A friendly quibble

The Friendly Atheist just posted a good look at another instance of Ted Cruz’s hypocrisy on the subject of church/state separation, along with documentation showing just how big of a hypocrite Cruz is being. Towards the end, though, he says something that bothers me just a bit.

The question Dougherty asked was: “How and why does your religion play a part in your political decision making?”

Cruz never directly answered that because the truth is that faith plays a role in everything he does. That might be okay if he were a random citizen, but it’s downright illegal when he’s supposed to be the leader of all Americans.

Well, no. I know what he means, but that’s not quite right. It’s not illegal, even for someone in the government, to allow faith to play a role in everything they do. The dividing line comes when they have to choose between their faith and the law. The law must take precedence, including the law that requires the government to be neutral with respect to religion. As long as the believer abides by that constraint, in the execution of his or her governmental duties, there’s nothing forbidding faith from having a role in the person’s life. They just have to make sure they do nothing to impose their faith on anyone else.

In Cruz’s case, of course, the distinction is moot, because he puts his faith above the law, and so he violates the law, and advocates violation of the law, whenever doing so works to establish his religion as “superior” to all others. “Religious liberty” in Cruz’s mind is nothing more nor less than Christian supremacy, and he’s more than happy to force his religious principles on anyone and everyone he can. That’s what makes him a hypocrite when he talks about “defending religious freedom.” Not just the fact that he lives by his faith.

Ok, quibble satisfied. Carry on.

Bonehead NC legislators make women’s restrooms more accessible to men

Once upon a time in North Carolina, if you saw a man going into a women’s restroom, you had good reasons to be suspicious, and likely call the police. But now, in a bold move whose brilliance can only be compared to Wile E. Coyote’s decision to use nitroglycerin in the fuel tank of his Rocket-Powered Road Runner Catcher, a gang of conservative legislators, with the avid assistance of the governor, has railroaded through a law requiring trans men to use the women’s facilities. (Nor is that the only serious flaw in this badly-botched attempt at persecuting a harmless minority!) You read that right: this new law requires certain men to use the ladies room.

Now, people capable of engaging in rational thought for more that one or two seconds at a time will immediately realize that trans men look no different than any other men, in most cases. By requiring trans men to use the ladies room, the idiots in the NC state government have given all men a plausible excuse for being in the ladies room. They don’t even need to pretend to be trans. And if a real cis-het rapist were to decide to take advantage of the state government’s stupidity, all he would need to do is make sure to select his targets carefully, and only invade the rest room when the woman there would be unlikely to challenge his presence until it was too late. And thanks to the NC governor and his knuckle-dragging henchmen, there is now a legitimate opportunity for him to do so.

You know what? I take back what I said. Wile E. Coyote is WAY smarter than these Stone Age “geniuses.”

Not just Muslims

A lot of Americans hear about harsh Israeli measures inside the occupied territories, and assume that the Israelis are just defending themselves against terrorist organizations. (Assuming they hear anything at all about it, that is.) But Muslims aren’t the only non-Jews who are being subjected to oppressive travel restrictions, economic sanctions, and the illegal destruction and seizure of private property. Palestinian Christians are also being driven out.

The way Amal sees it, the Israeli military and the settlers, having failed to evict the family by legal means, are now trying to force them out. She remembers the settlers who uprooted 250 young olive trees in 2002, and who permanently closed the road to the farm with rubble. The demolition orders posted on the gate, threatening to destroy the Nassars’ home and water wells. The soldiers who, in 2009, forced her 72-year-old mother out of bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night and made her wait in the cold while they searched the farm.

Homeopathic government

I usually struggle to understand conservative politics, but this morning I had a thought that might explain a lot. What if conservatives are trying to apply homeopathy as a societal/political remedy as well as a “medical” one? Homeopathy tries to treat diseases by applying doses of the original pathogen causing the problem, so why not try to solve other problems the same way? Too much gun violence in America? Just add more guns! Budget deficit? Make it harder to collect revenue! Refugee problem? Make more refugees!

It’s all part of the same mind-set that thinks the answer to abortion is to deny women access to birth control and reproductive health services. If you want to solve a problem, just take steps to make the problem worse. Homeopath all the things!

Hey, it probably works just as well in government as it does in medicine, right?

You first

Panicked politicos, in Washington and elsewhere, are using the Paris attacks to push for even greater and more invasive government surveillance of individuals. They’re blaming encryption and other privacy measures for “allowing” ISIS terrorists to coordinate their attacks undetected. They want to end the technology that makes privacy possible, and leave everyone effectively naked to Big Brother’s all-seeing eye.

