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, Monday, August 24, 2015: The Rebel Flag Is Not About ‘Patriotism’

So the Weekend Folks at Fox and Friends (say that three times backwards in front of a candle-lit mirror and it will summon them) are having a sad over the decline in acceptability of the Battle Flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (hereafter conveniently, if technically inaccurately, known as the Confederate Flag, the Rebel Flag, the Traitor Flag, The Slavery Lover Flag, the Racist Flag, and the White Supremacist Flag II) because they wrongly believe it’s because Liberals are trying to ban all expressions of “patriotism.”

Before going on to hear what an actual documentarian on the Civil War has to say about what it, and the battles flags under which the South fought, represented, let’s clear up a couple of things. First Tucker “This is not about a school district in Tennessee” Carlson. it is about what’s happening in this one county school district in Tennessee. That would be the first thing an actual journalist would make clear to his audience, but I digress. Second, it wasn’t “Liberals” who were “banning the American flag.” it was the county officials in this one school district. Now, FTR, I think they went too far in banning all flags, especially the American Flag. It’s without question a violation of First Amendment rights, but so too is the banning of the Confederate Flag. Don’t misunderstand me. It may sound like I’m agreeing with Tucker Carlson, but I am not. In this instance, he happens to be right about it being wrong for them to ban all flags, but he’s right for entirely the wrong reasons. He wants to turn what is a simple violation of First Amendment rights into a baseless attack on Liberals and Liberalism, by using the tried and true Conservative tactic of the false framing, or straw man argument.

To continue with the Wrongness of Being Tucker, he tried to blame what’s happening in this on, well, you try to make sense of this:

“This is a about a long-term trend where the people who run everything — the elites in Washington, New York and L.A. — despise rural America and its culture, suspect anybody that doesn’t live in their cities of being a bigot, and they’re trying to crush that culture by banning its symbols.”

While it true that Dickson County is represented by a Democrat in the House, he had nothing whatsoever to do with this local policy change. Nor did anyone in New York. Nor did anyone in L.A. Nor do the people in Washington, New York and L.A. “despise rural America and its culture.” In this free society, people who live on the coasts have chosen to live a different lifestyle than those who live in the middle of the country. It’s not an either/or choice, Tucker. It’s not a matter of binary thinking – that if you like one thing you must hate the other. Liberals, whom you despise for the way we think, do not think the way you think we think. You are projecting, and it is showing us how YOU think about the situation. And we don’t think of anyone who doesn’t live in our cities of being a bigot. The explanation is similar to what John Stuart Mill said about Conservatives. “While it true that not all conservative people are stupid, it is most certainly true that most stupid people are conservative.” (Some 300 years later, scientific studies have confirmed this.) It’s not that people in the cities think of the people in rural America as bigots, it’s that bigots tend to prefer not to live in the multi-cultural cities on the coasts. It’s not that everybody in rural America is a bigot, it’s that most bigots prefer to live in rural America. What concerns people like me is how welcome they are to live there. But that’s a topic for another post, as my grandfather used to say before he died in 1959. (He was ahead of his time.)

I’ll get back to why what you said is bullshit, but first let’s make clear about what this “heritage,” this “culture,” you’re referring to really is. I won’t give it away by mentioning “Slavery.” Oops.

It’s not that we want to “crush” that culture (there you go projecting again, believing that we Liberals think of resolving differences of opinion through violent conflicts), it’s that we want people to understand the truth about what that flag represents. It represents a way of life that is no longer American. That heritage, that culture, you so lovingly defend even though you were born and raised in California, was founded on the premise of White Supremacy, and the simple proof of that is the way black people have been treated even 150 years after the war ended. That part of the country has never wanted to accept black people as equals. Not legally, not officially, not formally, but worst of all, not honestly. Tucker blathered on.

“Not just the Confederate flag, but the American flag,” he continued. “They hate expressions of patriotism. It makes them uncomfortable. Let’s be honest.”

