Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

Cry BabyIn my last post I listed some catalogs of the juvenile whining of the Religious Right over the Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. As one would expect, they haven’t stopped pitching fits over it. Their crybaby antics took a new turn when, as WHYY-TV in Philadelphia reports, an openly-gay representative House was forbidden to speak on the Pennsylvania House floor about the decision (WebCite cached article):

Openly gay Pa. Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, was blocked from talking about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday on the floor of the Pennsylvania House.

His comments to his colleagues were ended by a procedural maneuver.

In a part of the house session where members can speak on wide-ranging topics, Sims had just begun his remarks when he was shut down.…

It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was one of the House Republicans who objected.

“I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law,” said Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Efforts to uncover the names of other legislators who objected to Sims speaking were rebuffed by the House Speaker.

So there you have it, folks. Gay rights can’t be mentioned on the floor of the Pennsylvania House, because it’s against “God’s law” to do so.

Keep it up, guys. Please. I’m begging you. Keep it up. Keep showing your true colors to the world. Keep proving how childish you really are. Keep carrying on like spoiled little children who’ve lost their favorite toy. Keep up the sanctimonious raging and the immature bellyaching.

You couldn’t possibly do a better job of demonstrating what’s wrong with fierce, unthinking religionism, than I could. And I thank you for it! Honestly, I do.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo.

Photo credit: Chalky Lives, via Flickr.

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Portrait of crying baby girlBy now you already know about the US Supreme Court having declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. You also know the Religious Right is going out of its collective mind over it. Their sanctimonious rage is predictable and entertaining.

In light of this decision, I’ll crib a little from one of my first posts on this blog, addressing some of their misconceptions and lies about marriage:

The R.R. rages and fumes about “Biblical marriage” being solely between one man and one woman, but because they don’t read their own Bibles, they have no fucking clue that this just isn’t the case. The Bible actually presents several different forms of marriage. These forms include polygamy and even concubinage:

These are not the only Biblical figures whose God-approved marriages were decidedly not of the “one man, one woman” variety.

Lest one think polygamy was solely an Old Testament-era phenomenon, the author of 1 Timothy makes a point of declaring that deacons and bishops had to be men married to only one woman (1 Tim 3:2, 12). That this had to be specified, indicates that polygamy wasn’t unheard of in the Greco-Roman world, nor even among Christians. And note, the injunction was only against polygamous men becoming deacons or bishops. They could be, and some of them presumably did, otherwise remain Christians in good standing within their churches.

The “marriage is for procreation only!” claim is belied by the fact that there’s nothing that forces heterosexual couples to have children if they choose not to, nor any way to prevent an infertile heterosexual couple from marrying, if they want to.

The idea that letting gays marry will lead to people marrying their pets, is bullshit of the highest order. A marriage is a contract. Animals can’t enter into contracts. Hence, people can’t “marry” animals. It’s legally impossible.

I particularly love the hypocritical whining and bellyaching over the supposed loss of “religious freedom” for people and churches whose dogma teaches that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens who must be marginalized and ostracized — without acknowledging there are also religions that welcome gays and lesbians and which wish to treat them equally … including marrying them. According to the R.R., it’s OK to deprive those churches of their “religious freedom” to marry gays. Only they — that is, members of gay-hating churches — should have “religious freedom.”

I could continue addressing the R.R.’s claims about marriage, but it would be pointless. They aren’t interested in facts. They’re only interested in being angry about DOMA being invalidated and in venting their pointless, juvenile rage about it. The following Web pages provide useful catalogs of their collective insanity over this:

Keep stamping and fuming, little crybabies. Keep yelling and screaming that you’re not going to stand for it any more. Keep carrying on as though the world just ended when you know damn well it didn’t. Honestly, I find your outrage funny. And the best part is: Your anger over gay marriage no longer matters one iota. You aren’t going to be able to unravel the Supreme Court’s action — your only option is a Constitutional amendment, which everyone knows will never be enacted. So, boo fucking hoo hoo, little babies! Holler and rage all you like over it; I’m laughing at all of you.

Photo credit: Fiery-Phoenix, via Flickr.

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'Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.' -H.L. Mencken (PsiCop original graphic)I’d assumed I wouldn’t be addressing the NSA domestic-spying scandal (which, as the (UK) Guardian has reported, includes telephonic data-collection as well as direct Internet surveillance). As a critical thinker I know that anti-terror efforts are much more security theater than anything else; that hyperreactions are all too common; and that successes can be, and have been, vastly overstated.

It’s all an insane joke, from the idiotic dance of having to remove one’s shoes and belt in order to get on a plane, to courthouses being closed for a week at a time because someone spilled Coffeemate on the floor and didn’t clean it up. It would be funny, except for the fact that sometimes, these ridiculous exercises in purposeful futility don’t help at all.

