About Wayne A. Schneider

I'm a Liberal, Libertarian, Atheist Humanist. I believe that though the world is a dangerous place, it can be made better if we stop dividing ourselves by how we're different from each other, and reach out to each other through what we have in common. And that is that we are all human beings on this planet. Please remember that.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 26, 2014: This Week In Crazy Right Wing Libertarian Talk

Cindy Lake wants to be a commissioner in District G of Clark County, NV. And she wants to because…it’s YOUR money. Good one, Cindy Lake. A more compelling argument I’ve yet to hear. Especially from you. Cindy Lake believes she has earned an important endorsement, that of Dr. Ron Paul.

​”Cindy Lake has worked for years as a citizen to fight for limited government and more personal liberties. She has also been a great supporter of mine. I am proud to endorse Cindy Lake for the Clark County Commission in District G.”

Vote for Cindy Lake because she supports me, way over here in Texas. Now who could argue with that? Besides me? Look, Ron Paul is a Conservative Libertarian, while I’m a Liberal Libertarian. We’re as different as Milton Friedman and Mohandas K. Gandhi. Ron Paul often has the right final opinions, but often for the wrong reasons. He rightly opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not because they were based on lies and misinformation, but because he opposes using the military anywhere else in the world. He opposes giving foreign aide to Israel (which usually takes the form of loans that are forgiven, so they can buy military weapons to kill innocent children; don’t get me started on what’s going on in Gaza, because this post is about insanity in America), but that’s because he opposes foreign aid to everybody. He’s sometimes right, but for the wrong reasons. So having him endorse you is not necessarily as good a thing as you might think.

But does that alone earn her a spot in This Week In Crazy Right Wing Libertarian Talk? No, of course not. It’s her stance on fluoride and chemtrails that does. Cindy Lake says on her website that she will “work to lower water rates and improve water quality.” What she doesn’t say is what that means. She is one of those folks who believes that the fluoridation of our water is a huge government conspiracy to…you know, I’m not quite sure what the motivation would be to poison all of us systematically, but that’s what they claim the government is doing.

Don’t let the scaremongers scare you. There’s good reason to doubt them, and little reason to believe them. Just because you won’t accept evidence that your crazy theory is false doesn’t mean you’re right. And the whole nonsense with chemtrails is a good illustration of that. The problem with trying to argue against the Great Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory is that it’s about a secret government plot, so naturally there would be no proof that they’re doing it. Which makes it perfect fodder for a conspiracy theorist like Cindy Lake. But chemtrails are nothing more than ordinary condensation trails, not unlike the cloud of breath you exhale on a cold day. I ridicule the idea that the federal government is spraying chemicals on us from these high-flying planes because what would be the point of doing that? From so high up, there’s no way they can be sure that the people being targeted are the ones getting sprayed. The wind could easily push anything being sprayed twenty miles away and poison, or whatever they were trying to do, the wrong population of people. It’s an extremely unreliable way of conducting any kind of experiment. And the idea that it still might be happening because it’s theoretically possible that they could do this makes for a ludicrous proof. Just because nobody can prove it’s not happening doesn’t constitute proof that it is happening. And falling back on the “government is hiding all the evidence”-excuse does not mean you have a persuasive argument, either. There’s a very perfectly rational explanation for why there’s no proof that the government is spraying us from 30,000 feet – it isn’t really happening. And the worst thing any Democracy can do is elect people who believe this nonsense to public office. They should be getting treated by the government, not put in it.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about chemtrails, fluoridation, your precious bodily fluids, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 19, 2014: The Men Without A Country

There are people in this country (both men and women) who have gone completely off the deep end. No, I’m not talking about the state of Florida (though if there is a God, the people of Florida who voted for Rick Scott to be Governor will have some explaining to do), but of something called the Sovereign Citizens Movement. It has no organized structure and no leader. There are people, well known to other sovereign citizens, who go around the country training people in how to become one. They vary in some of the specific beliefs, but in general they feel the United States government, and just about any level of government, is not legitimate. Some of them believe…well, I think it might sound better coming from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit:

Sovereign citizens believe the government is operating outside of its jurisdiction and generally do not recognize federal, state, or local laws, policies, or governmental regulations. They subscribe to a number of conspiracy theories, including a prevalent theory which states the United States Government (USG) became bankrupt and began using citizens as collateral in trade agreements with foreign governments. They believe secret bank accounts exist at the United States (US) Department of the Treasury. These accounts can be accessed using Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Universal Commercial Code (UCC), and fraudulent financial documents. Sovereign citizens are known to travel the country conducting training seminars on debt elimination schemes. The seminars focus on obtaining funds from a secret “Strawman” account using legitimate IRS forms, UCC forms, and fraudulent financial documents. Sovereign citizens believe once the documentation is filed, they gain access to their “Strawman” account with the Treasury Department.

Like I said, completely off the deep end. A search of the FBI website for “sovereign citizens” yields 122 results. A search on the Southern Poverty Law Center website yields “over 2,500 results.” These are not people to be ignored. The SPLC has this to say about them and the origins of their movement:

The ideas of the “sovereign citizens” movement originate in the ideology of the Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic group that raged through the Midwest in the late 1970s and 1980s. Sovereign citizens claim that they are not subject to most taxes, are not citizens of the United States (but instead are “non-resident aliens”), cannot be tried for crimes in which there is no complaining victim (zoning and professional licensing violations, for instance), and are only subject to “common law courts,” a sort of people’s tribunal with no lawyers. Most refuse to obtain Social Security cards, register their vehicles, carry driver’s licenses or use zip codes; many refer to UCC-107, a part of the Uniform Commercial Code, to justify their bizarre claims; and some use weird forms of punctuation between their middle and last names in all kinds of documents. Sovereign citizens also often distinguish between so-called “14th Amendment citizens,” who are subject to federal and state governments, and themselves, who are also known as “organic citizens” — an ideology that causes adherents to claim that black people, who only became legal citizens when the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, have far fewer rights than whites. Some of the more famous adherents of sovereign citizens ideology include Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and members of the Montana Freemen.

Just how crazy are they? Get a load of this.

The sovereigns all say it started sometime during the Civil War (or its aftermath) or maybe after events in 1933 when President Roosevelt wisely took our nation off the gold standard. They’re not sure when, but they say the government that was set up by the Founding Fathers, which operated under a system of Common Law, was replaced by a secret government operating under Admiralty Law, the law of the sea and international commerce. They believe that under common law, they are free men. But under admiralty law, they are slaves and that secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping things this way. They claim that all judges are aware of this set-up, and have been deliberately denying the sovereign citizens’ legal motions, which often include placing liens on property owned by judges and government officials. But don’t worry, we haven’t gotten to the crazy part yet.

When our nation was taken off the gold standard and our money was backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States, this meant to the sovereigns that its citizens were pledged as collateral, and that our future earnings were sold to foreign investors thus, in essence, making slaves of us all. The sale happens when you are born and your birth certificate is issued and your Social Security Number obtained. The government uses the birth certificate to set up a corporate trust in the newborn’s name (a secret Treasury account), and this account is funded with anywhere form $600,000 to $20,000,000. (Again, no clear agreement about the amount.) Setting up the account is what splits the baby’s rights between its flesh-and-blood body and its corporate shell account.

So what’s their evidence for such a bizarre belief system? Well, if by “evidence” you mean “proof; something plain or clear to the sight or understanding,” they have none. What they have is another bizarre theory – the name on your birth certificate. Notice in this sample birth certificate that the name is spelled out in all capital letters. The sovereigns say this is the name of the shell corporation (or “straw man”; yes, the Sovereign Citizens Movement is based on a straw man argument), while your name spelled with normal upper and lower case letters is your “real name.” Any legal documents that refer to you in all capital letters (such as your birth certificate, driver’s license, marriage certificate, car registration, criminal court records, cable and utility bills, and even correspondence from the IRS rejecting your sovereign citizen claims) are actually referring to your corporate shell identity, and not your sovereign self. Through a process called “redemption” you can free yourself sovereign self from your corporate shell and gain access to those millions of dollars the government has in your corporate account. Though no one has ever successfully done this, they believe the secret lies in coming up with just the right words in your legal documents.

While sovereign citizens do not typically resort to actual, physical violence or gunfire, they do employ what they call “paper terrorism.” They file false liens against the property of government officials and nonsensical court documents that accomplish nothing but waste taxpayer dollars having to process them. For example, when one sovereign citizen was asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea, she responded, “I accept for value in returning for value for settlement in closure of this accounting.” (If I were the judge, I would take that as “guilty.”) After the husband was involved in a car crash, a Florida couple (who claim to be members of the Moorish Science Temple) was under investigation for filing false liens and other documents under false names. And a Michigan man is claiming that his rights do not come from the Constitution but from the Creator, and that the search warrant bearing his name in all capital letters did not refer to him. He was a convicted felon, so he wasn’t allowed to have the guns they found stashed throughout his house. At least, according to our laws, but not according to his.

Claiming to be a sovereign citizen by itself does not make one incompetent to stand trial. I’ll let the legal experts explain it:

Most psychologists and researchers believe that a sovereign citizen is not incompetent to stand trial simply by virtue of being a sovereign citizen. Although sovereign citizens’ beliefs appear to be delusional, they typically are not considered delusions sufficient for the diagnosis required for incompetence. Delusional disorder, the mental illness with which a sovereign citizen would most likely be diagnosed, requires that the belief be a non-bizarre delusion. The types of delusions that qualify for the diagnosis are personally held and could possibly happen in real life, and generally relate to the person’s perception of life events. Common examples of qualifying delusions include believing that someone is conspiring against you, or that people are talking about you. However, widely held and culturally sanctioned beliefs that might be considered delusional in other cultures, but are recognized in one’s own culture, often do not qualify for a diagnosis of delusional disorder. For example, many commonly held religious beliefs may sound delusional to some people. Although they may sound delusional, they are culturally non-native beliefs shared by many individuals and therefore not delusions. Because sovereign citizen beliefs are shared by up to, and maybe exceeding, 300,000 people, the psychologists and researchers who have studied the subject conclude that the sovereign citizen’s odd, seemingly delusional beliefs have been sanctioned and accepted by too many to be considered delusions.

To summarize, because so many people believe this nonsense, it’s not, for legal purposes, considered delusional. Just like Religion. So if not believing yourself subject to the laws of the country in which you’re standing, whose protection you’re currently enjoying, and whose public services you are using daily, is not considered delusional because the laws only apply to your corporate shell entity, which was set up by the government after you were born, as evidenced by the capital letters used to spell your “name”, then what is?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss sovereign citizens, delusions in general, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 12, 2014: Bill Me Later

Conservative Republicans in Congress are at it again. And by “it,” I mean making a mockery of Logic, Science, Common Sense, and Reality. For the life of me, I cannot understand why voters continue to send Republicans to Congress, especially Republicans who spend their entire time in Washington trying to destroy the very government in which they work. Cases in point: Senator Ted Cruz (R-La La Land), who wants to sell off public lands, and Representative Sam Graves (R-Fantasyland), who wants to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ted Cruz is one of those conservatives who does not believe in the concept of publicly owned property. From the Think Progress article:

Federal lands make up one-fifth of the nation’s landmass and over 50 percent of the land Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska. Under Cruz’s proposal, these states, which are home to some of the country’s most beloved national parks, forests, wildlife areas and iconic natural resources, would be forced to either pass the costs of managing these lands along to state taxpayers or, more likely, give them away or sell them off for mining, drilling, and logging.

And that worries me, because most of those states are run by Conservatives, and Conservatives believe in exploiting the land for its resources regardless of how much destruction they do to our habitat. I just don’t see too many of today’s Conservatives being very good Conservationists, especially the Conservative Christian ones. They believe the Bible gives them the right to take what they want from the land. (Remember, Ann Coulter said, “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.'”) Conservatives, selfish people by nature, despise anything resembling “Collectivism.” So they don’t seem to understand the concept that our government is us, it is “We the People.” We are not ruled by nobility who believe in the Divine Right of Kings. We rule ourselves, by choosing who we want to have in our governments of all levels. Granted, we don’t always make good choices (Republican voters, I’m looking in your direction; we didn’t put Ted Cruz in office), and we often don’t have the greatest of choices. In fact, for most of us, if we do have a choice it’s usually between Evil and Not-So-Evil, or Shitty and Not-So-Shitty. Bad as they are, they’re OUR choices. And when we don’t like what they’re doing, we have the means (not nearly exercised enough) of voting them out of their phony-baloney jobs. And the best part of our system of government, is that in all the years we’ve been governing ourselves, we’ve always had a peaceful transfer of power from one president, or governor, or mayor, to the next. True, there have been many presidents, governors, and mayors who were assassinated, but their assassins did not take over that person’s governing responsibilities. We’ve had no military coups. You don’t usually have that kind of government where monarchies are involved. And part of the reason for that is the very concept of The Commons, the parts of the country that belong to everybody, not just a few people, or a single person. And because public land belongs to all of those, we have to protect it from those who would rape it for its natural resources, just to make a little money for themselves.

Which is why we need an Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to punish those who destroy public lands. Otherwise, what’s the point of having public lands in the first place, if there’s no one to protect them from destruction? But Graves thinks the EPA goes too far in exercising its authority, and so he has introduced the “Stop the EPA Act.” I think Sam needs to hire a proofreader, because the very end of his appeal calls for doing the exact opposite of the bill’s name.

The EPA is putting the squeeze on small businesses and middle class Missourians. Higher costs, longer delays, tighter budgets, and bigger headaches are on the way unless the EPA is not stopped.

