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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The GOP debate proved we can't let any of these people into the White House


Last night, GOP presidential candidates gathered for another debate. Donald Trump, the current front-runner, was center stage, and made sure to tell everyone he was center stage. Rand Paul had a pretty good opening, as did John Kasich. Chris Christie managed to politicize the school closings in Los Angeles, and proved what a hypocrite he is by asking if mothers feel safe putting their kids on buses, while being one of many conservatives who refuse to do anything about gun violence. Marco Rubio implied President Obama doesn't love America, while Ted Cruz stated the president "refuses" to say radical Islam, something President Obama has explained.

Ben Carson spent a lot of time referring to his past as a pediatric neurosurgeon, while Carly Fiorina said she's been called "the B word," and that somehow qualifies her to be POTUS. If Hillary Clinton heard that, she most likely turned to an adviser, and said "Well, if that's all it takes, let's swear me in right now!" And of course, Trump talked about building a "great wall," how respected and liked he his (all while bullying and insulting other candidates), reminded us he is "good at things," and said there are tens of thousands of people with ISIS flags on their cell phones. Trump's cell phone claim was in response to a question about his ban on Muslims:

We are not talking about isolation. We're talking about security. We're not talking about religion. We're talking about security. Our country is out of control. People are pouring across the southern border. I will build a wall. It will be a great wall.
People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not come through that wall. As far as other people into migration where they're going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them. I don't think so, Wolf. They're not coming to this country. And if I'm president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They're going. They're gone. (source)
Ted Cruz talked about destroying ISIS and banning refugees, Chris Christie said terror is the "new normal" under Obama and Clinton, then told us "everywhere is a target" for terrorists. Kasich and Carson both want "boots on the ground" to fight ISIS, but as usual, forget there are people in those boots. And Trump doubled down on his desire to kill family members of ISIS, and shut down parts of the internet. Rand Paul responded to Trump:
If you are going to close the internet, realize America what that entails,” Paul said. “That entails getting rid of the First Amendment. It’s no small feat. If you are going to kill the families of terrorists realize there is something called the Geneva Convention which were going to have to pull out of.”
Paul said that following Trumps lead “would defy every norm that is America. So, when you ask yourself, whoever you are, if you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the constitution?” (source)
There was eye-rolling, coughing, glaring, muttering, smirking. Ted Cruz brought Mark Levin up as some sort of defense against Marco Rubio. Jeb Bush said Donald Trump can't "insult his way to the White House," and Trump responded by insulting Jeb Bush. Most of the candidates want to expand domestic spying. Of course, we can't forget Ben Carson's very strange answer to a question about North Korea:
I do believe he [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] is unstable and China has more influence with him than we do. But we also recognize that North Korea is in severe financial straits and they have decided to use their resources to build their military than to feed their people and take care of the humanitarian responsibilities that they have.
We can capitalize on that. We can use that to keep Putin contained. He is a one horse show, energy. And we have an abundance of energy but we have archaic energy export rules. We need to get rid of those and make Europe dependent on us for energy, put him back in his little box where he belongs. And we need to do a lot of other things with the resources that we have. So that economic power works just as well as military power, perhaps better.
The military needs to be upgraded. You look at the Ohio glass submarines, the minuteman 3 missiles, the B-52 bombers, you know, if we don't get the military right nothing else matters.
Donald Trump wants to kill civilians and shut down the internet. Ben Carson thinks Vladimir Putin should be in a box, and possibly believes Putin is the leader of North Korea. Carly Fiorina used the gender card after saying she would never use the gender card, and thinks a general who retired in 2003 is somehow connected to President Obama. John Kasich wants more war, as does Ben Carson. Ted Cruz thinks the Obama administration targets "law-abiding" citizens, while ignoring terrorists, and talked about horse thieves.

We can't let any of these people into the White House. Not even for tours.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Republicans introduce legislation to fight the imaginary war on Christmas


Ah, America. Where many of our representatives ignore poverty, gun violence, mental health, a crumbling infrastructure, and wealth inequality, preferring to focus on more pressing issues like the imaginary war on Christmas. Representatives like Doug Lamborn, Republican from Colorado.

