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, December 13, 2014: Lazy Day

I just got back from the dentist and boy, are my arms tired! But seriously, Jokes. It’s just one of those lazy days for me, my seventh this week. So, rather than go into one of my patented long, rambling rants about Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 6, 2014: Who’s Condemning Me Now?

Catholic League President and Professional Crybaby Bill Donohue has a diaper load again, and now he’s flinging its contents onto billboards near Hollywood. In his never-ending, never-logically-sound quest to convince the world that American Christians are being persecuted here at home, the self-appointed Defender of the Faith has launched a billboard campaign to bemoan the fact that not everybody thinks Catholics are swell.

NOT ALL CHRISTIAN HATERS ARE EQUAL:
ABROAD WE’RE BEHEADED
AT HOME WE’RE BASHED
THE DIFFERENCES ARE PROFOUND;
SO ARE THE SIMILARITIES
HAVE A PEACEFUL AND JOYOUS CHRISTMAS

He goes on to explain: “No, the Hollywood moguls who disrespect Christians are not the same as radical Muslims who behead us, but both are full of hate. Moreover, both need to be challenged. Christians are fed up with the barbarians abroad and the bigots at home. It’s time all these bullies learned to practice the virtue of tolerance and the meaning of diversity.” What Pope Billy fails to understand is that he’s the one who’s intolerant of us atheists and non-Christians. He’s the one who fails “to practice the virtue of tolerance and the meaning of diversity.” Furthermore, on this issue of “the Muslims who behead us” and the “barbarians abroad,” he is ignoring the fact that the criminals acting under the false cover of religious practice are beheading not just Catholics, but anyone who isn’t Muslim. Christians are not being singled out; Jews are being beheaded, too. To frame this as an attack on Catholicism is to completely misrepresent the reality of the situation. And as for “the bigots at home,” Bill-Do’ is confusing the enforcement of secular laws regarding public displays with denial of a right to practice one’s religion, such as by having public property used to display celebrations of your religious faith only. It’s not just Christian religious displays that can’t be posted on public property (that is, property which belongs just as much to me as it does to you), it’s religious displays of any religion. They are framing this in exactly the reverse of the reality of the situation, yet again. Despite this insistence on denying reality, it’s we atheists and non-Christians who are mentally ill, according to His Own Eminence.

“They believe Freedom is license to do whatever you want. [1] That’s why they’re quote ‘non-judgmental,’ they made a judgment when they made-themselves non-judgmental. [2] They believe in no holds barred. [3] They don’t like the three dreaded words in the English language, that we got from our Jewish friends, ‘Thou. Shalt. Not.'[4] They don’t want to be told anything, [5] which is why they die prematurely, they’re unhappy, that’s why we have a disproportionate number of agnostics and atheists in the asylum [6], all of this is true. [7]”

[1] No we don’t.
[2] The idea of saying you’re being ‘judgmental’ by claiming to be ‘non-judgmental’ is like saying you’re not ‘tolerant’ if you don’t tolerate our intolerance. It’s stupid. And we don’t say we’re ‘non-judgmental.’ It’s you who say we say it.
[3] No we don’t. Quite the opposite, we believe in fairness by banning fraudulent business practices, and other such restrictions. It’s Conservatives (like Donohue) who believe in no holds barred.
[4] Our Jewish friends didn’t say it in English. King James gave us those words.
[5] To quote Justice Alito, “Not true.” To quote Representative Joe Wilson, “That’s a lie!”
[6] Not according to this article.
[7] Not it isn’t.

He then goes on to plug his book which he says proves that religious people are happier. But you know the old saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” so you’d think Bill Donohue would be a much happier man. Instead he’s just a bitter Catholic bigot, distraught that more and more younger people are turning away from religion and refusing to be told to live by its rules. And that’s true freedom.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss, politely or not, Bill Donohue, his Catholic League, the non-existence of Christian persecution, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 29, 2014: Debunking Right-Wingers Is Exhausting

Most weeks I like to check out the good people at Right Wing Watch to see what the loonies in Conservative World (where good times go to be publicly denounced as immorally anti-Christian) are up to, or down to, depending on your perspective. I have to tell you, it can be exhausting. And that’s from me, not the good people who actually delve into their world to report back to us so we may be properly warned. It just boggles my mind how distorted their view of Reality is. And thanks to a well-funded right-wing movement dedicated to ensuring their views are treated as being equally valid with more thoughtful, reality-based thinking, these people have had conferred upon them a credibility they should otherwise lack. Because they’re nuts. There’s no other explanation for it.