Sam, I think you meant “unless the EPA is stopped,” or “if the EPA is not stopped.” By saying “unless the EPA is not stopped,” you’re saying all those inconveniences will happen unless the EPA is allowed to do its job. A rant of his against the EPA said, “Our region benefits greatly from coal-generated electricity, the cheapest and most readily available form of American energy.” Not true. It’s the most profitable, maybe, but it’s not the cheapest and it’s not the most readily available. Solar power is, and it’s free, delivered to your planet daily from the Sun. But the Capitalists don’t like it because the source is infinite (for our lifetimes), and they can’t follow the normal rules of supply and demand to set a high enough price. But once they figure out a way to control it, they’ll drop coal in a heartbeat and sell us sunlight, at a premium. (“Get it while it lasts, the Sun could go supernova any day!” No, it won’t, but they’ll try to sell you on the idea that it’s somehow in limited supply. I think they’re waiting until there’s no shred of Truth in Advertising laws left.) I think Sam’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t like the idea that the Congress gave this agency the authority to set the rules by which we protect our environment. He thinks the States should be allowed to regulate their own lands, even though the impact of their decisions could easily have adverse effects on neighboring states (and often does; New York State has to deal with the ramifications of all those smoke stacks in the Midwest pumping crap into the atmosphere. If there weren’t federal authority to regulate such emissions, New York would be at the mercy of everyone west of us.) Besides, if you enjoy drinking clean water and breathing clean air, you can thank the EPA for that. I know I do.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ted Cruz, Sam Graves, that more intelligent than either of them mold spore growing behind your refrigerator, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 5, 2014: The Fault in Our Bartons

David Barton is at it again. In a span of about two minutes, the professional liar recently made several false claims, including that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is an “Atheist Mormon.” [From the audio clip on RWW's site:]

He has actually proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would re-write the First Amendment to take away original protections and limit the protections in the First Amendment.

Actually, Senator Reid didn’t propose the amendment, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall did. And campaign finance reform was not on the minds of the authors of the First Amendment, nor was it written to protect the flow of unlimited amounts of money in the federal campaign process. Senator Udall’s amendment would protect citizens from that flow.

What it also tells me is, and he’s apparently a Mormon guy, that’s fine. He is probably an atheist Mormon, Mormon in name only and the reason I say that is that so many Mormon folks are so conservative on the Constitution and such great defenders.

There is no “apparently” about it, Harry Reid IS a Mormon. (How do you like that little dismissal of Mormons – “that’s fine.”) And while it is true that Mormons as a group have the highest percentage of self-identified Conservatives and the lowest percentage of self-identified Liberals, it is not correct to call Liberals Mormons “in name only” just because they aren’t Conservative. It would be like saying soon-to-be unemployed VA Representative Eric Cantor is a Jew in name only because he’s Conservative. And it’s thoroughly hypocritical to have such a mendacious snake oil salesman who proclaims to be a Christian question someone else’s devotion to his faith. But the Gish Galloping continued.

And so, when you look at what he’s doing, the Bill of Rights is laid out in the Declaration of Independence, you start with the first belief that there’s a Creator, the second belief that the Creator gives us certain inalienable rights, the third belief in the Declaration is that government exists to protect those inalienable rights.

Where to begin? First of all, the Bill of Rights (which usually refers to the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution) is not “laid out in the Declaration of Independence.” While there are certainly references to grievances later addressed by the Bill of Rights (which was not written by the same body of people who wrote the Constitution), they are not all individually and specifically addressed. They’re pretty much ignored completely in the Articles of Confederation, written less than eighteen months after the Declaration. If the Bill of Rights were such an important part of the Declaration (as Barton implies), then why were they not mentioned at all in the Articles of Confederation, the framework for the first United States of America? As for the sequence of beliefs laid out in the Declaration, Barton is twisting things to support his erroneous agenda that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation. The first belief isn’t that “there’s a Creator” but that all men are created equal. It’s an important distinction because it’s true that all men are born equal whether or not you believe in a God. (I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe we are all born equal and that no one is born “better” than anyone else.) In fact, this line was specifically written as a refutation of the then-widely held belief by monarchs in the Divine Right of Kings. It was a message to King George III that just because he was born into a family of nobility did not mean he was better than anyone else, or that he was born with rights others did not have. It does say that government exists to secure these rights, but he leaves out an important distinction: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.” There is no dependence on God for our rights. Humans guarantee our rights with the support of other humans.

So eleven years later when the Founding Fathers did the Bill of Rights they said, hey, these are those rights that we were talking about that the government is not allowed to touch because these come from the Creator and government exists to protect rights from the Creator.

The “Founding fathers” did not “do” the Bill of Rights, the First Congress (a body of men elected after ratification of the US Constitution, which had no Bill of Rights when it was ratified) did. They were introduced by James Madison (one of the primary authors of the Constitution), but he didn’t think they were necessary, and that his primary motivation for introducing the original twelve amendments was so that they could tell their constituents who wanted them that they tried. In his introduction of the Bill of Rights, Madison made no mention of God or a Creator, nor did he reference the Declaration of Independence, nor any “God-given rights.”

So that’s why we’ve never messed with the Bill of Rights because they were always off limits to government because they came from God directly to man, they did not go through government to get here.

Actually, if you read Madison’s comments, he mentions that several States already had a Bill of Rights, and that the ones he proposed were similar to the ones in the States. It’s important to Barton that he maintain the fiction that our rights came only from God and not from an agreement among humans that people should be treated better than they have been.

If you don’t have the belief that you will answer to God for what you do, you will sell your country, you will sell your kids’ future, you will sell everything going on and that’s where we’re getting. And so it’s not just a belief in God, it’s the belief that you answer to God and you believe that, and see that’s where Harry Reid is not. You know, he may believe in God, he probably says he does; I don’t think he has any cognizance of having to answer to God for what he does.

Actually, Davey, Harry Reid doesn’t have to answer to God for what he does in Congress. He only has to answer to the people of the state of Nevada. And they continue to send him back to Congress despite the right wing crazies the Republicans run against him.

If the David Bartons of the world have any fault, it’s that they so badly want the United States to become a Theocracy that they’ll ignore the Ninth Commandment not to bear false witness (lie) about the intent of the people who threw off the shackles of oppression to declare the colonies free and independent states. And it’s up to the rest of us to stop them from succeeding. And that is best done by voting.

This is our daily open thread. Have at it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 28, 2014: Crazy, Crazy World

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the level of Crazy has gone up exponentially in recent years? Conservatives, who for decades bitched because their message wasn’t being given equal play in the news media, operate under the false notion that all viewpoints are equally valid, even though the word “valid” means something has validity, which means it’s based on the truth, which we all know is not true of many Conservative beliefs (hence, one of the primary reasons their views were not being presented in the news media.) Consequently, we no longer have any deep level discussions about the fundamental precepts of our beliefs. We all agree that the world is a dangerous place, but where Liberals feel it can be made better, Conservatives believe it will always be dangerous and, therefore, we have to look out for ourselves first. And therein lies the problem. Our views on how the problems of the world, the things that make it dangerous, should be dealt with all stem from these fundamental beliefs, which are not compatible. Liberals have a philosophy based on altruism while Conservatives have a philosophy based on selfishness. So where Liberals try to advocate for policies that benefit the world in general, Conservatives tend to advocate for the things that benefit themselves (or their loved ones.) Yet we always presume that both sides in any political debate have valid viewpoints about what to do. Clearly this is insane. The ironic thing to me is that one of the reasons I think the world continues to be dangerous for everybody is because of Conservatives and their “Screw everybody else, I come first”-mentality. Fewer conservatives in charge would equate to less danger. And FTR, religious fundamentalism is largely a Conservative viewpoint.

So should I be surprised when the loser in a recent Oklahoma Republican primary contest to be the nominee to be US Representative claimed that his opponent was ineligible to run for office (an office he has held for several terms) and that he should get his opponents votes in that primary? Aside from the fact that that’s not how it works (the votes might be nullified but they wouldn’t just be given to the opponent), his reason for claiming his opponent was ineligible was that he wasn’t human. Timothy Ray Murray claims that current US Representative Frank Lucas is actually dead, and that the entity you see claiming to be Rep Lucas is actually a robot, sent to replace the Congressman, who was hanged on a stage in the Ukraine more than a decade ago (by the World Court, no less, which is more properly known as the International Court of Justice, and which usually operates out of the Netherlands.) I suppose I should be reassured by his promise to voters that he would never own a look-alike robot. (Murray ran as a Democrat two years ago, but I don’t think he’s Liberal. Another reason why one shouldn’t assume ideology identifies party affiliation.)

I suppose also that we should be grateful that Pete Santilli isn’t running for elected office. Santilli is a conservative radio host who in the past called for a rally to shut down Washington, DC (didn’t happen; low turnout), and for the members of both the Obama and Bush families to be killed, and for Hillary Clinton to be shot in the vagina because of Benghazi (didn’t happen either; Secret Service investigated). Now he wants to shut down the border crossing just south of San Diego because of all those Central American children who tried to enter the US illegally (Obama made them do it) and because of a marine imprisoned in Mexico for accidentally crossing the border with guns. He wants people to put a copy of the Constitution in their left breast pocket and drive down to the border and shut the crossing down because “We run this freaking place!” The funny thing is if he were to take that copy of the Constitution out of his left breast pocket and read it, he would find that we don’t really run this place, we elect people to run it for us. And when we don’t like the job they’re doing, we don’t kill them, we vote them out of office. I don’t think this rally is going to be all that successful, either.

Then there’s John Wallace, Vice President of the New York Oath Keepers, who is calling for law enforcement officers to disobey orders and to fight “socialist tyranny.” Their primary complaint seems to be New York’s SAFE Act, a law passed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, that toughened gun laws. Anti-government types, who crap their pants daily in fear of the government coming to take away their guns (even the unregistered ones), don’t like laws limiting the number of bullets one can have in a gun. If they’re law-abiding citizens, what’s their problem? This idea that the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to serve as a check on our own government, with the implied threat that if we don’t like what they’re doing, we’ll violently overthrow them, needs to be squashed once and for all. The authors of the Amendment never claimed this was its main purpose, just that it was a possibly beneficial consequence of having an armed citizenry. I’m sure most of these folks never heard of the Whiskey Rebellion, or know that President George Washington used the authority of the Second Amendment to form a militia to shut down the rebellion. But they’re convinced that our government is “communist”, and that President Obama has exceeded his constitutional authority with almost every action he takes.

These people are crazy. They have little or no connection to Reality. They live in a world of their own creation inside their minds, and they demand that we believe them and that we take the actions they claim are the only way to save this nation. They need psychiatric help, not an audience.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 21, 2014: This Week In Irony

It’s funny when Conservatives go on and on about things without realizing what they say often sounds pretty ironic coming from them. Take Gary Bauer. No, really, take him. Preferably far away where we won’t have to hear him whine and complain about how Christians have it so bad in this country. I mean, did you know that out of 43 different men elected President of the United States, only 43 of them have been Christians? Talk about not having a voice in our government! I don’t object to people like Gary Bauer having a voice in our government; I object to people like Gary Bauer being listened to as if their voice had some validity to it. Conservative Christians believe a number of out-and-out false things (such as that Jesus was a Conservative like them), or that the United States, as represented by today’s Constitution, is officially a Christian nation and, therefore, our laws should be based on the Bible. This is true of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and one of their biggest concerns is that gay people will be treated as equal citizens. Of all the sins in the Bible, right-wing Christians believe homosexuality is the worst possible thing to allow in a society. I mean, I don’t hear conservatives saying there’s a problems with guns in our society when twenty elementary school kids are shot and killed by a weapon no civilian has any business owning. But let two people who have been in love with each other for more than twenty years finally get married and have the same marital rights as everyone else, and Conservative Christians start talking about the Demise of Civilization As We Know It (the “we” in this case being Conservative Christians such as themselves.) If it weren’t for the issue of gay rights, would there be anything else for them to talk about today? That’s why it was a bit surprising, to say the least, to hear Gary Bauer say that President Obama is “obsessed” with the issue of gay rights, and that the nation will be destroyed as a result. No mention is made (I’m sure) that the only reason the president has taken the actions he has is because of the actions taken by Conservative Christians to treat their fellow citizens as something less than human. If he were real, I’m sure the Jesus of the Bible would not approve.

Speaking of people that Jesus of the Bible would not approve, Whack-a-Bird Senator Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, also speaking at that same F&FC conference, told the audience, with a straight (and stern) face, to “Stop electing the village idiot!” Strangely, he seemed to have mistaken the President for his own son, but to hear a line that out of the father of one of the craziest, and most dangerous, abusers of power in our government is richly ironic. Because of Ted Cruz, a strong contender for title of Village Idiot of the US Senate, our nation was taken to the brink of fiscal disaster and punished by a downgraded credit rating. He blames the Democrats and the President because they refused to negotiate with terrorists Republicans over repealing Obamacare in exchange for continuing to fund the government. This knee-jerk reaction Conservatives have where they just say the exact opposite of the truth (often recorded for all to repeat) has not done this country any good at all.

I find Conservative Christians to be the worst hypocrites of all the Conservatives (who are generally hypocritical themselves, as they often excuse behavior from their own kind that they publicly and loudly abhor in others), because they profess to follow the teachings of someone who clearly would not approve the things they say in his name. I find it hard to believe Jesus would really preach

Seven Mountains Dominionism, which as we have noted in the past seeks to give right-wing Christians authority “over the seven forces that shape and control our culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.”

If that isn’t the ultimate in Selfishness, I don’t know what is. They want authority over your family. They want to be able to say what is and what is not permissible in the way you live as a family, the way you raise your children, the things you allow them to learn, and the religious practices you will follow. And the Republican Party embraces them, and seeks out their approval and endorsements. Because, ironically, the Republicans are all about Freedom.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss hypocritical insane Conservatives, Christian Dominionism, other contenders for Village Idiots of the US Senate, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 14, 2014: Losing Their Religion

Conservative Christians have been crying about being persecuted for a long time. It’s nothing new. You don’t hear Liberal Christians crying about being persecuted because of their faith, but that’s because they generally don’t say the kinds of things Conservative Christians say and profess it to be part of their religious beliefs! Of course there are Liberals who say stupid, hateful, anti-gay things, but they don’t usually claim them to be part of their religious beliefs. Conservatives do. And when they are called out for the stupid, hateful, anti-gay things they say, Conservatives usually claim, “I’m being persecuted because of my religious beliefs!” And that’s false, which, ironically, is a very big no-no for some of those Conservative Christians.