If you’re equating a love of the Rebel Flag with patriotism, I’m going to have to ask you which dictionary you’re using because, by definition, the Rebel Flag (the one used by the Traitors) cannot be called a flag of Patriotism equal to that earned by the American Flag (the winning side, I might add.) Like most of the Conservatives we hear on public media (there, I didn’t generalize too much) and the people who think they’re right (no, still not too much), Tucker Carlson engages in too much binary thinking because it’s the easiest kind of low-effort thinking there is. It’s one thing or its opposite. If you don’t support the American Flag 100% and everything she stands for, then you must be a Traitor (like those Rebels who denounced the United States and formed their own country and started a war with us.) If you’re uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean you hate something. We are capable of nuance, of seeing shades of gray. What makes me uncomfortable about the public displays of patriotism I see are the bigoted, racist people doing it. I don’t like being associated with those people. The people who promote the symbols of Slavery are people whose values I do not share. And when you try to pass them off as good American citizens, I have to wonder from which dictionary you found your definition of “good.”

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to say horrible things about Tucker Carlson, or discuss anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 15, 2015: How The Right STILL Gets Religious Freedom Wrong

This past Thursday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins interviewed Fox News Channel Host/Parasite – I forget which – Todd Starnes (both men can best be remembered by forgetting they exist as soon as you finish reading this post) about a recent federal appeals court ruling that said a Colorado baker violated a couple’s rights when he refused to bake them a wedding cake just because they were both men. Here is my own (generously abridged) transcript of an exchange between Perkins and Starnes courtesy of the good folks at Right Wing Watch:

STARNES: It was really chilling to hear you read what they, what the government wants this Christian business owner to do. And when you read the ruling – I’ve had a chance to read the 60-some-odd pages of the Court of Appeals ruling, which is affirming the lower court’s decision – it’s not much of a legal stretch to imagine the day when they will tell pastors the same thing, “You will participate in these gay weddings.” So it’s a troubling thing when you look at this document and you realize that Christian business owners, at least in Colorado, really don’t have as much freedom as they thought they did.

PERKINS: Yeah, and that’s one of the points I’ve tried to make with pastors, you know, I know pastors have been concerned that, you know, any day now they will be forced to do same sex weddings and I say, look, look, look, it probably will come but not immediately. What’s more immediate are the people sitting in your pews, the bakers, the photographers, you know, the florists, we’ve seen those already. But it’s coming, you know even further, it’s coming to the fire chiefs, like Kelvin Cochran, who’ve you written about in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s the regular business people, the public servants. It’s Judge McConnell in Ohio, a city court judge, who did not want to do, perform, actually have to perform, and there was, I don’t know if you saw this, Todd, but there was a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court Ethics Board that said he was required, as a judge, to perform same sex weddings.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the apparently malleable term “Christian business owner.” What is that, exactly? Is it the owner of a business specializing in Christian merchandise? Or is it the owner of a business who happens to be a Christian? If it’s the former, then an argument could be made that Christianity plays a part in how this business owner runs his business. And one might (if one wanted to try hard enough) be able to make an argument that he should be able to run his business according to Christian principles. Otherwise the latter applies and Religion has absolutely nothing to do with how you run your business if your business is one that’s open to the general public. If your business is one that’s open to the general public, then it has to be open to ALL of the general public. If you wish to start a private service to your friends and other like-minded bigots and operate on a membership-only basis, you can do that. You just can’t pretend your business is open to the general public. And since we’re not talking about business owners who specialize in selling Christian things, the word “Christian” when attached to the words “business owner” means nothing. Starnes says it twice, but in neither case does it bolster his argument because he’s primarily trying to apply it to the owners of a general business. And operating a business in the United States has nothing to do with Religion. You are free to practice Christianity. And you are free to operate a business. But you are not free to operate a business according to any Christian principles if those principles infringe on anyone’s Constitutional rights. To do so would be to force others to practice your Religion, and you are never free to do that.

