Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaThe massacre that happened here in my home state of Connecticut — nearly the worst school shooting in the country’s history — occurred only 10 hours ago as I type this (WebCite cached version). Police and medical examiners are still on the scene, and not all the bodies have even been removed from the building. Yet the wing-nut Christofascist Bryan Fischer, one of the gauleiters of the militant Christianist American Family Association, saw fit to declare why 28 people (at the latest count), including 20 small children, had to die. Would you believe, it’s because Newtown’s public schools don’t begin their days with prayer?

Yes folks, that’s right. God allowed 28 people to be slaughtered in one school, because its denizens don’t pray to him every morning. I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it’s true. Right Wing Watch reports — based on primary source material — what Fischer said (cached):

Bryan Fischer spent the first hour of his radio program today discussing this morning’s truly horrific shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, which he, of course, blamed on the fact that prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments are not taught in public schools.

Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer

I’m not asking you to believe either Right Wing Watch, or me. Go ahead and see it for yourself, the Youtube video is available right here:

I won’t bother waiting for the movement of “good” Christians outraged enough by Fischer’s vile, putrid stench to rise up and drive him off the air and force him into obscurity. There aren’t enough “good” Christians in the US with the fortitude to take him on. What few of them remain, will take the cowards’ way out, and whine, “Well, he doesn’t speak for me,” as though that settles it.

But it doesn’t.

Christians, your religion belongs to you. And Bryan Fischer claims to speak for it. If you object to vicious, hateful pricks like him claiming to be your religion’s spokesmen, then it’s up to you to do something about it. If you won’t respect your own religion enough to police it and shut down asshats like Fischer, then you can’t expect outside observers such as myself to respect it, or you for believing in it. It just won’t work.

My guess is, none of you will do anything about him. And sadly, that’s all I need to know.

Update 1: Fischer isn’t the only Christofascist who won’t even wait until the bodies are cold, to use this horrific event as a bludgeon to pound their fierce, unrelenting religionism into people. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, Mike Huckabee spewed the same bile on Fox News (cached):

Americans should blame their schools, and removal of God from the classroom, for Friday’s murders of schoolchildren in Connecticut, according to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who is now a pundit and host on Fox News. …

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be surprised that schools would become places of carnage?” …

“We’ve made it (school) a place where we don’t talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know holy God in judgment,” said Huckabee.

Expect more, not less, of this kind of ridiculous chatter in the days to come.

Update 2: It turns out I was right, when in my last update on this, I said we should expect more of this kind of crap. Eric Hovind, the Creationism-spewing son of militant Creationist Kent Hovind, posted this little gem on Twitter yesterday (cached):

Are you happy now that the shooter grew up in a school without God?

We can add Hovind to the list of “Jerks for Jesus” using this event to promote their Christofascism.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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glowing tree: a glowing christmas tree shaped ornament, via Christmas Stock ImagesBill O’Reilly is commander-in-chief in the so-called “war on Christmas.” His crying and bellyaching about the poor, put-upon Christians who’re insidiously being thwarted in their efforts to force all Americans — of whatever religion, or of none — to worship their Christ and his putative birth, is by now an annual feature of his Fox News show. He’s launched a salvo at Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who insolently calls the foliage in his state capitol a “holiday tree” rather than a “Christmas tree” (WebCite cached article):

Anyway, there is obviously more Christmas chaos in Rhode Island and Governor Chafee is again behind it. Apparently he believes that Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island in 1636, would not want to call a Christmas tree “a Christmas tree” or something.

O’Reilly has some problems with semantics. Since “Christmas” is a “holiday,” then it is always correct to call a “‘Christmas’ tree” a “‘holiday’ tree.” There’s nothing wrong with doing so.

Also, the Billster conveniently forgets who Roger Williams was. He’s notable for having been the first major advocate of religious freedom in the American colonies. He was a Baptist preacher who was run out of the Massachusetts Bay colony by furious Calvinist Puritans who’d objected to his presence there, who took refuge among the Narragansett to the south, and then founded the colony (now state) of Rhode Island. Roger Williams understood sectarian persecution far better than Billy-boy ever will. He lived it! He even penned a work whose words have become part of the canon of the United States, an exhaustive treatise called The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience. This work — not Thomas Jefferson’s now-famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, CT — is the true origin of the phrase “separation of church and state.”

