Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beware the false smile and the hidden brass knuckles.

If one were a casual peruser of the news either online or in the print papers, one might be tempted to think that the Republicans are having a series of second thoughts about the election results last November.

First there was Louisiana's Bobby Jindal giving a speech trying to tell Republicans that they are going to have to be more welcoming to Hispanics and stop saying stupid stuff.

Then there was Karl Rove agreeing with Jindal.

I think he is right. This formulation actually has been offered before by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) who wrote a famous essay in the 1970s talking about the Democratic party being the stupid party and the Republican party gaining ascendancy because it was the party of ideas. Jindal understands that, so do people like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and Mitch Daniels and Scott Walker, all of whom have been emphasizing the same theme in recent weeks. I think they're absolutely on target.  
The Republican party can't simply be in mindless opposition to Barack Obama. It has to offer a vision of the future that is attractive and compelling for Americans to associate with.
 Then there was the vote-rigging scandal, which most Republicans of any real note have pretty much given up on and the most honest of whom scoffed at from the start.

Have the Republicans finally gotten a look at a Top Secret page of the Democratic playbook and realized that their stumbling around and saying stupid shit is creating enemies where they used to have friends?  Not so fast, bub, look again!

Last night, Rachael Maddow showed a memo being distributed among Republican activists, which was giving advice on what words not to say, and what not to call Hispanics in this new round of trying to lure innocent minorities into the Republican folder.  Her remarks included such things as statistics showing that Hispanics are not as conservative on non-immigration issues as most people within the Beltway think.

Now, a prominent Hispanic Democrat, freshman Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, has come out and cautioned the Republicans on behalf of his fellow Hispanics.
“The worst mistake they could make is to start along this path and be insincere about it,” he said. “I think if the Latino community and the larger American community senses that the Republican Party is insincere, then it could spell even bigger problems for them later.”
 That's not all.  A very popular Republican, Colin Powell, has repeatedly cautioned Republicans that minorities are not going to blindly follow pretty words.  He squared off with Bill O'Reilly on this just the other day.

Powell pointed to the typically Republican-backed voter suppression laws as an example of one way in which the party has alienated minorities. 
“I don’t think the party recognizes the fundamental demographic changes that are taking place in this country,” he said. ”If you want these people to come to the Republican side…you can’t have policies that try to make it harder for minorities to vote.” 
He continued, “I think that one of the most terrible things that happened in the past election season is when we had a number of states that were going out of their way claiming that there was outright fraud, when there really wasn’t any fraud to be of concern to us, but we were doing things to make it more difficult for those people to vote.”
MSNBC's Morgan Whitaker goes on,
Voter ID laws are up for consideration in North Carolina, Montana, Nevada, Iowa, Idaho, Missouri, West Virginia, and Arkansas. Virginia Republicans, fresh off instituting a relatively nonrestrictive form of voter ID law last year, are on track to create further limitations, shortening their list of acceptable forms of ID. 
 This just seems to be more Republican attempts to paper over their differences with American voters rather than making real adjustments to how the Party really thinks in order to really attract and hold onto new voters.

Just like their cries in the 2010 campaign for "Jobs, jobs, jobs!" turned into the War on Women once the swearing into office was completed.

I think the old saw about being wary of Greeks bearing gifts should somehow be switched into something more appropriate to the times, like being wary of Republicans with smiles on their faces, but bearing brass knuckles behind their backs!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Uplifting? No, this is truly heroic in scope.

It isn't often we see a real life hero.  As this video will say, that word get thrown around a lot, and yes, we see a lot of people save lives.  But very few take the unselfish chance like the one this man took, completely without stopping to think, but acutely aware that another man's life was at risk.

The risk to his own came second place.  Go, watch, and cry along with me.

It is worth every tear.

Encouraging, then discouraging.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Boy Scouts came out the other day with a statement that they are considering rescinding their rejection of gays as either Boy Scouts or Leaders, at least on a local option basis.

“For more than 100 years, Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training,” Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement: 
“Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve. 
“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families. 
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
This won't convince me that there's a god, but dang, this is proof that good people can get together and change minds!

But (and you just knew that there'd be a "but", didn't you?), today, the right wing has gone bonkers.

The Religious Right continues to push back against the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to reconsider their sweeping ban on gay members, many resorting to unfounded claims that homosexuality is tied to child abuse.
Talk show host Janet Mefferd pointed to a major sex scandal and cover-up in the BSA as a reason to maintain the prohibition on gay membership, and then agreed with a caller who compared letting gays serve as troop leaders to “letting the fox watch the hen house.” 
WorldNetDaily’s David Kupelian wrote that “a little bit of America will die” if the Boy Scouts rescind their sweeping ban on gay members, and warned that the Scouts will lose the trust of the public and God. He also pointed to the Catholic Church as an example of how open homosexuality leads to sexual abuse, which is an odd choice seeing that the church, like the BSA, already has a prohibition gays in positions of authority.
The piece goes on with various other statements from the right wing as it goes slowly batshit crazy.

Heck, just the thought that they'd even consider some kind of change is good news.  I thought I'd been feeling a growing instability in the Force lately...

Monday, January 28, 2013

If it didn't sound like English, I'd swear he was talking in tongues!

Just to show that the christian religion doesn't have a patent on the crazy, I give you Rabbi Daniel Lapin - the rabbit (yes, his name means "rabbit" in French, but he's a rabbi) who averred a while back that retirement is unbiblical. (Yes, he really did.)

This time, he descends into another version of crazy, wherein now, you selfish folks who refuse to have children are also being unsocial, because you should have kids to support society in its old age!  You know, the old age wherein you aren't supposed to retire... but are saving through investments to support yourself without having kids, - but hold on!  Your retirement will be funded by my kids, who are your investment company's customers or something.  So you not having kids is unfair or something, mumble, mumble...

See if you can figure it out, I think he's speaking in tongues.

Green: If you are in a society and culture that has that connection and that places a high value on religion and affiliation there and you get the better health that results, it looks like now, the way that America is going with socialized medicine, those states that are like that are going to end up footing the bill for the states that choose the other path, which is less connection and less affiliation with religion and those things because they are going to have a higher health bill. But now, with socialized medicine, we’ll pay for it. 
Lapin: Oh, absolutely. And by the way, that is also true of Social Security. It’s all very well people choose not to have children; not only do they pay a health penalty for that but the truth is that your children and mine are going to have to pay for them. People say “it’s not true, I have my investments to take care of me, I don’t need children.” Well, that may be true, however your investments depend on a growing market of customers because your investments are in company and what characterizes a profitable company is that it has customers; it’s customer are my children. 
Green: Yeah, that’s a good point, I hadn’t even thought about that. If you don’t have children, first of all, they are not contributing to the overall marketplace but also the tax base and everything else. 
Lapin: That is exactly right. So I really do think that a claim of anti-social behavior can be lodged at the door of people who choose not to have children.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Slut Conversation - revisited!

Ok, folks, we've all had time to digest the conversation the other day on Facebook.

I want to thank the younger crowd, who dug in and talked this over after my dear cyber-daughter shared the post on her page.  We had some very good exchanges, and I learned a lot about how some folks view this issue.  Needless to say, it is controversial!

One thing that I learned is that the issue of - let's call it "gender-shaming" - doesn't only affect the fair sex (or men in different ways by "challenging" their sexuality in certain circumstances), but that there are completely different points of view brought to the table by people with different orientations.

I speak here of the LBGT and other communities.  Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay and Trans-gendered groups all have their unique issues, which I do not at all want to short-change by leaving them out of this conversation. Additionally, there are other groups not "recognized" by the main stream media such as Asexual, Cross-dressing, Polyamory and so forth, which, again, bring unique points of view, each their own.

So, please, if you happen to be part of one of those communities, feel free to step in, however anonymous you feel you must be, and say your piece.  I, for one, would be fascinated to hear from you - if we ever hope to make this society an egalitarian one or even a reasonable facsimile thereof, we will need to include you in this same conversation.

So, I think we need to start off on a different foot.  It seems that the best approach seems to be to eliminate the words for gender-shaming altogether.  To end the idea that there is a double standard for "decency", based on gender and gender identity, which is what we have when we use words like "slut" to describe a woman and words like "player" to describe a man.