Christians are not being persecuted in this country (USA), no matter how much they cry and stamp their feet. Nobody is denying them the right to practice their religion. The fact that they don’t really practice their religion correctly doesn’t seem to bother them. Now I’m an atheist, but even I hear some tidbits from religious teachings. One of them was “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” Yet the vitriol we often hear from the Religious Right is directed at the gay people themselves, not what they do. And it’s clearly driven by fear. They are afraid. But of what do they have to be afraid? Is their Faith not strong enough to withstand the sight of people who do not follow their own religious beliefs? More than that, why do they talk about it all…the…time? I mean, for something that supposedly disgusts them so much that they have to speak up and say something, they seem to be dwelling on the subject far more than one would suspect. If gay sex bothers you so much, then stop thinking about gay sex. Why can’t you? Did it never occur to you that maybe God is talking to you through the gay people you meet? Do you think it might mean something to you that the gay people you personally know, maybe you work with them or they live near you, they’re very nice people, they seem to be okay, but it’s the ones you never met who are the Evil That Must Be Purged? Is there any reason to believe that the majority of the gay people you don’t know aren’t just like the really nice gay people you do know? And how do your religious beliefs about gay people (which may, or may not, be informed by the facts) apply to the really nice gay people you personally know, and possibly like?

Then there’s “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” You say that discriminating against people who don’t follow your religious beliefs is part of your religious beliefs. But if that means you have to hate your neighbor, then don’t you have to hate yourself? Actually what it means is that you love your neighbor despite the fact that he doesn’t follow the same religious practices as you. It doesn’t mean you get to say, “No, I refuse to bake your wedding cake for you because you’re gay.” It means you take their order the same as you would for any other paying customer. And if you think that amounts to a slap on the cheek, then offer the other! Jesus Christ, does an atheist have to tell you how to be a Good Christian?

You are not being persecuted! You are not being denied the right to practice your religious beliefs! You are being denied the right to discriminate, but so do your religious beliefs! Have you noticed that every single president in this country’s history has been a Christian? More than 3/4ths of this country’s population identify themselves as some form of Christian, so how is it that you feel you are a minority? The Tea Party People, who are often religious conservatives, like to speak (incorrectly) of Tyranny. But isn’t it tyrannical of the majority to impose their religious beliefs on the minority? Some of you have actually said that you believe that Freedom of Religion means the freedom to practice only Christianity. For the life of me I cannot fathom how you arrived at that belief, but it’s wrong, too. It’s not just wrong, it’s the exact opposite of what the First Amendment guarantees.

So your knowledge about the Constitution is about as shaky as your knowledge about your own Religion, yet you claim the Constitution guarantees you, and only you who practice what you think is Christianity, the right to practice that Religion (but not in a way that your religion compels you to do.) Face it, Religious Conservatives: You don’t want the right to act like Christians, you want the right to act like assholes. Well, that’s not covered by the Constitution. Unless you’re a member of Congress.

This is our daily open thread. Sorry for the delay. Whether or not you’re a Conservative Christian, I hope you can forgive me. Feel free to talk about anything you wish.

The Watering hole, Saturday, June 7, 2014: This Week In Stupid – Tony Perkins, Roy Moore, and Tucker Carlson

The other day I was at my mother’s while she watched one of the Law & Order franchises when a character said, “I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t eat.” This kind of conservative idiocy drives me up a wall because it demonstrates a complete and total lack of understanding about why we have certain laws. (And it was a cop saying it.) The government isn’t telling you what you can and can’t eat when it bans certain kinds of foods, it’s telling vendors what they can and can’t sell you, and that’s a totally different perspective. You can eat whatever you want. But you can’t sell whatever you want to somebody else to eat, especially if it might be dangerous or deadly for them. Conservatives seem to have a way of completely misrepresenting reality in their justifications for their selfish viewpoints. They aren’t interested in what’s best for everyone, only in what benefits themselves. I have some news for them: America wasn’t founded by a bunch of selfish people who only cared about themselves. It was founded by Liberals who wanted what was best for everyone.

More stupidity filled the airwaves when Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 31, 2014: How Fine Is The Line Between OK To Kill And Not OK To Kill?

This post was previously posted on Pick Wayne’s Brain.

When the Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) that it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute the insane, it was because it was felt a person who does not understand right from wrong, and would not understand their punishment or the purpose of it, should be exempt from execution. In the case of Atkins v. Virginia (2001) the SCOTUS ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person. From the link, “Moreover, the Court concluded that there was serious concern whether either justification underpinning the death penalty – retribution and deterrence of capital crimes – applies to mentally retarded offenders, due to their lessened culpability.”

I am an avowed opponent of the use of capital punishment. I do not believe it to be the proper retribution for any crime, even treason. If your justification is Genesis 9:6, you’re going to have to come up with a different one. Remember, we’re a secular nation, so what right do we have to use your religious texts to set our laws? No matter how many times I read it, I do not see the words “Judeo-Christian” in the First Amendment. You need another excuse to kill people. And make no mistake about it – if you support the use of capital punishment, then you want to see people killed. I don’t. I’m not saying there’s never a justification to take another person’s life. Self-defense where an actual danger of death or serious injury to yourself or to someone for whose protection you are responsible is one such justification. But the danger must be real, not imaginary. You can’t use deadly force because you thought the guy had a gun. Otherwise anybody could make up a story about a gun after the fact. The danger has to be real, not imaginary, and not theoretical. You can’t just imagine, or assume, that the guy has a gun and then use the fact that you observe nothing to the contrary as proof that you were right about him having a gun. If that is how you came to “believe” the guy had a gun, and the law allows that as an excuse, then the law needs to be re-written. Deductive reasoning, not inductive reasoning, must be the basis for your belief. There has to be evidence it’s true, not simply a lack of evidence that it’s false.

Unfortunately, the SCOTUS left it up the states to determine, for themselves, and as applied only to persons facing trial in those states, just who qualifies for being called “mentally retarded.” So Florida decided that you qualify for being mentally retarded if your IQ is 70 or below. No other standard required. If your IQ is 71, then you’re going to be executed. One point lower, and it would be cruel and unusual punishment to execute you. Fortunately, with Justice Anthony Kennedy batting from the left side of the plate, the SCOTUS ruled that Florida’s line was unconstitutional.

“Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the divided court. “Courts must recognize, as does the medical community, that the IQ test is imprecise.”

In other words, you’re going to have to come up with another excuse to kill people. Tell me something. Have we advanced no further than the days of the Book of Genesis to tell us right from wrong? If you read Genesis 9 carefully, you won’t find any exemptions for the insane or mentally impaired. It took a secular Constitutional Government to decide that some people should be shown more mercy than even God demanded. Does that make our Founding Fathers bad people? [Answer: No, not that. Plenty of other reasons they weren't the saintliest of men.] And I agree that they didn’t specify which types of punishment, or which types of people to whom it was applied, would be considered cruel or unusual. Being tarred and feathered and made to walk around in public was cruel, but certainly not all that unusual. Did it have to be both cruel and unusual to be unconstitutional? Yes, otherwise any kind of punishment could be considered cruel. That’s kind of the point of punishment, to do something at least a little cruel, like depriving them of daily contact with Society or their family members who aren’t in prison with them, in response to them breaking certain laws. But here’s the sick part. You can’t execute someone who’s insane or mentally retarded, but if they’re simply mentally impaired and that impairment can be overcome with medication so that the prisoner understands what’s happening, then it’s okay to kill him. As long as he knows you’re doing it and why, the state has no problem with executing him.

So if it isn’t an IQ point, where is the line between OK To Kill and Not OK To Kill? Why do some people deserve to be exempt from execution, while other people, barely any better in any meaningful way mentally, deserve to die? Where is that line? And why are we doing it? Is it suppose to deter others from doing that same crime? Is it working? The state of Texas not only sentences more people to die than any other, it actually carries those executions out. And it’s not a recent phenomenon, it’s been happening as long as capital punishment was constitutional. So it should not occur to anyone who wants to commit a capital crime in Texas that it’s unlikely they’ll ever actually be executed. They can count on it happening, sooner or later. So does the very fact that they could be executed for doing whatever they’re doing deter them from doing it anyway? Obviously not, as Texas continues to lead the nation in executions carried out. Even if you’re mentally retarded. Even if you’re innocent. So it’s not surprising that out of all the executions that have taken place since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on them, Texas has done about a third of them. It sounds to me like executing people has no deterrent effect at all. So why do it?

Retribution? Retaliation? A repayment for deeds done? If that’s so, then why execute a person just for passing state secrets to another nation? If no actual lives were lost because of the passage of that information, then why the death penalty? And if lives were lost as a result of the disclosure, I still ask why the death penalty? I do not condone what they did, and I probably don’t have a position on it one way or the other, no matter who it is. My point is that there are other, less costly ways to punish someone. I’ve had conservative friends say they supported the death penalty because they didn’t want their tax money to go to paying for them to spend their life in prison. Well, guess what? What with all the automatic appeals they’re entitled to, at our expense (both you and me), it often costs WAY more for the government to seek the death penalty than to seek life without parole. And it’s still going to take 15-20 years for that process to play out sometimes, which we’re both paying for anyway. So why bother with the added expense, which I know you hate, to the “overhead” costs anyway? How’s that helping the bottom line? If it’s money you’re looking to save, and you really don’t give a crap one way or the other if the guy’s innocent, then don’t bother with the death penalty and ask for life without parole. That way, if it turns out by some weird fluke that the guy really didn’t do it, then you won’t have the blood of an innocent man on your hands. That would bother you, wouldn’t it? I really hope so, because if the execution of a totally innocent person doesn’t make you hesitate even a little to execute the next one, then there is no hope for you. You are lost to the Dark Side, where Dick Cheney is your master.

So the threat of being killed for killing someone doesn’t deter people. And why should it? Do you think that killing people to make the point that killing people is wrong is really going to make people who want to kill people not kill people? What some of them (more than you might think) hope for is Suicide By Cop. Then they don’t have to face the rest of their life in prison. So what do you think would scare them more? Facing the death penalty, thus ending their “lifetime” in prison, or an actual lifetime in prison?

Given what you’re doing to people when you sentence them to death, given the costs both financial and spiritual, do you need to be so blood thirsty for revenge, or whatever, that you have to draw a thin distinction between someone who’s too mentally retarded to constitutionally execute, and someone who’s observably mentally retarded to some degree, but not mentally retarded enough to be exempt from execution? What about stupid people? Is stupidity an intellectual disability? Should it be a capital crime to be stupid? I’m not talking about doing stupid things, because we all do stupid things. I’m talking about committing horrible crimes because you’re just plain stupid? Do stupid people deserve to be executed more than smarter people? (I remember reading something in Reader’s Digest a long, long time ago in a bathroom far, far away. Two men were on trial for robbing a bank. The prosecutor asked an eyewitness on the stand, “Are the two men who robbed the bank in this courtroom today?” The two defendants raised their hands. Does their stupidity exempt them from execution?) Who deserves to be executed by a government willing to execute innocent people if it helps make their point? (Which, in that case, would be to keep quiet and you can get away with it.) Who are we to decide who lives and who dies? Who am I? Who are you? And if you think you have the moral right to decide who lives and who dies, where do you draw your line between those exempt from execution and those not? The answer to that, and the fact that you would allow anyone to be executed on behalf of the people at all, says more about you than you’ll ever know.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss capital punishment or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 24, 2014: Love Thy Neighbor As Thy Self Does Not Mean Love Thy Neighbor Like Thy Self

As a Liberal Atheist (no, that’s not redundant) who believes in treating others as I would like them to treat me (also known as the ethic of reciprocity; it’s a good philosophy, one that came from Plato, not Jesus), it surprises me when elected public officials who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ’s philosophies fail to interpret them correctly. One of the laws Jesus followed was Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Yet the Chesterfield County, VA, Board of Supervisors seems to believe the word “as” is the same as the word “like”.

Not content to be allowed to open their public meetings with a prayer (because nobody really means it, according to the Conservatives on the Supreme Court), the board “limited opening prayers to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions.” The county maintains an official list of local clergy from which the invitee to give the prayer is chosen, but not all religions are welcome. A local Wiccan was denied a spot on the list because it was felt that “neo-pagan” faiths do not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and that they invoke “polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” And the official county list (isn’t it a little creepy to hear of a local government keeping an “official list” of local clergy?) excludes a local Sikh organization, even though they practice “strict mono-theism.” Then there’s the problem that the list only includes ordained clergy. As the ACLU of VA and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say in their letter to the board, “The requirement that prayer-givers be ‘ordained’ is similarly problematic, as some religions do not require their clergy to be ordained, and others do not have clergy at all.” Out of curiosity, I wonder if any Muslims will be invited to say a prayer? After all, they worship the same God as the Christians and Jews. Actually, I would be surprised if there were anyone the list, because it would mean there are practicing Muslims in Conservative Virginia.

Why do Conservative Christians continue to blatantly act as though Freedom of Religion only applies to some denomination of Christianity? Why, when given an opportunity to impose their fantastic beliefs on others do they deny others the opportunity to impose their own fantastic beliefs right back to them? Why do they act as if Christianity is “under attack”? Why do they think Christians are being persecuted? Are they trying to assert that Christians aren’t being allowed into public office? Do they think that no Christian can ever get elected President of the United States, except for every single President we’ve elected, and even the one we didn’t? (No, I’m referring to Gerald R. Ford, not George W. Bush. Bush was declared the winner of an actual election thanks to voter fraud by the SCOTUS, who weren’t required to show a photo ID at the time.)

Look, I’m all for protecting your right to practice the Religion of your choice, even if that means believing in magical sky beings who don’t seem to care about human suffering. But it doesn’t mean that I have to practice it along with you. And it doesn’t mean you have a right to shove it down my throat, to borrow a common Conservative term applied to things that frighten them, or sexually arouses them, I’m not sure which. Probably both. It means you get to practice your Religion in the privacy of your own life. If you and others who believe as you do wish to gather in a privately-owned facility (such as a church, a temple, or a bar) to practice your Religion, go for it. But don’t believe for a second that the Public Square is the proper venue for Christian Evangelism (or any other kind, though few practitioners of other kinds, if any, seem to be doing it.) It’s funny to me how the Supremes said religious phrases are okay to be used by elected public servants because, in essence, nobody really means it, so nobody is trying to force their religious beliefs on you. But that’s not the point. Part of being a human is sharing experiences, and when non-Christians are being asked to publicly assert their devotion to Christ, our natural human desire to belong is challenged. Would you want to be a Christian standing in a street of Muslims all bowing down and facing Mecca to pray? Would that make you comfortable? Wouldn’t you think that, at the very least, you ought to get down on the ground, too, even if you’re just faking saying something? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be made to feel that way by others, so why do you insist on being the one doing it to others?

