Thursday, September 29, 2011

Religion and Patriotism: CNN misses the point

I recently came across this article on CNN's "Belief Blog". This strange corner of CNN's website is an odd mixture of weird apologetics, inane blatherings about "modern religion", and purportedly "balanced" opinion articles on matters surrounding religion in public life. Considering all the contributors are believers, I have a had time finding any of the articles truly "balanced". They generally lean towards the apologetic, accommodating view that religion is good and necessary.  They occasionally post articles about atheism, which they generally get wrong from the start with false, yet popularly held myths about atheism and the mindset of the atheist.

In this article, the author, Dave Schecter, gives his thoughts on the findings of a Pew Poll... well... actually, no he didn't. What he did was offer his thoughts on a "Christianity Today" parsing of a that Pew Poll regarding their views of the United States. Taking just a few of the data points from this poll, Christianity Today indicates that of the subjects polled, evangelical christians were the most likely to think that America is the greatest country on earth. They went on to say:

Other Christian traditions were less enthusiastic about America's position in the world, but they still saw the U.S. as one of the best on the planet. About 40% of other Christians said the U.S. stands alone as the greatest country; around 55% said it and some other countries were equally great. As with evangelicals, only a few said there were greater countries in the world.
Then, of course, comes the truly important data: "Only one in five of those without religious beliefs said the U.S. is the best country in the world, an equal percentage agreeing that 'there are other countries that are better than the U.S.' ”

The article also goes on to also show percentage of people of various faiths, or no religion, who display the American Flag. Again, the faithful do this at a much higher rate. 

And then the article goes on to describe what the author calls a "God Gap", in which there appears to be a correlation between religiosity and patriotism. And this is where the article goes off the rails for me. I won't argue with any of the data points from the Pew poll... in fact it shows more or less what I expected. However the author is making the wrong correlation. The mistake is in equating being overly provincial by thinking your country is better than everyone else's, and displaying the flag with "patriotism". I would have answered the poll questions similarly to other irreligious folk. I don't believe our country is the best in the world, and I don't generally display the American flag prominently. This makes me un-patriotic? Don't be ridiculous. The truth is that I, and most of my godless acquaintances, are more deeply patriotic than any of your average "god and guns" 'patriots'. We think our country could be better. We think it is flawed... we think there are places where the quality of life for the average citizen is better... where the goal of government is to support the population, not control it. We love this country and want to see it rise to the ideals on which it was ostensibly founded, but has never quite lived up to, mainly due to the constant and omnipresent religious influence that permeates the fabric of American culture. 

Religious people don't think America is the best country because they are patriotic. They believe that because they have been brought up to believe that christianity has a preferential place... that christians are "chosen" by god... and that America is a "christian nation", and if we are more christian than other nations (and by all accounts, unfortunately, we are), then by rule, we are the best. And religious people don't fly the flag because they are patriotic. They fly the flag because they have been taught to worship symbols their entire lives. The cross... the eucharist, the alter, the statue of Mary, rosary beads... the flag. From the time you are old enough to walk, as a christian you are taught to look upon symbols with awe... that the symbols are as important as the thing itself. Just ask any christian. If you desecrate a cross, you are desecrating Jesus himself. To a christian, the cross is Jesus. And similarly, the flag is America. Non-believers don't revere the flag with any less respect, we just have learned not to put too much emphasis on symbolism and idol-worship. We simply don't equate the flag as being America itself the way that believers do, because we've stripped that wiring from our brains (or never had it, in some cases). That doesn't make us less patriotic. It simply means that we'd rather focus on what should be the real American symbols... fairness, opportunity, freedom, equality, and empathy. These are the things that are of utmost importance to the irreligious... not some nylon fabric, or some silly notion that we're better than everyone else. Give me people that look at America and evaluate it in those terms, and then I'll show you a true patriot. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflections on 9/11, ten years later

I consider myself a patriot. I love my country. I spent time serving it, and would do so again if called upon. However to many of you, what I am about to write will be seen as un-patriotic. And that's a shame, because America seems to have forgotten what it truly means to be a patriot.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the tragic attacks of 9/11/2001. It was honored throughout the country as a day of somber remembrance. And as I watched the numerous ceremonies and speeches, and reflected myself upon the past 10 years since that event, I was not overcome with a sense of pride, or patriotism. I felt shame. Shame for what my country has done in response to 9/11, and shame for what it failed to do.