The intent of using words like that for women is to express disgust, or some form of a negative value judgement on her sexual behavior, like the number and type of sexual encounters or partners they may have in a relatively short period, or their style of dress or public behavior as being overly provocative, whereas words for men involve some form of intrinsic approval and pride.

The particular standards for this are different based on a person's upbringing and background.  No surprise there.  Using words like "slut" only for women does seem to come from the patriarchal history of western civilization.  Shaming to keep the ladies in line!  (Yes, time to end that practice!)

So my question today, to continue the conversation, is this:

Since there seems to be some loose agreement that shaming people based on this idea is not a good thing (so making up a word for guys is not the solution), are there any reasons why there should be any kind of standard for socially "admonishing" someone whose behavior becomes so outrageous as to violate some community or social standard?  If there are, what should that standard be? Should we have one standard or is there room for differing standards - and what should they be?  Indeed, what would the meaning of the word "outrageous" be in this context?

Think about such things as:

Honesty vs. Dishonesty (in inter-personal relationships in general)
Privacy vs. Public Health (i.e., in disclosing multiple sexual relationships)
Short term vs. long term relationships
Historical Patriarchy vs. Egalitarianism and equality
"Traditional" sexual standards vs. "alternative" lifestyles

Bake in your own stuff here that you feel impacts the subject, and let's talk!

Ideally, the conversation should be here, on the blog.  Because the different audiences between my dear cyber-daughter and I are not all "friends" of each other or the two of us, it would be hard to "link up" on a single Facebook page.  Here, such privacy/security issues do not exist, and people who wish to be anonymous can be as unknown as they wish!

So if you wish to join in a conversation, please do so here!  Registration is NOT necessary... but make sure to identify yourself in some unique way so we can tell each other apart.

(Thanks to dear cyber-daughter SA for her significant contributions to this article!)

Christian Radio - hilarity ensues! (But hang on there for a moment...)

This is on one level a hoot.  Listen to these two morons talk for five minutes, and it is so off base, so hilariously outdated and frankly delusional that one almost falls off the chair laughing.

PZ Meyers at FreeThought Blogs has it.

But when you pick yourself up off the floor, think about this.  This is right wing Christian Radio.  It is immensely popular, and has millions of adoring listeners, nationwide.  These guys make a living out of talking like this, and millions of these folks hear them, and a lot of them actually walk away believing this crap.

The result is that the Republican Party has gotten away with almost eliminating abortion in numerous States, and is on its way to outlawing contraceptives as well.  Do you want to bet on how long it is before they start working on outlawing divorce?

Now, are there any more questions on why I and numerous other atheists claim that religion is harmful to society?

Friday, January 25, 2013

This isn't ignorance or incompetence, this is criminal.

The New York Times has posted a story about Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, retired Archbishop, and how he personally covered up the abuse of children by priests under his supervision by moving them into counseling outside the State of California for the express purpose of avoiding the California requirement for counselors to report sexual abuse to authorities. (Pardon the clumsy link , mobile posting by google's blogging app sucks)


"In 1986, Cardinal Mahony wrote to a New Mexico treatment center where one abusive priest, Msgr. Peter Garcia, had been sent.

“I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Cardinal Mahony wrote.

Monsignor Garcia admitted to abusing more than a dozen young boys, most of them from families of illegal immigrants, since he was ordained in 1966, and in at least one case he threatened to have a boy he had molested deported if he talked about it, according to documents filed in court.

He was never criminally prosecuted, and has since died."


This activity was carried out for at least a decade before the abuse became public,


This is not incompetence, this is not, as Mahoney claims, ignorance of consequences. This is criminal activity, and the documents filed in court prove it. Mahoney should be held personally liable, and prosecuted for his criminal acts in covering up such horrible, criminal acts. Just because he may have been unaware of the terrible consequences of the abuse on the victims, does NOT excuse his willful coverup of what he KNEW were criminal acts by priests under his direct supervision.

Nail the bastard.

I'm sorry, but no priestly robes will protect him from the utter contempt and disgust I feel for a man who would magnify the already criminal activities of his subordinates by covering them up. Indeed, those robes merely magnify my feelings, as his actions are contrary to the teachings he oversaw his priests giving to his parishioners and the authority he and his priests claim from their god. They are certainly contrary to the duties of an adult in charge of the very most vulnerable of our species.

The Feds should jump in here and file charges under the RICO Act- his actions are the actions of a criminal organization by virtue of his position as Archbishop and by virtue of those actions being taken as part of his regular duties as the supervisor of the offending priests. These are not the actions of a single rogue individual, as much as the Catholic Church may want to portray them as such.

These are the actions of a corrupt, criminal organization whose already known and publicized orders to its hierarchy were to handle these incidents internally and to avoid notifying civil police authorities, in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES. Now documents are being filed which prove that this man knew this and and acted according to orders from above to circumvent civil law and authority.

More than anything else, this shows the corruption of the Catholic Church and its entire hierarchy, from top to bottom. How can anyone believe a single teaching of a church whose actions belie their most basic values?

To all Catholics, I now tell you this: in words similar to what I saw in Facebook today, the combination of knowledge of these terrible things and inaction on your part equal no less than complicity in those actions. That inaction shows that you condone the abuse, you condone the coverup and the attempts by the Catholic Church to hide these criminal actions from the proper civil authorities.

Every Catholic in the country should refuse to tithe any more money to an organization which would take these kinds of actions. You should immediately notify your local Parrish priest that you shall no longer attend Mass until the Church takes firm, definitive action, from the Pope down, to completely eliminate this cancer from its ranks and immediately and completely reimburse every victim it can find for the horrors visited on them by its members.

This organized criminal activity should immediately cease, the Church should desist from allowing any further such criminal actions to occur in its name and it should announce such actions by an official, binding announcement of the proper type from the Pope which is meant to be of the "infallible" kind, binding the church to its strictures forever.

Until that happens, every Catholic who fully understands the implications of this activity should immediately stop actively supporting this corrupt, criminal organization.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unintended consequences plus Republican crazy!

I think by now most of you have seen the oft-re-posted story about the crazy female lawmaker in New Mexico, state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), which would make it illegal for a woman to have an abortion after getting pregnant from a rape, so as to "preserve" the baby as "evidence" of the rape.

Her excuse is that this "protects" the woman from being "forced" to have an abortion by the rapist to dispose of evidence of the rape - as if a rape kit, properly taken, isn't enough all by itself.

While I agree totally that this is the absolutely worst possible reason to criminalize abortion, there is another reason to be wary of something like this as well.

As if women aren't already intimidated enough by the legal process of getting a rape kit taken and having to live the rape all over again as part of the gathering of evidence - being told that getting rid of a baby that will remind her for the rest of her life of the bastard who raped her is now illegal, forcing her to have that baby, wanted or not - is much more likely to make her refuse to ever report the rape, just in case she gets pregnant!  After all, if a rape never happened, it can't fall under the provisions of that law, now can it?

Its called preserving your options, and as hard as it is now to get women to report rapes, this is much more likely to cut the current rate in half as it is to help convict a single rapist.  At least in New Mexico.

This law makes the plight of victims of rape worse, not better!

When she heard of this, my dear cyber-wife noted that this Brown lady must hate women.  She must hate her mother, herself and any other woman in her life to want to punish women so badly, she said.  Well, I'm a guy, so I won't presume to know whether that is true or not, but I agree that the word punish is an appropriate one!

I surely hope that women all over New Mexico get on the phone and tell this woman just what they think about her "protection" idea.

I hope it falls flat on its face.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

RCC: Life Begins at Conception - unless it costs us $$$

Ok, folks, the RCC is now toast.  Their teachings that life begins at conception have now been exposed as so much rubbish - IF it's going to cost the Church money in a lawsuit!

Turns out, when a man sues a Catholic hospital for malpractice because his wife and the twins she was carrying inside her died when she turned up in the emergency room and her doctor never bothered to answer a page—well, things get a little tricky. Yes, the Catholic hospital adheres to the strict Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, as set forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And yes, those directives include the claim that "[t]he Church's defense of life encompasses the unborn" and a mandate to uphold "the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death.'" But come on. That obviously does not apply when Catholic Health Initiatives, the Church-affiliated organization that runs the Church-affiliated St. Thomas More Hospital where a young woman and her two unborn fetuses died, is the lead defendant in a lawsuit:
Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.
As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

 So, if you EVER hear a Catholic say that the RCC Teaches that life begins at conception, now you know where to direct their attention to give that claim the lie!

