Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

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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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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Praying Crusader / ModlicisekrizakNow that Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump has been elected president, he’s begun assigning roles to the various men (many of specious character and/or ability) who supported his campaign. The transition process has turned out to be a clusterfuck, which should surprise exactly no one (WebCite cached article).

One of his appointees, retired general Michael Flynn, is an outspoken Neocrusader (i.e. a Religious Rightist who wants Islam banned in the US at the very least, and — if possible — eradicated from the planet). Among other things, the soon-to-be National Security Advisor as Right Wing Watch explains, he’s said that Islam isn’t a religion (cached):

In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Flynn had delivered a speech to a Dallas gathering of the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, in which he had called Islam “a political ideology” that hides behind “being a religion,” and “a cancer.”…

“Islam is a political ideology.… It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. And I have a very, very tough time because I don’t see a lot of people screaming ‘Jesus Christ’ with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, literally axing families on a train, or like they just killed a couple of police officers with a machete.”

Note: The original Dallas Morning News article referred to is no longer on the paper’s Web site, but an Archive.Org cached version is available.

RWW provides video of this event, via Youtube:

Flynn’s complaint that Islam isn’t a religion, but rather a political ideology, is an old one among Religious Rightists. By saying Islam isn’t a religion, the R.R. rationalizes outlawing that religion and robbing Muslims of their religious freedom. Their assumption that Islam could be abolished in the US if it’s found to be a political ideology and not a religion, is — of course — foolish, since in addition to religious freedom, we also have political freedoms. The R.R. could no more ban Islam-as-a-political-ideology than it could the ideology of Leftism (which it would very much like to do, but can’t).

What’s more, Flynn’s contention that Christians never kill based on their Christianity, is untrue: Christians can, and do, terrorize and kill in Jesus’ name. Almost a year ago, Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado (cached); he didn’t (as Flynn idiotically suggested) shout “Jesus Christ” while doing so, but he did mention “baby parts” after he was captured. As such, he was obviously motivated by the release of videos by a “pro-life” Religious Right group a few months prior. (Now, PP wasn’t actually selling baby parts, but sanctimonious pro-lifers don’t really care about facts. They only care about their outrage.)

As I’ve blogged many times before, these Neocrusaders view Islam as the chief rival of their own religion (which, for nearly all of them, is Christianity). Their “war” against it is basically just a form of religious one-upmanship … i.e. a way of pushing the narrative that their god is bigger than the Muslims’ god. By agitating against Muslims, they hope to “prove” the virtues of their own religion and make Muslims cave in to them.

As such, it’s all very childish, but this is the ideology that elected Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump. So what can one expect?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Church interior / Immaculate Conception Catholic Church San Diego Web siteLast I knew, the Roman Catholic Church’s position is that its parishes and clergy aren’t supposed to meddle in politics. Clergy are even prohibited from holding public office (something John Paul II reminded them of back in the early 1980s). Also, as non-profit entities, they’re legally forbidden, in the US, from campaigning (WebCite cached article).

None of that, unfortunately, means Catholic parishes never violate those policies or laws. Four years ago I blogged about an El Paso parish that campaigned against Barack Obama’s re-election. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, something similar just happened in a parish in that city (cached):

Between requests for prayers for the sick and a notice for an upcoming chastity luncheon, a newsletter from a Catholic church in Old Town that doubles as an election-day polling site included a flier that told parishioners they’ll go to hell if they vote for Democrats.

Two Sundays later, the message had changed: Satan was working through former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Oct. 16 bulletin from the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was stuffed with a flyer written in both English and Spanish that cited five legislative policies — support for abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research — that will doom a politician and their supporters to eternal damnation.

“It is a mortal sin to vote Democrat … immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell,” the flyer said. It cited the five public policy issues from the “Voters Guide for Serious Catholics” and said that Democrats violate each of them, while Republicans cross none.

The diocese admits this flyer was given out in violation of Catholic policy and professed that they hadn’t done it:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego on Wednesday said the messages in the flier and bulletin do not reflect Catholic teaching or diocese policies, are inappropriate, and that voters should use their conscience to determine which candidates to support.

