The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 27, 2014: F-R-C! See the Real Kooks!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for self-identified Conservative Christians (an oxymoron, since Jesus could never have been mistaken for a conservative) to gather together and show the world all the hate in their hearts. Yes, it’s the Family Research Council’s 2014 Values Voters Summit, where the elite will never meet, nor the smart start to take part (according to one of their featured speakers). [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.]

But it’s also the place, for reasons that defy conventional logic, where Republicans who one day hope to be the legal occupant of the White House (or a self-serving Member of Congress) feel they must go to solidify their conservative credentials, which is really ironic since there are precious few true conservative values expressed there. Oh, sure, there’s all the gay-bashing Islamophobia one could ever hope to see, but that isn’t true Conservatism. It might be considered Christian Conservatism, but as I said before, that’s an oxymoron. If there’s one thing about Christianity that this Atheist knows for certain, it’s the Golden Rule: Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. (It also happens to be my own personal guiding principle in life. I just don’t need a fear of going to Hell – which not everyone believes in, including Jews – to make me follow it.) And while I have personal doubts about whether or not the Biblical character known as Jesus actually existed, I’m pretty sure the person described in that book (or in most versions of it) would not say the kinds of things they say at the Values Voters Summit.

For example, there was Bishop E.W. Jackson (the “E.W.” stands for “Everybody’s Wingnut”), who falsely claimed that the Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Actually, if you read it carefully, that’s not what it says. There’s plenty of polygamy going on in the Bible, including with that of the first King of Israel, David (probably not his real name.) So it is factually incorrect, an important point if you wish to express a valid opinion, to say that marriage “has always been defined” as being between one man and one woman. You don’t even have to go to the Bible for proof. The people living here before the Europeans showed up and screwed everything up had a very different view of marriage. For one thing, it didn’t involve God. For another, it didn’t involve monogamy.

Then there was former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee dropping the huckaboom on the attendees by telling them that the reason Mitt Romney lost in 2012 was because Conservative Christians stayed home. The only problem is that opinion is not supported by the facts. Even Ralph Reed’s organization had polling data that showed exactly the opposite. And they were the only ones who noticed. But why let pesky things like facts get in the way of a good talking point. Or a talking point, anyway.

Then there was former half-Governor Sarah Palin, the woman who tried to be one grumpy old man’s heartbeat away from the presidency. (Do you know who she is?) Palin tried to make the point that…that, well…you know, it’s hard to figure out what point she was trying to make. She seemed more concerned with throwing out standard right-wing insults (Alinsky!) than she was with making a coherent statement. And, like so much of the right wing media, she had to get her digs in on what has become known in conservative circlejerks as the “latte salute.” And like so much of the right wing media’s trash-talking, this was a non-scandal (along with all the other non-scandals Palin rattled off.) There is no requirement that the President do anything in return when a military person salutes him. In fact, presidents didn’t even bother returning salutes until Ronald Reagan started doing it back in the early eighties, and that’s probably because he forgot he wasn’t in the 1st Motion Picture unit anymore. Seriously, it is not as big a deal as they are making it out to be, but that’s because they’ve got nothing, not even the values they claim to have.

Which brings me to one simple question about the “Values Voters Summit”: Whose values? You see, when it comes to defining morality (which, I’m sure the attendees at the summit didn’t know, Ronald Reagan said you can’t legislate), conservatives add more things to the definition than liberals, and give them equal weight! According to Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s studies,

…morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer.

Liberals tend to value fairness and equal justice much higher than conservatives, who value all those things listed as equally important. This would explain why Conservative Christians think only Christians should have First Amendment protections, or that only Christians have morals that matter. This is just self-referential opinion, confirmed by other Conservative Christian sources. It’s also a bunch of hypocrisy, since there is nothing “sanctified or noble” about gathering together and bashing the morality of more than half the country.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about the loonies at the VVS, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday September 23, 2014 Environmental News and Food Politics

So the climate march was big, almost 400,000 in New York. Will it change anything? Did 500,000 marchers stop the Iraq war from going forward? Well the UN Secretary marched in this one, but I’m afraid climate change will be addressed locally for the next who knows how many years. Nothing will change in Washington. We need  Democratic presidents to continue to be elected until the Supreme Court can be changed, so that gerrymandering can be legally ceased, and this the balance of power (one person = one vote) can be restored. Right now Republicans hold a hugely unfair advantage in many rust belt and mid Atlantic states because of the way districts are drawn at the state rep level and the congressional level. I weep when I think of how long it will take for our political apartheid (marginalizing Democratic majorities) to be rectified. This will be a 50-100 year war, I am afraid. The stakes are high. The powerful never relinquish willingly.

