Saturday, June 16, 2018

Suffer the little children

Nothing illustrates the complete moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Donald Trump's supporters, apologists, and enablers better than Jeff Sessions's Biblical justification for separating children from their families:
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”
Perhaps Sessions has forgotten that the Holocaust was conducted entirely in accordance with German law?  Or that American slavery was likewise according to law (and Biblically justified by the very same passage that Sessions invoked)?  Or that Otto Warmbier was tortured to death in strict accordance with North Korean law?  Or is he seriously suggesting that it is the Will of God that we meekly accept these atrocities?

I'm frankly surprised that Sessions decided to invoke Romans rather than Mark.  After all, Jesus himself says that the little children should suffer.  If you're going to pervert the message of the Bible why not go all-in?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trump makes it look easy

One has to wonder, after Donald Trump's tidy wrapping-up of the North Korea situation (he did everything short of come right out and say "peace for our time!"), what all the fuss was ever about.  It took only a few months (or forty minutes, depending on how you count) to go from the the brink of nuclear war to BFFs.  Today the U.S. seems to be getting along better with North Korea than with Canada (or, frankly, any western nation).  If dealing with North Korea was that easy, why hadn't anyone done it before?  Maybe Donald Trump really is the master negotiator he portrays himself to be?

Um, no.  The outcome of the Singapore summit is just another Trump flim-flam, and not just because the only tangible result it produced was a major unforced error by the U.S.  Imagine if Barack Obama had done what Trump just did.  The exact same words spoken, the exact same outcomes.  What would be the Republican's response?

Happily, we don't have to imagine it.  We know exactly what their response would be, because we know what their response was when Obama produced an actual verifiable deal for Iran to give up its nuclear weapons.  They were absolutely apoplectic about that.  It was a terrible deal!  So bad that it had to be unilaterally torn up and re-started from scratch.

But the North Korea non-deal?  The unilateral cessation of war games with no corresponding concessions from the North Koreans?  The Orwellian re-writing of North Korea's atrocious human rights record?  That is masterful statecraft.  Because that was done by Trump and not Obama!

There was a time when politicians put country before party.  In the 1970s, Congress overrode Richard Nixon's veto to pass the Clean Water Act.  (Imagine that happening today!)  Then a few years later, the Senate voted 77-0 to establish a select committee to investigate the Watergate scandal.  (Ditto!)  Donald Sanders, the man who discovered the existence of the Watergate tapes and arranged for that knowledge to become public, without whom we would never have known that Richard Nixon was, in fact, a crook, was a Republican.

Those days are long-gone.  Today's Republicans stand for party loyalty over country, over the truthueber alles.  Everything Obama did is bad.  Everything Trump does is good.  Never mind the actual merits, what matters is that Trump "succeeded" where all of his predecessors failed.  Especially Obama.  Oh yes, especially that illegitimate un-American Muslim-loving Barack Husssssssein Obama!  Thank God that nightmare is finally over!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

If the shoe fits

Fox-and-Friends host Abby Huntsman, in a rare moment of lucidity, today referred to the upcoming summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un as "a meeting between two dictators".

The best part is that nobody on the show seemed to notice, perhaps because there is such a thick pile of lies and self-deceptions that Trump apologists have to keep track of that sometimes the truth can slip through the cracks.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

PSA: Blogger comment notifications appear to be kerfliggered

I normally get an email notification whenever anyone posts comment here, but I just noticed that this feature doesn't seem to be working any more.  I hope this is temporary, but I wouldn't bet my life savings on it.  I don't think the Blogger platform is a top priority for Google.  So until I can figure out what to do about it just be aware that I might not be as responsive to comments as I usually am.  It's not because I don't love you any more.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

SCOTUS got the Masterpiece Cake Shop decision badly wrong

The Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in the gay wedding cake case yesterday.  It hasn't made as much of a splash as expected because the justices tried to split the baby and sidestep making what might otherwise have been a contentious decision.  But I think they failed and got it wrong anyway.

The gist of the ruling was that Jack Phillips, the cake shop owner, wins the case because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission exhibited "hostility" towards Jack Phillips religion when its members failed to contest the following statement made by one of its members:
I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.
About which the Court's opinion says:
To describe a man’s faith as “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use” is to disparage his religion...
But the statement does not describe Jack Phillips faith as  "one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use."  What is despicable is not Phillips's faith, it is the use of that faith to hurt others which is being said to be despicable.  (And it is.)

The opinion goes on:
The commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips’ [sic] invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti- discrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.
Again, it is very important to distinguish between two very different things.  It would indeed be inappropriate to compare Phillips's specific claim to slavery or the holocaust.  There is absolutely no moral equivalence there.  But again, that is emphatically not what the CCRC commissioner's statement says.  That statement is making the general observation that, historically, atrocities have been justified on religious grounds.  And that is simply a fact.

Ultimately this opinion is a reflection of Christian Persecution Complex, the unfounded belief held by many Christians in the U.S. that the mere existence of public critiques of Christianity is an attack and potentially an existential threat.  To say that Christianity was overtly used as a justification for slavery in the U.S. is disparagement and conclusively indicative of covert and nefarious bias, never mind that this is in fact demonstrably true.  The First Amendment apparently protects people from hearing anything unpleasant said about their religion by a government agent, even if those things are factually correct.

I do respect the Court's attempt to thread the needle here and come up with an inclusive ruling that would leave neither gays nor Christians out in the cold.  Unfortunately, it's simply not possible in this case.  The sad fact of the matter is that Jack Phillips and his ilk are simply on the wrong side of both history and morality, just as the defenders of slavery and segregation were in their day.  There is nothing wrong with being gay, just as there is nothing wrong with being black.  Discriminating against gay people is every bit as wrong as discriminating against dark-skinned people, notwithstanding anything you may believe, however sincerely, about what God has to say about it.