Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

rainbow flag : pride weekend, castro, san francisco (2014)This is the third in a series of posts I plan about the recent Orlando gay-nightclub shooting, by an American Muslim who appears to have been influenced by ISIS and other violent Islamists. By now my readers will surely know a great deal about this horrific event. The topic of this post is:

The Right Wing Takes Advantage

I just blogged about how some Leftists leapt on this massacre to use it for all the wrong reasons, but even more odious is what a lot of Rightists are doing with it. CNN reports on some of their rhetoric, and some of it is really stupid (WebCite cached article):

Late Sunday afternoon Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said President Barack Obama was far too timid in his White House appearance. Trump issued his first call in the campaign for Obama to step down from the presidency and challenged presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to ratchet up her language about terror threats.

“President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam,'” Trump said in the statement. “For that reason alone, he should step down. If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘Radical Islam’ she should get out of this race for the Presidency.”

I hate to break it to Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump, but the fact that President Obama won’t use the phrase “radical Islam” did not cause this massacre. It just didn’t. I don’t agree with Obama’s refusal to use the phrase; the notion that, if he avoids it, it will pacify Muslims around the world and make them support the US, naïve and foolish. But Trump’s complaint is even more ridiculous.

Fierce Rightist Andrew McCarthy (not the actor!), meanwhile, took to the National Review to pen a vilification of Islam as an inherently and pervasively anti-gay religion (cached):

The mandate that homosexuals be killed is not from ISIS or al-Qaeda. It is from sharia — which draws on Muslim scripture.…

The inspiration for Muslims to brutalize and mass murder gay people does not come from ISIS. It is deeply rooted in Islamic law, affirmed by many of Islam’s most renowned scholars. This is why, wherever sharia is the law, homosexuals are persecuted and killed.

McCarthy claims to be an “expert” on Islam, yet he equates that religion with “shari’a law” apparently without realizing that “shari’a law” is hardly universal within the Muslim world, and where it can be found often varies. So how much of an “expert” on Islam can he really be? Answer: He isn’t one! All he does is cherry-pick his way through Islam, sucking up the bits and pieces that support what he thinks while leaving the rest behind. He just wants Islam wiped off the face of the earth, and is willing to say and do anything he thinks he needs to in order to justify that. Even make it seem as though every Muslim on the planet is required, by his/her religion, to kill every gay they ever come across. Which, of course, is absurd.

What’s more, he conveniently forgets that his own religion, Christianity, has been anti-gay for a very long time.

Photo credit: torbakhopper, via Flickr.

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Governor Phil BryantChristianists’ persecution complex ramped up severely in light of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). They actually think it causes them injury to have to treat gays as though they’re fellow human beings. I’m not sure how or why that’s the case, but they’re convinced of it, and that conviction drives them to keep pitching fits over it.

Of course, a desire to be persecuted for their Jesus is inherent in Christianity’s psychopathology, and has been since its inception. To a large extent, they can’t help themselves. That’s especially true for fundamentalist Christians, because their fundamentalism has infantilized them to the point where they’re incapable of knowing any better.

This persecution delusion explains something Mississippi governor Phil Bryant recently said. As the Associated Press reports via the Washington Post, he made some telling comments during a Religious Right conference in Washington (locally-cached article):

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says the “secular, progressive world” vented at him for signing a bill that would let clerks cite religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Republican governor spoke in Washington as the conservative Family Research Council gave him an award last Thursday for signing House Bill 1523 this year and a similar one in 2014 called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.…

During his speech at the Family Research Council event, Bryant asked whether critics believe people of faith will abandon “freedoms that our forefathers died for,” including religious freedom.

“They don’t know that Christians have been persecuted throughout the ages,” said Bryant, who is United Methodist. “They don’t know that if it takes crucifixion, we will stand in line before abandoning our faith and our belief in our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

Yes, indeed, folks. You read that right. Bryant actually said that Christians would prefer to be crucified than treat gays fairly. Seriously. He said it. He said it proudly and gladly. Bryant spoke for all Christians as though all of them agree with him and share his deluded martyr complex … even though some churches don’t actually object to gays the way he does.

Still, that means nothing to Christianists like the governor. He’s very myopic where his faith is concerned: In his eyes, all Christians think and believe precisely as he does, and there is no variation. Should any disagree, they’re the proverbial “not ‘Real’ Christians” who — in his mind — make him and his religion look bad. In truth, Bryant is making his religion look bad, all by himself. And he’s done a marvelous job of it! Way to go, Guv! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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2nd floor entrance of a Target store, Springfield town centerThe recent Religious Rightist bullshit over transgender access to bathrooms continues. Christianists’ sanctimonious fury has only ramped up in light of the various criticisms that have been leveled at them. They just can’t handle being told they’re out of their fucking minds.