Starnes, who to my knowledge has as much legal training as I (zero), then goes on to say one of the most ignorant things one could say about this subject, “…it’s not much of a legal stretch to imagine the day when they will tell pastors the same thing, ‘You will participate in these gay weddings.'” Actually, Todd, it is just that – a legal stretch, and a huge one at that. Here’s why. In the United States of America, Marriage is considered a civil institution, not a religious one. (By contrast, in Israel, marriage is considered a Religious institution, and certain people can be denied the right to marry in Israel. It doesn’t mean legal marriages performed outside Israel won’t be recognized, it just means Rabbis in Israel do not have to perform same sex weddings.) If anything, we accommodate Religion by saying if your wedding ceremony is a religious one, performed by someone recognized by the state as being a member of the Clergy sanctioned to perform marriages recognized by your Religion (a priest, not an altar boy), then the State will also recognize that marriage and you won’t have to have a separate wedding for civil purposes. So all religious marriages are recognized as civil ones, too. But not all civil marriages are, nor should they be, recognized by any religious entity. My wife and I were married in a restaurant by a Justice of the Peace. There was no God mentioned or involved. And yet our marriage is considered 100% legal by the State of New York and, by extension, all the other states. Nobody could rationally dispute that our marriage is valid. And since a civil marriage is possible for all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), no clergy or church will ever be forced to perform a same sex wedding. In fact, in every state that legislatively passed some kind of Marriage Equality Act (including my own state of New York), there has always been an exemption for churches or clergy members who do not wish to perform same sex weddings because their religion forbids them. And to my knowledge, no church has ever been successfully sued for refusing to perform one. And nobody is saying they should. If your Religion refuses to live in the 21st Century, that’s your Religion’s problem.

Lastly, Todd, the fact is that nobody has as much individual freedom as you think, as least as far as forcing others to practice your personal religion goes. But what we all have, including you, is the freedom to refuse to practice someone else’s religion. Some religions believe you should always keep your head covered in deference to God. Should you be forced to follow that practice if you’re not a follower of any of those religions? Of course not. And saying that two people of the same gender should not be allowed to marry because YOUR religion forbids it would be the same thing as forcing them to practice YOUR religion instead of theirs. You also don’t have the freedom to punch Liberals in the face, despite the fact that many Conservatives have publicly expressed a wish to do so. So you’re not free to do anything you want. There are limits, and those limits generally apply to the point where they affect others.

Now for where Perkins gets things wrong. First and foremost, the day will never come when pastors are forced to perform same sex weddings against their will as pastors. If they’re also public servants that’s different and we’ll get to that shortly. As I said before, I know of no states where pastors and clergy are forced by law or the courts to perform weddings for two people of the same gender, and I seriously doubt this will ever be an issue.

For those who understandably forgot, Kelvin Cochran was the former Fire Chief of Atlanta who self-published a book about his religious beliefs that said some negative and ignorant things about LGBT people (while still Fire Chief.) He also distributed this book on city property, and for that he was suspended. What Conservatives coming to his defense fail to notice is that as the Fire Chief, he’s in a position to influence the careers of any firefighter serving under him, including those who happen to be gay. How then could a gay firefighter in Atlanta ever feel he or she has an equal chance at promotion or advancement knowing the person in charge thinks they’re ruining society just by being gay? There’s no evidence that he ever did, but how can you ever feel your job is safe knowing what the boss thinks of you?

But Perkins didn’t stop there. He tried to draw an equivalence between being a private citizen business owner and being a public servant. Toledo Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell refused to perform a wedding for a lesbian couple citing his deeply held religious beliefs. (After a 45-minute delay, the couple were married by another judge.) Judge McConnell asked the Ethics Board to give him guidance and they did. They said he couldn’t refuse. And they were right. What Conservative Christians (an oxymoron, as the message that Jesus Christ gave was overwhelmingly Liberal, so how can any good practicing Christian adhere to Conservative beliefs?) fail to grasp is that your right to practice your religion is just that – YOUR right to practice YOUR religion. It is NOT, however, YOUR right to impose YOUR religion on anyone else. But more importantly, and often overlooked in the discussion, is that discrimination against gay people (and only gay people) has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs. Would the Colorado baker refuse to bake a cake for a woman who happened to be menstruating? Would he refuse to serve a divorced woman? Would he refuse to serve a customer he knows eats shellfish? These are all things the same chapter of the Bible (Lev 18) says are worthy of banishment, so if he’s willing to serve all of them, then his objections to serving a gay couple have nothing to do with his religion. And despite what illogical Conservatives like Justice Scalia think, that does matter because it means the claim that he runs his business according to Christian principles is a lie, which means the legal argument he presented to the Supreme Court was perjury. If I said I refuse to serve Conservatives because my religion teaches me they have sex with elephants, do I really have a constitutional leg to stand on? Of course not, because such a belief is clearly not based on my religious beliefs. And neither was the baker’s.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom, illogical conservatives, gay leaders of the community like Todd Starnes, Tony Perkins, or Justice Antonin Scalia, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 8, 2015: Mike Huckabee and the Personhood Movement

