Monday, May 20, 2013
By way of back ground I often work with clients seeking to set up non-profit entities that seek exempt status determinations from the Internal Revenue Service. The forms are lengthy and require attention to detail and a lot of supporting documentation. If not prepared properly and correctly documented, you WILL get enhanced scrutiny. In doing review, the IRS focuses on possible political activities, but it also looks at whether or not the entity is being established as a means to enrich private individuals rather than support the entities avowed purpose. One need only think of the large six figure salaries pulled down by Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown at NOM or Bill Donohue at the Catholic League to realize that "non-profits" can be most lucrative. A piece in The Daily Beast makes the case that we should not be too quick to throw the IRS under the bus. Here are highlights:
Since the hullabaloo over IRS investigations of Tea Party groups broke last week, Democratic partisans have mostly been telling President Obama the same thing. First, clear this scandal off your plate so you can focus on the others. Second, the people responsible for this mess, at least according to the Inspector General’s report, were bureaucratic grunts and Bush appointees—you don’t owe them anything. Third, everyone hates tax collectors anyway. In other words, stand aside as congressional Republicans beat the IRS to a pulp. That would be a terrible mistake.
It would be a mistake because while Obama is not personally implicated in the IRS controversy, the things he believes in most deeply are. Conservatives love the IRS scandal because it supposedly rips the smiley-face mask off government and reveals it to be a “sinister” (Peggy Noonan), “arrogant” (Noonan), “ravaging tyrant” (David Brooks) abusing largely powerless American patriots. As a perennial warning against the abuse of government power, that story has merit. But as a description of the actual relationship between the public and private sector in America today, at least outside the national security realm, it’s mostly nonsense.Since 501(c)4s cannot make political activity their “primary purpose,” it made sense for IRS staffers to look carefully at the politically oriented applicants. (“Which do you think deserves special attention to determine possible violations of the political rules?” writes Kurt Eichenwald in Vanity Fair. “Patriots for Obamacare? Or the Laurel Garden Club?”) As the “review process slowed to a crawl” under the weight of all these new applications, IRS staffers in Cincinnati, few of whom were experts in tax law, began using keywords like “educating on the Constitution” and “social economic reform/movement” to screen applicants. These short cuts didn’t only flag right-of-center groups. Contrary to Noonan’s claim that “only conservative groups were targeted,” more than 24 liberal groups were lumped into the same category.
The right’s tale of powerful IRS ideologues preying on weak and naïve citizens’ groups bears little relationship to reality. In truth, as an invaluable New York Times investigation explained yesterday, the Cincinnati office that reviewed the Tea Party applications was an “understaffed,” “unglamorous” “backwater.” Its ill-trained, “low-level” staffers “rarely discussed politics.” What they did discuss, according to the Times, was the fact that they were “overrun with applications” that they could not competently process.
In 2010, the fewer than 200 employees of the IRS’s Determinations Unit were already struggling to respond to tens of thousands of applications for tax-exempt status from 501(c)3 nonprofits threatened by a change in the tax code. Then along came the Supreme Court in Citizens United, which made it clear that corporations could contribute directly to another category, 501(c)4 nonprofits, which could spend vast sums to influence elections without having to disclose their donors. Soon, boatloads of new political organizations began asking to be designated as 501(c)4s, a category traditionally meant for groups that perform “social welfare” functions like volunteer firefighting and maintaining community gardens. (Those are some of the actual examples used on the IRS website.)
What happened at the IRS Determinations Unit wasn’t OK. It was a mess. But it was a mess born less of over regulation than under regulation. The core problem was that after Citizens United, a section of the tax code designed to allow people to donate anonymously to garden clubs became a popular way for billionaires to secretly funnel vast sums to Karl Rove (and his Democratic equivalents) to savage political opponents and sway elections.
Obama can’t let the GOP’s tale of totalitarian regulators and oppressed Tea Partiers go unchallenged. When it comes to the relationship between government and the market, we do not live in an age of tyrannical government power. To the contrary, we live in a second gilded age in which the people who benefit most from America’s exploding income inequality have used their wealth to disembowel the regulatory systems through which government protects ordinary Americans.
