Sunday, April 19, 2015

Our Would-Be Presidents are God-Fearing Clowns

As presidential candidates have announced their ambitions one thing that has been a constant, especially among the Republicans, is an intense effort to proclaim their religiosity - real or feigned - in an effort pander to the ignorant, superstitious party base.  While personal religious belief - religion in general - should have no place in public discourse much less public policy, for these men, it's almost all about religion and the policies that far right Christianity demands no matter how inconsistent it is with the Gospel message of the New Testament.  A column in Salon looks at the disgusting pandering and why it is important to confirm the real agenda of the candidates beyond mere lust for power and egomania.  Here are excerpts:

Aspirants to the White House, both Democratic and Republican, have, as we all know, begun “announcing,” thus initiating, from a rationalist’s point of view, a media carnival featuring, on both sides, an array of supposedly God-fearing clowns and faith-mongering nitwits groveling before Evangelicals and nattering on about their belief in the Almighty and their certainty that if we just looked, we could find answers to many of our ills in the Good Book.

The candidates will cloak their true agendas – serving the Lords of Wall Street far more zealously than Our Father who art (or really, art not) in heaven – in pious patter about “values,” about the need to “restore America” and return us to the state of divinely granted exceptionalism President Obama has so gravely squandered. This Season of Unreason will end with the elections of November 2016, but its consequences – validation of the idea that belief without evidence is a virtue, that religion, and especially Christianity, deserves a place in our politics, our Constitutionally enshrined secularism notwithstanding – will live on and damage the progressive cause.

But it does not have to be this way. . . . . A survey just out shows that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith since 2012, the year of the Pew Research Center poll that established that one out of five have no religious affiliation. Nonbelief is trending, and among a sizable, growing demographic.

Professing belief in a fictitious celestial deity says a lot about the content of a person’s character, and what sort of policies he or she would likely favor. So, we should take a look at those who have announced so far, and what sort of religious views they hold.   Let’s start with the Republicans. 

Paul, the eye-surgeon senator from Kentucky, is officially a “devout” Christian, but he has subtly hinted that he really does not believe. . . .  Nevertheless, he says, he always does “come back” to Jesus. He closed his announcement speech asking for “God’s help” in getting elected. Whether he meant it, we don’t really know.
 . . .

With the dapper Florida Sen. Marco Rubio we move into the more disturbing category of Republicans we might charitably diagnose as “faith-deranged” – in other words, as likely to do fine among the unwashed “crazies” in the red-state primaries, but whose religious beliefs would (or should) render them unfit for civilized company anywhere else. . . . . Yet even as a re-minted Catholic, Rubio cheats on the Pope with a megachurch in Miami called Christ Fellowship. As religion and politics blogger Bruce Wilson points out, Christ Fellowship is a hotbed of “demonology and exorcism, Young Earth creationism, and denial of evolution,” and is so intolerant it demands its prospective employees certify they are not “practicing homosexuals” and don’t cheat on their spouses. 

Yet of the Republicans, the most flagrant irrationalist is clearly Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz. For starters, Cruz pandered fulsomely to the faith-deranged by choosing to announce at Liberty University, that bastion of darkness located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Once administered by the late Jerry Falwell, Liberty promises a “World Class Christian education” and boasts that it has been “training champions for Christ since 1971” – grounds enough, in my view, to revoke the institution’s charter and subject it to immediate quarantine until sanity breaks out. . . . . One wonders, in Cruz’s case, if the malady of faith isn’t acquired, but transmitted genetically.  In 2013, his father Rafael, an Evangelical pastor, suggested interring atheists in “encampments” (or “Heathen Zones“) surrounded by an “electrified fence,” where they would be “free to dance naked around the fire, brand the mark of the Devil on their flesh or whatever else they want to do.” Should they escape, “we shoot them between the eyes. 

The sole Republican candidate unbound by religion’s “mind-forged manacles” appears to be the little-known Mark Everson, a native New Yorker who served as George W. Bush’s IRS commissioner. A dank, stygian gloom overhangs his campaign, however; he doesn’t even mention the Lord in his site’s “Letter to America.” He has thereby doomed himself among the faith-deranged. He gets next to no press.

