Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The war on Secularism

At its core the ongoing culture war should be seen as a war against Secularism. A secular world view is reguarlly denounce by most of the right wing,  from the Pope to Rick Santorum to Pat Robinson, as the ultimate evil. But what is Secularism?
In political terms, secularism is a movement towards the separation of religion and government (often termed the separation of church and state). This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture (such as the Torah and Sharia law) with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion. This is said to add to democracy by protecting the rights of religious minorities
Overall the above sounds like a damn good idea. Based on my study of history it is what our founding fathers wanted and how this nation was created; so why does the right opposes this building block of the nation?

My view is conservatives see secularism as a threat to what they view is their right to hold power over others. The right likes the idea of forcing people to pray like they want them to, they like the idea of punishment for sexual activity they do not approve of. The right wants their faith to have priority over all others. In secularism they see their ability to impose their values on others being restricted and they don't like not having that power.

Is this too harsh of a review? Consider these three points.

The right likes the idea of forcing people to pray like they want them to. School prayer was an early battle ground in the culture war and one that is still quite active. The right wing has never forgiven the courts preventing them to make kids pray to their god. The right wing constantly distorts the law, and is constantly breaking the law by trying to sneak religion into school. When you look at the ruling the rights position becomes more absurd. The court said that schools cannot impose prayer on kids. It never said kids (or staff) can not pray, just that they cannot be made to participate in religious events. Here is the law as it now stands: If a student wants to pray, and it will not disrupt instruction, they are free to do so, but the school and its staff are not allowed to engage in any activity that promotes religion.

You see the student, not the school has the power to determine how and when and even if they want to worship, and the right doesn't like letting the kids have that power.

The right wing likes the idea of punishment for sexual activity they do not approve of. Both the abortion and contraception issue fit in here (as well as the rights refusial to address the AIS epidemic when it first arose). Bad girls have sex, and because they are bad they should be punished and through history that punishment has been to get pregnant. Contraception and abortion allow women to avoid this punishment, so these cannot be allowed. Just consider this  Santorum quote:

“ One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s OK; contraception is OK. It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
Rick has expressed, quite clearly, the reasoning behind the American conservatives anti contraception (and Abortion) movement. Modern society has advanced to the point where women can have better control over their bodies, and the right don't like it.... so it must be stopped.

The last point to look at is that the right wants their faith to have priority over all others. You see this almost daily now, their faith has to be given special rights (or the rights of other faiths must be repressed) to assure its dominance. In the Pledge of allegiance on currency and  Liscense Plates there has been a constant push to get the state to endorce and promote one faith. If one looks they can seen these efforts almost daily, but this effort to get endorsement is not the only actions taken. There are also efforts to assure that other faiths have obsticals thrown up in their path.

The culture war is actually a war on Secularism that the right wing has been fighting for decades, in the effort to overturn the will of our founding fathers and to find a way to maintain or gain power over individules and force them to accept a power structure that favors the collective over the individule and the statis quo over advancement.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Religious Freedom and the 1st Amendment

Something from our 1st President::

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy--a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants--while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

And a touch of context .


Rick Santorum is simply nuts

But to be honost, so is the rest of this years GOP field (Most to a lesser extent, but Ron Paul may give Rick a run for the fruit cake).


Friday, February 24, 2012

Even Republican Watch Dogs Lie

Brent Bozell is a self proclaimed 'fact checker' who standard song and dance is to attack the liberal media with arguments tainted with modest twists, untruths, omissions etc. Overall he has done a fair job of avoiding telling easy to spot lies.

That was till his latest visit to Faux News

During a discussion of gasoline prices, frequent Fox News guest Brent Bozell claimed that U.S. oil production has fallen under President Obama. In reality, the opposite is true: after increasing every year since 2009, oil production is at an eight-year high; gas prices continue to rise because they are determined by a world market, not by U.S. production

And everyone will let Brett get away with the lie.... But then that is what Republicans do, they lie, they have no other tools to use in debate.


S.C. Looks Into Voter Fraud, Finds None

South Carolina joined the long list of Republican controlled states that passed voter suppression laws under the guise of an anti voter fraud law. The argument was voter fraud is fairly rampant and unless drastic action was taken our future elections are at risk.

There is no evidence of such fraud occurring and no record of any modern election in SC that has been impacted by fraud; But like good republicans, Gov.Nikki Haley and her minions passed this voter suppression law and then went about trying to prove it was needed. A list of over 900 'dead voters' was produced, the state went running to the DOJ (and Faux news) claiming that they had proof that their voter suppression law was necessary.
There was only one problem.... the dead voters were not dead, the issues that were involved included clerical errors at the polling place, absentee ballots and scanner failures, but no illegal voting. This dead, stinking, rotting from the head red herring is the only justification that Nikki and her crew can come up with to explain why their voter suppression law is needed, and it failed.

