Posts Tagged “politics”

Raised seal on Barack Obama's birth certificate/FactCheckI’ve blogged before on the phenomenon of demonstrably-erroneous ideas that just will not die out, no matter how often they’re refuted. And I cited the “birther” delusion … i.e. the idea that President Barack Obama is not an American citizen and thus not entitled to hold office … as a prime example of this. His birth certificate from Hawai’i has been checked out and is fully legitimate (see FactCheck and Politfact, cached here and here).

But the Birthers, you see, don’t give a flying fuck about that. They just know, you see, that he’s not really an American. And they intend never to let go of that idea, no matter the facts. (One way they do this is to dismiss all fact-checking Web sites as “biased,” even though neither of the sites I linked to above avoids pointing out Obama’s exaggerations, misstatements, and lies. So they aren’t “biased” in the President’s favor.)

Because of the persistence of the “birther” delusion among their constituents, GOP politicians are constantly dancing around the subject, trying to appeal to “birtherism” without saying something that will make them look like total morons in the eyes of the rest of the country. Unfortunately, despite their wishes, there is no viable way to do that. Any conciliation to “birtherism” is, by definition, moronic.

That said, there are some who simply don’t care that they look like total morons. Among them, as MSNBC’s Maddow blog reports, is Jeff Duncan of the great Biblical state of South Carolina (WebCite cached article):

As my friend Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reported yesterday, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) was a guest on Rick Wiles’ unhinged radio show the other day to discuss some of the major issues of the day, including the host’s fears that immigration reform may lead the government to implant biometric scanners in U.S. citizens. Wiles specifically asked Duncan whether lawmakers might “pursue Barack Obama’s phony identification papers.”

Duncan initially tied to laugh it off, saying that people should have voted against Obama during the last election but Wiles refused to let it go, saying “if we know they are lying about all these other things, why not go back and say ‘well, maybe the first scandal was a lie too?’”

And with that point, Duncan wholeheartedly agreed, saying “there you go; I’m all with you, so let’s go back and revisit some of these things because Americans have questions about not only the IRS scandal but also about the president’s validity.”

A recording of Duncan’s comments is provided by Right Wing Watch via Youtube:

Sadly, this is yet another example of GOP insanity. I wonder how long it will take these guys to get over the fact that Obama was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. My guess is, they won’t. Hundreds of years from now there will still be lunatic Right-wingers screaming to high heaven that the US had an ineligible president in office for 8 years.

The best thing for everyone, of course, is for Republican officials, and the “birtherist” masses to whom they’re appealing, to just fucking grow the hell up and get over the fact that someone they despise was elected president. Maturity is the only solution to this mass delusion. Unfortunately, even grown adults tend to resist maturity. More’s the pity.

P.S. I’m well aware that Rachel Maddow and the Right Wing Watch are both ideologically-driven Web sites, and tend to avoid such sources, however, in this case there’s primary-source evidence to back up the report of what Duncan said. I suppose RWW could have faked this recording … but barring evidence to the contrary, I doubt they did so.

Photo credit: FactCheck.

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God is a Republican & Conservative: If You Love God, You Must Be Conservative and Vote Republican, God's Own Party | Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Nazi PropagandaAccording to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, faith in a Creator is a requirement for all Americans. At least, that’s what he very clearly implied last night in his speech to the Republican National Convention (WebCite cached article):

Our national motto is “In God we Trust,” reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.

That might be your motto, Senator, but it’s not mine. Using the fact that your kind (i.e. militant theists) have named it the national motto, is certainly not enough to coerce me into following that instruction.

As for values that are important, I can think of many that are far more helpful in creating a productive and harmonious society than “faith in our Creator.” Among them are: Compassion, honesty, responsibility, charity, empathy, patience, courage, industriousness, perseverance, loyalty, generosity, and … well, need I go on? The list would be endless!

In the course of spewing his Christofascism, the Senator also factually lied about the founding of the country:

But America was founded on the principle that every person has God-given rights.

