Friday, November 23, 2012

A few thoughts on religious extremists

Anybody who meets me will slowly come to realize that I have no time for religious extremism. Adding even more stupidity to an already illogical belief system is just compounding the brain damage.

On a (potentially unrelated) side note, I like to say that I use Facebook much in the way most people use their refrigerator door: as a place to hang things I find interesting/funny/unbelievable. I think it's a better idea than sticking things to my computer with refrigerator magnets.

(This is not a non-sequiter - it just looks like one. I once worked with an older woman, and one day I caught her using a magnet to put a picture of her grandkids on her hard drive. And just to make it better, she was putting it over her air vents. She didn't appreciate my input on the subject.)

My sister, the Episcopalian priestess, gets a little cranky with my lack of respect for her chosen profession. (By the way, she really dislikes the term "priestess." Just so you know...) She even wrote me, on Facebook, to ask why I kept putting down Christianity, and no other religion. You can probably insert a little "why do you hate god?" into that, too, if you'd like. Entirely subtext, of course.

My answer included the fact that there were plenty of other people out there bashing Islam, so they don't need any help on that front.

But overall, my opinion of religion is pretty much like the somewhat-overused joke:
Religion is like a penis. It's fine to have one and it's fine to be proud of it, but please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around... and PLEASE don't try to shove it down my child's throat.
There's a thousand variations on that one, but there it is.

With all that being said, I came across the following video clip, which is worth the ten minutes out of your day that it will take to see it. It's a bit from Russell Brand's talk show, where, inexplicably, two members of the Westboro Baptist Church agreed to appear.

For any of you that are unaware, Westboro Baptist is a cult dedicated to the idea that the Prince of Peace wants them to picket funerals and sporting events holding up colorful signs saying that "God hates fags" and explaining that you're all going to hell.

There's a lot of people out there, who've spent a lot of time and venom talking about the Westboro Baptist Church, so I'll let you look them up on your own. (At this point, all you need to google is "Westboro," so it isn't like the material is difficult to find.)

So, a couple of takeaways from this.

1. Russell Brand has a talk show? I mean, admittedly it's on FX, so how many people actually see it? But still... really?

2. Nobody should be surprised about them appearing on this show. The Westboro Baptists have made a life out of putting themselves on display, so this is just a logical extension of their standard behavior.

3. The guy with the hair, Steve Drain, can at least fake having some kind of charisma. The head-shaver, Timothy Phelps, can hardly hide his disdain for this crowd of heathens. Even when he tries for a crappy joke, his hatred for everyone and everything peeks out: "Well put. Other than the accent, very well put."
3a. Really? You dislike the fact that he's British? When there's so much else to hate there?
4. That being said, Russell Brand definitely came out on top here. (There's no double entendre there. Trust me.) He was polite, kept his audience in line, and, although he was in full Tease mode, he managed to keep it friendly and avoid most of the snark. But he didn't really take it easy on them, either.
Brand: "Have you considered that the Bible, like all religious doctrine, may be allegorical and symbolic to direct us toward one holy entity of love, as opposed to a specific litiginous text to direct the behavior of human beings? The Bible wasn't literally written by a cosmic entity. It was written by people."

Drain: "It was written by the holy spirit."

Brand: "The holy spirit ain't got a pen!"
And really, that's the only way to deal with people like that. Point and laugh.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wild Wild West

You know, it's odd. I apparently have a love/hate relationship with Rep. Allen West.

It's weird. Before this month, I would have said it was entirely hate. I mean, West is exactly the worst type of human being in America. He is a miserable, unlikable, lying sack of smegma, with the morals and integrity of a pustulent, diseased maggot. And many people think that he's just being a sore loser, refusing to accept the election results two weeks after Election Day.

But as it turns out, he's doing, for once in his life, exactly the right thing. Admittedly, for all the wrong reasons. But, like Hermann Göring saving a kitten from drowning, Allen West is doing a good thing.

See, here's the problem. For Allen West, losing the race for reelection would be evidence the the world is not falling into chaos. He has had one of the most evil, dishonest and hate-filled political careers of any political operative since Joseph McCarthy, and if anyone deserves to lose, die in ridicule and be crushed in the trash compactor of history, it would be Allen West.

