Left In Lowell

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May 22, 2012

The Trouble With Catholics

by at 11:02 am.

Not too long ago, I saw a short clip on City Life that made me wonder: Imagine If Muslims Made An Ad Like This One? Now, my friend George Anthes took exception to me making this point. He felt that it was more than appropriate for Catholics to assert their mores & values, as they headed into the polling booths to cast a ballot. In one regard, I fully agree. The point where I slip off is when politicians take the “will of the People,” as a mandate to codify dogma. It is perfectly fine for any politician/elected official to be “informed” by their faith, but it is another thing altogether to govern by it. The Constitution, dear readers, is very clear on this point.

In light of nitwits like former GOP presidential hopefuls, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to be attuned to the consequences of impasssioned charlatans in the White House. Thus, I flipped the context of the video clip around, wondering if red blooded, apple pie eating, baseball watching, “Sarah Palin - real Americans” could sit quitely by, if Muslims asserted their faith in a similar fashion? You make the call.

Lately I have been tossing around this phrase: “You can’t rationalize a person out of an opinion, they did not arrive at in a rational way.” And this, I feel, is the trouble with Catholics. Well most, anyways.
(more…)

February 26, 2012

Doubling Down On a Bad Hand

by at 5:45 pm.

In case you’ve missed it the last couple of weeks, Scott Brown has mysteriously found his line in the sand to wrap his reelection around, and it’s by signing on as a cosigner to the Blunt amendment, which reads (bold mine so we can remark on it later):

A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) … on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because— (i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or (ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.

Let’s evaluate this first from a campaign perspective, starting on the flip (this is a long post, but it includes videos!). (more…)

February 19, 2012

He’s Effing INSANE!

by at 2:22 pm.

This, this is the latest savior of the Republican primary contest?

Santorum, who in a 2008 speech to Ave Maria University, claims that America’s institutions, from academia to Protestant Christianity to its politics, have fallen to Satan. I’m not actually using hyperbole here, it’s what he actually says!

I think this means he’s certifiable crazy. And, the winger Protestant Christian wing of the party is so going to love being called agents of Satan. I actually regret that this came out so early - would have been better if he won the nomination and then this got circulated.

And people wonder how I became an atheist? Transcript is after the flip, courtesy of the Kyle Mantyla’s post.
(more…)

February 15, 2012

Hey Virginia State House, Stick It Up Your Own &%@^

by at 8:36 pm.

A bunch of dried up old male assholes in Virginia are passing a law that mandates transvaginal ultrasounds for women before getting an abortion:

The ultrasound legislation would constitute an unprecedented government mandate to insert vaginal ultrasonic probes into women as part of a state-ordered effort to dissuade them from terminating pregnancies, legislative opponents noted.

“We’re talking about inside a woman’s body,” Del. Charnielle Herring, a Democrat, said in an emotional floor speech. “This is the first time, if we pass this bill, that we will be dictating a medical procedure to a physician.”

PhotobucketTell you what, Virginia State House (and Senate and Governor if it passes and is signed): why don’t you take this probe, lube it up nice and good (this’ll be cold for a moment), and stick it up your own most intimate orifice?

So you literally want to tell a doctor what procedure they must use on a woman? And for what? “Informed consent” my ass. Of course, everyone knows that this is a lie and it’s about controlling women, but just to spell it out, do you think women are dumb? That they are not informed about what the end result of not terminating a pregnancy is? Oh, gee, it ends with having a baby. You really must think us wee widdle women are idiots.

Except we know one thing: the instant the government mandated you get a stick up your ass or else face lifelong, dire consequences (which bringing a child to term is, for better or worse), you’d be howling and screaming about the violation of your right to privacy and to make up your own mind on the advice of your doctor about what medical procedures are necessary or needed in your own personal case.

But probing a woman with an invasive ultrasound that isn’t even medically necessary in most cases where a woman chooses to have an abortion, hey that’s not a bridge too far for you. This bill makes no sense whatsoever on its supposed merits, unless of course you believe that the poor little woman with a medical probe sticking out of her vagina, upon seeing the fetus wiggling on the screen, will so fall in love with the little tiny heartbeat and fingernails that they suddenly change their minds and hey! you’ve saved a tiny human life that houses a soul (according to YOU) from some sort of gruesome murder.