This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss oppressed and persecuted Christians, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 17, 2014: Fraud The Vote Story

In our last episode, we talked about a group calling itself “True The Vote.” Their motto is “equipping citizens to take a stand for free and fair elections.” They also consider themselves “the nation’s leading voters’ rights and election integrity organization.” They are big on election monitoring, and they have this belief that there is a significant problem with voter fraud in this country. “We are helping stop corruption where it can start – at the polls.” Actually that’s where it ends. It usually begins much sooner than someone walking into the polling booth, and is often done to avoid having to do just that. So, believing that requiring every voter to have a photo ID would solve the problem, they support Voter ID laws. So I do not support them. Might as well get that cleared up from the start. I’m not a journalist, I’m just a blogger with a liberal stand.

Before continuing, let’s do something True The Vote doesn’t do, and that’s point out that there are various kinds of election fraud. Not all election fraud is in-person voter fraud, where someone shows up at a polling place and illegally tries to cast a vote under a false identity. Of all the kinds of election fraud, this is probably the only kind that would be prevented by a sanctioned photo ID. A photo ID would not stop voter registration fraud, or absentee ballot fraud. Nor would it do anything to deter tampering with the results of the election. The Constitution was amended to stop the racist practice of requiring black and Native American voters to pay a poll tax before casting their votes in a federal election. The Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections “that making voter affluence an electoral standard violated the Equal Protection Clause.” You can’t make people have to pay something in order to vote. And requiring them to obtain some kind of photo ID will cost them money, one way or another. The concern is for poor people, who do have a right to vote and often cast it against political parties that favor the wealthy. Coincidentally enough, this is the same party that is trying to make it harder for poorer folks to vote, because they know whose vote they would get. It’s blindingly obvious to anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range.

To justify support for requiring photo IDs for every voter, True The Vote gives a list of incidents in 46 states meant to illustrate the existence of voter fraud, and therefore the need for photo IDs. And while each may be an example of some kind of election fraud, even voter fraud, none illustrate the kind of massive fraud Republicans say is going on that photo IDs would prevent. Strangely enough, there is so much voter fraud being committed by people casting votes for Democrats that the Republicans have managed to control the House of Representatives and most state legislatures for about a decade. So it’s really, really hard to believe that voter fraud is any kind of problem at all. In fact (a word repugnant to those who disdain thinking), if one party was committing the kind of massive fraud the Republicans say is going on, wouldn’t it make sense that that party would control the House of Representatives and most state legislatures? Hey, Republicans! We’re not the stupid ones. Even your own Rick Santorum admitted it. It’s simple, Republicans: Either there is no massive voter fraud problem, or there is one and your party is committing it.

So is the kind of voter fraud photo IDs would prevent really happening in massive numbers? Let’s look at each of True The Vote’s examples. And remember, a lot of things are wrongly called “voter fraud,” so just finding news articles about people described as being charged with “voter fraud” does not automatically qualify as valid examples. Voter fraud is, in simple terms, trying to fraudulently cast a vote. And while absentee ballots are an easy way to commit voter fraud, they are not the kind of voter fraud a photo ID would prevent. In fact, they are exactly the kind of voter fraud one would commit if one couldn’t pass the photo ID check. So right away, we can see that requiring a photo ID is more likely to increase absentee ballot voter fraud. Just saying.

Absentee ballots are the fraud committed in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut [limited free visits], Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. If your problem is with absentee ballot fraud, requiring a photo ID isn’t necessarily going to prevent that, especially when it’s elected officials doing the fraud.

Voter registration fraud, where the problem involves how voter registration efforts were done illegally, not in-person voter fraud, were the problems in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada (a constitutional issue involving ACORN which went out of business years ago), North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington,

Illegal vote solicitation or buying was the “voter fraud” committed in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. That’s a fraud committed by the candidates, not the voters involved. And I’m pretty sure they already knew the identities of the voters, so photo IDs would not have prevented those crimes.

Residency issues were the culprit in Kansas, Maine and New Hampshire. An interesting thing about the New Hampshire story is that they give figures that show voter fraud is not a serious problem. They investigated 8 cases out of about 711,000 votes cast. That’s about one fraudulent voter in 90,000. Are photo IDs needed to stop such a crime wave?

Illegal voting (which involved convicted criminals voting, or some other non-identity issue) happened in Minnesota and Tennessee. And even if a photo ID would have prevented these two crimes, does that justify requiring every citizen to present a photo ID?

Petition fraud would not have been stopped by Voter ID laws in Michigan (Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s staff committed that crime), Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The justification for having Voter ID laws in Arizona was because someone ran for office in the wrong district. I’m pretty sure no one doubted who she was. And she was the candidate, not the voter.

And the link doesn’t work for the stories about Alabama, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. It doesn’t prove your point when the link to your evidence doesn’t work. It’s like directing a shopper to an aisle that doesn’t exist. “Yes, Angus steaks at forty cents a pound are in Aisle Pi-R-Squared.”

The missing states were Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, and District of Columbia. Four of these are generally considered blue states, but apparently there is no voter fraud happening in any of those places. And Montana is usually considered a red state, but they could find no voter fraud after they elected a Democrat as governor. You would think that if the Democrats really were casting votes for dead people, or voting under a false identity, there would be a lot of it going on to give them such control over those states. So why couldn’t True The Vote find any examples from them? I don’t know, maybe because it isn’t happening on such a massive scale?

Remember, the argument the red states are making is that there is such a massive voter fraud problem that the only way to stop all this illegal voting is to require every person stepping up to the voting booth to first present an acceptable photo ID (and government-issued student photo IDs are sometimes not considered valid). Yet they are unable to come up with any evidence that the problem is that big. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that nobody ever tried to illegally cast a vote. I’m just saying that it doesn’t happen so often that the only way to prevent it is to require people who may not have acceptable photo IDs (elderly people, students, nuns) to spend money to get one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss voter fraud, True The Vote, lying conservatives, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 10, 2014: The Myth of the Voter Fraud Problem

In recent years, Republican-controlled states across the nation have enacted stricter voting laws, sometimes requiring people to possess a document they can only get at great personal expense, if they can get it at all. The justification they use is to say the new laws are necessary to combat Voter Fraud. There is something very important you need to understand about this: They’re lying. There is no “massive” voter fraud problem in this country. Period. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen from time to time, but it does not happen on a scale anywhere close to “massive.” But try telling that to James Simpson of the misnamed group Accuracy in Media. Like many on the right who decry the non-existent massive voter fraud problem, Mr. Simpson appears not to even understand what voter fraud is. Calling it an “existential threat to America” (more on that later), he cites as a blatant example of “official voter fraud” a story of how the Illinois House Legislature improperly voted approval of something they weren’t supposed to approve or even vote on. Whether or not the story itself is true is irrelevant. It was not an example at all of the kind of “voter fraud” these new laws were meant to prevent. It was just an excuse to attack the Democrats and the President (the story involved a vote on his presidential museum.) According to the Brennan Center, “voter fraud” is fraud by voters. When an individual casts ballots knowing they are ineligible to vote (or to vote at that location) in an attempt to defraud the voting system, you have voter fraud. A key aspect of what makes an act one of voter fraud is an actual attempt to cast a vote. If you aren’t actually trying to cast a vote, then whatever illegal thing you did that violated election law was probably not voter fraud.

The most common misdeed incorrectly touted as voter fraud is voter registration fraud, and it is an entirely different thing. For one thing, it does not involve an actual attempt to cast a vote, which is the only thing that can affect an election’s outcome. Registering under a false name is registration fraud. That only becomes voter fraud when you try to show up to cast a vote under that false name. And the fact of the matter is that compared to the total number of votes cast in any election it hardly ever happens. A group ironically calling itself “True The Vote” is perpetuating the lie that America has a massive voter fraud problem that justifies requiring all citizens to present a photo ID when voting. To do so, they cite examples in 46 states of voter fraud. As near as I can tell from checking a few, there’s just one example from each of these states, and they aren’t examples of the kind of voting irregularity presenting a photo ID will prevent. In their New York State example, some local Democratic party officials fraudulently filled out absentee ballots in an effort to subvert a primary. Photo IDs do nothing to prevent fraud by absentee ballot. The Louisiana example, from 2002, was of someone offering to buy a vote, and another of someone trying to bribe a voter. Again, nothing a photo ID would have stopped. The example to justify North Carolina’s recent Voter ID laws leads to a 404 error – which doesn’t prove their point at all. A search for “voter fraud” on the newspaper’s website does bring up 154 stories, but, again, nothing that a photo ID would stop. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he would not appeal a state court’s striking down of their recent unnecessarily harsh photo ID law. (This was the law about which a Republican saying it would help them win Pennsylvania, “Voter ID – done!”) In defense of the law, supporters were unable to produce a single example of in-person voter fraud, which is the only thing a photo ID might stop.

Voter ID laws were not being passed to overcome the effects of a massive voter fraud problem, and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. There is no massive voter fraud problem. Supporters of these new laws often falsely claim that we are saying voter fraud doesn’t exist, but that is also untrue. Not only do we not say it doesn’t exist (it happens once in a great while), but we are also saying that what some on the right are calling “voter fraud” has nothing to do with a voter trying to illegally cast a vote in an election. I can find many stories of voter registration fraud, often committed by Republicans trying to register voters. (They like to throw away the registrations of Democrats, which could potentially lead to that voter inadvertently attempting to vote illegally, thus actually committing voter fraud, except there was no attempt to do it knowingly.) But I cannot find any stories of massive in-person voter fraud. (The recent North Carolina story of thousands of people supposedly voting in two states is still being investigated. And if history is any judge, it was probably a mistake on the part of the person who took down the data, or an erroneous assumption about the significance of the matching voter data.) Republicans are not trying to prevent illegal fraudulent voting, they are trying to prevent legal Democratic voting. When they’re willing to accept a hunting license has proof of ID, but not a state-issued university student photo ID as equally valid, don’t try to tell me they’re only trying to prevent in-person voter fraud. You’re lying, just like them.

One more thing about this “existential threat” nonsense – BULLSHIT! It’s nothing but a buzz phrase (often used by the right, and often used as justification for supporting Israel’s policies of pre-emptive strikes) that usually refers to a theoretical threat, not an actual threat. For example, Israel will say they killed a group of people because they did something that indicates they might commit a terrorist act years down the road. That doesn’t mean they actually might do that act, just that they theoretically might. In other words, Israel uses its overactive imagination to imagine a dangerous future situation for which it takes real action today. And that’s what Republicans are doing with these voter ID laws. They are imagining something that isn’t happening, and destroying any possibility that it might happen down the road. And it is wrong. On both of them.

Think about it: If Democrats were fraudulently casting votes in as massive a number as the Republicans claim, then why don’t they control the House of Representatives or most state legislatures, like the Republicans do? The simplest explanation is that the Republicans claims aren’t true.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss voter fraud, or any other kind of GOP fraud you like, or anything else at all. Have at it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 3, 2014: Tea Party Nation of Ignorance

One day a retired US Army Colonel and World War II Veteran named Harry Riley who, to the best of my knowledge, served our nation honorably, snapped. He somehow got the idea that the United States is a tyranny, and so he has begun Operation American Spring. Their mission:

Restoration of Constitutional government, rule of law, freedom, liberty “of the people, for the people, by the people” from despotic and tyrannical federal leadership.

That was my first hint that there might be something wrong with Harry. You see, in order to have a tyranny, you have to have a tyrant. And not only is a tyrant not a whole “federal leadership,” but if President Obama really was a tyrant, all these people crying about him being a tyrant would have been silenced a long, long time ago. That’s what tyrants do. That’s not what Obama has been doing. This distorted idea that we are living in a tyranny is utterly and completely ridiculous. People need to learn that words have meanings, and they should learn what those meanings are. We are not living in a dictatorship. Nor are we living under a Fascist/Socialist government, as if living in a government of complete opposites was even possible.

As further evidence of Harry’s detachment from reality, he lists certain assumptions upon which his little rally is predicated:

Millions of Americans will participate.
American veterans and patriots are energized to end the tyranny, lawlessness, and shredding of the US Constitution.
Government is not the target, it is sound; corrupt and criminal leadership must be replaced.
Those in power will not hesitate to use force against unarmed, peaceful patriots exercising their constitutional rights.
Patriots may be killed, wounded, incarcerated.
There is no hope given today’s technology of secrecy for the effort nor do we want it secret.

Ironically, many of the things for which Obama is accused of being a tyrant were started under the previous Republican administration. At least, that’s the impression I get. Look, I’m not totally happy about some of the things Obama has done, especially those in the name of “national security.” But as far as I know, the things most of us complain about were started before he took office, and our displeasure is over the fact that these programs have been continued or even expanded. But I can’t think of anything resembling tyranny that Obama started fresh. And if Harry’s delusions were confined to Harry, our nation wouldn’t be in as much trouble as it is. The cynical say that Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the rest. And the Tea Party is a good example of why this is so.

The Tea Party Nation, headed up by Judson Phillips, is promoting Harry’s War. He’s e-mailing a column from his group’s website written by Alan Caruba, a column containing many hilariously wrong ideas about American History.

His column begins with an ad hominem attack on people who use logic in their thinking

You have to be extremely stupid to send a couple of hundred armed government agents to confiscate some bullheaded rancher’s cattle without contemplating how the rest of the nation will interpret your actions.

Actually you have to be extremely stupid to think that the federal government had no reason NOT to seize Cliven Bundy’s cattle when he was using OUR property to feed them and not paying us. Bundy owes you and me more than a million dollars in unpaid grazing fees, and despite all his court battles to overturn those fees, he has lost the war. I think this simple observation strikes at the core of what is wrong with Tea Party People. They don’t understand that the federal government is you and me. It’s not some tyrannical despot off by him or itself. If it’s not doing what we want it to do, it’s because we keep re-electing the same stupid Representatives and Senators to Congress, and the majority of them are Republicans.

But the attacks didn’t end there

What was obvious to voters who rejected Barack Obama’s run for the presidency the first and second time was the fact that he lacked any record of competency to be President. The rest voted for him because they wanted to say they helped elect the first black President of the United States and because they believed what this pathological liar said then and since.

You know, it’s an insult to suggest that the only reason we voted for Obama was so we could say we helped elect the first black President of the United States, and there was no evidence at the time that he was, or is, a pathological liar.

But we all know consistency is not a strong suit of the far right-wing

The assertion that Obama’s and Eric Holder’s actions and policies are opposed because they are black is absurd. It is an insult to everyone who voted for Obama and to the rest of us.