Rep. Lamborn has introduced legislation to protect Christmas. No, really. I'm not making this up. Look:
A group of House Republicans has signed onto legislation declaring support for Christmas.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) has introduced a resolution expressing the sense of the House that “the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas” amid warnings from the right that religion is being pushed out of the holiday. 
The resolution states that the house "strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas" and "expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas." 
Thirty-five fellow Republicans have signed onto the resolution as co-sponsors. (source)
H. Res. 564 states:
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.
Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and
Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.
You know what started this silliness? That yahoo and his "Red Cups" tirade. Yes, a guy whose only goal in life is to make money from misleading viral videos and horrible click bait articles, inspired a bunch of ignorant right-wingers to introduce an actual resolution to protect a holiday steeped in paganism.

Where in the bible does anyone write Jesus was born on December 25? Nowhere, because that date was chosen by Pope Julius. Christmas trees? Used by pagans to celebrate the winter solstice, and the Romans, to celebrate Saturnalia. Holly, ivy, and other greenery? Pagans. Santa? Based on a Turkish saint.

Jesus wasn't born on December 25. Almost every Christmas tradition is pagan in origin. But we have politicians wasting our money and time, introducing legislation to protect Christmas from...well...nothing. No one is attacking Christmas. Not Starbucks, not liberals, not atheists, no one. Should a nativity scene be put up on government land? No, of course not. You can put up all the plastic white people dressed in robes you want on your very own lawn. Should a public school feature a live nativity scene in a play? Nope. A parochial school can, though. 

As Jon Stewart once said, conservative Christians confuse "persecution" with "not getting their way." Not being able to blur the line between church and state just because a pope created a holiday isn't the same as being shot, or beaten, or murdered, because of your religion. 

In truth, there is a bit of a skirmish being waged when it comes to acting like Jesus. Banning Muslims, refusing sanctuary to refugees, shaming the poor, that sort of thing. Guess who's leading the charge in that skirmish? The very same people who decry the imaginary war on Christmas. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Yuletide, Happy Holidays. Let's all try to be a little less like Rep. Lamborn, and a little more like Rebel Jesus.




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

You will know them from their fruits


There is a passage in the book of Matthew that reads:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Fruits are deeds. What a person does is an indication of who they are, what they believe. If a person claims to be, for example, a Christian, but only promotes and supports hate and violence, they are bearing bad fruit. 

One such person is Joshua Feuerstein. Mr. Feuerstein calls himself a Christian, when in truth, he is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He is a bearer of bad fruit. Mr. Feuerstein advocates violence against abortion providers, believes Christians should take up arms to "defend" ourselves from gay rights, and he owns a website that frequently, if not constantly, lies. One recent example of this is an aggregated piece entitled "Woman on CNN Blames Dead Victims of CA Shooting for Having 'Offensive' Christmas Party." Except that is not what Casey Jordan said

Dr. Jordan appeared on CNN with Don Lemon the day of the San Bernadino shooting. As a criminologist and behavioral analyst, Dr. Jordan spoke of possible motivations for the crime, saying:
They can have Arabic or Middle Eastern names as well, but the key is that from the beginning everything that was reported about him, going into this conference room where there was a holiday party which may have been offensive to him. But the bottomline is the motivation always appeared to be intrinsic not, extrinsic. Still, he was prepared for this. He didn’t — you know, it was almost like he was looking for an excuse to go get the guns, get the female getaway driver — you know, put on his fatigues and let it look like terrorism. So, I’m in total agreement that terrorism and disgruntled employee can be a mash up. This can be an amalgamation of both, but I really do think his motive was very intrinsic. It was personal. It was about a grudge and it looks like terrorism and he might like that, but it isn’t what it’s about. 
Nowhere in her statement does Dr. Jordan blame the victims. She simply says the party may have been offensive to the shooter in an attempt to, in the moment by moment coverage of a horrible event, delve into possible motives. Dr. Jordan puts the blame for this squarely on the shooter's shoulders. But that narrative wouldn't play to the fears of Feuerstein's fans, so he bears bad fruit in order to increase traffic to his site and make money.

On December 8, a writer on Feuerstein's site named John S. Roberts (who is also a writer for Young Conservatives, another right wing click bait site) published a piece entitled "Cincinnati will soon Ban VITAL Biblical Counseling to LGBT Youth." Again, a lie. Cincinnati is trying to ban reperative, or conversion, therapy for LGBT youth. Roberts calls people who oppose conversion therapy "radical fanatics on the left." The Surgeon General opposes conversion therapy, as does the American Psychological Association. The AMA, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, and so many other organizations, all state conversion therapy is harmful. According to John S. Roberts and Joshua Feuerstein, all these groups are "radical fanatics on the left."