If ever I have seen a more disgusting example of religious hypocrisy, this one is pretty doggone near the top of that list!

Further Thoughts on Religion in the Military

I wanted to let the links to Mikey's post at the Huffington Post's site get a little bit of a head start before getting this one out there.  I do have more thoughts as to why we should be alarmed about the things he warns us about.

It goes almost without saying that allowing the military command structure to force religious observances on their troops is unconstitutional.  That is the very poster child for a First Amendment violation!  But there are other reasons too.

There is the fact that we have people in the US military from all of the major religions, and a lot of the minor ones, too.  Obviously, these practices violate their rights to practice their religions as they please wherever the forced ceremonies differ from their own.  I won't even bother to mention what that does to those like me who aren't religious at all!  (like hell I won't...)

All of this is plenty of reason to get serious and force our civilian government to clean this mess up.  It is way past time for that.

But think about something else for a moment.  Mikey touches on it when he mentions the failure of the West Point's Combating Terrorism Center to deal with this issue, but this bears some further examination.

Roll this around in your head for a minute.  Just where have we been deploying troops for the past twelve years?  I've got a clue for you, it ain't Kansas, Toto!  In fact, the people we've been fighting, just in case you've missed the memo, are not christian, but belong to one of the more intolerant forms of the abrahamic religions.  Islam, while it's got its own peaceful and tolerant groups, certainly boasts more of the intolerant and dare I say, militant groups than our own, and these are the folks we've been sending our guys and gals over to exchange fire with.

And yet, over and over, our military has been allowing the command structure - in a theater of war - to do such stupid things as contract for gunsights engraved with bible references!  Allowed them to bring civilians into Afghanistan who are nothing more than christian groups intent on proselytizing the heathen muslims!  Then, of course, risking the lives of CIA operatives in rescuing those idiots when they get kidnapped by outraged Islamic militants!

At first, in my innocence, I believed that the lack of sensitivity training given to US troops going into Afghanistan was just an oversight.  Perhaps a lack of enough informed instructors to go around.  Then this same scenario has played out in Iraq and even further in Afghanistan after Iraq was over, and it looks more and more like a deliberate policy and not oversight.

Yes, they've said that such training has been provided finally, but the above occurrences coming from the command structure make it seem as though perhaps the wrong people attended those training sessions!

The more and more word gets out to our opponents in the muslim world that the US military is being schooled in fundamentalist christian thought and training, the more recruits they will find willing to fight us.  The more they will be able to - with truth - claim that we are waging a religious war against them!

President Barack Obama may stand up in public and claim that we are not at war with Islam, but as long as we continue to allow the US Military Command to infiltrate christian extremists into the entire command stream from top to bottom, his words will ring hollow to all who care to see the truth.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that our opponents in islamic militant groups have their heads in the sand.

Windmill Tilting - or is this more dangerous than any windmill?

There are times I feel like Don Quixote, sitting here, tilting at windmills, howling at the wilderness, hoping somewhere, someone will hear the warnings and take heed.

Then I look at my daily numbers for this blog, while still minuscule compared with the big guys, which have been climbing steadily in recent weeks, and thank you, my dear cyber-readers, for being so loyal, coming back for more.  I hope you occasionally pass on a link or two to friends and neighbors when you think I've written something they might like.

Don't forget my Facebook page, either, also entitled The Cybernetic Atheist!  I post links there to these pages, and sometimes share things I get from other pages I subscribe to there.

Thanks!  I appreciate it!

The reference to Don Quixote is even more apt as I refer you, once again, to the words of Mikey Weinstein, a man with a mission and a website for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and certainly with more influence than I, who also must feel like that famous windmill tilter himself some days.  Today, he has written more words, and sounds a clarion call to the continuing danger of the Dominionist movement within the US Military in a brand new Op-Ed piece in the Huffington Post!

His words clearly show how ingrained this movement is within the ranks of the very organizations supposedly sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, even as they conspire to overturn it.  This poison runs as high as the very highest ranks and runs through the command structure so insidiously, it would cripple this country's protective shield were they ever truly removed.

I ask you, humbly, to read his words, and pass these links on to others.  The very best protection we have to these insidious dangers is the light of publicity.  The website God's Own Party calls this the Kryptonite of the dominionist Movements - publicity!

So, please, spread the Kryptonite!  The US Military is full of dedicated soldiers, sworn to uphold the Constitution which guides this country, and many of them have sacrificed time, family and even their bodies in that service - it's beyond time for us to return the favor and help to remove this danger from their midst!

While they protect us, let's protect them!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

So let the whining begin!

You just knew it had to happen.

All this time, while the military was using this "spiritual fitness" thing to push their christian message, there was never any recognition of the fact that it was a religious sectarian message that was being pushed, and thus, unconstitutional.

This kind of thing has been publicized over and over again by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, headed by Mikey Weinstein, and has been going on for years.

Yet, now that the Spiritual Fitness program has been proven to be a failure in preventing suicides or lowering the suicide rate in the military, and efforts are now underway to find alternative methods for helping our military personnel lower stress levels and deal with mental health issues differently, suddenly christians are concerned with the Constitution?

Hypocrisy knows no shame.

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Indelible Impression.

I've watched a number of inaugurations in my day.  I think Kennedy was my first where I knew what was happening.  That gives you bean counters out there something to go on!

Today was historic for a number of reasons, and not only because the first black man elected to office became one of a few Presidents to take the oath of office a second time.  Seventeen, I think they said the number was.

I have to say that for me, the most indelible moment was after it was done, and the Presidential Party was exiting the podium area.  The main camera out front was filming his exit, and caught him as he entered the doors into the building, where, normally, you would begin to lose sight of him.

At that moment, he stopped and turned around.  Not to talk to the crowd, but to look behind him, down the Mall.  I know that he'd just finished a 19 minute speech where he stood out there in front and addressed that crowd, but this was special - a private moment in the middle of a crowd for a very public man.

Take a look.

At that moment, he took the opportunity to do what I would have been tempted to do - to take that last possible chance to look back, to savor a moment that very few human beings get to see - hundreds of thousands, if not a million people or more - come to see you.  To know, in those few moments that all of the hoopla, all the pageantry, all the attention of the day, was focused on nobody else but you.

And he wanted, in a very human way, to stop and take a look at something he will remember for the rest of his life.  This is the highlight, the pinnacle of his career.  Never again will this many people come to one place to see him.

It seems he wanted to take some of that away with him.

Good for you, Mr. President!  You worked for it, you deserve it.  Savor it, let it roll slowly through the memory spaces of your mind for as long as it takes.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Doesn't it take Two to Tango?

Something's been bothering me, and my wife finally put her finger on it.  Lately, there's been a lot of, to be blunt about it, "slut shaming" going on.

This trend is bothersome.  I've been over this subject, and the reasons why I think it is so, in a number of posts before.  That is for those other posts.

But, this is about just being people, having friends, knowing others and understanding that women are people too.  This is about our building a society where everybody, both men and women, are treated like people - people with the same rights, responsibilities and duties to society.

Slut shaming is taking women and making them adhere to a higher standard than men.  Allowing men to do things women are denigrated and shamed for doing, even while a man is shamelessly participating in the same activity, and often even praised for that participation!

Let's look at the dictionary definition of a slut:
slut  (slʌt)

— n
1. derogatory  a dirty slatternly woman
2. derogatory  an immoral woman
3. archaic  a female dog
Now.  Most people today seem to equate that "immoral" part with sex.  Being promiscuous, having multiple sex partners, either in series or simultaneously.

Why don't we have a similar word for men?  Men can be as promiscuous as women, even worse in many cases, especially given the little biological fact that men can't get pregnant, so they can just walk away and forget the whole thing.  We even have a quaint little saying for it, "sowing your wild oats", with the clear understanding in-between the lines that there could well be some sprouting going on behind the scenes!  Maybe not so much today, since we do have various methods of birth control, but to make matters worse, that is seen as the woman's job to look after, not the man's!  Or how about the term "scoring"?  The idea that somehow, women are targets, to be counted and discarded upon the scoring of the "point".

