The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 9, 2016: The Hole In The Head Gang

Whenever anyone tells you they are doing what God wants them to do, run. And I don’t mean for president. It’s amazing how many people claim God told to run for the same public office, especially in America, which is officially and constitutionally a secular nation. There were all those Republicans in 2012 who said they heard God calling upon them to run for president. The fact that none of them even came close to winning might suggest in an otherwise free thinking person that maybe those claims of being told by God to run were false. Not lies, exactly, just inaccurate. In fact, it makes a lot more sense to believe Satan told these people to run for high office. Why we never ask them if this was a possibility is beyond me. When you have at least four people standing on a stage each claiming to be there because God told them to run, why just accept that as truth? Why not grill each one and ask them why would God do such a thing? (And why would he tell even more of them to run this time?) It seems to me that an allegedly all-powerful deity wouldn’t bother with democracy. He could just make a bunch of write-in ballots appear all over the country, naming the person he wants to be president. That’s within his capabilities, isn’t it? Does anyone truly believe God wanted George W. Bush to become president in 2000? So much so that he rigged an election in a state governed by his brother to make the victory happen? And then addled the mind of several Supreme Court Justices, just to make sure? And then went further and told George to invade Iraq? Why believe anybody when they say God told them to do something? With no witnesses around to confirm it? Is there any reason to believe them? Even Adolf Hitler thought he was doing what God wanted him to do, so one really should question anyone making such a claim. Which is why I question Ammon Bundy’s claim that he is doing what God told him to do, even how to do it (which apparently included not preparing for it.) It may offend you to hear me say this, but it’s stupid to believe an all-powerful, all-knowing being would care about political candidates or sports athletes. It really is. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And that’s precisely why it should disqualify anyone for public office when they claim God told them to run for that office. And an athlete that says his or her talent comes from God must think very lowly of their alleged Creator that he would endow them with athletic ability to entertain us, but not endow scientists and medical researchers with the talent and intelligence they need to find cures for diseases like cancer. OTOH, if you believe God created everything, you have to believe God created cancer. Otherwise your entire set of beliefs is false and unworkable. So how much does God really love you, that he would take your child away from you with cancer? God did not tell any of those people to do any of those things. They told themselves to do those things.

And why would God talk only to Ammon Bundy, and not his brother or any of the others there? And why would he put a lot of false notions in his head about the issues he’s supposed to be defending? These folks clearly do not understand the concept of “We The People.” They do not understand that the federal government IS us, and that we have constitutionally granted it powers to act on our behalf in preserving and protecting those lands. That the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge they claim to be taking back for the people already belongs to We The People. Nor do they seem to understand that the People closest to them (geographically) do not want them there, and do not want them to claim they are speaking for us. That they want the invaders to leave. (This was from a group Ammon Bundy helped form.) And they should leave, especially if they are illegally accessing the federal computers at the refuge they occupy. Regardless of the rationales they put out, they are not within their rights to do this. And they’re not right in their reasons for doing this. Nor are they right in the logic they use to come to the conclusions they have. The property they have improperly seized belongs to all of us, meaning it belongs to you and me, too. Would you want a bunch of armed delusional people squatting in your back yard saying they’ll use deadly force if anyone tries to make them leave? Because that is what they’re doing.

There is seriously something wrong with people who think the way these people think. Whether it’s the idea that God exists and tells several different people to do the same pointless thing (run for president against other people he told to run for president, or take over a publicly owned wildlife refuge in the middle of winter), or that the American federal government has no connection whatsoever to the People of America, these people clearly have a hole in their heads. They are the types who believe County Sheriffs have more authority than the federal government. They’re wrong here, of course, because they have occupied federal property, which makes what they’re doing a federal crime. It’s also a crime to use federal employee badges to access federal computers, which they obviously did. (The reporter said three of the four computer screens had screensavers running on them. I think it very highly unlikely that the people working at the refuge left those computers running over a long holiday weekend. Ammon Bundy’s brother Ryan claims they didn’t touch anything in that room, even though the reporter saw him try to hide the badges.) The best thing to do would be to have the local sheriff (whom they believe has more authority than the federal government, even on federal property) explain to everyone in that group that they are in violation of federal law, that they will be charged with violations of federal statutes once the occupation ends and they are brought out, that no one has any intention of firing upon them first, and they might as well give up now before anyone gets hurt over their complete and total ignorance about what they’re doing. I don’t want to see anyone die over this ridiculous issue. But the occupiers are the ones who brought guns to this showdown and threatened to use them. If any of them are killed, I’ll simply say what I always do when bad people die: I will not celebrate the death of any man, but I will not weep for this one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the occupation of public property by delusional wingnuts, or anything else you wish to discuss. Just don’t set up camp on my property.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 2, 2016: He’s Trump, He’s Trump, What’s On His Head?

