Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

Ben CarsonThe laughable religiosity on display in the 2016 GOP presidential primary continues apace. Retired surgeon Ben Carson, darling of the Religious Right since he used an invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast to go after President Obama in person, is one of the candidates trying desperately to get ahead of Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump in the polls. Toward that end, as Politico reports, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Bennie decided to make Islam, of all things, an issue in the election (WebCite cached article):

The president of the United States should not be a Muslim, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson declared during an interview airing Sunday morning. And Islam, a faith professed by some 3 million Americans, is not constitutional, the retired neurosurgeon said.

Carson has some very high-minded reasoning for this:

Asked whether his faith or the faith of a president should matter, Carson said, “It depends on what that faith is.”

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem,” he explained, according to a transcript.

Todd then asked Carson, whose rise in the polls has been powered in large part by Christian conservatives, if he believed that “Islam is consistent with the Constitution.”

“No, I don’t, I do not,” he responded, adding, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Bennie went on to say — quite strangely, given the broad and dire philosophy he’d just stated about Muslims and the Constitution — that it’s acceptable for Muslims to be in Congress. Whew! For a moment there, I’d wondered if Carson would demand that André Carson (cached) and Keith Ellison (cached), resign from the House because they’re Muslims who can’t or won’t follow the Constitution.

Let’s get a few things cleared up right away: First, no Muslim is going to be elected President of the United States any time in the foreseeable future. So this is not something any American of any religion (or of none) needs to be concerned with. Period.

Next, this was clearly Bennie’s appeal to the Great Neocrusade being waged by the Religious Right. As I’ve blogged for a few years now, this is an effort to eradicate Islam from the United States, and is the result of the Christian Right’s fear and hatred of Muslims, because worldwide, their faith is the chief rival of Christianity. Of course, there’s the terrorism factor, too, which Neocrusaders use to good effect — and not without reason. But what they forget is that there’s also such a thing as Christian terrorism, some of which emerged from the ranks of their own political faction, so they’re hypocritical when they condemn Islam as a terrorism-generating religion while conveniently forgetting that their own is sometimes guilty of that, also. (That their own Jesus explicitly and unambiguously forbid them ever to be hypocritical is also something they conveniently forget.)

Oh, and as for Islam supposedly not being “consistent with the Constitution,” let’s not forget that the Religious Right is prone to treating the Constitution as fungible when it’s convenient for them to do so. Because they dislike gay marriage and say it’s against their religion, for instance, they want it outlawed for all Americans, of any religion or of none. They don’t seem to care there are religions — including some Christian churches — which accept gay marriage (cached); they simply can’t tolerate that it exists anywhere.

An illustrative parallel for the Religious Right’s approach to gay marriage would be to compare them to Orthodox Jews who want the sale and consumption of pork and shellfish outlawed for everyone, because it’s against their religion and they object to the idea that anyone might be having pork or shellfish. If Orthodox Jews were to advocate such a thing — which they haven’t, and I doubt they ever will — no one would take that effort seriously. Which is why no thinking American ought to take the R.R. seriously on this issue, either.

What’s more, a significant portion of the Religious Right — including Bennie’s rival candidate Ted Cruz, and erstwhile candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann — are dominionists (cached) or Christian Reconstructionists (cached). These folk want the federal government more or less disbanded, and each of the states converted into an Old Testament-style Christian theocracy. Maybe it’s just me — cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — but I don’t see this sort of thinking as being even remotely “consistent with the Constitution,” either. Guess I just don’t have all the lofty spiritual insights that would allow an insolent creature like myself to comprehend all these important, sacred considerations.

I wonder if Bennie will summon the courage to call out any of his dominionist friends over their philosophy, too? Why do I not think he will?