At any rate, so much has been said about this, that I hardly thought my remarks could add to it. However, today I read something that I’d been thinking, right from the start, but hadn’t heard anyone mention until now. Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie penned a piece today that hit the nail on the head (WebCite cached article). About the NSA’s data-mining operation, he said:

More than 800,000 people, including [whistleblower Edward] Snowden, have some type of top secret clearance. Many more are allowed to view other types of classified documents.

This is a large and expensive army of public and private employees dedicated to watching all of us in the pursuit of detecting, identifying and thwarting people who would set off bombs. We are learning that it routinely reaches into the details of all our lives. It looks for potential terrorists by scrutinizing patterns and obscure clues. We have to wonder how these huge organizations dedicated to thwarting attacks somehow missed Boston’s Tsarnaev brothers before they struck twice in April.

In 2011, Russian officials, according to U.S. Rep. William R. Keating, D-Mass., notified the FBI of a drift into radical Islam by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a political refugee from the Chechen region of Russia. This seems to have prompted at least one visit to Tsarnaev in his Cambridge apartment.

Rival law enforcement organizations dispute who else knew about Tsarnaev, but they cannot deny that in the world of potential terrorists, he stood out among millions of, say, Verizon cellphone customers. We know he visited al-Qaida-related websites, which was probably no surprise to the Muslim worshippers at a local mosque who threw him out after he ranted about his radical vision of Islam.

Law enforcement, however, seems to have lost track of him and his murderous brother.

Rennie is absolutely right. The U.S. government happily collected and sifted through vast amounts of data on hundreds of millions of people who had absolutely no connection whatever with terrorism. Their hope — presumably — was to use all this data to develop leads that might, somehow, magically, someday, some way, point them in the direction of terrorism. But at the same time, they’d been handed a specific lead on a potential terrorist — i.e. Tamerlan Tsarnaev — by the Russian government, but they never really pursued it (not beyond going to speak to him once).

Americans seriously need to ask what the fuck the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security, et al are doing, straining petabytes of non-terror-related data for mere-potential leads, while outright rejecting meaningful and investigatable leads that had been handed to them on a silver platter by another government which had already done some work on the matter. Clearly they’re all so enamored of their power to collect all that data, that they can no longer be bothered doing any serious investigation work. They had a chance to have derailed the Boston Marathon bombings before they happened … but chose not to do so.

Lastly, President Obama rather famously stated, “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls” (cached). Well, as CNet reports, this turns out to have been a lie, too (cached). The NSA was, in fact, listening in on phone calls — routinely, without warrants, using a system that had been set up to grant them live access to phone calls at all times, and even to archive those calls.

Lest anyone think I’m singling out Obama, his administration, Democrats, or the Left for criticism over this, I’m not. I’ve been on the record as opposing these measures ever since they became part of American life, with the Patriot Act, passed by a split Congress and signed by President G.W. Bush. The bipartisan and bi-ideological nature of this scandal is only one of hundreds of reasons why I’m a Cynicalist and an anti-ideologue.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic based on H.L. Mencken.

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Rand Paul speakingAmerican Christians’ martyr complex is wearying. They continually and repeatedly whine and complain that their religion is on the verge of being stamped out … even when it’s not. I understand why this is; a desire to be persecuted for Jesus is embedded deep within their religion’s psychopathology, and they really can’t help themselves. Still, it’s one thing to believe one is being persecuted, but quite another to fabricate forms of persecution that don’t exist, or to make claims about Christian persecution that aren’t true.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, as the Washington Post reports, is the most recent figure to be guilty of these kinds of lies (WebCite cached article):

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday continued his outreach to Christian conservatives, telling a gathering of them that the United States is effectively funding wars on Christianity by sending money to nations like Egypt and Syria.

“It’s clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used in a war against Christianity,” Paul said at a luncheon hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition to kick off the three-day Faith and Freedom Conference.

Paul said the U.S. war in Iraq led Christians to flee a secular country that had otherwise been “a relatively safe place for Christians,” and that Christians are now being hunted in nearby nations.

First, let me say it’s absolutely true that Christians have been, and are, persecuted in a lot of places in the world. I don’t dispute that at all. I also don’t dispute that it’s wrong for anyone to be persecuted for it. What I dispute is Paul’s claim that the U.S. government is consciously and methodically financing a global campaign to wipe Christianity out.

Let’s be honest: The societies of countries like Iraq and Egypt certainly harbor animosity toward Christians; I’ve blogged about a long tradition of religious strife in Egypt, for instance. There’s nothing new about this. That doesn’t make it right … it just means it’s not new at all.

