The Watering Hole, Monday, April 27, 2015: See Our Best (Again)

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With the help of my wife, Jane, I wrote this song parody almost four years ago, and I find that it still applies today. This time the Republicans are trotting out a different cast of characters, some of whom haven’t made their presidential aspirations official for legal and technical reasons (such as they don’t really intend to run for president, like Donald Trump), to beg and plead the Koch Brothers to give them money so they can attack Hillary Clinton, who recently announced that she will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party to complete either Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s third term. Or maybe she’s going to finally finish the work of the president she did once work for, Richard Nixon. This time around, Sheldon Adelson (Billionaire – Israel) will play a major role in the elections, but don’t think for a moment that just because he’s not one of the Koch Brothers that he must be good. He isn’t. He has pretty much made it clear he wants a President of the United States who will put the interests of a foreign nation (in this case, Israel) ahead of the interests of the United States and its citizens, especially those who do not agree with Israel’s policies and human rights abuses. Why he thinks Marco Rubio is that person is beyond me.

For those who don’t seem to “get it,” let me try to explain why this is bad. The disastrous, and totally insane Citizens United decision made it perfectly legal to Continue reading

Sunday Roast: Rhymes with Bucket List

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The President having fun at just about everyone’s expense at Sunday’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.  I love how much fun he’s having with his Fuck It List, and you can definitely tell he has no more campaigns to run.

“Luther the Anger Translator” is up at 14:35, but he gets scared off four minutes later — by the President I wish we’d had for all this time.  :)

This is our daily open thread — Enjoy!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 25th, 2015: Just Say No to FRC

Yesterday I received an email from Faithful America, an organization of what I would consider to be ‘true’ Christians, who speak out against social injustices perpetrated and perpetuated in the name of Christianity. The email said that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council – or NAMBLA, er, FRC – is supposed to be a guest on Face The Nation tomorrow. The email said, in part:

“With the Supreme Court about to issue a historic decision, CBS News is turning to an anti-gay hate group leader to speak for Christians.
This Sunday, Face the Nation is scheduled to feature Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Perkins has repeatedly accused gay men of molesting children, causing the Southern Poverty Law Center to formally name FRC to its list of hate groups.

Perkins was once a regular on CNN and MSNBC, but those networks have increasingly abandoned him as mainstream Christians have challenged his decades-long record of spreading ugly misinformation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people…Tell CBS News: Cancel Tony Perkins. He doesn’t speak for Christians.”

If Bob Schieffer would take a few minutes to just check out the FRC’s website, I’m sure that he would understand that this is a group that should NOT have a voice in the same-sex-marriage debate.

First, an excerpt from FRC’s “Washington Update” from Thursday, under the heading “What About Bobby?”:

“If liberals want to pick a fight over religious liberty, they’ll have their hands full with my home state: Louisiana. Unlike other governors who have been quick to raise a white flag, Bobby Jindal is leading the charge for his state’s Marriage and Conscience Act, warning that he won’t back down. “In Indiana and Arkansas, large corporations recently joined left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty. As the fight… moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.”

“Although corporations are already turning up the heat on Jindal, the Governor says, “They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me.” Realizing that this is a watershed moment for religious liberty, Jindal writes, “Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s time for corporate America to make a decision. Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all.” With the Left’s attack dogs on the loose in Louisiana and elsewhere, religious liberty is almost certainly going to be a major issue in 2016 — in more ways than one.

While conservatives scratch and claw for their right to exercise the same tolerance the Left enjoys, leaders like Speaker Boehner have their eyes on the global crisis. Religious liberty is at the center of ISIS’s storm, as dozens of innocents are slaughtered for the faith our country is so reluctant to protect. In a new blog post, the Speaker’s office catalogues the latest horrors, and asks: Is the Obama administration doing “all it can” to protect Christians all over the world?”

There’s just so many things wrong with that last paragraph alone, my irony-meter went past 11, then shattered.

1) “Conservatives scratch and claw for their right to exercise the same tolerance the Left enjoys”? What they are scratching and clawing for is their right to exercise INTOLERANCE.

2) “Religious liberty is at the center of ISIS’s storm…” ISIS’s brutal acts have nothing to do with “religious liberty”, and if these conservatives had an honest bone in their collective bodies, they’d admit it.