If one were to believe the political poll results published by the scam artists, Donald J. Trump has a lot of support to be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 2016. I don’t. I’ve already talked before about why these things should be taken with a grain of salt. Besides the facts that neither the primary nor the general election is being held tomorrow (making the entire premise of many of these question meaningless,) people who make a living following these things say that the vast majority of voters don’t make up their minds until the final weeks before the vote. The only people answering these polls (which is about one out of the seven or eight folks they attempted to survey) have already put forth the minimal effort needed to reach their decisions and concluded that alleged billionaire real estate developer and reality show star Trump would be great for America. Even though he clearly won’t.

For one thing, he lies. One can immediately counter that all politicians lie, and that certainly has an element of truth to it. But Trump’s not a politician, he’s a narcissistic billionaire enjoying one of the biggest waves of popularity he’s ever personally experienced. Not that narcissism disqualifies one from being President; it might actually be a prerequisite to a certain degree provided he’s able to turn it off and listen to other people. Either Trump is incapable of doing that, or he’s surrounding himself with sycophantic hero worshipers who would never tell him something he didn’t want to hear. But he lies. A lot. He lies about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. He lies about so many things that Politifact couldn’t name just one for their Lie of the Year 2015, so they named Trump.

For another thing, the message itself that Trump delivers is not in any way shape or form a positive one. Sure he talks about “making America great again,” but who says it isn’t right now? And who says it has to be? Why can’t “really, really, really good” be good enough? The problem with a slogan like Trump’s is that it could mean anything to anybody. Trump’s not defining what would make America greater than it is now except to list the kinds of things all conservatives hate about our society as being the reasons it isn’t great, like the fact that we care about people and want to help make their lives better. Conservatism is about selfishness, first and foremost, so it stands to reason a narcissist trying to win the nomination of a predominantly conservative party would concentrate on the things that most annoy people who think of themselves, first. And fear works on people like that. Make people afraid, tell them whom to fear (please, we don’t need to name any former propaganda ministers), and if they’re the type who don’t put a lot of effort into their thinking (which might expose the lies behind your fear mongering), they’ll do anything you ask (or just imply you think would please you, like beating up a protester at your rally.) Trump’s fear mongering and lies have gotten so bad that terrorists really have started using his anti-Muslim comments in a recruiting video.

And where the narcissism I spoke of earlier should be damning to a group of people who are taught to practice humility in their lives, Conservative Christians (an oxymoron, as Conservatives do very little Jesus would approve) seem to absolutely love Trump. And considering what they believe their religion teaches them about women and sex (including Trump’s lawyer, who thinks marital rape is impossible), the sexism Trump regularly displays can only strengthen their ill-conceived love of the man. This would not otherwise be a problem in a country where the freedom to peacefully practice one’s religion is constitutionally guaranteed, but these people vote. And they base their decision to vote on whom they think will move this country toward their idea of a Christian paradise. Which is ironic considering Trump’s fear mongering them into believing the religious extremists want to install Sharia Law across America, in violation of their religion freedom to do the same with Christianity.

Long before the Republican convention is over and a nominee and his or her running mate is announced, all of these things about Trump, his viewpoints, his policy proposals, his budget numbers, his own hypocritical, self-serving lifestyle, all of it will convince the Americans people that the Office of President of the United States is not a character in a reality show, and not a job to give someone barely suited to do that. Donald J. Trump is, if anything, less fit to serve as President of the United States than I, and I know something about the way the world really works. (Hint: It isn’t always for us, and we can’t fire them and replace them with China.) Trump thinks we can order other countries to do as we please or, in his case, as he pleases. Or maybe as his BFF and admirer Vladimir Putin pleases. And what pleases Putin is having journalists murdered. Which Trump seems to refuse to believe is true. And while it may be technically true that no proof exists the man who once ran their secret intelligence agency left no evidence of his involvement in those journalists’ murders, we would then have to believe that being a Russian journalist critical of Vladimir Putin simply has an inexplicable mortality rate significantly higher than one of those not so critical. And that’s not likely.