Interesting how both "slut" and "bitch" used to be terms (and at least one is still today) for female dogs, and both have devolved into denigrating and humiliating terms for women who fail to meet the so-called "higher" standards of our patriarchal culture.  Hmm, that's another post, maybe!

But back to the word.


Such a nasty sounding word, with a nasty connotation.  The fact is, more and more people today are dealing with sex differently.  With the advent of contraceptives, women can now control their own family planning, and can participate in the same pre-marriage goings on that men have traditionally done, with the same care-free results.

Maybe that's what is bothering these guys.  The fact that women can now be as care-free as the guys, and can have the one night stands and walk away with the same nonchalance that the guys used to.  Maybe that's why we've seen this shaming get worse in recent years, and why we have seen the recent attempts to remove contraceptives as an available family planning tool.

I think that's a terrible thing.  I think that women should be able to be as care-free as the guys, and be able to kick up their heels before settling down to that nice suburban life of boring corporate sameness.

Or, just keep on being as promiscuous as they wish - I mean if James Bond can do it as an adult, why can't the ladies - and where is the female equivalent to James?

The issues of morality have been in so much flux in recent years, both here in the US and in Europe.  What we think of as normal, our grand parents would never have tolerated.  Many of our parents would have been unsettled by some of it too.  Point is, societies change, morals change.  Now that almost a third of Americans no longer identify with any particular religious group, people are on the search for a different moral compass.

I think it'll take a while to settle down, but in the meantime, we have some things between us guys and the ladies we need to work on.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ok, Serious thoughts on guns and America.

It is a popular meme on the right that America is not only the greatest nation on earth, but is the envy of all and a coveted destination for the downtrodden the world over.

I am not going to get into an argument as to the merit of the first or second clauses up there, but what I have to say is about the third.  A meme popped up on Facebook a while ago.  Here it is:

I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly!

If one takes the position that America has always been a coveted destination, there is one overwhelming reason why, and it is that we are a nation of laws.  We are one of the few nations in the world today which can boast, from the beginning of our existence, that every single exchange of power from one Party to another took place peacefully.  No matter how hostile the feelings between them, no matter how high the emotions would get, we've always done it right - with hands on a book, and not on guns.

Our country has taken seriously the one overriding task one can ask of a government - the keeping of the peace.  Without peace, business cannot operate, citizens cannot raise families, kids cannot go to school.  Chaos reigns.  If you have any questions about what this country would look like without a strong central government, look at Somalia and multiply that by about a thousand.  Our population would plummet, our standard of living would drop like a rock, the dollar would be worth, if we were extremely lucky, a plug nickel, if it were worth anything at all.

But, thanks to the rule of law, that is a bad dream.

Notice I said, the rule of law.  I didn't say by the rule of the gun.  We've done it by the rule of law.

Yeah, somebody is going to pop up and claim that the gun was critical to the law being able to stand up and be strong.  That's true.  Nothing is perfect, and nothing is easy.  But in the end, when the men with the guns put them in their holsters and hit that saloon, it's the lawyers and the judges who take over and make it all work.

It is the willingness of the vast majority of Americans, from every walk of life, from every ethnic group on the planet, from just about every other country on the planet, who stand together and simply obey the law, no guns needed.  It is why the thin blue line that protects us from the criminals and the lawless is just that, a thin line.  We don't need cops on every corner, shouldering machine guns.  We just need that thin line of brave men and women being willing to lay their lives on the line to keep it sane.

It is why this nation is shocked to the core when a guy walks into an elementary school and kills 27 people, including twenty kids.  Were we a nation of guns, nobody would be shocked at the shooting.  We'd be shocked that the guards failed to stop the shooting!

The difference is what makes this country great.

There are times...

Yes, there are times, and this is one, when being a good, honest law abiding Texan (you can take the boy outta Texas, but you can't take Texas outta the boy) is something to kind of hide your face and refuse to admit you are.

But, I've already been outted as a Texan, so I don't have that luxury today.

What's the fuss?  It is, of course, Rick Perry.  Who else?

Rick Perry has decided that there's just nothing we can do to stop gun violence, except pray.

"Guns require a finger to pull the trigger," he said. "The sad young man who did that in Newtown was clearly haunted by demons and no gun law could have saved the children in Sandy Hook Elementary from his terror." 
Perry also said prayer can be stronger than laws, imploring: "Above all, let us pray for our children." 
"There is evil prowling in the world — it shows up in our movies, video games and online fascinations, and finds its way into vulnerable hearts and minds," he said. "As a free people, let us choose what kind of people we will be. Laws, the only redoubt of secularism, will not suffice. Let us all return to our places of worship and pray for help."
 So, now I've got a suggestion.  Instead of spending millions and millions of dollars protecting our tanks from enemy fire using all that expensive armor, why don't we just imbed a bible into the four sides of each vehicle?  Put a chaplain into each one, and - voila!  Instant divine protection!

But dear Rick slipped up on one point:
"Guns require a finger to pull the trigger,"
Yeah, so why can't we pass laws designed to keep fingers and triggers separated?   This sounds pretty basic, doncha think?

Geez, I thought Rick was nuts running for President...

More Republican Crazy

This has been out for a few hours, but here goes.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (got through that without mis-spelling anything!) has dismissed a ban on high capacity magazines, saying:
"If they want a 30-round clip, they're going to get it out of Brazil or the Soviet Union," Bryant said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. "It's going to go on the black market. Self-protecting citizens won't have that right, but criminals will."
I don't know about you, but I was alive in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, and it was a rather totalitarian state which banned private ownership of guns as I recall.  Now, I know that the current Russian state has the reputation of having an active criminal underground, but I'd doubt that one could import magazines from that still rather dictatorship-like state for weapons made in the USA.

Somehow, that just makes no sense.

But, hey, he's a Republican, why let a little thing like facts get in the way of a good sound-bite?

Now, I'll admit that he has one point, and that is that as soon as you ban something, somebody somewhere will end up being willing to sell that thing to someone else under the table.  Black markets are a thriving business, everywhere, true.

But they are NOT limited to criminals.  That's the nice thing about criminals, they'll let anybody with the cash buy their illegal goods, thereby turning a once law abiding person into an instant criminal!

Oh, wait...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Executive Orders

I ran across this today, as I was looking for the affects of the various Executive Orders Obama was said to have signed after his press conference:
Contrary to what you may have heard today — from Bloomberg NewsHuffington Post, Salon, and a million other places — President Obama did not sign 23 executive orders at his gun-control event this afternoon. What he did was initiate 23 "executive actions." An executive action is a vague term that can refer to anything done by the executive (the president). Some of the items on the White House's list of 23 "executive actions" — such as "Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health" and "Nominate an ATF director" — are more like personal priorities.

President Obama, in fact, didn't actually sign any executive orders today. He did issue three "presidential memoranda," which, respectively:
direct federal law enforcement to trace all guns taken in federal custody in the course of a criminal investigation 
direct the Department of Justice to ensure that all applicable information from federal agencies is made available for background checks 
and direct the Department of Health to "conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it."
So, forget the right wing freakout - it is, as usual, misplaced.

It's about time!

In one fell swoop, President Obama has proposed exactly the kind of comprehensive approach I've advocated to ending or at least lowering the prevalence of gun violence.  I have repeatedly said that we need a multi-pronged approach, from mental health issues through better firearm control features.