The latest example of their juvenile outrage is over the retail chain Target, which — in light of the laws and other assorted bellyaching the R.R. has thrown at transgenders — declared that they’re free to use any bathroom they want, in their stores (WebCite cached page). As the Christian Post reports, Christofascists have called for a boycott of Target (cached):

More than 392,000 people have signed an online pledge to boycott Target after the retail giant said that transgender employees and customers could use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, irrespective of their biological sex.

“This means a man can simply say he ‘feels like a woman today’ and enter the women’s restroom…even if young girls or women are already in there,” says American Family Association’s online #BoycottTarget pledge, which was launched after Target announced Tuesday, “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

“Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” the pledge asks.

“Corporate America must stop bullying people who disagree with the radical left agenda to remake society into their progressive image,” says AFA President Tim Wildmon in a statement.

First, let me get something obvious out of the way: In spite of its name, the “American Family Association” does not represent “American families.” It represents “American Christofascists.” Moreover, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them a hate group (cached).

Second, note their laughably reductionist view of transgenderism: To the AFA it amounts to nothing more than “he ‘feels like a woman today’.” Last I knew, there was a lot more to it than just how someone feels on any given day.

I note, too, that after working to disparage transgenders and implying they’re all rapists or something, the AFA backpedaled from that:

“We want to make it very clear that AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public,” Wildmon clarifies.

Gee, thanks for that “clarification,” Timmie. Yeah, that makes it all clear … as clear as mud.

The Christian Post‘s headline for this article reads, “392,000 Signers Pledge to Boycott Retailer Target Over Transgender Bathroom Decision.” The large number of petition signers, presumably, grants this boycott veracity or something. That large a number of people simply must be right … right? Actually, no. It doesn’t work that way. This sort of thinking is known as “the bandwagon fallacy,” “appeal to the masses,” “the democratic fallacy,” or more formally, argumentum ad populum, and it’s fallacious. Lots of people can be, and often are, very wrong about things. So call me unimpressed with this 392,000 number. They could have said 392,000,000 and I still wouldn’t give a flying fuck what any of them think.

The objection that male sexual predators will use the pretense of being transgender in order to get into women’s restrooms so they can expose themselves or attack them, is just ludicrous. There’s no evidence that any of them ever have done so. As Chris Wallace of Fox News said earlier today, “bathroom laws” like the one that passed in North Carolina are “a solution in search of a problem.” What’s more, it would still be illegal for such a person to expose him/herself or attack someone in a restroom, whichever one they go into and regardless of whether or not s/he is transgender.

I also love how these so-called “conservatives,” who ordinarily would love to let American businesses run themselves however they wish without undue “government regulation,” somehow disapprove of what a private company is doing and want to pass legislation preventing them from doing so. What fucking hypocrites.

Look, I understand Christofascists are creeped out by transgenders. Yeah, I get it. Christianists don’t understand them. For that matter, neither do I. Nor do I expect I ever will understand what it means to be transgender. But do you know something? That doesn’t matter! I don’t need to “understand” transgenderism in order to realize that transgenders are people, too! They’re people who deserve to be treated like fellow human beings, and with dignity, not used as pawns in a religio-political game to acquire more power. What these putative “people of God” are doing in the name of their god — i.e. harassing transgenders, gays, and other “undesirables” — is horrific and inexcusable. They’d do well to re-read their own scriptures, particularly this little part:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

With all of this said, I plan to do more of my shopping at Target. Even if something costs a little more there. I encourage everyone to “reverse-boycott” this retail chain.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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My Guitar (lil' Backie)I blogged about the gay oppression “religious freedom” laws recently passed in North Carolina and in Mississippi. Christianists in both states are ecstatic that they now have additional legal weapons to use against a class of person they despise. But there’s been something of a backlash. Businesses, for example, are boycotting both states.

But things ramped up when two famous rockers canceled shows in those states. Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, NC (WebCite cached article), and Bryan Adams canceled another in Biloxi, MS (cached).