So it’s an insult to those of us who voted for him to say the other side opposes him because he’s black, but it’s not an insult to us to say we voted for him because he’s black. And how did Attorney General Eric Holder get into this? He was writing about Bundy’s dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, not with the Justice Department. But Tea Party People think all of the federal government is run by one person, who may be Barack Obama or Eric Holder, they’re not sure which.

And then the bizarre romantic view of American history begins

I love the notion that Cliven Bundy lives in Bunkerville. It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775. What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time. There is no way a militia with small arms can defeat the kind of arms the U.S. government can bring to bear on such a battle, but one has to admire the courage of those people who showed up to confront them. That’s quintessentially American!

Let’s look at a few lines of this.

It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775.
He must be thinking way past 1775. The British won the battle of Bunker Hill, BTW.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-battle-of-bunker-hill

What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time.
A couple of things here. First, Washington didn’t defeat the British, the French did. And we wouldn’t be Americans today if not for the French. The British surrendered to the French. And as for Washington’s victories (few though they were), even those were possible thanks to the training his men received from Baron von Steuben, who was gay. They didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell.

But then Caruba goes on to admit that the entire premise of their support for Bundy is wrong

Bundy should have paid his grazing rights fees. Other ranchers do. What he has done, however, is bring greater awareness the amount of land that the federal government owns in Nevada and elsewhere, particularly west of the Mississippi, and expose a regime that wants to intimidate Americans with force if necessary.

Okay, so they admit that Bundy didn’t pay his grazing fees, which was the entire reason the federal government took the action they did. In other words, the federal government was acting entirely lawfully! Bundy is a scofflaw. And how else does a government enforce the law except by force! Are they really that naive? I’m afraid so.

Caruba goes on to quote a Wikipedia passage, which uses deceptive and incorrect math to make an irrelevant point

According to Wikipedia, “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers America’s public lands, totaling approximately 247.3 million acres, or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state, and private lands. Most public lands are located in western states, especially Alaska. With approximately 10,000 permanent employees and close to 2,000 seasonal employees, this works out to over 21,000 acres (85 km2) per employee. The agency’s budget was $960,000,000 for 2010 ($3.79 per surface acre, $9.38 per hectare)”

If you’re going to quote how much the BLM spends per acre of land covered, why use only the 247.3 million surface acres of public land, but not the 700 million acres of substrate mineral estate, which isn’t cost-free to manage? Shouldn’t you really be dividing that $960 million by the combined acreage of about 947.3 million? Isn’t the BLM really spending about $1 per acre to do its job? And what’s with all the metric conversions? FTR, the current Wiki entry for BLM has updated numbers, but the deception of dividing the budget money against only the surface area and not the substrate remains. The History section of that page requires citations. Take what you read there for what it’s worth.

So far, Caruba has failed to make any convincing arguments about anything. But it’s hard to be certain because I’m not sure what point he’s trying to make. So he goes off in a different direction

I can understand the need for national forests and reserves, but I have concerns about those reserves that are used as an excuse to deny access to massive energy sources that lie beneath their surface. If the U.S. didn’t own most of Nevada, Bundy would not need to pay grazing fees. Most certainly, his ancestors didn’t. The other excuse, that the government is trying to protect an endangered tortoise, is just part of the environmental movement’s efforts to keep energy sources from being available to all of us. Endangered species is pure fiction.

Does Caruba not understand the concept of public land? It belongs to all of us, and that means that no privately owned corporation should be allowed to destroy the most beautiful parts of our country just to make a dollar. And the oil they’re after would be sold on the world market, thus screwing the American people of the profits exploited from the land we own. As for the remark about Bundy not needing to pay grazing fees if the feds didn’t own so much of Nevada, what happened to “Bundy should have paid his grazing rights fees. Other ranchers do.”? But the next five words confirm to me just how willfully ignorant the Tea Party People wish to remain. “Most certainly, his ancestors didn’t.” Caruba must not know how this Internet-thingy works. A simple search brings up an official history of Grazing Fees from the Bureau of Land Management itself. Actually reading that article reveals

The Federal grazing fee, which applies to Federal lands in 16 Western states on public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978.[Emphasis mine.]

No need to sound so uncertain about it, Caruba. They didn’t, because they were probably dead by the time the fees were first set. The Ignorance is further revealed by the comment that “Endangered species if pure fiction.” Tell that to the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon. Prove to us that the extinction of an entire species has no effect on the rest of the environment. And use plenty of Science in your proof. You do believe in Science, don’t you, Caruba?

Caruba still doesn’t understand what the initial Cliven bundy problem was

What worries me and many of my blogger colleagues is the prospect of a renewed effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding what is essentially a fairly minor dispute between it and Bundy. Showing some common sense, the BLM backed off its initial effort.

He stole public property for his own enrichment and he didn’t compensate us for it. This has nothing to do with private property rights.

Caruba goes back into ad hominem attack mode

I don’t think the BLM response to Bundy was exclusive to the agency. That decision needed to be sent up the line as far as the White House. Indeed, it was likely initiated by the White House.

Do you have any evidence whatsoever that the White House initiated the federal seizure of Bundy’s cattle? I’m sure they were told by the Interior Secretary that action was going to be taken in the matter, but I can;t imagine that Obama called DIS and told them to seize the cattle. Again, now naive is Caruba about how the federal government works?

If there was ever any doubt that the Tea Party movement is one of Conservatism, Caruba’s revelations about what he thinks people should fear should dispel those doubts.

Even more scary is the fact that only Fox News channel had reporters on the scene. No other major television news outlet set journalists to record the event. How much in league with the White House does the media have to be to ignore two hundred armed government agents descending on a ranch in Nevada?

Conservatism’s message is always about being fearful of change, of things that are different. When a Conservative sees something that scares him, he thinks everyone else should be just as scared as he is. Caruba and his ilk think this is a big deal, but I can;t figure out why. He admits that Bundy should have paid the fees, so why is the government’s reaction to his refusal to do so an act of tyranny and not an act of law enforcement? Don’t Conservatives like Law Enforcement? And I wouldn’t be so quick to classify the employees of Fox News as “journalists.” The media doesn’t need to be in league with the White House to rightly ignore a man desperately trying to seek attention and unlawfully avoid having to pay us a million dollars.

Next comes a meaningless threat based on simple mathematics

I suspect that a lot of Americans and most certainly those who live in the rural areas of the nation are going to remember the Bundy face-off with the BLM come the November midterm elections. While most voters are crowded into the cities on the East and West Coasts, there are a lot of others in “flyover country.”

What you suspect and what you can prove are two different things, or have you never seen an American cop show before? And if, by your own math, “most people” live on the coasts, doesn’t that mean they outnumber the “lot of others in ‘flyover country'”? So why does that matter?

Again, a lack of understanding of what’s really going on leads to another meaningless threat

When you add in all the folks who lost their healthcare insurance and others who have discovered they can’t even buy a policy until next January, that’s going to be a voting bloc that could decimate Democratic Party candidates.

This is a callback to the “If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance” fiasco, a very inexpertly worded sound bite that came back to bite them in the ass. The people who lost their health insurance did so for a variety of reasons, but the primary one was that their insurance companies refuse to alter their policies to comply with the new law, even though they had years to do so. People who claimed they liked their insurance only liked the low premiums they paid and rarely, if ever, actually used their policies. If they did, they would often find huge deductibles and small lifetime limits. They were exactly the kinds of policies against which the law was meant to protect you. As for not buying a policy until next year, how is that the Democrats’ fault? [Notice how easily the Conservatives forget the "individual responsibility" part of their philosophy.] As for those unable to get Medicaid because their Republican Governors refused to accept the federal money, that’ only helps the Democrats win more State houses.

Uh-oh, here comes that T-word again

All tyrannies over-reach at some point and we are seeing that occur in the White House. The nation is fortunate to have the House controlled by Republicans and now needs a Senate as well in order to dispense some much needed justice on behalf of Americans.

It’s not a tyranny, or you would never have been around long enough to write this column.

Caruba demonstrates his memory problem with facts

It’s going to be interesting to see how the White House responds to the May 16th “Operation American Spring” being organized to bring a million or more to Washington, D.C. to participate in an event that will demonstrate the breadth of the unhappiness that has spread since Obama’s first election and is gaining momentum since his second.

Actually Riley is hoping to bring ten million people to Washington. You should try to learn to read for comprehension. The unhappiness is only among the people who believe the kind of nonsense and untruths the Tea Party People believe. Cliven Bundy is not a hero, he’s a criminal trying to rip you off personally.

Finally, Caruba ends with more paranoid speculation

The White House response will tell us all a lot about its current state of thought. Whatever it has in mind is likely to leak before the event. The best thing about Washington, D.C. is its inability to keep a secret. The worst thing is the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

Why would the White House respond to an event that hasn’t happened yet, and is unlikely to be as big a deal as the organizers hope? And just what kind of response do they really think they’ll get if they behave as peacefully as they claim they intend to behave? We really need to stop giving the tea Party People a platform. Because they simply do not know what they’re talking about, and they’re so clearly afraid. They need medicine, not a microphone.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 26, 2014: The Binary Bundy

It started with a story about grazing fees and ended up being a story about racism, as often happens with stories in America these days. Nevada cattle rancher Ted Cloven Cliven Bundy became the darling of right-wing media when federal agents seized his cattle for Bundy’s refusal to pay more than a million dollars in grazing fees and penalties. Supporters claimed it was an overreach of federal authority, despite the fact that courts have upheld the government’s actions at every step. Things were gearing up to finally have a national discussion on the role of government in our lives (a key and overlooked component in the disagreement between Liberals and Conservatives), when Bundy opened his mouth and talked about something other than property rights.

via Media Matters

After initially denying he ever mentioned picking cotton, Bundy made things worse for himself by trying to invoke the names of Rosa Parks and the Rev Martin Luther King, Jr., in defending his use of the term “Negroes.

via CNN

The clip above ends with Bundy claiming he’s not prejudiced, after screwing up completely what Prejudice is by saying “we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.” No, Mr. Bundy, when we talk about prejudice we’re talking about exactly that – pre-judging – and all of us, myself included, are guilty of it to one degree or another. All of us look at other people and based often on nothing more than what we see, we make value judgments about them. And the primary thing we want to determine first and foremost is, “Is this person a threat to me?” That’s natural survival instinct and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what goes on in the mind after the determination that it’s safe to walk past that person that gets people in trouble. Prejudice isn’t about exercising what we think or feel, it’s about what we think or feel, and how we came to have those thoughts or feelings. When you see a family of black people sitting on their front porch, as a family, and immediately assume that they’re on government subsidy, you are being prejudiced. And not in a good way. Because you have no rational basis for believing what you’re thinking. I assume that when you talk about “exercising” those thoughts or feelings, it means acting on them in some way. Since your thoughts or feelings were not derived from some rational line of thought, but derived instead from your erroneous prejudices, I can’t allow you to act on them without consequence. That’s not denying you your freedom, that’s protecting innocent people from your ignorance. And his prejudice didn’t end there. He went on to say, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.” Really, Bundy? Is that how you view black people? They’re either in jail or picking cotton?

What concerns me is the tendency for conservative-minded people like Bundy to engage in either/or binary-type thinking. If you’re a young black man, you’re either in jail or in a cotton field. Nothing else. No other options available. Either you’re a totally free individual or you’re dependent on the government for help. I love that one because most of our American way of life is only possible because of government activities, not least of which is police, fire, and military services keeping us safe and free to pursue our individual happiness. So I don’t understand this obsession with Freedom being a complete and total severance of any government authority over you. You might think that’s what the “free” part of a Free Society is, but it isn’t what the “society” part is about. Your Constitutional right to freedom is not absolute. It is limited to what Society says it is. And Government is the vehicle Society uses to ensure it remains Free. So we are all, to one extent or another, dependent on government. To pretend otherwise is to live in a dream world.

Clive Davis Cliven Bundy lives in a dream world. He thinks you’re either totally right or totally wrong, with no middle ground to be even partly right. He thinks he’s right so the government is totally wrong. Never mind that the arbiters of who’s right and who’s wrong have decided that the Government is totally right and Bundy is totally wrong. He’s just decided that the federal government is illegitimate and has no authority over him or his property. In this sense, he must be referring to the cattle as property because the land in this discussion is federal property, which he feels he has every right to use free of charge. Its owners (you and me) disagree. Who do you think is right?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ted Nugent Ted Bundy Cliven Bundy or anything else you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 19, 2014: The Myth of the Never-Changing Parties

Recently I got into a Twitter argument with a Conservative who actually called the observation that the Republicans have not always been Conservative and the Democrats have not always been Liberal a “bullshit liberal lie.” Then he called the Democrats “the party of the KKK.” Then he said I was the one who was historically ignorant. Okay, so he’s hurling around “KKK” like it’s an epithet (which it is), but apparently he doesn’t know that neo-confederates in the South consider Nathan Bedford Forrest a hero and the work of the Ku Klux Klan to be “social justice.” (Not everyone agrees. I side with the SPLC on this one.) So is being a member and early leader of the KKK a bad thing to Conservatives or not? If the KKK was a good thing, then why throw out the connection between Democrats and the Klan as a bad thing? If you’re proud of the work of the Klan, then you should be proud of Democrats, not contemptuous of everything any Democrat has ever done. Cognitive dissonance has never been seen as a bad thing by Conservatives. They don’t know the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.” (Seriously, they can’t possibly know given how steeped in hypocrisy they are.)

How do you debate political issues with someone who is obviously so historically ignorant about Politics in America? How do you discuss where America ought to go as a nation with people who think that because they were Republicans, that Lincoln (used Big Government to put down a rebellion) and Eisenhower (used Big Government to build the Interstate Highway System) were staunch Conservatives, or that Nixon (started the Environmental Protection Agency) or Reagan (raised taxes seven times; granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants) could ever get the Republican nomination today? To today’s Republican party, the word “Liberal” is the worst thing you cold call someone. Yet accuse a Republican from today of being against every social advancement and you hear them defend their party by pointing out all the things Liberal Republicans did for the country, back in the time when Liberals were welcome in the Republican Party.

Marsh Blackburn is one of the latest examples. From the article:

As we mentioned above, she wants to be clear that the GOP has led the charge for women’s equality. Let’s hear the whole quote:
“I find this war on women rhetoric almost silly,” Blackburn said Sunday, when asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if Republicans were against equal pay for women. “It is Republicans that have led the fight for women’s equality. Go back through history — and look at who was the first woman to vote, to get elected to office, to go to Congress, four out of five governors.”