So I tell you what. You say it’s dangerous to let people have secrets, Mr. Politico? Let’s start with yours then. You want to put an end to dangerous secrets, let’s start by ending this ridiculous notion of “state secrets.” A corrupt government has far more power to do harm than any individual. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t have anything to hide, amirite? What are you not telling us about your own contributions to the rise of ISIS? What flaws and faults are you hiding that will continue to endanger us because you prevent us from knowing you have them? What crimes are you committing, in the dark, that are going to come back to bite us?

Your secrets are far more dangerous than ours, and our privacy is far more vital to liberty than the government’s. You want to howl for an end to secrets, knock yourself out. But if it comes time to surrender someone’s privacy, you go first.

Strategic vision

There are millions of Muslim and/or Arabic immigrants in the West, in both Europe and America. The ones that have embraced their new homes are not interested in joining ISIS or going on any suicide mission, with the key phrase being “new home.” Those that feel welcome, comfortable, and accepted in the West, are poor candidates for ISIS recruiting.

ISIS knows this, which is why their strategy is based on trying to drive a deep wedge between Westerners and the Muslim citizens of Western nations. Those who dismiss suicidal terrorist attacks as “self-defeating,” and who advocate retaliation against Muslims and Arabs, are an important part of ISIS’s hope for future recruiting within the borders of our various homelands.

Dr. Ben Carson, come on down.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Friday that in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the United States should block refugees from the Middle East from coming to the United States…

“I would be working with our allies using every resource known to man in terms of economic resources, in terms of covert resources, overt resources, military resources, things that they don’t know about — resources,” he said. “In an attempt not to contain them but to eliminate them before they eliminate us. We have to recognize that the global Islamic movement is an existential threat — it’s very different than anything we’ve ever faced before.” [Emph. added.]

It’s just like Jesus used to say, “If any man smite thee on thy right cheek, eliminate him, his family, his neighbors, and anyone who shares his religious views, before they eliminate thee.”

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A revealing headline

Somehow a NY Times headline popped up in my Facebook news feed, and it said something about GOP candidates “sticking to the script, if not to the facts.”

The story was about how party loyalty seems to have completely replaced factual accuracy as the gold standard by which candidates are judged these days, but I think perhaps it did not go as far as it might. I think that the NYT has summed up, in a nutshell, why so many conservatives like Donald Trump, despite his rather unreliable track record as a conservative.

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As you sow…

I have to confess feeling a certain amount of schadenfreude right now. For years I’ve been watching conservatives pushing themselves into an escalating cycle of dickishness, promoting tribalism, bravado, self-serving hypocrisy, self-righteous bigotry, and disregard (if not outright contempt) for the objective facts. This downwards political spiral was one of the things that led me to stop being so conservative myself: I felt shamed and betrayed by the political philosophy I was raised in, and I left it.

So I’m taking a certain amount of satisfaction right now in seeing Donald Trump running for president as a conservative. As others have pointed out, he has not been a particularly conservative person as far as his past attitudes and behaviors are concerned. But in many ways, he’s the epitome of everything the Republicans have worked so hard to make themselves into. He may not be the hero the GOP wants, but he’s the hero they deserve.

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MAKE ’em fly it

A lot of people are calling for South Carolina and other southern states to quit flying the Confederate flag outside of government buildings. I’m not. I say make ’em fly it.

Make ’em fly it until they redraw their voting districts so that black votes have as much weight as white votes.

Make ’em fly it until black applicants are as likely to be hired as white, for jobs that white applicants want.

Make ’em fly it until the police are no more likely to stop and frisk a person of color than to do the same to a white person.

Make ’em fly it until schools with mostly black students are as well-funded as schools with mostly white students.

Make ’em fly it until they end the practice of railroading young black men into prisons under the pretext of a so-called “war on drugs,” release everyone unjustly imprisoned by this sham, and expunge their records so they can vote and hold decent jobs and live normal lives.

Make ’em fly it until they quit pretending not to be racists, and actually produce substantial, substantive improvements in civil rights and racial equality.

It’s a shameful, ugly, disgusting symbol for a host of shameful, ugly injustices. Fix the injustices, and then we can talk about removing the shameful symbols.

The opposite of separation

If you want a cautionary tale of why it’s important to maintain a separation of church and state, look no farther than the Republican party today. Once they were liberal (no, really, they started out as liberals), and for a very long time they were secular. But then they decided, as a political move, to abandon separation of church and state, and embrace its opposite. I’m not entirely sure what the opposite of “separation” is—the phrase “incest of church and state” comes to mind—but they embraced it. And now look at them: paralyzed by internal divisions and bickering by leaders whose vision ranges from the intransigent to the hallucinatory, always sliding deeper and deeper into an agenda that none dare call fascist, promising “security” in exchange for liberty, and delivering neither.

And they want to make America Republican. Think about that.

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