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Politics in the United States

A vehicle plows into a group of protesters marching along 4th Street NE at the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville on the day of the Unite the Right rally on Saturday, August 12, 2017. Photo/Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily ProgressFolks, it sure looks as though the Civil War has broken out again! No sooner did I finish blogging about last night’s torch-carrying mob of sanctimonious Confederates in Charlottesville, VA, but as The Daily Progress reports, a second rally today (called “Unite the Right”) turned deadly (Archive.Is cached article):

Update: 3:30 p.m.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer says one person has died after a car plowed into a mass of Unite the Right counter-protesters.

“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will–go home,” he wrote.

Police have not yet confirmed the fatality.

This is all in the name of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, which the city of Charlottesville voted to remove from a public park. Latter-day Confederates and “alt rightists” — precious snowflakes that they are — decided this was the equivalent of a physical attack on their persons, and reacted with lawsuits, riots, violence, and now murder — i.e. a car having been driven into a crowd of counter-protestors.

As I’ve argued many times, Confederacy-worship is asinine, irrational, and stupid. The Confederacy lost the Civil War. In every conceivable way — militarily, economically, politically, diplomatically, administratively, societally — it was a failed state. It’s gone. Over. Finished. Done. Toast. Relegated to the dustbin of history. Confederate relics have only one place in the modern US, and that’s in fucking museums.

It’s time for angry Southerners (and other “alt rightists” from other parts of the country who’ve taken up their juvenile cause) to fucking grow the hell up, for the first time in their sniveling little lives, and get over the fact that their precious Confederacy is the failed state it was. I understand they like feeling like martyrs … but they’re inventing persecution which, in fact, does not exist. No one and nothing is harmed by the removal of a General Lee statue from a public park. No one! It literally cannot cause them any fucking damage … at all.

It’s time for Confederacy worship to end — period. End of discussion.

Photo credit: Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress.

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The peasants are - well, you know! (via TV Tropes)It’s difficult to believe that, of all places, Charlottesville VA has become the latest Civil War battleground. This town is home to the University of Virginia, which was founded by several Founding Fathers, one of whom — Thomas Jefferson — was from the area. It’s generally a very progressive island within the sea of Virginia’s conservative interior. In fact, that may be why it has become a battle-zone. Some time ago, the city decided to take down some Confederate statues on city property … and today’s Confederates went berserk over that. Ever since, they’ve been raging and fuming about it. Apparently, taking down a statue is the same thing as physically attacking the poor little things.

This “controversy” has led to yet another literal “peasants with torches” moment. There was another such event last night, as Charlottesville’s Daily Progress reports, but unlike the one in May (which fizzled) this one was punctuated by violence (Archive.Is cached article):

Echoing the May 13 rally at the foot of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue, hundreds of torch-wielding white nationalists who are attending Saturday’s Unite the Right rally gathered at the University of Virginia and marched to the Rotunda, chanting, “You will not replace us.”

After the march, which began at UVa’s Nameless Field, reached the Rotunda, police later declared an unlawful assembly. Protesters and opponents alike reported being affected by pepper spray.

At the feet of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, fights began breaking out and some wielding tiki torches swung them at people. At least one person was arrested, and several people were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

The ralliers shouted many of the same chants at the May event, such as “blood and soil,” but this time, they declared that Charlottesville was their city now.

Yessirree Bob, dey’s not gonn’ let dem dere libruls take away deir Genrul Lee!

This Confederacy worship is asinine and juvenile, not to mention irrational and pointless. I’ll repeat here what I said back in May:

The way some Southerners venerate Confederates is, quite frankly, pathetic. It’s almost as though they aren’t aware the South lost the Civil War and they’re still fighting it … or wishing they could. It’s all very childish. The Confederacy, ultimately, was a failed attempt to break from the Union and establish a new state. Yes, folks, that’s right: It was a failure … militarily, economically, administratively, and in every other conceivable way. Continuing to worship it makes no sense at all. None! It’s all very childish, in fact.