Uh, no. In truth, America was founded on the principle that “We the People” — via the Constitution that they, not God, enacted — grant all “rights” that anyone has. “God” has nothing to do with it, and plays absolutely no role in giving anyone “rights,” at least not in the United States. What’s more, the only government which has ever been instituted directly by the Abrahamic God — at least according to Abrahamic legend — was the ancient monarchy of Israel, whose first anointed king was Saul. As a monarchy, that state bore no resemblance to the United States, which is a representative republic. It’s inconceivable that YHWH could possibly have had any interest in creating a country such as we live in. And according to the gospels, Jesus Christ was clearly apolitical, uninterested in any kind of statecraft or polity.

The Senator’s lie grants him free admission into my “lying liars for Jesus” club. He’ll find himself in good company there.

I’ll take this opportunity to reiterate my challenge to Sen. Rubio — or any other militant religionist — that, if you think I’m required to believe what you wish me to believe, then you’re just going to have to make me believe it. Go ahead, I dare you. If it’s important for me as an American to believe in your deity, then you have no reason not to make an attempt. I invite you to try.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About Atheism.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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crying-babyThe Christofascist and Neocrusading preacher Terry Jones, head of the Gainesville, FL church which goes by the ill-fitting name of Dove World Outreach Center, is the gift that just keeps on giving. He seems to throw crybaby tantrums almost regularly. His antics over burning Qur’ans are legendary … so legendary that they’ve triggered numerous riots and murders on the other side of the world in Afghanistan. He seethes with anger over the fact that there is such a thing as Islam and that there are Muslims who dare believe in that religion, and reject his own militant fundamentalist Christianity.

It seems, though, that — in spite of his ferocious rage over the existence of Islam — Jones has managed to find a new enemy to bluster and fume about: President Barack Obama. The Smoking Gun reports that Jones and his church have hung the president in effigy, over this support for abortion rights and gay marriage (WebCite cached article):

The Florida pastor who ignited an international furor by threatening to burn a pile of Korans has applied his subtle touch to the 2012 presidential campaign by constructing a gallows from which a likeness of President Barack Obama now hangs in effigy.

The display in the front yard of Terry Jones’s Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) in Gainesville features a dummy wearing an Obama mask hanging from a yellow noose. Along with an American flag and a rainbow-striped gay pride flag, the scene includes an Uncle Sam dummy and a child’s doll hanging from the right hand of the Obama figure.

Nearby, the words “Obama is Killing America” are printed on a trailer. So, it appears, the creepy Jones is returning the favor.

Here’s the picture itself:

Display in front yard of Dove World Outreach Center, Gainesville, FL (The Smoking Gun)

Setting aside the question of whether or not this constitutes a threat to the president’s life — something the Secret Service will no doubt look into, and probably decide it’s not — it’s true that the First Amendment means Jones can do this. But it’s also true that this is clearly a political message, and that runs counter to the DWOC’s tax-exempt status (since all tax-exempt institutions, religious or not, are precluded from engaging in politicking, as the price they must pay for that tax exemption). Folks around the Web have commented that the IRS will surely look into it, and take away their exemption. I doubt it will come to that, however; the IRS has only rarely done this to religious groups, so the odds are very much in Jones’s favor.

Rightists have also noted that Leftist outrage over this is misplaced and hypocritical, since just a few years ago, Leftist demonstrators hung G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney in effigy. While I’m sure Rightists find this kind of “two wrongs make a right” thinking emotionally satisfying, the real question here is whether or not Jones and his church did something they knew they shouldn’t have (i.e. engage in politicking). It’s pretty clear it wasn’t (and I’m saying that, even assuming the IRS will choose to do nothing about it). Rightists ought to exhibit more integrity than that.

Photo credits: Top, bbaunach, via Flickr; center, The Smoking Gun.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Michele BachmannWith Christofascist Michele Bachmann leaping to the fore of the pack of Religious Rightists who are climbing all over each other to become the Republican candidate for president next year, and she being a rigid fundamentalist Christian, I suppose it was inevitable that the scriptural role of women in Christianity (especially in Bachmann’s version of it) would come up. She appeared on all the Sunday shows — since she won the more or less useless Iowa Straw Poll — and addressed this on Face the Nation, as CBS News reports (WebCite cached article):

Appearing on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann stood by her comment in Thursday’s Republican debate that when she said that wives should be submissive to their husbands, she meant that married couples should have mutual respect.