Above this false "article" is a photo, the featured image. That photo is Leelah Alcorn, the 17-year-old transgender girl who killed herself last year. Joshua Feuerstein, a man who calls himself a Christian, allowed a writer on his website to post a photo of a girl who ended her own life because her family refused to accept her for who she was. Feuerstein has removed the reprehensible "article" from his Facebook page, but you can still find it on his website

This is bad fruit. This is a man who poses for selfies holding a gold-plated Desert Eagle handgun worth over $2,000 while begging for money on the internet. This is a man who promotes violence against Muslims, and the LGBT community, all the while calling himself a follower of Jesus. And this is a man who has almost 2 million fans on Facebook, and whose website has a domestic Alexa rating of 8,151. The majority of his website's traffic comes directly from Facebook. In other words, Joshua Feuerstein posts incendiary, misleading, hateful, and often flat-out false links on his Facebook page, and his 1.8 million followers click those links. 

There are good and wonderful Christians on the internet, doing their best to make the world a better place. My friend, Jason Dye, who uses social media to promote equality and social justice. Father Nathan Monk, a man who has made it his mission in life to help the homeless and disenfranchised. Former President Jimmy Carter, who builds houses for Habitat for Humanity, and speaks out against hate. Rachel Held Evans, an evangelical Christian author. 

You will know them from their fruits. Joshua Feuerstein's fruits are rotten, toxic, and sour. What he preaches is the opposite of actual Christianity. He banned me from his Facebook page for challenging his click bait lies, and he will ban others who try to do the same. Because if it's one thing a false prophet cannot abide, it's having his deception dragged into the light. 

For more information on how to help transgender youth, please visit Trans Youth Equality Forum.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trump calls for ban on Muslims entering United States

Image from Patheos.com

Donald Trump released a statement on his website, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. In the statement, Mr. Trump references a poll by the Center for Security Policy, and claims this poll shows a large majority of Muslims living in the U.S. support violence against Americans, and that Muslims in America believe they should have the choice of being governed by Shariah law. This article will take a closer look at the data Trump relies on for his call for banning Muslims, and at the Center for Security Policy.

First, the data. According to the poll (seen here), six hundred Muslims living in the U.S. were contacted by the Center for Security Policy. Six hundred out of millions. But when you click the link to the poll, the meta description reads "nationwide poll of us muslims shows thousands support shariah jihad." They polled six hundred Muslims, and yet, "thousands" support Shariah law and jihad. Right off the bat, there's something fishy about this poll.

The first question asked of Muslim-Americans is "How do you characterize Shariah?" The majority of respondents-47%-answered "A guide to the personal practice of Islam." Then the respondents were asked to clarify their belief in Shariah, and the majority said "It is up to the individual Muslim to define Shariah." The majority also stated if Shariah law conflicts with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, those two are "supreme" to Shariah law. 

As to being able to choose Shariah law in reference to governing, 31% strongly agreed, 28% somewhat agreed, while 12% somewhat disagreed, and 9% strongly disagreed. But the next question clarifies those responses. When asked if Shariah law, as interpreted by Islamic authorities, is compatible with the Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, 60% agreed. 

The next series of questions deal with the violence Trump and his followers believe is foremost in the minds of every Muslim in this country. When respondent were asked if violence against anyone who insults Mohammed, the Qur'an, or Islam, is sometimes acceptable, 61% said no. Only 16% said yes, and using math, this means out of the six hundred Muslim-Americans polled, 97 were okay with violence. We could go on, but it's time for a closer look at the Center for Security Policy. You can view the entire poll in PDF format at this link.