 

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 13, 2014: This Week in Conservative Christian Crazy Talk

In a recent blog post filled with straw men and false equivalencies, Francis Cardinal George (not his name at birth) made the common Conservative Christian mistake of equating laws that require to you to let people who don’t practice your faith to do things of which your faith disapproves with you not being allowed to freely practice your religion. The two have nothing to do with each other. After starting out with a story that seemed to treat religious belief as historical fact, George went on to claim that the government had tried to take on the role of religion.

There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class. Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA. It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires. But it had never explicitly taken upon itself the mantle of a religion and officially told its citizens what they must personally think or what “values” they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country. Until recent years.

Actually that’s not correct. The laws we pass are supposed to reflect the mores of our Society. (Note, I did say “supposed to.” Clearly we never agreed to let corporations who make billions of dollars in profits pay no federal taxes to the government who made their success possible.) When a government passes laws that say things like “You can’t kill anyone except in self-defense,” or “You can’t take things that don’t belong to you,” we are saying what values you should have. And that’s the way it’s always been. Just because a law is passed that permits people to do things your religion wouldn’t permit you to do does not mean we are making your religion illegal. Nor does it mean we are forcing you to do anything other than live and let live. I often hear religious conservatives complain when the government decides you have permission to do something, that the government is requiring you to do that something. And that’s completely and totally wrong. And it shows in their misguided belief that because the government is letting you worship whichever god you choose to worship, that you must choose a god to worship. They seem to forget that ti also means we are free to NOT worship any god, if we so choose. This is because they have the erroneous belief that in order to have a moral center, you must have a belief in God. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I lack a moral code by which to live. My personal motto (and i didn’t invent it) is to treat other people the way I would want them to treat me. (Sound familiar?) I don’t need some trumped up fear of hell fire and damnation to know that this is the right thing to do.

But George’s real problem seems to be about sex, and why should that surprise anyone? After all, a man who took a vow of celibacy for his own personal religious reasons (one of which includes belonging to an organization with a history of covering up sexual child abuse by a small percentage of its members) is the perfect person to be standing in judgment of the sex lives of others.

In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered “sinful.” Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The “ruling class,” those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone. We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family. Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.

I call straw man! It is not true that legislative approval has been brought “to all types of sexual relationships.” Only one, and that’s same-sex marriage. Just because ignorant buffoons have equated homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia does not mean he has a valid point. Those people have no idea what they’re talking about, and their viewpoints should not be treated as perfectly valid. Of course they have the right to hold those views, and the rest of us have the right to hold people with those views in contempt. And, FTR, we tried the “live and let live” approach to the rights of the LGBT community and it didn’t work out so great for them. It was mainly in the “let live” part where Society failed, and as a result we decided to tell people what values to personalize, in this case, the value being to “Love one another.” Being gay is not a choice, so it’s not true that gay people are willfully being immoral by being gay. The whole “Hate the sin, love the sinner” attitude doesn’t work if you believe gay people are just doing it on purpose because they lack morals and, therefore, shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. Because you’re still hating the sinner.

He goes on to lament that when a recent SCOTUS ruling went “against the State religion” (again, a false premise, which makes the rest of his argument meaningless), it brought on a crisis of belief for many Catholics, apparently because the Huffington Post raised “concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen.” (I tried to find the specific article that said this, but he only gave a date and not a title.) Actually I can answer that one. In the United States of America, an officially secular nation, your responsibility is to be a good citizen before being a good Catholic. If you want to live some place where being a good Catholic is your first duty, then move to The Vatican. I hear they’re big on Catholicism there. But the First Amendment not only allows you the freedom to practice the religion of your choice, it also disallows the government from interfering with that right so long as your religious exercise does not interfere with the religious freedom of others. That’s the part Conservative Christians don’t seem to get, especially the ones who call for our laws being based on the Bible. You see, there are many, many different versions of the Bible, and they are not all translated the same way. Nor are they interpreted the same way. So my first question to anyone who thinks our laws should be based on “the Bible,” is “Which Bible?” The second question would be, “Why that one and no other?” And, of course, my third and fourth questions would be, “Why would a secular nation want to do something that?” and “How is that any different than deciding to base our laws on the Q’uran?”