A right-wing Supreme Court has made it virtually impossible to regulate money in elections. And now Republicans are casting the Tea Party—a movement founded in part by robber barons like the Koch Brothers—as the victim of a mythic, all-powerful IRS in order to further neuter an actually existing IRS that is already too weak to make the rich pay their taxes or respect the rules of democratic fair play. With any luck, the GOP will render it unable to help competently implement Obamacare as well.
It might seem shrewd for Obama to sit out the IRS scandal while he focuses on bigger fights. But this scandal is about government’s capacity to make private wealth serve the public interest, and for a progressive president, there’s no bigger fight than that.
Just two days after his nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia the insane batshitery of E. W. Jackson is beginning to get picked up by the national media. The LGBT community has known about Jackson's insanity for some time especially given his willingness to be co-opted by NOM and other anti-gay hate groups to lend a black face to their staged attacks of gay rights. Politico has a piece on Jackson's extremism and BuzzFeed has put together an article titled "The 10 Most Anti-Gay Statements From The Republican Nominee For Lt. Governor Of Virginia." What's missing, however, in this coverage is the realization that Jackson is mainstream in terms of today's GOP base. The party has gone virtually insane and just maybe the trio of extremists nominated by the Virginia GOP on Saturday will wake the media up to this reality. Here are highlights from the Politico piece:
The newly minted Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia once compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan and bemoaned black voters’ “slavish devotion” to the Democratic Party — past statements that are likely to inflame the culture-war politics of the state’s 2013 elections.
“The Democrat Party has created an unholy alliance between certain so-called civil rights leaders and Planned Parenthood, which has killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions. Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was,” Jackson says in the video.
And on the website of an advocacy group founded by Jackson, Staying True to America’s National Destiny, the activist organization describes abortion as “the equivalent of an idolatrous offering to the god of ‘sexual license.’” “It is no different than in times past when pagans offered their babies on an altar of fire to assure their own good fortune,” the STAND website says.
The emergence of Jackson as a standard-bearer for the Republican Party could have implications beyond the race for lieutenant governor. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has sought in recent months to keep his campaign message focused on jobs and economic concerns, while Democrats have assailed him for his staunchly conservative record on abortion and gay rights. The selection of Jackson for the GOP ticket may help keep social issues in the foreground of the 2013 debate.
A Jackson adviser did not respond to emails seeking comment. Republican Party of Virginia spokesman Garren Shipley defended the candidate as a person of faith and predicted the 2013 elections would not hinge on social issues.
1. “I believe there is a direction connection” (between being gay and being a pedophile).
4. Gays are “frankly very sick people…”
9. Gay marriage is a “sledge hammer used to shatter our Judeo-Christian culture.”
10. Homosexuality is “killing black men by the thousands” because of HIV. Pro-gay rights liberals have “have done more to kill black folks whom they claim so much to love than the Ku Klux Klan, lynching and slavery and Jim Crow ever did…”
The man is insane yet he is the nominee of a major political party. Welcome to today's GOP. One can only hope that Jackson proves to be an anchor tied around the necks of the rest of the GOP ticket.
At time I get annoyed with LGBT bloggers in liberal states who seem incapable of understanding what it is like for gays who live in reactionary states such as Virginia where the Republican Party of Virginia has just nominated the most insane and extreme slate of statewide candidates in state history. These bloggers living securing in liberal states forget that in 29 states LGBT individuals can be fired at will and have ZERO legal protections. Yes, in theory we gays in these backward states are free to pick up and move. But in reality it is not so easy given family commitments and other considerations. And overall, nowhere is the anti-gay mindset stronger in America than in the South where homophobia seems to have replaced racism as the last socially acceptable prejudice (although scratch the back of most homophobes and one will find a racists as well or a minority member being duped by black pastors into carrying water for former white supremacists). A piece in The Advocate looks at this sad state of affairs. Here are excerpts:
As much of the country breathlessly followed the coverage of the Supreme Court’s two marriage equality cases in March, Will Batts was busy fighting battles on numerous fronts. The executive director of Tennessee’s Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center operates in a setting only 900 miles (but still a world away) from Washington, D.C., in a state with a Republican-controlled legislature and GOP governor, and where several anti-LGBT bills have been proposed.“Legislators seem bent on making us invisible in every way possible and preventing any state-level recognition of our relationships,” Batts says. “Life is not easy for LGBT people in the South, especially our youth and transgender brothers and sisters. The needs are great and the resources very limited.”[M]arriage equality doesn’t necessarily feel inevitable in the South, and the ability to wed the person you love is just one of many rights LGBT folks in the South are denied. Save for Kentucky, which only protects gay and transgender people who are employed by the state, D.C., and Maryland, workers can be fired for being LGBT in every state south of the Mason-Dixon line. Even though the 2010 Census found that same-sex couples in Southern states are more likely to be raising children than their northeastern and West Coast counterparts, they have almost zero defenses against housing discrimination unless they live in big cities like Atlanta or New Orleans.