As one would expect, the Religious Right is none too pleased about any of this. They view these counter-measures as a vile attack upon their beliefs and, in turn, their persons. They remain steadfast in their refusal to bend, and they continue to press the lie that these laws promote “safety.” For example, as The Hollywood Reporter explains, an NC Congressman went after Springsteen over his Greensboro cancelation (cached):

A U.S. congressman who represents portions of Greensboro, N.C., is accusing Bruce Springsteen of being a “bully,” after the rock star canceled a concert there to protest a new law that’s being described as anti-gay.

“It’s disappointing he’s not following through on his commitments,” said Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican freshman congressman.…

“Bruce is known to be on the radical left,” continued Walker, “and he’s got every right to be so, but I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”

Walker explains the reasoning behind this law:

“I choose to stand with our sheriffs, who support this bill, which doesn’t target the LGBTQ community; it targets imposters,” said Walker. “It’s a little crazy to think sexual predators wouldn’t be devious enough to pull something off if they were free to go into any bathroom they want.”

There are some problems with this rationalization. First, just because sheriffs support a bill doesn’t automatically make it a good law. Second, there are already laws against “sexual predators” and this one does nothing to stop any of them (since, unless police are posted at restroom doors to prevent entry, it can be enforced only after-the-fact, and by that time a true sexual predator could already have attacked someone). Third, this justification assumes that transgender folks are “sexual predators” in disguise, which isn’t generally true. Yes, I suppose a criminal might pose as transgender, but how often does that really happen? Can Walker or anyone else show it’s common enough to merit such a law? I haven’t seen any statistics along these lines, just a lot of innuendo and slander against gays and transgender folks.

Oh, and it’s nice how Walker dismisses Springsteen as a “radical leftist” and a “bully.” He doesn’t seem to realize his own fellow Religious Rightist movement is, in its own way, also quite “radical” and guilty of a lot of “bullying” of its own. What a fucking hypocrite! I hope he understands his own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Indiana State Police Car / Indiana State Police, via Indianapolis StarNote: There’s a little more to say about this story; see below.

As I’ve frequently discussed, the problem with religions is that there’s really nothing supporting anything they teach. Since they all move in the world of metaphysics, it’s generally impossible to confirm them. Believers in a religion, therefore, are usually left foundering in a sea of insecurity. They have few means to relieve this insecurity.

The most common such tactic is communal reinforcement; i.e. they all get together and collectively reassure each other that their religion is true. This might seem like a form of social circular reasoning, and a virtual open-door to delusion, and it is … but it’s a remarkably effective way of relieving the insecurity of adhering to a package of metaphysics.

Even so, it can only provide just so much reassurance. After all, if one looks around and sees the very same people (e.g. the members of one’s own church) all the time, the apparent confirmation they offer each other begins to seem hollow. It’s necessary to expand that pool of mutual-reassurers from time to time; and what’s more, the process of convincing someone to join a religion s/he hadn’t been part of, is another kind of confirmation that can be extremely compelling.

Hence, a lot of religions put a strong emphasis on proselytizing, and some of their followers can essentially become addicted to it. A great example of this is an Indiana state trooper, as WXIN-TV in Indianapolis reports, whose compulsion to proselytize during traffic stops has left him unemployed (WebCite cached article):

Indiana State Police terminated a trooper Thursday after a second complaint in 18 months that he was preaching to citizens after stopping them for traffic violations.

State police say this was in direct violation of an August 2014 counseling statement where Senior Trooper Brian L. Hamilton, 40, was told in writing, “During the course of his official duties, S/Trp. Hamilton will not question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements.”

The most recent traffic stop happened in January of this year, but Hamilton was sued in September of 2014 in a similar case, which was settled.

That’s right, this is Hamilton’s second ride on this particular merry-go-round. He was already caught once doing something he shouldn’t, was documented as having been instructed not to do it again, but then proceeded to do it anyway.

As one would expect in cases like this, Hamilton is defiant and unrepentant:

FOX59 spoke with Hamilton over the phone after news broke of his termination.

“Oh well…I’m just following what the Lord told me to do and you can’t change what the Lord tells you to do. So if the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do. And that’s why they fired me so that’s where we’re at,” he said before disconnecting.

Yes, it’s true, he is doing what his deity instructed in what is known as “the Great Commission”:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

So that provides Hamilton a ready excuse for indulging his compulsion to reassure himself of the veracity of his unfounded religion. It also provides him what he will consider justification for him proselytizing during traffic stops — as a Christian, by this scripture, he’s been explicitly instructed to spread his religion. He and his lawyers will, I’m sure, sue the state of Indiana on the grounds that his “religious freedom” was infringed, and the Great Commission, I’m equally sure, will be their Exhibit 1 in that case.