The Center for Security Policy was founded in 1988 by Frank Gaffney. Gaffney has a bio published at Southern Poverty Law Center, in which he is revealed to be a raging Islamophobe. From SPLC:
Once a respectable Washington insider, Frank Gaffney Jr. is now one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes. Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney believes that “creeping Shariah,” or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy. He favors congressional hearings to unmask subversive Muslim conspiracies, and was even banned from far-right Conservative Political Action Conference events after accusing two of its organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood. 
The piece also contains statements Gaffney has made about Muslims. This is from a 2011 article he wrote for CSP:
So pervasive now is the MB’s [Muslim Brotherhood’s] ‘civilization jihad’ within the U.S. government and civil institutions that a serious, sustained and rigorous investigation of the phenomenon by the legislative branch is in order. To that end, we need to establish a new and improved counterpart to the Cold War-era’s HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] and charge it with examining and rooting out anti-American – and anti-constitutional – activities that constitute an even more insidious peril than those pursued by communist Fifth Columnists fifty years ago. 
And this is from a column Gaffney wrote for FamilySecurityMatters.org:
We know for a fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has as its mission the worldwide imposition of Islam's toxic, brutally repressive and anti-constitutional supremacist doctrine known as Shariah. And yes, it means here, too.
Gaffney's claim that Huma Abedin was part of the Muslim brotherhood was completely unfounded, and unsupported, but several prominent conservatives jumped on Gaffney's bandwagon. Gaffney also went after Grover Norquist, stating Norquist was secretly helping the Muslim brotherhood. Why? Grover Norquist's wife is Palestinian-American. And in 2009, during an appearance on Hardball, Gaffney said:
 There is also circumstantial evidence, not proven by any means, but nonetheless some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence, of Saddam Hussein's Iraq being involved with the people who perpetrated both the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and even the Oklahoma City bombing. (source)
Frank Gaffney is who Donald Trump turns to in order to rile up his xenophobic and Islamophobic followers. Two men, desperately afraid, manipulating data and statistics to incite fear and hatred. Like so many conservatives, Trump and Gaffney refuse to acknowledge that we as a country are in greater danger from people like them than we are from Islamic extremists. 

We have met the enemy, and he is us. 

(end quote by Walt Kelly)


Friday, December 4, 2015

Down the rabbit hole


As a rule, I stay away from conspiracy websites and social media pages. Well, sometimes I dip my toe into the Alex Jones pool, but not often, and only because I'm worried about him. Alex gets so worked up on his show-red face, screaming, veins popping out of his neck-I wonder if he's about to have a stroke. I tried to watch his interview with Donald Trump a few days ago, and I lasted almost five whole minutes before I began feeling sort of icky, and needed cocoa. 

If I do end up viewing material about contrails, or false flags, or the Illuminati, it's often because I am perusing a right-wing Facebook page, and come upon a comment that makes my eye twitch. So I click the name. Now if the person behind the comment is a true conspiracy believer, clicking said name will take me to a totally private Facebook profile, usually with a cover photo of the Confederate flag, or a lovely collage made up of Masonic symbols. But once in awhile, I hit pay dirt. 

Earlier this evening, I was taking a virtual stroll around Fox's Facebook page, and one such comment jumped out and slapped me in the face. Because so many people comment on Fox's page, I scribbled part of the comment on a Post It note, and clicked the profile link. Which took me to a person I'll call "Ozzie," because that's the name he uses on Facebook. Ozzie's original comment dealt with how the mass shooting in San Bernadino was a false flag because there were too many firefighters there. Yes, really.

Ozzie's page was a virtual goldmine of paranoia. Did you know Mossad created ISIS? This is a steaming pile of horseshit, by the way. HAARP, websites like Natural News (we'll revisit them in a bit), You Tube channels focused on chemtrails, a guy who was at the San Bernadino crime scene wearing a cap with a Masonic symbol on it and that proves...um...stuff...and on and on and on. Jackpot. 

Then I noticed the articles and videos about false flags. Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernadino, Colorado, the Navy yard: Ozzie believes all of these were fake. He believes crisis actors participated in every one of these horrible events, no one died, and it's all part of a plot to take away our guns. Ozzie also had several videos about Andy Parker. Andy Parker's daughter, Alison, was one of the victims of a shooting earlier this year. He appeared on numerous news programs, and spoke out against gun violence, which, of course, raised all sorts of mythical red flags for the false flag brigade. Mr. Parker was an actor, appearing in a community theater production of "Les Miserables," and he ran for local public office. To Ozzie, and his friends, this means Andy Parker's daughter didn't really die. 

See, it's funny, at first. The anti-GMO silliness, the InfoWars articles, the links to World Net Daily, the videos teaching you how to spray vinegar into the air to get rid of chemtrails. Then it gets horrible. Everything is a conspiracy, everything is fake, those 20 little children aren't dead, Alison Parker's not dead, the 14 victims in California aren't dead, it's all a lie so the black president can take your guns away. Natural News, a very popular website run by Mike Adams, one of the worst people in the world, ran an article Thursday, entitled "Active shooter drills carried out EVERY MONTH at San Bernadino Inland Regional Center...staff tweeted 'drill started' as police raid began." Natural News is characterized as a "conspiracy-minded alternative medicine website." 