The battles against LGBT people continue to be waged quietly in the South. Alabama’s current school curriculum requires teachers to instruct students that homosexuality is an “unacceptable, criminal lifestyle,” . . . .
The bottom line is that it is hard at times living in the South and the bigotry one faces from judges, the state itself, and the "godly folk," is a slow corrosive poison. At times one wants to simply slip into despair. Believe me, if I could I would leave Virginia in a heartbeat.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
As has been noted frequently on this blog, as their fortunes have dimmed in America and gay rights and gay marriage have seen increasing public acceptance and support, American Christofascists has stepped up efforts to export anti-gay hate and bigotry overseas, particularly to Africa, but also to parts of South America and counties that formerly comprised portions of the former Soviet Union. A piece at The New Civil Rights Movement by the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that LGBT individuals and organizations need to work to form a a unified, cooperative effort worldwide to defeat the Christofascists. Here are some excerpts:
Martin Luther King famously noted in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” This is particularly true of LGBTQ people in many places around the world whose fates are tied more closely together through the actions of one particular set of actors: extremist U.S. evangelicals in the business of exporting a virulent anti-gay agenda.
While 2013 has been a year of once unthinkable strides forward in the U.S., with rapidly shifting public opinion and breakthroughs on marriage equality, a look beyond our own borders reveals a different, but related trend in the opposite direction. In the very week that President Obama proclaimed our national journey towards freedom went through “Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall,” the Russian Duma passed a bill – by a vote of 390 — 1 – which would criminalize advocacy by and on behalf of LGBT people. While these events may seem unrelated, a deeper look uncovers a disturbing relationship between the advances in civil rights in the U.S. and the growing efforts to criminalize LGBTQ existence in Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Anti-gay extremists in the U.S. who have long devoted themselves to fear-mongering about the “homosexual agenda” have sought new markets abroad. As Rev. Dr. Kapya Koama, the leading researcher of this phenomenon, put it in the American Prospect, “It is homophobia, not homosexuality, that is being imported to the [African] continent by neocolonialists with an agenda: to spread U.S. culture wars worldwide.”
Exhibit A is Rev. Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries. In the U.S., his organization is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but in Uganda, Lively has been free from such baggage and has marketed himself as an expert on homosexuality. He has worked with prominent clerics and government officials there since 2002 to advance his rights-erasing strategies . . . .
Lively, who describes LGBTQ people as evil, genocidal, brutal and above all as child predators, has as his aim the criminalization of advocacy for LGBTQ rights and works to strip away the most fundamental human rights from them. In Uganda, both state repression and extra-legal violence have been on the rise as a result of the anti-gay strategies Lively has helped orchestrate.
While the destructive role of U.S. evangelicals in Uganda has gotten some attention, Uganda is just the tip of the iceberg. Lively himself has been active in several Eastern European countries.
[T]he anti-gay American Center for Law and Justice, a Pat Robertson outfit, has recently expanded its international presence from Africa to South America, where it has set up shop in Brazil. These anti-gay evangelicals’ efforts, as Lively’s work exemplifies, go beyond fighting civil rights advances to eradicating basic, fundamental rights for LGBTQ people.
Those in the U.S. committed to the full civil and human rights of all people, including LGBTQ people, have a particular obligation in this situation. . . . . it is very much our responsibility to speak out and do all we can to keep them from doing further harm. LGBTQ people around the world are fighting for their lives and their rights on their own terms on their own turf. Standing in solidarity with them, our most useful contribution to their struggles is to address the American origins of the attacks on their rights and existence.