Stop supporting Donald Trump for president. He doesn’t deserve it, and he isn’t fit for the job. Running a country is nothing like running a corporation, even an international one. And anyone who thinks otherwise is basing his vote on a dangerous fallacy. But then, that’s just what the Republican Party wants you to do. Otherwise they’d never win elections.

This is our daily open thread, so you are totally free to talk about anything other than Donald Trump, which in itself would displease him very much. Go on. There’s other things happening out there. Tell us about a few of them. Just stop making me think of Trump! :)

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 28th, 2015: No Religious Test?

I ran across this opinion piece at christianpost.com [and for more religious wackiness, check out some of the stories on their home page] and felt it was a perfect example of the ridiculousness of the “Christian Nation” argument. In it, Reverend Mark H. Creech cherry-picks references from some version of the bible, from early American historical documents, and from the Star-Spangled Banner.

Recently, WTVD News ABC 11 for Raleigh-Durham reported that the mayor of Franklin, North Carolina, Bob Scott has a long tenure of public service. He was in the Army as a public affairs officer. He flew in the Civil Air Patrol. He spent ten years on the Franklin Board of Alderman.

Each time he was sworn into office he placed his left hand on the Bible to take his oath. But this year, which will make his second term as Franklin’s mayor, he decided to do something different. He decided he wouldn’t use the Bible, but instead swear upon a copy of the Constitution.

According to WTVD, Scott said that he had been thinking about the matter for a long time.

“I realized we are taking an oath to defend the Constitution, pure and simple, and those are the laws of the land. And If I’m gonna give an oath, that’s what I’m giving an oath to. It had nothing to do with religion — for or against — just swearing to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Scott.

Regarding the office of any public official, Scott also said, “We do not represent any religion, what we represent are the laws of the land. As far as I am concerned, there is no place in government for religion. I’m a secularist in that respect. I just don’t think there’s a place for any kind of religious doctrine in government because we represent everybody.”

The woeful ignorance of Scott’s view is breathtaking. You can no more separate our nation’s form of government from the Christian religion than you can separate smoke from fire or water from ice.

Granted, at the start of our fledgling republic, there was a severing of the politico-ecclesiastical ties that had long existed between the church and state. But the separation of the two did not mean the severance of our way of government from God, or from its basis — the Christian religion. As John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States stated, the American Revolution connected in “one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.”

This fact is voluminously evident in such matters as the biblical worldview that shaped the resistance of the colonists to King George’s tyranny, the Declaration of Independence’s references to “Nature’s God,” the “Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” and its signers acknowledgement of “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” This is not to mention the repeated presidential and congressional calls for prayer and days of fasting in periods of great national challenges throughout American history.  [HUH?]

Scott may claim that there is “no place in government for religion,” but even something as simple as the concluding words of our National Anthem summarize the United States was birthed out of a religious commitment — out of a commitment to God.

“Blessed with victory and peace, May this heaven rescued land, Praise the Power that hath made And preserved us a nation!

“Then conquer we must, When our cause is just; And this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust!’**

“And the star-spangled banner in, Triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free, And the home of the brave.

Scott may have chosen to take his oath on the Constitution, but neither can he remove that great document from its Christian influences. Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, in their book, Liberating the Nations, point out that James Madison, who has justly been referred to as the “Father” of the US Constitution, was a tremendous Christian statesman that delineated the biblical responsibilities of government in its preamble:

To establish justice — the goal of government as taught in Romans 13 and I Peter 2:14 is to punish evildoers and to protect those who do right.

To ensure domestic tranquility — a phrase that comes from the focus of prayer for government, which instructs us to pray “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

To provide for the common defense — “The protection of innocent human life is at the base of not only capital punishment (Gen. 9:6) but also in the provision of an army for protection from external threats.”

