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.

Sunday Roast: Buh bye!

Hey kids, let’s join the Young Turks guys and take the argument to end birthright citizenship to its logical conclusion…oops.  Start packing, y’all.

This is our daily open thread — Rested and tan?  Wha…?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 22nd, 2015: (T)Rump Droppings

First, here’s several nut-filled nuggets from Trump’s interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN:

“Hillary’s record as secretary of state was a disaster…She was in favor, totally in favor, of the Iraq War, which is obviously not a good soundbite.”

Immigration word salad:

“You know, this country is so politically correct. Nobody wants to take a stance on anything…Now they like to use the word undocumented because it’s more political — I don’t use that word. They’re illegal immigrants. They came over illegally. Some are wonderful people, and they’ve been here for a while. They’ve got to go out. They’ve got to leave…These people — the really good ones, and we have some great ones — we’re going to try and expedite so they can come back.  But they’re going to come back legally.”  [According to the article, Trump “said he wouldn’t need to amend the Constitution to do it.”]

“No. 1, the 14th Amendment is very questionable as to whether or not somebody can come over, have a baby and immediately that baby is a citizen. OK?”

“Amending is too big a deal. It’s going to take — it’ll be two terms. I’d be in my second term or my eighth year by the time — assuming everything went smoothly. … I believe you can win it legally.”

According to the article, “He said people can’t be allowed to just “walk over” the border to give birth.”

“You have people on the border and in one day they walk over, have a baby. And now all of a sudden we’re supposed to pay the baby … medical, Social Security…”

“Trump defended his comments [on getting his military strategy by watching current and retired generals on TV]…saying it allows him to get a lot of advice quickly.”

“I watch your show. And I watch other shows. And you have the best generals, the best everything … frankly probably better than I could get,” Trump said. “What do I know? I’m a man that made a great fortune. I’m gonna make our country rich and I’m gonna make our country great.”

“I think that I would be a great sleeper on the military, because people wouldn’t think it’s my strength, but I think it would be one of my strengths…One of the things I noticed in your poll, I came out way, way ahead of everybody on the economy, and a lot of people weren’t surprised to see that, but I also came way out ahead on the military … and ISIS. I would build up our military so strong, so powerful that nobody will mess with us.”

Trump was asked “how he would respond if Pope Francis told him that capitalism can be toxic.”

“I’d say, ‘ISIS wants to get you. You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican? You have heard that. You know, that’s a dream of theirs, to go into Italy.”

“I’m gonna have to scare the Pope because it’s the only thing…The Pope, I hope, can only be scared by God. But the truth is — you know, if you look at what’s going on — they better hope that capitalism works, because it’s the only thing we have right now. And it’s a great thing when it works properly.”

It gets worse, as seen in last evening’s thread on ThinkProgress about Trump’s rally in Alabama.

“Oreos. Oreos. I love Oreos, but I’ll never eat them again.”

“Women’s health issues. We’re gonna fix it.”

[According to the CNN article, Trump “said his wife and daughter both encouraged him to talk more about women’s issues after the (Jeb Bush “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”) controversy.”

“They said, you know, ‘The one thing you should do is talk a little bit about women’s health issues, because you’re so good on it, [y]ou know about it. And you cherish women. You want to protect women’. … I will protect women more than anybody.”]

“I swear to you I will never ever ride a bicycle.”

Had enough Trump for one morning? Yeah, me too.

This is our daily Open Thread…so talk about anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 17th, 2015: Grab Bag

Just a few odds and ends to get your Monday started.

(R) Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson has already proven that he “don’t know much about biology” when it comes to homosexuality, women’s reproductive and overall health, and where the fetal brain tissue came from on which he used to experiment. He’s also shown that he “don’t know much about” #BlackLivesMatter, or about prisons. Now Carson shows that he “don’t know much about history” when it comes to foreign policy, the Middle East, or the meaning of “anti-semitism.” In particular, he shows in an op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post that he “don’t know much about” the Iran Nuclear Deal either.

A few items from Daily Kos: one oldie that makes a nice palate-cleanser; and a recent one that ends with an eloquent message [some of the comments afterwards are excellent as well.]

And for the funny, ICYMI (as I did), John Oliver and friends teach Sex Education.

This is our daily Open Thread–pick a topic, any topic.

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, Wednesday, August 12th, 2015: Chuck Should Listen to George (Bonus: Birds!)

I started this post (a few days ago) thinking that I would rebut Senator Chuck Schumer’s reasoning, as reported in this NY Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman, for his opposition to the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  But that would have taken too long and wouldn’t have been good for my mental and physical health.  Suffice it to say that Chuck’s ‘arguments’ against the deal are specious and unfounded, and the final quote in the article is, quite literally, nonsensical:  “To me, after 10 years, if Iran is the same nation as it is today, we will be worse off with this agreement than without it.”

Then I got distracted (once again) by President Washington’s Farewell Address, with his  warning against aligning the Nation with any particular nation(s) at the expense and enmity of any other nation(s), and at the expense of our country’s interests.  (If you’re interested, the pertinent discussion starts at “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”)  I wanted to scold Schumer with these two sections in particular:

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.

~ and ~

“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

Then, for a bit of crazy, there were a couple of stories on RightWingWatch about Michele Bachman “predictions” and/or supposed validation of previous “predictions.” 

Finally, I ran across something to wash the bad taste out of your minds: a story about birds from DailyKos.

This is our daily open thread, so talk about ‘such and stuff’ (as my mum used to say.)

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 10th, 2015: Make It Stop!

Make it stop - Teh Stupid will make my ears bleed!

Make it stop – Teh Stupid will make my ears bleed!

Only one Republican debate down, and already the incessant fallout of Teh Stupid is taking its toll. Pretty soon I’ll be curled up in a ball with my eyes tightly closed and my ears covered, otherwise what’s left of my brain will start leaking out.

How’re your brains holding up?

This is our daily Open Thread–discuss anything you want!