Where I shared the heartfelt grief was in simply remembering the tragic and innocent lives lost... not just those killed in the attacks but in those killed while trying to help their fellow man. There were true heroes in those days... both on the ground and in the air... men and women who sacrificed their lives in the simple, altruistic act of trying to help another. These things should be remembered... should be mourned and celebrated. It is good to hold those memories near, because those are the lessons of 9/11 that we should all have taken. How we can all come together to help our fellow person... how we can find strength in unity in the most tragic of times. These are important things to remember. But those are the only things we should still be carrying from 9/11. And therein lies the problem for me. Because we, the American people, are carrying far more to this very day than we ever should be from that event. We have become a nation of the fearful and paranoid, fed by a leadership that continues to enact policies that feed into those emotions. We have become nationalistic, jingoistic xenophobes who have completely forgotten their own scattered origins and have all but abandoned their core principles. And it fills me with shame and sadness.

What we have done...
Since 9/11 we have engaged in 3 separate wars that have cost billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, both foreign and American, both military AND innocent civilian, under the guise of "acceptable collateral damage", which might be one of the most ghoulish terms in military vernacular. We have not paid for these wars in any way, shape or form as we have in prior wars with appropriate tax increases. And as a result it has had an enormous negative impact on our nation's economy and our almost unimaginable debt. The entire military campaign from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya and all the "operations" in between... over 100,000 innocent civilians killed in Iraq alone, is nothing short of appalling. In one day, 19 terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, killed almost 3000 innocent American civilians. As a response, in 10 years we have killed hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi citizens (the total death count is almost impossible to estimate correctly due to the nature of the culture and lack of first-world facilities and communications, but some think it could be 10 times that number) and lost twice as many American lives as we lost in 9/11. To call this a "disproportionate response" would be the understatement to end all understatements.

We've also engaged in actions that Hollywood has dramatized as villainous for decades: indefinite detention without due process (even WITH due process this is unconscionable), no access to supposed "prisoners of war", torture.... this is film noire stuff, but it has become an everyday reality of American policy in the name of "keeping us safe".

And what about that mantra, anyhow... "keeping us safe". Are we really any safer? In addition to the over-reactions I listed above that impact non-US citizens, we've blithely gone ahead with policies that undermine the freedom and privacy of our own citizens with insidious legislation like the completely erroneously named "Patriot Act". What a sham of a name, by the way. That's like slapping your kids around while you tell them "I'm only doing this cause I love you". There's nothing remotely "patriotic" about illegal wire-taps and other invasive provisions in this act. In the meantime, we've made it difficult to the point of embarrassing to travel by air in this country, which in addition to subjecting potential travelers to ridiculous delays, outright racial profiling and occasionally invasive search procedures, has also had a fairly negative impact on the travel industry. Additionally, one of the little-discussed collateral impacts of 9-11 and the reaction to it has been a renewed nationalism bordering on xenophobia that has manifested itself in an outright attack on the alien population of this country. It has become fashionable, especially among the most "patriotic" of our right-wing assclowns, to take aim at anyone who not only wasn't born in the US, but all those who even LOOK like it and can't prove it on demand. Have any of you people even read the plaque that accompanies the Statue Of Liberty?

At any rate, all of the above was done, and is still being done, ostensibly to "make us safer". So ultimately, there are two questions: Are we safer? And is that perceived safety worth the price we've paid (and continue to pay). The answers are a resounding NO to both questions. Of course we are not safer. I mean, is it likely that we will fall victim to another airplane-kamikaze attack of the 9/11 kind? No. But are we really any safer from radical groups finding unique and insidious ways of attacking innocent Americans and American institutions? No. Of course not. And the reason is because the kind of "safety" that these policies presume to afford is virtually impossible in a free society. As Ben Franklin wisely noted: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety". The only way we can attempt to ever be truly "safe" is to lose that freedom. And the unfortunate truth is that THAT is exactly what we've begun to do. We've gone along with invasions of personal privacy, with unjustified searches and seizures, with forcing people to provide proof of citizenship for simply looking like the need it. And we've done so fairly quietly, and with barely a complaint. And that is that most frightening part of all. When we become a citizenship that has become complicit in the slow erosion of our constitutional liberties, we are truly lost.