Hillary Clinton has announced, of course, by Twitter and a video, the first part of which was so bland I kept waiting for the tiny clickable SKIP THIS AD box to appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. The diversity of characters her clip features bodes well, though, for the faith-averse; she could not get away with ranting about the Bible unless she wanted to alienate such folk.

Yet Hillary does believe. Not only that, she claims to have grown up in a family elbow-to-elbow with none other than the Almighty: “We talked with God, ate, studied, and argued with God.”

Hillary aside, with the ex-pastor Mike Huckabee and the Roman Catholic Jeb Bush (both inclined to wear their faith on their sleeve), rationalists can contemplate a depressing, even infuriating, 19-month run-up to the election. Reporters should do their job and not allow any of these potential commanders-in-chief to get away with God talk without making them answer for it, as impolite as that might be. Religious convictions deserve the same scrutiny any other convictions get, or more. After all, they are essentially wide-ranging assertions about the nature of reality and supernatural phenomena. As always, the burden of proof lies on the one making extraordinary claims. And if the man or woman carrying the nuclear briefcase happens to be eagerly desiring the End of Days, we need to know.

Here are some questions journalists might ask the candidates.
You accept the New Testament, of course, which includes Matthew 5:18’s pronouncement that every last bit of the Bible shall be implemented, including the Old Testament, which enjoins the death penalty for all manner of often minor infractions and approves of behavior that, to put it kindly, is no longer acceptable (at least outside ISIS-occupied territory).

So, if you accept the Bible in its totality, do you think sex workers should be burned alive (Leviticus 21:9) or that gays should be put to death (Leviticus 20:13)? Should women submit to their husbands, per Colossians 3:18? Should women also, as commands 1 Timothy 2:11, study “in silence with full submission?” Would you adhere to Deuteronomy 20:10-14 and ask Congress to pass a law punishing rapists by fining them 50 shekels and making them marry their victims and forbidding them to divorce forever? 

Will you call on Congress to repeal the Thirteenth Amendment and reinstate slavery, since the Bible, in 1 Peter 2:18, de facto sanctions the horrific practice and demands that slaves submit to their “masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel?” Please clarify.

Ted Cruz, will you denounce your father for his suggestion that atheists be tossed into camps?

Marco Rubio, please explain how your membership in the fanatical homophobic cult of Christ Fellowship has influenced you? How much demonology do you believe? Has the Fellowship conducted any exorcisms lately? If so, have you taken part?

The media, of course, for the most part will not undertake this important task.  Nonetheless, the batshitery of these "believers" needs to be called out over and over again.  Make them explain what their supposed religiosity includes.  Were that to happen, many sane Americans would run screaming for the GOP.  The embrace of ignorance is NOT a virtue.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

New Insanity from the "Godly Folk" - the Gay Muslim Conspiracy

Seemingly mentally disturbed David Lapin
Only in the GOP base and in particular in the "family values" organizations is it possible for someone who needs a serious mental health intervention to become a "star" - e.g., Sarah Palin - or lead spokesman.  How else to explain Family Research Council's David Lapin who claims that liberals are sexually attracted to the "masculinity" of Islamic extremists.  Seriously, this man needs a straight jacket and padded cell!  One truly has to wonder (i) how someone gets this crazy in the first place, and (ii) how they are allowed to spew such batshitery to national media outlets. A piece in Crooks and Liars looks at Lapin's lunacy and the larger issue of the insanity of the far right:
[R]eligious right extremist Rabbi David Lapin opined this week that liberals are sexually attracted to the "masculinity" of Islamic extremists. Via Right Wing Watch: 
There are countless studies showing that feminine-type behavior produces an excess of estrogen in men and vice versa. Essentially, the left has fallen in love with the masculinity of Islam…Today, after a 30- or 40-year epidemic of leftism that has swept its sordid stain across America, we've become much more feminized and we are attracted to the masculine strength and brutality of Islam. This is the girl in the high school being attracted to the bad, tough guy and that's really what's happening. 
Remember just the other day when I half-jokingly wrote about right wing conspiracy theories that connect marriage equality issues with Islamic extremism? The humor in that piece was that I used the actual words of actual wingnuts to show that this is how they actually think. Rabbi Lapin is not an outlier, he's expressing a widely-held view on the right. It doesn't matter that they have no evidence to support it; as with the president's supposed Kenyan birth certificate, belief is the only evidence such people need.