Below, I have noted the main elements of that program he has proposed:

1. Making background checks universal. Obama wants every single gun owner to go through a proper background check, so it can be determined whether they have a criminal history or diagnosed mental illness. He wants Congress to close the gun show loophole that allows people at gun shows, and private buyers of used weapons, to avoid getting checked. He will also, through executive action, urge private sellers to conduct background checks, even if they aren’t mandatory. 
2. Improving state reporting of criminals and the mentally ill. While all states are required to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) people who should not have access to guns, some states are sluggish about putting the data into the system. Obama will put more money into the hands of the states so that they can improve their reporting systems, and issue stronger guidelines to let states know when they should report people. Obama will also, through Presidential Memorandum, work to make sure agencies are regularly entering data into NICS. 
3. Banning assault weapons. This is likely the most difficult battle Obama will undertake. He wants to reinstate the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which outlaws military-grade weapons, like the AR-15 used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza and by Aurora Theater gunman James Holmes. Obama wants Congress to pass the ban, and close some of the loopholes identified in its 1994 iteration. 
4. Capping magazine clip capacity at 10 bullets. A military-grade weapon is dangerous, but so are its accessories: Obama proposes banning all extended magazine clips that hold over 10 bullets. Huge magazine clips allow a gunman to fire off hundreds of rounds without having to stop, even once, to reload. The high-capacity magazine ban was also part of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. 
5. Purging armor-piercing bullets. The sale of armor piercing ammunition has been banned for quite some time, but is still legal to posess such bullets. Obama is calling on Congress to outlaw ownership and transfer of these bullets, instead of just the sale. Those who oppose any gun laws try to spin a ban on armor piercing bullets as a ban on deer hunting ammunition, but such ammo has the ability to penetrate bullet-proof vests, and is more colloquially known as “cop killer bullets.” 
6. Funding police officers. Obama wants Congress to reverse its course of austerity for public employees by approving $4 billion to fund police enforcement around the country. 
7. Strengthening gun tracking. In order to track weapons that are used for crimes, Obama will issue a memorandum mandating that all agencies trace back firearms. This means that any agency in the country must trace guns used in crimes back to their original owners, as a way to help collect data on where criminal weapons are coming from. Obama will also ask Congress to allow law enforcement to do background checks on guns seized during investigations. 
8. Supporting research on gun violence. Obama hopes to be able to gather more information on gun violence and misuse of firearms, and use that data to inform the work of law enforcement. He also wants to restart research, which has been long blocked by the National Rifle Association, on how video games, the media, and violence affect violent gun crimes. The Centers for Disease Control will immediately begin these efforts, but Obama also is calling on Congress to add $10 million to the pot of funding for such research. 
9. Encouraging mental health providers to get involved. In order to make sure that those with homicidal thoughts are unable to access the weapons with which to kill, Obama seeks to encourage mental health professionals to alert authorities to such people. He will clarify that doing so is not in violation of patient privacy laws. He also wants to dispel the idea that Obamacare prevents doctors from talking to patients about guns. 
10. Promoting safe gun ownership. The administration will start a “responsible gun ownership” campaign to encourage gun owners to lock up their firearms. He will also work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure safes and gun locks on the market are effective. He’s also calling on the justice department to help him come up with new gun safety technology. 
11. Funding school counseling. Obama is calling on Congress to fund the positions of 1,000 news school counselors. The funding will come both through the already-existent COPS Hiring Grant, and through a new Comprehensive School Safety program that Congress will need to sign off on. The latter would put #150 million into funding for new counselors and social workers in schools. 
12. Encouraging safe, anti-bullying school environments. Over 8,000 schools could receive new funding — $50 million — under Obama’s plan to encourage safer school environments. Obama wants to help at-risk students by creating a “school climate survey” that will collect data on what services students need, and to remedy any problems by putting professionals into schools. The administration will also issue guidelines on school discipline policies. 
13. Recognizing the mental health needs of low-income Americans.  Medicaid recipients already qualify for some mental health services, but Obama would like to expand that service so that low-income Americans have the same access to professional help as those who have money to pay for it on their own. Obama will issue a directive to heads of state health programs, enforcing “mental health parity” — the idea that mental health should be treated as a priority as important as physical health.
Some of these are outlined and will be implemented in Executive orders, which he has already signed.  Others, usually noted above, will need Congressional approval before they can be implemented.

Basically, the items which require funding will need Congress' ok, as will anything having to do with banning something, which he cannot do on his own.  Other measures which are part of ongoing Federal Agencies' current programs under law, he can order as part of his authority as the head of the Executive Branch of the government.

1-6 will require some Congressional action, either through law or by providing funds.  7 will be partly implemented using a new Executive order and partly through Congressional action.  9 and 10 can and will be provided for using current Federal programs to simply bring these items to the public's attention, through public awareness campaigns.  11, 12, & 13 will also require congressional approval for funds.

In short, there are a number of things he can and is doing by Executive order and others will need to be passed through Congress. I urge everybody to write, call and contact your Congress critter to urge them to pass these measures.

No sooner said than proposed...

Well, I hate to say I told you so, but didn't I say it? Just yesterday! Just... yesterday!

No sooner was the idea out in the world, but the Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature proposed exactly what the Republican RNC chair had suggested, as I wrote yesterday.

On Monday, seven Pennsylvania Republican state representatives introduced a bill to make this vote-rigging scheme a reality in their state. Under their bill, the winner of Pennsylvania as a whole will receive only 2 of the state’s 20 electoral votes, while “[e]ach of the remaining presidential electors shall be elected in the presidential elector’s congressional district.”

Have they no shame? Have they no sense of decency?  Have they no sense of what they are doing to their party?

I submit to you now, that the answers to these questions are, respectively, no, no, & obviously, no.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Some People Never Learn...

Is it just me, or are the Republicans, as a national political Party, just stupid?

In an article today on the ThinkProgress site under Justice, Ian Millhiser has written that the RNC National Chairman, Reince Priebus, wants the Republicans to start rigging elections across the country to benefit Republicans.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus did not simply endorse this election-rigging scheme, he indicated that it should be targeted towards consistently Democratic states where it is most likely to skew the presidential election to the GOP’s benefit:
Republicans are in a unique position to make headway with such a plan nationally because Wisconsin and other key states that have gone to the Democratic presidential candidate in recent elections are currently controlled by Republicans at the state level. The change would give Republicans a chance to claim some of those states’ electoral votes.“I think it’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at,” Priebus said of the plan to change how electoral votes are granted.
Such a system “gives more local control” to the states, he argued.
So, after losing an election by a fairly decent margin, the Republicans are going to talk about rigging the next ones to win instead, of, oh, I don't know, finding out why?

Please, tell me, what is wrong with this picture?

I'll tell you anyway, I won't make you guess.  Morality, or better, the lack of morality.  Here's a political party whose most conservative members constantly harp about biblical morality and the lack of same in the rest of the country as being the reason it is going to hell in a handbasket, and they are now engaged in a discussion - publicly - on the best way to rig the next few Presidential elections to best ensure Republican victories.

I'd say this is the very height of hypocrisy, but damn it, that word has been too often used for these people - it is losing its punch!  Better to name it for what it is - sedition.  This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the rule of law, to ensure their own control over the obvious will of the American people to keep a divided government.  It should be illegal to deliberately incite the undermining of the law for political gain.  It should be illegal to actually do it, too.

But, that's ok.  Republicans have been busy in the last four years showing the American people how they will rule once they get power, and since they have refused to take the warning of 2012 seriously, hopefully, the American people will get more serious back, and start throwing them out at the State level too in 2014.

I won't hold my breath, but dang, this is some serious stupid.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Belief, Faith, Scandal, and Credibility

This is a difficult post to write.

I have a lot of friends on Facebook for whom I have a great deal of respect, with whom I have ranted, commiserated with and discussed numerous controversial topics with throughout the election last year.  We have laughed, cried, ranted indignantly and collectively derided the right wing throughout that process.

We bonded.  We became a group of friends, most of whom have never even met in meatspace.

Quite a few of us are religious, and many of us live in Georgia, a very openly religious part of the country.  That makes this whole post hard to write and hard to put online, because I know that it will upset a number of you.

But it needs to be said, and this subject needs to be examined by every person of faith, especially in this modern atmosphere of religious contention.  Especially since so many Americans are, like myself, finally coming out and announcing our existence and the reasons for our disbelief.

So, in advance, I apologize if this offends anybody, it is not meant to be descriptive of any one person.  It is descriptive of a process people go through which allows us to believe stuff without serious examination or thought.  Yes, I know many of you study your religion.  You follow study guides, you go to bible study groups, you know a lot about what your religious denomination believes.