Finally, I wonder if it has occurred to our political leadership that the reason we have not had a repeat attack from terrorists akin to the attacks of 9/11 is not because of these fear-driven, over-reaching Orwellian policies and torture-aided intelligence... but because it has simply not been necessary! The goal of those attacks was to instill fear into the American population, cripple the American political  and military leadership and weaken or destroy the American economy. That is why the targets were chosen as they were. And they worked all too well! In fact better than they ever could have imagined. In the 10 years since 9/11 we have become a society of fear-driven, paranoid xenophobes with a penchant for making war, we have attacked the personal liberties and freedoms of our own citizenship, we have crippled our economy and shot our debt through the roof with unpaid wars and military campaigns, and have undergone an invasion of jingoistic, ideological fundamentalists (the Tea Party) that has completely crippled our already dysfunctional political system. All the while completely trashing our international reputation and making us the bullies of the modern world. And while some may go along with the bully to avoid being a target... in the end nobody likes a bully.

What we haven't done... what we should have done in the first place. Stuck to our core values. Clung to the constitution. Gotten back to the basics of who we are as a nation and a people. We should have stood in stoic defiance of that display of terror. We should have stared it down and not blinked. We should have told them "do what you will... we will not compromise our principles. We will not let a few radical thugs fundamentally change who we are, and how we live. We will continue to adorn our citizens with the freedom to live as they will... to travel and work with as much ease as possible. We will risk our security to protect our freedom. You may hurt us... but you will never change us. We will never turn our backs on the principles of fairness, humanity and freedom.

And then we should have ACTED in a way to reflect that posture. Instead we could not have acted more fearful, vengeful, and paranoid. We went to war to remove a government that we suspected may have harbored the mastermind of the attacks... we killed thousands... tens of thousands and then left an already unstable, thrid-world region in rubble and utter chaos. We then used the events of 9/11 as an excuse to wage war on another country, citing, in subtle vague references,  a totally invented connection to Bin Laden, and the eminent danger of weapons that simply did not exist. We removed their government... killed their leaders, killed tens of thousands more... lost thousands of American lives in the process. And once again... left an already struggling, unstable region in rubble and utter chaos. And we are there still... knee-deep in the mire of the mess we created, unable to leave because of the vast hole we caused, and again the fear of what might fill that void if we left. It's a disgrace. And all because we didn't do what we should have done. All because we decided to act as a country of frightened, vengeful adolescents instead of proud, unwavering, strong and stoic Americans... we did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Watching the videos the news media were broadcasting all this past weekend, and remembering with keen detail the events of the Tuesday morning 10 years ago... I remember being struck with a sense of patriotic pride at watching people run towards danger, with no thought of their own safety or protection, to help those in need. Helping others... self-sacrifice... giving what you can... living for another human being... the entire voice of a country saying almost in unison "how can we help?". That was what being an American was all about. That was the America I wanted the rest of the world to see... the caring... the empathy... the togetherness and effort... I was truly proud. And then when the dust settled, the spotlight turned away from the day to day citizens and on to our leadership... our representatives to the rest of the world... the public face of America... and we furrowed our brow and we sneered. We talked of enemies having nowhere to hide, of "smoking them out of their holes"... we talked of destruction and vengeance. We showed the world the terrible face of a country scorned, bent on revenge. And under that leadership we acted on it. We waged war. We sacrificed twice as many people as we lost in the attack, we turned our backs on international law, we took away basic human rights of those we saw as "enemies"... we even stripped away some of the protections and freedoms of our own citizens. We showed our ugly side.

In just the few days following 9/11, we showed the world what America truly could, and should be... and then we spent the next ten years showing them what we really are. That's why remembering 9/11 fills me with pride... and shame.

Friday, September 2, 2011

As if you needed another reason...

...To wonder why any decent, rational person would ever want to vote republican... well, process this story:

Of course you all remember the horrific shooting spree that nearly killed Arizona democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She was shot with a Glock pistol. So what do you do if you are the Pima County, AZ (a county in Gifford's district) Republican Party? Why, you decide to raffle off a Glock in an effort to raise funds, of course!