[NOTE: This post, like many of the ones I post at The Zoo, will be cross-posted at my blog, but I'll have more to say over there. Feel free to drop on by It should be finished by later this afternoon.]

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Conservative Christians, Catholicism in a secular society, mental illness in an overly religious society, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole; Thursday September 11 2014; TEH STUPID – Today’s Entries

It’s not hard to tell that this year’s election “event” is getting closer and closer; seems like every two years when elections are scheduled in November, right after Labor Day the rise in the level of stupidity increases dramatically. It’s almost scary, in fact. Here are four quickies in which the highlighted link pretty much says it all.

1.  Ben Carson: Evolution A Myth Because ‘God Can Create Anything At Any Point In Time’

He [Carson] claimed that “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.”

Carson pointed to the “complexity of the human brain” as proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”

2.  David Limbaugh, brother of Rush the Blowhard, assumes the Religious-Right is always right because he’s studied the Bible for a long time. He’s got another Jesus is the Gospel book to prove it.

Rush Limbaugh isn’t the only hateful, wingnut liar in his family. His brother, author David Limbaugh, makes his money by ginning up hysteria about that damned Barack Obama. The younger brother of the Big Fat Idiot is promoting a book which seeks to legitimize Christianity called, Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel. The good Christians on the couch, especially Hasselbeck in her pure white dress, were gobbling up his hypothesis that Jesus could stand trial and “win” based on the “evidence” in the incredibly human drama known as the Bible.

Limbaugh obviously has an agenda, just like his brother. He seeks to label the Black President and his godless liberal followers as the reason for all our problems. He claims the Ryan tax cuts for the rich plan is really god’s idea, and the (Atheist Muslim) President is demonizing rich people. . . .

3.  Last Thursday’s Watering Hole Post was titled The AFM vs. WTP, and it discussed Mitch McConnell’s appearance and speech last June at a Koch Bros. more-or-less ‘secret’ get-together in California. It seems that this week, Harry Reid has been pressuring McConnell to recant some of the idiocy he spewed to the Koch bro clan. Mitch, of course, didn’t . . . wouldn’t . . . well, you know. See the link for details, if you dare!

Harry Reid called on Mitch McConnell to repudiate offensive statements made at a recent Koch retreat. A reporter asked McConnell if he would do so directly, and he refused to answer.

4.  And finally, here in Colorado the GOoPer, running for governor, Bob Beauprez, has revealed that not only is he every bit as stupid as Cliven Bundy, he also “thinks” (is that a word?) like him. What’s worrisome is that Beauprez currently trails Democratic incumbent governor John Hickenlooper by only a small amount in recent polls. That’s not surprising, I suppose, given that Hickenlooper signed both a gun background-check and magazine size-limiting bill along with the Marijuana legalization bill, both of which are anathema to the unenlightened Wingnuttistanian faction of the Colorado electorate. We can only hope that their numbers remain insufficient to elect each and all the Bagger idiots on the ballot. 

Colorado Gubernatorial Candidate Promises To Seize And Sell America’s National Parks, Forests And Public Lands

In the first debate of the Colorado gubernatorial race last Friday, Republican nominee Bob Beauprez went on the record supporting the seizure of Colorado’s national parks, forests and public lands by the state government, saying “this is fight we have to wage.” 

. . . Beauprez, who is challenging incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper (D), claimed that all public land in the state was “supposed to be Colorado’s” and that “if this were private land and the federal government was a tenant, we would cancel their lease.” [ . . . ]

. . . Beauprez is one of several candidates supporting such proposals this election season. . . . [T]here are a number of right-wing politicians across the country who have been advancing proposals to transfer of control of public lands to states, or to sell them off to the highest bidder for drilling, mining and logging.

So there you have it, four partial sums of about five minutes worth of “research.” I was originally going to set this up as a voting contest to choose the most stupid of the four listed. But, sigh, having gone over each of them another time or two I’ve decided to take the Spiro Agnew approach and simply declare the process Nolo Contendre — for probably obvious reasons.