Except that is not your choice to make, or influence. You’re not only hypocritical in passing this bill that you would not ever pass about male patients, you are tormentors. Bullies. You are misogynists of the most vile kind. I have worse names for you, but I think I have made my point.

Get out of my vagina, and the vaginae of the rest of America’s women. You are not fit to govern, nevermind tell me and my doctor what procedures are or are not necessary.

January 15, 2012

Why Tebowing Bugs Me

by at 4:22 pm.

And it’s not for the reasons you think. I don’t care that he’s a good Christian or that he believes wholeheartedly in an imaginary friend who’s an invisible omnipotent sky man. That’s totally his personal thing, and I am not the thought police. Of course, I reserve the right to call his God an “invisible sky man” all I want, likewise.

And his PDR (public display of religion) doesn’t bother me because I think that he thinks “God is on his side” when he plays football. It’s clear that (though his fans are another story) his faith is something deep, spiritual, and personal to him, and not to be trivialized in such a manner. He doesn’t pray to God because he wins (or loses), he prays to him to thank him for the opportunity to play. That’s cool in a way. I can respect that. He doesn’t credit God for his wins (though again his Christian fans are another story), and like most Christian types, never blames God for his losing. (That whole hypocrisy is another story for another time…)

I can even accept a public display of faith, as long as it stays away from the civic arena (as in, separation of church and state). But here’s why Tebow’s end-zone praying sessions bug the crap out of me:

If Tebow, and this extends to other Christians in similar circumstances, have a personal, deep, and spiritual non-trivial experience of God, then why the need for an excessively public show of faith at such a heightened moment? If it were truly only about his inner dialog with his deity, why not silently talk to God on his way back to the bench, or close his eyes once he gets there to hold a private conversation thanking his god for whatever it is Tebow is grateful for at that moment? I liken this need to kneel down in front of the TV cameras after a touchdown with a similar need of right wing Christians to extend prayer into schools - to make the action a visible display of religion. It is the same reason in both cases. It is a form of proselytizing, expressing your believe in an invisible friend to all onlookers, whether it’s Tebow dramatically kneeling down with his head bowed on a national network, or a school teacher who has her kids (the Christian ones anyway, while the other ones can feel left out and peer pressured) bow their heads at the beginning of class for a prayer. Of course the school prayer movement is not a perfect analogy, since I believe the separation of church and state should preclude that specific case.

So you can’t really say that Tebow’s relationship with his god is just a private, spiritual thing. A large part of his faith, via his theatrical demonstration, is meant to be public; an expression of tribalism, intended to be a showcase of ritual for the sole purpose of hoping to affect the millions of people watching a football game. I’m as inclined to be bugged by Tebow as I am by the Christians or others that come to my door every month or two. Except I can turn away the god people at my door. But when I am watching a game I care about that should have nothing to do with religion one way or the other, Tebow makes it about religion by throwing it in my face.

Ergo, while I respect his right to believe, and his right to make gestures of religion in non-governmental settings, doesn’t mean I have to respect his efforts to proselytize the entire football-watching audience. I find that not only does it do exactly the opposite of what he’s professing - that it actually trivializes his faith, in my opinion - but that by making it so public, and the endless subject of the sports and mainstream media, that he is no better than the cultists that knock on my door hoping to make another invisible-man convert.

Sure, he - and they - have a right to proselytize all they want. But let’s just be clear on what is actually going on here. When Tebow kneels in the end zone, he is not merely having a private, personal moment of faith.

September 8, 2010

Bible Burning Rally This Weekend! Join Us!

by at 10:23 am.

Not so good when the shoe’s on the other foot, I imagine? But that’s exactly what’s going on this weekend - only, with Korans, not Bibles. It would be fitting if us atheists decided to host a Bible burning on the same day, don’t you think? No?

Universal condemnation of the Koran-burning assholes in Gainsville, FL (why, why is it always Florida?) isn’t stopping the tiny, bassackwards church and its leadership from hosting a Koran burning on 9/11. Even the fact that this will harm our troops overseas, and pleas from General Petraeus to not inflame hatred in the Muslim world with this act - not phasing them.

Here are some things that I think would be great counter-protests for the 99% of us that are still sane. Gainsville residents who don’t want to look like your entire town is filled with redneck hillbillies - you can use any of my suggestions and I don’t even need credit!