As noted before, based on what is currently known, none of the three "scandals" that the Congressional Republicans are currently hyperventilating about add up to any real scandal and certainly nothing that implicates the White House and Barack Obama. Not that this matters to much of the GOP base which is so outraged at having a black man in the White House that they will grasp at anything in the hope of destroying the man. Interestingly enough, today Mitch McConnell - for who I have no use whatsoever - seemed to be at last backing away from the shrill screams of "cover up" emanating from some GOP circles. Think Progress looks at McConnell's new found moderation. Here are excerpts:
On Sunday, during an appearance on Meet The Press, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — the GOP leader in the senate — distanced himself from Republican efforts to portray the Obama administration’s response to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic issue in Benghazi, Libya as a Watergate-level scandal that should result in impeachment. McConnell’s comments come just days after the White House released 100 pages of emails undermining GOP claims that administration officials doctored the public talking points U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used to discuss the incident on the Sunday morning talk shows.
“You’re talking about others who may have said various things about this, let me tell you what I think about it. It’s clear there was inadequate security out there and it’s very clear that it was inconvenient within six weeks of the election, for the administration to in effect announce, that it was a terrorist attack,” McConnell said. “I think that’s worth examining, it is going to be examined.”
But asked repeatedly if Republicans should tone down their attacks against the administration, McConnell demurred, saying only that Obama should allow for an investigation. He also couldn’t identify specific evidence of an administration cover-up:
DAVID GREGORY (HOST): But you have specific evidence that they made up a tale, or was it based on information they had at the time?
MCCONNELL: Well, the talking points clearly were not accurate. I think getting to the bottom of this is an important investigation.E-mails between the White House, CIA, State Department, Justice Department, and the FBI show that Rice’s remarks reflect the early view of the intelligence community and were produced with few changes from the White House. On Thursday, CBS’ Major Garrett reported that Republican sources misquoted or significantly embellished the emails officials used to draft Rice’s remarks in order to implicate the administration in a conspiracy to mislead the public about Benghazi.
In a post this morning this blog noted that the Republican Party nominated the most extreme slate in Virginia history for its 2013 statewide ticket. Ken Cuccinelli has already shown himself to be a ultra far right nutcase who seeks to restore the sodomy laws, end all abortions regardless of the circumstances and restrict minority voting rights. What's frightening is that Cuccinelli - or Kookinelli - may be the sanest of the trio nominated yesterday. By far the most batshit crazy is Lt. Governor nominee Bishop E. W. Jackson. The man belongs in an insane asylum and his hatred for gays makes Kookinelli's pale in comparison. Blue Virginia has compiled some of Jackson's positions:
E.W. Jackson: "Planned Parenthood Has Been Far More Lethal To Black Lives Than The KKK Ever Was." In September 2012, E.W. Jackson posted a video in which he called on the black community to end their "slavish devotion" to the Democratic Party. In the video, he said: "The Democrat Party has created an unholy alliance between certain so-called civil rights leaders and Planned Parenthood, which has killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions. Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was." [Bishop E.W. Jackson Message to Black Christians, 9/8/12]
E.W. Jackson Would "Permanently Defund Planned Parenthood." According to his website, E.W. Jackson said he sought to "permanently defund Planned Parenthood," saying: "It is an act of grave injustice to force citizens to pay for the destruction of unborn babies, whether through state or federal taxes. All funding for abortion and the organizations that provide them must be halted." [Jackson for Lieutenant Governor, accessed 5/18/13].
