The Watering Hole, Monday, January 25th, 2016: All-“Christian” Edition

Today’s offerings are from two sites whose only thing in common seems to be that they both have the word “Christian” in their names.

First, let’s look at a few things from the Christian Post website (the more ‘persecuted-RW-Christian’ site.)

The Christian Post has sent the 2016 Presidential candidates a list of 12 questions which they feel are most important for the candidates to answer. So far, only two Republican candidates, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, have responded.

Here’s Ben Carson’s responses, a few of which I’d like to comment upon:

2. What is marriage, and what should be the government’s interest and role in marriage?
Like many Christians, I believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman in the witness of God. The government’s interest and role in marriage should be to protect and sanctify this institution[emphasis mine] because it is the cornerstone of our society. Raising families with two parents is key to a child’s development, and marriage is a strong institution that solidifies this crucial social structure. Marriage combines the efforts of two people to provide for and raise children, and gives children two parental figures to love and care for them.

Okay – First, define “sanctify”. According to Wikipedia:

“Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.[1] “Sanctity” is an ancient concept widespread among religions. It is a gift given through the power of God to a person or thing which is then considered sacred or set apart in an official capacity within the religion, in general anything from a temple, to vessels, to days of the week, to a human believer who willingly accepts this gift can be sanctified. To sanctify is to literally “set apart for particular use in a special purpose or work and to make holy or sacred.”

So Carson believes that the U.S. Government has role in every citizen’s marriage, and that role is to make it “holy or sacred”? Does that make the U.S. Government a god?   Doesn’t that conflict with the Establishment Clause?  If Ben Carson believes that marriage is such a strong institution, why not rail against divorce? Christians get divorced at the same – or higher – rate as any other group, not to mention that divorce is said to be a big sin in the eyes of Jesus. If Jesus thought divorce was so wrong, but didn’t mention homosexuality, why can’t the “key” two-parents-must-raise-a-child be in a same-sex marriage?

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Energy is the life-blood that keeps our economy growing. It fuels the tractors that plow America’s fields. It powers the trucks, trains and planes that deliver American products. And it drives the American people in their everyday lives. If we want to return America to its former prosperity, we need to ensure that America’s energy grid is not only reliable, but affordable. That means looking into all potential energy sources to find the most efficient, most effective and more reliable energy grid possible.

We can’t afford to mandate unrealistic fuel standards or price-inflating renewable mandates. But as these energy sources compete head to head, technological advancements and innovations will help drop costs and raise efficiencies even further.

[and the money quote]

When it comes to the environment, we should be good stewards of God’s resources, but the best way to do that is through market-based mechanisms and private efforts, not via government edicts that destroy businesses and intrude into citizens’ lives.

Yeah, because I’m sure that “God” was thinking of “market-based mechanisms and private efforts” when he told mankind to be good stewards of Earth. And wasn’t Carson just talking about how “government” should have an “interest” and “a role” in a couple’s marriage, i.e., “intrud[ing] into citizens’ lives”, and very personally, I might add? But the “government” shouldn’t be involved in determining how the entire country uses its natural resources, because that would “intrud[e] into citizens’ lives”?  Carson has very mixed, and incorrect, notions of what government’s priorities should be.

12. What caused the Great Recession, and what should be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

A number of factors contributed to the global financial crisis, but what became clear was that when bankers engaged in highly leveraged financial bets, ordinary taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the big banks’ bailouts.

I believe that certain types of regulations are reasonable for regulating financial markets. For instance, Glass-Steagall was a reasonable piece of legislation after the 1929 stock market crash, and perhaps should be re-imposed in a modified form.

This does not mean that the regulations imposed after the financial crisis were appropriate. In fact, Dodd-Frank is a monstrosity that does not address the root cause of the crisis, imposes heavy burdens on community banks, severely limits the freedom of financial institution to engage in ordinary business and saps economic growth with restrictive government controls.

I believe that when such government regulations choke economic growth, it is the poor and the middle class that are hurt the most.