The truth is, the Republicans do not want the poor, the elderly and students to vote, these folks tend to not support the party of the rich. So they crafted a law that will make it more difficult for these people to vote and discourage their participation. And from a position of mathematics the efforts to suppress votes makes sense, while the effort to end voter’s fraud are foolish.

As this latest snipe hunt makes clear, voter fraud seldom happens, and its impact (if it did occur) is nonexistent. IF all 900+ suspected votes were fraud and IF each and every one of them was cast for a single candidate in a high profile state wide election, they would have had ZERO impact in 2008 or 2010. The total count of suspected votes was .00475% of votes in the 2008 election. In other words nothing. On the other hand voter suppression tactics like the current voter ID law are projected to have the potential to prevent 10s of thousands of votes from being cast..... That is a notable impact that could swing an election.

And that makes the actions of Nikki Haley and her Republican minions understandable.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rugby This Weekend

Just a heads up, 6 Nations rugby is being played this weekend.

We have Italy at Ireland and Wales at England on Saturday, with a Sunday match of France at Scotland. If you have access to BBC-A they will be showing the Wales England game live at 11am (east). This is a match up of the 2 leading teams and should be very entertaining.

The current standaings

1 Wales      2-2
2 England    2-2
3 France     1-0
4 Ireland     0-1
5 Scotland  0-2
6 Italy         0-2

This weekends winners, I will go with France, Ireland and Wales.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Santorum's success confirms my view of Republicans.

I have a rather depressing view of the Republican Party of these United States. I see it as authoritarian, reactionary, anti-science, anti-woman, theocratic, racist, militaristic, paranoid and cowardly. On occasion, I have looked at this perspective and have reviewed my view of this group of people and have yet to see any reason to change. The actions, statements and behavior of the tea party has done much to verify my view and the Primary season with Santorum's rise in prominence within the GOP has simply confirmed it.

These are all fairly negative and harsh evaluations of Santorum and all Republicans, but completely justifiable.

Starting at the top, authoritarian; A love of having control form above and having the ability to impose a collective will on the individual. Santorum's choice of faith (The Pope rules and everyone else follows) is indicative of a person who embraces a top down power structure and his view on the birth control issue is a second clear indicator that he thinks the decision on this issue should not lie with the individual, but someone enpowered above them. This point of view can also be seen in his view on the debate over SOPA and PIPA he again favors striping the individual of the choice, and delivering the power to higher levels.

Santorum is the perfect example of a reactionary. He seems to want to teardown society and remold it into some fantasy Leave it to Beaver land. He is completely disappointed in our modern reality and truly desires to lead a forced march back to a simpler time.

Anti-Science is another undeniable aspect of both Santorum and the modern GOP. They hate the reality of evolution, the Big Bang and Climate Change. If a science discovery conflicts with their religious mythology or short term corporate goals, well then clearly science is wrong and must be attacked, the very same science that has made modern life possible.
The Anti-woman and theocratic points needs to be discussed at the same time since the one is a result of the other. The view that a woman’s role is secondary to the male is well established in most of the reactionary faiths (Including the ex Senator's). Santorum has made it clear that he thinks barefoot and preggers is the proper state for adult females. He bases this on his inerpation of the bible and thinks that this is the standard Government should enforce; His own little land of christian Sharia, based on what he thinks the bible says. The Theocratic view of how government should work is one he wants and will try to impose.

Racist is a very impolite charge, but based on last year’s Tea Party signage and some  of Santorums clearly racist statements it is imposable to deny, racism is a central pillar of the right and the fact that it draws votes just confirms that the racism is found attractive to the followers of the individual and the party.

The last three points, militaristic, paranoid and cowardly, are both tied together and more of a personal impression. Republicans are defiantly pro military (well at least as far as hardware and the military industrial complex are concerned, for the vets, well there is a clear drop off in interest). They love the power and having over 50% of the world’s total military power under our control is a point of pride. Pride but not comfort and this is where both paranoid and cowardly come in. We need more guns, bombs, tanks, troops etc because they are all out to get us (maybe some are, but what the heck can any of them do about it) and without that extra bomber we may risk getting a boo-boo.

This fear based reflexive behavior of the right was a major factor in keeping Bush in power and it still moves votes within the GOP.