The problems with what Hamilton did are myriad, though, and are quite obvious. Quite aside from simply offending people who don’t want to be pelted with his Christianity during a traffic stop, it places those he stops in untenable positions, and can create conflicts of interest. First, someone who has no intention of doing so may promise Hamilton that s/he will go to his church, just to get out of a ticket; but what happens a few weeks later when s/he hasn’t shown up? Hamilton has that driver’s information, and could track him/her down later. I dare not think how that might work out! Second, what happens if the driver responds some other way, such as saying s/he won’t go to his church (whether because s/he isn’t religious, or is already committed to some other faith)? That driver risks offending Hamilton so that, perhaps, he might treat him/her more harshly. Moreover, what would Hamilton have done if he’d stopped someone who attended his own church? Might he have let that driver go without taking any action?

Put simply, Hamilton’s proselytizing compromises his job and, in turn, how the Indiana State Police relate to the public. It’s just not something they can tolerate.

In addition to suing Indiana over his firing, I also predict Hamilton will also go on the Christian lecture circuit, whining to rapt church audiences how he was fired for Jesus and simply because he “offended” people. His Christianist audiences will, no doubt, sympathize, and wonder what the problem is; why shouldn’t drivers want to hear Jesus’ gospel during traffic stops? After all, Hamilton is just looking out for their mortal souls and providing them what they need. How dare he be fired for having “offended” people?

I won’t even address the (poor) ethics of proselytizing to a captive audience … which is what a driver whom Hamilton has stopped, is. Christianists generally dismiss this particular issue; they happily proselytize in all sorts of closed settings, such as in prisons, schools, etc. It never occurs to them that it’s an underhanded tactic.

These Christianists won’t understand — or worse, will simply refuse even to begin to comprehend — what I explained above, which is that “offending” stopped drivers is the least of the problems which result from what Hamilton did. All they care about is their precious Jesus and making sure everyone else worships him as they do. Because really, what this boils down to is, Christianists are both selfish (seeing things only in their own way and never through anyone else’s perspective) and infantile (always demanding they run things whereas no one else is permitted to have any say in anything, ever).

P.S. I love how proselytizers like Hamilton always assume people have never heard of their Jesus … as though someone could have lived in the US for at least 16 years (thus being eligible to drive) yet never have heard of him. No American of driving age can possibly fail to know about Jesus, period. So why do Hamilton and his ilk think they have? I’ve never understood this assumption.

Update: Former trooper Hamilton truly is the unrepentant militant Christianist I’d assumed he is, as this story by WRTV-TV in Indianapolis reveals (cached). He’s a “soldier for Jesus” who’s simply following the commands of his Almighty. The poor little thing just can’t help but shove his Jesus down the throats of drivers he stops. Also, as I’d assumed, he clearly has a cadre of supporters who are just as unrepentantly militant as he is. I expect an uproar over his firing.

Photo credit: Indiana State Police, via Indianapolis Star.

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Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01Note: There’s been a little news about this; please see below.

The people of the great Bible Belt (or should I say, Bobble Bay-elt) state of Tennessee are at it again. Because their precious Christianity is under attack or something, they’ve decided they need to act to protect it. What Tennessee needs, they think, is more God. Toward that end, as NPR reports, the TN legislature has approved a law to make the Bible the state book (WebCite cached article):

In what is believed to be a first, the Bible could be adopted as a symbol of Tennessee, after the Legislature narrowly approved a bill designating “the Holy Bible as the official state book.” The measure now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam.

“Critics called the proposal both unconstitutional and sacrilegious,” Nashville Public Radio reports [cached]. “They also pointed out there are many versions of the Bible, none of which are specified in the resolution.”

The Senate version of the legislation, HB 0615 [cached], was sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, who noted the importance of the Bible in Tennessee’s history — both in its role as a historic record of important family milestones and as the heart of the state’s multimillion-dollar Bible-printing industry.

I’m not aware that the presence of well-known religious publishers in Tennessee required the state government to make the Bible the state book … but what the hell could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about anything this important? Southerland dismisses the obvious state promotion of religion angle inherent in this story:

Responding to criticisms of the bill, Southerland said the Bible is not only about religion but also about ethics, economics and other matters. He drew part of that response, he said, from a study Bible.

“What we’re doing here is recognizing it for its historical and cultural contributions to the state of Tennessee,” Southerland said.