He is, after all, the man who claimed, with nothing more than his own paranoid feelings as "proof," that all of the Democrats in the House of Representatives were Communists and essentially slaveowners. (Not to mention his history of torturing prisoners and endorsements by the worst figures of recent Republican history: Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent, among others.)

But West has every right to ask for a recount, especially on a razor-thin margin of loss: the last recounts, late though they were, show West's campaign trailing by a margin of 0.58 percent; any spread of less than 0.50 percent would have triggered an automatic recount. That's pretty damned close, though - well within the margin of error.

And here's the thing: we just finished a campaign season full of voter suppression by the GOP, and outright fraud, incompetence and election theft for the last decade or more, and so any attempt to ensure a fair and complete election has to be taken seriously.

More than that needs to be done: laws need to be passed to punish the criminals who try to subvert the democratic process, and laws need to be repealed (I'm looking at you, Citizens United) to ensure that people can't just buy an election.

And, admittedly, Allen West's fight to continue the recounts, much like the rest of his political career, are based in fear-mongering and conspiracy theories. But there is enough actual evidence of impropriety, or at least mismanagement, that the Allen West fight must be allowed to occur.

It would be a tragedy of Biblical proportions, but Allen West might not have lost his seat in Florida. And the only way to be sure is to get a full and fair accounting of the votes in every county affected by this election. (You know, the thing that the Supreme Court wouldn't allow in Florida back in 2000?)

Few people in America deserve to lose as much as Allen West. But his fight must be allowed to continue.

It's called "democracy." And we have to support it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

It's just a thought.

What can you say about a man who holds down weaker students and cuts their hair off? Is it just schoolboy pranks, or evidence of a something else?

"Impersonating a police officer," incidentally, is only a misdemeanor. But why would somebody do that? Do they just like having power over other people?

What kind of person would think it's funny to have kids smell a dish of butter and then push their faces into it? And then do it again, years later, on their grandchildren?

What does it say about somebody who'd strap a dog in a carrier on the roof of a car? Is that animal abuse? (By the way, it's interesting that somebody might claim that the carrier was air-tight. Even assuming that the dog could breath, it obviously wasn't fecal-tight...)

What kind of person "likes to be able to fire people"?

I'm not suggesting that such a person would be anything more than a bully. But it might be enlightening to dig around the grounds of the Romney family home in Michigan. You know, just to see how many small animals have been buried there over the last 65 years or so.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Abort! Abort!

I've worked various election campaigns, and phone-banking is one of the most depressing, soul-grinding things you can do. Important, but sweet baby Jesus, you get to hear from all the losers, idiots and, worse, the one-issue voters.

Yes, they're out there. We could be emerging from the rubble of a GOP-led recession, the challenger could be saber-rattling for a third war in the Middle East and trying to set up robber barons for another Gilded Age, and you'd still have people on the phones listening to babbling lunatics explain how they could never vote for the Negro Abortionist.

Well, if there's people out there fixating on one subject, let's look at that subject for a moment, shall we?

(If you know anybody doing phone-banking in these waning days of the campaign, feel free to share this with them. You don't even need to give me credit for it. I'll be honest. It won't help: one-issue voters are not changing their minds, regardless of how many facts you run past them. But, well... at least you'll feel better.)

Barack Obama has been reliably pro-choice his entire career. This is not under dispute. But despite what many on the right like to claim, he is not a "radical abortionist."

While he did vote against bills to prevent "sex-selection" abortion and various bills which claimed to protect infants born alive due to failed abortions, but not due to some radical agenda. All were introduced by radical anti-abortionists, and all were so general that they could be twisted by political activists to begin the process of making all abortions illegal. Plus, the "failed abortion" acts were redundant even before they were written: Illinois law already protects an aborted fetus which turns out to be born alive.

But if you think that a vote for Romney is a "pro-life" vote, then, I'm sorry, but you're an idiot.

Because the truth of the matter is, nobody (probably not even Mitt Romney) knows what Romney's personal feelings are on abortion. Just looking at the evidence, his political advisers have determined that it would be best for his campaign if he was pro-life. But the people who know him give the impression that he isn't so much "pro-choice" as "uncaring." This isn't really a subject he feels like addressing.

But there's nothing here that qualifies as evidence. So, to determine the truth, we have to look at his record, and consider what Mitt Romney has actually done.