Yes, I know all about the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” trope, which holds that the Confederacy was a righteous, noble state defeated by insidious and unjust forces in the North. Far from being a failure, the Confederacy was right, and remains so to this day. All of that, of course, is rank bullshit … a steaming load heaped right out the back of the barn. But you can’t tell Southerners that. They’re not listening, at all, because telling them otherwise is a way of trying to demolish their “heritage” and wipe them all out. None of that is happening, of course, but they prefer to believe it is because it makes them feel better to feel downtrodden and put out.

It’s time for these latter-day Confederates to grow the fuck up already, stop worshipping their precious (failed!) Confederacy, and act like real Americans, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: TV Tropes.

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Evangelical supporters place hands on and pray with President Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo courtesy of Johnnie Moore / via Religion News ServiceSigh. It was inevitable, I suppose. I mean, given the amount of trouble the Groper-in-Chief is now in — since his son single-handedly lifted the “Trump/Russia” scandal undeniably out of “fake news” territory (Archive.Is cached article) — you just knew he’d have to do something like this. The Groper-in-Chief obviously needed to make himself and his administration look respectable, at least to the folk who matter to him.

The way he did so, was equally obvious: As the Religion News Service explains, the Apricot Wonder invited a crowd of evangelical preachers to the Oval Office, to pray over him (cached):

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met with evangelical supporters this week as news was breaking about the president’s son’s connections with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

The supporters, including some who had been on Trump’s evangelical advisory board during the campaign, attended a daylong meeting Monday (July 10) scheduled by the Office of Public Liaison at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House, said Johnnie Moore, who served as one of the campaign’s evangelical advisers.

Now, these sorts of group Oval Office visits are usually planned well in advance. This visit, however, was not:

The evangelicals did not know they would be meeting with the president ahead of time, he said. Nor did they discuss the unfolding Russian meddling story with him.

“At a certain point in the day we visited with the President and Vice President,” Moore told RNS in an email. “They just heard we were on the property and took time to say ‘hello.’”

So this nifty little visit was almost certainly a response to all the recent bad news. Of course, they disavowed any possible relationship between this visit and the raging scandal:

Asked if evangelical leaders are worried that people would consider their presence in the Oval Office an indication that they’re not concerned about the Russia-related controversies, Moore said: “Evangelicals consider it a responsibility and an honor to advise and pray for the administration.”

He said their prayers Monday and the meeting in general were “not at all” related to Russia.

“It was a normal meeting, like many other meetings we’ve had before,” he said.

Like nearly all of America’s Rightists, these pastors are fully in the Groper’s corner and aren’t concerned about anything:

At least one of the leaders in attendance later opined about connections between the Trump administration and Russia.

“Garbage,” tweeted Rodney Howard-Browne in response to a Washington Post tweet that said “White House thrust into chaos by revelations about meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer.”

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., said the only mention of Russia he recalled during the meeting next door to the White House was “in a fashion dismissive of the mainline media.” He added: “I don’t think there was anybody in that room who has any remote suspicion that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

Gee, how wonderful to see these supposed “men of God” so blithely unconcerned with immoral, unethical, and possibly illegal behavior on the part of their Dear Leader and his minions.

To be clear: These religious folk are after power, and have latched onto the president as their means to keep the power they have and acquire more. No wonder they swarmed him to “lay on hands” and pray for him. He’s their political meal-ticket.

Photo credit: Johnnie Moore, via Religion News Service.

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1099 Siege of JerusalemI’ve blogged about “the Great Neocrusade” for several years. This, of course, is my name for the Religious Right movement that seeks to drive Muslims out of the US — and then eradicate Islam from the planet. These folk are enraged at the very existence of Islam, because it’s the chief rival religion of Christianity, to which the majority of them belong (although there’s a notable minority of Neocrusaders who’re Jewish).

They’ve long used the barbaric terrorism of militant Islamists, such as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood, to justify their demand that Islam be obliterated. Sure, there are extremists within Islam — which I’ve argued doesn’t reflect well on their religion — but many of the Neocrusaders are, themselves, religious militants; they just happen to be militant Christianists rather than militant Islamists.

