Civil Rights

Paul Fidalgo's picture

The Mercy of Medved

I continue to be amazed at how hurt many religious people claim to be by the atheist plaque at the Washington State Capitol Building. I have written on my own blog about the false equation often made of criticism of a person’s choice of religion versus denigration of a person for accidents of their birth (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). I posit that criticizing a particular religion (or religion in general) is akin to criticizing someone for being a Democrat or a Keynesian: it is a reaction to someone’s philosophical or ideological choice, the tenets of which are open to debate. It is not the same as hating someone simply because they are black or gay or Romanian or what have you.

Chuck Norris (for whom I think a whole separate post is required to lament the loss of a folk hero to wingnutsville), for example, has “written” an “article” for the “news site” WorldNetDaily in which he laments:

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Footprints On The Beach

Beliefnet columnist Rob Dreher is of the "what's the big deal?" and shrug your shoulders-variety of Christian conservative who believes that all of us folks that are concerned with the separation of church and state, and the civil rights inherent in the first amendment, should quit getting our panties in a wad.

[Rob Dreher] You might be able to say that the goal of secularism is to separate Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, from governance--but you'd have to prove, first, that fundamentalist Christianity is unduly entangled with governance. Aside from the matter of a few attempts to get either Intelligent Design or Creationism into government schools, though, or at least to remind students that the theory of evolution does not in any way prove the non-existence of God no matter how many times, or in how many ways, this is claimed, it's hard to see just where the excessive entanglement between Christianity and government might lie.

Putting aside the absolutely loopy insinuation that "secularists" make the claim that evolution somehow "proves the non-existence of God" (it doesn't - evolution says exactly ZERO about the Christian God), I would like to address Rob's paragraph here:

There is no logical secular reason to oppose the death penalty, for one example, after all; a true secularist could just as easily see such an act as a necessary operation to remove an unsatisfactory and destructive collection of self-aware human tissue from the body politic before the cancer of his lethiferous actions spreads to other self-aware tissue collections. But the new secular morality is taking some of its shape from the old Christian one, while rejecting other aspects of it--which means that it is not Christian morality in toto being rejected, just those elements of it which interfere with the secular vision.

There is no such animal as a "true secularist". Any more than there is a "True Christian(tm)". I call strawman.

And also, a "self-aware tissue collection"? Seriously? Does Dreher *truly* believe that these mythical "True Secularists(tm)" think of their fellow human beings in this way?

Now he's just being silly.

Because the right thing, in the new secular morality, will always be that thing which elevates the atomized individual and his choices in the sexual, biologically-manipulable, life and death arenas over any other thing. The manifesto was written, and it reads: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey).

That is the foundational truth upon which the new secular morality upon which the laws of our new national reality, devoid of "religion," will be based. And the reason the old Christian morality has to go is that it has rejected that insanely relativistic notion and the path to the nihilistic darkness to which it leads.

Gosh, it sure is fun to make up a parody of an entire group of people, then attribute wild and crazy motivations to them, thus making it easier to paint them as soulless freaks who are trying demoniacally to lead America down the "path to nihilistic darkness".

I mean, it's ever so much more interesting than, say, the truth. It certainly makes for a more interesting Beliefnet column - that is, if you can swallow the premise of a ravaging sub-human horde of baby-eating atheist liberals bent of the destruction of America.

So, what is the truth? The truth is that most folks are good people. They love their families and their friends. They celebrate Christmas. They give to charity. They consume, and in doing so, keep our capitalist economy chugging along. They vote for the guy they think will do the best job. They babysit their neighbor's kids, and carpool to work. They are concerned about the environment, but love their big V-8s and their ATVs. They hunt. They fish. They go to work, and bring home a paycheck for the family.

People are people. There are extremes, of course, but the vast middle-ground is filled with basically decent, friendly, good people. They are made up of all colors, and all political parties.

There is no sinister secular plot to supplant the "traditional Christian morality". Christian morality isn't "dissolving". That's just hogwash. Our HUMAN morality has developed and changed and - yes - evolved, throughout the history of our species. It will continue to evolve to meet the unique and changing conditions and needs of our societies. One does not "supplant" the other. "Morality" is all one big, homogeneous, changing, fluid set of guidelines that - through trial and error over hundreds of thousands of years, us humans have agreed-upon in order to make our societies work better.