In 2006, Bachmann said her husband had told her to get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. “Tax law? I hate taxes,” she continued. “Why should I go into something like that? But the lord says, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.’”

Naturally, therefore, this dutiful scriptural Christian wife did precisely as her husband had told her to do. In other words, she was obedient. However, when questioned on this, Bachmann said something very different:

“I respect my husband, he respects me,” she said. “We have been married 33 years, we have a great marriage…and respecting each other, listening to each other is what that means.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how “obedience” can be “mutual,” a word which implies “equality.” Continued questions only caused Bachmann to fall into even more ridiculous semantic claims:

“Do you think submissive means subservient?” O’Donnell asked.

“Not to us,” Bachmann said. “To us it means respect. We respect each other, we listen to each other, we love each other and that is what it means.”

Unfortunately, neither “submissive” nor “subservient” even comes close to implying the kind of equanimity that Bachmann outlines in that last sentence.

Those not familiar with fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this is all about. It comes from two Bible verses, nearly identical, found in two different deutero-Pauline epistles — Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18. These are translated into English variously:

Ephesians 5:22

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (New American Standard Bible)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (King James Version)
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. (New American Bible)

Colossians 3:18

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (NASB)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (KJV)
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. (NAB)

In the original Greek, these verses are as follows (courtesy of Unbound Bible):

αι γυναικες τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν υποτασσεσθε ως τω κυριω (Ephesians 5:22)

αι γυναικες υποτασσεσθε τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν ως ανηκεν εν κυριω (Colossians 3:18)

The Greek word in question, then, is υποτασσεσθε, a form of the verb υποτασσω which can mean any of the following: “to submit to,” “place under,” “be subordinate to,” “to obey,” “be under the authority of,” etc. but which is assuredly related to υποτιμω, which means “to abase.” Not one of these possible meanings of υποτασσω comes anywhere near to expressing the kind of equanimity or mutuality that Bachmann suggests it means. In fact, the context of the verse — both in Greek and in English translation — only further confirms that it means anything but equality, and that is in the mention of “lordship” (e.g. “as unto the Lord” or τω κυριω). The concept being conveyed in both verses is that the husband-&-wife relationship is the equivalent of the Jesus-Christ-to-his-Church relationship, in which the latter is decidedly subject to (or subordinate to, or under the authority of, however you want to say it) the former. There is absolutely no equality, either stated or implied, in either of these verses. Not one iota of it. (Pun intended.)

The bottom line of both these verses is that wives — and by extension, all women — constitute a second-class within Christianity. No other interpretation of these verses makes any sense, because the exact words here cannot be construed to mean anything else — if one assumes (as Bachmann and her fellow fundamentalists supposedly do) that the Bible can only be read strictly and literally. If on the other hand one assumes these epistles were written by mere human beings, and specifically by male authors trying to propound their authority over women … well … that’s something else.

Really, this whole idiotic episode is just Bachmann’s way of veering out of the way of the strict scriptural directive that women are to be subordinate to men, so that she can then justify running for president, an office in which she would have authority over men (if she were elected). There’s no way around it.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

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Watergate Complex from TR BridgePlease pardon another slightly off-topic post.

Over the years I’ve had correspondents accuse me of being a committed Leftist. It’s true I’m no fan of the Religious Right, but that hardly makes me part of the ideological Left, or a cog in the machine of the Democratic Party. For the record, I despise ideology in all its forms. Every single last one of them, wherever they are, and whoever belongs to them. All ideologies are arbitrary collections of notions, cherry-picked to work to the personal advantage of those who advance them, and detrimental to everyone else and to society as a whole.

If any of you really feel the need to label my political affiliation, I suppose the best one I could come up with, is “Cynicalist.” Basically I don’t trust any politician as far as I can throw him or her. It doesn’t matter what party he or she belongs to — I do not believe any of them! None are trustworthy, because — as Lord Acton once stated so truthfully — power corrupts. Even if an official isn’t corrupt before s/he is elected, s/he will become corrupted once in office. It’s inevitable, and as unavoidable as death and taxes.

