Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

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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Noah's Ark toys / ariesa66, via PixabayFor ages, Christianists committed to a literal reading of the Genesis creation legend have worked diligently to force others to believe in it the way they do. It’s never enough for them that they believe in it; they require everyone else’s agreement, too. Anything less is directly harmful to them … somehow. I have no idea how, but they’re convinced of it, and they act accordingly.

Toward that end they’ve been trying to ram their Creationism down school kids’ throats, for decades. That teaching religion in public school is unconstitutional hasn’t really been enough to stop them. Many Christianists go so far as to deny the unconstitutionality of it, even if they’d scream and holler like banshees if a public-school teacher taught — say — the Slavic creation myth rather than the Genesis Creation story. Even so, courts haven’t seen things this way, so Creationists have had to devise other tactics to get their religion into schools … such as by calling it “Creation Science” (which it’s not, because there’s no “science” in it), or “intelligent design,” which also doesn’t work.

Courts have generally seen through these charades, too. But that hasn’t stopped Christianists from keeping up the effort to force their beliefs on school children. Oh no. They just keep at it, relentlessly. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, a Democratic state senator in Louisiana recently took up this cause (WebCite cached article):

State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, made the case for teaching creationism in schools Tuesday night (March 29).

“Scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years — particularly the last 15, 20, 10 years — have validated the biblical story of creation,” the freshman state senator said.

Milkovich, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said archeologists and scientists have verified the origin story of the Christian Bible. He said archeologists had found the remnants of Noah’s ark recently. A study of rocks had verified that the earth was created in a week, Milkovich said.

This is a bold-faced, brazen, out-&-out lie. Science has not, in fact, “validated the biblical story of creation.” Not at all, and not even in the slightest way. Noah’s Ark has not been found. The recent “discovery” Milkovich mentions is — as it turns out — a big fucking hoax promoted by a pro-Flood crank (cached). And that’s not the only Noah’s Ark discovery hoax that’s been perpetrated over the last few decades (cached).

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies! All lies!

I have to add Milkovich to my “lying liars for Jesus” club. He’ll be in good company there, even if most of his fellow politicians in that assembly are Republicans rather than Democrats like himself.

I’m continually amazed at the shamelessness of militant Christianists like Milkovich. They lie, and lie some more, and lie even more, on and on and on, and they do so openly and with the approval of a large segment of the public. They literally cannot be shamed into stopping, because they have none. They’re doing “the Lord’s work,” you see, so that makes their lies OK. Or something. I guess. I mean, they must think their Jesus wants them to lie for him. No?

Photo credit: ariesa66, via Pixabay.

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Glenn Beck speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. / Gage Skidmore, via FlickrIn the continuing freak show that is the 2016 election, yet another weird metaphysical moment has cropped up. The paranoid Christofascist Glenn Beck, who’s a Mormon, has been promoting the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, an evangelical Protestant, for quite some time now. That in itself isn’t news, even if it is an example of the “strange bedfellows” effect — I say that because evangelical Protestants aren’t fond of Mormonism, considering it non-Christian (WebCite cached article).

No, their relationship has gone a little deeper. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, Glennie suggested Cruz may be a Mormon savior (cached):

Beck said that he, like many Mormons, believes in a prophecy that the Constitution will hang by a thread in the last days. He said he believes that now is that time, and people like Lee and Cruz will save it.

He also said the Book of Mormon was created as a guide on how to protect freedom in our day. At the Provo rally, many responded yelling, “I believe.”

I’m not aware the Book of Mormon had anything to say about freedom, but I guess the Beckster is entitled to inject his Christocratic impulses into it if he wants to. The prophecy he’s referring to is called “the White Horse Prophecy.” While it’s not official LDS doctrine, a lot of Mormons believe in this “prophecy” which posits some Constitutional crisis will occur, which will be resolved by the institution of a mainly-Mormon Christocracy. How the Constitution could possibly be “saved” by the institution of a decidedly-unconstitutional theocracy, is beyond my comprehension. It sure sounds like a contradiction in terms to me — but then, what could I, cynical, insolent, godless agnostic heathen that I am, possibly know about such important sacred things? It’s also strange that Beckie-boy woudl portray an evangelical Protestant as the guy who will, someday, establish a Mormon theocracy. That also makes no sense.

For me, the much more important consideration is that Beckie-boy has aligned himself with a guy whose sect of Christianity is rather plainly hostile to his own (cached). Yeah, I get that both Glennie and Teddie are Christofacists, but ultimately their goals are divergent. If either gets the kind of government he wants, sectarian conflict will erupt which could destroy the other. It’s as bad as Catholic bishops making nice with the evangelical Protestants within the Religious Right movement; they, too, might one day rue that alliance.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Yoga woman / via PixabayFor the last few years there’s been a backlash among American Christians against the practice of yoga. Back in 2010, Al Mohler (of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) declared it un-Christian, citing its Hindu roots, and claiming that blanking one’s mind is something Christians can never do. (Yes. For some reason.) There have also been lawsuits over yoga in schools. Yoga’s origins as a Hindu philosophy are undisputed, but as its practiced in the US, it has very little to do with that religion.

Still, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, that hasn’t stopped some devout Christian parents in Georgia from objecting to it in one of their schools (WebCite cached article):

A group of parents at a Cobb County elementary are upset over the school’s use of yoga and other mindfulness practices for students because they believe it endorses a non-Christian belief system.

School leaders at Bullard Elementary held a meeting recently with parents to address the “many misconceptions” over the issue that “created a distraction in our school and community,” according to an email to parents from Bullard principal Patrice Moore.…

As a result, the school is making changes. When yoga moves are used in classrooms, students will not say the word “namaste” nor put their hands by their hearts, according to the email. The term and gesture are often used as a greeting derived from Hindu custom.