Their reasoning, therefore, is nowhere near as utilitarian or “pure” as they’d have you believe. They don’t realize, or care to know, that Christian and Right-wing terror is every bit as real a problem as Islamist terror.

Neocrusaders’ blanket condemnations of Islam, of course, make them look like sanctimonious bigots — which, if truth be told, they are! But some of them have realized this, and have undertaken a different tack. What they’ve done is to declare themselves opposed not to Islam, or to Muslims, but instead, to what they call shari’a law.” This is a generalized term for “Islamic law traditions” which have legal force, of one kind or other, in some Muslim-majority countries. According to this particular wing of the Great Neocrusade, “shari’a law” is about to be imposed on the US; and once that happens, supposedly, every American will be forced to convert to Islam.

This past Saturday, as the Los Angeles Times reports, one “anti-shari’a law” group took to the streets around the country to protest the putative imposition of “shari’a law” on Americans (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out about what they believe are the ills of Islam, anti-Sharia law activists demonstrated nationwide Saturday, but were met by counter-protesters who assailed their rhetoric as insensitive and demeaning.

Members of Act for America, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gathered in parks and plazas across the country, organizing nearly two dozen so-called March Against Sharia rallies, stoking concerns and counter-events by Muslim leaders who say the group is spewing hate.

In Atlanta, an assortment of militia men brandishing assault rifles, supporters of President Trump waving American flags and men’s rights activists wearing helmets descended on Piedmont Park, a leafy oasis in the city’s affluent, liberal Midtown neighborhood.

In New York, nearly 100 people attended a rally near lower Manhattan. They were outnumbered by counter-protesters, and the two sides hurled insults across two rows of police barricades.

The problem with this outfit is that it’s premised on a lie. There is no effort to impose “shari’a law” on any American. It’s impossible for it ever to happen, since the First Amendment prevents government from imposing a religion — or by extension, a religious law code — on Americans. “Shari’a law” can’t be imposed on the US any more than Roman Catholicism’s canon law can be. It’s a figment of their paranoid imaginations. It has not happened; it is not happening now; and it will not happen any time in the future. Period. End of story.

To be clear, if I thought for a moment that “shari’a law” was going to be imposed on me, I damned well would protest it, right alongside the members of Act for America, or anyone else who protests it. But it’s not … and the idea that it will soon be, is an outright fucking lie. It’s simply a rationale for pitching fits over the fact that Islam exists and that there are Muslims here in the US. Nothing more.

This specific form of the Neocrusade movement reminds me a bit of anti-Semites who cloak themselves behind the contention that they’re not really “anti-Jewish,” they’re really just “anti-Zionist.” Unfortunately, most of their invective is directed at Jews generally, not at Zionists specifically. It also reminds me of a subset of Holocaust deniers who don’t necessarily deny that the Third Reich went after Jews, it’s just that they dispute that around 6 million Jews died at their hands. They contend the number is smaller — often much smaller. But really, this quibbling about numbers isn’t really relevant. For instance, if the Nazis had “only” killed 600,000 Jews instead of 6,000,000, that still wouldn’t make what they did anything other than a horrible atrocity.

I note that some of the Neocrusaders who participated in these supposed anti-“shari’a law” rallies, themselves, acknowledged they had other reasons to protest Islam:

Some anti-Sharia marchers in Orlando, Fla., such as Sheryl Tumey, noted the timing of event, two days before the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as a reason to protest. The gunman, who killed 50 people at the gay club, had been inspired by Islamic State extremists.

“We live here and that touched us — and that was a terrorist,” said Tumey, 50. “We are here and they want to bring in a religion of hate and oppression.”

These people, you see, can’t even keep their own disingenuous pretenses straight! As for who’s promoting “a religion of hate and oppression,” I acknowledge that’s what Islamists do … but it also happens to be what the Religious Right, a predominantly Christian movement right here in the US of A … also does. Fucking hypocrites! Maybe they should pay attention to their Bibles, and note that the founder of their own faith reportedly ordered them never to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason. They’re quite simply not allowed — by their own Jesus! — to do so. Ever.