Okay, let’s do that. because when you’re trying to make a point, one would think (if one did think) that facts would matter. And remember, she’s touting the achievements of Republicans in the past as evidence that Republicans of today are not waging a war on women.

Go back through history — and look at who was the first woman to vote,
Woman were allowed to vote in some parts of this country long before the 19th Amendment was ratified. Women in New Jersey had the right to vote from 1776-1807. But while they did record that women voted, they never recorded the time of day each person voted, so it is impossible to know with what political party the first woman to vote was registered. But since the Republican Party was founded in 1854, it wasn’t them. The first woman to vote under the 19th Amendment was from a family of Democrats.

to get elected to office,
The first woman elected to any political office in the United States was Susanna M. Salter. She was elected Mayor of Argonia, Kansas, from 1887-1888, and she was a member of the Prohibition Party. And while the remnants of today’s Prohibition Party are very conservative, back in Salter’s time it was more progressive. (Prohibition was a movement by progressives. Ironically, if it weren’t for Conservatives, I could probably get by without needing a drink.) So, again, not a Republican.

to go to Congress,
Yes on this one. Jeannette Rankin was, indeed, the first woman elected to Congress and a Republican. Her first term was in 1917, before passage of the 19th Amendment. And regardless of her political views then, when she was re-elected to Congress in 1940, she was more liberal in her views, and very pacifist. She voted against US entry into both World Wars. So Blackburn is 1 out of 3 so far on Republicanism, but not as good on Conservatism.

four out of five governors.
Okay, this one is hilariously wrong. The first Republican woman elected Governor of a US State was Kay Orr, who served from 1987-1991. She was also the ninth woman to serve as governor. And she was a Conservative, which is not surprising considering the year. (Specifically, that it was after passage of the Civil Rights Act, a significant point in the ideological history of the Republican Party.)

So to prove the point that Republicans are not waging a war on women, Rep Blackburn cites a list of non-related non-facts. Which is what Republicans do when you try to point out how Republicans of Today are out of touch with Americans of Today. You get to hear all about how Republicans passed the 13th Amendment ending Slavery, without hearing how opposition to it came from Conservatives. And that’s what really matters – Ideology, not party affiliation. The Republican achievements of which today’s Republicans are most proud, are the achievements of Republicans who would not be welcome in today’s Republican Party. Lincoln was not a Conservative, and the Democrats who fought against him at that time were not Liberals.

When the Democratic Party was founded, it “favored republicanism, a weak federal government, states’ rights, agrarian interests (especially Southern planters) and strict adherence to the Constitution; it opposed a national bank, close ties to Great Britain, and business and banking interests.” Sounds more like today’s Republican Party than it does today’s Democratic Party. And when LBJ got the Civil Rights Act passed, he knew that Conservative Democrats would leave the party and join the Republicans, and many of them did. The Democratic Party became more Liberal (how could it not when the Conservatives were jumping ship?) and the Republican Party be came less Liberal (on account of all those ship-jumping Conservatives) until, eventually, there were no more Liberals in the Republican Party. When Republicans proudly boast about their party’s achievements on social issues, they almost ALWAYS point to the things Liberal Republicans of the past did, not Conservative Republicans of today. In fact, the only Conservative Republican achievement of which I ever hear them brag is the Hyde Amendment, named after Mr. Edward Hyde Sen. Henry Hyde, which banned federal spending for abortion. Ironically, the same person I mentioned in the beginning of this, who thought the idea that the two major political parties had switched ideologies over time was bullshit, also refused to believe the Hyde Amendment existed, or understand what it did. And that’s who we’re dealing with. People who refuse to debate the issues based on actual verifiable facts, which proved that things did or did not happen.

In Classical Logic, a false premise can imply anything because a statement of the form If p, then q is False only when p is True and q is False. Otherwise it is True. Today is Saturday, so the statement “If today is Thursday, then I am the King of Norway” is True because it is false that it is Thursday. So it doesn’t matter what the rest says. Until Thursday rolls around and I am revealed not to be the duly recognized King of Norway, it is a True statement. So when Conservatives trot out their False premises for their “logic,” they’re often, technically, making True statements. And you can’t prove they’re making False statements until the premises upon which their arguments are made are True, and the conclusions they drew were False. Yet even when they’re proved quite wrong, it doesn’t seem to stop them from making the same claims. For example, Conservatives like to claim that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy and create jobs. And this was their justification for cutting taxes in the first few years of the Bush Administration, despite the fact that we had just gone to war before the second round of cuts. No country in the History of Civilization had ever cut taxes in a time of war, until the United States did in 2003. And despite all the money the folks at the top were keeping for themselves, they didn’t use it to create jobs, and the unemployment rate was on its way up by the time they left office. Doesn’t stop them from arguing that tax cuts for the rich create jobs. Sadly, people like the Conservative I debated on the Twitter believe them.

This is our daily open thread. Have fun with it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 12, 2014: Religion Gone Mad

I do honestly believe it is your right, in both the Constitutional and Moral sense, to hold whatever religious beliefs you want inside your own head. You can even exercise those beliefs provided your actions cause no harm to others. I’ll even go so far as to say that, as a private citizen, you have a right to try peacefully to persuade others that your religious beliefs hold a shred of validity. But what you do not have a right to do, in neither the Constitutional nor Moral sense, is force others to accept, or even worse follow, your religious beliefs. And as long as I draw breath in my body, it will always be that way in this country. It ought to be that way around the world.

Now I won’t sit here and say that Religion has never done any Good anywhere in the world. It’s clearly not true. [NOTE: Before continuing, however, I want to make clear that unless otherwise explicitly stated, when I speak of Religion in this post, I am speaking of those Religions which involve the worship of one or more Deities, of varying strengths, abilities, and fetishes.] Throughout history, many people have been motivated by their religious beliefs to treat their fellow human beings with compassion, or to seek an explanation for how things work. Sadly, and undeniably, Religion has motivated people to perform horribly unspeakable acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings, all in the name of pleasing their particular Deity of Choice. And that’s the dark side of Religion that we Americans don’t like to discuss – the Evil that Men do in the name of Religion. People have been killed because someone else thought they worshiped the wrong gods. Which is really kind of stupid when you think about it, something those religiously-inspired murderers rarely did. These religions often require one to forsake any other gods and worship only a specific one, and not to worship the other gods which they acknowledge exist. They then teach that this one specific god was the one who created everything (including, apparently, all those other powerful gods you aren’t supposed to worship), or that while other gods existed, this one was the only one capable of creating the planet on which we all live. (Some religions – okay maybe just the one – claim that their God proudly claims to be a “jealous God,” but that Jealously is still a mortal sin for human beings because, I don’t know, it’s bad? But okay for a God to have. It’s not just hypocritical, it’s illogical. God is telling you there’s something really bad about Him. But he loves you, and he won’t ever, ever hurt you again. By Flood, anyway.)

Our Constitution prohibits our Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of Religion. It also extends that protection for the People to each of the States so that no state can pass a law respecting an establishment of Religion. (After all, what would be the point of being an American Citizen with the religious liberty to worship as one pleases if the state within which one lives can force one to practice a different religion?) That same Constitution requires any person holding any office of public trust in the United States, before entering office, to take an oath to support and defend that same Constitution. (I took such an oath. To my knowledge, belief and practice, it had no expiration date.) So it’s reasonable to expect that a person taking such an oath would familiarize him or herself with that same Constitution. So as to not do something stupid like this.

The Great State of South Carolina (which holds the record for most Civil Wars started in our country), has advanced a bill (Pregnant Women’s Protection Act) in a Senate committee that would expand their state’s ill-conceived Stand Your Ground Law to protect unborn children, defined as having started from conception. Opponents argue that the bill is unnecessary, as pregnant women already have the right to use deadly force in self-defense, but proponents claim that this bill is intended to extend that right to the fetus, on the theory that there are things you could do to a pregnant woman that might not be deadly to her, but might be for the unborn fetus. Here’s where I have a problem with the bill (besides its existence).

The bill the panel approved also includes a definition of “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”

Regardless of what its advocates claim, this is nothing but a backdoor attempt to deny women their right to an abortion. And the people that want to do that, almost to a person, want to do so because of their religious beliefs. They are the ones who claim that Life begins at conception, and that the unborn should have the same Constitutional rights as the born. This is absurd. They would be granting rights outside the authorization of the Constitution. It clearly states that all persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein the reside. The key word there, the only one that matters in any discussion of rights, is “born.” You have to be born to have any rights as an American citizen. I recently caught a repeat of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit involving the theft of frozen embryos by activists who felt Life begins at conception. The Assistant District Attorney pointed out that in New York State, Life begins at a baby’s first breath, which is why you couldn’t prosecute a woman for murder who had a stillborn baby (a lesson, BTW, some other states need to learn.) This bill undeniably is an attempt to impose a religious view on the citizens of a state, whether or not they practice that religion. And it is morally reprehensible.

Speaking of morally reprehensible, the Great State of Louisiana is moving forward with making “the Bible” the official book of the state of Louisiana. The bill doesn’t say which version of the Bible would be the official one, because a previous version of the bill that did so met objections from some lawmakers.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn’t designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

“It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” he told the House committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”

Except that it is. What Conservative Christians often forget is that not everybody thinks or believes as they do. And they forget that other religions do not refer to their holy books as “the Bible.” In fact, that’s pretty much limited to Christianity (in most of its myriad forms.) Jews do not follow a Bible, nor do Muslims. So saying your state’s “official book” is a sacred text specific to one form of religion is endorsing that religion. How could it not be? When you make something your “official book,” you are, by definition, choosing it to the exclusion of all other books, religious or not. That’s the whole point of making it “official.” It’s like saying your state’s official bird is “the web-footed bird,” but not any specific web-footed bird, then trying to say you’re not endorsing aquatic fowl over all other forms of bird. Of course you are. And if the Constitution read “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of bird,” your official state bird would be unconstitutional. And you couldn’t say it’s not to the exclusion of all other birds (because it is), and you couldn’t say it’s not an endorsement of any particular kind of bird, because it is.

Your religious freedom ends at my body. You have no right, neither Constitutional nor Moral, to force me to accept your religious beliefs as valid or irrefutable. And you have no right to force me to live by those religious beliefs. So stop trying to do so.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom, Stand Your Ground, bibles, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 5, 2014: Tea Party Nonsense – Again

Two and a quarter centuries later and some people still do not understand the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment means that we have a Separation of Church and State in this country. And it’s important enough to capitalize it that way: Separation of Church and State. I don’t know how many people realize this but unlike many other countries (including some of our closest allies), the United States by design does not have an official religion. And that’s precisely why no one, not even the government, can force you to worship his God. That doesn’t make us Godless Communists; it means we have a diversity of religious thought in this country. (Which begs the question, “How could any of them be right?” But that’s a topic for another post, as my grandmother used to say. She was very forward-thinking for someone who died twenty years before Al Gore invented the internet.) So I get a little nervous when people start claiming that God is on their side. Because some of the worst atrocities in human history were committed by people who thought that God was on their side.

Howard Kooligan of the Tea Party Express is someone who makes me nervous. Not only does he claim that God is on his side (well, on the side of the Tea Party People), he also opposes the efforts of some of us on the Left to reduce income inequality. The thing is, not only is his rationale completely Biblical, it’s completely wrong.

I think it’s very important that churches get involved and that Christians follow the dictates of biblical principles in casting their vote. I think it’s clear that God has a position on many of the things we deem political today, from life to theft to the doctrine of covetousness, which by the way seems to be the promotion of the left. You know, they talk about ‘income inequality,’ well what is that but covetousness? So how could somebody support that cause if they’re biblical believing Christians?

He’s totally wrong. We don’t covet the wealth of the 1%-ers, some of whom pay a lower effective tax rate on their millions in unearned income than I pay on the money I busted my ass to make. We recognize that too much wealth accumulated in the hands of a few people is not only bad for the economy, it’s bad for Society. We feel that they should be taxed much higher on any new income they make, especially unearned income such as money from investments and stock trading. But we don’t want the money for ourselves, as Kooligan wrongly presumes. We want it used to help people less fortunate than ourselves. We want it used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. We want it used to bolster our public education system, because why should knowledge only be for the privileged? Sure, we could all use the extra money (since we’re not the billionaires who don’t need the money), but we on the Left know that there are plenty of people out there who need it more than we do. But unlike many on the Right, we’re not greedy. Liberals believe in Cooperation over Competition. And many of us Liberals, including those who believe in God, believe that we must solve Humanity’s problems ourselves, and not wish for divine intervention. Did God ever stop a war started in His name?

That’s why Rick Scarborough of Tea Party Unity scares me. He has no interest in Humanity working out its problems. He wants help straight from the top.

If we do our part then I’m confident that the God of Heaven will intervene. This country has been on the brink of complete disaster and collapse in several occasions in our national history. During the Roaring Twenties, socially this country was on the brink and deserved judgment; go back during the pre-Civil War era when we were buying and selling human beings, we deserved God’s judgment. But there was always a thread of Christians active in politics who didn’t lose sight of the prize and did what they could and God intervened, and that’s what I pray for and work for in this latter period of our national history. No matter what we do, if God doesn’t intervene the country is lost. But I know this, all the prayers in the world won’t change this country and God’s not going to act if those of us who I call the remnant don’t get involved, pay the price, like you’re doing, so I encourage you to continue doing that.

First of all, isn’t “the God of Heaven” a redundant thing for a good Christian to say? After all, the First Commandment pretty much settles the issue of which God they worship. Do Christians believe in any other gods, that are located in places other than Heaven? They’re not supposed to, so why say it like that? Second of all, the Great Depression which followed the Roaring Twenties was not the judgment of God but the result of Conservative fiscal policies. And, third, how could anyone who supposedly read his Bible believe that God opposed the buying and selling of human beings? There’s all kinds of advice about slaves in the Bible including how to get them, how much you can beat them (if they survive a day or two, you’re okay), and how much sex you can have with your female slaves. Do we really want the Supreme Being who came up with that to be the one who “saves” us? No thanks. I’ll take my chances with the secular human crowd. They’re free on weekends.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the idiots of the tea party, or any other topic you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 29, 2014: Ah, No

A new movie has Christian Conservatives up in arms because of its alleged inaccuracies. It’s called “Noah” and it’s the story of a young boy whose obsession with words leads him to write a novel that redefines the meanings of words commonly in use at the time and — and I am being told that this is not what the movie is about after all. Then it must be the one about the man who works for a shadowy company that tracks people with special abilities — and I’m being told this isn’t the story, either. Ah, I know. It’s got all these right-wingers upset, so it must be the story of a shadowy government agency that tracks weather patterns and tries to warn people that the average overall planet’s surface temperature is rising — and I’m being told that’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then what’s this one about? The what? Are you sure? Okay, if you say so. Apparently it’s the story of a man who signed up for AARP and — what? Not AARP? Ark? He signed up for an Ark? That makes no sense. Oh, he built an Ark after getting a DM from God. Why would he do that? Read my what? Oh, alright, if you insist.

