Posts Tagged “right”

U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) speaking at the 2015 Reagan Dinner for the Dallas County Republican PartyThe number of sanctimonious Religious Rightists using disasters like hurricanes to promote their dour messages — and framing them as messages from the Almighty — continues to grow. The latest example isn’t exactly the sort of disaster theology I’ve often blogged about, but as the (UK) Independent explains, it’s very, very close to that (Archive.Is cached article):

A Republican congressman has suggested that flooding in certain areas – exacerbated by two massive storms that recently hit the US – is God telling homeowners to move.

“We have these repetitive loss properties,” Representative Jeb Hensarling said. “For example, we have one property outside of Baton Rouge [Louisiana] that has a modest home worth about $60,000 that’s flooded over 40 times. The taxpayers have paid almost half a million dollars for it.”

He added: “At some point, God is telling you to move.”

While Hensarling is from Texas, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, he represents its 5th district, which includes a snippet of Dallas and a chunk of the area to its east and southeast. I’m not sure it had many Harvey-related problems. So he’s spewing standard Right-wing “all-government-spending-is-horrific-and-can’t-be-tolerated” rhetoric. Later, though, Hensarling (through a spokesman) tried to swerve out from under the foolishness of what he’d said:

A spokesperson for the House Financial Services Committee, of which Mr Hensarling is a member, told The Independent that the Congressman was not talking about hurricane victims – although he mentioned victims of Texas floods several times.

“The interview was about the committee’s efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program,” spokesman Jeff Emerson said. “…He’s discussing the need to reform the NFIP. He was not discussing disaster assistance.”…

Mr Hensarling’s proposed solution is to privatise flood insurance markets, and even buy out homes in flood-prone areas. Offering federal flood insurance, he said, “is encouraging people to live in harm’s way.”

I’m not sure what God supposedly telling people not to live somewhere has to do with the NFIP … unless it’s a roundabout way of rationalizing terminating the program altogether. (Which I’m sure a lot of Rightists would just love to do.)

As for privatizing flood insurance, that’s already been tried — and it failed. Once upon a time, ordinary property insurance covered flooding. In the 50s and 60s, though, due to the high cost of claims, insurance companies carved it out, making it separate, and then were unable to charge premiums ample enough to reimburse policy owners for flooding events. They started exiting the business altogether. The federal government essentially nationalized flood insurance in 1968, as a consequence. Private-sector insurance is not — contrary to what Hensarling and his fellow Rightists would like — going to re-enter that business. No fucking way. They’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, and went home. It’s just not going to happen. Ending the NFIP is not an option. Perhaps making it mandatory for more people than are currently required to have it (i.e. mortgage-holders in certain flood zones), is one solution. But ending it? No.

As for getting everyone currently in a flood zone to move, that makes no sense economically. Let’s say the government forbids people living in certain zones. Their current properties — which for many are the bulk of their assets — would instantly cease to have any value. They’d be forced to rent or buy elsewhere, in places which are flood-proof, whose rent or purchase values will naturally shoot up. What’s more, they’d lose their jobs, and businesses in those zones would also be forced to close. They’d be left with no resources to pay for relocation; homeowners would have to scramble for new jobs, and businesses would have to find markets in new places. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea, is a brazen, fucking moron.

Put as simply as possible: Hensarling is a religionist, idiotic douchebag who has no idea what he’s talking about.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: PMeldrum at World Politics forum on Delphi Forums.

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In this Feb. 22, 2017 file photo, Oklahoma state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, speaks during a Senate committee meeting in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Senate has voted to punish Shortey, who police say was found with a teenage boy in a motel room. Police officials in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore are still investigating the circumstances surrounding an incident last week involving Sen. Shortey and a teenager. No charges have been filed. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)Note: There’s been an update to this story since I first posted it. See below.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A loud, sanctimonious Religious Rightist prick — who runs around demanding others comply with his wishes, decrying society’s moral decline, and claiming moral superiority over everyone — turns out to be a brazen fucking hypocrite who’s actually guilty of some of the very immoral crap he accuses his opponents of. Yep, it’s a familiar story, all right! The Oklahoman reports it happened in the case of a state senator in the Sooner State (WebCite cached article):

A conservative state senator who once wanted to be a missionary was accused Thursday in a child prostitution case of offering to pay a 17-year-old boy for sex.

Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, was charged with three felony counts, one week after police found him with the teenager in a Moore hotel room.…

The evidence against Shortey includes a graphic online conversation where the two discuss having sex and smoking marijuana, police reported in a court affidavit. The conversation was found on the teenager’s Kindle tablet.