Lots of books have made “historical and cultural contributions to” Tennessee and other states. That doesn’t mean the state should actively promote any of them. If a book has made enough of a “historical and cultural contribution,” then no recognition should be required at all!

The law doesn’t state which Bible, exactly, is the state book. Theoretically this means it avoids sectarian conflicts (since Catholics, for example, might object if a Protestant Bible version were to have been named the state book). But it would still seem to exclude Jews, as well as anyone else who doesn’t revere the Christian Bible. So it does have a sectarian effect nonetheless.

Tennessee’s governor and attorney general have both expressed reservations about this law, so it’s not clear it will be signed or implemented. A similar effort died in Lousiana. But even if it dies, the TN legislature shouldn’t have wasted its time on this religiofascist lunacy.

Update: It turns out that passing this law was a waste of time. Governor Bill Haslam vetoed it (cached).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)By now most of my readers will have heard about the passing of North Carolina’s “bathroom law” a couple weeks ago (WebCite cached article), and yesterday’s signing of an anti-LGBT law in Mississippi (cached). The Religious Right has marketed laws of this type — along with a similar law in Georgia that was vetoed (cached) — as providing “religious freedom” to a downtrodden minority that’s about to be wiped out by the vile forces of secularism. They erupted in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made gay marriage available nationally. Ostensibly, these laws are intended to prevent forcing anti-gay florists, bakers, and caterers from being hired to work gay weddings. That, you see, would be a horrible form of oppression that they simply can’t tolerate. I guess. Oh, the poor little things!

These two particular laws, however, go further than just doing that … much further. The North Carolina law, for instance, is known as “the bathroom law” because it requires transgender people in government buildings to go to bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates (cached). The Mississippi law appears to have been so broadly worded that it allows any business to discriminate against gays, not just for their weddings, but any time (cached).

What makes the NC law stupid is that, even in public restrooms, it shouldn’t really matter which one someone goes into; ordinarily no one is fully exposed while they’re “doing their business.” So it’s quite possible for transgender people to go into a restroom, use it, and leave without anyone being any the wiser. In other words, then, does it really fucking matter which bathroom a transgender person uses? Also, it’s stupid because it can’t be enforced without police having access to people’s birth certificates so they can verify which facility someone must legally use. School officials might have these in the case of students, but it wouldn’t be the case for everyone who uses a restroom in a government building.

What makes the Mississippi law objectionable is that it could easily make gays into second-class citizens, barred from businesses that don’t like them. If enough of them in a community should do this, it could make gays’ lives very difficult. One can’t help but view this sort of thing as being akin to the “Jim Crow” laws used to oppress blacks, just a few decades ago.

The problem with all of this is its basic premise, which is that the Religious Right is entitled to meddle in others’ private lives, because they have metaphysical beliefs about how everyone should live. Obergefell v. Hodges, among other things, forces them to have to treat people whom they disapprove of as though they were fellow human beings — and they just can’t stand that for even one second.

Look, I’m all for “religious freedom,” but granting religious believers power over the lives of others — in the name of granting them “freedom” — just isn’t going to fly. “Religious freedom” applies to believers’ churches and homes. It’s not a license to impose their metaphysics on everyone else.

I get that religious florists, bakers and caterers don’t like having to work gay weddings. But in truth, flowers, cakes, and meals don’t make weddings happen! The couple, their witnesses, and the officiant make a wedding happen. Everything else is superfluous. That there are flowers, or a cake, or a dinner makes no difference whatsoever. The couple will end up just as married without them, as with them. So gay-hating florists, bakers and caterers withholding their business, isn’t going to stop gay weddings from occurring. For believers to think they have not only that power, but the right to exert it, is arrogance of the highest order — not to mention, a delusion. Florists, bakers, and caterer are in the business of arranging flowers, baking cakes, and catering receptions. They should do so, and stop sniveling and whining about gays getting married, fercryinoutloud.

But even with all of that having been said … the aforementioned folks are only the tips of the icebergs in North Carolina and Mississippi. As I noted, both of the laws just passed do a lot more than just “protect” florists, bakers and caterers from having to work gay weddings. Additional provisions were thrown in, with the intention of making gays’ lives much worse, overall. It’s time the Religious Right grow the fuck up, admitted that they hate gays and LGBT folks simply because they’re gay or LGBT, and stop acting as though their hatred is holy. Their mischaracterization of their own motives and wishes makes them lying liars for Jesus. I wonder what he’d have to say about that? It’s possible that what he might tell them isn’t something they want to hear … !

Photo credit: Graphic based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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