To promote the general welfare — Romans 13:4 says that civil rulers are servants of God “to you for good.”

To secure the blessings of Liberty — Liberty is a gift from our Creator, not simply a privilege granted by the government. The government should secure the God-given rights of every man to his life, liberty, and property.

No wonder Noah Webster said, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles … to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”

Moreover, these are some of the same reasons George Washington in his farewell address warned:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars …The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion …Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

Mayor Scott certainly has the right to reject putting his hand on the Bible when taking his oath of office, but his choice sends a dangerous message that places every citizen at risk. His actions declare the erroneous notion that our rights come from the state — not God.”

While there’s a lot here that should be picked apart, I’ll leave most of that to you, my readers. I’m just going to throw out a few comments regarding certain parts.

First: Who the hell sings the entire National Anthem?

Second: Noah Webster was wrong: the democratic principles of the Greeks, not “the religion of Christ and his apostles”, introduced civil liberty and “our free constitutions of government.”

Third: Mayor Scott’s decision to swear his oath of office on the Constitution is not a danger to any citizen, it is a promise to ALL American citizens to uphold our rights as granted by the Constitution – NOT by the Reverend’s, or anyone else’s, god. No one’s god can take away my rights as a U.S. citizen.

Fourth: Obviously I disagree with George Washington’s notion that morality is dependent upon religion; however, I must point out that Reverend Creech left out an important line that followed the Washington quote he referenced:

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

If only George Washington could have foreseen the bastardization that is Liberty University.

**According to www.treasury.gov, we can blame adding the motto “In God We Trust” to U.S. coinage (not on paper currency) on Salmon P. Chase, who apparently was totally ignorant of the First Amendment. An excerpt:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters…

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

So, America has “Divine protection”? Coulda fooled me.

 

UPDATE:  Being ever so suspicious of religious quotes attributed to our Founders (or their children), Wayne checked and found out the John Quincy Adams quote above is a fake quote.  The words were written by John Wingate Thornton and are believed to be Thornton’s summary of a concept he attributed to John Quincy Adams.  Whether they represent Adams’ views or not, they are not his words, they are Thornton’s.

 

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 26, 2015: A Man, A Turtle, and Fear of Muslims

Bret Colvin and his turtle - photo Miles Bryan of Wyoming Public Radio

Bret Colvin and his turtle – photo Miles Bryan of Wyoming Public Radio

Bret Colvin is prejudiced. We all are, to a certain extent, and it’s partly a survival mechanism. If you don’t learn to recognize potential dangers by doing some internal “profiling” in your mind, you could get killed. And it works, so long as your prejudices have some rational basis. Bret Colvin’s do not. Bret is afraid of Muslims he has never met. This is a stupid kind of fear to have because virtually any Muslim he’s likely to meet will pose no more danger to him than any non-Muslim would. I’d even say it’s highly likely that anyone he meets who does pose a danger to him will do so for reasons that have nothing to do with Islam. He’s in Wyoming, FFS. There aren’t a lot of Muslims to fear there in the first place. In fact, the mosque that got him so worried he started a Facebook page called “Stop Islam in Gillette” is only the third mosque in the entire state of Wyoming. And it was started so that members of one particular family would have a place to freely exercise their First Amendment right to practice the religion of their choice. They hope to save enough money to build a new mosque (this one is a regular house, converted for their purposes) to which they would welcome Muslims from other areas. It’s the American dream from before there was an America built on consumerism (in violation of the Ten Commandments.) In response to Bret’s FB page, another FB page was started called Save Islam in Gillette.

Since then, Bret has changed the name of his FB page to “Stop Forced Syrian Immigration to Gillette.” (Maybe the little chat he had with one of the mosque’s founders convinced him to refocus his hate and ignorance.) His concern now is, “Well, I don’t want Jihadis in my neighborhood.” Is that a rational fear? Of course not! Why not? Well, for one thing, Wyoming is the only one of our 50 states that does not have a refugee resettlement program. Which means that when the federal government eventually finishes its extensive background checks and interviews with refugee applicants some 18-24 months from now, they won’t get settled in Wyoming. I’m guessing Bret is totally unaware of the procedure for Syrian immigrants to apply for refugee status and resettlement in the US. The fact that Bret is a YUGE Donald Trump supporter makes me certain he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to immigrants, refugees, and terrorism in general. He’s not the only one with that problem.