Shortey, using the online name “Jamie Tilley,” at one point during the discussion about sex called the teenager “baby boy,” according to the affidavit.

I think that’s enough detail to explain the accusation here. What’s important to know about Shortey is that, a year ago, he’d tried to advance a “bathroom bill” through the Oklahoma legislature, which would have prevented transgender people from using appropriate public bathrooms (cached). Advocates of these kinds of “bathroom bills” they’re necessary in order to prevent women from being assaulted in restrooms — as though assault isn’t already illegal (and it is).

Shortey’s lawyer has said he plans to resign, but hasn’t done so yet, as far as I know. Not sure what he’s waiting for — he’s probably negotiating some kind of deal, such as continuing to get benefits, or something like that.

Update: It turns out the wait for Shortey to quit lasted only a day. The Oklahoman reports he has resigned from the OK state senate (cached).

Photo credit: AP Photo, Sue Ogrocki.

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The Atlantic / 'Hail Trump!': White Nationalists Salute the President ElectNote: I’ve put up a second blog post on what’s become of the US in the wake of the Groper-in-Chief’s election, so I’ve renamed this post accordingly. Now then … on with the original post:

It’s no secret that, among supporters of the Groper-in-Chief-elect, there are a lot of unsavory types — “unsavory” being the most generous adjective I can apply to such folks. I say this at the risk of sounding a little like Hillary Clinton and her “basket of deplorables” (cached) … which is more correct than many wish is the case, even if her assertion that fully “half” of the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s supporters meet that description is too high a proportion.

At any rate, it’s well known that the amorphous movement known as the “alt-right,” as well as even more reprehensible sorts of people, like Klansman David Duke (cached) have supported the Groper-in-Chief-elect and helped him win the White House.

While not quite as bad as the proverbial cross-burning Klan member or brawling neo-nazi skinhead, members of the alt-right definitely harbor a lot of vile notions, most of them predicated on white nationalism. Thrown in alongside that is a lot of paranoia and conspiratorialism, as well as misogyny and anti-semitism.

The Groper-in-Chief-elect’s connections with the alt-right are well-known. Perhaps the most important is that Steve Bannon, the chairman of his campaign and now his chief adviser, once ran the Web site Breitbart, which Bannon himself stated was “the platform of the alt-right” (cached). Really, it doesn’t get any clearer, or more definitive, than that.

But the unsavory nature of much of the the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s support goes beyond just a few “big names” (e.g. Duke or Bannon) who’ve either endorsed or worked for him. Perhaps no more worrisome exemplar of this can be found in video (courtesy of The Atlantic) from an alt-right conference in Washington (cached):

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”

Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads. Spencer has said his dream [cached] is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”

For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word [cached] to attack their critics in the press.

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

The Atlantic provides video of Spencer’s remarks, via Youtube:

Nothing I’ve read about Spencer suggests he’s stupid or clueless (cached), so I can only assume he was consciously appealing to Nazism while he spoke. As for his audience “hailing” the Groper-in-Chief-elect with Nazi salutes … all I can say is, that’s chilling.

Late addition: As the New York Times reports via Bloomberg, the Groper-in-Chief-elect has said he “disavows” this conference (cached), and he also supposedly disavows the alt-right. Not that it matters much to those present who gave him a Hitler salute. After all, one of their standard-bearers, Steve Bannon, will soon have his own office in the White House. Again, due to Bannon’s own admission of having run “the platform of the alt-right”, the nascent White House cannot logically claim no alliance with the alt-right. It just can’t. Period.

Photo credit: The Atlantic.

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Husité - Jenský kodexThe Paris attacks a week ago have brought out the raging Neocrusader which lurks deep inside most Rightists here in the US. GOP presidential contenders have tripped over each other — not to mention themselves — trying to exhibit their Neocrusading credentials. They particularly have their knickers in knots over plans to bring around 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US (WebCite cached article).

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has said the US should admit only Syrians who can demonstrate they’re Christian (cached). He hasn’t explained how they’re supposed to provide this proof. Plus, wouldn’t a committed Islamist terrorist be able to “fake” being a Christian in order to get into the US, assuming there’s a meaningful way to do so? (And no, don’t assume Islamists would never pass themselves off as belonging to some other religion; there are no safe assumptions one can make about them.)