Santorum's rise from failed and evicted Senator to favored candidate of the GOP says a lot about the modern Republican Party and the people who are its members. And what it says is rather unpleasant. It is clear that Santorum is authoritarian, reactionary, anti-science, anti-woman, theocratic, and racist, the fact that he has become more than a fringe candidate confirms a lot of negative notions about those who consider themselves Republicans

And confirms my views of the Republican Party and its members.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Less Government Intervention?

The fine folks in the Republican Party (please include the the Tea Party and the rest of the conservative movement) are always screaming about wanting a smaller less intrusive government. But the actions of the GOP, what they support, what they oppose and what they constantly try to do, tell us a vastly different story. A story this cartoon illustrates perfectly:

For some reason, when the government wants (needs) to reduce pollution, or assure that when we harvest resources from our environment ( Oil , Natural Gas , etc )  that we do as little harm as we can, the government is overstepping is bounds and authority, destroying opportunity and imposing on our freedom. But according to the same right wing folks here in the US, if a woman want to use a contraceptive or end a pregnancy the government or even the individual’s employer should have the right to reduce and  restrict access to medical options, even demand the performance of invasive medical tests in the effort to block her options and restrict her ability to control her own body.
Where is the freedom or liberty in that? And please explain how this is a smaller less intrusive government.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Climate, weather, dishonesty and stupidity.

Last winter the US experanced a massive snow storm, snowpocalypse-2011. For a few days much of the the ground in the US was white; Schools and airports were closed and in areas where snow is rare, life slowed to a stop for a day or two. For many people this was a nice break. I remember it an opportunity to break from the daily grind and a chance to play and spend time with with the kids, friends and neighbors.

What I also remember was the laughable reporting about how this storm was proof that climate change was nothing to worry with and that this storm was undeniable proof that climate change was a scientific hoax. While Faux was the worst of the offenders, this theme was found on CNN and the other major media players in the US. The question seemed to be, if you have climate change how can you have snow. Most of our media folks seemed unable to understand that weather and climate are not synonymous, but used this confusion to continue the efforts to deny the whole idea of climate change.

Now for a simple question: If last year’s snowpocalypse was proof that climate change was not occurring, then one would assume that Faux and their media friends would be pronouncing this year without a winter is proof that climate change is real. Funny thing, I have seen no media hinting at that. I do not know if this is a positive, indicating that our nation’s reporters and their employers have learned a little science in the last 12 months, or more likely this is just more evidence that silly right wing ideas can gain traction while equally silly left wing ideas (correctly) go nowhere. And since the media is clearly liberal (ask any right winger), these series of events have left me confused and marveling at how lies of the right take off, while simple truths never seem to be accepted.

And now more evidence why this suppression of facts and the spreading of BS happens so often.

We now have access to some recently leaked documents clearly showing showing how corporate interests intend to spend millions to keep the population of this land uneducated and misinformed. This right wing think tank (term used very loosely here, I suspect there is not a lot of thinking going on at the Heartland Institute) has decided to copy the work of the US Tobacco industry, and pay scientist who are willing to sell their soul to create enough confusion to prevent any action being taken to address this issue. It worked for 30-40 years for smoking, if unchecked and allowed to fester there is no reason to believe that the Heartland group will not see similar results.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Be Careful What You Ask For

The Militia movement has always has a presence in South Carolina. It is to be expected, we have a pro gun culture, we hold a hyper authoritarian view on society, we do not like the federal government and we are, as a state and individually, on the whole under-educated. Fertile ground for conspiracy theories that fuel these movements

That is why we see scenes like this foolishness in our state.

We have a onetime county GOP leader, a town councilman and 'community leader' spinning tales of oppression, the creation of a police state and the overreach of law enforcement. In addition, this man hints of retaliation and taking the fight to the police.

What started this? He got pulled over for DUI. His feelings are hurt and he is now seeking a way to excuse his behavior by blaming others.

While I do agree with him on some points; I do think that we have created an environment where the police may have too much power and we may have removed too many of the protections that we once had against illegal searches etc. That said I would tell this man, and those who think like him, that it is not some grand global conspiracy, merely the end product of the changes that he and his ilk have demanded of society that has led to this. .

The GOP (The group this man has close ties with) has led the push for law and order. Demanded more power for the police and insisted that the courts erode protections that had been in places for decades. It is the GOP that pushed for the creation of the Department of Homeland security and the Patriot act and a countless other measures that have all resulted in the police having more power. This has led to more pressure being put on them to do something to address some type of behavior. The end result of all of this is inevitable, heightened enforcement, more traffic stops, and more arrests, leading to pissed off GOP county chairmen busted for DUI who are now seeking revenge.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Now

Over at Crooks and Liars they are featuring a video of Republican senator Jeff Sessions whining about the nation debt. The folks there make a very good point, why now. Durring the period from 2000-2008, when the debt of the nation doubled (and tax policy was enacted that is still adding to the debt), this ass did not complain, in fact he voted for the policies that doubled the debt.