But you don't go beyond the lines.  You stay inside the boundaries the leaders of your sect have set and do not "color" outside those lines.  Like good students, you stay inside the lines!  You have been taught, from early childhood for most of you, to be the christians you are.  Your faith, I know, varies in strength and intensity from person to person, and even perhaps, from time to time.  Many of you probably don't quite go along with every dot and tittle of your church's theology - few Americans do!  We all have our own little "theology" we build up over time as we learn, share and discuss our beliefs with family, friends and fellow churchgoers.  It doesn't always line up with what our church leaders would have us believe.  No problem, of course - that rarely rocks the boat, clerics are used to that.

As long as you believe.   That is what counts.  That is what will ensure your entry into the kingdom of heaven.  Oh, and your money.  That helps too.

I, of course, am not one of the believers in that theology.  All of you probably know that, since you are here and have noticed the name of my blog!  I have written about my disbelief and the process of how I got here before, and will not belabor that point now.  I just want to talk about another point that I think needs to be examined.

As one learns things as a human being, beginning in early childhood, we gradually learn that older humans often have superior knowledge about the world around us.  Our parents tell us the stove is hot, and lo and behold, when we doubtfully touch it, dang, it does hurt!  It's a learning process we all know well.

So, when our elders tell us about their religion, we are already inclined to believe they know what they are talking about.  And, as I've mentioned before, since the proof is so far away from being available (which is being dead, after all), as young folks, we kind of let that slip.  (That stove lesson is kind of hard to forget.)

Preachers and priests are given such a high measure of respect in our society (and most human societies) and automatically get our ears, since, as men (and sometimes women) of god, they sure ought to know what they are talking about, right?  So the lessons are reinforced, we grow up and we go to church.

We believe.  Joyfully, nestled in the comfortable bosom of our family and community, happy in the support and friendship of that community, we listen, learn, and teach the kids we have on our own as we grow up and mature.

Yeah, I know that's a bit idealized, but bear with me.

The key to all this is the fact that with rare exceptions, as a child, a young adult and eventually as an adult, you trust those older than you and and those placed into positions of authority to know the subject.  To tell you the truth.  After all, you are talking about your immortal soul, right?  That is worth paying some attention to, if what we know is right.

But, what if it isn't?  Now, don't stop here.  This is an exercise in mental flexibility.  You don't have to believe anything to do this, but again, please, bear with me.

What if all of those adults who have been teaching you everything you know about religion have been, without exception, either mislead themselves, mistaken, or are out and out lying to you?  I know, that is an incredible thought.  In order for that to be true, every single adult throughout the history of the christian church would have had to have been similarly deceived, if not, simply kept quiet to stay alive. (That is not a derogatory term, as I use it here, merely descriptive - deception can be quite accidental, if passed on in good faith.)

Note that I do NOT mean dishonest.  There may be particular individuals who may be - we'll get to that.  But most could have been merely lead down that well described primrose path, and are themselves passing along information sincerely believed and held in faith.

At this point, I'm going to insert another trigger warning.  Some of the information I will link to here is regarding news about the Roman Catholic Church.  I am using it because it is current, relevant and (as read as a whole) very instructive, while being, in my opinion, representative of the entire religious experience worldwide.  No religion isn't faced with scandals like this, on a regular basis in this new world of instant information, easily disseminated.  None of this is meant to single out the RCC as being singular in this problem, but remember, the christian theology began with the RCC.  Everybody who is a christian today got that information originally through an historical connection to the RCC.

Take a look at these three stories.  Go ahead and read them before you read any more of this article.  They are directly relevant to my further remarks.  I'll wait....(you might want to go get a strong drink when you are done.  I think I'll join you!  A good strong Scotch.)

'We Kept Quiet about Sexual Abuse for Too Long'

German Catholic Church Cancels Inquiry

Bishop's Extravagant Behavior Triggers Uproar

Ok, finished?  Got that drink?  Cool, then, bottoms up!  Here's to life!  L'Chaim!

Now, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  The stories.

Shocking, no?  Three stories about the RCC and its refusal to do what amounts to one simple thing:

Obey its own rules.

Yep, that's what all that boils down to.  "Do as I say, not as I do."

According to the bible I grew up reading, Jesus told us to live simply, love our enemies, give to the poor and be honest.  Yet, to this day, the history of the christian church, both Protestant and Catholic, is one of greed, violence, classism, lies, deceit and sexual perversion.  The leaders of the church live in wealth and grandiose ostentatiousness - the pope himself sits on a golden throne.  Yet, his representative the bishop of Limburg, told his parishioners,
"Renewal begins where the efforts toward making due with less are made," he has instructed them. "The person of faith is dirt poor and rich in mercy," he once said in a Christmas sermon. And on the Assumption, he declared: "Whoever experiences poverty in person will discover the true greatness of God."
I don't know about you, but my mama told me very often as I grew up, "Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say!"

Taken together, the actions of generations of church leaders, of both Protestant and Catholic have not only shouted, but screamed, magnified by those generations into a pervading howl so loud their teachings are as quiet as a minnow's fart.

This issue goes directly to credibility.

Yes, I know, you read the bible.  You get your faith from reading its pages.  But who, exactly, wrote those pages?  Who has approved their message, their wording, the printing, dissemination and their teaching?  Those same church leaders who have spent centuries living in wealth, luxury and the hard earned tithes of the masses of poor christians told that in some measure, tithing 10% gets you an increased chance of entry to heaven.  (Do the words "conflict of interest" have any meaning any more?)

Generations of church leaders have refined that message, taught it to more generations of good, honest priests who have labored all their lives, often in tough conditions, to teach that word to those poor masses of humanity.  Very few of those priests got so high as to enjoy the luxury of Rome.

If you have listened to some of my rantings here, you will have read about Bart Ehrman, a biblical scholar who has written numerous books on the bible and its various quirks and its history.  He will tell you many things about that history which would surprise you.  Things like the four Gospels whose writers are unknown.  Yes, your local preacher will tell you they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but HE was taught that indeed, the authors are unknown, and the names so assigned are there for convenience only.  But he won't tell you.

He won't tell you that all but probably four or five of the letters of Paul are forgeries, and their messages which shaped the modern christian church and its theology of today are vastly different from the ones they think were written by just one man, the one we call Paul.  He won't tell you that the church's message of misogyny is contained in those forgeries, as is the message of hatred for the Jews.

He won't tell you that the last book in the bible, the Revelation according to John, was written by a bishop, exiled on an island in the Mediterranean by Nero, who wrote that book as an anti-Roman screed and was considered mad at the time.  Nor will they tell you that it was not added to the bible until all the rest were already there, and some churches, like the Romanian Church, do not include it in their canon at all.

He won't tell you that, even though he knows - he was taught all these things in seminary.

Credibility.  "The quality of being trusted and believed in."

Truly.  Can you truly believe what you have been taught by people who have themselves been taught flawed and/or altered ideals?  Ideals which the very institution which teaches them refuses to adhere to itself?  Ideals which have been refined, altered and changed over 1800 years to conform with the  changing social framework of laws and values of the larger society for at least half of that time?

There are reasons why almost a fifth of Americans do not self identify as christians.  Many of them are newly coming out as not religious, and many kind of weasel themselves into the category of "spiritual", probably to avoid being seen as atheists.  There is a reason why as many as 50-90% of some European countries are no longer christian.

We are there because we can no longer believe the clerics.  We cannot believe things which are taught by people who cannot live according to their own rules and do everything possible to avoid being caught not doing it.

They are not credible.  Their stories are not believable, their holy books are not anything close to being holy, as changed, altered and often forged as they are.  We cannot abide exposing our children to the damagingly violent stories of the Old Testament with its themes of misogyny, slavery, genocide and rape.  We cannot abide allowing our children to be taught that they are flawed from birth, damaged by evil even before birth, and taught that they are only worth saving by being "children of god".  We will not allow our children to be taught that their lives are worth nothing if they do not worship this god.

We will not allow our children to be taught that they can only be good because they are taught to be good by this divine, invisible being, and that without this being, they would be evil, and without self control.

I know, a lot of Progressive churches do not teach all of these things.  But many others do.  The Evangelical movement is growing, and it teaches all of these things and worse.  It is exporting its message of hatred to Africa, where children are burned as witches and gays are being killed just for being gay.