What these sanctimonious liars need to do is fucking grow the hell up, for the first time in their sniveling little lives, and accept the fact that Islam exists, that there are some Muslims here in the US, and that they can never change either of those realities, no matter how angry they get about them.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'One Nation, Under God: Remember, if you don't believe in God, you're not a REAL American. Keep prayer and God in school, where they belong!' / Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of GeorgiaI’ve blogged a few times about Bible classes in public schools. The nation’s Christianists have long agitated against the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, which forbid the reading of Bible passages or reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. Even decades later, militant Christianists throughout the country are still fighting back against that decision. They’ve consistently whined that Abington ripped the Bible out of public schools — which isn’t true — and have repeatedly pushed to get more Bible classes in more public schools throughout the country.

The reality is that lots of school systems have “Bible-as-secular-literature” courses. But many of them still run afoul of Abington. An example is the Mercer county, WV school system, which has a Bible course running through many grades, beginning in elementary school. The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit to end Mercer county’s Bible classes this past January (WebCite cached article). The FFRF’s complaint shows how the program’s lessons are more like Sunday-school religious lessons than “Bible-as-secular-literature.” After some wringing of hands over the last few months, as the Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph reports, Mercer county schools have decided to suspend the program for a year while they review its content (cached):

Mercer County’s Bible in the Schools program is being suspended for next year, providing time for a review of the optional class for elementary and middle school students.

Members of the board of education approved the suspension last night at their regular meeting.

“Since the Bible class is an elective, I would like to include community members and religious leaders along with our teachers in this process,” said Dr. Deborah Akers, superintendent of schools. “In order to conduct a thorough review, we need to allow at least a year to complete the task. Therefore, I am recommending that we suspend the elementary Bible classes until this review is completed.”

The way the schools got around the law on this is, as I see it, moderately clever. Their “Bible in the Public Schools” program is administered by the school system, but funded by private donations, with those funds paying the program’s teachers. They also say it’s an “elective,” but virtually every student takes it, which is undeniable evidence that it’s not actually an “elective” at all.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph ran a second story to reassure readers this wasn’t necessarily the end of the program (cached). Rather pathetically, it lamented “the loss of jobs” due to the year suspension:

Although Mercer County schools administers the program, Pelts’ group raises money to pay the seven teachers, who will now be out of their jobs at least for next year.

“Right now, the loss of jobs for our teachers is heartbreaking,” said Pelts. “Our primary and immediate emphasis is to honor and show appreciation to our Bible teachers.”

The group raises almost $500,000 a year to pay for the program.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a staggering sum of money for a private fund to raise, just to pay for Bible classes in one Appalachian county. As of 2015, Mercer county’s population is a mere 60,000 or so. I can’t imagine those residents can consistently raise half a million dollars a year, just among themselves. It doesn’t seem plausible. Outside groups must be paying for this program.

If I may crib from my earlier remarks on this topic: As someone who’s studied the Bible, both as sacred and secular literature, I don’t dispute that “Bible-as-literature” classes add value to public schools. There’s no doubt whatever about that! Biblical allusions are common in other literature and art, and some of the Old Testament books serve as tremendous examples of etiology. Kids can certainly use this as a foundation for understanding other works.

The problem I have with public-school Bible classes is, I don’t trust the people — generally, devout Christians — who create curricula for, and teach, them. Many are motivated by a desire to proselytize. Even if they set out with the intention of keeping these classes completely secular, will they be able to resist the temptation to turn them into religious instruction? The ardency with which some of them have pressed to get such classes into public schools makes me question how truly committed they are to a secular approach to the Bible. I particularly find it suspicious that half a million dollars is spent annually, in little Mercer county, WV on this effort. That kind of money makes the whole thing appear very suspicious.