Really, is there no bottom in the bucket of ooze that is the Republican party?

There's a poll on the site I linked to... of course it's far too soft. They give you the option of agreeing or disagreeing that the raffle is "insensitive". And of course there's an option for "i'm in between" for the wishy-washy accomodationists out there. But what there needs to be is an option for calling it what it is: Callous, uncaring, despicable, ghoulish and bordering inhuman.

And predictably, the Rethuglicans are stepping up to defend the action with the tired and grossly disingenuous "guns don't kill people" argument. Mike Shaw, the GOP Chairman for Pima County made this deplorable analogy: "That Glock is no more responsible for those deaths and for that congresswoman's injuries than a number two pencil is responsible for cheating on a test"... as if that had a fucking thing to do with the point. Putting aside the stupidity of that argument on its face*, let's say that a blue number two pencil with yellow stripes was used to cheat on a test, and then used to stab a very popular teacher through the eye and kill her. I think any reasonable person with even the slightest bit of empathy would see how disgusting and callous it would be to give away blue number two pencils with yellow stripes on the first say of school following such an incident.

But once again republicans show a staggering lack of understanding, caring and empathy. Seems like I've heard this song before.

*honestly... it's a stupid argument that isn't used in any other arena because it's a laughable premise. Using that logic, we can also say the following: poison doesn't kill people, guillotines don't kill people... for that matter nuclear weapons don't kill people. And toasters don't toast bread... and ovens don't cook food, and cars don't drive people. It's absurd, and anyone with half a working brain knows it. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Michele Bachmann proclaims that god is a terrorist!

Wow… it’s been over a year and a half since I last posted. Far too long. I won’t bore any of you with the details of why it’s been so long since I was posting regularly… suffice to say that life intervenes. And since there will be, at least initially, very few of you actually reading anything I post, it would be pretty self-indulgent of me anyhow… so… on to today’s post…

Every time we have a natural disaster in this country, without fail, the righteous, bloviating, fear-mongering, and ghoulish elements of the religious start crawling out of the woodwork. And it’s even worse when there are more than one in any sort of close proximity. It’s mind-boggling and a little sickening, but always serves to remind me why I so hate religion in general, and the state of mind to which it is capable of reducing people, even otherwise seemingly intelligent people.

The clamor is almost always the same… the natural disaster(s) in question are sent by god… messages that we need to change, that god hates gays and women who get abortions… that we’ve lost our way and are being warned. And if the religious aren’t claiming divine warnings, they are thanking god for sparing their lives.. or their homes, or their towns, or whatever. The power of prayer at work, right? They prayed, they were spared… quod erat demonstrandum…

Of course, this sort of thinking is ripe with contradiction, ignorance, and malice… but you’ll hardly ever get a religious person who thinks this way to understand that, let alone accept it. It’s all too often an effort in futility to try and explain how completely wrong-headed such belief is and so I don’t generally make the effort, but it still pisses me off to no end so I’m going to talk about it here.

You don’t need to look very far to find examples of this sort of thinking in today’s media, which seems to have latched itself on to the craziest and least intelligent factions of society.  The completely insane Glen Beck called the hurricane “a blessing” because it “reminded us we are not in control”… I’m not sure the 34 innocent people who were needlessly killed in this storm, nor their families and loved ones, would agree with you, Glen. What if Glen lost his mother in the storm? His wife? His house? Would it still be a blessing?

There have been a few others, but the other notable comment came from none other than Right wing presidential candidate, and “dimmest bulb in the bank” candidate Michele Bachman, who said the following:

I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending…”

Oh you can’t be serious. There is so much horribly wrong, completely ignorant and woefully grotesque in that statement that words can barely describe it… The first thing that always strikes me about people like Bachman, and the religious in general, is how completely provincial they seem to be… how totally ignorant of the larger world around them they are. Hurricanes and earthquakes are NOT rare things! We get dozens of hurricanes and typhoons every single year, and a few each year that are vastly destructive… and it has been that way since the earth has had weather. And earthquakes are even MORE common (more on that later). Yet somehow because we have two events that affect AMERICANS in AMERICA and is a top news item, they are somehow specifically different? It’s crazy.