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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US Courthouse at CovingtonI was sure Kim Davis, the anti-gay clerk of Rowan county, KY who was briefly jailed for defying a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses, wasn’t done trying to derail the process. And it turns out, I was right: She isn’t done! As the Associated Press reports, she may have disobeyed the judge’s orders once again (WebCite cached article):

A Kentucky county clerk may have again defied a federal judge’s order regarding gay-marriage licenses by altering license forms to remove her name, an attorney who represents one of the clerk’s employees told the judge Friday in a court filing.

In a separate filing Friday, attorneys for the gay couples who sued Davis appear to agree.…

[A]ttorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a court filing that the changes on the form require [deputy clerk Brian] Mason to issue the licenses “in his capacity as a ‘notary public’ rather than a deputy clerk of the Rowan County Clerk’s Office,” changes that “do not comply” with the court’s order to not interfere with her employees who issue the licenses.

“These alterations call into question the validity of the marriage licenses issued,” the attorneys wrote in a footnote to a motion asking the judge to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit. “Plaintiffs are exploring legal options to address these material alterations.”

State law requires marriage licenses to be issued under the authority of the county clerk. Someone else, a minister or other officiant, then performs the ceremony and signs the license. The clerk then files the license with county records.

I can’t help but view Ms Davis’s behavior as that of a toddler who, when given an instruction by an adult, creatively searches for ways to manipulate or circumvent the instruction, repeatedly pushing the boundaries of what she’s allowed to do. It really is very childish.

I note, too, that the judge in this case — despite his willingness to jail Ms Davis for a few days — hasn’t been very helpful regarding the licenses themselves:

[David] Bunning, the federal judge, has said he does not know if the licenses are valid and it was up to the gay couples to take that chance.

This waffling aligns with the fact that he caved in to Religious Right pressure and released her. How nice.

This is all very typical of how the Religious Right operates. Even when they know they no longer have any legal leg to stand on, they consistently and repeatedly refuse to bend to reality. They cannot and will never cave in … not willingly, anyway. No matter what happens, they resist … and they resist some more … and they resist even more after that … and they just keep on resisting, resisting, and resisting, forever more. They’ll never stop, until they either get their way, or die off. This is one of the reasons for their success … they wear down their opponents, who eventually get tired and surrender to their demands. So one can hardly fault them for using a successful tactic. Still, that they’d continue waging fights like this one, even after they’d lost the war, shows how irrational and childish they are.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo.

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Comments Comments Off on Legal Wrangling Over Gay Marriage Continues In Rowan Cty KY

DryvaxAmong the ridiculous bullshit spewed during last night’s Republican primary debate on CNN … in addition to the bullshit Rick Santorum spewed that I already blogged about … another dealt with vaccines. As the Daily Beast reports, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump once again repeated his asinine, pseudoscientific antivax position (WebCite cached article):

At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted [sic] anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.

“We’ve had so many instances…a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”

Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”

One of the physicians onstage, Ben Carson, was asked about Trump’s claims. Unfortunately, he punted:

“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”

It’s nice, I suppose, that Carson did acknowledge there being no link between vaccines and autism. But his little bit about there being too many and too frequent vaccinations is a lie, as a report the Daily Beast linked to makes clear (cached). The other physician onstage, Rand Paul, idiotically echoed Carson:

“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”

His whole thing about “freedom” is a fucking joke. No parent in his/her right mind should use “freedom” to justify risking his/her kids coming down with preventable childhood diseases — which can, in some cases, be deadly (even if a lot of antivaxxers irrationally dismiss that danger). So I find Paul’s “freedom” objection to be, essentially, a non sequitur.

Look, I get why all these guys hate vaccines. It’s because they’re largely government-mandated (in most places kids can’t get into school without them), ‘n’ y’all knows how horrbull dat dere gummint is! Dem vaccine thangs jus’ cain’t be good fer da chilluns! Dat secret Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama is prolly usin’ ’em fer mind control!

Of course, hating vaccines for political reasons isn’t appreciably worse than hating them because of a fraudulent study by a con-artist doctor who’d imagined a scheme to sell bogus autism treatments.