We cannot allow our children to be indoctrinated into a religion whose tenets, running the gamut from love and sweet giving to hatred and torture, are being taught from the same book!

It is time to educate ourselves.  It is time to search our minds into why we allow ourselves to be led to believe things by people who apparently do not believe the very things they would have us believe, and whose lives exhibit ideals opposite from what they teach.

As human beings, we only have one life.  We have to make the best of that life we can.  We need to leave the world better than how we found it.  We need to teach our children that their lives are worth something, that the purpose of their lives are given purpose by what they do, by who they keep company with and how they conduct their lives.

It is time to grow up as a society.  It is time for us, as individuals, to take control of our own minds and our own destinies.

It is time to move this country forward.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Inaugurations, prayers, and preachers.

News broke today that the popular Atlanta preacher Obama had invited to give the benediction at his inauguration, the Rev. Louie Giglio, has bowed out in reaction to the very negative public reaction to his mid-1990s sermon that was harshly critical of homosexuality.

Putting aside the possibility that in the intervening ten or fifteen years the man may have changed his mind, I would like to float the point that just what the hell are we doing with elements of religious ceremonies being used in a Federal government sponsored event?  This isn't just sponsored by the Feds, it is the inauguration of the head guy, essentially the CEO (for those of you who only understand plutocratic terms)!

As mentioned in "Inaugural Imbroglio: Controversial Pastor Pulls Out Of Presidential Swearing-In" by
Rob Boston on Talk to Action, there will be a private religious ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, which is always held in conjunction with the inauguration.  Why can't we just do the religious stuff there?  What's the matter with you folks, don't you understand what the First Amendment means?  (No, not the part about newspapers!)

This a serious issue.  These elements are not "traditional" in the sense of having been there since Saint George Washington was sworn in.  They were added in the 1930's.  Not even a hundred years ago, so don't pull that "traditional" crap on me.

It is past time that a President dumped the religious crap and got serious about Separation of Church and State.  What could be a better time than for a second term inauguration?  There's no second election to worry about losing, plus that 47% who didn't vote for Obama this time isn't likely to vote for another Democrat in 2016, even if Obama loads up the inauguration with an appearance of the Pope himself!  They just won't, so why worry about it?

Do the right thing!  Dump the religious drudgery from the schedule, nobody's going to stay awake for it!  Long prayers (and public prayers are always long!) just put people to sleep anyway, and believe me, you don't want to put the crowd to sleep and get blamed for dozens of cases of frostbite as a result!

Heck, remember whats-his-name?  You know, the President who died after a couple of weeks upon catching cold when he gave an inauguration speech that was an hour and a half long?  I'd like to know the casualty figures for that one!  Imagine how much worse it would have been if they'd had an hour long prayer on top of that!

Good thing they didn't...

I know, he's crazy. But at least, he's consistent!

Pat Robertson is crazy.  I know, we've already established that - at least to my satisfaction.

But you know, sometimes people just have to keep it going, or they might lose their rep.  I mean, crazy is hard!  It has to be worked at, constantly, just to be sure people don't start thinking you're slipping or something!

So, now, Pat, on his TV show, is answering the letter of a 17 year old kid who is troubled that his dad isn't paying attention to his mother any more, and mom is feeling lonely.  Pat notes that obviously, the zing has gone out of the marriage, and he suggests getting mom and dad away for a romantic getaway.  Fine so far, but this is where it gets flaky:
“You know, it may be your mom isn’t as sweet as you think she is, she may be kind of hard-nosed. And so, you say it’s my father, he’s not paying attention to mom, but you know mom…”
All of a sudden, it's not dad, but mom!  Then he launches into a little story to illustrate his next point:

“A woman came to a preacher I know—it’s so funny. She was awful looking. Her hair was all torn up, she was overweight, and looked terrible…”
“And she said, ‘Oh, Reverend, what can I do? My husband has started to drink.’”
“And the preacher looked at her and he said, ‘Madam, if I were married to you, I’d start to drink too.’”
Monotheism, thy name is misogyny!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

More Madness in the Military! (Using your tax money, natch!)

Remember the other day when I posted that quote of Mikey Weinstein's post about the crazy, nutcake comic books being distributed by members of the US Military command structure - as well as military chaplains?

Well, it seems that this has been going on for a while.  I am posting a copy of an email sent to Mikey from a military spouse about an incident that occurred last April at an Easter Egg Roll on an unnaned military base.  All identifying information has been expunged to protect the identity of the reporting individual.

From: U.S. Military Spouse's E-Mail Address Withheld
Subject: Easter Egg Roll
Date: January 8, 2013 9:33:03 AM MST
To: Information Weinstein <>
My name is (name withheld). I am the spouse of (name, rank and U.S. military branch withheld) and we are stationed at (military installation withheld). My spouse is a (military specialty withheld) who has been deployed in combat many times. We are Methodists. On Easter Sunday 8 April 2012 my children and I attended a Easter Egg Roll on base. Sponsored by as far as I could tell my spouses commander and his staff. They were all there and very much participated. I remember that it was allowed for only children age 12 and under. We have (# of children withheld) kids under 12 so we all went. There were well over a hundred children there. Maybe two hundred? Not sure but alot. The kids were all given plastic gift bags. My youngest kept dropping hers so I held on to it for her. I don't recall what all was inside but I do remember some things. Bubble gum a plastic glasses, nose and mustache toy some pencils and erasers and a plastic magnifying glass. There was also 2 booklets. One on the meaning of Easter and the other was that manga messiah comic book. I will never forget that shock. I read that comic book right there and was disgusted. I threw it right away into the nearest trash can. I took the others in my other kids gift bags out. I threw them away too. I do admit that I was worrid that I might be seen throwing them away. I did not complain to anyone. I am not proud that I didn't but I seen what happens to those who do. When it comes to this Christian stuff in the U. S. (military branch withheld) you better be on the right side. Please do not give my name to anyone. I don't want any more trouble. But if this helps I am happy. 
(U.S. military spouse's name and all other identifiers withheld)
Now, isn't that comforting?  Even at a children oriented event, they feel perfectly justified in giving these kids (all under 12) stuff like this:

Now, I don't know about you, but even after being raised in the great State of Texas, I wouldn't give any of my kids under 12 comics like that.  Even if I believed it!

And this is being distributed to military members worldwide, with your tax money!  Now, doesn't that make you smile?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Imprecatory Prayer - let's look at the ethics for a minute.

Now, the last couple of days, I’ve beat a bit on the dark horse of religion, and I’d like to deflect the focus a bit.

While religion, in this country especially, gives charlatans the ability to use it as a vehicle of chicanery, the focus on imprecatory prayer has another, darker twist.  It does use religious belief twisted into it, but again, as a vehicle.

The most horrible part of this entire idea of asking god to “smite” one’s enemies is that it equates, directly, with the quite illegal activity of contract killing, and the conspiracy behind it.  Boiled down to its essence, imprecatory prayer is just that, contracting with your god to dispose of someone you are opposed to.  The exact wording of the prayers these guys use today is slippery, designed to insulate the folks praying from any, shall we say, fatal results.  Because, they say, by leaving the exact method of disposal to god, it isn’t their fault the opponent died…

People, this is America.  The birthplace of modern democracy.  We have a proud history of exchanging power between often diametrically opposed political parties...peacefully.  At no point within the last 236 some odd years has anybody even tried to take control of the government by force.

It is appalling, disgusting and about 500 other words of similar derogatory meaning that there are any Americans at all who espouse the idea of killing a political opponent.

Because that is what these people are doing.  They are proposing that their god kill the President!

This is wrong on so many counts.  Whether they actually believe in the possibility that their prayers could ever be carried out in their request doesn’t matter.  What matters is intent.  If they believe, then their intent is basically criminal.  There are people serving life terms in State and Federal prisons for actions taken with similar intent.

On the other hand, if these clerics do not really believe, then their intent, while different, is even worse, because they do not intend to kill a man, but a political tradition of peaceful transfer of power between opposing parties.  They are doing it by teaching, indeed, leading, their followers in accepting that the desire to have their political opponents eliminated by death is not only ok, but something they can, in reality, ask their god to do for them.  Thereby, of course, removing the stain of a man’s death from their lily white hands.

