False Flag Impeachment?

This talk of impeachment is scattered—it mattered
To very few people—near no one at all!
No major political figure so big you’re
Expected to answer the phone if they call!
No media darling whose speech meant impeachment
Was favored by some in the party of No
A sign that the don’t-tread-on-me-ers, the TEA-ers
Insist that it’s time for Obama to go!

Oh, no, it’s the Democrats, really, who feel he’s
A useful distraction and fundraising tool
Your typical voter won’t notice the POTUS
Is pulling their strings—cos a voter’s a fool!
Impeachment’s about raising money—it’s funny,
A truth they won’t tell on the idiot box.
Republicans don’t want distractions, but actions!
Just trust us—remember, you heard it on Fox!

It’s getting harder to tell the satires from the real opinion pieces. I thought I had stumbled upon one of the former, with the first paragraph here:

In a matter of days, Democrats looking to head off Republican gains in November have turned scattered talk of President Obama’s impeachment into a sustained rallying cry — even managing to fundraise off the perceived threat.

Scattered talk… from the former Vice Presidential candidate, from members of Congress, and with the support of 57% of Republican voters, according to a CNN/ORC poll. I’ve seen little handfuls of people gathered on street corners and highway overpasses with “Impeach Obama” signs, letters to the editor of our local paper, websites selling impeachment T-shirts… scattered indeed. Clearly a false flag operation.

The frenzied warnings have Republicans scratching their heads – after all, few if any in the party brass are openly pushing impeachment — and accusing the other side of ginning up the controversy for political gain.

“You know, this might be the first White House in history that’s trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told “Fox News Sunday.”

Now, technically, “few if any in the party brass” is true. Palin is, as is her habit, no longer in an official position of power, and the party brass have very little connection to the rabid tea faction that actually drives their lurch to the extreme right. But by including the word “brass”, they can gloss this over and pretend that it must be the Dems who are behind this.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin kicked off the impeachment headlines earlier this month when she penned a column calling for it. But to date, most senior Republicans have shied away from that call.

House Speaker John Boehner stood by his decision to proceed with a lawsuit against the president over alleged abuse of executive power, but would not sign on to the impeachment idea. Even Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of the most conservative members of the House GOP caucus, would not get on board with impeachment (though she did back impeaching “certain officials in the Executive Branch.”)

Again, note the qualifiers in “most senior Republicans”–and let’s pretend that the silly Boehner lawsuit was anything but an attempt to appease the impeachment-hounds.

It seems that the only real way to tell the satires from the opinion pieces is that the former tend to be better written:

You don’t have to be a licensed distractionologist to see that the White House is trying to get the president impeached in order to draw attention away from how bad he is at his job.

Don’t believe me? Perhaps a little “history of Obama distractions” is in order.

When he was running for president, Obama tried to distract American voters from the fact that he is black by running for president. That should have been our first sign that this guy was an expert at diversions.

Once in office, Obama immediately ruined our economy by being president, so he distracted us from our financial woes by using death panels to reform the country’s health care system. To draw attention away from those death panels, the administration created the Solyndra solar panel company scandal, and the Fast and Furious federal gun-walking scandal.

Then, to distract from Obamacare, Solyndra and Fast and Furious, Obama selfishly released his long-form birth certificate, causing Donald Trump’s head to explode and sending the right-wing blogosphere into a monthslong apoplectic fit.

Nice to see Fox is there to keep us focused on the shiny thing.

“A Symbol Of National Unity”

I shouldn’t be shocked—hey, they’re only the news,
They can say what they want with impunity—
But it took me aback that they called a cathedral
A “symbol of national unity”.

It’s a beautiful building, I have to admit,
(Darth Vader hides in the façade!)
But it seems our one nation once deemed indivisible
Separates now, “under god”

The cathedral is of the Episcopal Church
So the Baptists, of course, disagree—
Not to mention the Wiccans, or Muslims, or Jews…
But it’s Unity, clearly, you see?

It’s not their intent to do anything wrong
They try to be open, it’s true
They’d love to unite the whole nation, of course,
But that’s something religion can’t do.

