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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Evangelicals Are The Only Ones Who Want To Kill Babies

Evangelicals love to throw around the label “baby killers” for anyone who supports abortion rights. This, of course, is based on their alternative definition of “baby” (shared by no one else) as “fertilized human egg.” (Although even they aren’t entirely consistent on this point, since they don’t go around calling people who support and perform in-vitro fertilization “baby killers”, even though the process results in the discarding of fertilized human eggs.) Unfortunately for them, “baby killer” is a label that can only really be applied to them.

Let’s start with the Bible. In the Bible, G-d commands the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites: men, women, and children. That is literally killing babies, which they believe is a literal historical fact and a literal command from G-d. Proceed from there to the war on terrorism, which is literally killing babies through air strikes and drone attacks–which they enthusiastically support (often citing as support the verses about wiping out the Canaanites, since the groups we’re fighting are often also enemies of modern day Israel). And don’t forget Trump  (yimach shmo), who made a campaign promise to kill the wives and children of (male) terrorists–more literal baby killing. Finish by observing their rabid support of American police forces, who are literally killing children of color, and it’s very clear that there is indeed a group today that can be called baby killers, and it is none other than Evangelicals.

No More Lesser Evils

In the shadow of the DNC, Frank Schaeffer wrote several harsh articles aimed at Bernie supporters who won’t support Hillary. In response, my pairbond wrote this letter:

Mr Schaeffer,

I am disappointed in your lack of understanding toward Bernie supporters who oppose Hillary. You are toeing the same tired party line of our responsibility to choose the lesser of two evils. Why does the prospect of an unqualified and loose-cannon racist president obligate us to waste our vote supporting a woman who is so drunk on the prospect of power that she will hold to no moral ground to get there? Throngs of people voted for Bernie in the primaries because they are tired of politics as we know it, and getting a good president, rather than just one who isn’t as bad as the other guy, means we have to undermine the structure that gave us the two clowns we have now. Hillary is not progress. Hillary is not safety. Hillary is yes to voter fraud and political corruption. If that means that Trump is elected by default, that is not the fault of Bernie supporters who won’t get with the program. It is the fault of Hillary’s own corruption and myopic quest for power, and nothing else.

This two party, lesser-of-two-evils system that we have is our reality only because we let it be. Times change, circumstances change, and what seemed inevitable thirty years ago does not have to be the rule for today. We have a moral obligation as voters to choose the best person to rule our country. We have other qualified candidates. It’s time we put one in office.

Democratic Posturing on Gun Control

What are we to make of the current Democratic furor over gun control?

First of all, I think it’s clear from this past Democratic primary that the Democrats are oligarchs who think that elites should pick an elite to rule us. Additionally, their approach to this current gun control thing seems really confusing, if your model for their motivations is that they want to make Americans safer. Do they want to ban literally everyone from having assault weapons? Even the police? Even the military? If not, then there are exceptions. Who should be exempt from the ban? Do we expect they’d exempt security guards, perhaps those who had a background check from the FBI first? The shooter in Orlando was both those things, and he was trying to become a police officer. So it’s not clear that any of their restrictions would have actually prevented Orlando. In that case, what’s the point? Unless as elites who want to choose other elites to rule us, they would like to make a class distinction between who should have these powerful weapons and who shouldn’t…

Further, they rejected several Republican proposals to increase gun control: a proposal to ban people on terror watch lists, but only after a court review, a proposal to only ban those on the no-fly list (which is about 1400 people), and a proposal to increase funding for background checks, which is one of the current shortfalls of the system: background checks are required, but there’s no funding for anyone to do them. Why did they reject them? Unless they’re more concerned about making a good show in an election year than actually doing anything.

Additionally, the Orlando police have admitted that a number of the casualties that night were due to the police fire. There were four or five officers who opened up at the shooter with their fully automatic weapons when he came outside, but unfortunately they weren’t very good shots. They killed several people when their bullets went through the concrete wall. Why did the police need automatic weapons? Wouldn’t a sniper have done a much better job? If the argument against assault weapons is that they only point of them is to kill a lot of people, since there was only one shooter, there’s no reason the police should have had assault weapons.

Even the military falls under this argument. We don’t fight wars against battle lines where you’re trying to kill as many of the enemy as possible. The wars we’re fighting now are against guerrillas, where we want to target one person out of many. What’s the point of assault weapons? If all they’re good for is killing a lot of people, no one should be using them any more.

So using the logic that many are trying to use against civilians having assault weapons, I don’t think the police or the military should have them either. If we want to ban them, let’s really ban them, but don’t turn a blind eye to police and military violence and then pretend you care about people.

Is Bernie a Nazi?