Take Dr. Ben Carson, for example. No, please, take him. Far away. While discussing race in America, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Dr. Carson if things were “going to get worse” before they get better, and he responded with a true statement followed by a false one. He said, “I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race.” The first part was true in the sense that things were not as bad in 2008 as they are now, but the second part is totally off base, and an indication of how conservative minds think. The president isn’t the one who emphasizes race in everything, at least not from the comments I’ve heard him make as president. (I’ve never read his books, so I can’t speak to how much he emphasized race before 2008.) But if he gets asked about it more often than the forty-two white men who preceded him at his job, maybe it’s because he can offer a point of view his predecessors lacked. And maybe it’s because racial incidents are on the rise since our nation elected its first black president. But to ascribe these things to President Obama’s “emphasis on race” is to totally twist the reality of the situation. Carson then lied to explain how he came to that conclusion. Referencing the Henry Louis Gates incident (in which a college professor was arrested for trying to break into his own home, when he was in fact trying to open a stuck front door), Carson claims Obama said that the police “always do this kind of thing”. Actually what Obama said was that the Cambridge Police acted “stupidly.” Referencing the president’s comments about how if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin, how is that not taking a “balanced, objective look at things”? Is there some merit to the belief that if Obama had a son, he would be white? Why do conservatives feel the truth must be “balanced” with something? Like what, totally delusional thinking? Ever since the election of FDR, Conservatives have been trying to get their viewpoints treated as anything other than the selfish, greedy, me-first kind of thinking they represent. (You can read a partial transcript of Hewitt’s interview with Carson here, but then you might accidentally read my reply to some delusional Christian in the comments section.)

Now that you’ve taken Ben Carson away from me, take Representative Peter King (R-NY) with him. King, who is an ardent supporter of the Irish Republican Army (the first terrorist group I remember hearing about growing up), thinks that Officer Darren Wilson has been getting a totally bad rap just because he shot an unarmed young black man out of complete fear and didn’t even get indicted for it. So Wilson should get invited to the White House, so the president can thank him for doing his job. Yeah, Steve Benen (who wrote the article to which I linked) couldn’t believe it, either. But he has a link to video of the Congressman saying this. The problem with that suggestion, of course, is that it’s not the job of a police officer to kill unarmed people from down the street, nor is it the job of a prosecutor to find a way to prevent that cop from being charged with a crime for doing so, but that’s what happened in Missouri. I mean, it’s not as though Officer Wilson was visiting Washington, DC, and did the Secret Service’s job by stopping a White House intruder (by shooting him from down the street), so why should he be invited to the White House? In typical Conservative fashion, King wants to make heroes out of people who kill other people for no valid reason. (Face the truth. Officer Darren Wilson’s life was never in danger, he only thought it might be. And that should not be sufficient grounds to use deadly force.) Conservatives love to step up and support cops who kill people for not obeying orders, because in their warped minds, failure to obey a police officer is a capital offense, punishable by an immediate execution. IOW, do what you’re told or die.

And while you’re taking away Ben Carson and Peter king, please take away all those Conservatives who think the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Pilgrims’ triumph over Socialism. I’ll let the author of the article explain:

The storyline goes like this: The early settlers at Plymouth at first experimented with a system of collective ownership of farmland, which, as with their compatriots at Jamestown, led to widespread famine. When they eventually abandoned this system in favor of private ownership, farmers were more productive, the harvest was bountiful, and a feast was held in celebration. Pass the stuffing!

As usual when it comes to Conservative interpretations of reality, it’s completely wrong and misses the point entirely! The first Thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful harvest was in 1621. The Pilgrims abandoned their Collective Course strategy in 1623. And they didn’t do it because of widespread famine (which contradicts the idea that their first harvest was bountiful) but because they wanted to make more money. It’s true that one reason they abandoned the Common Course was because there were bachelors who didn’t want to work for the benefit of other men’s wives and families, and there were women who objected to washing the bachelors’ clothes. This had more to do with the fact that these early settlers were not all from one town in England, but from all over the country. This was also at a time when people rarely traveled more than ten miles form their homes.