That, however, is also a mistake. Because the only conclusion to be drawn from history is that Mittens will say anything and do anything if he believes it is politically expedient.

In 1994, debating Teddy Kennedy, Romney said that he supported Roe vs Wade. Kennedy responded "I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple choice," leading Romney to tell a heartwarming story of a close relative named Ann Keenan.
"I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people. Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time that my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that."
Look it up. While you do, keep in mind that one joke he made there, that he will "not impose (his) beliefs on other people." (It'll seem funnier later.)

In 2002, debating gubernatorial opponent Shannon O'Brien, he added "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose. I am not going to change our pro-choice laws in Massachusetts in any way. I am not going to make any changes which would make it more difficult for a woman to make that choice herself."

But in 2005, as governor, Romney vetoed a law which would ease access to emergency contraception. He explained through an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, where he said he was "pro-life" and opposed any "judicial mandate" that dictated a nationwide abortion law, arguing instead that the issue should be left up to the states.

"I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother," Romney wrote. "I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate." Romney said he would uphold his campaign promise not to change Massachusetts' abortion laws, even though that campaign pledge was preceded by Romney's statement that he would "protect a woman's right to chose."

Then, during his first presidential bid in 2007, Romney explained that he had "changed my mind" on abortion while serving his one term as Massachusetts governor, and that "we should overturn Roe v. Wade and return these issues to the states." He also said he would be "delighted" to sign a bill as president that would outlaw abortion, if there "was such a consensus in this country that we said we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period."

(He even had a cute little explanation, about how Reagan and both Bushes had started out pro-choice, and changed to become pro-life. Like so many of Romney's stories, it was a lie. But even though he was called out on it, he used it again a few years later.) Still with me?

From 2005 to 2011, Romney consistently said that he was "pro-life" and believes abortion should be legal only in the case "of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother." That may be the longest stretch he ever went without reversing himself.

During the Republican primary last year, Romney expanded that view to explain how he believed he should cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, reverse Roe v. Wade "because it is bad law and bad medicine," and end funding for any international aid program that "promotes or performs abortions on women around the world."

But remember: he won't force his beliefs on other people.

He wrote it out for us in a National Review Op-Ed in June 2011. "If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation's next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America." Apparently, one of his advisers thought he needed to take a hard right tack.

Having said repeatedly that abortion laws should be left up to the states, in October 2011 he went on Fox "News" and told Mike Huckabee that he "absolutely" supports a Constitutional amendment banning abortion.

But now, less than two months after accepting the GOP nomination, Romney is casually trying to amble back toward the center on his abortion stance, telling the Des Moines Register last month that he would not make abortion legislation part of his agenda. "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda." (It comes about 14 minutes into the audio of the interview.)

Funny, because in his National Review Op-Ed, he named three specific pieces of legislation he supported: "I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions... I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy (to bar foreign aid from abortion providers)... I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children..."

But hell, his friends, family and coworkers are just as confused about Romney's position as Romney is. After he spoke to the Des Moines Register, Romney's spokesperson, Andrea Saul was quick to contradict her candidate, saying "Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life and will be a pro-life president."

On the other hand, his sister Jane, back in August (you remember August, right? Her brother was "severely conservative" back then...), said that any fear that Romney would restrict abortion was "conjured," and that "it's not his focus."

At a "Women for Mitt" event held in conjunction with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, she said "He's not going to be touching any of that...  Mitt's much more in the middle" than even the GOP platform (which supports several anti-abortion initiatives and a "Right to Life" amendment with no exceptions for rape or incest).

Romney's surrogate, former Senator Norm Coleman, seems to agree with Jane, saying in Ohio last week, "President Bush was president for eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn't reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn't reversed. It's not going to be reversed."

And then we have that last debate with Obama, where Romney went even further left, saying Obama was "totally wrong" about him wanting to shut down Planned Parenthood. Of course, he was also trying to blame gun violence on single mothers (presumably women who had escaped his binders), so perhaps he was just having an off night.

It's funny, isn't it? Romney's positions on abortion seem to change whenever there's an election nearby, and what position would be most popular with the people voting in that election. That's kind of weird. You have to wonder - is he a vacillating bag of douche, or a cynical, calculating fucknozzle?

Personally, I vote for the second one.