Because Christianity no longer represents the dominant moral force in American politics, right wing culture warriors explain the changing American cultural landscape to themselves as a sinister, secret plot. American military power not only failed to end Islamic extremism, but seems to have made it orders of magnitude worse, so the right wing mind searches for an explanation which blames their ideological enemies. This process of rationalization is far more palatable to their conscious minds than a potential revision of their violent theology would be, or than it would be to admit their bigoted world-view has deterred young people from religion altogether. Just look at Dick Cheney.
The trick, as Lapin understands, is to convince yourself and others that the liberals are the real fanatics. If the liberals seem determined to treat Muslim, Christian, and Judaic radicals as mirror-images of each other rather than choose between their various destructive and homophobic visions, it's merely further proof that liberals are secretly gay-attracted to the other side's violence.

One can never admit that conservative reactionary forces are the bane of a free society - or that liberal religious movements, such as those which hold gay weddings, are vitalizing forces in a free society. That conclusion requires hard work, contrition, and a diminution of one's ego as inflated by a sense of godly mission. It's much easier to answer unwelcome intrusions of reality by impressing your belief-system on the young and unwilling with force, again using your god as the excuse to do so, while rationalizing all contradictory evidence under the rubric of ‘belief.'

2015 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner

Last night the husband and I attended the 12th Annual Commonwealth Dinner, the largest fundraiser of the year for Equality Virginia, and one of the largest gathering of activists and their supporters in the state each year.   We drove up yesterday and had lunch with a friend and his boyfriend at a great restaurant on West Cary Street, before relaxing at the home of a friend (she was out of town and loan us use of her home in the historic Fan District - see image above) before dressing for the event which was held at the Richmond Convention Center.  The event as always was great fun and we saw many friends that we often see once a year at the event.  There was a large contingent from Hampton Roads as is always the case.  We also had the opportunity to chat with politicians we know, including the Lt. Governor, Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and Congressman Bobby Scott.  I also had a chance to talk with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. Here are some photos:
Dressed up and headed to the Dinner

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam
The husband and Mark Herring

We ended the evening at an LGBT bar called Babe's in Carytown.  I could see us living in the Fan area and the West Cary Street eateries and shops are wonderful.  Richmond is truly a fun place to visit and there is so much history if one is into that (which we are).  One advantage that Richmond has over Hampton Roads is that it is one central city as opposed to seven splintered cities that rarely cooperate for the larger good of the region. 


The GOP Base: The Beginning Of The End Of An Informed Democracy’

The Founding Fathers embraced knowledge and education and believed that for the democratic republic they founded it was essential that the nation's populace be informed and as willing to embrace knowledge with as much enthusiasm as they Founders did themselves.  For a long time that model worked for the most part subject to the technological and media limitations of the day.  Now, we see that concept dying, especially among the know nothings of the Republican Party base where ignorance is celebrated and objective fact and science are ignored.  GOP politicians willing to do anything to prostitute themselves to these ignoramuses make matters far worse.  And then there are worthless elements of the media that go along with the parade of ignorance and merely parrot the idiocy coming from the far right without ever challenging the lies and stupidity.  A piece in Think Progress looks at the phenomenon and what it portends from America.  Here are excerpts:
We should complain about what the electorate does. I’m an educator, so I see it as one of my duties, especially as a science educator, to alert people of what science is and how it works. About what it means for there to be an objective truth that we would then act upon. 

If you want to lean in a political way because that’s your politics, you should do that based on an objective truth rather than cherry-picking science before you even land at an objective truth. You can’t just cherry-pick data and choose what is true about the world and what isn’t. 

So I’m not blaming the electorate in that sense. I’m blaming an educational system that is not positioned to educate an electorate such that they can make informed decisions in this, the 21st century, where informed decisions based on objective scientific truths will play a fundamental role in what kind of society we create for ourselves.