According to a NYT survey, a lot of people have a misguided fear of terrorism. Which brings me to a second point on which I’d like to rant – public opinion polling. I am thoroughly convinced (okay, maybe there’s a teeny, tiny chance my mind can be changed in this, but I’d be surprised if the right evidence and facts could be shown me to convince me I’m wrong) that public opinion polling in America is pure bullshit, and there are several reasons for this. It’s not the mathematics themselves, just their application to poll results. Statistical analysis is fine when you’re analyzing actual facts or events that have actually happened. For example, by analyzing the time of day at which people actually had heart attacks, you can come up with the day of the week and time of day at which you’re most likely to have a heart attack. (I believe this was done once and the answer was Monday mornings.) And that’s fine and it’s valid and it makes sense because it’s based on actual facts. But if a bunch of inaccurate days and times were thrown into the results, would the final number really have any meaning? Could you point to this analysis and be confident with the result if you knew a bunch of lies and misinformation were factored into the final number? Opinions are not facts. And worse still, opinions based on lies and misinformation are less than worthless. And that’s what public opinion polls are often based on – lies and misinformation.

For example, suppose I’m an idiot who believes leprechauns, pixies, unicorns and elves are all real and plotting together to take over the Earth from humans any day now through violent acts of terrorism, but I keep that to myself. You come along and ask me a survey question asking me what I thought the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the United States is. Of course I’d tell them it’s high or very high, but do you think my opinion has any merit and should be considered as part of this survey response? Do you think the President should consider my opinion when developing our counter-terrorism strategy? Should he factor this in and order the Dept of Defense to stock up on poison darts to kill the elves? Of course not, because there’s no reality-based reason for my fear. Now replace “leprechauns, pixies, unicorns and elves” with “typical Muslims.” Is my opinion any better? Is there any reality-based reason to believe typical Muslims are plotting to take over the Earth through violent acts of terrorism? Of course not. But the guy asking me the survey question doesn’t know on what I base my answers, so why should it be lumped in with all the reality-based answers and factored into the poll results?

Donald Trump is polling well among Republican voters, but should we really assume he’ll win the general election (or even the nomination of his party, whichever that is this year)? Are we really going to operate on the premise that the people saying they support Trump are basing their views on facts and reality? He is saying things that appeal to people who do not put a lot of effort into their thinking. Do you want a nation’s foreign policy to be based on the opinions of people whose views of Muslims is no more accurate than that of someone who says they believe leprechauns, pixies, unicorns and elves are all real and plotting together to take over the Earth from humans any day now through violent acts of terrorism? I have a surprise for them. My brother’s ex-wife married a Muslim who helped raise my nephews, and I never once feared that he might secretly be a terrorist waiting to do terrorist things. Not once. Not even for a nanosecond. Abraham is a good man and I am even grateful for his being a part of raising my nephews. The men in my family have a little problem with alcoholism and my brother was not immune to this. (Neither am I, which is why I gave up drinking decades ago.) So when Abraham instituted a rule that there would be no alcohol in his house, I was glad because it meant my nephews would be less likely to turn into full blown drunks. But it also meant that they would have a good role model in their stepfather because, like 99.9% of all Muslims, he’s a man who practices Peace. But the people telling the pollster they fear a terrorist attack probably wouldn’t know that.

Here’s something else about polls: You can never be sure how the person answering is interpreting the question. For example, what do they consider “terrorist attack” to mean? Is it a bombing or mass shooting committed by radicalized Muslims only? Could it also be a lone, crazed Christian who thinks the vast majority of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions? Could it also be someone who thinks the federal government killed those people in the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX, and then went too far with a ban on assault weapons? Could it be a white male who wants to start a race war by executing nine people in a church just because they were black? You don’t know. The person answering is free to apply his own definitions of the words used in the question so, in essence, you’re really not getting answers to the same question from different people. There’s too much room for lies and misinformation to enter into the process and, therefore, you are no longer applying statistical analysis to empirical facts. You are applying them to worthless answers, answers that may not have any connection to Reality. Can you still conclude that there are Americans who fear we might be subject to an act of terrorism? Of course you can, for two reasons. One, you don’t need a survey to learn there are people who are afraid of terrorism. And two, given how broadly one can define “terrorist,” it’s obvious we’re going to be subject to another terrorist attack. But it doesn’t mean we have to seal our borders, build a giant wall along one of them, and stop all Syrian refugees fleeing war in their home country. We can’t let fear dominate our decision-making. Because that’s what the terrorists want us to do.