It’s a feel-good story; the National Cathedral is getting its needed repairs after the 2011 earthquake sent God’s message that He is a Darth Vader fan. It’s beautiful architecture, wonderful stone carving (my favorite is at 1:40 in the video, reminding us that artists have long used whatever source material they could, from pagan gods to bible stories, as an excuse to showcase naked bodies), extraordinary stained glass (which includes secular themes, like the Apollo lunar landing, incorporating an actual moon rock in the design), and I am happy to see it being restored.

Also, despite being the “National Cathedral”, every dime paying for its construction and repair is from private donors. It officially is an Episcopalian cathedral, not a U.S. one (its official name is “The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington”), although it has seen events from many denominations, and secular events as well.

But one thing it is not, though the linked story makes the claim–it is not a “symbol of national unity”. I can see why the Episcopalian Church would want to call it that–the Pew numbers put traditional and evangelical Episcopalian/Anglicans, combined, at under 2% of the US, not even in the top ten denominations, percentage-wise; to lay claim to a unified “National” anything would be a serious cap-feather. I think, maybe, the only real symbol of unity for this diverse country might well be the motto e pluribus unum, which at once recognizes our differences and our common identity.

But of course, that has been replaced by “in god we trust”, which just emphasizes the fact that it is not in religion’s power to unite, only to divide.

“Protestant Work Ethic” Vs. “Atheist Work Ethic”

The “protestant work ethic”
Was, we assumed,
Underlying the gains we had made.
A secular ethic, it’s
Clear, left us doomed—
And an atheist one, much afraid!

Our country was built on the
Fear of a God
Who would smite us for sloth (it’s a sin)
We have to believe, or
It’s all a façade—
And the atheist communists win!

The theories assume that a
Godly belief
Is so useful, we don’t need a test—
The thing is, they tested it:
Here’s the motif—
The atheist way is the best!

Statistical evidence
Must be dismissed
Or, at least, we must say that it’s fraud!
Or else, it is false, what
Believers insist…
Productivity hinges on God!

A recent article in the Journal of Institutional Economics explores the assumption that the protestant work ethic should be credited with… well, with all the warm fuzzies it is always credited with. And the answer is… no. Hemant has a version, too. This particular study focuses at the interstate US level; one cannot extrapolate to either an international level, nor an interpersonal level.

At the interstate level, though, religion is not predictive of entrepreneurial activity.

Mind you, there are partial answers at other levels. At an international level, for instance, an earlier article in the same journal suggests that some predictors of socioeconomic success (in particular, property rights and the rule of law) are negatively associated with religiosity.

The truth is, everything about us is complex. Nothing is simple–not even the relationship of god-belief to any given measure of culture. If anyone tries to tell you that the answer to everything is simple… the cool thing is, the answer to their proposition actually is simple.

No.

Well, unless it’s me. Me, you can believe. No, really.

Trust me.

Edit… I just looked at the recent FTB posts… if you have not yet, read this and/or this, either of which are far more important than the post you are currently reading.

Medical Miracle In Mississippi! (or, I am one cynical bastard)

The word “miracle” isn’t used lightly
Such conclusions are best left unsaid
There’s a time and a place for such words, though,
Like the man who came back from the dead!
They’d detected no pulse, and no breathing
So they’d fitted his toe with a tag
And they sent him away for embalming…
But his “corpse” started kicking the bag!
Now the doctors are using the “M” word
And I guess we can give them a break:
The word “miracle” isn’t used lightly…
But they’d rather use that, than “mistake”.

CNN: Dead Mississippi man begins breathing in embalming room, coroner says.

Even in the Bible Belt, coroners don’t use the word “miracle” lightly.
But Holmes County, Mississippi, Coroner Dexter Howard has no qualms using the word for the resurrection, as it were, of Walter Williams, who was declared dead Wednesday night.

Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

What’s that?

Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

The coroner completed his paperwork, placed Williams in a body bag and transported him to the funeral home, he said. There, something strange happened: The body bag moved.
“We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking,” Howard said. “He also began to do a little breathing.”

I am very happy for this man, and for his family (who seem understandably overjoyed). And hey, isn’t it much nicer to be the beneficiary of a miracle than the victim of a mistake?

Arguing God In The New York Times

We can’t disprove a God, you know,
Cos God can’t be defined.
The God you claim cannot exist
Exists within my mind

My God cannot be fathomed, and
Will never be undone
Each heart perceives Him differently
But God is only One.