OPEN THREAD

 

 

 

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 6, 2014: This Week In Paranoia: Kill Whitey, Big Sodomy, and A Criminal Organization By Any Other Name

Courtesy of our good friends at Right Wing Watch, we learned of several conspiracy theories floating around in the toilets known as the minds of right wing lunatics, some of whom you’ve heard of before. We’ve got the president planning to kill all the white people so he can declare martial law (which would seem silly since he could declare martial law first and save the taxpayers’ money on bullets.) We’ve got citizen border patrols sneaking upon and nearly apprehending scientists studying bats. We’ve got Teh Gays coming for your kids, as always. (Why is it always the kids Teh Gays want? Why aren’t they after your husbands and boyfriends, which is far more likely?) We’ve got the President secretly flying from Hawaii back to Washington to attend Christmas services at a mosque, then back to his family in Hawaii again without anybody noticing. And we’ve got a right wing cacophony of cries of secret messages and support for terrorists because the President chose to use a more accurate acronym for the bad guys. Nothing more than that. He just decided to use an ‘L’ instead of an ‘S’, and now you and I are going to die.

Professional Misanthrope Michael “Savage” Weiner wants you to buy his book (which I highly advise against) so you’ll understand Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 23, 2014: This Week In Crazy – Race Wars, Gay Recruitment, and Ebola

Courtesy of Right Wing Watch we learn that your precious tax dollars are paying the salaries of certifiably insane Congress Critters Hell bent on scaring the crap out of anybody within earshot, that some of those children from Central American countries in turmoil really may have come from Venezuela to be trained as warriors because, you know, the Revolutionary War, and that President Obama is simultaneously starting a race war and turning children gay. Oh, and those Central American kids have Ebola. Must’ve gone to Western Africa before heading back to Venezuela for their warrior training. And that’s just this week.

If it were just people like Tamara Scott, an Iowa state-level Republican official and conservative activist, I’d say it was a cry for attention. Scott thinks among the tens of thousands of migrant children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are warrior children, trained in Venezuela by Hezbollah, or Hamas, maybe both, who knows? After all, there were 12-year-olds fighting in our American Revolution. Except, of course, that was before there was such a thing as the modern childhood, an early 20th-century invention. Before that, once kids were old enough (four, five, maybe six years old), they started working for the family. Or they went to live with someone else and learn a trade. But they were put to work, maybe in the fields picking food, maybe on farms feeding livestock. There was no public education system, where kids were sent to learn to read and write and, most importantly though conservatives ignore it, to socialize, to learn to get along with other people. So it should surprise no one that there were 12-year-old children fighting in the Revolutionary War. What does that have to do with today? It’s hard for me to believe that someone who isn’t paranoid would believe this “chain of logic.” She may want attention, but what she needs is help.

If it were just people like Larry Klayman, a misanthrope who thinks the President and Attorney General of the United States are both trying to start a race war and to bring reparations to black people, I’d say someone was off his meds again. Klayman, like many voices we hear on the Conservative fringes of Society, has a problem with facts. His problem seems to be a severe allergy to them, to the point where he just doesn’t use them to make a point. In a WorldNutDaily column (from which I’ll quote but to which I won’t link), he wrote:

First, it has become clear that Obama’s economic policies and eventual legislation, such as the disastrous Obamacare, have been designed to favor blacks over whites, and to in effect have whitey pay reparations to blacks for the insidious years of racial discrimination. Obama’s intention is to melt down the gold in America and redistribute it to his people.

Second, Obama ignores racially motivated crimes against whites, some of which is manifest in the rising anti-Semitism and anti-Christian bigotry here and worldwide. It is an undisputed fact that hate crimes against Jews far exceed those against blacks.

I’m disputing that. I base that on the summaries of the last two annual FBI Hate Crimes Reports. In 2011, racial motivations were behind 46.9% of all hate crimes, while religious bias was behind only 19.8%. Lest you think this might have changed significantly the next year, in 2012 racial motivation accounted for 48.3% while religious bias only 19%. And while these are overall numbers addressing race and religious persuasion in general, it’s hard to believe if you dug down deep within those numbers, that “hate crimes against Jews far exceed those against blacks.” But that would have to mean that virtually all hate crimes of religious bias were against Jews, and only a small proportion of racially motivated hate crimes were against blacks for Klayman’s statement to be remotely true.