3) “Is the Obama administration doing “all it can” to protect Christians all over the world?” Why on earth should the Obama administration, or any other president’s administration, have to “protect Christians all over the world”? The U.S. government cannot feasibly protect U.S.citizens “all over the world”, how could it be expected – no, demanded – to protect all “Christians”? More importantly, how would using the U.S. government to favor the lives of one religious group possibly be Constitutional? Not to mention that it would certainly require “big government”!

Under “HOMOSEXUALITY”:

“Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects. While the origins of same-sex attractions may be complex, there is no convincing evidence that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn. We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools.”

What the FRC believes doesn’t mean squat when it comes down to science and biology. Just because there is no evidence that will convince the FRC “that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn” doesn’t mean that there isn’t evidence in medical science. And just how does FRC separate the “homosexual identity” from the person? It would appear that, since they do not look upon homosexuals as individual human beings, they would not accept homosexual people, U.S. citizens, “as equivalent to heterosexual[people] in law, in the media, and in schools.” So what class of citizen would these braying amoral charlatans demote homosexual Americans to?

“Sympathy must be extended to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, and every effort should be made to assist such persons to overcome those attractions, as many already have.”

I haven’t noticed anyone from FRC, or any other anti-gay faux-religious group, extending “sympathy” to gays – maybe they just extend sympathy to gay people who don’t want to face the fact that they’re gay? And hasn’t FRC heard that there’s no scientific or medical evidence that “praying away Teh Gay”, or any other “treatment” purporting to turn gay people “straight”, is actually effective. They should just ask Marcus Bachmann about that.

And take a look at the titles of some of their “Policy Publications”:

“Leviticus, Jesus, and Homosexuality – Some Thoughts on Honest Interpretation” They wouldn’t know “honest interpretation” of any part of the bible even if Jesus appeared and called a convention of alleged “Christians” to set them straight. So-to-speak.

“The Other Side of Tolerance – How Homosexual Activism Threatens Liberty” Goddammit, will someone, any one of these people who glibly (and probably incorrectly) spout words like “freedom” and “liberty” please tell the rest of us exactly how they define those words? I hear them used with regularity by people who seem to want to limit others’ freedoms, so I’m pretty sure that such people don’t consult the OED, they just make up their own definitions.

Okay, enough ranting from me. For now, anyway.

This is our daily Open Thread – go ahead, have at it.

Music Night, April 24, 2015

It can be a lot of fun surfing through YouTube, starting out with one intention and following the breadcrumbs to something very different. At any rate, I ran across this video of one of my all-time favorite guitarists, John Cipollina, best known for his work with Quicksilver Messenger. This is from a band he formed with the terrific blues-rock belter Nick Gravenites (think Butterfield, Electric Flag). This cut is almost all Cipollina which is, I think, a rarity. From 1980.

The Watering Hole; Friday April 24 2015; Mark Twain’s Insights

“I believe our Heavenly Father invented man because
he was disappointed in the monkey.”
(Mark Twain in “Eruption”)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don’t know who it was that first came up with that little bit of ingeniousness, but it sure does hit the spot every now and then. Following are a handful of quotes by Mark Twain that I found and saved about the time Bush decided to invade Iraq. What struck me was that it takes only familiarity with today’s events, perhaps with a word change here and there, to make the entire of the intervening century disappear.

The first excerpt is from “A Pen Warmed Up in Hell: Mark Twain in Protest”. Change the word ‘Pacific” to ‘Middle East’ and ‘Philippines’ to ‘Iraq’ and . . .

“(I used to be) a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific … Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? . . . I said to myself, “Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.

“But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.

“It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

Next, a snippet from Twain’s “Letters From the Earth” (Letter vii) which for some odd reason tends to remind me of any number of our present day’s wingnut religionistas:

“I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.”

And from “Glances at History,” Twain’s opinion on the slogan Our Country, right or wrong in “Letters from the Earth”:

“Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object – robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused this change? Merely a politician’s trick – a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor – none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our Country, right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that the phrase is an insult to the nation?”

Finally this, also from “Letters From the Earth”:

“But it was impossible to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons. The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on; the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose. There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

Welcome to 2015 and beyond, everyone. Also, thanks to Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens; November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) for his insightful vision.

