that they’re not alone in the country as an intolerable burden that they simply cannot withstand, and will never tolerate — not even for a second.

As I often do when remarking on “the War on Christmas,” I remind American Christendom that many of its beliefs about Christmas are false. Absolutely, totally, 100% wrong. Not that most of them care very much about facts … but I do, and I plan to throw as many of them as I can in their faces. No matter how much they dislike it, or how vehemently they deny those facts.

Photo credit: Shellie Sylvestri, via KNOE-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Letter sent to CA mosques: 'To the Children of Satan,|You muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs. You are evil. You worship the devil. But, your day of reckoning has arrived.|There is a new Sheriff in town -- President Donald Trump. He's going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he's going to start with you muslims. He's going to do to you want Hitler did to the jews. You muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.|This is a great time for Patriotic Americans. Love live President Trump and God bless the USA!|Americans for a Better Way' / via Washington PostIn addition to fueling the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalism, the election of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump has brought out the bigotry and hate that’s been simmering out there for decades. The incoming president ran on a platform of barring all Muslims entry to the US (WebCite cached article), so naturally that’s breathed new life into the movement I call “the Great Neocrusade” — i.e. a Religious Right effort to abolish Islam from the US and drive out all Muslims.

(Granted, many doubt the Groper-in-Chief will be able to carry out this promise … but that’s not relevant here. He made the promise, and many Americans expect he’ll carry it out. The reality of actually implementing it is something neither the Groper-in-Chief nor any of his fanbois are interested in.)

The result of this is that hateful Neocrusaders have been emboldened, and are becoming more overt and confrontational. For example, as the Washington Post reports, three California mosques got threatening letters (cached):

Letters threatening that President-elect Donald Trump will do to Muslims what Adolf Hitler “did to the Jews” were sent to three California mosques last week, according to the Council on Islamic-American Relations, or CAIR.

The handwritten letter, which referred to Muslims as “children of Satan,” were mailed to Islamic centers in San Jose in Northern California and Long Beach and Pomona in Southern California. It called Trump the “new sherriff [sic] in town” who will “cleanse America and make it shine again” by eradicating the country’s Muslim population.

“You Muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs,” the letter states. “You are evil. You worship the devil. But, your day of reckoning has arrived.”

The letter went on to say that Muslims “would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”

There have been widespread reports of many other incidents of hate, in the wake of the Groper-in_-Chief’s election. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear whether there has been an actual uptick in such incidents (cached).

Even so, it’s clear someone out there has chosen the arrival of “a new sheriff in town” as a signal that s/he should send letters to mosques threatening a Muslim Holocaust. And s/he did it not just once, but three times.

Yes, these are the sorts of things the Groper-in-Chief’s fanbois are willing to do, in the name of “making America great again.” Not that threatening a Muslim Holocaust will ever make America great — but clearly they think it will.

Photo credit: Washington Post.

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The Atlantic / 'Hail Trump!': White Nationalists Salute the President ElectNote: I’ve put up a second blog post on what’s become of the US in the wake of the Groper-in-Chief’s election, so I’ve renamed this post accordingly. Now then … on with the original post:

It’s no secret that, among supporters of the Groper-in-Chief-elect, there are a lot of unsavory types — “unsavory” being the most generous adjective I can apply to such folks. I say this at the risk of sounding a little like Hillary Clinton and her “basket of deplorables” (cached) … which is more correct than many wish is the case, even if her assertion that fully “half” of the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s supporters meet that description is too high a proportion.

At any rate, it’s well known that the amorphous movement known as the “alt-right,” as well as even more reprehensible sorts of people, like Klansman David Duke (cached) have supported the Groper-in-Chief-elect and helped him win the White House.

While not quite as bad as the proverbial cross-burning Klan member or brawling neo-nazi skinhead, members of the alt-right definitely harbor a lot of vile notions, most of them predicated on white nationalism. Thrown in alongside that is a lot of paranoia and conspiratorialism, as well as misogyny and anti-semitism.