Beyond the obvious disregard for the people that were injured or killed in this disaster, there is also an interesting element to her comments that I don’t think she, or anyone else that makes such flippant and ignorant comments, has really thought through. For if you read what she is saying, she’s claiming that god is sending us a message… trying to get his point across by sending these disasters our way… disasters that have killed dozens of people… and these are just the LATEST natural disasters. But… isn’t that precisely the definition we give to terrorists? A terrorist is someone who intentionally harms or even kills innocent people for the purpose of sending a message or getting a point across. So by her own assertion, Michele Bachman has labeled her god a terrorist! Go ahead… argue your way out of that one, Michele… you have assigned to god the EXACT behavior we would decry terrorists for, yet because these acts are perpetrated by god, in your mind, they are BLESSINGS. Think of the logical progression from this line of thought… if Michele Bachman can justify what we would otherwise define as terrorist acts by assigning them as ‘godly’, what ELSE might she be willing to engage in using the same logic? It sends a very icy chill down my spine and is PRECISELY the reason we need to make sure this woman never gets anywhere near the White House.  

She of course later tried to furiously back-pedal with the following statement:

Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. This isn’t something that we take lightly. My comments were not meant to be ones that were taken lightly. What I was saying in a humorous vein is there are things happening that politicians need to pay attention to. It isn’t everyday we have an earthquake in the United States.”

Of course this is a ridiculous statement… a very quick glance at the USGS website shows that on average the US gets over 10,000 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater. So not only do we have them everyday… generally we get multiple per day.  

The scariest part of all of this is that, lest you have forgotten while reading all of this craziness, this woman is considered a SERIOUS candidate for President of the United States. This is how far we’ve fallen… this is where our money-driven, sensationalistic media, fear-mongering, hate-filled and ignorant society has driven us… to the point where people like Michele Bachman, as thoughtless, ignorant and religiously crazed as she is can be considered a serious candidate for President.

So just to clear the record… no, god did not send the hurricanes, nor the earthquake… no, they are NOT a blessing, in any form… they are naturally occurring tragedies that while we can’t prevent, we have already come a long way towards mitigating the damage. These disasters, had they occurred 100 years ago or so, when religion pretty much existed in more or less the same state as it does now, would have been FAR more devastating. Hundreds if not thousands would have lost their lives… it is only through the efforts of science and engineering that we are able to prepare for, protect against, and withstand these natural disasters as well as we do. THAT is the blessing… THAT is what we should be talking about and praising… it’s the efforts of programs like NOAA, the USGS, and other GOVERNMENT FUNDED climate and geological science programs that allow us to be as well prepared for these disasters as we are. The very programs that Michele Bachman and others in her party wish to cut. So if you REALLY want something to be concerned about… to be afraid of… it’s a world where people like her are calling the shots. That’s the only message I’m hearing… 

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Health Care Reform Bill passed the House... and I'm...

...happy about it.  If nothing else, this is important for what it represents.  For the first time in 40+ years, a President has been able to care enough about the people of this country to push through at least some form of health care reform.  And while the bill is still severely lacking, make no mistake, it does provide immediate relief for some and does have some important reforms that take effect in a very short time, that will help people... lots of people.

My hope is that the country will look back at this at the amount of time and effort the Republican party spent trying to oppose this bill... trying to oppose legislation whose only goal was to help American citizens... in a politically fed, partisan flop-sweat attempt at just opposing any legislation the Obama administration put forth, just because it is Obama putting it forth.  It has been a despicable display of the ugliest order and I think in the end the Republicans will be irreparably damaged for it.  In fact, they stand to become even more publicly humiliated once they begin using pathetic stall tactics in the reconciliation phase of this bill for all to see.  It will be infantile and silly, and will be wide open for the entire country to see.  More on that later...

But first, now that the bill is passed, the important questions are: what does this bill do and what does it not do for the American people?  I've refrained from posting about this bill until now because I wanted to wait till I could see in what form it was passed. I'll try to break it down in failry simple terms.  This bill is huge, and it is complicated.  But the items that are important to you the people can be broken down fairly simply, so I'll attempt to do that as much as possible.

