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Stephen King: Indiana’s RFRA Is “A Dog Turd”

Opinion • Views: 25,843

Author Stephen King had a very direct, unvarnished description of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” yesterday on Twitter:

That’s why he gets paid the big bucks.

Tim Cook: ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Are Discriminatory and Dangerous

Drawing a line
Opinion • Views: 29,688

Apple CEO Tim Cook drops the mic at the Washington Post. It’s rare to see the head of a massive corporation put himself on the line like this; good on ya, Tim.

Tim Cook: Pro-Discrimination ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Are Dangerous.

I remember what it was like to grow up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s. Discrimination isn’t something that’s easy to oppose. It doesn’t always stare you in the face. It moves in the shadows. And sometimes it shrouds itself within the very laws meant to protect us.

Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.

Men and women have fought and died fighting to protect our country’s founding principles of freedom and equality. We owe it to them, to each other and to our future to continue to fight with our words and our actions to make sure we protect those ideals. The days of segregation and discrimination marked by “Whites Only” signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms must remain deep in our past. We must never return to any semblance of that time. America must be a land of opportunity for everyone.

Read the whole thing.

On Lemmings and Cliffs

One wingnut’s story about backing away from the edge
Opinion • Views: 24,996

I am a child of the Midwest.

Around these parts, the default constructor for people is “wingnut”. I was raised in the proud tradition of the Assemblies of God - a name many of you may recognize as associated with some of the derpiest hardcore creationist/Dominionist names out there. And you would be right. For most of my early life, I was subject to an intense campaign of fearmongering, that God had His metaphorical trigger finger on the “Punish” button if I made even the slightest mistake or wavered even slightly in my beliefs. And what beliefs they were: Young-earth creationism, Dominionism, American exceptionalism - yes, this was actually taught in churches alongside traditional theological concepts. Patriotism, conservatism, and religious zealotry were intertwined into a massive right-wing hairball of doctrine that was drilled into our heads from an early age, alongside reminders of how God punished sin and unbelief. We invented “putting the fear of God into someone”.

It will come as no surprise, then, to hear that my formative years were spent absorbing information from conservative icons such as Rush “Pompous Windbag” Limbaugh. Fact-checking and independent thought were discouraged; talking points were taught alongside theology, and while churches - and parents - gave lip service to the idea of testing their theology, in practice it was good old fashioned guilt-tripping that suppressed inquiry and free expression. People just didn’t look at you the same if you expressed doubt, or if you asked too many questions that didn’t have obvious by-the-book answers. As a result, climate change denialism and other anti-science beliefs were widespread, and yeah, I subscribed to them all. Even as a science geek and a budding engineer in my own right, I still didn’t grasp the idea of critical thinking or figure out how to test reported “facts” to determine their veracity. In fact, I even wrote my senior term paper on the conspiracy theories around the JFK assassination, unable to comprehend how utterly without merit the claims were.

You can certainly see the direction this is heading. We’ve all seen the very public saga of Chuck C. Johnson, wingnut extraordinaire, on this very site. Before that, many of you are also aware of the equally public meltdowns of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and the anti-Islam crowd several years ago. There are many lesser minions in the same vein, former members here who simply refused to bend when given a choice between sanity and derp. Like the proverbial lemmings following each other off a cliff, they plowed straight on ahead, preferring the comfort of their familiar world - even as ruled by fear and imminent danger as it is - to the idea of changing and admitting they were wrong about something.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

My wingnut tendencies were tempered somewhat by going to public high school; many of my friends were homeschooled. When I graduated, I went to a private Christian college, but unlike the strict conservatism and brainwashing/fearmongering of my youth, questioning and free expression were encouraged there. I met many fellow Christians who had radically different beliefs, but we all worshiped the same God and debated vigorously with knowledge rather than “because God said so”. I learned how to do my own research and how to approach with skepticism, but most importantly, I learned tolerance. Over the course of those 4 years, my indoctrination was broken down and replaced with proper critical thinking.