(Yes, folks. That’s right. The Founding Fathers’ effort to prevent the state from encroaching on religion, and vice versa, was not even their own invention; a century before them, a man had been agitating for that exact same policy. They were, to put it bluntly, Williams’s students. For Billyo to dismiss Roger Williams’ work as blithely as he does, is not only an affront to his memory, it’s also an insult to theirs. So much for the Religious Right’s vaunted worship of the Founding Fathers!)

I concede that it’s fair to ask if Roger Williams would have objected to calling a “‘Christmas’ tree” a “‘holiday’ tree” … but as far as I can tell, it’s also fair to conclude he would likely not have cared. Most people in the colonies in his time didn’t really celebrate Christmas at all, much less put up Christmas trees. (You can thank those angry Puritans for that.) This complaint is a strictly modern concept, manufactured from whole cloth by Religious Rightists like Billy-boy and his ilk. It’s not a controversy that Williams would have even known existed, nor would he have understood it, had he been aware of it.

Having spewed such a laughable anachronism, though, Billy-baby doesn’t stop there. He charges happily on to even greater heights of ridiculousness:

Now, this is insane, of course. There is no reason to mess around with the word “Christmas”. As we reported, President Grant signed a law in 1870 making Christmas a federal holiday. So there really isn’t any controversy unless Congress revokes the holiday.

You see, in Billy-boy’s mind, the fact that President Grant — whose presidential administration was, shall we say, somewhat underwhelming — made a proclamation about Christmas, appears to do all of the following:

  • Requires all Americans, of whatever faith or of none at all, to worship Christmas along with all other Christians
  • Mandates that nativities be planted on every town hall lawn, in front of every courthouse, etc., all around the country, every December
  • Forces every American to say “Merry Christmas!” at each and every meeting — without fail, and without substitution or alteration of any kind
  • Prevents Americans from ever referring to Christmas as a “holiday,” even if by every English dictionary definition, it is one
  • It removes all of the sacredness from the holy day known as Christmas and makes it purely secular
  • And on top of all that … Grant’s proclamation carries every bit as much authority now, as it did 142 years ago when he first signed it. The passage of time has only made it more compelling than it had been in the late 19th century.

I don’t know about you, but I find that quite a lot to ask of one simple presidential decree. Billy-boy must think Grant was a whole helluva lot more powerful — and everlasting — than he actually was.

Here’s my challenge to the Billster: If you really think that I, as an American, am obligated to celebrate Christmas alongside you; am obligated never, ever under any circumstances to refer to it as a “holiday” (even if it is one); and am obligated to wish “a Merry Christmas” to everyone I see, whenever I see him/her; then you just go right ahead and make me. I dare you. Please. I invite you to do everything in your power to compel me to obey your wishes. You deliver your copy of President Grant’s decree to me, slam it down, force me to read it, and then coerce me into celebrating Christmas. Go right ahead. If you’re truly convinced it’s my obligation as an American to do so, then why would you not do it?

Unless you’re willing to track me down and force me to do what you want me to, then you’re just another whiny coward who’s capable only of complaining, unwilling to put his own words into action.

Boo fucking hoo, Billy, you sniveling crybaby. Boo fucking hoo.

Photo credit: Christmas Stock Images.

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Charlie Brown Christmas Tree ShoppingIt’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and already this is my third post in this year’s edition of the annual delusional “war on Christmas.” A school in Arkansas planned a field trip to see a live performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The problem is, it was going to be in a church. KARK-TV in Little Rock reports on this attempt to trot public-school kids into a church so they can be proselytized (WebCite cached article):

A longtime holiday show, beloved by children, inadvertently sparked a controversy in Little Rock over the separation of church and state.

It happened when some teachers at Terry Elementary school sent letters home offering to shuttle first and second graders to see a stage version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Agape, a local church.

“We’re not saying anything bad about Charlie Brown,” said Anne Orsi, a Little Rock Attorney and Vice President of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers.

“The problem is that it’s got religious content and it’s being performed in a religious venue and that doesn’t just blur the line between church and state, it over steps it entirely.”

