Tuesday, October 06, 2015

"Bigot" As A Synonym For "Realist"

In Alternet, where Adam Johnson is an associate editor, it's "Richard Dawkins & Bill Maher Still Baffled Why so Many Liberals Think They're Bigots-- Here's Why." In its Salon reprint, it's "Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins just don't get it: The real reason(s) progressives can't stand them."

To the contrary: they do "get it" and they- or at least Maher- is not a bigot (video of theabsolutely horrid conversation below). Johnson maintains

Dawkins doesn’t go after “all religions” equally. Quite the opposite, he has said that Islam is uniquely sinister, referring to it as “unmitigated evil“, on numerous occasions. Accusations of bigotry against Dawkins, therefore, are not selective in favor of Islam, they are areaction to his selective, repeated highlighting of it – fair or not. Secondly, this position is dripping with libertarian false equivalency. The “I criticize all religions equally” is the close cousin to “I criticize all races equally” — a principle that sounds cute in theory but willfully ignores the burden of history and imperialism.

I rarely have heard the phrase "I criticize all races equally," but perhaps I need to get out more often. Clearly, Johnson appears to be unaware that Dawkins and Maher abhor all manifestations of religous or spiritual belief, whether Western religion, eastern religion, or any New Age perversion of either. Typically, Bible-believing Christians, many of them unaware of Maher's equal opportunity criticism, consider these guys reprehensible.

Obviously obsessed with the evil of western civilization, Johnson argues that the President Obama who

has bombed seven Muslim countries in as many years is seen as irrelevant. Western panic and outrage over “women in beekeepers suits” (what Maher calls burkas) is entirely divorced from the convenient “civilizing mission” of America’s wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

Johnson does not acknowledge that women have been wearing burkas/beekeeper suits since long before "America's wars in Iraq,Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan."   He ignores the genital mutilation, honor killings, and the dearth of democratic traditions in Islamic nations.

These characteristics pre-date those wars to which Johnson refers, and which the USA didn't begin. Moreover, no one in American government has described any activities as part of a "civilizing mission," though one must credit Johnson for a subtle implication of racism without specification of individuals or events.

He claims

Without directly addressing American empire and its relationship to radical Islam their analysis will invariably be superficial. Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have walked into a game between a Division III college football team and the New England Patriots and feel good about themselves for calling holding on both sides. In a very limited, morally O.C.D. way, they’re correct, both sides are technically in violation given the rules of the game. But without addressing these rules or the broader power asymmetry at work, they’re party to a farce, a rigged discourse that mistakes “consistency” for fairness and posturing for principle.

Sorry, Adam: while Maher never has denied that the war in Iraq has contributed to radicalization in the Arab world, terrorist groups such as ISIL cannot be explained merely as an offspring of western imperialism.  Nor will obliviousness to that organization's barbarity, directed most enthusiastically toward innocent, men, women, and children, decline if a blind eye is turned toward its fanaticism or the foreign policy of the west is scapegoated.   Neither is ISIL (or al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, or other terrorist groups) akin to  a Division III team playing the New England Traitors (uh, er, Patriots).

This is not the Penn Quakers. Nor were US forces responsible when, as was reported in August

ISIL has claimed a powerful car bombing that tore through a Cairo police building on Thursday, injuring at least 29 people.

Six policemen were among those wounded in the explosion but officials said that none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Described by a resident as “like an earthquake”, the overnight explosion shook the working-class Shubra district of northern Cairo, severely damaging the front of the police office and shattering the windows of nearby buildings.

The attack came just days after president Abdel Fattah El Sisi imposed a tough new antiterrorism law. The country is facing a militant insurgency spearheaded by Sinai Province, a local affiliate of ISIL.

Egypt’s interior ministry said that a car had exploded outside the police building, which houses a centre for investigating threats to national security, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Prior to the explosion, a man was seen parking the car in front of the building and escaping on a motorbike that had followed the vehicle, the ministry said.