1. Hundreds of people showing up with a Koran in hand, but only to trick their way to the fire - where they throw a water bottle full of water on the flames, over and over til it’s out.

2. Hire a plane that fights fires and fill it with water, dump it over the site. Soak the lot of these bastards along with their pyre.

3. Get a fire hose (local hydrant?) and spray it into the air above the area so it falls like heavy rain, hitting the crowd and fire.

4. A few hundred people (with earplugs in place) show up to use the most annoying loud sound makers available - vuvuzelas if they can get them, air horns if not - and stand right nearby to drive the assholes away. Since they’re obviously already deaf to the pleas of the entire world, it can’t do much harm.

5. Host a book burning of the pastor’s “Islam Is of the Devil” - every copy you can get your hands on. This is a last resort, though, since it would likely require buying them up in the first place.

Your suggestions? I don’t advocate violence or vandalism, but I wouldn’t be that upset if some enterprising young person sneaked in the night before and plastered the place with obscene phallic symbols. That’s how angry this makes me. If you just can’t contain your hatred and bigotry, at least don’t do something that will endanger our troops and American civilians abroad with your actions. People are going to die because of this.

March 27, 2010

Let Me Count the Ways…

by at 12:49 pm.

If you have a good half hour, a lot of browser tabs, and the stomach, this has got to be the most comprehensive list of Republican hypocrisies, lies, and bigotry you’ll see on the internets. You’ll need a dump truck to deliver it all to your computer…

Look, we all know underlying the debate between Dems and Republicans is a fundamental philosophical difference, points of view that can be debated. (One side, albeit, which is more supported by historic proof and facts than the other, and I mean that. If the debate was fair and honest, there would be a clear winner - the fact-based one.) However, today’s brand of Republican is less governed by their philosophy, and more by winning at any cost.

And beneath the win at any cost attitude, is a whole large segment of the Republican population (egged on, now, by their leaders) which is scared to death of losing white power. This isn’t rhetorical - the evidence is right before our eyes. It’s not even veiled any more. It’s right there, in black and white, audio and video. While there was some pretty serious opposition under, say, Clinton, the tone is entirely different now. A significant minority of the American citizenry are not afraid of a socialist takeover, they are afraid of a black or minority socialist takeover.

For a long time, this bigotry was a quietly-held belief, simmering, mostly invisible, living everywhere, but more prevalent in some regions. It bubbled silently in places where poverty and lack of education are still a problem. In states, particularly, which take more federal tax dollars than they give. Who are not productive enough economies to hold their own. And the more help they need, the more they can be played for their fears.

That simmering has come to a fierce boiling over. If anything, I think the best outcome of electing a black president is to thrust these attitudes out from the shadows. For too long, we have thought we have progressed past racism, and allowed to think that we are, mostly, above it. We’re finding out now that it is still among us.

Racism, in most cases (maybe all?), is the attempt for someone who is discontent with their own lives to blame someone else, The Other, for their problems - instead of their leaders, or themselves, their own actions. It is people in pain, distress, anger, and fear turning blame outward to answer why. It’s tribalism no matter the truth.

What I find the saddest part of this past year and the lengths the Republicans have gone to win, is the cynical way these leaders have decided to use that fear to stoke up their electoral chances. Never mind that this is a losing proposition - that they will and are tuning out the moderate middle, crucial to winning general elections. The violence being embraced by a portion of their followers is a direct result of the statements of Republican leaders, this last year, and prior, about Dems. No longer a loyal opposition, Republicans in office and in the media have decided that calling Dems treasonous, anti-American, fascist, tyrannical, and the arbiters of the death of democracy is the path to regaining a grip on power. But these leaders and media talkers are more to blame for what is happening than even the militia leaders calling for the breaking of windows or other violent acts. The words of Republican leaders are making it permissible for these actions to occur.

All this, of course, while defending one of their own regarding torture, illegal wiretaps, search and seizures, and wars on countries and peoples which have not attacked us while ignoring the ones who did.

The next decade will be very telling for Republicans. Will they do some soul searching and decide that they still want to remain a part of active American democracy, solving the problems we face with honesty and, often, a simple difference of philosophy? To call for the best in our country instead of the worst? Or will they continue to play, and pray, on the fears of many in their party, and become, at best, a permanent regional minority party?