When coloring during classroom teaching breaks, students will not be allowed to color mandalas, spiritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Granted, there’s a lot of BS out there about the word “namaste.” I’ve heard New Agers translate it as “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” So yeah, for some folks, it has religious connotations. But with that said … all of that is excess baggage. “Namaste” comes down from Sanskrit, and is just a simple greeting, the equivalent of “hello” (its exact translation, if you must know, is “I bow to you”).

As the AJC article explains, yoga programs have popped up in schools around the country. I’m not sure how helpful it is, but unless there’s a lot more overt religiosity involved than what’s been described here, I just don’t see how it could be viewed as promoting Hinduism or undermining Christianity. It’s just a form of meditation.

Also, as the article mentions, one of the Christianist parents’ bogeymen here is their whine that — supposedly — Christian prayers aren’t allowed in public schools. They forget that prayers (from any religion) are definitely allowed … it’s just that school personnel can’t lead them. And they forget that yoga isn’t prayer (at least, not as it’s being done). Really, this is just another manifestation of their phony persecution complex.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Ben CarsonOne thing I’ve learned about Republicans over the years is that, when they say stupid, untrue, or asinine things, they generally refuse to back down from them or admit error. Yes, even when if they’ve had to issue an apology (or, more likely, a non-apology apology). After having dug themselves into a hole, rather than drop the shovel and climb out, they just keep right on digging.

Why do they do this? It’s because they’re playing to the dysfunctional and irrational psychopathology of the Republican “base.” The “base” is never happy with a candidate who appears to change his/her mind on something. They’re quick to condemn with the label “flip-flopper,” and will accuse the person of “caving in” to the Left or the mass media. Especially in the case of Republicans running in any kind of primary election, this is something they’ll never risk doing.

Which leads me to this week’s example of a bone-headed Republican who’s engaged in this time-honored Rightist tactic of digging himself deeper. As Politico reports, that would be GOP presidential candidate and Religious Right darling Ben Carson, who keeps talking like a Neocrusader (WebCite cached article):

American Muslims who adhere to Islamic sharia law while also embracing the American values of democracy, including the separation of church and state, must be “schizophrenic,” Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Tuesday.

“Only if they’re schizophrenic. I don’t see how they can do it otherwise, because you have two different philosophies” in conflict with each other, he explained to Breitbart News Daily host Stephen Bannon, who had posed the question to the retired neurosurgeon.

Right from the start I have to point out that Carson misuses the word “schizophrenic.” Rather than schizophrenia — which is a cognitive disorder — he’s alluding, instead, to dissociative identity disorder, which used to be known as “multiple personalities.” As a retired neurosurgeon, Carson certainly knows better than to make this bush-league mistake.

But the substance of his remark is similar to the reasoning he gave back in September when he declared all Muslims inelegible to be president. His reasoning, then, was something about Muslims being incapable of upholding the Constitution. The real irony of that, of course, is that such an idea is, itself, inherently unconstitutional, since the Constitution contains a provision known as the “no religious test” clause. Yes, it’s true. The Constitution explicitly forbids such a prohibition. Article VI section 3 ends as follows:

… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

So in the name of preserving the Constitution by preventing Muslims from ever being President, Carson would have us break it. Well done, sir, well done! Hypocrite much? I wonder what your Jesus would say about that? Oh wait … he already ordered you never to be hypocritical! Woops.

Carson also evidently subscribes to the notion — popular on the Right and especially among Neocrusaders — that Islam isn’t just a religion, it’s a philosophy and a set of laws as well, that all Muslims everywhere subscribe to. This belief ignores the fact that there’s a wide range of thinking among Muslims, leading to the many Islamic sects and schools of thought that exist. There’s no more unity among Muslims than there is among Christians (something which evidently goes back to Christianity’s first years). Carson, as a member of a Christian sect that many other Christians (falsely) reject as un-Christian, Carson can’t fail to be aware this kind of variation is possible.

At any rate, it’s clear that Bennie is doubling down as a Neocrusader. I assume this is a last-ditch effort to appeal to South Carolina evangelicals and keep his campaign alive. In other words, he’s using the Great Neocrusade as a king of “life support.” Pitiful.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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President Obama greeted families in an overflow room after speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque. / Drew Angerer for the New York TimesFor years now I’ve blogged about what I call “the Great Neocrusade.” In the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Neocrusade has gone from a rhetorical effort to a physical and violent one.

President Obama took note of this, it seems. Taking a page from his predecessor, as the New York Times reports, he knocked the Neocrusade when he visited a Baltimore mosque (WebCite cached article):

President Obama on Wednesday embraced Muslims in the United States as part of “one American family” and implicitly criticized the Republican presidential candidates in a warning to citizens to not be “bystanders to bigotry.”

In a visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, his first to a mosque in the United States as president, Mr. Obama recited phrases from the Quran and praised American Muslims as a crucial part of America’s history and vital to the nation’s future.

“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Mr. Obama said.

The Right is, as one would expect, outraged over this. A lot of them still think he’s a “secret Muslim” (cached), and this visit will — for them — only confirm that delusion.

Look, I get it. These folk are angry. They hear about Islamist attacks and want all Muslims to be gone. The problem is, not all Muslims are terrorists. Being violent right back at Muslims who aren’t, themselves, violent Islamists is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.

Another problem is, Islamists aren’t the only terrorists who prey on Americans. Something else I’ve blogged about is the phenomenon of domestic Right-wing terror, which — despite our aversion to admitting it — exists, is real, and is at least as dangerous for Americans as Islamist terror.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / New York Times.

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