As is typical of such cases, the church used the old “We’ve always done it, so we should always be able to do it, forevermore!” defense:

Some of Agape staffers did say they have held holiday productions for students in the past and no one raised concerns about those shows.

Sorry but no. As I blogged previously — and repeatedly — that Christianists have been getting away with this kind of crap, doesn’t actually make it acceptable. It just means they managed to get away with it. Note that, usually, this kind of defense doesn’t work in other venues. For instance, someone caught for speeding can’t respond with, “But officer, I’ve always driven that fast down this road! I’ve been doing it for years! You can’t give me a ticket, now! You must let me continue speeding!” It just doesn’t work … and the Christianists who use these appeals to tradition damned well know it.

The article contains the station’s video report, that I can’t embed here, but it mentions an important aspect of cases like this: The fact that kids and parents who object to this sort of thing often go along with it anyway, out of fear their kids will be harassed if they choose not to. That’s how Christianists have been getting away with it for as long as they have; they use bullying tactics against anyone who dares not knuckle under to their religiosity. That’s not to their credit, and I’m fairly sure their own Jesus wouldn’t approve of it. Yet they do it nevertheless.

Christians, just fucking grow the hell up and stop using Christmas to ram your Jesus down everybody’s throats … OK? Is that too much to ask of you?

Full disclosure: I’m of the generation that grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas annually. I still find it amusing, its religious content notwithstanding. Nevertheless, it’s unacceptable to present to kids in public school, and taking them to a church to see it just makes the situation all the worse.

Photo credit: From A Charlie Brown Christmas / KIT, via Flickr.

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In this file photo taken on Dec. 17, 2011, pedestrians walk past a Christmas display in Santa Monica, California. Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images file.We have yet another entry in the annual Christian whining session that is the putative “war on Christmas.” This one is taking place in Santa Monica, CA, and involves a court case being brought by churches there to get their sacred nativity onto city property. The AP via NBC News reports on their effort to use the courts to commandeer public property so they can proselytize (WebCite cached article):

Damon Vix didn’t have to go to court to push Christmas out of the city of Santa Monica. He just joined the festivities.

The atheist’s anti-God message alongside a life-sized nativity display in a park overlooking the beach ignited a debate that burned brighter than any Christmas candle.

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama for decades to sue over freedom of speech violations. Their attorney will ask a federal judge Monday to resurrect the depiction of Jesus’ birth, while the city aims to eject the case.

The article relates the backstory here over Vix’s sign and the reason the city decided not to allow any holiday messages on city property. The churches claim their freedom of speech and worship has been wiped out in Santa Monica:

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn’t trump the Christians’ right to free speech.

But there’s no reason they need public land for this:

The city doesn’t prohibit churches from caroling in the park, handing out literature or even staging a play about the birth of Jesus and churches can always set up a nativity on private land, Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner said in an email.

The churches’ problem, of course, is that they truly are free to put up all the nativities they want … on private land. In all the caterwauling over city-hall nativities that takes place every year around the country, not one Christian has ever been able to identify the exact reason why nativities must be on government land and cannot be on private land. The best they can say is something along the lines of, “We’ve always done it, so we should always be able to do it forevermore.” That, however, is fallacious reasoning; specifically it’s an appeal to tradition. That something has always been done — or that it has always been believed — cannot and will never make it right or grant it veracity. Just a few centuries ago, for example, slavery was a “tradition” that most societies permitted; but obviously we no longer think that way. Likewise, it was once thought that the sun revolved around the earth, and not the other way around. That they were “traditional” did not make slavery right, nor did it mean the geocentric model of the solar system was correct.

Fortunately the judge who heard the churches’ case was not taken in by their claims. She ruled that Santa Monica is within its rights not to allow seasonal displays on city property (cached). The churches will, no doubt, appeal this decision. But they will still be wrong when they claim that their religion requires nativities to be on only on city property and that their faith prohibits them anywhere else. All the sanctimonious whining, crying and bellyaching in the world can’t change that.

As I usually do in cases like this, I’m also going to point out that making a public spectacle of their desire to celebrate Christmas, is an unabashed — and unmistakable — violation of Jesus’ own injunction against any and all forms of public piety. I suggest they stick a crowbar into their precious Bibles, crack them open a bit, and read their own Jesus’ words on the subject:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-6)

There, Christians … you’ve read it, now grow the hell up and just fucking do it already. OK?