Communal farming arrangements were common in the pilgrims’ day. Many of the towns they came from in England were run according to the “open-field” system, in which the land holdings of a manor are divided into strips to be harvested by tenant farmers. As Nick Bunker writes in 2010’s Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World, “Open field farming was not some kind of communism. All the villagers were tenants of the landlord.”

There was no local baron in Plymouth, but it was a commercial project as much as a religious one, and the colonists still had to answer to their investors back in England. It was this, not socialist ideals, that accounted for the common course. Bunker writes, “Far from being a commune, the Mayflower was a common stock: the very words employed in the contract. All the land in the Plymouth Colony, its houses, its tools, and its trading profits (if they appeared) were to belong to a joint-stock company owned by the shareholders as a whole.”

He continues: “Under the terms of the contract … for the first seven years no individual settler could own a plot of land. To ensure that each farmer received his fair share of good or bad land, the slices were rotated each year, but this was counterproductive. Nobody had any reason to put in extra hours and effort to improve a plot if next season another family received the benefit.”

The Pilgrims’ unhappiness with this arrangement was not a rejection of Socialism, but of the corporate rules under which they had to live. You’ll never hear Conservatives talk about the early European settlers in this country that way – as anti-corporation.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish, but preferably not right-wing distortions of reality, thank you.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 22, 2014: This Week in Paranoia: Facts vs. Freakery on Obama’s Immigration Reforms

President Barack Obama announced earlier in the week that he would later be announcing several reforms to the immigration system, largely because Republicans have been reluctant to pass anything in the House to address the issue. So, as he has said many times before in an ultimately failed effort to spur the House to pass the bill the Senate sent them, the president said that if Congress failed to act, he would. They didn’t, so he did, and now they’re totally freaking out. They’re claiming they now have grounds for impeachment (actually, some of them said this before he made the official announcement, based on nothing more than their own imagination about what the president would actually say) because the president is trying to ignite a civil war, and that citizens must resist “by any means necessary” any attempt to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, and that it’s all part of a plot to not only guarantee millions of future Democratic voters, but to turn the United States into a Third World country and because now there will be all kinds of voter fraud (you just know it.) None of these fears are reality-based.

The calls for impeachment really crack me up because they were coming before the president’s announcement, and many were citing the president’s proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants as the primary charge against him. Former Florida Congressman (and current “Where Are They Now File” resident) Allen West told Newsmax, “It will be the president saying, ‘You know, I want to violate the Constitution and grant amnesty to people who are here illegally.'” Family Research Council President and Anal Sex Expert Tony Perkins said, in his very roundabout way, “What the president is about to do on amnesty is essentially tell, using his authority as the chief executive, the president, to the executive branch, Homeland Security, immigration, not to enforce the law, which is a violation of his oath to uphold the law.” Eagle Forum founder and former female Phyllis Schlafly thinks that amnesty by executive action constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor.

There are at least three things obviously wrong with these allegations. First, at the time each of these people made these remarks, the president had not actually announced his plan, and when he did, it didn’t include amnesty. The right wing is really afraid of that word – “amnesty.” They talk about it all the time as if granting it to millions of people whose only crime was in the way they entered the country would bring about the end of the United States of America. They talk about it it as if it’s the worst abuse of power a president could commit (including, apparently, lying us into a costly, unnecessary war). They talk about it as if it’s the most un-American thing a president could do. So their fears about amnesty are unfounded because the president wasn’t proposing any. Second, it is actually totally within the president’s constitutional authority to grant amnesty to millions of people who entered the country illegally. The president can grant amnesty to anyone he or she desires. The president can also selectively enforce the law and decide which laws won’t be as aggressively prosecuted as others, since there isn’t enough funding to enforce all the laws anyway. It doesn’t mean a succeeding president can’t prosecute if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired, so it isn’t the same as amnesty, which would deny prosecution later. By the way, the president’s oath says he will faithfully execute the office of president, not “uphold the law.” Executing the duties of the president sometimes involves deciding when to prosecute someone and when not to. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush granted amnesty to former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger for his criminal role in the previous administration’s plan to sell arms to terrorists in exchange for hostages. (A plan which, for the record, Bush later wrote in his memoirs that he was the only one who knew everything that was going on with the arms-for-hostages deal to raise money to illegally give to rebel fighters in Central America.) And third (speaking of Reagan), former President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Care to comment on that example of un-American activity by a president, Right Wing? If you like some facts to chew on, check out this great post at PoliticusUsa.