First, what does the bill include?  Well, its components are broken down and will be phased in over time.  In six months, here are the following items the bill will enact:

  • Insurers will no longer be able to refuse coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions (this provision kicks in for the rest of us in 2014... which sucks, but is still better than nothing).
  • Insurers will no longer be able to dump a person's coverage because they get sick.
  • Insurers will no longer be able to cap how much coverage a person can receive in their lifetime.
  • Parents will be able to carry their kids on their insurance plan until they are 26.
So... this is a good start.  So what are the other things that kick in down the road?  Below is that list along with the year they become effective:

  • Insurers will no longer be allowed to deny anyone of any age coverage because of pre-existing conditions. (2014)
  • Each State will create a "insurance exchange" for both individual buyers and small businesses, which will consist of several insurers, based on minimum requirements for benefits, and have strict limitations on how much their premiums can vary... so that insurance plans for the elderly and ill can not cost considerably more than for young and healthy individuals.  People can then buy from insurers in the exchange based on the best cost and plan for them. (2014) --- I have my doubts about how well this will work, but I'm willing to see how it goes.  Again, it's still an improvement over the status quo (or as I call it, the Republican Plan of Doing Absolutely Nothing)
  • Subsidies for buying insurance will be offered on a sliding scale, so that families making less would pay less for the same coverage as families making more. (2014)
  • There will be an excise tax on the most "plush" of health care plans.  (2018).  This was once referred to as the "Cadillac Tax", but as this would have effected many policies currently used by Union workers, this has been amended to include only the very most opulent plans, and is now referred to by Nancy Pelosi as the "platinum Rolls-Royce Tax".  Whatever.  It still stinks to me. I don't care for this provision but I do understand the necessity as a means to pay for the Reform Bill.
  • High Income households (individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000) will see an increase in their contributions to the Hospital Insurance payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.5%. (2014)
  • Those same households will see an increase of 3.8% on taxes of income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rent. (2014)
  • You will be penalized for not having insurance.  (2014) This has been an issue of much debate and heated argument, but looking at the reasons for having such a penalty (similar to auto insurance, costs come down when everyone is insured, because the chance of having to eat the cost for services for the uninsured goes down) versus the actual fines that will be instituted ($95 a year or 1% of your income, whichever is greater), it's ridiculous to argue that this is the wrong thing to do.  If you choose to not carry healthcare even though you can easily afford it, fine... but you will help to make sure when you do get sick and we have to eat the cost, you've helped contribute to that.  And if you simply can't afford it, well then the $95 fine is hardly a hardship (and those for which it is an undue burden, you will have the ability to have this fee waived).  So quit whining about this provision... it's the right thing to do in a system that isn't single-payer.
  • Employers who don't offer their employees insurance will face fines of up to $2000 per year, per employee.  Small businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt, but small businesses will be able to use tax credits to help pay for insurance through the State insurance exchange. (2014)
  • Provisions have been put in to attempt to lower the costs for Medicare, and close the "hole" in the prescription drug policy for Medicare. (2014)
  • Primary Care physicians and surgeons will receive a 10% bonus from Medicare as a push to improve preventative care (2011).
  • Additional education funding falls into this bill, including funds specifically for colleges and universities that serve large numbers of minorities. (2010)
  • Oh... and facilities that use Tanning beds that use UV lamps will be taxed 10% starting July 1 of 2010 

There are some other odds and ends in there, but those are the important pieces.  Now, let's talk about what's not in this bill that is of interest to my fellow left-leaning, people loving liberals:

  • No public option.  BOOO.  Big, huge, loud, resounding BOOOOOOOO.  There was no reason this bill could not have included a public option through reconciliation.  And it would have passed.  But the Dems got cold feet about passing the House, and chickened out.  This is the biggest failing of this bill.  People deserve to have the option to have a cheap, medicade-like option available to them the same way the people putting the goddam bill together in the first place have.  The same way our armed forces veterans have.  I am proud of our veterans, but are the truly more deserving of basic, affordable health care than the average citizen?  The lght at the end of the tunnel here is that I do not think this part of it is over... as the summer rages on and the Senate begins to hear the clamoring that the country wants and needs a public option, this may come back to the fore-front. Or maybe not.  We'll have to wait and see... but for now, big, huge thumbs down to the Dems for not getting this done at the one, single time in history they could have.
  • Several of the "back-door" deals that had been put in to win support from certain Senators (most notably the deal with Ben Nelson of Nebraska in which all new Nebraska Medicaid enrollees would be paid for by the Federal government, forever) are thankfully gone.  There are still a few "back-door" deals in place for certain circumstances (all of which do serve a "public service" at this point), but the most egregious of these have been removed.
Those are the two biggest "left out" issues.  Some of you may take issue with some other things that aren't there... but I think these are the two that matter to most people.