The LA Times detailed why a staff member Tweeted about a drill:
At the Inland Regional Center, where she’s a nurse, the staff works with clients and parents of clients who are sometimes angry. They have active-shooter drills every month or so.“Drill started,” she texted her husband, Mark, around 11 a.m.She walked to a window nearby and filmed a video as law enforcement sprinted toward the building.“Oh, that is scary,” a voice says calmly in the background.“They’re all geared up!” someone else says. “Rifles and everything!”In the background, someone laughs -- they still didn’t know.Then the reality set in.She texted her husband again: “Well it’s real.
A link to that article is included in Mike Adams' conspiracy, false flag tripe, but people who read Natural News, or InfoWars, or WND, or Fox, are famous for not clicking embedded links. That's a lot of work, and besides, all media except for Natural News, InfoWars, WND, and Fox, lie. So why click something that might challenge your bias, or make you think? 

Down the rabbit hole isn't a fun place anymore. Now, it's a very scary, violent, paranoid spinning room, filled with heavily armed, slightly mad individuals, who believe things that make absolutely no sense, and have been proven false. I don't ever engage conspiracy theorists, nor do I engage Klan members, neo-Nazis, or Oath Keepers. I won't even write about Sovereign citizens

The lesson from this? Fifteen years ago, the rabbit hole was a weird place to visit. Today, it's still weird, but it's also attracted some very dangerous people. People who seem unhinged to a degree. People who believe things that are, on the surface, laughable. Until you peer beneath the surface. Then you stop laughing.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

It's time to amend the Second Amendment



The definition of an amendment, from Merriam Webster:
:a change in the words or meaning of a law or document (such as a constitution)
: the act or process of changing the words or meaning of a law or document
: the act or process of amending something
Today is Wednesday, December second. Today, there was a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, a mass shooting in Savannah, Georgia, and a shooting in Houston, Texas. Fourteen victims are dead in California, one died in Georgia, and one died in Houston. Sixteen innocent people died today because we, the American people, refuse to do one goddamn thing about gun violence.
Nothing will change. Not one thing. When twenty little children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook, that should have been it. Two weeks before Christmas, parents dropped their first-graders off at Sandy Hook Elementary, and twenty of those children died. And nothing changed. When we as a society decide that the right for Joe Ammosexual to hoard firearms outweighs the right of first-graders to live, we have lost our souls.
The reason nothing will change? The Second Amendment. An amendment whose original intent is now meaningless, thanks to the Militia Act. An amendment which contains the words "well-regulated," words the NRA and their more bloodthirsty members ignore. We don't need a militia anymore; we have the National Guard. We don't need a bunch of Oath Keepers wandering around Cliven Bundy's ranch, pointing semi-automatic weapons at law enforcement officers. We don't need Armslist, we don't need the NRA, we don't need politicians whose heads are so far up Wayne LaPierre's ass, when he stops short, they get whiplash.
What we do need is to take another look at the Second Amendment, for a start. We are not the only country with a constitution, and while ours is important, it's not sacred. It was written by men, not gods, and it has changed with time. African-Americans are no longer viewed as 3/5 of a person, slavery was outlawed, the voting age was lowered to 18, women were given the vote. In all, the Constitution has been amended 27 times. The founding fathers predicted the time would come to amend the original; we know this because they wrote, in Article Five:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. (source)
If we could ever elect representatives who represent us, not the NRA, not the gun manufacturers, but the actual citizens of the United States, we might be able to amend the Second Amendment, and start the process of ending some of this obscene gun violence. We are the only developed country that has mass shootings so often, because we have the most unregulated gun owners. Ammosexuals always point to Switzerland as some sort of gun-loving country, but the truth about Swiss gun laws is much different than the Alex Jones set believes. 

Sixteen innocent people died today, many more were injured, including law enforcement officers. GOP presidential candidates are offering "thoughts and prayers" while slobbering all over the NRA. We don't need empty platitudes, we don't need hypocritical representatives who call themselves pro-life while refusing to help stop gun violence. We need politicians who aren't afraid of the NRA, and who understand it's time to amend the Second Amendment.