A blog post on Bipartisan Soapbox implicitly compares Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Hitler (illustrating Godwin’s Law with a rapid convergence time) by using the title “Bernie’s Brown Shirts”. The article rehashes tired arguments against Bernie by criticizing his supporters, while (as usual) giving the behavior of Hillary’s supporters a complete pass. It objects to Bernie’s policy proposals in rather Republican-sounding terms (complaining about single-payer health insurance, the proposal to raise taxes on the rich, and the desire to see justice done with the bankers who gambled with the financial well-being of America’s poor) while repeating the inaccurate claim that Bernie doesn’t care about or receive support from people of color (frequently with the implicit or explicit accusation that Bernie’s movement is only one of young white males).

There’s more than a little hypocrisy in the article’s criticism of the behavior of Bernie’s supporters, given that Hillary has many supporters who are just as vicious and who raise cries of sexism at the first hint of criticism of Hillary’s policies (as a cursory inspection of some of the popular pro-Hillary Twitter feeds will show)–all without a hint of disavowal from the Hillary campaign. Further, the idea of “Bernie bros” has been misrepresented by the media from the beginning. I myself saw when a prominent female blogger laid forth, then retracted, an accusation of sexism against Bernie supporters.

What happened was that this blogger posted in support of Hillary, and almost immediately received a flurry of sexist insults and harassments that she initially assumed were from Bernie supporters. On further examination, however, she discovered that the comments were actually from normal male internet trolls with no connection to Bernie. This, however, did nothing to prevent CNN, BBC, and even Bill Clinton from using this as evidence of the regressive and vicious behavior of Bernie supporters–in spite of the loud and clear protests of the blogger herself! The truth was ignored for the sake of the narrative, though a minimal amount of investigation would have revealed it.

What this article amounts to, then, is a furthering of the effort to portray Sanders as fundamentally bad (hence the allusion to Hitler), instead of acknowledging the validity of his policies in general while disagreeing with them in particular (i.e. civil dialogue). It represents an all-too-pervasive instinct for demonizing someone you simply don’t like. I don’t like Hillary or her policies, but I am careful not to demonize her, because such behavior is not appropriate or helpful.

Trump and Evangelical Infidelity

I remember when W was being elected for the first time. The semi-fundamentalist community I grew up in was desperate for him to win. He was “our guy”, a true follower of G-d (determined using the fundamentalist superpower of being able to know who’s a “real” Christian on the inside), and just as importantly, a Republican, the chosen party of G-d. On the other side was Gore, who, if elected, would bring G-d’s judgement on America, and “probably wasn’t the Antichrist” (as we so reasonably conceded) “but would likely usher him in”.

The second time W ran was similar. I remember a woman at my university saying she’d probably vote for Kerry “to give him a chance and change things up”. She was in our Christian group on campus, and I remember feeling the default fundamentalist horror at someone who had deliberately blinded herself and was now walking in darkness. Kerry was evil, and if he got elected we would never escape G-d’s judgement on our country.

Things started to get weird with the Obama/McCain election (or possibly they were always that way but I finally started to see it). First, when Hillary was making her bid for the Democratic nomination, the fundamentalist email trains were aflutter with Biblical references to Deborah and grave pronouncements that a woman leader was a sign of G-d’s judgement on a country. But after Hillary lost the nomination and McCain chose Palin as his running mate, suddenly people were talking about their visions of bees (Deborah is Hebrew for “bee”) and praising her as a Deborah who would save us (what happened to the judgement?).

I also remember people struggling with McCain’s nomination, since the he had no kinship with fundamentalists. He was the one selected for G-d’s Holy Party, but he himself wasn’t holy (evaluated using the above-mentioned fundamentalist superpower). Someone else on this email train reported struggling over this very issue until she got a vision in which she heard “McCain, McCain, why are you rejecting My anointed?” (note that “anointed” is the English translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, which is commonly translated “Messiah”).

That was the first time the whole thing struck me as odd. It made sense to me to vote Republican when the party nominated a “good Christian” like W–obviously any group would feel more comfortable with one of their own running the country. But McCain wasn’t one of us. Why would he be G-d’s “Messiah”? It could just as easily have been the Democrat in that case (although Obama, with his Arabic-sounding name, was being explicitly predicted to be the Antichrist by some of my friends).

Obama got elected, life went on, and then came Romney and with him the unbelievable attachment of fundamentalists to the Republican party got even worse. Romney was Mormon, a group that when I was growing up was synonymous with “infidel” (and was viewed in much the same way as Muslims are today by that group). Yet once again, the conservative Christians rallied behind the Republican former-infidel-now-brother as the savior of our country (though admittedly with less enthusiasm than I saw for Bush or McCain).