According to Le Bib (or, as the Gangsters call it, the Bible), Noah was a 600-year-old righteous man chosen by God to build an Ark of a specific size, for the purpose of rescuing a sample of all living land and air animals from a flood He was about to bring upon the Earth, wiping out all living things (except, I presume, the fish.) A version of the original story (certainly not the original version itself) can be found in the Authorized King James Version (AKJV) of the Bible, in Genesis. Chapter 5 gives Noah’s genealogy from Adam (God’s alleged Creation), which tells us that this story takes place about 4,400 years ago, if you believe the earth is about 6,000 years old. It also means it takes place about 2,400 years before the birth of Jesus. Why this movie should bother Christians so much baffles me. It’s not their story. And if you want other non-believers to think the God you worship is an all-loving God, you don’t want to draw attention to this story. God is so fed up with Humanity that he’s going to kill them all and start over with Noah’s family. Why would you believe He wouldn’t kill everyone again? You say it’s because God promised he wouldn’t do that again? That’s not the way I read it, but more on that later.

This two-and-a-half hour movie (which I have not seen, but whose contents I base on the reviews I cite) is based on Genesis Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9. The main complaint of the Right Wing Christian Reviewers (they’re so much alike they might as well belong to a formal organization with that name) is that the Darren Aronofsky film Noah is not true to the story in the Bible. Well, at least the Bible we presume they mean. They never seem to say which one. And as much as I hate to admit it, they’re right. Debbie Schlussel says a better title would be Not Noah. Erick Erickson is not kidding when he says it was “one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a very long time,” and that he’s “Not sure it is worth it for anyone who takes the Bible seriously.” And Ben Shapiro calls it a “perversely Pagan mess.” And they are correct that the short story of Noah that I read in the Bible (Yes, we Atheists do have access to Bibles, as evidenced above) said nothing about warriors battling Noah for a place on his Ark, or of giant stone creatures, or of Methuselah having magical powers. It doesn’t really say much of anything, really. The gist of the story is summarized in Chapter 6. Flood coming, start building. Animals gathering, start loading. Rains pouring, start praying. Storms passing, start looking. Waters receding, start living. Throw in some really awesome special effects (which, when you get right down to it, is the entire point of the movie) and you’ve got a Hollywood movie. Of about twenty minutes. Of course they had to pad it with things not strictly found in the Bible. They could have been a little more in line with the original story. I’m pretty sure Noah’s sons were not named Ham, Eggs, and Bacon. (BTW, why would a vegetarian – Noah is depicted in the film as a vegetarian – name his son ‘Ham’? For that matter, why would anyone who practiced a religion that proscribed pork name one of their children ‘Ham’? But I digress.) And the Biblical Noah did not have a Ford F-150 to help him haul lumber around. And Home Depot did not donate an apron for Noah to wear with pockets for nails. But these are minor things. Okay, I made those last few things up.

What also bothers the RWCR is that the word “God” is not mentioned once in the movie. Oh, does that irk them. Noah makes reference to the Creator, but never calls him God or any other particular name. And this seems to bother them a lot. But if you;re going to make a claim that a movie is not faithful enough to the original book, you should be absolutely certain you have your facts right. Assuming we’re talking about facts. Perhaps “details” would be a better choice of word. Schlussel says that Noah was 500 years old when he began the Ark. Not correct. Noah was 500 when he started having children. He was 600 when he started building the Ark. And Shapiro says that God promised never to destroy Humanity again. That’s not how I read it. There are the thoughts God had to himself, and there’s the words of the Covenant he spoke to Noah. And what he told Noah was that He would never flood the Earth again. That doesn’t mean he won’t do something else, like let the temperature rise so much that the planet became uninhabitable for humans.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 22, 2014: Will Creationists Never Get It?

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an Atheist, and happy and proud to be one. I believe that our portion of the Space-Time Continuum came into being as the result of a Big bang, an explosion of matter and energy that rapidly expanded, and eventually formed the many, many galaxies of which our own is just one. I said “Space-Time Continuum” instead of “Universe” because I believe there are many, many Universes, spread far apart from one another. The Space-Time Continuum is just the framework within which everything happened, happens, and will happen. It is infinite in size, and infinite in time. It has always existed and it will always exist, but the matter and energy within it will constantly change. It was not brought into existence by anything, it was already there. Matter and energy may be turned into each other, but the infinite framework will still be there. Many religions that believe in a God have a Creation Myth. The one in the Christian Bible is not the only one, but that’s the one that religious conservatives want to see imposed on everyone. Their Creation Myth begins with three simple words, “In the beginning…” And that’s where the Bible and I part company. Because as far as I’m concerned, there was no beginning. People erroneously believe there MUST have been a First Cause, some kind of Force that brought everything into existence. I disagree. You want to tell me that the Space-Time Continuum Framework was entirely empty before some kind of Deity decided to start making stuff in it? For how long must that Deity, that all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing Deity, have sat around in a whole bunch of Nothingness? That makes absolutely no sense at all. None. What makes much more sense is that there was no beginning, that it was always there in some form or another. And it will still be there long after we all turn to star dust. Wouldn’t that imply that Life has no purpose? Yeah, but so what? In the wise words of Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, “Who said Life is fair?”

Which brings us to the Creationists of Answers In Genesis. They still don’t understand the concept of Science. They’re upset because Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the revival of “Cosmos,” won’t allow “balance” and present the view of the anti-Evolutionists. They seem to think that any effort to educate the public about things like the Truth, using such controversial tactics as citing Facts, must be balanced by teaching things what could only be described as “Falsehoods” and “Lies.” They seem to think that young people should be taught all points of view, no matter how absurd or demonstrably false, and then let them “decide” what they want to believe. This is how you raise a generation of stupid people. And stupid people tend to be conservative in their thinking (a well-documented fact), and stupid, I mean, conservative, in their voting. This has always been part of the long term strategy of the Right. People who don’t understand how Science works, who think that every point of view is valid, tend to be easily manipulated emotionally into being afraid. And people who are afraid make bad decisions, like voting for Conservatives to govern them. Which is why the Conservatives let the Religious Right have their way, no matter how wrong, no matter how intellectually void of merit their ideas, no matter how unconstitutional their proposed legislation.

Creationists continue to insist that their views be given equal weight with Scientific viewpoints and Theories. But there is absolutely nothing scientific about Creationism or Intelligent Design. They start with the premise that God exists, and assume that anything that isn’t understood is the Will of God and Not For Mere Mortals to Understand. That is not Science. How can you test any hypothesis when you hope the result is that you can’t discern the answer, so it must be God’s work? Even more, Creationism isn’t even a true Theory in the scientific sense. It’s nothing more than a belief that things happened a certain way, on the whim and time scale of a Power we can’t hope to understand, with no allowance for any belief otherwise. Why should that be given equal weight with the culmination of hundreds of years of scientific discipline and pursuit of the Truth? Especially when it’s been long proven that the Religious views on the nature of the Universe have been proven wrong time and again? The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Earth is not the center of the galaxy, let alone the Universe. We are no more important in the Grand Scheme of Things than the people living on a planet circling Alpha Centauri. And they probably think the same thing about us. And you know what? We’re both right.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Creationism, real Science, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else about Neil deGrasse Tyson that you like.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 17, 2014: Why All The Hate?

If you’re like me, not only are you incredibly smart and good-looking, you wonder why so many people on the Right hate, just viscerally hate, the President of the United States. The knee-jerk reaction is to say it’s because the Haters are (Insert Randomly Insignificant Criterion Here) and the President is Not, and that for most of the haters, the randomly inserted insignificant criterion would be race. Not necessarily. There’s a lot of people who hate the president, and there’s certainly a chunk of them with an IQ well below the three-digit range who think the color of his skin is reason enough to hate him. Thankfully, despite this group’s inability to grasp the concept of birth control, Natural Selection will prevent them from becoming a majority in this country. But they don’t account for all the Haters. Some of the Haters claim to be Christians who think the President is Not One of Them. They think he’s a Muslim. What’s really funny about that one is that these are the same people who said Obama shouldn’t be President because he sat in the pews of a Christian church for 20 years listening to the hate speech of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Well, Uptighty Righties, which is it? Is Obama a Muslim, or a Christian who listened to a kind of hate speech that differs from your own? None of your other reasons to hate him make sense, either. At least, none of the reasons coming from the Right. Some of us on the Left certainly have our problems with a number of areas of his Governance, but we don’t hate him for it. We’re disappointed as all get-out, but we don’t hate him. But you do. Why?

I hear many of you claim he’s a “Communist,” a “Marxist,” and even a “Fascist,” all at once. And I laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll start shaking my head in sadness until I’m overcome by sobbing fits, despondent over the intense stupidity of my fellow human beings. You can’t be a Marxist and a Fascist at the same time, and if you don’t know enough about them to understand why, you should really stay out of the political arena. I would also not only recommend, I would beg you to stay home on Election Day, or least don’t go near the polls to cast a vote. Your political awareness is on par with that of sea urchins, who are at least smart enough not to advertise their ignorance. I just can’t see how America’s best interests are served by letting you have a say in who governs it. But you’ll notice (or, more likely, I’ll have to point out to you) that I’m not calling for you to not be allowed to vote. That’s how many on your side of the political aisle solve an issue like that. If they don’t like the way they think someone is likely to vote, they make up some bullshit reason to deny him the right to vote at all. Our side doesn’t do that, nor do we put out fliers telling you the election is being held on another day. We just ask you to do what’s best for your country, and don’t vote until you learn what you’re talking about.

You can’t govern a country based on denying rights to the people who aren’t like you, especially when about 75% of the country is not like you! This is a Republic, and you are a small percentage of its citizens. We don’t need to put anybody in Congress who thinks like you because there’s something wrong with the way you think. You need mental health treatment. And we hope you’ll be happy to learn it’s covered thanks to Obamacare.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss what you think we should do about all the Haters, or anything else you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 8, 2014: Forward March

We used to say, “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to help us remember which way to change our clocks during our semi-annual, Unnecessary Activity of the Year. But we no longer change clocks in the Spring, we do it a couple of weeks earlier. So now we might as well say, “Forward March, Fall Down.” But why do we even bother to do it? Whose brilliant idea was it? Does it even do what it’s supposed to do? Is there a better way?

The answers are: Supposedly, to save energy. Ben Franklin, sort of. That depends on where you live and what you wanted it to do. Yes, yes there is.

Save Your Energy
According to a great article in National Geographic, it’s supposed to save on energy, but the results are mixed on that. In some states Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 1, 2014: Time Check

With a week to go until the unnecessary onset of Daylight Savings Time (we’ll talk about that next Saturday), it may have crossed your mind to wonder just how your smart phone knows what time it is. After all, it probably came out of the package knowing the time and date, and you didn’t do that. (I don’t know how they look when you get them, because I don’t own a smart phone, or anything like it, and likely never will.) Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for United States Naval Observatory’s Time Services, explains how in this fascinating video.

None of this would be possible, of course, if not for Science, the vigorously-tested, well-documented study of how things work, and how they can theoretically be made to work better. Without a strong foundation in Science, Humanity cannot face the problems our planet, and our species, will endure. The overall average temperature of the planet is slowly rising. Most of the ten hottest years on record have been within the last ten years. This is undeniable. It is also undeniable that human activity (specifically, but not limited to, the excessive burning of fossil fuels) is a contributing factor to this very real warming trend. Those of you out there who’ve been paying attention understand the ripple effect a warming atmosphere has on the climate, and how it changes the weather to certain parts of the globe. It’s a problem all of Humanity must face, not just Americans. But the United States must be a leader in confronting these facts. The climate is changing, and denying that this is so is not being a part of the solution, it’s being an asshole.

So it doesn’t help that the Republicans have make a mockery of Science by appointing to the Science Committees in both Houses people who do not believe in Science. One of them, Dr. Paul Broun, an alleged doctor, and a potential future Senator, once called Evolution (among other things), “…lies straight from the pit of Hell.” Senator James Inhofe thankfully doesn’t sit on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, but he does sit on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, from which he published his own argument that while the climate is indeed changing, as it often has, he says

Today, even saying there is scientific disagreement over global warming is itself controversial. But anyone who pays even cursory attention to the issue understands that scientists vigorously disagree over whether human activities are responsible for global warming, or whether those activities will precipitate apocalyptic natural
disasters.

In all fairness, it should be noted that he receives a lot of campaign financing from the oil and gas industry, just in case you thought his opinion was arrived at intellectually. He’s also one of those folks who think that humans couldn’t possibly be destroying the planet because God promised us after the Great Flood that he wouldn’t destroy the planet again. He doesn’t seem to understand that humans can destroy the planet without the help of any gods.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 24, 2014: Tom DeLay’s Bug Spray-Induced Delusion

It seems former Representative Tom DeLay (R-Greed), who ran for Congress because he felt the banning of DDT would unfairly hurt his pest control business, has been sniffing his bug-spraying chemicals again. In a recent interview with Pastor Matthew Hagee, (we all know Major) Tom claimed that God wrote our Constitution, and that it was based on Biblical principles. You know, that part of the Bible that said that if you wanted to amend the Bible, you needed the consent of two-thirds of the Congress, and three-fourths of the states. And gay men can be stoned. He also bragged about sealing off the Capitol Rotunda so that Members of Congress could pray together. I don’t think Tommy understands the concept of Separation of Church and State. Among other concepts.