“It’s not a mortal sin to vote for Democrats, number one. And number two, the church doesn’t take positions on this, and we’re not going to,” diocese spokesman Kevin Eckery said.…

The diocese said the flier was not authorized by the parish, but it was somehow inserted into the Oct. 16 bulletin.

The problem with this “it wasn’t authorized” defense is that it happened twice, not just once; you’d think the parish priest(s) and staff would have been on alert for someone stuffing crap into their bulletins, after it had happened the first time. That it occurred a second time can only mean they are — at best — unconcerned about it, and — at worst — they approve of it.

As for Hillary being a Satanist by virtue of her links to Alinsky, I addressed that just this summer, when former GOP candidate Ben Carson trotted out that trope. I said then, and will repeat here, that Alinsky was no Satanist at all, and that Clinton was not his sycophant. Yes, it’s true that Religious Rightists despise Alinsky and many of them truly do believe him to have been a Satanist … but their belief, no matter how sincere it might be, cannot magically make that true. Because it’s not. And Clinton herself differed with Alinsky, to the point of refusing a job offer he made.

Although this is a blatant violation of the IRS code, I’m sure that feared agency will do nothing about this. At all. For decades they’ve consistently bent over for the Religious Right, and I have no reason to think they’re going to change, any time soon.

Photo credit: Immaculate Conception Catholic Church Web site.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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'The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon', oil on canvas painting by Edward Poynter, 1890, Art Gallery of New South WalesChristians really despise what they call “moral relativism” — i.e. the notion that morality is decided by humans and not dictated from on high by the Almighty. The result, Christians claim, is a moral and ethical “free for all” with individuals deciding their own morals and ethics. They say this allows people to grant themselves license to misbehave, denying their deity’s role as the sole arbiter of morals (WebCite cached article). But even so, that doesn’t prevent these same Christians from engaging in moral relativism, themselves!

Perhaps no event has brought this relativism to light better than the revelation of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump’s “hot mic” moment from the 1990s (cached) … which you, Dear Reader, no doubt have heard more about than you care to already. Keeping in mind that what Donnie talked about, in that moment, was — as vice president Joe Biden explained, candidly (cached) — sexual assault, it’s true that some Rightists have disavowed him, and some have even expressly revoked their endorsements (cached). Yes, at long last, some folks on that side of the aisle have finally recognized that Donnie is an infantile man-child, 70 years old going on seven months.

Yet, many others are standing firm with him and refuse to acknowledge there’s anything wrong with Donnie bragging about how he could assault any woman he wants and get away with it because he’s a star. Most of these are devout Religious Rightists who profess high morals. Among those who’ve doubled down in their defense of little Donnie is Sean Hannity of Fox News (cached):

Here, Seanie displays his ability to rationalize Donnie’s hypersexed frat-boy bravado using a variant of fallacious appeal to tradition: The legendary King Solomon, you see, had a whopping 300 concubines (in addition to 700 wives who were princesses). So gee, Sean, because Solomon had such a vast harem, I guess it’s OK for your pal Donnie to go and grab as many pussies as he wants and never be prosecuted for sexual assault? Is that what you want us to think? After you’ve blustered and fumed for over a decade over how morally bankrupt the American Left has been? Really!?

Note, it’s not just Hannity’s appeal to the Biblical Solomon being used to rationalize Donnie’s horrid spew. Former New York mayor (and Trump BFF) Rudy Giuliani used a couple different justifications for his pal (cached):

Rudy Giuliani defended Donald Trump’s crude remarks about women Sunday, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that “men at times talk like that.”

But the former New York City mayor also admitted that what Trump was describing in a 2005 video is sexual assault.…

Tapper pressed Giuliani on Trump’s claim — in the video from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” interview published Friday by The Washington Post — that because he is a star, he could walk up to women and “grab them by the pussy,” asking who Trump did that to.

“First of all, I don’t know that he did it to anyone. This is talk, and gosh almighty, he who hasn’t sinned, throw the first stone here,” Giuliani said.