So what does American financial aid have to do with it? Nothing. Christians there would be harassed, with or without American assistance. Christians in those places were harassed, before they got any U.S. assistance, and they likely would continue to be harassed if we stopped supplying it. In fact, it might be argued that our assistance gives us a degree of input into those countries’ affairs that we wouldn’t have otherwise, meaning it’s a potential way for us to limit the harassment. The dance of diplomacy and international relations is a complex one, that cannot be boiled down to “sound bites” as Paul likes to do.

Paul also brings up a point which is a particularly sore one for the Religious Right in the US:

“Should we be sending F-16s and tanks to Egypt when (President Mohammed) Morsi says Jews are descendants of apes and pigs?”

Granted, Morsi is an anti-Semite, as are many of the leaders of countries in and around the Middle East. But what can we do? Make our assistance conditional on whether or not those countries have anti-Semitic rulers? Is it even possible for us to have that much influence over them? What makes Paul think we do?

Something Paul doesn’t admit, is that this has been going on for as long as America has been sending out foreign aid. That aid frequently ends up in the hands of repugnant dictators, is spent in countries where the U.S. is vehemently hated, and helps societies that propagate any number of injustices, sometimes against their own people. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about that, other than stop the aid, which would have stiff ramifications … such as the loss of diplomatic relations. Again, the game of diplomacy isn’t as clear-cut or simple as the Senator says it is.

Paul also makes a comment which is factually incorrect:

“We’re borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.”

Lots of folks, including many on the Right and particularly libertarians like Rand Paul and his father Ron, love to assert that America’s debt is entirely held by China, therefore any borrowing we do comes directly from Beijing. But that’s not true. As FactCheck explained a couple years ago, China finances only about 7.9% of new debt

The bottom line is that Rand Paul was clearly trying to convince his audience that the Obama administration is financing a global jihad against Christianity. That isn’t the case; but if it were, then because Obama is continuing a long-standing policy of foreign aid, then G.W. Bush, Clinton, G.H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc. had also financed a global jihad against Christianity. Does he seriously think it’s been going on for decades? If so, why hasn’t Christianity already been wiped out in those places?

As I said, what Rand Paul is doing is appealing to the Religious Right’s martyr complex. It’s insidious, and it needs to stop … but we all know it never will. Because it works too well. The R.R. continually gives into it … happily, with smiles on their faces, and with open checkbooks, ready to finance anyone who campaigns against that foreign-born “secret Muslim” in the Oval Office.

At any rate, Rand Paul’s lie about a U.S.-financed global war on Christianity, places him into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'It's Not Really Fascism When Christians Do It': Christian Fascism in America: If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Come Wrapped in the Flag & Carrying the Cross / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe militant Christianist governor of Texas, Rick Perry, isn’t waiting for summer to be over, before firing the first salvo in this year’s edition of the annual “War on Christmas.” Hell, summer hasn’t even begun yet, and Rickie is trying to ram Christmas down the throats of public schoolchildren in his state. The Houston Chronicle reports on a bill he signed which is predicated on lies (WebCite cached article):

It was the Governor’s Public Reception Room, for a ceremony in which Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law that he said would allow people of all faiths can exchange holiday greetings and display religious scenes and symbols “even on school property.”…

House Bill 308 by Bohac and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville — dubbed the “Merry Christmas bill” by some backers — specifies that a school district may allow students and staff to offer “traditional greetings” associated with winter celebrations, specifying they include “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” and “happy holidays.”

Among the lies upon which this law is predicated, is that it was somehow made illegal for anyone to say “Merry Christmas” in a public school. That’s just not true. What can’t be done in a public school is for the school to force Christmas — a holiday which only has meaning for one religion, Christianity, and excludes those who belong to any other, or to no religion — on kids. Those kids certainly can wish each other “Merry Christmas,” if they want.

What’s worse than the lies implicit in this law, however, is that Perry makes his religiofascism explicit and unmistakable:

“It’s a shame that a bill like this one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m proud that we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state,” Perry said. “Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”

Did you catch that? Rickie-boy states very clearly that, in his view, there is no such thing as “freedom from religion.” That means non-belief, in his view, can be made illegal. Since there’s no such thing as “freedom from religion,” it’s possible for government to prevent me from being the godless agnostic heathen that I am!

All right, Rickie-boy. Here’s my open invitation to you: You just track me down and impose your religion on me, because, as you claim, I have no “freedom from religion.” I don’t live in Texas, Governor, but even so, I dare you to put your words into action. Go ahead. You have no reason not to, since you’ve already stated that there is no “freedom from religion” in this country. What’s stopping you, governor? Just come here and make me adopt your religion!