Carson (or whoever wrote his ‘responses’ for him) must have just skimmed the “U.S. Economic History, Late 20th – Early 21st Century” Cliff Notes(TM), latching on to just enough topical buzzwords and meaningless phrases to put together a few sentences. Too many points there to elaborate on, I’ll let you all pick them apart if you wish.

And here’s Carly Fiorina’s responses. I’m just going to comment on one of them.

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Fiorina: As president, I will ensure that the United States is the global energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

That means reinstating the Keystone XL Pipeline that President Obama rejected. It also means rolling back the regulations from this administration that limit our ability to find resources by imposing regulations on hydraulic fracturing and our ability to be energy independent by regulating drilling on federal lands. As president, I will make America an energy leader through technology and innovation.

No, no, no! Fiorina is just so wrong, it’s hard to believe that she could possibly be serious. Keystone XL, fracking, and drilling, and on OUR federal lands, no less? How does one become an “energy leader through technology and innovation” while relying solely on finite, filthy fossil fuels? Aaarrgghhh!

Let’s turn to the Christian Science Monitor for a few things that are more reality-based and inspiring.

First, I’m sure that you’re all aware by now that Earth may have a new neighbor, as astronomers announced the possibility of a hidden ninth planet.

The evidence for the existence of this “Planet Nine” is indirect at the moment; computer models suggest a big, undiscovered world has shaped the strange orbits of multiple objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune.

Next, we can once again thank the Hubble telescope and NASA for showing us the amazing beauty of space, in this article about the Trumpler 14 star cluster. Just don’t let Donald Trump know about Trumpler 14, he’ll probably think that (a) the star cluster is named for him, and (b) therefore he owns it.
Trumpler 14Source: Hubblesite.org

And finally, for our Zookeeper, here’s an article discussing why the zebra has stripes. While it appears that the idea that the striping is for camouflage may be incorrect, there is still no consensus on a proven biological reason.
brown striped zebra

This is our daily Open Thread–discuss whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday December 8, 2015 – Environmental News and Food Politics

Maybe it is just me, but these climate summits have been happening for a while yet very little seems to be accomplished. Mr. Peadbody’s coal trains still chugging past former West Virginia mountaintops. Climate summits seem a lot like Earth Day. Feel good for a little while, but there will be no sense of urgency until the officials at the meetings sit around the tables knee deep in water. Climate deniers, while in a vast minority in the scientific community, rule the roost in political circles, where money sets the agenda. A part of me thinks that Republican/Libertarian support of marijuana law changes in the various states is a cultural shift away from ‘religion is the opiate of the people’ to ‘cannabis is the opiate of the people’.

Read on, if you dare.  

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 14th, 2015: Populism That Works

ICYMI, or maybe ICIMI: there’s a petition going around for a great idea that was brought to our attention today in a newsletter from populist Jim Hightower. The Campaign for Postal Banking is pushing for local Post Offices to also provide banking services. As Jim Hightower states:

“Millions of Americans live in areas that now have no alternative to the Wall Street-backed predatory lenders and check-cashing chains that rip them off. We can change this. The Campaign for Postal Banking has started a petition to the US Postmaster General to make postal banking a reality. With postal banking, folks that don’t have access to good banks or credit unions can go to their community post office for non-profit, consumer-driven financial services — getting their basic banking needs met without being gouged by Wall Street profiteers.”

From an article by Ralph Nader at Huffington Post yesterday discusses the topic as well:

“According to Bloomberg, from 2008 to 2013: “Banks have shut 1,826 branches…. and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median.”

and

“Last year, the office of the USPS inspector general released a report detailing the ways in which postal banking would be beneficial to both the public and the USPS itself, which has been made to endure an unprecedented advanced payment of $103.7 billion by 2016 to cover future health benefits of postal retirees for the next 75 years. No other government or private corporation is required to meet this unreasonable prepayment burden.”