If it was just the Tea Party of Louisiana calling for repeal of Common Core because it turns students gay, I’d say it was bigots and homophobes at work again. Don’t think they believe their claim wasn’t baseless. They had proof. They had a link to “Broken World News“, a parody website whose About page features the warning, “Disclaimer: If you believe any of the shit you read here you are a freaking moron.” Spokesman Bob Reid that he was trying to “bring attention of the Common Core issue to those who maybe aren’t paying attention,” which I guess includes not paying attention to the links he was providing. I suppose I could give the Tea Party of Louisiana the benefit of the doubt and assume that they aren’t bigots and homophobes, just freaking morons.

And if it was just Republicans in Congress, such as Phil Gingrey, Michele Bachmann, and Todd Rokita, claiming that the children fleeing violence in Central America were carrying the Ebola virus with them, I’d chalk it up to simple medical ignorance, even on the part of the one Georgia certified to be a medical doctor. (Hint: His name rhymes with Still Dinghy.) If they bothered to listen to the Centers For Disease Control (whose work they pay for through their taxes), they’d know that the only known location where people contracted Ebola has been Africa. And if they listen to Immigration and Naturalization Service, they’d know that none of these children have tested positive for Ebola. Not one single child. And that’s a problem.

The problem is it isn’t just these people, it’s a whole bunch of low-intellect, low-information people who listen to and believe them. And then those people start complaining their government is trying to start a race war, turns kids gay, and infect the country with Ebola. And then they go out in November and vote for the politicians who tell them all of that is true. Frankly, I’m surprised our Democracy has lasted as long as it has.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss race wars, gay recruitment, Ebola, or anything else that strikes your fancy and gets your conspiratorial nut going.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 16, 2014: Alabama and the Ten Commandments – Again

Tim Guffey, a commissioner in Jackson County, Alabama, who can best be remembered from me mentioning his name three seconds ago, has proposed doing what got current Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore removed from his office about a decade ago. For reasons defying both logic and common sense, Alabamans not only let the highest judicial officer in their state be elected by the people, they proved this was a bad idea by re-electing Roy Moore as their Chief Justice. Roy Moore got himself in trouble when he installed a monument to the religious aspects of the Ten Commandments on the public property housing the court house and refused to remove it when a federal judge ordered him to do so. Now a county commissioner wants to do the same thing, except he claims the Ten Commandments are a “historical document” and that without them, there would have been no Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution (the real historical documents beside which he wants to place the religious one.) Here’s the primary flaw in that argument: There’s absolutely no historical evidence that the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments is remotely true. So it can’t be an historical document.

What evidence exists, outside the religious texts within which they were included, that the events described about Moses and how he came to be in possession of these tablets are true? None! It’s just a story. If you want to believe it literally happened that way, do you also believe that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and survived inside it for three days only to be spit out onto dry land to live and complain some more? Of course, you have to start with a belief in a god to believe such a story could possibly be true (apart from the lines God had in the story), just as you would have to have a belief in a god to believe that Moses watched the Finger of God write the Ten Commandments into stone slabs on the mountain wall, or however it happened in Cecile B. DeMille’s movies the Bible. Which means it’s impossible to think of the Ten Commandments in something other than a religious context. Speaking seriously (I know my readers), have you actually read the Ten Commandments? Do you know what the very first one roughly translated into English (how convenient) reads? “I am the Lord thy God. Thou shall have no other gods before me.” Would you seriously argue that whatever else it says, it can have anything other than a religious context?

And while it may have influenced some of our nation’s Founders (BTW, Snopes does a great job of destroying some Conservative Christian beliefs as the myths they are about quotes from the Founding Fathers, and of our government buildings. Oh, and John Adams did say, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”), that does not justify giving it such a place of prominence on the public property of the citizens of a secular nation, which we are. Benjamin Franklin was well-known for being a womanizer, which was used to great advantage in gaining support for our nation in its early history. Should we be putting monuments to his libido on public property? Of course not. It doesn’t matter what influenced these men personally, because it wouldn’t work for everybody. And when as a public servant you try to claim that a religious story should be treated equally with historical fact by the taxpayers, you cross a serious line against which Thomas Jefferson, one of your heroes, warned should never be done. Religious fundamentalism, whether it’s in the Middle East or Jackson County, Alabama, is never a good thing for a people who value freedom.

This is our daily open thread. Discuss whatever you wish to discuss.