How do I know this? If simple economics doesn’t make it clear, then examples from history should. And I can think of no better example of it — one that happened, as chance would have it, during my formative years — than the Watergate scandal. This was not really just a single scandal; it was a complex, multi-pronged affair, orchestrated by a lengthy cast of characters, all of whom were up to various forms of wrongdoing … some of them independent of each other. The entire convoluted debacle included burglary, espionage, extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, campaign-finance hijinks, and more. It dragged on for years, and was extensive and significant enough to force Richard Nixon to resign as President … even though only about 4½ months into the scandal, he managed to be re-elected to his second term, and hung in until August of ’74.

The list of slippery characters whose names were trotted out each night on the evening news, almost every night as the scandal slowly unfolded, reached laughable proportions by the time Congressional hearings were held. The 18½ minute gap in the Oval Office tapes became legendary, and the words “not to the best of my recollection” — oft-spoken by White House staffers — a catch-phrase of the era. The whole thing, in fact, was almost surreal.

As the Watergate scandal was swirling around them, the Nixon White House — and while it still existed in 1972, his re-election committee — contrived other scandals in the lives and careers of other politicians. Nixon operative Donald Segretti famously referred to these dirty tricks as “ratfucking,” and he engaged in this practice with relish. For instance, he forged the so-called “Canuck letter” which ended the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ed Muskie of Maine. Since then, “ratfucking” has become a cottage industry in American politics, and has even gone beyond political campaigns; it’s now being done by bloggers and pundits (WebCite cached article).

So, how does one know a politician or pundit is lying? Whenever his/her lips are moving. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m neither a Rightist nor a Leftist, but rather, a Cynicalist.

Update: As luck would have it, no sooner did I post this story, than the National Archives released the Pentagon Papers (WebCite cached article). The leak of this document to the New York Times in 1971 ended up being a precursor to the Watergate debacle. The Nixon White House — which had had nothing directly to do with creating this document, it had been finished just prior to Nixon taking office in 1969 — nevertheless (in its paranoia) launched a concerted effort to find the leaker (RAND Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg). Once they’d found out who he was, they further worked to harass and discredit him, by any means they could find. Quite unbelievably, this campaign included a break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, as they sought desperately to find whatever they could to use against him. This particular operation, which had been approved by White House staffer John Ehrlichman, had been orchestrated by E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy — the two men who would soon after also burglarize the DNC offices in the Watergate complex, and touch off the much-larger scandal.

Photo credit: dbking.

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Glenn Beck crying & pouting - boo freaking hoo, poor little Glennie!Over the last 10 years or so, talk radio in Hartford has taken a remarkably Right-wing turn. All the nationally-syndicated vehement Right-wingers are aired here, by one station or another (the two chief talk-radio stations being WTIC-AM and WDRC-AM). The local shows are, in many cases, even more extreme in their Rightism. Local talk guys like Jim Vicevich and Dan Lovallo sometimes make Rush Limbaugh look like a Marxist.

What makes this trend as odd as it is, is that Connecticut is more or less a reliably “blue state”: In the 2010 mid-term elections — which saw the Right and the GOP make gains across the country — Connecticut actually veered back toward the Left, electing a Democratic governor to succeed a retiring Republican, and keeping every statewide and Congressional office squarely in Democratic hands. This, of course, has enraged the Right and the local talk-radio hosts, who’ve done everything but burn the new governor, Dannel Malloy, in effigy over his proposed tax increases — and I expect that, soon, they’ll hold an anti-tax “tea party” rally in Hartford, where precisely that will be done!

But despite this trend, which as I said has been a long time coming and is firmly entrenched, one of the nationally-syndicated Rightist talk-radio hosts has lost his show in Hartford. It’s none other than Glenn Beck, and if this report from the Hartford Courant is to believed, it’s because his ratings fell due to being too religious (WebCite cached article) even if the station’s announcement doesn’t say it:

The management at the Blooomfield-based station suggested the Glenn Beck syndicated show was gently being dropped so it could add a new daily morning show with Jones, and a second featuring her and Davis sharing co-hosting duties.

But the real story, the Courant suggests, might be something else. The president of Buckley Radio which owns the station offered this:

“Some of his direction has changed over the last year and a half,” [Rick] Buckley said. “He is preaching a lot more than entertaining.” …

Buckley, whose father started the company in the 1950s, said Beck’s show had changed and taken on more of a religious tone since his August 2010 rally in Washington, D.C.