So... is this a slam dunk now?  Well, no... not really. It will in all likelihood get passed, but there are some items the House added to the Senate Bill (some of the things listed above fall within that area) which must be passed through reconciliation.  Essentially this means that the Senate need only agree to the addenda or changes attached to the Bill by a majority 51 vote.  And while this will happen, the Rethuglicans have already stated that they will take whatever measures necessary to delay this reconciliation process indefinitely.  To do so, they will use the tactic of proposing amendment after amendment to the bill, which they can do an unlimited amount of times, and must be voted down each time.  And they will come up with some pretty boorish and stupid things, just to delay the process... for example, put forth an amendment that all insurance cards must be printed on pink velvet.  It is likely to get pretty boorish, and I really hope the Rethuglicans try this route, because it will expose them for what they really are to the American people who will, I predict, have little patience for this behavior.

Also, there is the looming issue of the abortion language in this bill.  For some reason, middle-aged to elderly white men still think it's somehow their right to limit resources to allow a woman to decide what's best to do to her own body.  It's disgraceful and I'm hoping the will exists to shut these assholes up, but we'll have to see.  It could be a real problem if enough of these god-bothering, misogynistic assholes have their way. 

So, at the end of the day, I feel a sense of tempered excitement over the passing of this bill. As I said above, it's an important message that after decades of deciding the american people were not worthy enough for the government to step in and take steps to stop the insurance companies from publicly raping and ultimately killing hard working Americans, a president has been able to step up and say "This is the most important thing on my agenda. Period." And actually get something done.  Is it all we should have or all we deserve?  No.  Is it all we're going to get going forward?  I don't think so.  The faucet of Health Care Reform has been turned on... even if only a trickle. And once on, I think it will be much easier to open it up further than it will be to shut it back off.  Go ahead, Republicans.  Try it... I dare you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is a vile, disgusting, evil, horrible little gobshite.

Recently the Roman Catholic Church has come under a great amount of scrutiny for the sex abuse scandals that hav rocked the church, especially in Ireland.  Today, CNN has been running an expose on these incidents, highlighting the lengths the RCC has gone to to cover up the scandals and protect the priests in what has to be one of the more vile, despicable ongoing acts of criminal and abhorrent behavior in any organization over the last 75 years or more.

These are despicable, vile, indefensible acts... and of course no-one would be fool-hardy, grotesque and evil enough to defend the church... right?

Ha!  Obviously you've never met Bill Donohue, the grotesque little ghoul at the head of the Catholic League, a self-created and non-affiliated apologetics organization whose sole purpose is to advance the myth that catholics are persecuted, defenseless innocents.

Donohue posted an editorial on CNN in which he unbelievably, but unsurprisingly, takes the position of defending the Catholic Church, and once again reinforces the more and more common realization that the Catholic Church is a singularly horrible, overly powerful force for evil in this world.  I take on his editorial below.


OK... let me first say, could there be a more appropriate image of the evil, despicable Donohue than the one next to his editorial on CNN?  He looks like the RCC personified.

But let's get to the bullshit he writes:

Employers from every walk of life, in both the U.S. and Europe, have long handled cases of alleged sex abuse by employees as an internal matter.

Right.  The "everyone else is doing it, stop picking on us" debate.  And, notice he makes such assertions without a shred of proof or a citation.  He just thinks it, and then asserts it.

Rarely have employers called the cops, and none was required to do so.

Ah... I see the propensity for lying starts off immediately.  Employers are not required to call the cops regarding cases of sexual assault.  You lying piece of shit.