That’s just the crazy people talking about impeaching the president for executing a constitutional authority he actually has but didn’t actually use. Check out the link to see who thinks we’re headed for civil war, how the vote is getting rigged while simultaneously increasing voter fraud. And the good people at Think Progress (with whom I’ve had many exchanges over the years) have found other people going similarly crazy over Obama’s use of executive authority (which he is constitutionally required to do.) There’s a lot of sadly misinformed people out there, and some of them are members of the Legislative Branch in our Federal Government. I think you should be very concerned about that. You can start by looking at your own state legislatures, where many of these people got their start. To undo Republican gerrymandering, we have to take back the state legislatures by 2020, so we can control the drawing of Congressional District maps, which is the only way we’ll ever take back the House of Representatives. And we have to get rid of electronic voting, which can easily be rigged and manipulated, and very likely has in some key races in recent years. It is not secure, and it can easily change election results to anyone in power who wants to stay there. Paper ballots are the best way. They don’t take that long to count, and the results can easily be verified and re-counted as needed. Only then can we restore Democracy to America.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss crazy paranoid right wingers serving in our government, or any other topic you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 8, 2014: That Was No Mandate

If you’ve been paying any attention to right wing media this week (and I hope for your sake you’re well paid to do so), you’ve been hearing the “M”-word thrown around a lot – “Mandate.” Conservatives running the gamut from Hannity to Ingraham to Limbaugh to Rove (okay, maybe that’s not the whole gamut; maybe it’s just B-flat to C-flat) have been claiming that the Republican gains in Congress Tuesday night represent a mandate to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “the reason so many people have health insurance when they couldn’t get it before, or, “Obamacare” for short.) Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, they’ve been telling a lot of lies to make their point.

Writing an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (I won’t link to it since it’s subscription, but the MMFA article has one), Karl Rove claims that the results proved Americans’ “disgust with a six-year liberal experiment.” Yet just one week before, the very same publication ran a story saying the ACA was not a major issue with voters, and that only eight percent of voters rated it the most important issue factoring into their vote. Laura Ingraham just flat out said the election results indicates that the country hates Obamacare, wants to repeal it and replace it with something else. Again, this is an opinion not supported by the facts. A recent Rasmussen poll indicated only 39% support for repealing the ACA, and the last time I looked, 39% was less than half. Sean Hannity also reached the delusion that the election proved Americans hate the ACA (conservative Americans do, but they hate everything, don’t they?), and suggested that even if Obama vetoes a bill to repeal the ACA, they should try to go after it piecemeal, as if the president won’t notice provisions in all these bills reaching his desk trying to roll back some of his signature legislation. (Logic doesn’t work on Hannity, so he assumes it doesn’t work on anybody else, either.) And Rush Limbaugh tried to claim that opposition to Obama’s policies was the will of the people and that, “There is no other reason why Republicans were elected yesterday.” Actually, Rush, there’s the little-mentioned matter of severe Gerrymandering on the part of the Republicans. If not for that, they could not have won control of the House this decade. It is, in fact, the single biggest reason we need to get Liberals and Progressives to get out and vote every single year, ESPECIALLY in their statewide elections. We need to turn state legislatures blue before the 2020 census so they can redraw the districts in a way that better reflects the will of the people in those districts. Only about 36% of the electorate turned out to vote this year, and low voter turnout almost always favors Republicans.

And that’s another reason this was no mandate. Less than 40% of the nation showed up to vote. You cannot claim that these 40% spoke for the entire nation, or that the results of their votes reflect some misguided notion that Americans want Republican policies to govern. They don’t. If anything, conservative policies (and the candidates that support them) are more of a turnoff to voters than liberal ones. Two states and the District of Columbia put pot legalization on the ballot and it won in all three. Californians passed sentencing reform for non-violent low-level crimes. New Jersey voters passed bail reform, to make sure only the dangerous ones are held on bail pending trial. And voters in Washington “both approved a measure to close a loophole in firearms background checks, and rejected a competing ballot initiative that would have narrowed the state’s gun laws.” These are not policies that a Conservative Congress would support, and it’s difficult to predict how they’ll pass legislation preserving the will of the people in those states, given how much Conservatives say they favor States’ Rights. It will also be interesting to see how a Republican-controlled Congress deals with the will of the voters in the nation’s capital who want to legalize pot given that the Constitution grants the Congress sole legislative authority over the District. Especially since our once pot-smoking president can veto any attempt by the GOP to thwart the People. Assuming he’s not too drunk to do it. I know I’d start drinking after a night like that if I were him.