Please believe me when I tell you that there is absolutely no truth to the David-Barton-fueled rumor that the United States, under its current Constitution, was founded as a Christian nation. None whatsoever. The United States is, and was since the day the U.S. Constitution was ratified (a document written by, and for, men; okay, white men; okay, white land-owning men; but not by any god), a secular nation. Let no one tell you differently. Especially if they’ve made a career of inhaling bug-spraying chemicals, and liked it.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Tom DeLay, bug sprays you’ve inhaled, or any other topic you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 15, 2014, The Myth of the One Percent

If you’re like me, you probably never heard of Tom Perkins before this week. And you’re sitting at your computer naked. Tom Perkins, it turns out, who I’m sure has never heard of you or me, is what they call a “venture capitalist.” They invest in other companies, sometimes saving them and turning them into profitable companies, sometimes stripping them of their assets and taking the money for themselves, and sometimes they provide seed money for companies that eventually become hugely successful behemoths like Amazon and Google, which is what Tommy’s little venture capital firm did. And he got rich…er. We know this is true by virtue of the fact that Tommy is still, to this day, a venture capitalist. Otherwise he’d be what we call “broke.” And because he made so much money doing whatever the hell it is that he does, he thinks he’s better than you or me. So much better that he actually wrote to the Wall Street Journal to tell them that the “attacks” on the top 1%-ers were just like Kristallnacht, except for the bloodshed and the part where the top 1%-ers were gunned down in the homes into which they were forced to move. But otherwise just like that. Which is absolutely ridiculous as evidenced by the fact that he’s alive to bitch and moan about how he’s treated.

I missed it at the time (not being a consumer of the Rupert Murdoch Propaganda Dissemination Machine), but he apparently took a lot of flak for those comments. The flak must not have bothered him because in a recent interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, he told the audience that “I think the parallel holds.” (He neglected to add “minus the bloodshed and gunfire.”) This happened at a Q&A session titled “The War on the 1%.”

Asked to offer one idea that could change the world, Perkins proposed a change to Americans’ voting rights: “You don’t get to vote unless you pay $1 in taxes…If you pay $1 million in taxes, you should get a million votes. How’s that?” (In an interview after the forum, Perkins said he was simply “trying to be outrageous.”)

In all fairness when you watch him say that, he does kind of sort of look like he’s trying to be a little over the top, but he also reminds me of “Victor/Victoria,” the story of a woman, pretending to be man, pretending to be a woman. He meant it, but he was only joking, but he really did mean it. And he would be surprised to learn just how wrong he is, too.

You see, he’s wrong because he thinks such a proposal (as given) would take away the right to vote for the 47%-ers, the ones the RW capitalists think pay no taxes at all because they pay no federal income taxes. And they pay no federal income taxes because they earn too little to have to pay federal income tax. But that doesn’t mean they pay no taxes at all. If they drive they buy gas, and so they pay gasoline taxes. They also pay sales taxes on at least some of their purchases throughout the year. So it’s quite plain that they pay at least “$1 in taxes,” so they would still get to vote under the Perkins Plan. But that’s not the only thing he was wrong about.

He also said that “if Germany had American gun laws, there would have never been a Hitler.” Now, if by that he meant that had Germany had a Constitution which guaranteed some kind of right to own and carry (i.e., “keep and bear”) guns, then maybe he would be right. Maybe. But like many gun rights advocates, Perkins probably falsely believed that Hitler took away gun rights. Actually, the opposite is true. Hitler expanded gun rights and only took them away from a few. And considering that the German army had more than just guns (they had tanks, planes, and, for a while at least, submarines), it’s hard to believe the Jews could have fought their way out of Germany to find a home elsewhere. This is just lazy, NRA-style thinking.

He was also wrong when he defended Capitalism by saying, “Look, free-market capitalism, it’s what has created most of the wealth in the world, and it’s the only way to proceed. Free. Market. Capitalism.” That’s really a stupid thing to say when you apply some thought to it. You’re using a measuring rod (wealth) that only applies to one system (Capitalism) to measure how well that system (Capitalism) does at this one measure (creating wealth.) That’s like saying “American-style football is the best way to score touchdowns.” Other economic systems do not have excessive wealth as one of their goals, so naturally you won’t find many people excessively wealthy in those systems. And that’s actually a good thing and a goal we should have here in the United States. You see, Capitalism only works when money circulates throughout the system. When I sell you something, I use part of the money you give me to pay the vendor from whom I purchased what I sold you. I also use part of it to buy something for myself from another vendor. That vendor, in turn, pays his vendor for what I bought from him, and uses the leftover money to buy something else for himself. And so on and so on. (I’m not an Economics professor, so we’re not going to go into all the complicated things rich people exploit to increase their cut of these transactions.) Somewhere along the way, sometimes at many places along the way, people in the top 1% get their cut of these transactions. Except they’re not spending their cut, because they already have so much money they don’t need to spend it. As Nick Hanauer explained in his TED talk, those who make a thousand times as much money each year as you do not buy a thousand times as many things as you.

Perky also tried to gain sympathy for people in his wealth stratosphere saying, ”I don’t think people have any idea what the 1 percent is actually contributing to America.” To that I need only say two words, “Koch Brothers.”

To which Perky would answer that they’re suffering from “persecution,” and that our nation’s progressive tax code is “persecution” of the wealthy. Not at all. When this country had a real progressive tax code (back when we had the last fiscally conservative Republican President, a man known as Dwight David “Ike the Spike” Eisenhower), high tax rates kept income inequality in check. When we hear the rich paid 91% in taxes back in 1960, it wasn’t 91% on every dollar they earned. It was 91% on every dollar they earned above $300,000. It was 83% on income between $100,000 and $150,000. [For proper perspective, a head of household paid 20% tax on income up to $2,000, and it went up about 1-4% for every $2,000 for a while. Then the cutoff levels increased between tax brackets until you reached 91% on all income above $300,000. On a total income of $2,000, you would pay $400 in income tax, leaving you $1,600 for your other expenses in life. People actually lived on that kind of income back then. On total income of $400,000 (and there were people making that kind of money, and even more), you would pay $326,480 in income taxes, leaving you a mere $73,520 on which to support your family. And remember, you could get by on only $1,600, so there was really no reason to bitch and complain because an additional $100,000 of income brought you only $9,000 after taxes. At that point, you could already have anything you wanted - short of what the super-duper-uber-rich had - and you probably didn't even notice that extra money.] It may sound like punishment if you were the type who felt you should have every dollar of income you “earned,” but in reality it helped keep our country back then from turning into what our country has become now – a land where having billions of dollars puts you in control of practically everyone else’s lives. Back in 1960, we decided that you, as an individual not elected to govern, should not have that much power over people’s lives. We weren’t going to take everything, but we were also going to make sure you didn’t end up with everything. Because then the money wouldn’t flow and the economy would collapse.

And speaking of income inequality, Perky wouldn’t go there. After calling the government “a giant beast which has to be fed,” he claimed taxes would have to go “up and up and up.” (Really? Did his accountant tell him how much less in taxes he started paying when Bush cut taxes in 2001?) But when he was reminded that government financing helped create the Internets (“It’s a series of tubes.”) that helped make him wealthy, he shot back, “Adam, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m not going to go there.” You see, there are incredibly wealthy people, like Tom Perkins, who think that they owe nobody for the vast amount of wealth they’ve managed to accumulate in life, one way or another. They think of themselves as “self-made millionaires.” The reality is that there is no such thing in this country as a self-made millionaire. Whether you did it legally or illegally, every dollar you earned was done within the framework of a Liberal Society that provided both the foundation and some of the building blocks that make it possible for you to make that money. You didn’t build the roads you used to move your goods around. You didn’t hire, train, and headquarter the police forces you relied on to protect you and your business. You didn’t create the education system and hire the teachers it uses to train the people you would hire to do the things you can’t do yourself. You didn’t get rich by yourself; you did it with our help. So you are not entitled to “every dollar you earned.” In fact, when your other business ventures failed before this one took off, you didn’t end up on your own. We were there to help you out, even to help you get started on the business that did make you rich.

And you rich people are not the true job creators, a myth the Republican party you bought and own has been spreading for decades. You don’t create jobs, you create businesses that supply consumers (most of them middle class) with goods or services they want. (And sometimes people who have nothing start those businesses.) If consumers don’t want what you have to offer, you’re not going to keep employing people to do nothing, so you’re going to fire them. That doesn’t make you a job creator at all. So stop acting like the country owes you a favor.

So to all you Tom Perkins in the world, get over yourselves. You’re not more important than the rest of us, and you don’t deserve to have more of a say in who governs this country than we do. You get one vote. We all get one vote. And whether or not you choose to believe it, the world can get along just fine without you, Tom Perkins. Do you really think you can get along without us?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 8, 2014: Why Republican Religiosity is Wrong

According to my dictionary, the definition of “fact” is

n. 1. the quality of existing or of being real; actuality; truth.
2. something known to exist or have happened.
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation.

Facts are important. When Reality offers a challenge, you must deal with facts if you’re going to solve the problem. You can’t solve a real problem if you ignore the facts, or worse, try to act as if the opposite were true. Now look at the definition of “belief”:

n. 1. something believed; an opinion or conviction.
2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to vigorous proof.
3. confidence, faith, or trust.
4. a religious tenet or tenets

Notice the difference between these two words. Facts have the quality of being real and actual, where beliefs do not require any reality or actuality. You can believe something with all your heart but it won’t make it a fact if it’s not actually true. Beliefs can be wrong (and often are), but facts, by their very definition, cannot be wrong, because they are what is true, what actually happened. When it comes to education, you cannot treat belief as equal to fact. You cannot give an opinion or conviction equal weight with something real, actual or true. It may, in the long run, turn out that what someone believes is true, but that doesn’t justify teaching it as an actual fact, reliable as anything based on scientific evidence or experiment. Just because you believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean everyone else should be taught your belief as it were an actual fact. Especially, and I cannot emphasize this enough, if your belief is a religious one.

There are many Americans (far, far too many, IMHO) who believe that The Bible is factually true, that it is literally the Word of God, and that it should be taught in public schools. I have yet to hear any of these proponents specify which version of the Bible should be considered “The” Bible, and this, in itself, is problematic for me. Not so much that people can’t decide which version of the Bible they want taught in public schools, but that there are so many versions of the “literal Word of God” in the first place from which a choice must be made. They’re all different in some way or else there wouldn’t be different versions. But how can any one of them claim to be the literal Word of God if they differ? And just because King James I commissioned a new version of The Bible which he hoped would replace the one then currently in widespread use, why should that version be given any more credibility than any other version? It’s not because the King said so, as James did not make any order or proclamation that this version of The Bible be used in place of any other. It might interest you to know that the Geneva Bible, the one eventually supplanted by the KJV, was even more popular among the Pilgrims than the KJV. So when enthusiastic Conservative Christians claim America was founded on the principles of “The Bible,” it’s important to know which version they mean. But I digress.

In Missouri, Republicans want belief to be given equal authority to fact. A second-term State Representative, Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), has introduced a bill that would allow parents to pull their children out of classes where evolution is being taught. “What my bill would do is it would allow parents to opt out of natural selection teaching,” Brattin explained. “It would not prohibit the child from going through biology from learning about cell structure, DNA and the building blocks of life.” Mr. Brattin has been trying for several years to get Intelligent Design taught in high school science classes as an alternative theory to Darwin’s theories about Natural Selection. This despite the fact (there’s that important word) that courts have consistently ruled against public schools teaching Intelligent Design as Science because it’s nothing more than Creationism dressed up in a sexier framework. [A quick word about Natural Selection. Its advocacy of "survival of the fittest" does not, as its opponents often say, mean "survival of the strongest." Rather it means survival of the species most suited - i.e., "fit" - for a given environment. If the edible leaves on the plants are higher up on the tree, the species that can reach them are more likely to survive and pass on their physical characteristics to their offspring than the ones who can't reach them as easily. It has nothing to do with strength, but with suitability to one's environment. The species that thrive, survive, and the ones that don't, won't.]

No matter how they try to disguise it, Intelligent Design is nothing more than Creationism, and Creationism is nothing but Religion, and Christianity in particular. And it’s a violation of the First Amendment to require publicly financed schools to adhere to any particular religion, even Christianity. It doesn’t matter that it’s the most popular religion in the United States, it’s still a religion and it still violates the Separation of Church and State to endorse any one over the other. You might believe it’s true, but you can’t prove it through any scientific methods, and that’s the primary reason it has no place in a Science class room. Evolution, on the other hand, has testable hypotheses and is constantly being confirmed by new findings and evidence. If you have to infect the minds of the young with something as ridiculous as Intelligent Design (its main argument seems to be that you can’t prove it’s wrong, and the fact that you can’t explain every aspect of Evolution somehow proves that Intelligent Design is right, as if the only two choices were a 100% understanding of everything that ever happened or blind acceptance that a God designed and made everything and that this is the reason you can’t understand it), then a Philosophy or Religion or Study Hall class might be the more appropriate place. But you do not teach Creationism as Science when it is anything but. People should be free to believe it if they wish (though they’re wasting their time and lives doing so), but it shouldn’t be public policy that every child in school be taught that this particular Religion is as true as Science.

But if you think that the Science class is the only place where Republican Christians want their religious beliefs to decide all aspects of our lives, think again. Not only does Mary Helen Sears of Houghton Count, Michigan, claim that Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia,” but she also believes homosexuals prey on children, that “Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit” and that Republicans “as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.” Why does it matter what she thinks? Because she’s a candidate for a Michigan seat in the Republican National Committee. And she would join a man the party chairman asked to resign “for the good of the party” for his anti-gay comments. He would not do so, and due to specific party rules about representation on the national committee, a seat for only a woman was opened when a woman on the committee stepped down to concentrate on her Senate campaign. The funny thing about this anti-homosexual strain in today’s GOP is that there is no universal agreement on whether not the Bible bans homosexuality. Listening to the anti-gay crowd, you’d think the Bible was filled cover-to-cover with anti-homosexual pronouncements, but in truth there are only seven passages in the Bible that mention the subject, and not one of them is associated with Jesus! (Nor Satan, for that matter.) Why these folks think the Bible is more concerned with male homosexuality (lesbianism is not actually condemned outright anywhere in the Bible) than it is with income inequality or helping the poor is beyond me, and it is dangerous for America if they are given any kind of political power. Having your opinion influenced by Biblical teachings (whatever they may be) is one thing, but having those beliefs carved in stone by them is something altogether different. And it’s dangerous for Americans to put people who think this way in positions of political power in the secular United States of America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.