An article at OurFuture.org from May of this year has more, including this excerpt:

“For millions of underserved families, the Postal Service is already a part of their financial lives,” the report said, noting that post offices sold $21 billion worth of money orders in 2014. Yet, “in order to get the funds to purchase those money orders, many families likely first went to expensive check cashers to convert their paychecks into currency. What if those consumers could instead cash their paychecks at a post office for a lower fee? What if they also could pay bills, buy low-fee prepaid cards, and maybe even get affordable small-dollar loans, all in one convenient location? This could help consumers save money and time, and it would help the Postal Service fulfill its mission to facilitate commerce and serve citizens.”

An idea that’s a total win-win for poorer Americans; empowers “Main Street”; helps to save the U.S. Postal Service from its deliberate destruction by Congress; that keeps and creates jobs, thereby improving the economy; and helps to break the chokehold of Wall Street and the too-big-to-fail banks that WE THE TAXPAYERS bailed out? Every politician who’s in bed with the Wall Street/big bank cabal will be fighting this with every bit of power they have. This is an idea worth fighting for, and one that should show any non-1%er-American who still has a functioning brain exactly what “populism” means and what Democratic Socialist Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is standing for.

Let’s all say a big, loud “FUCK YOU” to the real “takers” in our country, and make something happen.

This is our daily Open Thread – feel free to talk about this topic or anything else on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 9th, 2015: Monday Morning Morons

I know that we do a lot of Right-Wing-Nut-Job (RWNJ) bashing here, much of it about the more Rabid Religious amongst them (RRRWNJ) but…well, both (often overlapping) groups just come up with so many things that invite ridicule, they’re their own worst enemy. Just look at last week alone (in case you missed some of these):

Being gay is worse than Murder and Genocide. Yes, now, according to “Pastor” Scott Lively, homosexuality is the Number One sin against God. An excerpt from Right Wing Watch’s article:

“Last month, rabidly anti-gay activist Scott Lively warned that if the Supreme Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage, it could lead to the rise of the Antichrist by the end of the year.”

In an interview with Bryan Fischer on Friday, “Lively told Fischer that America is about to cross “a line with God that hasn’t occurred in the entire history of the world since Noah’s flood” – which Lively claims was caused by god because god apparently hates gays. Back in January of 2013, Lively had stated:

“We need to remember that in the time leading up to the Flood what the rabbis teach about the last straw for God before He brought the Flood was when they started writing wedding songs to homosexual marriage and Jesus said that you’ll know the End Times because it will be like the days of Noah. There’s never been a time in the history of the world since before the Flood when homosexual marriage has been open and celebrated, and that’s another sign that I believe that we’re close to the end.”

(Snip)

“I think this is the issue of the End Times, homosexuality. It’s present, if you do a careful investigation of all the scriptures dealing with this from the beginning and all the way to the end, God is painting a very clear picture that this represents the outer extent of rebellion against Him in a society and the last thing that happens before wrath comes.”

Okay…first, I thought that President Barack “Hussein” Obama was the AntiChrist in RWNJ eyes. So there’s another one? Second, I don’t know what religious sect/cult Lively is the “Pastor” of, but if it’s based on Christianity in any way, then I must have been dozing throughout my 13 years of Catholic schools.

Anyhoo…today, “Pastor” Lively is urging his followers and other groups to, according to his “Open Letter to America”

“…band together in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to promote and conduct a continual prayer vigil and stand-out for marriage at SCOTUS (or any Federal Courthouse for those who can’t get there) from now until the ruling comes out, probably in June…”
“This is a general call to all believers to go to SCOTUS alone or in groups to pray and hold signs. Churches and other organizations can choose dates or times to rally their own troops if they like and/or hold press conferences etc., but let’s all just put out the word to whatever circle of influence we have and let the Holy Spirit stir hearts.

I am asking every Christian and pro-family radio talk host to promote this vigil, and perhaps do a broadcast from the site. Large organizations could provide logistical support…”

(snip)

“Only God can save us from the calamity and disgrace of defiling His institution of marriage in our official national policy.

Let us take the authority we have in Him, and the freedom we have as Americans, to join together to surround the federal judges with such a hedge of prayer that they will be forced to bow their knee to the one who created marriage as the foundation of all human civilization — one man and one woman.”