Now it’s 2016, and Trump is the front runner, and more and more evangelicals are falling in line behind him. This is insane. There’s nothing Christian about Trump. He uses people, he promotes immorality (via the “immodesty” of his beauty pageants), he’s on his third marriage (divorce was considered an unforgivable sin when I was growing up), and he obviously doesn’t even know the Bible! Yet Liberty University welcomed him enthusiastically, Jerry Falwell Jr called him a “servant leader” in the tradition of Christ (the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard from a Christian leader), and after Palin’s endorsement Christians are increasingly supporting him.

Trump is everything we despised growing up: an “obvious” unbeliever, an immoral and liberal businessman, and not a true conservative. The fact that he’s now being accepted as the chosen one shows that evangelicals are no longer even pretending to be choosing who to vote for based on their religious principles. They have merged with the “non-Christian” (their words) conservative culture and established that over their own religion and over the Bible. And consequently, they’ve lost their voice to talk about G-d in our society, and they’re deceiving only themselves with regard to what their political motivations are.

Obama and the Mean-Spirited Free-For-All

I like President Obama. He seems humane and thoughtful. Unfortunately, this has made his policies on many things only that much more disappointing. His aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers and hacktivists, the NSA programs, drone killings, and ramping up of the War on Drugs are all out of line with what I would have expected, and indeed, even things that he said before becoming president.

Nevertheless, the constant, vicious, and malicious attacks on him by conservatives makes me sad. It seems like even otherwise nice people seem to think that they get a pass on being nice when it comes to Obama. And this type of malice seems to be increasingly on both poles of the political world.

This is dangerous. We’ve gotten into the habit of not caring about people when it comes to politics. Everyone is in boxes labeled “My Team” and “The Devil Incarnate”. This mindset is as bad as being racist. Continuing down this road is going to lead to more suffering and oppression for everyone.

It’s time to restore civility to politics.

Fascism in Fergueson

The response I hear from many conservatives to the events in Fergueson bothers me. Not necessarily the fact that conservatives want to support law enforcement, since that’s a standard conservative position, but how far they’re taking their support for law enforcement, and the way they seem to be making this another partisan issue.

The conservative position on law enforcement makes sense based on their principles of respecting law and order. So I won’t fault them for that at the moment. But surely there’s a possibility of the police going too far–going beyond upholding the law to forcing their own will on others? In fact, conservatives frequently seem to assume that that’s the case for federal law enforcement. Why does local law enforcement get a pass?

I mean, if the police started confiscating guns from concealed carry permit holders in the area of the protests, wouldn’t conservatives go berserk? So why don’t they care about violations of the First or Fifth Amendments, guaranteeing free speech, freedom of the press, and that no person will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process? Why aren’t they troubled about journalists getting (reportedly) harassed and threatened by the police? Why aren’t they concerned about the (reportedly) massively disproportionate force shown by the police against protestors and people who violate curfew? Why aren’t they upset at the police for (reportedly) failing to protect businesses from looting while harassing and threatening people engaged in lawful protest?

It’s not only liberals who suffer from an overly aggressive and excessively armed police force–a fact that conservatives understand at some level, because of their suspicion of federal law enforcement. By making this a partisan issue and showing lock-step support for the police in Fergueson, conservatives are hurting themselves as well. Conservatives and liberals should be able to stand together on issues of common interest, and a police state is, in principle, something that neither one of them is interested in.

Hobby Lobby: The Left is Wrong

I’m become more and more discouraged about the thoughtless outrage from the Left about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Typical of the arguments is an article on Daily Kos, SCOTUS sold your soul to the company store in Hobby Lobby case, where the claim is made that

Hobby Lobby and various other so-called “Christian” corporations are attempting to [force] their ideals upon their employees…this is all about the corporate owners forcing their belief system onto their employees

Except it’s not.

If Hobby Lobby were to tell its employees that they were not permitted to use certain forms of contraception, that would be forcing their belief system onto their employees. That’s not what’s happening. The owners of Hobby Lobby don’t want to pay for contraceptives that they find morally repugnant, because they consider them to be abortion-causing (in that they end the life of a fertilized egg). That’s part of their religion. Forcing them to pay for those contraceptives pressures them to transgress their religious beliefs and violates their freedom of religion.

Just because the religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owners have real consequences that have real effects on people (their employees) doesn’t mean Hobby Lobby is forcing their beliefs on their employees. A person who decides to drop a few of his friends because of his new religion wouldn’t be forcing his religion on them. What people (and corporations) do will always affect others, because none of us lives in a vaccuum. If we want to live in a pluralistic, diverse society, we have to be ok with dealing with some negative effects of other people’s free decisions.