The Groper-in-Chief-elect’s connections with the alt-right are well-known. Perhaps the most important is that Steve Bannon, the chairman of his campaign and now his chief adviser, once ran the Web site Breitbart, which Bannon himself stated was “the platform of the alt-right” (cached). Really, it doesn’t get any clearer, or more definitive, than that.

But the unsavory nature of much of the the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s support goes beyond just a few “big names” (e.g. Duke or Bannon) who’ve either endorsed or worked for him. Perhaps no more worrisome exemplar of this can be found in video (courtesy of The Atlantic) from an alt-right conference in Washington (cached):

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”

Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads. Spencer has said his dream [cached] is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”

For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word [cached] to attack their critics in the press.

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

The Atlantic provides video of Spencer’s remarks, via Youtube:

Nothing I’ve read about Spencer suggests he’s stupid or clueless (cached), so I can only assume he was consciously appealing to Nazism while he spoke. As for his audience “hailing” the Groper-in-Chief-elect with Nazi salutes … all I can say is, that’s chilling.

Late addition: As the New York Times reports via Bloomberg, the Groper-in-Chief-elect has said he “disavows” this conference (cached), and he also supposedly disavows the alt-right. Not that it matters much to those present who gave him a Hitler salute. After all, one of their standard-bearers, Steve Bannon, will soon have his own office in the White House. Again, due to Bannon’s own admission of having run “the platform of the alt-right”, the nascent White House cannot logically claim no alliance with the alt-right. It just can’t. Period.

Photo credit: The Atlantic.

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The Word: Truthiness (The Colbert Report, 10/17/2005) / Comedy Central, via GiphyJust a few days ago, the Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” its “Word of the Year” for 2016 (WebCite cached article):

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

Events during 2016 apparently brought the notion of “post-truth” to light in an unprecedented way:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

The news media have reported on this declaration as a kind of revelation: “Post-truth” as a word has existed for some time, but the concept itself is one the media apparently only just now realized exists.

On the other hand, I’ve always known about it. I’ve only said for many years — here, in this very blog, in fact — that people generally are much less concerned with veracity than with whatever they can find which validates their feelings. In fact, “post-truth” is related to “truthiness,” made famous by Stephen Colbert back in 2005. And even then, the concept wasn’t new to me … or to a lot of other folks. “Post-truth” and “truthiness” explains why a lot of people buy into a lot of asinine, absurd, laughable bullshit and take it seriously. Because “it feels right” to them — and that’s all that fucking matters! Veracity? Who cares about that!?

Pretty much every religion on the planet can be explained as manifestations of “post-truth” attitudes. It also explains beliefs in the paranormal and assorted insane woo like hauntings, auras, chakras, Satanic ritual abuse, extraterrestrial abductions, Creationism, homeopathy, trickle-down economics, qi, and many other tropes too numerous for me to list here. They’re all rank bullshit, but they all have legions of loyal followers who will swear to their graves that they’re real — even though there’s not a fucking stitch of bona fide evidence supporting a single damned one of them!

What’s even worse than just the irrational belief in “truthy” bullshit, is the sanctimoniousness which often accompanies it. Skeptics and debunkers who insolently dare tell these folk their bullshit is bullshit, are condemned as hateful pricks who simply aren’t “open-minded” enough to “understand” or “experience” the (unfounded) “truth.” Who are these skeptics to run around telling people they’re wrong!? How dare they question people’s sincerity? Why, they’re trying to destroy people … or something.

Yes, it’s an exceedingly childish mindset. Nevertheless, a lot of people — most of them grown adults — love to engage in it, anyway.

In sum … anyone who wasn’t aware of “post-truth” prior to the election of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump, simply hasn’t been paying attention to how people think (or, worse, emote).

Call me unimpressed with media outlets reporting on the Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement as though they’re discovering something for the first time. They ought to have known all about “post-truth” long ago … even if the word itself wasn’t often used. It’s a very real human foible, one that people need to work to repair, rather than indulge. Yeah, people won’t like it … but too fucking bad. When they’re wrong, they should be told so, and it shouldn’t matter that they’re too immature to be corrected.

Photo credit: Comedy Central, via Giphy.

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