Photo credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images, via NBC News.

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Mother Jones / Chart: Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory EverConspiracy theories are common in the US. Lots of Americans really love them. The more ideologically-inclined they are, the more likely they are to cling to them. It stands to reason that the Far Right has built up something of an industry of various and sundry Barack Obama-related conspiracy theories. Among the most commonly-heard of these is the “Birther” movement, which claims Obama was born in Kenya, is not a US citizen, has offered a fake birth certificate falsely indicating he was born in Honolulu, HI, and therefore is not a legitimate president. I’ve blogged on the fiercely-irrational — and childish — Birthers many times and have noted their wild suppositions have no basis in fact. There’s also the widespread belief that Obama is not a Christian, but is secretly Muslim, and wants to hand over the US to the Muslim Brotherhood so they can force shari’a law on the country.

Both the Birthers and “Muslimers” are, sadly, politically influential; GOP officials routinely give winks-&-nods in the direction of Birtherism (even if they also claim they think Obama is American). And Oklahoma voters approved a needless amendment to their state constitution to keep shari’a law from being implemented there.

Yet another conspiracy theory which has a lot of traction these days involves a United Nations proposal called Agenda 21. Mother Jones reports the GOP caucus of the Georgia state senate gathered to hear about how Obama’s infernal plan to force this proposal on the country (WebCite cached article):

President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as “Delphi” to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That’s according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month.

On October 11, at a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus convened by the body’s majority leader, Chip Rogers, a tea party activist told Republican lawmakers that Obama was mounting this most diabolical conspiracy. The event—captured on tape by a member of the Athens-based watchdog Better Georgia (who was removed from the room after 52 minutes)—had been billed as an information session on Agenda 21, a nonbinding UN agreement that commits member nations to promote sustainable development. In the eyes of conservative activists, Agenda 21 is a nefarious plot that includes forcibly relocating non-urban-dwellers and prescribing mandatory contraception as a means of curbing population growth. The invitation to the Georgia state Senate event noted the presentation would explain: “How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.'”

Here’s video of part of this paranoid presentation, courtesy of Vimeo:

This conspiracy includes a wide range of elements sure to make the Right perk up its ears: The United Nations, Barack Obama, mind control, socialism, environmentalism, and more. Obligatory links between the Obama administration and the regimes of Mao and Stalin were offered up, too. Georgia’s Republican state senators could hardly help but drool over the Rightist paranoid fantasy they were hearing.

What these folk don’t comprehend, are a few salient facts: First, Agenda 21 is non-binding. It’s basically a whole lot of hopes, dreams & wishful thinking, and nothing more. Second, Agenda 21 isn’t new; it’s been floating around for 20 years, with no sign yet of being forcefully implemented on anyone.

But third — and perhaps most importantly — even if the UN wanted to make Agenda 21 binding on its members, there’s no way it can do so. It’s perhaps the single most useless and ineffective organization on the planet, incapable of doing anything of significance. Consider the UN’s history: Its attempted interventions in places like the Levant and Korea have accomplished absolutely nothing, even after several decades. Let’s be honest here: Agenda 21 is dead; it always will be dead; and it was dead long before any of the insipid yammering dolts who infest UN headquarters in New York ever dreamed it up. And that’s because nothing the UN tries to do ever goes anywhere.

Another factual problem with the scenario cooked up here: The RAND Corporation “Delphi technique” is not a method of “mind control.” It’s actually something else entirely … i.e. a way to estimate future demand for something. And since RAND itself doesn’t make a secret of it (cached), I don’t see how it could be used as the fuel for a clandestine plot to take over the population and turn them into Obama’s automatons.

This article thoughtfully includes a link to a chart of myriad other Obama conspiracy theories that have been trafficked over the last few years. Read it, check out the links in it, and be amazed at the vast range of incredible delusions the Right has been spinning.

Photo credit: Mother Jones.