The reality is — as Ben Carson conceded during the debate — that medicine has determined there is no connection between vaccines and autism. None. Period. End of discussion.

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Comments Comments Off on Antivax In The Republican Primary

Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Militant Christianists have fallen all over each other rushing to praise Rowan county KY clerk Kim Davis for what they think is her “brave” resistance to gay marriage. They’ve called her a modern-day Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and even Abraham Lincoln. During last night’s GOP presidential primary debate, Rick Santorum did that one better … he compared Ms Davis to a presumed Christian martyr. Raw Story reports on what this raging Christofascist said (WebCite cached article):

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum argued on Wednesday that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ persecution for being a Christian was similar to shooting victims of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

“Sixteen years ago this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith and she refused to deny God,” Santorum explained during the CNN presidential debate. “We saw her as a hero.”

Rickie-boy was referring to the story of Cassie Bernall. Christians have often repeated the story that, during the massacre, one of the Columbine slaughterers asked her if she was a Christian, she proudly said “Yes,” then she was shot and killed. This story fits neatly in with Christians’ age-old tendency to view themselves as “persecuted” and it makes them feel all warm inside to think some girl voluntarily decided to accept certain death for Jesus.

There’s just one problem with this story: It never happened!

That’s right, folks, this tale of a Christian martyrdom — despite being oft-repeated within Christian circles — is a big fat fucking lie. It was actually debunked long ago, as CNN reported back in 2009, but Christians like Rickie-boy don’t appear to have gotten the memo (cached):

For example, many in the media initially reported that 17-year-old Cassie Bernall, a Christian, answered “yes” when asked if she believed in God before she was shot to death. She became a poster child for the Evangelical movement after her death. But investigators and student witnesses later told Cullen that it was another student, Valeen Schnurr, who avowed her belief in God as she was shot. Schnurr survived.

Look, I understand why Christians like to tell martyrdom stories. Theirs is a religion founded by a martyr (i.e. Jesus). Since the earliest days of the faith, they’ve viewed martyrdom as an ideal that all Christians should aspire to. A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is, therefore, embedded deep within the psychopathology of their religion. It’s an impulse they find irresistible.

Still, that can’t excuse their tendency to lie in order to support their martyrdom narrative. They shouldn’t fabricate examples of “persecution for Jesus” solely in order to tell each other they’re being persecuted for Jesus. Because in the 21st century US, no such thing is happening! In this case, Kim Davis isn’t really the Christian martyr she and her champions, like Santorum, want us to think she is. Really, she’s nothing more than a raging, sanctimonious, Puritanical bigot. That’s all.

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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Comments Comments Off on Santorum Propagates Christian-Martyrdom Lie

Rowan County, kentucky courthouseI’ve blogged several times about militant Christianist Rowan county clerk Kim Davis, who — after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision was handed down by the US Supreme Court — refuses to issue any marriage licenses at all, because she feared catching gay cooties by granting licenses to gay couples. She managed to turn her juvenile petulance into a Religious Right crusade, mainly by getting the Christofascist legal outfit Liberty Counsel to represent her. Having refused to obey a federal judge’s order to resume issuing licenses, she was jailed for contempt of court, but then released when said judge caved in to the Religious Right protests that erupted.

Today was Ms Davis’s first day back at work. As NPR reports, she’s as petulant and whiny as ever, although she hasn’t prevented her staff from handing out licenses (WebCite cached article):

Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is back to work today — saying she will neither authorize such licenses nor stand in the way of her deputies if they wish to do so.

And, the first couple to apply for a license at the county clerk’s office Monday — Shannon Wampler and Carmen Collins — walked out the door with one.…

Her decision was clear, she said: “Effective immediately, and until an accommodation is provided, by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage license issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me.”…

Davis said she had “great doubts” that such licenses could be considered valid.