This is when I found LGF. At the time that I was brought into the lizardoid fold, LGF was still a very conservative place, but similar to my college experience, it was a place where free thought was encouraged and people debated with knowledge, rather than bare assertions and talking points. When Charles made public his break with the political right in 2008, it was an easy choice for me; I had long since lost all of the conditioning that preyed on the fears the right-wing nutjobs express. When it came time to decide between following my other lemming friends off the cliff or pulling back, I chose the hard way, the unfamiliar way, because I finally realized that it was the right way.

The conclusion you guys can draw from my little soliloquy is this: Fear is the driver of all things wingnut. Amazingly enough, people can grow comfortable in that fear, learn to depend on it, and unless you can break through and show a better way that works without fear, they will never leave it. The end result is living in your mother-in-law’s basement writing racist, sexist garbage trying to get yourself noticed. That’s right, Chuck, I’ve lived in your world, and I get you. And I feel sorry for you.

In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo

Perspective is in order
Opinion • Views: 25,796

As of this posting, there are at least two separate hostage standoff situations near Paris. One is at a kosher market (I’ve heard it referred to as a supermarket, deli, or grocery) on Ave Porte de Vincennes in the 13th Arr (that’d be Southeastern Paris). The other is near Charles de Gaulle airport. There have also been reports of an incident near the Eiffel Tower in the Trocadero, but so far news about that incident is limited.

There have been casualties reported in one of the incidents, with at least two dead.

The two standoff situations appear related to each other and to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, as well as a separate attack resulting in the death of a French policewoman the other day. It’s likely all part of the same cell.

Yet, there’s something irking me about all this. We’re being told that it required training and tactics to carry off the attacks, yet the best this cell could manage was to kill a bunch of unarmed journalists and a couple of cops who were caught by surprise and off-guard before engaging in standoffs at locations like a grocery store.

Is this the best that al Qaeda in Yemen can do?

Continue reading…

UVA Rape Victim’s Roommate: “This Story Is Not a Hoax”

An object lesson in why rape victims don’t come forward
Opinion • Views: 29,852
The rotunda at the University of Virginia

The former roommate of the woman in Rolling Stone’s article on rape at the University of Virginia has written a letter to the campus newspaper, insisting Jackie’s Story Is Not a Hoax.

In December 2012, Jackie broke down. All of a sudden she was going home and none of us knew why. It was right before finals, and I couldn’t believe she was leaving. She was distraught, and only said she needed to go home. Her teachers had given her allowance to take her finals over break. At that point, we knew something big had happened. I didn’t know until this year with the publication of Rolling Stone’s article how bad that time was for her.

Sometime that year I remember her letting it slip to me that she had had a terrible experience at a party. I remember her telling me that multiple men had assaulted her at this party. She didn’t say anything more. It seemed that was all she’d allow herself to say. I wish I had done something sooner. I wish I had known how to help. But I applaud Jackie for telling her story, now two years later. It was a story that needed to be told.

However, the articles released in the past few days have been troubling to me, and the responses to them even more so. While I cannot say what happened that night, and I cannot prove the validity of every tiny aspect of her story to you, I can tell you that this story is not a hoax, a lie or a scheme. Something terrible happened to Jackie at the hands of several men who have yet to receive any repercussions.

Racism, Discrimination and Privilege

And the common sense to distinguish between them
Opinion • Views: 26,559

I have known and seen racism and discrimination. I have known and experienced privilege.

And I have the common sense to distinguish between the two.

Ferguson is a place that is riddled with racism and discrimination. The police are known by all to engage in discrimination and racism. The state has disbanded police departments for racism and other malfeasance. Darren Wilson belonged to one such department to start his career. He came to Ferguson where the Department has long had issues in policing the community. All but a handful of officers are white in a community that is overwhelmingly black.

Blacks are stopped far more frequently than white (when adjusting per capita). That’s despite fact that whites that are stopped are found to have contraband in higher rates.

In this respect, Ferguson is hardly alone. Many other communities around the St. Louis region (and indeed nationally) face the same problems.

But the specifics of this case are exceptionally troubling. Only Officer Wilson was able to speak to what happened - and it was couched from the outset that he feared for his life when he stopped Brown. Both were the same height (Brown had 70 pounds on him). All the shots were fired by Wilson. And Brown lay dead more than 150 feet from the vehicle, in about a minute after the stop was initiated by Wilson.