Having an opinion does not equate to having a valid opinion. Nowhere was that more clear than at Thursday night’s Fox News Republican Debate Of Ten Candidates Personally Chosen By Roger Ailes. Before continuing, and to give credit where credit is due, the moderators for the debate asked much tougher questions than I thought they would. That doesn’t mean they asked the right questions, but they did ask things I didn’t think they would address. Unfortunately, they didn’t ask them about many important topics, including income inequality, global warming, or climate change. Then again, these are all things Fox News Channel denies are a problem, so why should I have expected them to ask the people who want to be president about them? By contrast, Israel was mentioned 12 times that night, three by moderators and nine by the candidates. (Sen Rand Paul mentioned them four times in his remarks, but he was defending his position that we shouldn’t be sending foreign aid to them or anyone else.) Others mentioned Israel in order to make some completely false remark. Dr Ben Carson said, “You know, we turned our back on Israel, our ally.” (Absolutely untrue. Republicans mistake our disdain for the thoroughly contemptible PM Benjamin Netanyahu with not wanting to support Israel.) Gov Chris Christie (upset because Neil deGrasse Tyson won’t declare him to be one of the Plutoids) disagreed with Sen Paul and said, “But I absolutely believe that Israel is a priority to be able to fund and keep them strong and safe after eight years of this administration.” That’s all well and good, Governor, but the Founding Fathers would expect you to put the interests of the United States ahead of any foreign nation, especially one that didn’t exist in their day. And the word “bless” (or some form of it) was mentioned eight times that night, seven of them by Sen Marco Rubio in his closing comments (in between sips of water.)

But it’s Gov Mike Huckabee’s comments on Personhood that I want to address.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, like Governor Walker, you have staked out strong positions on social issues. You favor a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. You favor a constitutional amendment banning abortions, except for the life of the mother. Millions of people in this country agree with you, but according to the polls, and again this an electability question, according to the polls, more people don’t, so how do you persuade enough Independents and Democrats to get elected in 2016?

HUCKABEE: Chris, I disagree with the idea that the real issue is a constitutional amendment. That’s a long and difficult process. I’ve actually taken the position that’s bolder than that.

A lot of people are talking about defunding planned parenthood, as if that’s a huge game changer. I think it’s time to do something even more bold. I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception.

The reason we know that it is is because of the DNA schedule that we now have clear scientific evidence on. And, this notion that we just continue to ignore the personhood of the individual is a violation of that unborn child’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights for due process and equal protection under the law.

It’s time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and we change the policy to be pro-life and protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they’re parts to a Buick.

First off, Planned Parenthood is not “selling off” body parts, so stop perpetuating that lie. Now, you might disagree, Mike, but you would still be wrong. Just because it’s what you believe, just because you once held the office of Governor, it doesn’t make your opinion correct, nor does it mean (despite what Gov Kasich said, “And we’ve got to listen to other people’s voices, respect them…”) that we have to respect your opinion. You are under no obligation to respect the opinion of anyone whose viewpoint is not grounded in reality. Period. If I told you that our bodies are inhabited by aliens who were once prisoners on another planet, you have every right in the world to question just about everything I say. And if I told you a fertilized egg was a human being, you should dismiss that, too. Because it isn’t scientifically or medically accurate. And no matter how much you may want it to be true, Mike, a fertilized egg is not a person with rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Amendment Fourteen, Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The key word in that amendment, the one word that makes all the rest have meaning,is “born.” In order to have the rights listed in either the Fifth or the Fourteenth Amendments, you have to be born. If you are not born, you are not a person with rights under the Constitution. Even Associate Justice Clarence Thomas agrees with that position.