This is our daily open thread. Have at it.

The Fall Back Position

Tonight Daylight Savings Time ends. For now. We move to the Fall Back position. If you live in a part of the United States that, oh, what’s the right word, “celebrates”? “participates”? “recognizes”? maybe it’s “observes”, Daylight Savings Time, you should set your clocks back one hour before going to bed. If you don’t, you may end up attending Sunday Morning Worship Services an hour ahead of everybody you know from your usual service. Who knows? Maybe it’s worth a try. And on the bright side, you’ll be back in time to watch “Up with Steve Kornacki”, who should be good and awake what with having an extra hour to sleep. And if you live in a part of the United States that does not observe DST (as the cool kids call it), life will be unchanged for you. Congratulations, the Chinese envy you.

But why do we do this? What’s the point? Well, the idea was, in not so many words, to save daylight. (You can read about the history of Daylight Savings Time to varying degrees here, here, and here.) It was believed by its proponents in recent years to save about 10,000 barrels of oil per day. The thinking is that as we shift our daily activities by an hour, businesses will use less energy. Not everyone agrees. But we do it, and our reward is to get an extra hour of sleep once a year, in exchange for our sacrifice of one hour’s sleep once a year.

Funny story. When I was in the Air Force in 1987, I was stationed at Ramstein AB, West Germany. In September of that year, I took a month’s leave to attend a friend’s wedding and to see my then-girlfriend, Jane. My leave ended after the first weekend of October, so I was here in the United States when Europe took their Fall Back position. I returned to West Germany afterwards, so I was in Europe when folks in the United States took their Fall Back position on the last weekend in October. So I missed the chance to get my extra hour of sleep that year. And while I understand why, intellectually, it’s wrong, I have always felt that for the last 27 years, the Universe has owed me an extra hour of sleep. :)

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Daylight Savings Time, an extra hour of sleep, ten thousand barrels of oil per day, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 25, 2014: Five Republicans I Fear Might Win

Courtesy of the good people at Right Wing Watch (a project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement), here are five Republicans I fear might win on Election Day (which is just one week from this coming Tuesday.) What’s even more frightening than the mere fact that they won their party’s nomination is that they may end up being members of a Republican-controlled House and Senate. And that would be horrific for anybody in this country who isn’t a white, male billionaire which, last time I checked, was just about all of us.

The five names you don’t want to hear announced as winners on Election Night (or however many days it takes to count up every vote against them) are Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis, Jody Hice, Glenn Grothman, and Zach Dasher. The first two wish to become US Senators (in our government!) and the other three wish to become US Representatives (representing the interests of the very, very rich in the People’s House.) Ernst wants to replace retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Tillis wants to unseat first term North Carolina Senator Kay Hagen. Over in the House, Hice wants to replace the out-going non-believer in Science (and member of the House Science Committee) Dr. Paul Broun (who once called Evolution and the Big Bang Theory “lies straight from the pit of Hell“); Grothman wants to replace retiring Wisconsin Rep Tom Petri (who won’t endorse Grothman because, as he told a reporter, “Why would I endorse a person who has said that if in two years people said he was ‘just like Petri’ he would be insulted?”); and Dasher wants to bank on his family name (which isn’t his; he’s related to the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty fame) to replace the freshman Republican Vince McAllister.

I encourage you to read about each of these five candidates at the link above. Believe me, if you have any sense of decency as a human being, if you have any concern whatsoever about the extremist Tea Party people taking over our government so they can do the bidding of their wealthy benefactors, or if you have an IQ in the three-digit range, you will not want any of these five people to win a week from Tuesday. If they have the right view on anything, I can promise you it’s probably for the wrong reasons. And talk about extremism. Among them, in various combinations, they support: nullification of federal laws they don’t like, personhood amendments, Christian nationalism, anti-abortion laws, and the arming of school teachers. And I just picked one thing out of each of their platforms. They support many, many more extremist positions. I will be very unhappy if any one of them wins, and I will be downright depressed if any of them win and the Republicans take control of all of Congress because any of them might become the head of a Congressional committee. You should be, too.

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss Republican extremism or anything else you wish to discuss.