Note: There is no evidence that Bret Colvin’s turtle has expressed fears about Muslims in Gillette, which makes the turtle a better man than Bret.

Late though it is, this is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about irrational fears, untrustworthy poll results, lazy bloggers, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 21st, 2015: GOP Pander-dates

In yet another example of GOP Presidential hopefuls pandering to the right-wing evangelical “christians”, six (so far) of them have signed a “pledge” being pushed by several conservative groups. The “pledge” concerns support of what’s now being called the “First Amendment Defense Act“, which was originally introduced in June as the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” – I’m guessing that the name was changed to make it sound more “constitutional” and less “screw the other Amendments, religion’s in #1! ”

The pledge states:  “If elected, I pledge to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and sign it into law during the first 100 days of my term as President.”

From ThinkProgress:

“It has become clear that the First Amendment Defense Act is rapidly becoming a signature issue that unifies the GOP,” Maggie Gallagher, Senior Fellow at American Principles Project, said in the group’s statement announcing the pledge. “Three out of the four top contenders for the nomination — Carson, Cruz, and Rubio — have pledged to prioritize passing FADA in their first 100 days of office. Additionally, Bush, Graham, Paul, and now for the first time, Donald Trump, have publicly expressed support for FADA.”

Gallagher added that a Republican win in 2016 could mean that FADA becomes reality. “Real, concrete protections for gay marriage dissenters appear to be just one election victory away,” she said.

Ms. Gallagher, I think that using the term “gay marriage dissenters” is a tad disingenuous, don’t you?  “Gay marriage dissenters” can “dissent” all they want, what they CAN’T do is discriminate against gays/gay marriage.

For another slant on the “pledge” and FADA, here’s part of the Christian Post’s reporting:

Conservative groups including the American Principles Project, Heritage Action for America, and the Family Research Council affiliate FRC Action created a pledge for candidates to support.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have signed onto the Project’s pledge in support of FADA.

GOP candidates Donald Trump, former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky have expressed support for FADA but did not sign the pledge.

In a letter sent to each candidate regarding the FADA pledge, the conservative groups stressed the possible threat to religious liberty from the legalization of gay marriage.”

Here’s the text of the letter:

[T]he gathering concern around whether or not the Left will succeed in its ongoing efforts to force those who disagree with the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, prompts us to write to you and ask: will you commit to making it a top priority for you to ensure passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) in the first 100 days of your administration?

FADA protects supporters of natural marriage from punishment by the Federal government or its regulatory arms, including the IRS: “the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

It prevents the IRS from issuing regulations denying tax-exempt status to charities or schools that support natural marriage, and forbids the Federal government from discriminating against them in contracts, loans, licensing, accreditation or employment. It prevents Federal discrimination against individuals, employers and other organizations that continue to act in accordance with a belief in natural marriage, while specifically guaranteeing conscience protections will not also be used to disrupt benefits to which people are legally entitled.

Serious scholars suggest [I love that sort of phrase, it’s like commercials that say “some studies suggest” that consuming their product will do whatever” – but I digress] religious schools should expect to be punished by the withholding of federal funds under current law if they do not treat same-sex unions as marriages. “It seems to me very likely that, in the coming years, schools and universities that accept public funds and support will be required—as a condition of those funds—to have nondiscrimination rules that forbid discrimination on sexual-orientation grounds,” One such scholar, a professor who oversees the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame’s law school, told The Atlantic. “And, these rules will not distinguish between sexual-orientation discrimination and non-recognition of same-sex marriages.”

The second most powerful Democratic Senator has publicly stated he’s not sure whether such schools should be stripped of their tax-exempt status. When the Weekly Standard asked, “should religious protections extend beyond houses of worship to, say, religious schools that require employees to affirm their faith’s teaching about marriage?” Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois responded: “Getting into a challenging area, and I don’t have a quick answer to you. I’ll have to think about it long and hard.” Many Americans, particularly African-American Christians like Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, are losing their livelihoods, at least in part because they privately support natural marriage.

