Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Bible As Justification for Child Abuse

One of the many evils of the Bible is the manner in which it provides parents citing "deeply held religious belief" justification for what is nothing less than child abuse.  This abuse ranges from physical beatings, deprivation of medical treatment, forced "ex-gay" conversion, to a treatment of children as little better than chattel property.  Sadly, Republicans not only are OK with such abuse but in some states are seeking to expand protections for parents who ought to be criminally prosecuted. A piece in Salon looks at this foul aspect of the Bible and conservative Christians.  Here are highlights:
Why do the same people who fight against abortion argue that parents should have the right to beat their children and deny them medical care or education, as some conservative Republicans have done recently? How can someone oppose family planning because a pill or IUD might have the rare and unintended consequence of interfering with implantation, and then endorse beating a child, which might have the rare and unintended consequence of battering her to death?

These two positions fit together seamlessly only when we understand the Iron Age view of the child imbedded throughout the Bible, and how that view has shaped the priorities and behavior of biblical literalists.

In 2014, Pentecostal parents Herbert and Catherine Schaible went to jail after a second of their nine children died from easily treatable bacterial pneumonia. The Schaibles belong to a sect that relies on prayer for physical as well as spiritual healing. In a police statement, Herbert Schiable explained that medicine “is against our religious beliefs.” 

Most devout Bible believers turn to science when their children can’t breathe, but 38 US states have now passed laws to protect parents who don’t—along with parents who beat their children in accordance with biblical advice, or deny them education on religious grounds.

[L]egislators in multiple states are looking to expand laws that exempt parents like the Schaibles from criminal charges. Georgia recently introduced legislation that appears to offer legal cover to parents who beat their children (and men who beat their wives) for religious reasons. In Idaho, despite more than a dozen child deaths linked to one small sect called the Followers of Christ, Republican state legislators introduced a bill in February granting parents broader leeway to harm children—as long as their motives are religious.  

Since the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, conservative Christians in the U.S. are testing “religious freedom” claims as a means to opt out of a wide array of rules and responsibilities that otherwise apply to all Americans. . . . . exemption from child rights and protections should be thought of as a fourth leg of the “religious freedom” agenda.

Devout Bible believers regularly oppose child protective services, insisting that the right of religious adults to do as they choose trumps the right of children to be free from harm. Evangelical Christian leaders fought the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, making the U.S. one of two countries (along with Somalia) that failed to endorse it. In some U.S. locales, like the State of Virginia, they have sought and won the right to deny children basic education, including the ability to read and write.

In the Iron Age mindset of the Bible writers, children are not individual persons who have their own thoughts, with corresponding rights. Rather, like livestock and slaves, they are possessions of the male head of household, and the biblical framework governing treatment of children is property laws, not individual rights laws.

The term chattelrefers to moveable personal property, economic assets that are not real estate. In the Bible, children, like slaves and livestock, are chattel. Male children grow up to become persons, while females remain chattelthroughout their lives, first as assets of their fathers, then as assets of their husbands.

[T]he biblical formula for parenthood is based on several core assumptions:

§  Children are property of their fathers. This is why God can allow Satan to kill Job’s children  during a wager over Job’s loyalty—and then simply replace them. It is why a man who injures a woman causing her to miscarry must pay her husband for the loss.

§  Children are born bad and must be beaten to keep them from going astray. This mentality combines the idea of original sin because Eve defied God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, with “spare the rod, spoil the child”admonitions from the book of Proverbs. It is one reason that early Christians believed that Jesus, as the perfect “lamb without blemish” could not have a human father and so added the virgin birth story to the Gospels at the end of the 1st Century.

§  A father’s right of ownership extends even to killing his child. This is why it makes sense for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac or Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter, or even God to give his “only begotten son” as a human sacrifice. In the Torah, a man can send his child into battle or sell his child into slavery. The Torah advises that a rebellious son should be put to death.

§  The primary value of adult females is to produce valuable children, meaning male children of known origin. Hence, a female’s virginity is a core part of her economic value. This is why a rapist can be forced to marry the damaged goods in the Torah as is sometimes the case in conservative Islam today, or a female can be stoned for pre-marital sex. In the Hebrew Torah, the wives of the patriarchs send their slave girls to get pregnant by their husbands to up the baby count. In modern America, Evangelical girls attend purity balls and receive promise rings by which they pledge their sexual purity to their fathers until they can be “given in marriage.”

In sum, it is much easier to extrapolate from the biblical worldview to the idea that a parent has the right to beat his child or withhold medical care, or that a teenage sex slave should be forced to bear a child, than to derive the idea that we have a responsibility to bring children into the world under the best of circumstances and to acknowledge their rights as individuals once they arrive. These are fundamentally post-biblical ideas, as is the notion that empowering women to delay or limit childbearing is a positive social good.