And if they choose the second, who then will be the loyal opposition? We progressives do think that the country needs to swing leftward - I mean, today’s far Right are to the right of Attila the Hun for goodness’ sake - but we don’t want America to be a one party system. I also don’t want the conservative moderates fleeing the Republican totalitarian attitude to stretch the boundaries of what it means to be a Democrat (as has happened in Massachusetts, or with people like Sen. Spector). Come back towards sanity, Republicans, because the future of our democracy - and the nature of the debate - is at stake.

I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope right now, however. Talk to me in ten years…

February 11, 2009

What happens when “I stand with Israel” becomes “I stand against democracy in the Middle East”?

by at 12:59 pm.

(Cross-posted at BlueMassGroup)

So the elections are in and it looks like the hard-liner Israelis (as well as hard-line Palestinians) have sucessfully reaped benefits from the current rounds of conflict. This, in all likelyhood, means more lip-service to a two-state solution at the same time as settlements continue to expand. It seems to me that incentives for Palestinians to negotiate at this point are dwindling by the day. At some point they will come to the conclusion that any two-state option that Israel is willing to give isn’t one worth having. What then?

More below the fold. (more…)

December 1, 2008

Fight Hate: Phelps Coming to Boston

by at 12:53 pm.

Some of you might remember when the hateful Fred Phelps came to Dracut and Lowell. The best way to fight a person like this isn’t to give him the attention he craves and didn’t get from his mother as a child, but to use him to make progress instead. We raised over $600 for equality groups in MA in two counter-rallies where we asked people to give a pledge “for every minute that hate stands here.”

In other words, the longer he and his ilk stood in hate, the more money we raised for equality. Go gay agenda!

Well, now this moron is planning to come to Boston to picket the show “The Laramie Project” at the Boston Center for the Arts, and it’s time to use him like a cheap tissue once again to raise awareness - and cash! - for gay rights. Chris Mason posts at BMG that they are using the same exact idea, pledging per minute. Donations this time are for Driving Equality, an “85-day trek across America to all of the lower 48 states to advance LGBT equality.” You can pledge here.

September 2, 2008

The Failure of Abstinence-Only

by at 9:34 am.

The personal family trials of VP pick Sarah Palin should be off limits. Obviously the press has a right to report and discuss the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter Bristol, but hands off interviewing her, her friends and people surrounding her in a paparazzi-like frenzy.

That said, it’s still a legitimate discussion point, particularly because of Palin’s views on abstinence-only education.

Statistics (real ones, not the faked ones we get from the Bush administration) show that teens who get abstinence-only ed, instead of comprehensive sex ed (which always includes abstinence, as well as contraceptive and other alternatives) are just as likely to engage in sexual activity as their more educated counterparts, but of course less likely to know all the information that could prevent them from getting sick or pregnant.

A recent CDC report said that 1 in 4 girls has an STD (sexually transmitted disease). Another CDC report told us last year that abstinence-only was literally ineffective (information which the Bush administration tried to release as quietly as possible on a Friday).

Sadly, it seems that Sarah Palin’s daughter had become another statistic proving this point.

The right thing to do, the moral one, is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. I’m all for that. The route to do so, however, is not to lock your kids in a dark room blindfolded and hope they can trip and feel their way out on their own. I’ll say one thing - the McCain team is as opposed to real science and practical real-world solutions as the Bush administration has been. A fine legacy to take up if you ask me.

So I say let’s leave Bristol alone. However, her mother and her views on sex ed and a woman’s right to choose are totally fair game. And remember, the same right wingnuts who salivate over Palin and her family values are the ones who want to take contraceptives away - from consenting, even married, adults. Overturning Roe v Wade (which both McCain and Palin say they are for) overturns the reasoning for making bans on contraception unconstitutional.

And does anyone believe that McCain really knew about this? Of course he would say he did, even if he didn’t. “Uhhh…I meant to do that!” It’s like a comedy routine, only…it’s not funny.

All this, of course, shouldn’t overshadow Palin’s ethical troubles…which the McCain camp also says they knew about. Except they have now sent a campaign team to Alaska to, um, find out if there’s more to know. Oops!

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