When no less a distinguished legal expert than the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, has pointed to the serious religious liberty consequences that may stem from the Court’s redefinition of marriage, it is time to take the need for new conscience protections seriously. “Today’s decision . . . creates serious questions about religious liberty . . . Indeed the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts. Millions of Americans can disagree over the definition of marriage, however, it is essential that the millions of Americans who support natural marriage are not punished by the Federal government for their support for marriage as it has been understood for millennia.

We ask, therefore, for your public assurance that you would prioritize passing the First Amendment Defense Act in the first 100 days of your administration.”

I know that this post is a bit lengthy, but I wanted to point out The American Principles Project (APP)’s Mission and Purpose:

“American Principles Project recognizes the dignity of the person as the basis of the founding principles of the United States. We are committed to the declaration made by the Founding Fathers, that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

APP believes that local and national policies that respect the dignity of the person will lead to a flourishing society. As such, we educate and advocate for public policy solutions that respect and affirm: human life from conception to natural death; the union of one man and one woman as the definition of marriage; the freedom to practice and proclaim religion; authentic economic progress for working Americans; education in service of the comprehensive development of the person; and, the legacy of immigrants in contributing to the American story.”  [emphasis mine]

I have a few bones to pick with this, but it will have to wait for another time – but you can go ahead and start without me.

Bonus Track: More pointless investigations into Planned Parenthood! [Warning: the countless lies and demonstrations of ignorance contained in this article may be harmful to your mental health.]

This is your daily Open Thread – talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 5, 2015: How Much Is Too Much?

If you’re reading these words, then you have access to the internets. And if you have access to that wonderful “series of tubes” then you know it happened again. Several times, in fact. Another mass shooting (the worst in America since Sandy Hook, which actually happened, so don’t try to convince me otherwise) that left more than a dozen people dead, following a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in CO. Why did these shootings happen? Quite frankly, who cares? Two of these latest shootings, one in Colorado Springs, CO, and the other in San Bernardino, CA, were motivated by religious extremism, though you couldn’t be blamed for not knowing that based on the coverage in the MSM. But they were. One killer was motivated by his extreme Christian beliefs, and the other killers were motivated by their extreme Islamic beliefs. Of course, now that we learned one of the killers in CA had pledged allegiance to ISIS on her Facebook page, the talk has been about Muslim extremists but not Christian ones. (It should be noted that while ISIS thanked her for her support, they did not claim any responsibility for the murders.) And while Colorado Springs police have not officially released a motive for the killings there, there is ample reason to believe that he was motivated by his own extreme Christian beliefs. And not just those, but on lies promoted by right wing media and politicians regarding the doctored videos about Planned Parenthood and the lies told about fetal tissue and “baby parts.” (Please, if you’re conservative, don’t waste my time trying to convince me the videos were 100% legitimate and truthful. They were nothing of the sort.) But regardless of the motives of the killers, the real cause of the problem is being ignored by most of the MSM: the proliferation of guns and the ease with which they can be acquired, even by people the law says shouldn’t have one.

No matter when it happened, no matter where it happened, and no matter why it happened, every single instance of gun violence in this country has had one and only one thing in common: A gun. Sometimes more than one. We keep wondering why somebody would pick up a gun and kill people, but we never admit that had it not been so easy to acquire guns, many of these killings (I would even say most) would never have occurred. Guns are dangerous things. Let me repeat that: Guns are dangerous things. Anyone who tries to say that isn’t true is deluding himself, and denying some simple facts. One of the main reasons guns are dangerous is that they allow you to harm or kill someone else without having to put yourself in close proximity to that person. If you had to actually get close to someone to stab them, you would be less likely to do that than you would to use means that didn’t require you to get close to your intended victim. That is not to say nobody ever gets stabbed, and only an idiot would think I’m implying that. But how brave are you? If someone wants to harm you, would you prefer getting up close to that person to try to thwart off the attack, or would you prefer some means of stopping (or harming in anyway) that person while not having to get up close? My guess is, given a choice, most people would prefer to not have to get up close to their attacker. A gun removes that danger to yourself. You can shoot your attacker from across the room with less chance of being harmed yourself in the process. And if you’re crazed with anger (or some other emotion, perhaps a deep abiding love for the particular god you worship), you are more likely to act without thinking. All the more reason it’s dangerous for you to have access to a gun anytime you want. You can look at it another way. Would the world be a safer place or a more dangerous place if every country had the means to launch nuclear weapons at another nation, even one halfway around the world? If you think it would be safer, you can stop reading this blog now, Archie Bunker.