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

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'This is America ... Founded by White Christians seeking religious liberty. ... Where people know their place. This is YOUR America. Keep it White & Christian!' / Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity America as a Christian Nation, America as a White Nation: Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National ArchivesThe recently-elected Groper-in-Chief, having run relatively quiet for a few days in the wake of yet another debacle of his own manufacture, gave the commencement address at one of the temples of American fundamentalist Christianity, that being Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. During what was, effectively, yet another of his rally speeches, as the Washington Post reports, one of his remarks betrayed a common, but fallacious, trope of Christianist thinking (WebCite cached article):

In his first commencement address as president, Donald Trump on Saturday drew a parallel between what he faces as a political outsider in Washington and what he said the Christian graduates of Liberty University can expect to encounter in a secular world.

“Be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures,” Trump said. “Does that sound familiar, by the way?”…

Trump’s address was short on scripture but cast the president as a defender of the Christian faith — a mantle he assumed throughout the campaign.

“In America, we don’t worship government,” Trump declared at one point. “We worship God.”

The Apricot Wonder alludes, here, to the common evangelical belief that secularists, progressives, Leftists, etc. (pretty much anyone who’s not in their own camp) “worships” government, in the same way they themselves worship their own religion and deity. This belief is predicated on the assumption that all human beings somehow must “worship” something. In their minds, this means people either worship their own religion and deity — i.e. they have the “right” faith — or they believe in a false religion (whether it’s Islam, or Buddhism, or Satanism, or “statism”).

This is fallacious thinking on their part, of course, because it’s possible for a person to not worship anyone or anything at all. (Yes, really! It is.)

Many have questioned the degree to which the GiC is really a Christian, let alone an evangelical like the faculty and students of Liberty University … but as WaPo explains, he has taken up the mantle of “champion of Christian fundamentalists” and consistently tries to speak as though he’s one of them and is their standard-bearer. Thus, in his remark about worshipping God rather than government, he’s continuing to appeal to their sentiments. Not to mention, he’s appealing to the teeming masses of “Christian nationers” out there, too, all clamoring to make their militant Christianism into the national religion.

Oh, and by the way … just to be clear on this … I’m an American who absolutely, truly, and unabashedly does not worship the Apricot Wonder’s God — but I also do not worship government. If he or any of his rabid fanbois thinks that, as an American, I’m obligated to worship his deity, I invite that person to give it their best shot. Lock and load. Do your worst! Rest assured, I will never do so, no matter what.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, About.Com based on original from National Archives.

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'Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.' / Friedrich Schiller / PsiCop original graphicPlease pardon me, Dear Reader, for this blog post, which is mostly political, but which is relevant to a topic (i.e. veracity) I cover often.

I’ve blogged before that we now live in a post-truth age. People generally disdain veracity, these days, preferring instead to cling to whatever bullshit or lies they find emotionally comforting. Because, of course, emotions are always much more important than reality … right?

Nowhere is this more evident than in our Groper-in-Chief, a man who lies habitually, but who never will admit it and who doggedly continues spewing his lies long after they’ve been debunked — mainly because his own fanbois back him all the way.

Through his presidential campaign, and the first few months of his presidency, he and his minions have reeled off any number of rationales for why he lies so often, going so far as to demand that the public and media just ignore his lies altogether (WebCite cached article).

Well, the Apricot Wonder — compulsive Twitter aficionado that he is — recently posted an explanation for why he and his staff often misspeak/lie. As he explains, the poor little things are just too busy, you see (cached and cached):

Yes, Mr President. Obviously, that’s the answer! Don’t hold any more press briefings, which just further evince how inept and stupid you and your minions are. Why of course that’s the solution! You and your staff definitely ought to run and hide from anything resembling accountability to the public. That’ll remove any need for you or them to have to try to be accurate in what they say.

Why, it’s just horrific insolence of anyone to expect that you or your staff should actually know what the fuck you’re talking about, whenever any of you speaks. What an intolerable burden for all of you! There there, Mr President. Here, let me give you a pacifier. Then I’ll give you a drink of water and tuck you into bed. That way you can sleep peacefully, knowing all the bad people will leave you alone.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Friedrich Schiller quotation.

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