“One policemen suffered moderate injuries and the rest [of those hurt] had minor injuries,” said health ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar.

Nor is ISIL the hapless Chicago Bears or the Detroit Lions (from whom officials snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Monday night), for as we learned in August

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, giving them control of almost half of the country, according to a monitoring group.

Located in central Homs province and in the heart of Syria, Palmyra lies 210km northeast of Damascus in desert that stretches to the Iraqi frontier to the east.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that ISIL now controls approximately 95,000 sq km of land in nine out of 14 provinces since they declared their alleged caliphate - which puts them in control of almost half of the country.

When Syria's Bashir al-Assad died, power was transferred to his son, Bashir al-Assad, and not by a fair and free election.  The military state endured and the government in Baghdad has become increasingly theocratic.   Bashir's Baathist regime has been marked by its own viciousness, including torture of political enemies, starving the citizens whom it doesn't spy on, destroying a city of nearly a million people, and the use of chemical weapons. And that state is ISIL's sworn enemy, demonstrating the nature of conflict in the Middle East, and of the partisans involved.

Admittedly, European and non-Muslim nations are not blameless. That applies particularly to Russia, whose contribution to the Syrian civil war now appears to be bombing U.S.-aided rebel groups, which have at least a pretense to desiring a democratic state.

Russia is, however, an outlier among nations not overwhelmingly Islamic. It may not be true, as Aayan Hirsi Ali contends, that "Islam is not a religion of peace."  However, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we at least must admit it might be a duck, and labeling prominent critics of Islam "bigots" will not prove the religion plays no role in the world's most flammable tinderbox.

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Monday, October 05, 2015

We Get A Clue In Winter

On Friday, Sam Seder stated (video below) of the meeting of Pope Francis and Kim Davis on his Majority Report

The reason why it was surprising for some people is that Pope Francis has made a point of saying "Look, I'm not exactly changing Catholic dogma but I am changing our priorities as to what we should see as being urgent" and he basically said "You know these social issues like the existence of, and the marriage of, gay people, even the question of abortion, they're important they're not that important. They shouldn't define Catholicism's face to the world."

Presumably, we'll learn in 3-4 months whether Pope Francis, as suggested by Seder, wants his religion to be seen less as intruding into the flock's private decisions about sexuality than about "saving the planet and some kind of economic justice."

Via Crooks and Liars via Alan Colmes on Liberaland we learned on Friday

Pope Francis and the Vatican have to rely on local authorities of the church when there is a visit to foreign countries, and if there is a sense that the Pope has been misled, there is hell to pay. Visits with the Pope in D.C. were arranged through the office of Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², the papal nuncio, or envoy, in Washington.

The Rev. James Martin, editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America, had cautioned in an article this week that the pope meets many well-wishers on his trips, and that news of the meeting with Ms. Davis had been manipulated.

"I was very disappointed to see the pope having been used that way, and that his willingness to be friendly to someone was turned against him," Father Martin said in an interview on Friday…

Archbishop ViganĂ² is turning 75 in January, the age at which bishops must submit a formal request to the Vatican asking for permission to resign. These requests are not automatically accepted, and bishops often stay in their appointments well past age 75. But if Archbishop ViganĂ² is held responsible for what is seen as a grave misstep on an important papal trip, he is likely to be removed at the first respectable opportunity, according to several church analysts.

Charles Pierce, who is inclined to give the pontiff the benefit of a doubt, wrote the initial post suggesting Vigano's responsibility for Francis' meeting and his subsequent interview with ABC News' Terry Moran. He blames the "high level clerical ratfcking" on "civic layabout" Davis, "her most recent husband, and her dingy legal team."

Still, Pope Francis must not only talk the talk, but walk the walk because actions speak louder than words and the proof is in the pudding (cliche day here at the blog!). Arguably, taking any action now against Archbishop Vigano would provoke additional controversy undesired by the pontiff. But within a few months, Pope Francis will have a chance to demonstrate that he is the real deal.