I noted quite some time ago that Ms Davis and her lawyers have insisted any marriage licenses issued by anyone working for Rowan county won’t be valid, because she hasn’t authorized them. I expect something to come from this … but I have no idea what that could be (because I’m not sure what legal means exist which allows Ms Davis or her lawyers to contest the licenses that have been handed out). All I can say is, I don’t believe for one moment that they plan to just let the matter drop. Those couples had better have good attorneys of their own, because Liberty Counsel will come after them, if they can contrive any way to do so.

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Comments Comments Off on Rowan Cty KY’s Gay Marriage Saga Continues

White FlagOne of the Religious Right’s main tactics is a very simple and direct one: Intimidation. They relentlessly bully their opposition at every turn. They never let up, not for any reason, until they get their way. Unfortunately, this is a tactic that works, all too often, because those opposing them typically lose their nerve at some point and drop the fight. This is precisely what just happened in the case of Rowan county KY clerk Kim Davis; as the New York Times reports, she was released from jail today (WebCite cached article):

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed last week after she defied a court’s order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was ordered released on Tuesday.…

[Federal district] Judge [David L.] Bunning ordered that Ms. Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” He said any such action would be regarded as “a violation” of his release order.

That this would happen was virtually a given, once the R.R. — captained by the likes of Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Mat Staver, “Flip” Benham, and an assortment of other militant Christianist characters — had made the whole affair into a fucking circus (cached and cached). It was inevitable that Judge Bunning would bend over for this Christofascist mob. Yes, he ordered her not to interfere with the distribution of marriage licenses, but she doesn’t intend to obey him; her lawyer has said she plans to stop the granting of licenses (cached). And that, you may remember, has been her goal all along. Once she does so, she’ll have scored a victory. And on top of it all, she’ll have made herself a martyr, and will be able to milk that as a career, no matter how her tenure as a county clerk turns out.

At some point, people need to figure out how to “gird up their loins” (to use a Biblical phrase) and stand up to the R.R. consistently, without caving in all the time. Unfortunately, cowardice is far too deeply ingrained in human nature to allow that to happen. More’s the pity.

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Comments Comments Off on Religious Right’s Intimidation Tactics Worked, Once Again

Baby boy crying sad mad / Alice Keeler, via FlickrChristofascists are nothing if not consistent, as well as fiercely tenacious. When they get into a conflict over something, they don’t let go — ever. They just dig their heels in harder and jam their spikes into new turf, even as they’re being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Nothing that happens fazes them; they never relent for any reason.

A case in point is Mat Staver, who runs the Christianist legal outfit known as Liberty Counsel and attorney for Kim Davis, the Rowan county KY clerk who’s now in jail because she defied court orders to issue marriage licenses. This morning, without her present to prevent it, her assistants issued a license to a gay couple. I wondered then if Staver would say or do something about this. He’d previously said no one in her office had permission to issue them. Well, as the Washington Post reports — and true to the consistency inherent in his Christofascism — he ended up wading into the subject (WebCite cached article):

An attorney for jailed Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said that the marriage licenses issued Friday to a series of same-sex couples here are not valid.

“They are not worth the paper they’re written on,” Mat Staver said outside the Carter County Detention Center, where Davis is being held on a contempt charge.

“Our position and the position of the clerk of Rowan County is that those licenses are void,” Staver said at an afternoon news conference in Grayson, about 35 miles from the Rowan County Courthouse.

Staver said the licenses issued Friday aren’t valid because they were issued under the county clerk’s authority — but Davis hasn’t granted that authority.

This is exactly what I predicted would happen. It shows Staver and his client aren’t done fighting this battle. They’re furious that gay marriage is legal nationally and plan to pitch fits as long as that’s the case.

Oh, and just so we’re clear on it: As I’ve said many times, Staver’s group’s name is a misnomer. They don’t really want “liberty” for anyone except militant Christianists like themselves. Their goal is to force the entire country to have to live according to the terms of their own dour metaphysics.

Photo credit: Alice Keeler, via Flickr.

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Comments Comments Off on Rowan Cty Marriage Wars Aren’t Over Yet