All the eyewitness evidence was disregarded or minimized by the fact that Wilson feared for his life. That there’s no bruising apparent from the photos taken hours later. Yet, he thought he was a punch or two from being disabled?

Continue reading…

In Which I Rant About America’s Totally Dysfunctional Gun Culture

Opinion • Views: 29,133

Video

Via TPM: CNN Host Grills Cruz About Ebola and GOP Opposition to Surgeon General (VIDEO)

Ted Cruz calling blocked Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy an “anti-gun activist” is incredibly dishonest. Murthy advocates very minimal restrictions on guns because guns are used in more than 300,000 violent crimes against American citizens every single year. Murthy sees that as a public health problem, and he’s NOT WRONG. It is.

The fact is, looking at this as a public health issue is absolutely appropriate, and not “extreme” at all. The Republican Party and their NRA cohorts have pushed the debate about guns so far to the right, it’s utter insanity at this point. A nominee for Surgeon General proposes simple common sense measures to address the gun violence problem, and the right freaks out and blocks his nomination at a time when we need a strong voice for public health more than ever. It’s sick. Deeply sick.

This shit makes me crazy. America is incredibly dysfunctional on the gun issue and people are dying every day because we won’t face the monster we’ve created.

Barbra Streisand Points Out GOP NIH Budget Cuts, Dumbest Man on Internet Rants

They really hate women who speak out
Opinion • Views: 28,123

So today the right wing blogs are all spewing insults at Barbra Streisand (again), because she dared to criticize the anti-women agenda of the Republican Party — but especially because she pointed out that the across-the-board budget cuts mandated by the GOP’s sequestration have wreaked havoc on the National Institutes of Health’s effort to develop a vaccine for Ebola.

The dumbest one of these wingnut blog posts comes from (who else?) the Dumbest Man on the Internet, who calls Streisand “unhinged” and “misinformed,” a case of projection if I’ve ever seen one: Babs Alert: Barbra Streisand Is Latest Unhinged Lib to Blame Ebola on Republicans | the Gateway Pundit.

Complete with Dim Jim’s usual sloppy formatting and one of his trademark idiotic typos.

Babs Alert—-
Barbra Streisand blamed the the [sic] Ebola outbreak on Republicans this week.

In her latest unhinged and misinformed political rant, Barbra Streisand blamed the GOP for Ebola.
The Huffington Post reported, via Shark Tank…

And of course, if you actually read Streisand’s opinion piece (the Huffington Post didn’t “report” this — it’s a piece by Streisand), you’ll find out she isn’t blaming Republicans for the Ebola outbreak at all. She simply pointed out:

By the way, if not for Republicans austere budget cuts, the NIH could have possibly had an Ebola vaccine by now.

And this is the simple truth. Here’s a graph showing the effects of Republican-mandated budget cuts on the NIH over the past decade, to drive this point home:

(Via AATTP.)

I recommend reading Streisand’s full article — because far from being “unhinged,” she makes some excellent points about the need for all of us who care about women’s rights to get out and vote this November: What Is at Stake This November … and Why the Country Needs American Women to Vote | Barbra Streisand.

In an “Open Carry” State Like Ohio, Why Was John Crawford Shot by Police in Wal-Mart?

The answer is pretty clear
Opinion • Views: 26,937
Image via Shutterstock

Here’s a great article at Salon by Heather Digby Parton on America’s messed up and often racist gun culture, and why “Open Carry” groups don’t understand the factors that create police brutality like the shooting of John Crawford in an Ohio Wal-Mart.

After finally being allowed to view the video of the police shooting of a man in an Ohio Wal-Mart, it’s very hard for any reasonable person to conclude that the authorities acted responsibly. They appear not to have given him any chance to drop the toy gun in his hand before shooting him. It’s possible that they were persuaded by the frightened 911 caller that they were entering a deadly situation, but there’s no evidence they heard anything but a description and location of a black man with an afro, wearing jeans and a T-shirt carrying a rifle and threatening people in Wal-Mart. An Ohio grand jury seems to have thought that it was reasonable for police in that situation to shoot first and ask questions later.