We disagree on details, like
His numbers, or His name,
But clearly, all believers know,
Their Gods are all the same

(What’s more, divine diversity
Is clearly heaven-sent:
Whatever God you just disproved
Is not the one I meant!)

A Godly game of whack-a-mole;
Forever un-disproved;
Each time you bring the hammer down
Too late! Cos God just moved!

A question, though, occurs to me—
I find it rather odd—
Why label this cacophony
“A shared belief in God”?

Ah. The horrendous interview with Plantinga was only the first in a series. Gary Gutting’s second interview is with Louise Antony, one of that large majority of philosophers who are atheists. This one was much easier to stomach, although I must say I was not nearly as impressed by Gutting in this interview. I guess he stood out in comparison to Plantinga, but here he seems determined to push Antony into Gutting’s own comfort zone that appears to prefer agnosticism to atheism.

But I do like the way Antony delimits her answers–her atheism is because theism has been proven false to her satisfaction, and she is perfectly comfortable with the notion that someone might disagree. She takes issue with a question about disagreement regarding the existence of God, wondering why that is any more significant a question than the myriad disagreements among theists regarding the characteristics of God (I have often pondered the extent to which different denominations can be said to be in agreement–here, here, and here, for example), which are certainly big enough disagreements to form schisms.

G.G.: Yes, I do think it’s relevant to ask believers why they prefer their particular brand of theism to other brands. It seems to me that, at some point of specificity, most people don’t have reasons beyond being comfortable with one community rather than another. I think it’s at least sometimes important for believers to have a sense of what that point is. But people with many different specific beliefs share a belief in God — a supreme being who made and rules the world. You’ve taken a strong stand against that fundamental view, which is why I’m asking you about that.

L.A.: Well I’m challenging the idea that there’s one fundamental view here. Even if I could be convinced that supernatural beings exist, there’d be a whole separate issue about how many such beings there are and what those beings are like. Many theists think they’re home free with something like the argument from design: that there is empirical evidence of a purposeful design in nature. But it’s one thing to argue that the universe must be the product of some kind of intelligent agent; it’s quite something else to argue that this designer was all-knowing and omnipotent. Why is that a better hypothesis than that the designer was pretty smart but made a few mistakes? Maybe (I’m just cribbing from Hume here) there was a committee of intelligent creators, who didn’t quite agree on everything. Maybe the creator was a student god, and only got a B- on this project.

In any case though, I don’t see that claiming to know that there is no God requires me to say that no one could have good reasons to believe in God. I don’t think there’s some general answer to the question, “Why do theists believe in God?” I expect that the explanation for theists’ beliefs varies from theist to theist. So I’d have to take things on a case-by-case basis.

The common ground that different religions share, that allows us to say they “share a belief in God”, is nowhere near what defines their different faiths.

Gutting, though, misses the bit where something that defies evidence and still gives rise to people who are absolutely certain about minute details (and who will fight over disagreements about those details), and presses Antony for a certainty that she does not feel the need to deliver:

G.G.: O.K., on your view we don’t have any way to judge the relative reliability of people’s judgments about whether God exists. But the question still remains, why are you so certain that God doesn’t exist?

L.A.: Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

So… yeah. This interview leaves me really liking Antony, really frustrated with Gutting, and all the more convinced that Plantinga can’t think his way out of a wet paper bag.

And the contrast in comments is interesting as well–the comments to the Plantinga interview ran strongly against him, and were frankly more intelligent than the interview. Today’s comments are still coming in, but it looks like evidence of an overall tendency of people to write in more often in complaint and disagreement than in concurrence. My favorite so far makes the argument that Antony can be disproven simply by defining God as “that which we cannot, and never will be able to, fathom”. Or as I have heard it before, “reality beyond the material“. Defining God that way pretty much means that any faith asserting any particular details about God must necessarily be false.

Hey, wait… maybe she’s onto something there.

A Heart-Felt Love Ode To Antonin Scalia

It must be depressing, to be a Scalia,
To see your words twisted in so many ways
To see your dissent—Windsor’s warning—adorning
The arguments cited in favor of gays!
Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky—how lucky
The activists were, that you wrote your dissent!
Your snarking in Windsor turned, now, to a how-to;
They probably know that it’s not what you meant!