Senator LEAHY. Judge, does a fetus have the constitutional status of a person?
Judge THOMAS. Senator, I cannot think of any cases that have held that. I would have to go back and rethink that. I cannot think of any cases that have held that.

So the movement to declare a fertilized egg a person has some serious problems, not least of which it isn’t constitutionally sound. And it doesn’t matter if you believe differently, you can’t declare a collection of cells to be a person with rights if that collection of cells has not yet passed the critical stage of being born. And you can’t pass the critical stage of being born until the woman carrying you gets pregnant. No pregnancy, no birth, and no person. If you ask any actual doctors who have gone to school and learned these things, they’ll tell you that fertilization is not the beginning of pregnancy. Implantation is. Until the fertilized egg is implanted into the uterine wall, a woman’s urine won’t even show hormone changes that indicate pregnancy. And even implantation alone isn’t enough, since about half the time, the eggs don’t stay implanted in the uterine wall.

“The medical community has really been quite clear about when pregnancy begins,” says Dan Grossman, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, “and that definition is that pregnancy begins once implantation occurs.”

That would be the implantation of the fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. One reason doctors don’t consider a woman pregnant until after implantation is a practical one — that’s when pregnancy can be detected by hormone changes in her urine.

But there’s another reason, Grossman says. “It’s really only about half of those fertilized eggs [that] actually result in an ongoing pregnancy.”

The rest of the fertilized eggs either never begin dividing or never implant. Or they do implant but spontaneously abort. That can happen so early in pregnancy that the woman never even knows she was pregnant.

So from a medical point of view, considering every fertilized egg a person, with a person’s full rights, wouldn’t make a lot of sense, he says.

If you understand anything about Evolution (and evangelicals like Huckabee do not) you would know that the DNA of what comes out of a birth is not the same as that of the parents which produced that fertilized egg. Every person gets DNA from both its parents. But sometimes something goes wrong and the resulting child has something different, sometimes bad and deadly (a mutation, or a birth defect) but sometimes beneficial to its survival. This is precisely how human beings descended from lower life forms. Those species didn’t become humans, but humans are related to those species from along ago. That’s how Evolution works. And it’s not “just an opinion” based on something that’s “nothing more than a theory.” In the Science world, there’s a huge difference between a theory and a Theory. And you shouldn’t dismiss it just because you don’t understand the difference. It may be called a Theory (capital ‘T’), but it’s still a scientific fact. And an opinion based on a scientific fact like Evolution is a valid one, unlike many of the ones expressed at Thursday night’s Fox News Republican Debate Of Ten Candidates Personally Chosen By Roger Ailes.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss why Republicans are wrong about just about everything, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 3, 2015: The Unhidden Racism of Donald Trump

Pelt-wearing Republican Presidential Wannabe Gadfly Donald Trump lent his voiceover talents to ABC’s This Week without George Stephanopoulos when he literally phoned in an interview with substitute host Jonathan Karl. Scrutiny was recently drawn to a tweet The Donald made last year about President Barack Obama. In it, he said, “Sadly, because President Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won’t see another black president for generations.” And there it is. Plain as day for anyone to see. Anyone, that is, except The Donald Himself. He seems to be of the belief that however Barack Obama’s performance may be, it will totally and exclusively reflect on any future African-American candidates for POTUS. If there were any validity to that, and if it was such a widely held belief among other conservatives, then why is Dr. Ben Carson running for POTUS (a decision the doctor himself has publicly questioned)? According to Trump, Obama has performed so badly that Carson could never get elected (much to the delight of Mrs. Ben Carson, who was looking forward to a nice, quiet retirement), and that it would be solely because of the color of his skin. FTR, by every account I can find, Dr. Ben Carson really was a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon, and I never want to demean that accomplishment in any way. I do not claim that I could ever do anything of the sort, so I have nothing but respect and admiration for Dr. Carson’s medical career and accomplishments. It’s his viewpoints on things unrelated to medicine that concern me. But in no way, shape, or form, do I, or for that matter, almost all Liberals, think that Dr. Carson’s inability to be elected POTUS has anything to do with the color of his skin. It’s the fact that he’s a lunatic that makes him unqualified.