Thus it hardly comes as a surprise that Cardinal Sean Brady in Ireland did not summon the authorities about a case involving a priest in the 1970s. What is surprising is why some are now indicting him, acting as if his response was the exception to the rule.

No, Bill, you unfathomably evil little mongrel, we are indicting him for covering it up!  Whether it was more common practice or not it is still wrong and evil you vile little hobgoblin.

Selective indignation at the Catholic Church is not confined to Brady. Why, for example, are the psychologists and psychiatrists who pledged to "fix" abusers treated so lightly? After all, employers from the corporate world to the Catholic Church were told over and over again that therapy works and to give the offender a second chance.

It's hard to believe Donohue can go so completely off the rails so quickly... but What. The. Fuck??? Your defense of rapist, pedophile priests is that we should go after the psychologists and psychiatrists that treat abusers?  How the... what the... this is so batshit insane it restricts the ability to even respond coherently.  How about we'll just say that we might be able to know if therapy would have helped these abusers if they weren't protected and the abuse not covered up in the first place.  But as they just pretended that nothing happened, therapy was not necessary.  

 Had the Catholic Church simply tossed the offenders out, it would have been branded as heartless.

So failing to even OFFER such help or therapy, and then lying about it and covering it up was a better option?  You really are a fucking piece of work, Donohue.

There is also much noise about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- now the pope -- approving the transfer of a priest out of his archdiocese in Germany for therapy. That happened 30 years ago. Again, he did exactly what virtually every other leader, clerical or secular, did.

That still doesn't make it right, asshole!!  And, are we still going to pretend like members of the catholic clergy are just like everyone else?  Are you going to try and make the case that priests don't hold a position of power and control over their followers that is far different from the general public?  That they are not in a unique position to exert extreme pressure and power over people?

Stop trying to make the case that this situation is the same as any other sex abuse situation.  It's simply not, and only an immoral asshole wouldn't realize it.  Priests are in a position of reverence and unquestioned authority.  They hold far greater influence over the people in their charge then in just about any other walk of life.  Stop pretending you don't know that, Donohue.  That's why this is different.  That's why it's so much worse and commands so much attention.

Anyone who maintains that in North America or Europe it was common practice for employers outside the Catholic Church to file a police report about suspected wrongdoing by their employees needs to put up or shut up: Where is the evidence?

Nice attempt at more deflection.  Define "commonplace". And, you made the statement that is was NOT commonplace, YOU provide the evidence.  You don't get to make outlandish claims out of laziness and then dare everyone to prove you wrong.  You're full of shit.  Prove otherwise.

And again, how does this in any way change the points I made above about why the CHURCH and its clergy are different.  Even if the claim you're making is right, it's irrelevant.

Beyond that issue, the focus on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is far out of proportion to the attention given by the media to the sexual molestation of minors when committed by non-Catholic clergymen.

This statement is just too disgusting to even address. I don't know enough curse words.  What an asshole.

According to a report by the New York Times in October, the Brooklyn district attorney's office had filed charges in 26 cases of sexual abuse involving members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Ahh... and now he shows himself to be an antisemite. How completely unsurprising.  

The next two paragraphs are devoted to Donohue presenting the case that Jews and Public School teachers are just as bad, but we don't give it nearly the same attention cause we love to persecute the largest majority in America. And frankly, I don't have the stomach for it.  

Bill Donohue, you are a vile, disgraceful, pitiful, sorry excuse for a human being and if you were on fire I wouldn't piss on you to put you out.

Lastly, the disclaimer from CNN:

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bill Donohue.

Yeah... no shit.  There's an understatement.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Out of commission

I'm sorry I haven't been able to post  much recently, but life intervened and recently I was involved in a very serious car accident... I hit a tree on a snowy road and it took them an hour to extricate me from the car.  I've just been discharged from the hospital and I'm a bit laid up right now with a broken sternum and some broken ribs along with various other painful injuries.

On the bright side, I was able to walk out of the hospital and given the seriousness of the crash it could have been much much worse.  I'm honestly lucky to be alive.

So I'll be taking some time to heal before I post again or before I begin interacting again on the sites I normally do like pharyngula.  Good health to you all and I hope to be back writing again soon. Feel free to leave a comment and say hello.

Take care.