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Human-evolution-manI blogged about the anti-scientific religiofascism spewed by Paul Broun, R-GA. The problem with is that he ran unopposed, so he didn’t have to suffer any consequences from his idiotic remarks. It seems that some voters in his district nevertheless used this election to offer a kind of protest against him, as the Augusta Chronicle reports (WebCite cached article):

Charles Darwin, the 19th century naturalist who laid the foundations for evolutionary theory, received more than 4,000 write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County in balloting for the 10th Congressional District seat retained Tuesday by five-year incumbent Republican Paul Broun.

A campaign asking voters to write in Darwin’s name in the 10th District, which includes half of Athens-Clarke County and takes in a swath of eastern Georgia, began after Broun, speaking at a sportsmen’s banquet at a Hartwell church, called evolution and other areas of science “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

“I can’t ever remember seeing a (write-in ballot) report that long,” Athens-Clarke County Elections Supervisor Gail Schrader said after releasing the write-in numbers to news media Thursday morning.

Broun still won re-election — given that he was unopposed — but 4,000 people making the effort to write in the name of Broun’s mortal enemy against him on the ballot as a protest, is significant. My guess is, Broun will dismiss them as wicked, Satan-inspired “secular progressives” who “worship” Darwin because they hate Broun’s almighty God, but I still find it remarkable.

Photo credit: José-manuel Benitos via Wikimedia Commons.

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KLTV-TV / Freedom From Religious Foundation banner, in Henderson county TexasIt looks like the annual “war on Christmas” is starting up. That’s the periodic bout of sanctimonious Christofascist weeping and wailing about a supposed effort underway to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US. Their problem is, no such effort exists. No one in the country is seriously trying to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas, or any other holiday. What has been happening — and what Christianists object to — is an effort to prevent them from using government to promote Christmas as though it’s a requirement that everyone, Christian or not, celebrate it along with them.

The good Christian folk of the good Christian county of Henderson in the good Christian state of Texas have decided to take a stand in this annual (non-existent) “war on Christmas.” KLTV-TV reports they’ve decided not to allow an atheist banner on the county courthouse lawn (locally-cached article):

An East Texas county is denying an atheist organization’s request to display an anti-religious banner on the courthouse lawn this Christmas.

There’s a backstory here, which is as follows:

In fall 2011, the Henderson County Courthouse Nativity scene gained national attention when the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the county take the display down or let them put their own display up.

Last December, a banner paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was placed on the courthouse lawn. It read “there are no Gods” and that “religion is but myth.”

Just minutes later, Henderson County deputies took the banner down. Soon after, the Freedom From Religion Foundation started fighting to put it back up. A formal request to display the banner was submitted to the county earlier this year. This week, that request was officially denied.

“We did not feel that the banner was consistent with the theme of Christmas and our decorations that we have enjoyed for many years,” says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.

What the good Christian folk of the good Christian county of the good Christian state of Texas have decided to place on their courthouse lawn, this year, is the very same good Christian nativity scene from last year:

In a matter of weeks, the Nativity scene display will sit on the courthouse lawn where pumpkins and hay bales are now. The other three corners of the courthouse lawn will adorn secular decor, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says Henderson County is still violating the constitution.

They justify it with the following laughable idiocy:

The county remains firm that their variety of decorations keep them in compliance with federal law.

“Overall it is a secular display. We have everything from lights to Christmas wreaths to garland… a Santa house to Santa Clause, deer, elves and gnomes,” says [Henderson County Attorney Clint] Davis.

A display that contains a nativity scene — including the baby Jesus, the supposed founder of the Christian religion — cannot and will never be “overall secular.” No fucking way! To make such a claim is ridiculous on its face. Whoever says such a thing can’t fail to be aware that s/he is lying. This places attorney Davis, and the other good Christian folk of the good Christian county of Henderson in the good Christian state of Texas, squarely in my lying liars for Jesus club.

That an attorney would lie about this display, in order to rationalize breaking the law of the land, is unacceptable under any circumstance. That a judge would orchestrate the breaking of the law of the land, is even worse. Will these Christofascists stop at nothing in order to push their dour, fierce religionism on everyone else?

I close with a reminder to all the good Christians out there who love to make a big fucking deal of how they celebrate Christmas, that your own Jesus himself clearly and specifically ordered you never to engage in public displays of piety like this. It’s unbiblical of you to do it (see Mt 6:1-6 among other passages inside your own Bible). So just fucking cut the shit already, OK?

Photo credit: KLTV-TV.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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