This idea Trump has, that there’s not only nothing wrong with judging a POTUS candidate by the color of his skin, but that it’s what everyone will do, is why racists often do not understand why they are racist. I think they honestly believe that everybody else sees the world as they do, so everybody in the world is as racist as they are (if they are at all), so what’s wrong with just saying what everybody’s thinking? I can field that one easily enough. We, the ones you hate so much because of the way we think, do not think the way you do. We do not look at someone’s skin color and decide everyone else just like him will be the same. What’s weird is that while this is exactly what you did in the case of Obama, you would never look at President George W. Bush, widely and accurately regarded as one of the worst presidents in our nation’s history, and say, “Sadly, because President Bush has done such a poor job as president, you won’t see another white president for generations.” You would never say it because for you, the accomplishments and failures of white people has nothing to do with the color of their skin. That only applies to People of Color in the minds of people who divide people by skin color – you know, racists.

KARL: So let me ask you about something you tweeted last year. You said of Barack Obama, “Sadly, because President Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won’t see another black president for generations.”

What did you mean by that?

TRUMP: Well, I think he’s been a very poor president. I think he has done a very poor job as president. We have $18 trillion right now in debt and going up rapidly.

KARL: But what did you mean? What —

TRUMP: Wait a minute.

The world is — we don’t have victories anymore. China is killing us on trade. Mexico’s killing us at the border and also killing us on trade. Mexico’s doing unbelievably against us in trade.

You look at what’s going on with Japan. You look at what’s going on with Vietnam. You look at Saudi Arabia, makes $1 billion a day and we defend them. We get nothing.

KARL: I understand your critique. But why do you say that means we won’t see another black president for generations?

TRUMP: Because I think that he has set a very poor standard. I think that he has set a very low bar and I think it’s a shame for the African American people.

And by the way, he has done nothing for African Americans. You look at what’s gone on with their income levels. You look at what’s gone on with their youth. I thought that he would be a great cheerleader for this country. I thought he’d do a fabulous job for the African American citizens of this country.

He has done nothing. They are worse now than just about ever and —

KARL: But —

TRUMP: — they are — excuse me. They have problems now in terms of unemployment numbers, look at their unemployment numbers. And you have — here you have a black president who’s done very poorly for the African Americans of this country.

And I think that I will win the African American vote and I think I will win the Hispanic vote. And if you see the recent polls that came out, Jon, you’ll see that because I’m leading in the Hispanic vote.

Naturally, because he had so many other important upon which he wanted to give quick questions for quick answers, he could not continue asking The Donald why he believes race is the sole determining factor for anybody’s assessment of a candidate? Instead, The Donald solidified his non-credentials to be the President of the United States. A longer version of teh trump Interview can be found here.

KARL: All right. We’re almost out of time. I want to go through a couple of lightning round, quick questions, to get a sense of what a Trump presidency would look like.

First of all, Supreme Court, who is your model for a Supreme Court nomination?

TRUMP: Well, I have a number of people that I like. But I will say this, when it comes to the Supreme Court, I’d want high intellect, and I’d want very conservative. I would like really high intellect and very conservative.

KARL: Would President Trump authorize waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques, even torture?

TRUMP: I would be inclined to be very strong. When people are chopping off other people’s heads and then we’re worried about waterboarding and we can’t, because I have no doubt that that works. I have absolutely no doubt.

KARL: You’d bring back waterboarding?

TRUMP: …you mention waterboarding, which was such a big subject. I haven’t heard that term in a year now, because when you see the other side chopping off heads, waterboarding doesn’t sound very severe.

KARL: OK. I want to get a sense of what a Trump cabinet looks like, so very quickly, throughout a couple of names: Secretary of State. Who can we see? Who would you consider?

TRUMP: I wouldn’t want to put any names out there right now. I think it’s far too early. I want to see. And I’m certainly looking at the field. And there are certainly some tremendous people that we could put in, but it would be somebody that’s very strong, very smart, and you know what else would be important, very energetic. You need a lot of energy.

KARL: Runningmate: Sarah Palin said some very nice things about you, you’ve said some nice things about her. Will you consider her as a possible runningmate?