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives

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Donate Life / donatelife.netThe phenomenon of devout believers robbing people of credit for their hard work, and giving it to God instead, is all too common. That it’s a tacit insult to those who actually got something done, seems to go right over their heads. Only God matters to them, not other people. The latest example of this comes from the mother of Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old whose extended wait for a lung transplant become national news, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (WebCite cached article):

Sarah Murnaghan, the 10-year-old Newtown Square girl dying of cystic fibrosis, survived six hours of surgery Wednesday to receive lungs from an adult donor — a transplant made possible by her family’s fight to change lung-allocation rules.…

Shortly before 11 a.m., Janet Murnaghan shared the news, writing on her Facebook page: “God is great! He moved the mountain! Sarah got THE CALL. She will be taken back to the OR in 30 minutes. Please pray for Sarah’s donor, her hero, who has given her the gift of life.”

You can see her Facebook posting here (cached).

One can see what Mrs Murnaghan has done here; she says “God” moved the metaphorical mountain. Not anyone else. She gives no credit to her lawyer who filed suit over organ-transplant policy, nor the judge who signed the order moving Sarah up the waiting list. No. Apparently neither of them had anything to do with it. It was, instead, “God” who did all the work.

Let’s be clear about this: “God” had nothing to do with Sarah Murnaghan getting her lung transplant. Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

I will note that, while it’s great for Sarah that she got new lungs, sadly this means an adult on the waiting list didn’t get them. In other words, in the bigger picture, there really are no winners here. The problem is that there aren’t enough donated lungs — and other organs — to meet the need. The real solution, then, is to get more organs into the donation stream, as it were. Americans need to be more willing to be organ donors, and perhaps more importantly, more willing, as next-of-kin, to allow their loved ones’ organs be donated. Making organ donation an “opt out” affair rather than “opt-in,” as folks like talk-radio host Michael Smerconish have suggested (cached), would certainly help a great deal.

I end this blog post by reminding everyone that organ donation is the official “cause” of this blog. I urge you, Dear Reader, to make sure your organs are donated after your death. In the US, go to Organdonor.gov or Donate Life America, to find out how.

P.S. I’m serious about this. I provide this blog for free. I don’t charge for access; I don’t ask for donations; I don’t even force you to view ads on this site. I’m not saying my blog is great literature, but if you like what you read here and want to give something back to me, do it by making arrangements to ensure your organs are donated. That’s all I ask. You don’t even have to tell me about it … just go do it already!

Photo credit: Donate Life America.

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'It's a lie! Not being held here!' / PsiCop crop/modification of CHD Web site, original URL: http://www.citizenhearing.org/index.htmlFor decades, UFOnauts have been clamoring and whining for Congressional hearings into supposed extraterrestrial visitations and all sorts of presumed government cover-ups of them. They think this will, somehow, lend credence to the various wingnut scenarios and conspiracies they allege have been going on since the 1940s, and they also hope to expose “the Truth” of things like the 1947 Roswell, NM “flying saucer” crash. This week, “Congressional” hearings are being held … but Congress doesn’t actually have anything to do with it. As MSN News reports, the whole thing was carefully staged so as to appear Congressional, when it’s not (WebCite cached article):

Are UFOs real? Have aliens been trying to contact the human race? And if so, has the U.S. government conspired to cover up decades of such encounters?

Those questions are the subject of a “congressional” hearing in Washington this week.

The event has all the trappings of a high-profile D.C. policy event. It’s being held at the National Press Club, with dozens of experts testifying to a panel of officials seated on a dais.

But, to be clear, the officials are former members of Congress and were each paid $20,000, plus travel expenses, to participate.

The event is being put on by the organization Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, whose motto is: “If Congress won’t do it, the people will.”

I find it exceedingly interesting that this group actually paid people to show up and participate. Not unlike the paid actors who — supposedly, according to the “Sandy Hook Truth” conspiracists — had been hired by the Obama administration to stage a massacre in Newtown, CT. Hmm. Whodathunkit?

This outfit’s Web site is a shining example of propaganda at its most transparent. You see, its top banner features a picture of the US Capitol, in spite of the fact that these so-called hearings are not even being held in that building! (Here’s a captured copy of their Web page.) It’s true the group admits (in its name, even) that these are mere “citizen” hearings, but slapping a picture of the Capitol on their Web site is an obvious disingenuous tactic designed to grant it an dignity and authority it doesn’t deserve. It can’t reasonably be called anything other than dishonest.

I’m amazed at the rugged persistence of America’s UFOnauts. If they can’t get themselves onto the stage of a Congressional hearing to pontificate on their insane conspiracies concerning government silence about extraterrestrial visitations, they just stage one anyway, including hiring actors former Congressmen to show up and make it seem official. Well done, guys!

Photo credit: PsiCop crop/modification of CHD Web site.

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