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, 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, Monday, November 23rd, 2015: NatGeo, Take Me Away!

I can’t deal with “Ugly Americans” [of course, “Ugly Americans” = “Republican Presidential Candidates and their Fans/Supporters”] anymore; we keep thinking, “How can these guys sink so low?”, then, the next hour or day or week, one or two or several of them come out with such outrageous shit that we really need a new word to define what circle of hell lies beyond “outrageous” or “horrific” or “despicable” or “abhorrent” or “inhuman” – sorry, I need more words!

And I’ve had it up to HERE with the holidays being turned into meaningless “shop-’til-you-drop” commercialism [how about if “Black Friday” could be turned into “Black Lives Matter Friday” – hell, make every day of the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday shopping season a day of protests]. So I’m going with some beautiful photos from National Geographic to start the week.

Here’s some pretty birds, from “A Flight of Birds”, a section of NatGeo’s Photo Ark, including a photo capturing the iridescent plumage of the Purple Glossy Starling, such as seen below,
purple_glossy_starling
and a more close-up shot of the Javan Rhinoceros Hornbill, like the one seen below:
javan rhinoceros Hornbill

And if you prefer a larger gallery for leisurely viewing, here’s more from NatGeo’s 2015 Photo Contest. The “Week 10” group includes a brooding sunset photo of Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland – here’s a chilly winter shot of the falls, just to start the calming process:
waterfall-godafoss-iceland

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy the views or rant away – or you can do both!

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, 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!

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 27th, 2015: The (R) Debates

A little over a week from now, the first of the planned nine 2016 Republican Presidential debates, this one being held in Cleveland, Ohio, will kick off the start of the season. Fox will be airing the August 6th debate, which will be limited to the the top ten candidates, their inclusion being based on an average of several national polls.

Wait a second, that’s not exactly true. Fox will also air, prior to the ‘main event’, an hour-long debate amongst the second-tier candidates, according to AP via YahooNews. As of yesterday, those ‘also running’ will be: Carly “I tanked Hewlitt-Packard” Fiorina, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, Elmer “George” Pataki, Rick “Frothy” Santorum, Lindsey “The Vapors” Graham, and possibly John “Republicans don’t like to wait in line” Kasich, Chris “Sit down and shut up!” Christie, and Rick “Oops!” Perry.

A few excerpts from the article:

Frank Luntz:

“If you’re not on the stage [in the first-tier debate] you’re irrelevant, you don’t matter. Unless you have some serious ad dollars, it’s not a glass ceiling. It’s a concrete ceiling.”

Well, we all know that if there’s an election coming, Frank Luntz is always going to be involved.

Rick Perry:

“Perry unloaded on Wednesday when he called Trump’s campaign a “barking carnival act” and “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense.”

OMG, I think that’s the one time we can all agree with Rick Perry on something!

Jindal campaign:

“Curt Anderson, a strategist advising Jindal’s campaign, wrote in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that the Republican Party was sabotaging itself by controlling the debates too much, after concluding that marginal candidates dragged 2012 nominee Mitt Romney too far to the right.”

Now hold on there, Anderson, Romney wasn’t pulled ‘too far to the right’, he tanked his chances all by himself with his own words.

I think that both debates should be highly entertaining. However, one thing I’m wondering: with all of the recent racial issues that have occurred in Cleveland, in particular the “Black Lives Matter” conference and protest, during which a white cop decided to pepper-spray protesters, will ANY of the candidates be asked about race relations and/or police violence? I don’t know who the moderator will be in either debate, but if they’re airing on Fox…well, we’ll just have to see.

All I can say is, after the 25+ debates during the 2012 election season, I am SO glad that there’s only supposed to be nine this time!

This is our daily Open Thread–go ahead, discuss things!

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 20th, 2015: Iran Nuclear Deal Fallout

Last week, it was announced that the long-awaited Iran Nuclear Deal was finally agreed to by the negotiating parties. The EU High Representative and the Iran Foreign Minister issued a joint statement, which included the following:

“With courage, political will, mutual respect, and leadership, we delivered on what the world was hoping for: a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer.’

Apparently conservatives don’t understand most of the words and phrases in that statement. As we have seen throughout the Obama presidency, their idea of “negotiation” means “you give us everything we want, or else.” FoxNews gives a rundown on the ‘highlights'(?):

Jeb Bush: “This isn’t diplomacy – it is appeasement.”

Ted Cruz: This is a “fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States.”

Ben Carson: “A historic mistake with potentially deadly consequences.”

Scott Walker: “Will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.”
[According to Raw Story, Walker also stated that:

“He would terminate it as soon as possible and persuade U.S. allies to join Washington in imposing more crippling economic sanctions on Tehran…

He would dramatically increase U.S. military spending after budget cuts that military officials have complained about…

“The United States needs a foreign policy that puts steel in the face of our enemies,” Walker says.”]

Marco Rubio: The President made “concession after concession to a regime that has American blood on its hands.”

Now, the above presidential wannabes mainly focused their criticism on the ‘evil’ Iran, with a minor mention of our bestest friend ever in the whole wide world, Israel. Huckabee, on the other hand, is pretty much all Israel, with barely even a mention of OUR country, the United States.

Mike Huckabee: “Shame on the Obama administration…

“Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to America.’
John Kerry should have long ago gotten up on his crutches, walked out of the sham talks, and went straight to Jerusalem to stand next to Benjamin Netanyahu and declared that America will stand with Israel and the other sane governments of the Middle East instead of with the terrorist government of Iran.

As president, I will stand with Israel and keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”
[emphasis mine]

Mike, why don’t you just move to Israel and run for president there?   ‘Cause there will be no “As president” for you here.  You do realize that this agreement is about limiting Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, not the unHoly war you’re salivating over.

Donald Trump: “Iran gets everything and loses nothing.”

[The Donald was also quoted by FoxBusiness as saying, without elaboration, “I think the deal is absolutely horrible for us, but it’s really, really bad for Israel”]

Rick Perry: If elected, I will “fully rescind this accord.”

“President Obama’s decision to sign a nuclear deal with Iran is one of the most destructive foreign policy decisions in my lifetime. For decades to come, the world will have to deal with the repercussions of this…”

Seriously, Rick? You think that signing a deal that means peace, that signals a willingness to negotiate instead of starting WWIII, is more destructive than deliberately and cavalierly lying our country into a wasteful quagmire of an unnecessary war?

Perry also stated: “As President, one of my first official acts will be to fully rescind this accord.”

There’s more, including comments from the lower-tier lineup of Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and…wait, is that it? Oh, yeah, and Elmer Pataki. But there’s no need to continue wallowing in the their ignorance, I think you get the idea.

Do any of those responses reflect “courage, political will, mutual respect [or respect of any kind], and leadership”? I think it’s abundantly clear that the (R) presidential field has none of those qualities.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!