For those who are not bound to the priorities of the Iron Age, fetishizing fetal life while hurting and disempowering women or children is morally incoherent.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

How Shifting Demographics May Decide the 2016 Presidential Race

Click image to enlarge

A lengthy piece in Politico Magazine looks at the coming 2016 presidential election and how changing state demographics, particularly Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, may determine the election outcome.    As noted numerous times on this blog, Virginia is changing rapidly demographically even though the Virginia GOP remains fixated on prostituting itself to aging, white, racist, evangelical, rural voters.  Virginia is but one of the states where America's future is about to shift rapidly leaving the GOP on the road to a permanent minority party unless huge changes - changes that will be fought tooth and claw by the Christofascists - take place in the Party.  Here are some article highlights:
The country is going through the most significant period of change since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Across the United States, we are seeing a convergence of economic, technological and demographic forces that is transforming every aspect of our lives. These changes are all reinforcing each other, adding to the pace and the scale of the disruption.

Despite the upheaval Americans are experiencing, voting patterns in presidential elections have remained virtually unchanged for the past 25 years—with the majority of states voting the same way in the last six elections.

Now, though, there are signs that the transformation is starting to pick up steam in our elections. Even though we have yet to feel the full impact at the ballot box we’re nearing a shift that will signal an inevitable political earthquake.

[T]here is a demographic transformation taking place that is literally changing who we are as a country.

If next year’s 2016 presidential election is a close one, the changes that we are now only seeing on the margins could play a significant role in shaping the outcome. In the future, these changes will define our politics deep into this century.

With most states locked in by one party or the other, the presidential contest has largely narrowed to five states that have been consistently competitive in the past six elections: Ohio (which has long been at the 50-yard line of American politics) and four of the fastest growing states in the country—Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. While these states represent only 15 percent of the population and just 75 electoral votes, they have determined the balance of power in close elections during this period.

As recently as 1980, 80 percent of the United States population was white but by 2014 that number had dropped to 63 percent. A recent report, “States of Change,” published by the Center for American Progress, the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, projects that whites will be less than 44 percent of the total population by 2060.

The report points out that there are currently four majority-minority states, but it predicts that 22 states will achieve that status by 2060—accounting for about two-thirds of the country’s population. Many of these states originally became reliable Republican strongholds when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. But, while the political shifts are occurring at different rates of speed, most of these fast-growing states are no longer solid Republican base states.

In Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia—areas traditionally associated with Republican Party strength—the population is trending younger and more diverse, and it is becoming more politically competitive for the Democrats.  The “States of Change” report projects that over half of these states will have a majority-minority population before 2040.

One of the ramifications from these trends will be that other parts of the country—like the Midwest—will lose clout as these demographic and geographic shifts change the political landscape.

Four of the five battleground states that have been decisive in recent presidential elections—Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada—all have the central attributes of 21st century America and will prove to be decisive if 2016 is a close election.

While the 2016 presidential election is likely to reflect the last remnants of this bygone era, the candidate running for president in 2016 who best understands how the country is changing and runs a campaign based on the America of the future rather than the America of the past is most likely to be our 45th president.

I remain dumbfounded that the GOP refuses to recognize the changes that are occurring or do anything to recalibrate its policies.  A tidal wave is coming and the GOP will end up being swept away - a fate that is much deserved.  

Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee File Anti-Gay Briefs

The four states in the 6th Circuit defending their anti-gay state bans on same sex marriage - Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee - have filed their briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, and not surprisingly, they present nothing new and merely a rehash of the same bullshit that we've seen time and time again and make arguments ranging from (i) that of majority mob rule should determine minority rights, (ii) the bans are needed to promote responsible heterosexual procreation,  to (iii) the claim that the bans do not discriminate since no one is barred from marriage as long as its a heterosexual marriage. Of these arguments, I wonder how long these blowhards will sing the song when Christians become a minority in America. Personally, it would be sweet justice to have their rights put to popular vote.  BuzzFeed looks at the tired efforts to justify animus inspired bigotry.  Here are excerpts:

In Ohio, where the state’s law and amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages granted elsewhere are being challenged, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office filed a brief arguing that the marriage issue is best left to the “democratic process” — an argument that formed a significant portion of the appeals court decision upholding the four states’ bans.

Specifically, the brief argues, the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal recognition ban “best shows that this issue belongs with communities for collaborative resolution through vibrant democratic debate and consensus.”