OPEN THREAD

P.S.: OK, can’t resist. One more quickie:

“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. . . . The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.” (Mark Twain, The Lowest Animal essay; 1897)

The Watering Hole; Thursday April 23 2015; Religion in 21st Century America

There’s been a lot of religious chit-chat of late, mostly centered around complaints that LGBT people are being granted the right to (horror of horrors) participate in same-sex marriage. The (fundamentalist Christian) OUTRAGE has been, to say the least, extremely vocal and for the most part — to the rational ear, at least — completely irrational. It’s as if allowing others to live their lives in a manner not approved of by those of loud voice and particular “belief” is not only an abrogation of the rights of those who disapprove, but is also an assault on the first amendment’s clause that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” an assault on the very foundation of the ‘Christian Nation’ aka the United States of America.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought that religion — no matter its name — had as its centerpiece a combination of generosity, of caring, hope, charity, and peacefulness, and that hate, fear, discrimination and their consequences were alien. To Religion. To practitioners thereof.

Pondering that notion reminded me that several years back I found — somewhere, can’t recall where — a brief synopsis of the world’s various religions, taken from appropriate quotes which more or less spell out at least the underlying and driving thesis for each. It’s interesting to read, also to wonder — while listening to today’s highly audible “religious” screamers (i.e. American right wing fundamentalist voices, aka Republicans) — what is it that’s gone so terribly wrong?

Brahmanism: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” ~Mahabharata 5:15-17

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” ~Udana Varga 5:18

Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” ~Talmud, Shabbat 31:a

Confucianism: “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” ~Analects 15:23

Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” ~T’ai Shag Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself.” ~Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what which he desires for himself.” ~Sunnah

Christianity: “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and . . . know nothing but the word of God.” ~Martin Luther

It almost seems as if Martin Luther’s comment has not only caught on, but may even define the attitude of today’s American right wing fundies, especially when viewed in context with most any religious right statement on most any event or policy with which they disagree. Here are just a couple of recent links that point toward their embedded fears and hatreds, as linked to their “fundamentalist” religious dogma.

Janet Porter: Gay Marriage To Blame For Noah’s Flood, Will Usher In End Times

Bryan Fischer: Tell A Gay Couple They Are Going To Hell On Their Wedding Day

Philosopher David Hume seems to have pretty much summed the enduring fundamentalist core dilemma when he noted that “Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts which they entertain on such subjects. They make a merit of implicit faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity, by the strongest asseverations and the most positive bigotry.” Is that a fair summation of we’re seeing today? Probably not, but at least Hume points toward the “doubts” which must surely drive “faith” in the hate/fear realm. “Bigotry” in Hume’s context.

Abrahamic faiths seem to be most burdened. Judasim, Christianity, Islam — each acknowledges essentially the same God, each is convinced that it is the “true” religion, each is, in result, similarly burdened by the events common to life itself. As David Hume put it, “. . . the first ideas of religion arose not from a contemplation of the works of nature, but from a concern with regard to the events of life, and from the incessant hopes and fears which actuate the human mind.” Or perhaps, as historian Edward Gibbons suggested, “The theologians may indulge the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.”

Whatever be the case, the world today is beset by religious irrationality, and ordinary people suffer in result. Why is such nonsense tolerated, much less praised and worshiped by so many? Why can’t we all simply get along? Why does mythology occupy such a prominent pedestal in the human passage?

Gautama Siddharta — Buddha — perhaps spoke the best solution to religious fears when he said,

“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.”

Imagine what the world could become — if only . . . Meanwhile, ‘Homosexual Armageddon!’ Anti-Gay Activists Decry ‘Satanic’ Gay Rights. The beat goes on but the question remains: whereto from here, America?

OPEN THREAD

Wednesday: April 22, 2015 – What’s with that?

Ah, the days of listening to FM radio as I cruised the highways and byways. Will that be ending soon? Will Norway set a trend?  By 2017, Norway will see the end to FM radio.  By then, music and news will all be digital.

“Radio digitisation will open the door to a far greater range of radio channels, benefiting listeners across the country. Listeners will have access to more diverse and pluralistic radio-content, and enjoy better sound quality and new functionality. Digitisation will also greatly improve the emergency preparedness system, facilitate increased competition and offer new opportunities for innovation and development,” says Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey
READ MORE HERE.

And who would have thought that Norwegians were so godless?

Europe is known for its pluralistic views, especially in countries like France where the Roman Catholic Church ran into the Enlightenment at the end of the 18th century. The Church of Norway was the official state church until 2012 when the constitution of the country was amended. The percentage of Norwegians who attend church on a weekly basis is below 2 percent, according Statistics Norway.

That about does it for me.

This is our Open Thread. Now it is your turn to Speak Up!  It’s silly of me to say such a thing because no one that comments here has difficulty speaking up.