If you didn’t know it was a toy gun, it’s easy to see why someone might be afraid. Any time you see people casually carrying guns around you know there’s the potential for a deadly accident or some kind of altercation resulting in death. But obviously, the answer to that problem is not for the police to simply shoot them down. In fact, Ohio is an open carry state, which means that it is perfectly legal to walk around Wal-Mart with a real AR-15 much less a toy they sell right there in the store.

[…]

…Open carry advocates stage demonstrations to “exercise” their right to wear firearms in public all the time. For example, in May a couple of men in Medina, Ohio, walked the streets with such guns slung casually over their backs. Police were called numerous times by people alarmed at the sight of two men carrying AR-15 rifles in the town square. (You can listen to the 911 calls here.) But interestingly, in this case the police didn’t deploy a SWAT team or rush in with guns drawn and start shooting:

Their encounter with police was captured on video cameras, carried by both the men and the officers, which showed the men at first refusing to show their identification when approached by officers. The men complied only after an officer told them they would be disarmed if they didn’t. The officers said they were justified in demanding the IDs because of the 911 calls and because one of the men fumbled when asked his age.

The demand for the ID was the key issue cited by several demonstrators. “We have a constitutional right to carry a firearm to protect ourselves,” said Harry Wynn, of Stow, who wore an AR-15 across his chest and also carried a Glock 30. “Nobody should get forced ID’d because they have a firearm — I don’t care how many 911 calls came in.”

They were asked politely for their IDs. And when they provided them they were allowed to keep walking around in public with real AR-15s. A couple of weeks later a local open carry group staged a demonstration and the police didn’t ID any of them, much less shoot any of them, as they walked up and down the streets of Medina.

Read the whole thing.

Bill Moyers With Andrew Bacevich on the Travesty of “Preventive” War

War is an evil that should command our respect
Opinion • Views: 23,095

Vimeo

As we’re being drawn yet again into the mess created by the Bush administration’s disastrous war of choice in Iraq, here are some interesting and very pertinent comments from Bill Moyers and Andrew Bacevich on the immoral nature of “preventive” war.

BILL MOYERS: What is it about how we go to war? We poured blood and treasure into Vietnam and Iraq and wound up with exactly the opposite consequences than we wanted. And we keep repeating, hearing the same arguments and claims that we should do it again.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, war itself is evil. But war is an evil that should command our respect. War is something that we should not take lightly, that we should not discuss frivolously. And I think that that’s one of the great failings of our foreign policy establishment, that our foreign policy establishment does not take war seriously.

It assumes that the creation of precision guided weapons makes war manageable, removes from war the element of risk and chance that are always inherent in warfare. So these are people who, quite frankly, most of them don’t know much about war. And therefore who discuss war in frivolous ways.

BILL MOYERS: And yet, there’s this still almost religious belief in force as the savior.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I think your use of religious terms is very appropriate here. Because there is a theological — quasi theological dimension to their thinking related, again, to this notion that we are called. We are chosen. We are the instrument of providence. Summoned to transform the world, and therefore empowered to use force in ways not permitted to any others. I mean, the ultimate travesty of the immediate period after 9/11 was the Bush administration’s embrace of preventive war that became then the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003. But it was a general claim — a general claim that the United States was empowered to use force preventively.

This is the kind of person who should be on the Sunday talk shows instead of McCain and Cheney and those windbags.

UPDATE at 6/19/14 6:19:22 pm by Charles Johnson

Another clip from this interview:

Vimeo

BACEVICH: We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.

Let’s look at what U.S. military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question. Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic?

Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism? I mean, if the answer is yes, then let’s keep trying. But if the answer to those questions is no, then maybe it’s time for us to recognize that this larger military project is failing and is not going to succeed simply by trying harder.

The events that are unfolding in Iraq at this very moment promote a debate within Washington revolving around the question, “What should we do about Iraq?” But there is a larger and more important question. And the larger and more important question has to do with the region as a whole. And the actual consequences of U.S. military action over the past 30 years.

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 Frank says:

It is always advisable to be a loser if you cannot become a winner.