Remember, it’s intent.  If these followers believe in the veracity of their theology, if they believe that if they ask god to kill Obama on a weekly basis, eventually, he will.

And that’s ok.  Ethically, politically and morally, they. think. it’s. ok!

This Wiley Drake, this moron of biblical proportions, is teaching Americans to contract with god to kill their political opponents!  He is teaching them to think that is an acceptable thing to do!

This is outrageous, it is so depraved and immoral, it is blindingly horrible that in the 21st century, Americans could think that it is ok to kill an opponent - even worse, that it is ok to essentially hire someone else to do it for them!  That takes the depravity a step further.

No.  Full stop.  This. is. NOT. Ok.  This is in full opposition to everything that America stands for, whether you are christian or not.  It is full on depravity, and is why the Irish spent 90 years shooting and blowing each other up, often times in front of wives and children!  The idea that people can believe that the christian god of the new testament could approve of a follower asking him to kill someone is appalling.  The idea that anybody in this country in this century could think so is simply unthinkable.

This needs to be shouted out from the rooftops.  These people need to be called out, shouted down and shown the errors in their ethical thinking.

His phone number is on my last post, call him and let him know.

Imprecatory prayer again - now it's weekly!

Ok, here we go again! Another Christian leader gets back on the imprecatory prayer bandwagon.

You might remember Wiley Drake, the former Southern Baptist Convention official and preacher who told his followers to pray for President Obama to be killed by God. Well, he's back. Now, he has decided to use a weekly prayer meeting to exhort god to kill Obama on a weekly basis.

Quoted: from

Contact: Wiley Drake, 714-865-8132

BUENA PARK, Calif., Jan. 1, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- Pastor Wiley S. Drake Sr. said after he asked men of God to advise him, he is starting an imprecatory prayer meeting to be held each Wednesday at 6:00 pm PDT.

The prayer meeting will be each Wednesday.

Many have indicated their support and willingness to attend by telephone conference call.
1-712-432-1690 access code 399430 #

Pastor Drake indicated that this will not be a traditional prayer meeting but strictly limited to the perfect prayers listed both in the Old and New Testament.


Now that all legal efforts have been exhausted, we must begin our Imprecatory Prayer, at the key points of the parliamentary role in the earth where we live.

John Calvin gave the church it's marching orders from Scripture. The righteous have dominion, but only through imprecatory prayer against the ungodly.

David as our Old testament shepherd gives us many Imprecatory prayers, and can be found to be in best focus in Psalm 109. Also chapters 55,58,68,69, and 83.

Pray these back to God and He will answer.

Jesus in Matthew 23: 13,15,16,23,24,27, and 29 gave us our New Testament marching orders as well.

Let us join Paul and declare anathema upon anyone "who loves not the Lord Jesus." I Cor 16:22

Church father Martin Luther, led us by saying, "If any of the enemies of God's people belong to God's election, the church's prayer against them giveth way to their conversion, and seeketh no more than that the judgment should follow them, only until they acknowledge their sin, turn, and seek God."

In his book Dr. James E. Adams, said "May God give us tears of love as we pray and preach these imprecatory psalms. Many ministers have cast off these psalms and have abandoned this part of God's Word, with deadly results in the Churches. I believe with all my heart that embracing and proclaiming anew the essential truths taught here will climax in the advancement of the kingdom of God. When these prayers are prayed in the Spirit, there will come unsuspected power and glory to the church of Jesus Christ."

These Holy, Perfect Prayers can and will bring us back to where we once were under the leadership of godly men.

May God give us mighty prayer warriors with backbone.

End quote.

Wow, I thought those one time things were bad, now this is weapons grade stuff! Only the presence of religion allows this to avoid being prosecuted as sedition, or at least, threatening a President.

Monday, January 07, 2013

If you don't believe how bad it is in the military, read this!

I got an email today from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  It's allegations will shock you.  After reading this, if you don't feel like supporting these folks in what they do, you need to read it again.

Fighting for our servicemembers' rights, so they can fight for ours.


MRFF Demands Immediate DoD Corrective Action on Distribution of Anti-Semitic "Manga Messiah" Christian Proselytizing Comic Books Throughout Military

Monday, January 7, 2013

Please see below for MRFF's demand letter, which
was sent to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta,
the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force,
and the Joint Chiefs of Staff

To view the letter as sent on MRFF letterhead, click here

Monday, January 7, 2013
The Honorable Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Transmitted via email and UPS Overnight Delivery
Re: Anti-Semitic "Manga Messiah" Christian Proselytizing Comic Books Distributed to U.S. Servicemembers
Dear Secretary Panetta,
I am writing you on behalf of numerous active duty United States military clients of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( who have complained to MRFF about their unwanted and unsolicited receipt of the so-called "Manga Messiah" Christian proselytizing comic books at U.S. military installations both domestically and abroad (please see Appendix A, attached herewith, for an e-mail received just yesterday regarding this).
Please visit to view multiple examples of the abhorrent content within the "Manga Messiah" comic book.
It is quite clear, for a plethora of incontrovertible reasons, that these comic books are blatantly anti-Semitic. For instance, one of the main themes of these horrible books is the wretched, age old libel that Jews are directly responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and, further still, that Jews have conspiratorially consorted with the devil in that crucifixion "plot" and other nefarious anti-Christian endeavors. Our MRFF clients do not know whether it is DoD chaplains or our clients' chains of command who are behind the distribution of these bigoted materials. What MRFF does know is that these "Manga Messiah" comic books have been distributed liberally across all the service branches and on military bases and naval vessels all over the world including the combat zones of Afghanistan, Iraq, and at many other U.S. armed forces bases in the Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Additionally, it has been reported that these "Manga Messiah" comic books may also include anti-gay and homophobic content.
Mr. Secretary, MRFF demands that you expeditiously and comprehensively investigate this sordid matter. Further, MRFF demands that you swiftly and aggressively punish all responsible DoD personnel that have either directly or indirectly facilitated the distribution of these heinous "Manga Messiah" comic books.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, Esq.
President and Founder
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Enclosure: Please see below for Appendix A (MRFF client email)
John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army
Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy
Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force
General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army
Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations
General Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force
General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps
Randal G. Mathis, Esq., MRFF Lead Trial Counsel
Katherine S. Ritchey, Esq., Jones Day

From: U.S. Army Soldier's E-Mail Address Withheld
Subject: Help! 'Manga messiah' in the CENTCOM AOR
Date: January 6, 2013
To: Mikey Weinstein

Mikey and MRFF,
HELP! I am an active U.S. Army soldier. Service members are receiving this dreadful 'Manga Messiah' Japanese comic. This thing goes way beyond your standard tract, it depicts homophobic and racially bigoted hatred. It's clearly aimed at children and teenagers, such as young impressionable US service members.
I personally received a copy under my bunk in the transient area of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait – 'The I Building' in zone 1. This is often the last stop service members have before entering or leaving Iraq (pre drawdown) or Afghanistan. It was in a plastic bag bundled with other standard tracts that you find in stacks on every chaplain's desk. It's clear that there are boxes of this shocking material somewhere in the CENTCOM AOR. Perhaps hundreds or thousands of copies have been distributed to military personnel. I'd hate to see one of them fall into the hands of a local Muslim, as there are vile depiction – (think Danish cartoon scandal.)
I'm not sure if it was deliberately placed under my bunk to build a case for plausible deniability, but it fits the pattern. Every day I showed up, more and more pamphlets were piled on my desk, and only on my desk. It was because of a Chaplain. He zeroed in on me because I requested he stop giving me pamphlets, as I am not a Christian. He said he "reserved the right to evangelize the unchurched." I can't link him or anyone directly to this Manga Messiah, because I received it in such a weird way (where I sleep rather than where I work).
Please, Mikey, you've gotta do something. Nobody understand just how WRONG this thing is. I know the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has dealt with similar things in the past. Please get somebody to find the chaplain(s) responsible for distributing this, and also destroy all copies! Most of my fellow soldiers that ARE Christians are shocked when I show them just how crazy this thing is!
Very respectfully,
(U.S. Army Soldier's name, rank, MOS, assigned military installation and military unit all withheld by request)

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