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No Politics Here

On Thursday, Ed Morrissey of the influential conservative Hot Air wrote

In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen Democrats screaming about the politicization of four Americans killed more than three years ago in a woefully unprotected consulate in the middle of a failed state created by the policies of a Democratic president and their leading presidential contender, and at almost the same time the leader of the Democratic Party demanding we politicize a shooting that just ended without bothering to wait for any facts at all.

Morrissey is appalled that Democrats would be critical because the second leading GOP member of the House and favorite to become the next Speaker told Sean Hannity "everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

Mission accomplished.   Four months ago, Kevin Drum asked "How many metric tons of evidence does it take for them to admit that it was a tragedy but not an act of treason?"  We now know evidence was the last thing concerning the GOP, but it has succeeded in sowing considerable doubt about the Democratic presidential front-runner, whose favorability numbers have been tumbling.

Politics is what politicians do.  Responding to the mass shooting, Dr. Donald Trump, PsyD., who has examined Christoper Harper-Mercer three times fewer than three, explained  "absolutely a terrible day... it sounds like another mental health problem."

That was only GOP boilerplate, however, virtually a knee-jerk reaction until congressional Republicans can go back to threatening to shut down the government, blocking appropriations for, among other things, mental health centers.  By contrast, the response of John Ellis Bush was quite intriguing.  When he was asked to clarify his comment "Things happen all the time. Things. Is that better?" Bush remarked

Tragedies.  A child drowned in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. Well it may not change it. Or you have a car accident and the impulse is to pass a law that deals with that unique event. And the cumulative effect of this is, in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty.

A swipe at regulation might have been a slick comment for a Republican primary, yet another nod to the Party's corporate wing by a candidate who was (initially) its favorite. But not for John Ellis Bush, for it turns out

as governor of Florida in 2000, the now-White House hopeful had signed a bill into law that imposed penalties for residents who did not add extra safeguards when installing pools.

"The new law requires Floridians who install pools or hot tubs after Sept. 30 to install one of four safety measures: fencing directly around the pool, safety covers, door alarms or self-latching doors. Failure to comply could carry a 60-day jail term or a $500 fine," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported at the time.

The law was named the Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act. De Ibern hit his head and fell unconscious into a pool while Merriam drowned in her family's pool, the Sentinel reported. Both were young children.

What Carly Fiorina is to lying, John Ellis Bush may be to hypocrisy, although Fiorina's self-righteous dishonesty represents an exceedingly high bar.  For sheer pandering- firearm division, John Kasich is a formidable competitor. Informed in an interview of the incident in Oregon, the Ohio governor was asked "you have an 'F' rating from the NRA because you support gun control. How come we can't break this and find some change?"

He could have said "You have just told me about this horrible tragedy, so it wouldn't be right for me to comment" or "let's not rush into anything in haste and instead carefully consider the facts and arguments." But having failed to receive the "let's not say or do anything impulsive"memo from Morrissey and other conservatives, Kasich replied

I've always received an "A: rating since I've been governor because, look, one thing you can learn is you can strip all the guns away but the people who commit crimes or have problems are always going to have the guns. And I think more and more people are thinking "I'd like to protect myself."

Kasich forgot one of the golden rule of politics: don't let on that it's all about yourself when you can invoke "family" as in "And I think more and more people are thinking 'I'd like to protect my wife and children.'  But he was deft enough, as the video above indicates, to waste no more than 2.5 seconds to assert his pro-gun credentials.

President Obama has challenged news organizations to "tally up the number of Americans who've been killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade, and the number of Americans who've been killed by gun violence, and post those side by side on your news reports."  But the appeal gather information and to reason does not hold a candle to the pandering , disingenuousness, or ignorance required for a Republican presidential nomination.

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