“There is no question I think he had a big change after his Washington conclave. Something hit him down there. His show changed after that,” Buckley said. “In its basic elements that he had been doing for a long, long time. He got much more into the doomsday and a lot more talking of the religious aspects of people’s lives and stuff like that. For us in New York and in Hartford, we just felt that a local program would be better.”

In recent months, Beck’s show has frequently veered into apocalyptic religiosity.”

What I don’t understand is, if the Glennster is somehow “too religious” for Hartford’s talk-radio crowd, why did WDRC’s rival station, WTIC-AM, give the convicted felon and former Connecticut governor John Rowland and his preacherman and erstwhile theo-political operative, Pastor Will Marotti a three-hour show called Church and State State and Church? I’d love to think Beckie-boy is “too religious” for Connecticut talk-radio, but I’m not really convinced it’s the case. I expect that it’s simply because the Beckster’s audience is beginning to unravel and he’s losing some of his loyal following — enough of it, at least, to cause his ratings to decline measurably.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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Raised seal on Barack Obama's birth certificate/FactCheckAs I’ve blogged a number of times already, Birtherism is a delusion that simply will not die. A frequent mantra of Birthers is that Obama has never produced his birth certificate. That, however, is factually incorrect; he has done so, and did it prior to his election in 2008. See FactCheck and Politfact, cached here and here for the evidence. (Note, neither of these fact-checking sites is “biased” towards Obama and the Democrats; recently, for instance, FactCheck pointed out tall tales told by him and by his party, and Politifact has a running “Obameter” listing promises he’s made, and has not shied from listing some as broken.) Oh, and that Kenyan birth certificate you may have heard about? It’s a fake (cached).

Making this situation worse is that denial that Obama is a US citizen has become religionized, and inextricably linked to the claim that he’s a Muslim. So the delusion has taken on an added dimension and, essentially, doubled in scope. Yes, that’s been covered by FactCheck (cached) and Politifact (cached), too — but again, the deluded Right-wing Birthers don’t give a fuck about facts.

Birtherism among Rightists has become so strong and pervasive, that GOP leaders refuse to confront it any more. If anything, they make excuses for Birtherism and wink in its direction. A recent example is House Speaker John Boehner, who did exactly this during his appearance on Meet the Press yesterday (WebCite cached article). When host David Gregory asked about persistent Birtherism, he said:

David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people.

That’s an interesting claim on Boehner’s part, since he’s been telling Americans for the last couple of years that Obama is a vile, wicked socialist, and he hasn’t “listened” to any Americans outside of the extreme Right-wing. After having told us what we’re supposed to think about Obama and the Democrats all this time, suddenly he declares he’s unwilling to tell us what to think? What a fucking hypocrite! At any rate, he continued hedging:

Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That’s good enough for me. The president says he’s a Christian. I accept him at his word.

That’s all well and good, but it’s hardly a dismissal of Birtherism. Then, having said that, he veered back toward his original position:

MR. GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance about whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?

SPEAKER BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t–it’s not my job to tell them.

So the Speaker slalomed from, “I’m not supposed to tell people what to think,” to “Obama said he’s a citizen and a Christian,” to “People have a right to be deluded.”

Well, Speaker, you’re correct in that Americans have a “right” to be deluded. No doubt about that. The right to be a fucking ignoramus is undeniable. But you — as a leader in your political party — have a moral and ethical obligation to inform them of the truth. Even if it’s not a convenient truth to tell, and — yes — even if they don’t want to hear it. This is not a question of anyone’s “rights.” This is a question of what the objective facts are and what his duty is, as the leader of the Republican party in Congress.

In other words, it’s a question of fortitude and leadership.

Boehner has purposely chosen to keep his party chock-full of childish, delusional, paranoiac imbeciles. Just because he’s too much of a sniveling coward to tell them to knock off their Birtherist bullshit and shut the fuck up about the President not being a citizen or a Christian.

Way to go, Speaker. What outstanding courage you’ve shown! Why, you’ve demonstrated perfectly the kind of character it takes to lead the Right in the US.

It’s time for everyone on the Right — starting with Speaker Bonehead and the rest of his sanctimonious Rightist rabble in the House — to grow the hell up, stop telling demonstrable lies, and move on to something else, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: FactCheck.

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