Tapper said: “I have never said that; I have never done that. I am happy to throw a stone. I have been in locker rooms. I have been a member of a fraternity. I have never heard any man, ever, brag about being able to maul women because they get away with it — never.”

Giuliani responded: “We’ve taken it to an extra degree of what he said. But the fact is that men at times talk like that. Not all men, but men do. He was wrong for doing it.”…

“Gosh almighty, there were an awful lot of things, particularly Hillary Clinton attacking the women that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted, sexually abused — and she was the leader of the attack against them — so maybe he felt that at least put in context the kind of anger there would be at him,” Giuliani said.

So, because everyone’s a sinner, according to the Rudester, no one is allowed to hold Donnie accountable for his words. Also, because Hillary went after her husband’s accusers in the 1990s, that also makes Donnie’s words just fine.

Call me crazy, but I’m with Tapper: I’ve listened to a lot of men brag about a lot of things, but never once have I heard of them say he could freely commit sexual assault (not because they’re famous, or for any reason). I have never heard any such words come from the lips of any man. Not once. Ever! So when Giuliani claims that “men talk that way” … well, no, Yeronner, as a matter of fact, they don’t.

Yes, the Rudester did tell Tapper that Donnie’s bragging was wrong, and said he wasn’t trying to excuse it; however, by using these rationales to dismiss Donnie’s words, that’s precisely what he was doing! If the Rudester had truly meant to say that Donnie’s bragging was wrong, he’d have said it was wrong — and then he’d have stopped talking. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he carried on, as though Donnie’s words weren’t inexcusable.

Look, let’s not kid ourselves here about the Right. Sure, they talk a good game about morality and how important it is and how everyone must live up to the highest moral standards, because the Almighty demands it of us … but whenever another Rightist they love is caught saying or doing something that’s undeniably immoral, they just reel off excuse after excuse, including the old reliable “we’re all sinners, no one should cast stones” thing (i.e. the Pericope Adulterae in the gospel according to John) and they whine that the Left is just as bad (which is the old “two wrongs make a right” fallacy). Sorry to say, that’s not going to fly, either.

If one wants to run around condemning the sins of others — as the Right is wont to do, especially in the case of Donnie’s despised opponent in this election — then one can’t say, on the other hand, that one isn’t allowed to condemn the sins of one’s own colleagues. It’s blatant hypocrisy, which — as it happens — the founder of Christians’ own religion explicitly ordered them never to engage in, not at any time or for any reason. Yes, that means even in the context of a presidential election.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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SCOTUS Marriage Equality 2015 (Obergefell v. Hodges) - 26 June 2015Most of my readers will have heard of Roy Moore, the erstwhile “Ten Commandments Judge.” He’d been the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, who refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Decalogue monument from that state’s Supreme Court building, and was removed from office in 2003 due to his defiance (WebCite cached article). Since then, he’s remained just as petulant and defiant; he ran for the same office again in 2012 and was elected by the dutiful Christofascist folk of Alabama.

In his second stint as Chief Justice, it wasn’t the Ten Commandments that caused much trouble; rather, it was gay marriage and the Obergefell v. Hodges decision issued by the US Supreme Court last year. Like most of America’s Christofascists, Moore didn’t take this decision well. He tried to use his office to prevent gay marriages, ordering his state’s probate judges not to marry gay couples, on the grounds that they’re illegal under Alabama law. (Despite having been a judge for a long time, Moore apparently had never heard of the supremacy clause, by which federal law has primacy over state law.)

So earlier this year, Moore was disciplined for overplaying his hand, and as the Birmingham (AL) News reports, after months of wrangling, Moore was suspended from the state Supreme Court (cached):

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the bench for telling probate judges to defy federal orders regarding gay marriage.

It’s the second time Moore has been removed from the chief justice job for defiance of federal courts – the first time in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) issued the order Friday suspending Moore from the bench for the remainder of his term after an unanimous vote of the nine-member court.

The COJ saw right through the bullshit that Moore and his lawyer, Mat Staver (of Kim Davis fame) spewed during the discipline process:

In its 50-page order on Friday, the COJ stated it did not find credible Moore’s claim that the purpose for the Jan. 6 order was “merely to provide a ‘status update’ to the state’s probate judges.”