There’s this journalistic ethos saying if I get one opinion then I need to get another opinion that countervails that. So if I say the world is round, are you obligated to say the world is flat, lest someone think you are being biased in your reporting? Well, that’s absurd. You wouldn’t do that, you’re educated. You know that there are certain points of view that have no foundation at all in objective truth. 

So the question arises then at what point should a journalist give equal time to equal points of view that are opposite or in denial of emergent scientific truths. If you allocated column inches in proportion to the scientific consensus of experiments, there would be one sentence talking about people who deny climate change and the rest of the ten columns talking about research that supports it. But that’s not what we see in the public. 

[T]he moment the politicians start saying they are in denial of what the scientists are telling them, of what the consensus of scientific experiments demonstrates, that is the beginning of the end of an informed democracy. 
I think journalists are abandoning what would be their sensibility of following the emergent truths and in some cases painting a debate as though there’s a scientific debate when in fact there isn’t one

Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Down Side for the GOP if Obamacare if SCOTUS Wipes out Obamacare Tax Credits

The Congressional Republicans have been obsessed with repealing Obamacare, but of course, they have had no meaningful replacement for it beyond throwing millions of Americans off of health coverage and returning to them to the rapacious private insurance market that most cannot afford.  Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court soon to decide the legality of the tax credits for the federal exchange that many in GOP controlled states have been forced to rely upon, these Obama haters might get their wish - or at least part of it.  Some Republicans, however, realize that getting what they have wished for might have a very negative down side that could carry over into next years presidential and federal elections.  Talking Points Memo looks at what could happen.  Here are highlights:
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) articulated the GOP's biggest fear if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare tax credits for millions of Americans who buy insurance from the federal exchange.

The fear: President Barack Obama and Democrats will be ready with a one-page bill to restore the subsidies, as well as a slew of attack ads telling horror stories about "individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer" and lost their coverage, the Republican said.

Here's the transcript from the April 14 interview radio interview, in which Johnson is asked a question by host Jay Weber about King v. Burwell.
JOHNSON: Unfortunately, President Obama's response to an adverse decision — in other words one that actually follows the law — would be really simple. Just a one-sentence bill allowing people’s subsidies to flow to federal exchanges and/or offer the governors, 'Hey, we know you got those federal exchanges. Just sign the bottom line. We’ll make those established by the state.' And of course, he'll have the ads all racked up with the individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer. He'll have all those examples as well so...
WEBER: And the sad sack stories about who's dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage.
Johnson's point was that Republicans must be ready with an effective response if the Court sides with their interpretation of the law and restricts the subsidies to state-run exchanges. So far, GOP leaders have sketched out ideas to mitigate the damage in such a scenario but appear short of a legislative solution that could unite the party.

"What will happen next is predictable: A deluge of attacks on Republicans for supposedly having caused this, . . . . "Daily White House emergency briefings. Liberal interest-group ads of wheelchairs going over cliffs. President Obama’s cheerleaders in the media screaming that ideologues are killing patients."
As I said, sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.  Frankly, if things play out this way, it would be perhaps divine justice.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Bloomberg Poll: Almost Half of Americans Are Stupid

The Republican Party has indeed become the party of stupid.  Hence, it is little surprise that almost half of Americans are stupid.  Yes, you guessed it, the GOP base in particular.  How else to explain a refusal to accept modern science, the desperate clinging to the writings and myths of unknown Bronze Age goat herders, and denial of climate change even as the polar ice masses melt.  Politicususa looks at the poll findings.  Here are excerpts:

As comedian George Carlin once said, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups” and he was certainly referring to Americans loyal to the Republican movement. It is possible that in many Americans’ cases, stupid is the wrong term and denial a more apt descriptor; although a combination of the two terms is likely apropos when referring to half of America. In fact, it is safe to say that the two terms accurately describe Republican voters as a whole because it takes a particularly stupid person to deny what they know have experienced and seen with their own eyes; something results of a Bloomberg poll released yesterday revealed in grand fashion.