Hmm, “god created marriage as the foundation of all civilization”? I don’t remember any wedding performed by god himself–you’d think that the bible would have mentioned that, huh? And now Scott Lively thinks that the entire Supreme Court of the United States should get on their knees for something other than sucking Koch and refer all decisions to Lively’s god? I realize that one or two of the Justices would be happy to do so, but all nine? Rather unconstitutional, don’tcha think?

Back to Lively’s call for a prayer vigil: from BibleGateway, the 1599 Geneva Bible version, here’s 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 If my people, among whom my Name is called upon, do humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear in heaven and be merciful to their sin, and will heal their land”
Footnotes: 2 Chronicles 7:14 I will cause the pestilence to cease and destroy the beasts that hurt the fruits of the earth, and send rain in due season.

I’m not sure how Lively uses this as an anti-gay call to march/pray, as neither 2 Chronicles 6, nor the remainder of 2 Chronicles 7, makes any reference to homosexuality. But I’m sure that Lively’s twisted interpretation is a masterpiece of pulling it out of his ass, so to speak. Considering how many whoppers he produces, one could probably drive an SUV up his asshole–well, a 4WD SUV, anyway.

Well, let’s leave “Pastor” Lively to his unChristian vigil, and go on to:

OMG, Christians are being persecuted – again! Poor embattled Ken Ham (“Answers In Genesis”, Creation Museum) is whining about being denied $18 million in tax breaks for his planned Noah’s Ark park by the State of Kentucky’s Tourism Board. The Board “cited AIG’s stated intention to discriminate based on religion in its hiring of theme park employees and to use the taxpayer-subsidized park for religious evangelism…” On a RW radio program last week, Ham stated:

“If Christians just keep accommodating and allowing this to happen more and more, we will lose that free exercise of religion.”

“It’s more and more of that trying to eliminate the Christian freedom that we have in this nation,” he said.

Yes, of course…those poor, poor Christians having to cave to the Constitution. I just don’t know how they’ll manage to keep practicing their faith, what with all their churches being shut down and religious leaders arrested, and…oh, wait, that never happens. But, but…tax breaks!

And lastly, in a switch away from the RRRWNJs to the “normal” RWNJs, Fox News’ pet climate change denier, Mark Morano of climatedepot.com, is very upset. According to RawStory, he does NOT like the idea that “Google’s popular web-search engine is being re-engineered to direct users to more “trustworthy” websites, saying “Let the public decide what’s the truth…” The article goes on to say:

“The proposed changes at Google would move websites up in the rankings based upon truth and not popularity.

Morano, who previously worked for Rush Limbaugh and climate change-denying Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), says this would be[sic] put him at a disadvantage.

Well, fucking DUH.

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

State of the Union speech, 2015 — live-blogging

2011_State_of_the_Union

(photo source)

It’s that time of year again — the President will paint a sunny picture of the state of this nation, and will talk about things he’d like to do this year, even though he knows this Congress isn’t going to do anything thing but keep his veto pen busy.  Fun times.

Who will heckle the President this year?  Which SCOTUS members will be present and absent?  How many times will the Dems pop up for applause, and how many times will the Repubs boo?  Which Fox “News” pundit will trash the speech before it’s even given?  How many members of Congress will be spending time on their phones, instead of giving the President the slightest bit of respect?

It’s open season, when live-blogging on TheZoo, on the Prez and Congress, which means everything is fair game:  Clothes, ties, hair-dos, hugs, praising the POTUS for good stuff, and giving him hell for bad stuff.  Knock yourselves out, Zoosters.

Make sure you stay tuned for the Repub and Tea Party responses to the SOTU, because Sen Joni Ernst, the pig castrater from Iowa, will be hollering the Repub response; and Rep Curt Clawson, the clueless they can’t be from Amurka if their skin is brown and they have funny names idiot from Florida, will confidently spew Teabagger crapola.

I’m not encouraging drinking games, but feel free to BYOB and party on.  I’ll be abstaining from the evils of drink this evening, so I’ll make sure y’all are laying on your sides, and will turn out the lights when I leave.  We don’t want a repeat of last year’s SOTU party — whatever might have happened…

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia’s Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?