TRUMP: Well, I don’t think she’d want to, because at the — the answer is — you know, I like Sarah Palin a lot. I think Sarah Palin has got the very unfair press. I think the press has treated her very unfairly. But I would pick somebody that would be a terrific — you know, you have to view it as really who would be a good president in case something happened. But I would — there are many, many people out there that I think would be very good.

KARL: OK. Last question very quickly, Reince Priebus, chairman of the party, has said that all candidates should pledge not to run as a third party if they don’t win the nomination. Will you take that pledge this morning? Will you pledge not to run as a third party candidate?

TRUMP: I will tell you this, I am leading in every poll, and in some cases by a tremendous margin, and people are a little bit surprised, but I’m not surprised. And people that know me aren’t surprised, because they see what’s going on with this country.

If I’m treated fairly by — and don’t win, but if I’m treated fairly by the Republican Party, I would have no interest in doing that. If I’m not treated fairly by the Republican Party, I very well might consider that. And I would certainly not give that up.

KARL: OK. Donald Trump, thank you for joining us.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Donald Trump, Ben Carson, other famous pelt wearers, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 25, 2015: We Told Us So

In January 2009, the Strategic Analysis Group, Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division of the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Left Wing Extremism. The purpose of the report was to “to facilitate a greater understanding of the emerging threats to the United States. The information is provided to federal, state, and local counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.” It said that the primary concern over the next ten years would be non-violent cyber-terrorism targeting chiefly economic entities. The report clearly stated right at the beginning that it was one of a series of reports on threats to homeland security. Nobody appeared to pay it much attention. In fact, DHS had to remind people of its existence when they followed up three months later with a report on Right Wing Extremism. And in typical right wing fashion, Republicans and Conservatives went ape shit and bullied the DHS to retract the report (as if that would make the words in it go away.) Because that’s what bullies do – they scream and shout and stamp their feet and threaten violence if they don’t get their way. They mischaracterized the report’s recommendations in a number of ways. One was by taking the suggestion that disgruntled military veterans (note the word “disgruntled”) were prime recruiting targets for extremist groups looking to use violence. It did not in any way, shape or form say that ALL veterans were candidates for extremism, but that is how the right wing portrayed the report’s findings. They demanded an apology to veterans (which Secretary Napolitano eventually gave) even though she insulted none of them (except, perhaps, the extreme white nationalist, anti-immigration kind – IOW, people just like today’s Republican Party). And they demanded that the report, the one that said people just like them might resort to physical violence, go away because they said it wasn’t true. Except it was. And the fallout was that DHS eventually reduced to one person the number of people following left or right wing extremism in America. Way to keep us safe, Republicans.

The straw man argument is a tactic the right wing uses a lot in political discourse, especially when they’re wrong from the beginning. They made it seem as if the report was saying that every veteran returning from war was going to commit acts of terrorism. Nothing of the kind was true, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, the right decided that the section which said Medicare would pay for your doctor’s time to sit down with you and discuss your end-of-life options really amounted to a “Death Panel.” This, BTW, was one of several things they referred to falsely as a Death Panel – you and your doctor discussing what happens if you get a terminal illness. Another was a board that would look for ways to spend taxpayer money more effectively and efficiently. That was also a Death Panel. That there is nothing even remotely describing a Death Panel in the PP/ACA never once deterred them from saying there were several. In his dissent in the recent Obergefell v. Hodges decision, Justice Thomas said, “It appears all but inevitable that [civil marriage and religious marriage] will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.” Again, this is a straw man argument. In the first place, marriage in the United States is a civil arrangement, not a religious one. You can be married without it having any connection to any religion. (As in the case of my marriage by a Justice of the Peace at the restaurant where we held the reception.) Second, no individual has to participate in any wedding if he or she doesn’t want to participate. And third, in every state where marriage equality was enacted by a state legislature, an exemption was written into the law stating that no religious entity could be forced to perform a same-sex marriage if it violated their religious beliefs. Not one state was going to force churches to perform same-sex weddings if they thought gay sex was icky. Yet here’s Justice Thomas (who, BTW, ought to be removed from the bench for voting on issues before the court where he had a clear conflict of interest, such as one side paying his wife to be their advocate) claiming that churches were now going to be forced to participate in same sex weddings even if they don’t want to do it. Totally untrue. Conservatives seem to have a hard time with options. They act as if the choice to do something is equivalent to it being a government mandate to do that something. They have a binary way of thinking that tells them everything is one way or the other, there’s no in-between. Except life is filled with in-betweens and there’s rarely that many black-or-white, yes-or-no options. As former President George H.W. Bush once said, “Either you’re for it or you’re against it.” I forget what the “it” was but it makes no difference because that’s how the right feels about everything.