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery defended his state’s recognition ban on far more direct grounds.  “Ultimately, Tennessee is not required to recognize petitioners’ out-of-state same-sex marriages because its own marriage policy is indeed legitimate,” the state’s lawyers write. “Marriage cannot be separated from its procreative purpose, and the inherently procreative capacity of opposite-sex couples cannot be denied. Maintaining a traditional definition of marriage ensures that when couples procreate, the children will be born into a stable family unit, and the promotion of family stability is certainly a legitimate state interest.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear . . . argues that “Kentucky’s marriage statutes and constitutional amendment did not change the law in Kentucky. The laws reflect what has always been the law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the consensus of Kentucky communities – only traditional man-woman marriages will be licensed or recognized.”
In short, it's the same list of tired arguments that the majority of the Court found unconvincing in United States v. Windsor. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Acts Are Not About Religious Liberty

Negative reactions to Indiana's disingenuously named Religious Freedom Restoration Act continue, yet similar acts are making their way through legislatures in Georgia and Arkansas - Arkansas' governor has said he will sign the foul act if it gets to his desk - all in the supposed name of "protecting religious freedom."  Such claims are a lie and are nothing less than an attack on the religious freedom of non-Christofascists and a special license to allow the "godly folk" to discriminate and mistreat others.  A piece in Patheos looks at the hypocrisy and lies behind these acts.  Here are highlights:
There has been a firestorm in the media over the past 24 hours as Indiana’s House of Representatives passed a bill that exempts individuals and businesses from having to comply with the discrimination rulings based on their religious convocations. At the same time in Georgia, another RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) has been approved by the House judiciary subcommittee and is rapidly moving towards becoming law. Advocates are promoting both bills as necessary legislation to bolster religious freedom and protect business owners and private citizens from being forced to provide services to anyone that they disagree with on the basis of their faith.
But embedded in this logic are a number of untruths that, when exposed, unravel the entire argument. First, almost every state in the country already has comprehensive and sufficient religious freedom protections. In no state is it viable to suggest that a Christian pastor could face legal action if they refuse to perform a gay wedding. Our first amendment rights alone offer substantial coverage from such actions. However, it is true that in many states, if a business owner refuses to extend their business to a customer on the basis of religious beliefs, they could face legal action for discrimination, as they should.
Since the founding of our country, we have strived to be a nation that upholds the fundamental dignity of every individual. Yet, when a lesbian couple walks in to a bakery to order a cake for their wedding and is turned away because of their sexual orientation, this act of discrimination clearly undermines their equality and dignity as American citizens and human beings. If a business owner believes that Islam is a “false religion”, he could refuse to provide services to any Muslim patron who walks through the door of his business. This too dehumanizes individuals and reinstitutes principles of discrimination and segregation. It is clear that these bills open Pandora’s box, allowing for discrimination to flourish and setting back our country decades in our progression towards equality.

Despite the fearful picture that is being painted by many legislators and religious leaders about the future of our country once marriage equality is passed, this reality remains true: The religious beliefs and convictions of all Americans are fully protected by both national and state law in all 50 states. No individual will ever be forced to promote or renounce a religious belief and no churches will ever be made to offer sacraments to those they deem unfit. 
It is true, however, that public businesses and corporations that serve the general public will be required to offer fair and equal treatment and service to all people- regardless of their race, creed, political party, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or gender identity. And it is this that new RFRA bills are subversively trying to dismantle.
Can you imagine walking up to a store window and seeing a sign that says, “No LGBTQ People Allowed”. Would you want to support that retailer? What if it said, “No Jews Allowed”? This is essentially what RFRA’s will allow businesses across their state to do, recreating the climate that existed in our country prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
[E]ven though legislators in Indiana and Georgia are claiming to be “bolstering the protection of religious liberty”, they’re really just trying to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ and any other individuals that they disagree with.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Republican Governed Red States Are Economic Parasites

We constantly hear Republicans and the Christofascists and Tea Party crowd (most of whom are Christofascists hiding behind a different label) maligning the poor and attacking the "takers" versus the "creators" as in Mitt Romney's infamous 47% statement.  Yet the biggest parasites of all are red states governed by Republicans.  These states receive far more at the government money trough than their liberal blue state rivals.  Among these ironies is that while the Republicans want to slash food stamps and other benefits, the highest per capita usage of these programs is in red states where moronic voters are duped into voting Republican due to the GOP cynically playing on racism, homophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry.  Politicususa has details on  the findings of a new report.  Here are excerpts:

[Y]et another report reveals that those same red state Republican voters who want the federal government cut to shreds are leeching substantially more assets from the federal government they want destroyed at the expense of blue states that are supporting them. 