E.W. Jackson: Gay People Are "Perverted" And "Very Sick." In October 2012, Right Wing Watch reported about E.W. Jackson's appearance on a radio show with Peter LaBarbera and John Kirkwood. Jackson said about gays and lesbians: "Their minds are perverted, they're frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally and they see everything through the lens of homosexuality. When they talk about love they're not talking about love, they're talking about homosexual sex. So they can't see clearly." [Right Wing Watch, 10/25/12]
E.W. Jackson: Homosexuality "Destroys Families, It Destroys Societies; It Brings The Judgment Of God." In October 2012, Right Wing Watch reported about E.W. Jackson's appearance on a radio show with Peter LaBarbera and John Kirkwood. Jackson said: "Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of." [Right Wing Watch, 10/25/12] E.W. Jackson: Homosexuality Tries To "Poison" And "Sexualize" Children. In October 2012, Right Wing Watch reported about E.W. Jackson's appearance on a radio show with Peter LaBarbera and John Kirkwood. Jackson said of homosexuality: "Look, it also attempts to poison our children, divide them from their parents and the teaching of the church and basically turn them into pawns for that movement so that they can sexualize them at the earliest possible age. It really is insidious and I agree with you, it is a super sin." [Right Wing Watch, 10/25/12]
E.W. Jackson: Gays And Lesbians "Want To Destroy" Culture; Said They Were Forcing Christians To Change Their Beliefs. In October 2012, Right Wing Watch reported about E.W. Jackson's appearance on a radio show with Peter LaBarbera and John Kirkwood. Jackson said of homosexuality: "They've got to transform the culture in order to make their lifestyles fully acceptable to everyone. I used two words to describe what they're trying to do: authoritarian and totalitarian, and I believe that. I believe that they are of a mindset that says we want to destroy in any way we need to anyone who dares oppose this agenda, that's a very, very dangerous approach.
Meanwhile, Attorney General nominee Mark Obenshain is less obsessed with gay hating than Jackson, but he ought to terrify every woman in Virginia. Here are highlights of two of Obenshain's postions:
Obenshain Co-Patroned "Personhood" Bill With Cuccinelli. Obenshain has repeatedly supported "personhood" legislation that would outlaw all abortion and many common forms of birth control. [HB2797, 2007; HB1, 2/23/12]
Obenshain Introduced Bill Requiring Women to Report Miscarriages to the Police
In 2009, Sen. Mark Obenshain introduced legislation that would require women to report miscarriages to the police within 24 hours or face a Class 1 misdemeanor. According to the Virginia Legislative Information System, the bill "Requires that when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother at or after the delivery or abortion, the mother or someone acting on her behalf, within 24 hours, report the fetal death, location of the remains, and identity of the mother to the local or state police or sheriff's department of the city or county where the fetal death occurred. The bill also specifies that no one shall remove, destroy, or otherwise dispose of any remains without the express authorization of law-enforcement officials or the medical examiner, and that a violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor." [SB 962, 2009]
Obenshain Co-sponsored Restrictive Voter ID Bill. In 2013 Obenshain sponsored a bill requiring photo identification. Acceptable forms of ID include a government-issued photo ID that includes their address, a photo ID from a Virginia college or university, or a workplace ID featuring a photo. Regular Voter ID cards would not be sufficient.Too many Virginians have refused in the past to understand that the Republican Party that they or their parents grew up is dead and gone. It has been replaced by a party controlled first and foremost by Christian extremists and those who would trample on the rights of other citizens. The party of logic and reason and small government is dead. Today's GOP wants to micro manage everyone's sex life and inflict extreme religious beliefs on all citizens.
|MARK CARSON Shot dead by stranger.|
The boyfriend and I go to New York City every September and have typically stayed at a friend's apartment on Christopher Street in the West Village. I've always felt safe, but a recent spate of hate crimes has many gays nervous. In the early hours of Saturday, things escalated to a new frightening level when a gay man was shot and killed by a man shouting anti-gay epithets (his accomplices seem to have fled before the actual shooting occurred). The shooting took place just a few blocks from where we have usually stayed. This growing anti-gay violence obviously raises the question of what is fueling this hatred. We, of course, know the answer: religion. Religion and the constant mantra that gays are a threat to marriage, gays are a threat to children, gays are a threat to society. In New York we see the anti-gay extremism encouraged by bigots like the porcine Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Nationally, hate groups like Family Research Council keep up a steady drumbeat of anti-gay propaganda. And the consequence is violence and death: The New York Post reports on the horrible event:
A gay man was gunned down in Greenwich Village early yesterday allegedly by a bigot who hurled homophobic slurs at him — a senseless attack that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called “clearly a hate crime.”Brooklyn resident Mark Carson and a pal were walking on Sixth Avenue near West Eighth Street at around midnight when the two were approached by Elliot Morales, 33, and two other Hispanic men, police said.“Look at these faggots,” one of the men snarled, remarking on the boots, cut-off shorts and tank tops that Carson, 32, and his friend were wearing. “What are you, gay wrestlers?”Carson and his friend turned right onto West Eighth Street. One of the Hispanic men left. Morales and the other man kept shadowing them.“Do you want to die here?” Morales asked Carson, a manager at a West Village frozen-yogurt shop.“Is he your boy?” he asked Carson, pointing at his best friend of 15 years.When Carson answered “Yes,” Morales pulled out a silver Taurus .38-caliber revolver and blasted him once in the cheek, authorities said.Carson died shortly after at Beth Israel Hospital.“I thought that kind of hate stuff was gone, but I see that it’s not,” the victim’s distraught father, Mark Carson Sr., told The Post.It took time to identify Morales because he was carrying a Pennsylvania man’s ID and was “very uncooperative with detectives,” said cops and a law-enforcement source. The ex-con, who served 11 years in prison on a robbery conviction, seemed so crazed, cops were investigating whether he was on drugs, a police source said.The murder is at least the 22nd anti-gay attack in the city so far this year, police said. Anti-gay attacks are up an alarming 77 percent from 13 such assaults during the same period last year.A spate of anti-gay attacks have plagued the West Village and nearby neighborhoods in recent weeks. As many as five anti-gay attacks have been reported in the city this month.