Then there’s the Christofascist Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, who likewise called for admitting only Christians from among the Syrian refugees vying for entry (cached). As with the Jebster, Teddie assumes it’s “safe” to admit any Syrian who says s/he’s a Christian, and he doesn’t account for any means to verify such a claim in any serious way.

But neither of these misguided Christianist notions holds a candle to what real estate mogul and leading GOP contender Donald Trump came up with. He’s declared that he wants Muslims in the US to carry special identification and/or be tracked in a special database (cached). Yes, that’s right, he’s proposing we treat Muslims in ways the Third Reich had treated Jews (cached).

Likewise embracing Nazi tactics is Rhode Island state senator Elaine Morgan, who wants Syrian refugees who end up in her state to be placed in special camps (cached). Gee, those sound like concentration camps or internment camps to me.

None of this should be construed as dismissing any possible danger from Syrian refugees. Of course it exists and is real, especially since at least one of the Paris attackers — all of whom were actually European nationals — had returned to Europe posing as a refugee and may have planted a fake or stolen Syrian passport he’d used to come into Greece posing as a refugee (cached). It’s undeniable that a terrorist might try to enter the US as a refugee. But the process of getting to the US is time-consuming — upwards of 18 months, and usually around 2 years (cached). While the vetting process is far from perfect, as administration officials admit (cached) — and Rightists love to use these admissions to justify their Neocrusading impulses — this scenario nevertheless forces enraged Islamist terrorists bent on massacring innocents to sit around and do nothing, somewhere in Europe, for around 2 years before they can reach America. This alone makes it an unlikely tactic for them to use. A much more efficient tactic would be for them to recruit terrorists from among people already in the US or Canada … which has actually been done (cached).

I very much understand the fear these Neocrusaders exploit. It has a basis in reality … but the measures being promised are far too draconian, and won’t guarantee Americans’ safety in any event. What’s needed is better intelligence, and better action on that intelligence, to better pinpoint who the terrorists are, where they are, what they’re up to, and whom they’re in contact with. Broad policies, such as blocking Syrian immigration altogether or applying a specious religious test to it, really aren’t going to be much help, if we’re not willing to apply the intelligence we already have available (which, as Edward Snowden revealed, is extensive).

Not to mention, the average American is much more likely to become a victim of domestic Rightist terror rather than Islamist terror. But that’s another story entirely … !

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jack O'LanternHalloween is one of those odd things that most Americans don’t think much about, but a small number obsess over. It’s become a vast economic boon, being one of the most profitable retail holidays. It’s a major driver of social events, with people holding Halloween parties all over the place, and businesses hosting Halloween events, too.

But some Americans don’t see Halloween as fun, they see it as downright profane. Back in my own fundie days, the circle of Christians I was part of, didn’t care for it much, viewing it as a pagan — if not Satanic — celebration that Christians had to stay away from. Influential Christian leaders like Marion “Pat” Robertson have condemned Halloween as “Satan’s night” (WebCite cached article). Some Christians who’ve shunned it even came up with a simultaneous alternative they called “JesusWeen” (cached). Yes, that’s right … JesusWeen. Another Christian anti-Halloween phenomenon are the many “Hell houses” hosted by churches around the country, this time of year (cached). Some Jews have reservations about Halloween, too, and for similar reasons.

Once in a while this tension between Halloween-as-an-all-American-tradition and Halloween-as-profane-diabolical-celebration breaks open into something unexpected. An example of this just occurred in my home state of Connecticut. Milford public schools, as Milford Patch explains, cancelled an annual Halloween parade, and some aren’t happy (cached):

Halloween has been cancelled in the Milford Public Schools this year and that decision isn’t sitting well with numerous city parents.

In a note sent home to Milford parents last week the seemingly unpopular decision was announced.

“This year the Milford School District has decided the following: Halloween parades will not take place in any Milford elementary school. The decision arose out of numerous incidents of children being excluded from activities due to religious, cultural beliefs, etc. School-day activities must be inclusive. Halloween costumes are not permitted for students or staff during the day at school.”

The sanctimonious outrage as a result of this decision has been palpable. Online petitions have demanded Halloween be restored in Milford schools. The rage has been particularly loud amid the Right-wing media, such as on Daily Caller (cached) and National Review (cached). In the eyes of the Right, this is “political correctness” (aka Leftism) run amok. The curious part about this, of course, is that it’s religiously-conservative Christians who’re the ones who usually object to Halloween (as I noted above), and nearly all of those are politically conservative, just like the rest of the Right. So I have no idea how or why there could be any clear Leftist agenda behind a school system not having its Halloween parade.