 This time the report is not from a liberal-leaning think tank, or any government agency; it is from a commercial organization with no political or economic stake in the study’s results. If this were the first report of its kind showing red state economies would wither and die, and the people would starve, without leaching federal funding from blue states, one may be inclined to dismiss it as an aberration.

However, study after study has consistently  exposed anti-federal government Republican states as being incredibly dependent on the federal government they hate with religious passion and just voted for Republicans to fulfill their wishes and decimate it. Never, never ever, underestimate the power of stupid Republican voters in red states who are a Presidential veto away from seeing their evil dream reach fruition.

The categories were; the return in federal dollars on taxpayer investment, or how many federal dollars a state receives as opposed to what the residents pay in.  The percentage of state revenue from federal funding that keeps the state from declaring bankruptcy and its residents from starving or dying from lack of medical care. The number of non-defense (civilian) federal employees in a state, as opposed to states supported by large military installations. And last, the per capita federal employee rate in the state such as federal marshals, park rangers, federal highway workers, and federal regulators keeping air, water, and food safe.

Republican states have benefitted greatly from federal healthcare such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act, and it is relatively common knowledge that the largest percentage of SNAP (food stamp) recipients are poor white Republicans in red states; likely because red state legislators enacted Draconian ‘right to work’ laws keeping wages at or below poverty levels. What informs the epic stupidity of red state Republican voters is that they are the morons who consistently send Republicans to Washington to rein in the federal budget and cut the federal government down to size.

Congress  . . . just passed a seriously Draconian budget that does precisely what red state voters yearned for; ended “federal interference” in their lives. If the Republican budget stands, red state voters will get their wish and can finally stop bemoaning the horrid ‘federal interference’ in their lives; the interference that kept food on their tables, their families in relatively decent health, and their state economies from going bankrupt. It is likely that the same morons and racists are too stupid to comprehend that the damage their state legislatures have been wreaking on them is about to be magnified a hundred fold due to less federal interference (funding) in their poverty-stricken lives. In fact, it may seem inhumane, but one almost wishes President Obama was not inclined to veto the Republican budget proposals just to let the real Americans, those patriotic “rugged individuals” comprehend just how much worse their pathetic existence would be without the federal government, blue states’ largesse, and humanitarian Democrats unwilling to allow their fellow citizens, no matter how stupid, suffer so the rich get richer.

Some of the poorest states, all red states, are dependent on federal funding for 30 to 45% of their total revenue and the GOP’s budget will slash that revenue and make dire revenue shortfalls already decimating red states seem like an economic bonanza.

There is no accounting for stupid people who, as equally stupid Sarah Palin claims, are the real Americans sitting on their porches holding their guns, their god, and their Constitution while supporting Republicans who promised to ravage the federal government they are convinced is stealing their liberty. 

What is noteworthy is that the blue states that receive 20, 30, or 40 cents in return for every dollar they invest in the federal government are not revolting and threatening to secede. But that is the difference between blue state residents and hateful red state Republicans; they accept that Americans assist their fellow citizens no matter how stupid they are for voting against their own best interests . . . 

Yes, the author is brutal in the manner red state voters are described, but sadly, the assessment is 100% on point. These morons are being cynically played for suckers yet are too stupid to realize it.    As the author notes, it might almost be fun to see the GOP budget pass and then watch the red states' economies crash and burn. 

Hillary's Campaign Launch Plan

While Republican extremists continue to engage in spittle flecked rants about Benghazi and now claims that Hillary Clinton "wiped her server" of e-mails in order to stoke the hysteria among the Tea Party crowd (who are the real parasites in America as a coming post will layout), Clinton is said to be putting in place her campaign launch to "reintroduce her to Real America."  Obviously, no matter what Clinton does, Kool-Aid drinkers will not be won over.  But for the less extreme demographic, the plan is to show Hillary as more "down to earth" and the opposite of what her detractors would have her seem.  An article in Politico looks at the coming campaign launch.  Here are excerpts:
The time and location of Hillary Clinton’s long-anticipated campaign kickoff are closely guarded secrets among her scattered staff — but what she’ll do immediately after her announcement is coming into clearer focus.

Clinton, according to several people familiar with the still-in-flux planning process, will embark on a short tour that will almost certainly include Iowa — and perhaps other states — to interact with voters in a series of events, most of them in low-key settings.

“They know that they need to reintroduce Hillary to America,” said one Democratic insider familiar with the Clinton team’s thinking. “They know it makes no sense to think of this as, ‘Let’s start where she left off on the national stage.’ This is not a continuation of the Hillary we knew as secretary of state. That’s the focus of their energy.”