His crying now seems more than a bit dishonest.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It is about power, not religion

One of the more interesting objections to the current administrations plan to assure that all women have insurance coverage for contraception has been claim that this was a violation of the free expression of religion. I for one do not see it. There is no requirement that a person use this benefit. Anyone who, because of their religious teaching, doesn’t want to use birth control is free to continue to not use it. This policy does one thing, and one thing only, provides insurance coverage that the individual may chose to use. How is this violating anyone’s right of religious expression?

The right has tried to argue that it is religious institutions, Hospitals, Universities etc whose religious expression is being blocked. The Republicans argument seems to be that unless these organizations have the power to restrict their employees’ access to contraception the hospital or school will be a sinner in the eyes of god, and will be facing an eternity in hell. I for one was not aware that corporations or buildings had souls and could be facing eternal judgment.

The simpler truth is this is an argument over power. The administration’s plan ultimately shifts power to the individual, and removes it from the institution. This is the antithesis what the modern conservative movement and the current Republican Party want. That is why this latest culture war battle has erupted, Obama’s administration wanted to give the individual more options, and the Republicans want to prevent this.

It really is that simple.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trying to understand the stupidity of the GOP

  It seems that the Republicans reflex to instantly and rabidly oppose anything that Obama proposes has put them in the position of trying to strip access to birth control from ALL women. I knew that this reflex was strong (if Obama wants it, let’s block it is the Conservative mantra), but I did not dare hope that this mental illness had advance this far.

Contraception, Birth Control, is for the overwhelming majority of adult Americans absolutely non controversial and an aspect of modern medical treatment that is universally appreciated (something like 98% usage at some time in life). Seeing a major American political party attack it is amusing for a number of reasons. The most obvious is it is odd to see a political party do something so dumb, and so sure to cost them votes from the middle of the electorate. The second reason fits within the broader culture war discussion.

The left has argued that the cullture war is actually the Republicans waging war on women and their rights to have the final say about their body. The right generally poo-poos and ignores this argument. This latest dust-up has made the dismissals of the Republicans seem even less credible, since the only benefit of making contraception more difficult to obtain will be in making a woman’s desire to have control when she has children more difficult. The Republicans have outed themselves as reactionary, radical and as doing just what the left has accused them of, waging war on women.

Their culture war has been, and is currently about establishing a societal Paternalistic Authoritarianism where the male leads all and the female is forced by society, circumstances and a lack of other options to do as there are told. A return to the “Father Knows Best”, “leave it to Beaver” world that never existed is their dream and they will continue this stupidity till they are politically exiled. Until then this stupidity will continue. Let’s hope this latest step by the Republicans will hurry their exile.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hypocrisy, your name is GOP

Funny how a political party that is so opposed to (and justifiably afraid of) Religious Law (sharia law) can be so in favor of Religious law (birth control restrictions).

Is it not the height of Hypocrisy to work to be sure that one set of religious standards are not codified into law, while at the same time, working so hard to install another set of laws derived from another faith. The whole concept seems absurd to me.

Of course so does most of the conservative / Tea Party movement.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Administration's policy on Birth Control is correct

The Obama administration has taken action to make sure that Birth Control is included in all health insurance programs offered in this country. This wonderful news has offended some of the right, inducing cries of how this is both unfair to religious groups and how this is a war on the faithful. The convulsive backlash is both expected and dishonest, yet may result in the administration backing away from full implementation of this very smart policy.

This would be a huge mistake.

First, this is not unfair to religious organizations; it is holding them to the same standards that everyone else in the US is held to. It is about equity and liberty. Yes, some faiths do view birth control as something to be avoided, and for those of faith who do not want to use birth control are not compelled to. However, those who do want or need birth control will now have full insurance assisted access to it. The power in this relationship has been transferred from the institution who wants to deny birth control to the individual who now gets to make the final decisions themselves, and that defines liberty.

And as to the war on faith foolishness being promoted by the right wing and their media enablers consider this. Yes the Catholic church opposes this policy, and the Democratic party supports it; However, the Republican party favors the death penalty, opposes immigrants rights, supports and cheers on war in the middle east and hates all forms of social safety net programs ... all of these positions are opposed by the Catholic church and the Democratic party.

Leaving me to wonder, who is really at war with the faithful, for it sure doesn't look like is it the current administration.