“We likewise do not accept Chief Justice Moore’s repeated argument that the disclaimer in paragraph 10 of the January 6, 2016, order — in which Chief Justice Moore asserted he was ‘not at liberty to provide any guidance … of the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court’ — negated the reality that Chief Justice More was in fact ‘ordering and directing’ the probate judges to comply with the API orders regardless of Obergefell or the injunction in Strawser (federal case in Alabama).”

The COJ also did something very clever: They suspended Moore rather than removing him from office. While this might seem a milder punishment, it has an interesting ramification: As the article explains, it means Gov Bentley (also a committed Christofascist) can’t appoint a replacement for Moore on the Supreme Court. His position on the Court is essentially “dead,” with an acting Chief Justice drawn from the remaining justices. It’s all very clever. I guess the COJ learned a little from their previous bout with Moore, 13 years ago.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.' -Martin Luther (PsiCop original graphic)I’ve blogged previously about the fake “historian” (actually, pseudohistorian) David Barton. He’s deluded himself — and most of the Religious Right — into thinking the Founding Fathers were militant fundamentalist Christians like himself. Proceeding from this delusion, he runs around telling everyone the founding documents were actually sacred Christian scripture, and vice versa. His idea, of course, is to promote his own militant Christianism as the US “state religion,” implying all Americans must be Christianists like himself. Ultimately he wants a Christocracy ruled by Christofascists who meet his standards.

All of this is a steaming load, of course, heaved right out the back of the barn. The US is not a “Christian nation,” and never had been intended as one. What’s more, the Founders literally couldn’t have been fundamentalist Christians, having lived a century prior to that form of the religion coming into existence. Everyone outside of fundie Christendom knows this — but the fundies don’t accept that reality, and get their panties in knots whenever someone tries to explain it to them.

As Right Wing Watch reports, Barton has continued his delusional and dishonest propaganda campaign. He said the text of the Constitution was lifted wholesale from the Bible (WebCite cached article):

A few years ago, right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton developed a new talking point in which he claimed that the Constitution is filled with direct, verbatim quotes straight out of the Bible.

We pointed out repeatedly that the clauses in the Constitution that Barton insisted were direct quotes from the Bible were nothing of the sort and Barton eventually stopped making this obviously false claim.

But when he appeared on the Messianic Jewish program “Jewish Voice” recently, Barton dusted it off when he once again insisted that the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution by using the “exact language” of the Bible.

Here’s the RWW article cataloging many of Barton’s specific claims of Constitutional-Biblical plagiarism (cached); read it, and see for yourself that the verbatim Biblical quotations he says are in the Constitution, very clearly and obviously are not. In other words, Barton lied. And he’s continued to lie, on “Jewish Voices.”

The problem with guys like Barton is that he has an audience which very seriously and assiduously soaks up his every word, because they view him as a real “historian,” unlike what they view as all the “fake” historians who work in academia and who therefore are insidious, insolent “secularists” who want to destroy devout, dutiful believers like themselves and wipe all trace of Christianity from the planet.

The truth is quite the opposite: It’s Barton who’s the fake historian; as I’ve mentioned previously, he has no credentials whatsoever in the field, and his only degree is a bachelor of religious education from Oral Roberts University. Barton claimed to have an earned doctorate (as opposed to an honorary one) but has produced no verifiable documentation to confirm it.

At any rate, little things like “credentials” hardly matter in fundie Christendom. Barton’s peeps are all convinced that he’s right, and the rest of the world is wrong — period, end of discussion. There is no way to get them to understand otherwise because they’re impervious to correction. Being told they’re wrong offends them and plays into the existing persecutorial psychopathology inherent in their religion. So they react by clamping their eyes and ears shut, and clinging harder than ever before to whatever they already believe, because they find those lies more emotionally satisfying than the truth. And for them, their own emotional satisfaction is far more important than anything else in the world.

I’ll finish this post by granting David Barton platinum membership in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. As a blatant liar and devout Christianist, I’m sure he’ll be happy there.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic based on Martin Luther quote.

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