Clinton aides want to reintroduce her with “humility,” the source added. “They are making sure she understands there are no guarantees, and I think we’re going to see that in her posture and her words. I don’t think people are expecting that.”

Clinton staffers say the kickoff announcement is likely to be made during the first few weeks in April but stressed that no firm date has been chosen yet. Most expect that Clinton’s initial announcement will come via social media or by mass email, followed by events. The location of her first in-person event has yet to be chosen, they say.

The consensus among most Democrats POLITICO spoke to is that Clinton’s two most likely kickoff locations are New Hampshire, site of her stunning come-from-behind victory in 2008, or Iowa, a state Obama won handily, setting the stage for his nomination and presidency. New Hampshire would be a more comfortable choice for the Clintons, who view the state as a friendly bulwark for their brand of establishment Democratic politics. But Clinton’s team wants to convince voters in Iowa — — the nation’s first to vote in 2016 — that she values the battleground state, despite trashing its quirky caucus system eight years ago.

Another source of disagreement among Clinton supporters is what role Bill Clinton should play on announcement day.

“On the biggest day of your campaign, you have your family there and they’re there to support you like any spouse would,” said former Obama adviser Tommy Vietor, dismissing the idea that the former president should be treated any differently.

But other longtime Clinton supporters said Bill Clinton’s presence would confuse Hillary’s message.
“It should just be her. It should be her moment and Bill could overshadow her announcement and remind people of unnecessary baggage.”

Beyond the optics and the strategy for how to reintroduce Clinton, she still has to answer the most basic question of all: why run?

“We still don’t know why she wants to run,” said the operative. “That’s what she has to explain to the American people in her announcement. It’s not that it will establish whether Hillary Clinton is running for president, but why she is running for president.”

The key to Clinton’s success, strategists said, is charging out of the gate with the right populist economic message.

“She needs to explain why she is going to be the one to fight for the middle class and against income inequality, the one who can keep the healing of our economy going, which the other guys are going to unwind,” said Vietor, who also worked on Clinton’s book rollout last summer.

She needs to set up as her foil the Republicans “who want to get rid of Obamacare and go back to a time when they gave big tax cuts to rich people,” Vietor added. “Soon after, it’s going to turn into a slugfest and the announcement is often your best shot.”

Another challenge for Clinton: balancing how she talks about the historic nature of her campaign to be the first woman president with a strong economic message.  

Catholic Church Is Losing Millennails Over Gays and Contraception

There are a number of factors fueling the exodus of Millenials from organized religion not the least of which is the fact that modern science and knowledge are making it harder and harder to believe the myths upon which the Bible and Christianity are based.  Then their is the rank hypocrisy and ugliness of so many of the "godly folk" who make the Pharisees of the Bible look like down right nice and wonderful people in comparison.  And in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, there are also the issues of the Church's positions on gay rights and contraception.  A piece in Crux looks at new findings on Millennials rejection of the Church's teachings.  Here are some highlights which ought to make the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican shudder:
Catholics between the ages of 18 and 34 – the so-called Millennial generation – are split on their support for abortion rights, but reject Church teaching when it comes to contraception and LGBT issues. Those are the findings from a report issued Friday by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington.

About 18 percent of Millennials identify as Catholic, a sharp decrease from the roughly one-quarter of those 65 and older who are Catholic. The most common religious identifier among Millennials: unaffiliated, at 33 percent.

The findings:


[L]arge majorities of Catholics, white and Hispanic, report having taken a sex education class in school, and believe promoting contraception in those classes is a better method for preventing unintended pregnancies over abstinence-only sex education. 
About 70 percent of Catholic Millennials believe “it is morally acceptable to use contraception.”

Most Millennial Catholics also tend to believe that private companies should be required to cover contraception in employee health plans. Sixty percent of white Catholics agree with this, and 68 percent of Hispanic Catholics.

LGBT issues.

Gay rights garners an even higher percentage of support among Millennials. More than eight in 10 white and Hispanic Catholics favor laws that would protect gays and lesbians against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing,” a bit higher than the overall rate of 73 percent.

The report said that 7 percent of Millennials identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Among religiously unaffiliated Millennials, 12 percent identify as LGBT, but the number drops for Catholics: Just 6 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 2 percent of White Catholics identify as LGBT.
Meanwhile, demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke is saying that gays, remarried Catholics and murderers are all the same.  Talk about trying to drive younger Catholics away!  Because of mindsets like Burke's, I suspect that the percentage of Catholic Millennials is so low because most simply leave the Church and no longer consider themselves Catholic.  My children, while straight, have walked away from the Church and have not looked back.