An earlier post today noted that religion and Christianity in particular has been a long time impediment to the acceptance of scientific knowledge - e.g., the Catholic Church's treatment of Galileo and the Christian fundamentalists continue to deny the validity of evolution. But nowhere does religious based ignorance pose a greater threat than in the context of global warming. Because the Republican Party has become controlled by reality denying Christofascists, it is impossible to get any meaningful legislation passed by Congress that would address the growing problem of a warming earth, rising sea levels and changing climate patterns. And when challenged the Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP bleat that there is no consensus on the role mankind is playing in the developing catastrophe. Like so much of what comes out of the GOP and ignorance worshiping Christofascists, this claim is a lie. A new Study that reviewed 20 years of peer reviewed research shows there is a clear consensus: Global warming is real and humans are playing a role in global warming:
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors' self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
The public perception of a scientific consensus on AGW is a necessary element in public support for climate policy (Ding et al 2011). However, there is a significant gap between public perception and reality, with 57% of the US public either disagreeing or unaware that scientists overwhelmingly agree that the earth is warming due to human activity (Pew 2012).
Contributing to this 'consensus gap' are campaigns designed to confuse the public about the level of agreement among climate scientists.
Andrew Sullivan notes the consequences for American politics:
An international team of scientists analyzed the abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2011 dealing with climate change and global warming. That’s right — we’re talking about 20 years of papers, many published long before Superstorm Sandy, last year’s epic Greenland melt, or Australia’s “angry summer.”
But the main reason many Americans still refuse to believe it is religious fundamentalism. That is immune to science and reason. But it is the bedrock belief of one of our political parties.Gays, of course are only too familiar with the Christofascist rejection of modern knowledge: despite consensus among every legitimate medical and mental health association in the country that sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable, the Christofascists insist that being gay is a "choice" and that one can "change."
Despite all of this evidence of their know embrace of ignorance - not to mention hate and bigotry - I find it mind numbing that far too many people and media outlets give these people undeserved deference and respect. They deserve no respect and certainly no deference whatsoever.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of Bertrand Russell in 1872. Russell was a great thinker and a champion of logic and reason. Bob Felton at Civil Commotion has a lengthy piece on Russell and here are a few brief highlights:
[F]ew men did so much as Bertrand Russell to shape the modern world. As a philosopher, his Principia Mathematica re-ordered mathematics as a branch of logic; every math teacher you ever had who said “It’s just logic” is quoting Russell.
It was Russell’s student, Alan Turing, who used Russell’s insights to invent the first modern computer, the one built at Bletchley Park and used to defeat Germany’s Enigma code during the second World War. It was Russell’s student, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who laid the groundwork for Google’s search engine.
His interests eventually turned toward public policy matters, and in his middle and latter years he wrote a steady stream of books, articles, and lectures across a broad range of topics. Most of them remain in print, and his A History of Western Philosophy remains a widely used textbook today, more than 60-years after its initial publication. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, and deserved it; he is among the most graceful essayists that ever lived.
Whether his fortunes waxed or waned, Russell never budged from his uncompromising opposition to unreasoning belief. One of his most famous lectures, Why I Am Not A Christian, was delivered in 1927 and has been in print ever since.
You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. “What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.
A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.