If you still want to think guns are not dangerous, ask yourself this: Since we train our fantastic Marine Corps to be lean, mean, fighting machines capable of killing with their bare hands, why do we issue them guns when we send them off to war? If guns aren’t dangerous, why are they a vital component of war? And don’t say they’re just tools, like the knives, grenades and other weapons we hand them. They are deadly tools that can kill. If guns aren’t dangerous, why is it considered criminal negligence to leave a loaded gun where a small child could pick it up? If guns aren’t dangerous, why aren’t you allowed to carry one on board a plane with you (as Archie thinks you should)? If guns aren’t dangerous, why are people getting killed and seriously injured by children and dogs who manage to get their hands and paws on one? Please, if you like having a gun, admit the truth. You like it because it’s power. You can kill someone with it. I’m not suggesting you would, although I am suggesting that there are definitely people out there who would kill if they thought they could get away with it. And there are people out there who have killed because they thought they could get away with it. And in many of those cases, I’m positive the only reason someone ended up dead is because a gun was easily available to do the job. How many more people have to die just because we can’t get over this insane obsession with these murderous devices? How many are too many? How much gun violence in this country is too much?

Don’t put words in my mouth. Passionate gun owners (who lack compassion) have tried to twist my suggestions into saying we should take away all the guns in this country. I’m not opposed to that, but I’m not suggesting it, either. The first thing to recognize is that there are WAY too many guns in the United States. By some estimates, there are more guns in the US than there are people (legal citizens or not), and despite this, there are still about 6 million guns manufactured in the US per year (and about half that number imported on top of that.) Why is this? What good does it do? About 82 people die by firearms every day in America. Even if you subtract the third that took their own lives with a gun, that’s still more than one firearm death every 30 minutes. (And, no, the police aren’t doing all of them, but they are doing way too many of them. That can be the subject of another post.) I often hear gun supporters counter that many gun homicides are committed in cities or states with tough gun control laws. What these folks often ignore (deliberately) is that the guns weren’t being obtained in the places with strict gun control laws, but often from states with very lax laws (like Virginia.) If you’re going to argue that strict gun control laws do nothing to solve the problem, are you also going to say that lax gun laws have nothing to do with the problem, either? But regardless of whether or not the state has lax gun laws, it remains a fact that if the guns were not there to be gotten in the first place, fewer people would die by gun violence each year. How can that be addressed? Simple: tax the manufacture (or import) of guns. Not the sale, but the manufacture. The tax burden would fall totally on the gun manufacturer. Obviously they would pass this cost onto the purchaser, but that’s to be expected. If your gun now costs $5,000 more because the maker had to pay a tax to make it, you’ll think twice about buying a gun for which you very likely have no need. If the gun manufacturer later declares that some of the guns they made were destroyed, then they can get a tax rebate for them. But the key is to tax the gun as it is made. Otherwise they’ll just fund a way to dump them on the streets and the problem continues. Nobody (and especially no corporation) has a right to make guns, just to own them. So we can pass all kinds of laws related to the manufacture of guns, why not include that extra tax while we’re at it? That way the gun makers will have much less incentive to over-manufacture guns, and fewer guns would be available for people to buy. Maybe there are flaws to this plan, but since I don’t look at the issue form the perspective that you have a right to have any kind of gun you want, made by anybody you want, I’m probably seeing fewer flaws in this plan than you. And notice I said nothing about the guns that are already out there. But if you’re opposed to any kind of gun regulation in this country, then answer this: How many more people have to die by gunfire before you decide it’s too many? How much more gun violence do we have to endure? How much is too much?

This is our daily open thread. Talk about whatever you wish.