At any rate, the Milford schools couldn’t withstand the Right-wing campaign against them, and as Milford Patch reports, yesterday evening they surrendered on the matter, and explained what they had done and why (cached):

Just before 5 p.m. Milford school officials released a statement to the media regarding Halloween in schools.

The statement was written by Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser.…

We are writing to you in response to the accusations that have been made against the school system around how we celebrate Halloween in the schools.

The misinformation around the decisions the school made tied to celebrating Halloween is huge, and the spreading of untruths by parents and members of the community very disturbing.…

Ultimately, all eight principals, with my endorsement, chose to focus their energies on a family Halloween celebration, and forego the 20 minute parade in school. The thinking behind this decision was that a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.

Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part, could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event. In addition, in recognition of many working parents who have difficulty leaving work to come to school, an evening event would allow them to be present with their children.…

Sad to say, while careful and sensitive thought went into the decision to celebrate Halloween at a school/PTA-sponsored major event outside of the school day, there are those who unmercifully attacked the decision, falsely accusing the Milford Public Schools for banning Halloween.

We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition, and that we should be ashamed. We struggle to understand why we should be ashamed about the Halloween celebration that each school/PTA is sponsoring, wherein children are encouraged to wear costumes, will be given candy, will spend an hour or more in fun and games.…

There are those who feel a 20 minute parade is more important, however, and its elimination is contributing to the demise of Milford as a city and Milford as a community, as well as the demise of the Milford Public Schools.

Once again, then, we see America’s Right wing flipping out, going berserk, and mercilessly bullying people due to an outrage they’ve worked up among themselves over something they never understood in the first place. Way to go, guys. Way to go! You must be so proud of behaving with just as much immaturity as the young grammar-school kids whose Halloween parade you’ll tell yourselves you saved. Well done!

For the record — and to clear away any of the misconceptions associated with Halloween in the US — here’s the real scoop on it: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.

Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not entirely an areligious holiday. It has little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day, which is a Christian holiday (although it’s one few Christians really “celebrate” any more).

So just go to your favorite Halloween celebration, and if you have kids, let them go out trick-or-treating, and enjoy the day. But without any of the religious or ideological baggage it seems to have kicked up.

Photo credit: Patrick, via Flickr.

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Godfrey in his siege tower at the Assault on Jerusalem, July 15, 1099. By Anonymous ([1][2]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve just posted a static page on what I call the Great Neocrusade, a movement which comprises a large part of the Religious Right in the US and whose goal is to eradicate Islam from the country, and then the rest of the world. I first called attention to it — and gave it that name — some five years ago. Since then, this foolish and childish effort hasn’t abated one bit.

Along the way, Neocrusaders have done a lot of idiotic things, such as passing laws forbidding shari’a (or Islamic) law, even though the US Constitution already forbids imposing religious law on Americans. They’ve also done some much more harmful things, such as destroying mosques, and even threatening churches under construction merely because they appear to be mosques.

As a student of the Middle Ages, I know quite well how the original Crusades worked out. In short, they didn’t — at all! They were a sequence of expeditions that spanned two centuries, which collectively ended in dismal failure. Yes, I said a failure … in spite of the fact that the First Crusade had apparently succeeded, with the capture of Antioch in 1098, Jerusalem in 1099, and Tripoli in 1109. (The Crusaders also seized Edessa in 1098, but that had long been a Christian city under Armenian leadership, and they got it via betrayal rather than war. Woops!) Edessa had fallen by 1144, Jerusalem by 1187, Antioch in 1268, and Tripoli in 1289, and were at last driven from the Holy Land in 1303 with the fall of their last fort on the island of Arwad.

Undertaking a modern version of a Crusade … albeit not as overtly military as before … seems stunningly foolish — at least, to those who haven’t done what the Religious Right has done, which is to redefine the medieval Crusades as a glorious and morally-upright effort to save Christendom from annihilation (cached) by attacking Saracens thousands of miles away and who were no threat to them. Really, there’s no way a religion with as large a worldwide presence as Islam has could be eradicated from the United States. Not only is it unconstitutional even to try, it simply can’t work! No sane person ought to attempt any such thing.

But clearly we’re not dealing with people who are altogether “sane.” They’ve been driven mad by their rage, and they’re not capable of thinking clearly. They naïvely think that getting rid of Islam will get rid of terrorism and thus make them safe; but this reasoning ignores the uncomfortable reality that there’s terrorism within the ranks of Christianity in the US, which will continue even if the Neocrusaders somehow manage to toss all Muslims out of the country.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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