I guess, in a way, we’re all grateful you’re hateful,
And focus your efforts on showing your wit;
Your sarcasm-laced “neener-neener” demeanor
Proved useful—well, after we translate a bit.
You couldn’t resist, so, self-smitten, you’ve written
A road map to marriage as federal right
So, much as you think we abuse it, we’ll use it,
And thank you, Scalia, for shining your light.

Context here, here, here, here, and here.

Rendering Unto Caesar

A little-known sacrament, hidden from view,
But it’s there if you happen to search…
Is the sacred ability—really, God’s right—
For a renter to park at a church.

The law is the law, and the rule is the rule,
Though enforcement has been, well, relaxed…
For over a decade, they’ve taken in money
But this year, their profits are… taxed!

University parking is scarce as can be;
The demand far outstrips the supply
Local businesses often will lease out some spots—
If they’re taxed, they don’t often ask why.

But churches are used to more delicate treatment
They’re not just a business, their business is God’s
And churches, of course, enjoy tax-exempt status—
It’s not like the faithful are frauds!

The church provides parking, on tax-exempt land,
That sits empty the rest of the week
So it’s “render to Caesar”, and time to pay up,
The end of their non-paying streak

They’re grudgingly paying their taxes this year;
The power of Christ can’t compel—
I still have a question they don’t want to hear:
Can we sue for back taxes as well?

Oh, the little things that show up in my aggregator! A couple of churches had been renting out parking spaces in a university town, and are shocked–shocked, I tell you–to receive a tax bill for their commercial and non-religious enterprise.

Two churches in downtown Durham that rent parking spaces to students and other motorists received an unpleasant surprise last year: A property tax bill.

Leaders of St. George’s Episcopal Church and Community Church of Durham say they’ve leased parking spaces for more than a decade without issue. Both plan to challenge the $2,737 assessment.

Ten years of windfall profits! If they didn’t expect to be taxed, they couldn’t have been making much money from them–as churches, this was probably very nearly a charity, right?

Durham Tax Assessor Jim Rice discovered last year the churches were not being taxed for the parking leases. At the time, he said, each church leased 30 spaces for $600 each.

Rice set the value of each church parking lot at $90,000. Based on that figure, the churches owed $2,737 for the 2013 tax year. Both have paid the tax bills.

“For whatever reason, they were never assessed in the past,” Rice said of the church lots. “There is no reason the taxes should not have been assessed.”

Other non-profits in town are taxed when they profit from leasing property–including another church that leases office space. No persecution here, just a case of presumed privilege, and an assumption that the rules don’t apply.

Frankly, ten years worth of back taxes would likely help the town… I doubt very much that they will go after the money, though. Even if it is legal, it will be viewed as attacking churches.

“We Assert That Images Of The Spiritual Leaders Of All Religions Should Be Deemed To Be Respectful”

So… if, by law, religious figures
Are deserving of respect
From the meditating Buddha
To the Manson, spittle-flecked,
From the image of Mohammed
To the memory of Jim Jones,
From Joseph Smith to Jesus Christ
To dusty relics’ bones
From the ancients on Olympus
To the modern Kanye West,
I’m required to respect them
Shall we put this to the test?
Say “there is no god but Allah”;
Aren’t you disrespecting Thor?
And if “Jesus is the only way”
That’s disrespect, once more—
If we see such disagreement
On what is—or not—divine
Can you force me to respect your views
Without respecting mine?
I won’t ask for your approval
Of the way I choose to live
(Which is fine, cos we both know it’s not
A thing that you would give)
I won’t ask you bow to other gods
I know you’ve got your own…
And in exchange, the thing I want,
Is left the fuck alone.
Your holy rules apply to you;
Their holy rules are theirs
You break each other’s holy rules
And no one really cares.
I have no god I worship, so
It’s really plain to see
Your holy rules apply to you…
They don’t apply to me.

(We all are bound by civic law,
And that is quite enough;
You want me to respect your god?
My one-word answer: tough.)

Context, and Cuttlecap tip to Ophelia.

Wait… A Town Is Going To Move Its Cross Without Going To Court?

Though the Christians could say “Batten
Down the hatches!” here in Stratton
They’ve decided unexpectedly to follow good advice:
“You’d do best to cut your losses
By distributing the crosses—
Maybe put them in some private yards; I’m sure they’d still look nice.”