Even worse is the argument offered by John Oliver, in a transcript you can read at (again) Daily Kos:

What these companies are arguing is that the sincerity of their beliefs should allow them a line item veto over federal law. But government is not an à la carte system where you can pick and choose based on your beliefs.

This is the worse argument I’ve ever heard, and it reflects an appalling lack of understanding of our legal system. Congress cannot pass just any law that it wishes. It’s restricted by our Constitution, which defines what kinds of laws Congress may pass. If Congress passes a law that violates the Constitution, then companies (or individuals) can, in fact, demand and receive a line item veto over that (illegal) federal law.

But there’s even more than that. What was at issue here wasn’t even the Constitution. What was at issue was a law passed by Congress, called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The “contraception mandate” that was at issue was a regulation issued by President Obama the Obama administration under the authority given to him it by Congress in the Affordable Care Act. But the president can’t just issue any regulations he wants, and in particular, he can’t issue regulations that violate laws passed by Congress. Here, the contraception mandate was found to violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law passed by Congress.

Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it irrational. The foundation of our law, and at least one individual federal law, protects certain sincerely-held religious beliefs from being violated by the government. If you’re going to attack an idea, it’s best that you understand the full idea first. Otherwise you just sound foolish.

This article from The Atlantic is worth a read: Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America? It helped shape and clarify my ideas.

Not Voting

I read an interesting blog post by a pastor named Thabiti Anyabwile. Pastor Anyabwile seems to be pretty well respected among the more neo-Calvinist-leaning blogs I read. The post is W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election.

DuBois was, among many things, a graduate of Harvard and an active leader of the civil rights movement in the early 1900s. In a speech given in 1956, DuBois gave his reasons why he wouldn’t vote. He describes the many elections he participated in, all of which had done no good in his opinion. For example,

…In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us…

By the time 1956 came around, DuBois was fed up:

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party…

In particular, I appreciate that he didn’t do this out of despair, but rather out of a determination to no longer continually compromise the ideal of liberty and democracy for the “lesser of two evils”:

Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord and not because of a sly wink from Khrushchev, this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest…

Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln, and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.

Why Republicans Are No Better Than Democrats

I had a discussion at work about the Republican National Convention that happened about a month ago. The coworker was telling me some interesting things that he’d seen reported on Fox News, which I think I’ve mostly been able to confirm on other web sites.

Also note that I don’t understand the Republican caucus process very well, so I may not be able to explain everything as well as I’d like.

Essentially what happened was that Ron Paul had enough delegates to receive a nomination at the RNC. That wouldn’t have meant he would have automatically been the presidential candidate; it just would have meant that they would have had to vote between Paul and Romney at the Convention. Under the rules of the Convention, if a person received a plurality of delegate votes (meaning, the person with the most votes, even if it’s not more than 50%) from five or more states, that person could be nominated from the floor of the Convention. Paul had pluralities in eight states.

However, at the Convention they proposed the following rule changes:

  • All states must require that their delegates cast their votes for the person who won the popular vote in the state
  • A person must receive pluralities in 10 states, not 5, to be nominated from the floor
  • The Republican National Committee is allowed to change rules about delegate qualifications between Conventions (which only happen every 4 years), whereas before the entire Convention had to vote to change the rules

The proposed changes were put to a vocal vote. Some reported that the group that did not want the rules changed sounded louder than those who did. But Boehner, allegedly following a scripted teleprompter, said that “the ayes have it” and the rule changes were instituted.

There’s more. A delegate from Virginia had gathered enough signatures for a “minority report” that could be offered for a vote at the Convention, and if it had been voted for and passed, it would have prevented the rules changes. However, for some reason, that delegate’s bus kept circling around instead of taking him to the Convention. The delegates on the bus insisted on getting off, at which point they were prevented by security three times from entering. When the Virginia delegates finally got in, it was too late to propose the measure.

My coworker, who is a staunch libertarian, was so outraged by these tactics that he says he’s determined to vote third party (Gary Johnson, the official libertarian candidate). He saw an ad from Paul Ryan saying that “A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for Obama.” His response was that he’d rather have his vote go for Obama than reward the Republicans for what they’ve done.

Here are a couple of articles where I confirmed most of my information. This first one:

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/item/12645-rnc-disenfranchises-delegates-rigs-rules-to-nominate-romney

is easier to read if you’re not familiar with the caucus system. This second one:

http://www.freedomworks.org/blog/dean-clancy/romneys-rnc-power-grab-what-happened

goes into more detail, and includes a picture of the teleprompter saying that “the ayes have it.”

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