So because the right was all butthurt over the Right Wing Extremism report, they demanded that it not only be retracted, but that no further discussion of the subject by the government could take place. And so insufficient resources were devoted to tracking the rise of right wing extremism, and more and more people died as a consequence. The same month the report was released, Joshua Cartwright (who was “severely disturbed” that Barack Obama was elected president) shot and killed two sheriff’s deputies. The next month Scott Roeder (an anti-abortion extremist connected to the sovereign citizens movement) shot and killed Dr. George Tiller in the entrance to a church. The very next month James von Brunn (a neo-Nazi and white supremacist) walked up to the Holocaust Museum and shot and killed a guard. And the violence by right wing extremists continued month after month. Since the criminal attacks of 9/11 (they were crimes, not acts of war), anti-government, racist and non-jihadist extremists have killed nearly twice as many people as those by Islamic jihadists, yet the right would have you believe ISIS is more of a danger to us than they are. It is simply untrue. As this last Thursday showed.

John Russell Houser, who Little Green Footballs’ Charles Johnson described as “an anti-government loon who admired Adolph Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, white power groups, the Westboro Baptist Church and the “scientific racism” of Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve,”” opened fire inside a Lafayette, LA, movie theater using a hand gun he legally purchased from a pawn shop, killing two women and injuring nine others. It’s exactly the kind of violent act our own government warned us was likely to happen. But did we listen? No. Even worse, the right wing told us to shut up and act like it couldn’t happen. Except it did. If only we had listened to ourselves.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the dangers of right wing extremism or any other topic you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 18, 2015: White Be Not Proud

When the Confederate Flag was finally removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, we saw how racists (who often do not understand why they are racist) in that state reacted – with more racism. A petition to remove the African-American Monument has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures so far. Their stated reason for wanting the monument removed? Because “this monument can and does serve to invoke in the white community feelings of shame, humiliation and offense, serving as a constant reminder of the dark history of slavery.” Which is, of course, the entire point.

Keith Harmon, the petition’s author, said the flag shouldn’t have been removed in response to a white supremacist’s massacre of nine black churchgoers. He said, “I think killing nine innocent people was completely and totally wrong, (but) it has nothing to do with the flag — nothing at all.” He could not have been more wrong. The Confederate Flag had EVERYTHING to do with this crime of despicable hatred. Like many lovers of the Confederacy who have been taught an alternate reality of history, Harmon thinks the flag can’t be a symbol of hate because his ancestors fought under it. “My great, great, great grandfather and ancestors fought in this war for this state,” Harmon said. Well, Harmon, your great, great, great granddaddy fought to preserve Slavery and the oppression of the black man.

Since you mentioned “this state,” Harmon, perhaps you should read up on your history. “This state” (South Carolina) seceded from the United States specifically, unequivocally, and indisputably because they believed in Slavery, and they were very upset that President-Elect Lincoln might want to end it in America. In fact, many of the states that seceded cited this very reason. And not only did they believe in Slavery, they believed that white people were superior to black people, and that the natural state of the black man was as a slave to the white man. It’s no coincidence that the people who primarily fly that flag today do so out of racism. In fact, the very thing that has Harmon so upset – the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse – was done to correct a wrong done about fifty years ago. The flag was intentionally put on the statehouse in protest to the Civil Rights movement, so there is ample reason to believe that today, in the 21st century, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia is primarily a symbol of racism and white supremacy.

So the African-American Monument makes you feel ashamed as a white person? Good, it’s doing its job, because you should be ashamed of what your ancestors did in defense of Slavery. There is not and never was anything noble about Slavery, no matter who’s doing it or to whom. I sincerely hope that South Carolina’s official reaction to this petition is three simple words: “Go to Hell.”

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