Former Mayor, Fred Abdalla
Found removal hard to swallow:
“Move our crosses? For outsiders? We’ll do nothing of the sort!”
A solicitor-advisor
Whose opinion was the wiser
Said the crosses were illegal, and they’d surely lose in court

Current mayor, John (Fred’s brother)
Though they share, of course, a mother,
Seem to differ in opinion (and it’s John’s that wins the day)
Seems the town can’t be religious
‘less they want to get litigious
So the Stratton village crosses, now, are gonna go away.

So, yeah, the FFRF told the Village of Stratton, Ohio that some crosses displayed on public property were illegally placed, and warned that they would sue if they were not removed… and the village is, quite sensibly and unexpectedly, removing them. Mind you, they don’t want to, and a good number of locals would rather fight their relocation… but:

“I refused to remove them at first,” Mayor John Abdalla told The Herald-Star. “I have them for safekeeping. (The foundation) even raised hell about the manger scene at the front of the building.”
After speaking with the village solicitor, Abdalla decided the crosses were to be removed. But despite the removal, the crosses will now be given to private landowners to display on their property.
“At the regular council meeting at the council of the village of Stratton, council unanimously resolved to give the crosses that were taken off the building,” Stratton Village Solicitor Frank Bruzzese told WTOV-TV. “The result will be that (the crosses) will be on display actually more visible to the public than they used to be.”

A win-win! The FFRF will have no problem with crosses on private property, and the villages who love the crosses will get to have them all the more visible! Perfect, isn’t it? Well… not quite:

[Stratton Village Soliciter, Frank] Bruzzese stated that the atheist group has not produced anyone that was offended by the crosses.
Even though the crosses will still be displayed on private land, Abdalla is not happy about the situation.
“They don’t have the guts to come up and say, ‘It’s me that’s saying this,’” Abdall told WTOV. “Everything is anonymous.”

Cos if nobody is offended by you violating the constitution, then apparently it doesn’t count. Or worse, if you an intimidate people into not vocalizing their offense at your violation of the constitution, it doesn’t count.

It doesn’t help, though, that the former mayor and current sheriff (and the current mayor’s brother) wants to put up a fight:

But his brother, long time Stratton resident and former mayor, sheriff Fred Abdalla says they must stand up for themselves.

“We are not going to bow down and say oh well take the crosses down no well fight and let the fight begin,” sheriff Abdalla said.

And town residents ought to listen to the solicitor as well:

Some residents believe the village should be able to keep the crosses there.

Dan Carman of Hopedale says he does not understand the groups motives.

“You can be whatever religion you want. I don’t understand why you have to worry about satisfying anyone not being religious,” he said.

That’s right, Dan, you can be whatever religion you want. But your village cannot. It’s that simple.

Victoria’s Secret Kicks Out Nursing Mother

When a woman at the mall began behaving, well, parental
And she used her breasts to feed her baby boy
Some employees of a store that features breasts as ornamental
Tried to force her to behave a bit more coy

When they lavish them with laces, or with padding supplemental,
It’s no Secret that Victoria loves breasts
Thus it’s foolish and ironic that they’re acting so judgmental:
Nursing mothers being seen as second-bests

Now, it’s possible—not likely—that the slight was accidental
Though it really wasn’t handled with aplomb
If you’re known for lace and spandex, it behooves you to be gentle
And you never want to pick a fight with Mom.

Store policy is to allow nursing. Texas law allows breastfeeding in public. And Victoria’s Secret has made a fortune exposing more breast in their catalog pics than a nursing mother does (well, given that babies are rarely as sheer as fabric, and are, while nursing, kinda sorta blocking the breast from public view). This should have been a no-brainer.

Employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Texas banned a mother from breastfeeding in the store, even though nursing is allowed under company policy, Today.com reported.

A store employee in Austin last week told a mother to take her crying son into the alley outside of the store to breastfeed him after she requested a private changing room to nurse, she told a local TV station. Ashley Clawson, a 27-year-old mother of two, had just finished shopping and spent $150 at the store at the time of the request.

I’m sure the employees quickly realized their mistake…

She filed two complaints before the company told her she’d receive a response in the mail. Clawson received an official apology and a $150 store gift card after her interview with the local Fox affiliate, Today.com reported.

Any bets as to whether their apology gets bigger before it goes away?