[T]he poll revealed that overall the President’s approval rating is positive in no small part due to a recovering economy that even Republicans cannot deny or take any credit for after spending six long years doing nothing. Those numbers are bad news for Republicans who continue claiming errantly that the economy is lagging regardless corporate profits are raging, unemployment is falling, GDP is up, the debt is falling, and the stock market continues setting new records. Even for stupid Americans, it is obvious that the economy under President Obama has been steadily improving and shows no signs of slowing any time soon according to economic experts forecasting continued growth with one caveat; the majority of the population is not seeing their personal finances keep pace with the rich and corporations in a growing economy. It was the one part of the poll results that a substantial majority of Americans were in complete agreement about.

What was curious about the poll results, though, was that although 69 percent of Americans say a growing problem is the widening income gap between the very rich and the rest of the population, there was a relatively even split on how best to address the economic discrepancy favoring the one percent; that is where the stupid factor is manifest. Americans who agreed that it is “better for the government to implement policies to shrink the income gap” made up 46 percent of respondents, and 47 percent said it is better “for the government to stand aside and let the market operate freely; even if the income gap gets wider.” Now, it is belligerently stupid for respondents, 69 percent of them, to acknowledge that, on the one hand, there is a growing income gap between the richest one percent and the rest of the population that has to be confronted and solved, and yet 47 percent believe the best way to address the problem is for government to ‘stand aside‘ and let the market take care of the problem; “even if it makes the gap wider.” Maybe the 47 percent agreeing with that statement failed to read the last phrase.

Obviously the stupid 47 percent who want to solve the income gap issue by, as Republicans preach, “getting government out of the way” have spent an inordinate amount of time getting their economic policy solutions from Republicans and Fox News. They also apparently have a serious issue with reality because study after report after study after life experience has revealed that nationally and particularly in states where Republicans have “got government out of the way,” economic growth is non-existent, job creation is lagging, people are getting poorer while the rich get richer, and deficits are exploding.

For example, Republicans attempted to get government out of the way by eliminating overtime pay, blocked Democrats attempt to pass an equal pay for equal work law, obstructed every attempt by President Obama to create jobs, and slashed federal spending that killed jobs. Republicans have also spent the last few months getting government out of the way of the rich getting richer by attempting to pass legislation giving the rich greater tax breaks as part of their failed trickle down scam . . .

Either 47 percent of the respondents are too stupid to understand that the Republican anti-government approach to the economy has failed every economic test over the past thirty years, or they know it increases the income gap and foolishly think that if the richest one percent gets richer, their own financial situation will improve. If left on its own, the market will always favor the rich. . .

The only reason there is a destructive income gap in America is because for the past thirty years Republicans have been on a crusade to get government out of the way and it has created an environment that is conducive to corporate profits and increased wealth for the richest one percent at the expense of the rest of the population. One has to hand it to Republicans for convincing nearly half of the Bloomberg poll’s respondents that going forward with an economic agenda that enriches the already wealthy at the expense of the rest of the population by eliminating government is the solution to the widening income gap. Republicans understand that at least half of America is stupid and will continue falling for the same failed approach to the economy regardless the disastrous economic consequences, and there is little doubt they will work tirelessly to convince the rest of the population that eliminating government will make them filthy rich.

Huckabee to Announce Yes or No on Presidential Bid on May 5th

If the GOP presidential candidate clown car did not already have enough nutcase occupants, Mike Huckabee - who some years back stated on Morning Joe that he wanted to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Bible - has said that he will announce his intentions on a 2016 presidential bid on May 5th.  Huckabee embodies much of the agenda noted in the prior post where corporate America sought to use religion to justify greed and mistreatment of workers.  Huckabee symbolizes what's wrong with today's Republican Party.  Reuters looks at Fuck*bee's Huckabee's coming announcement.  Here are highlights:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, said on Friday that he will make an announcement on May 5 about whether or not he will run for president in 2016.

Huckabee said in an interview on Fox News that he will announce his plans in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas.  Huckabee, who left office in 2007, first ran for president in 2008. He hosted a Fox News television show but quit early this year to weigh another run at the Republican nomination.

Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, is known as an unabashed culture warrior on issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage. But he could struggle to win support beyond his social conservative base this year.

He would join a crowded field if he does decide to run. U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all announced their candidacies, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also are expected to jump in.