Some "moral" things are almost always there; Don't murder. Don't rape. Protect women and children, etc. Other things come and go as needed by the species to better survive; Take more than one wife. Cannibalism is OK. Incest is OK if there aren't any other people around. Human sacrifice pleases the gods. Etc. All of these "sometimes" things have been "moral" at some point in our history. That fact that we generally don't consider them to be "moral" actually supports the idea that morality evolves and changes over time, according to it's "environment" (human society).

Please note that trying to stop this change, this evolution of morality, is akin to trying to stop the waves from washing away your footprints on the beach. Futile and childish.

Morality is an expression of our species-level human survival. It is not about a god, gods, God, godlet, goddess, or no-god.

So, Rob Dreher, great column and all - it was fun to read, and to pick apart. But ultimately it's nothing more than sound and fury, signifying nothing more that your own petulant denial of the nature of reality.

Jim Downey's picture

Just a follow-up.

Just a follow-up to this post, because this nice little news item is making the rounds on teh intarwebs:


Like Mark Draughn, I've been somewhat skeptical of Barry Cooper, the former drug cop turned pitchman for how-to-beat-the-cops videos. He comes off as more of a huckster than a principled whistle-blower, which I think does the good ideas he stands for (police reform) more harm than good.

But damn. I have to hand it to him. This might be one of the ballsiest moves I've ever seen.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

It's A Free Country - Except For Those Dirty Atheists

Manitowoc County, Wisconsin County Board supervisor in charge of approving or disapproving requests for displays on county land, has settled the hoary old "separation of church and state" issue for good.

Apparently, us atheists don't exist, so we don't get equal time in Manitowoc County.

Screw the Constitution - County Board Supervisor Norbet Vogt has SPOKEN!

Norbert Vogt is a County Board supervisor on the Public Works Committee, which reviews requests to place items on county land. A sketch of the proposed display must accompany the written request.

He said he wouldn't have a problem with other faith communities — such as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhism — seeking to have a religious display at the courthouse. "It's a free country," Vogt said.

However, he would have a problem with atheists putting up a sign declaring, "There is no god."

Vogt said everybody realizes there is a Supreme Being, and it would be unacceptable to have a sign denying that reality.

Ziegelbauer said he thinks the Nativity scene "looks wonderful," though he is not involved in the approval process.

He said non-Christians, including atheists, could request display space, but said, after checking with Public Works Director Jeff Beyer, that none have.

Frackin' know-nothing, petty tinpot dictators. Local government seems to attract the type. Here's his contact page at the Manitowoc County website - you know, in case you'd like to express your opinion about his bigotry towards atheists.

Jim Downey's picture

Time to end Prohibition again.

The radio said 13 degrees. It's cold enough that the cats have left taking turns curling up on my lap, and have parked themselves on radiators. We're fortunate that we can afford to heat this 125 year old house, at least enough to keep us warm if we wear layers.

And the news is as cold as the weather: 533,000 jobs cut last month, over one and a quarter million in just the last three months. Take a look on how Yahoo! news titled that link - it's very telling. As I have written previously, I think we're in for a long haul, something akin to a true depression rather than just a bad recession. All the elements are in place, many are already playing out just as they did during the Great Depression. And, as bad as it is, I think this is also a time of potential - potential to make some changes which would normally be resisted by entrenched interests: reregulation (intelligent reregulation) of the financial sector; revamping transportation to create an infrastructure supporting mass transit; introduction of single-payer health insurance; elimination of our insane War on (Some) Drugs.

Jim Downey's picture

There's a reason . . .

. . . why the only picture of any president in my entire house is of Jefferson:

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much
liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
-- Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stuart, 1791

Jim Downey

HT to ML for the QOTD.

Jim Downey's picture

TSA: Defining 1% as success.

Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have set forth the "One Percent Doctrine" following the 9-11 attacks. The basic premise is that if there is just 1% chance that an enemy is planning a serious terrorist attack, we have to treat it as though it were a certainty, and respond accordingly.

So, I suppose it really is no surprise that all the absurdity of "behaviour detection" that the TSA employs at airports leads to just a 1% arrest rate, and that they proclaim this as ""incredibly effective." No, seriously:

TSA's 'behavior detection' leads to few arrests

WASHINGTON — Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped.

Jim Downey's picture

Settlement Reached in 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' Case

Some good news on the Free Speech front:

Settlement Reached in 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' Case

The seven-year Bong Hits 4 Jesus saga appears to be over.

In a free speech case that reached the nation's highest court, the Juneau-Douglas School District and former student Joseph Frederick have reached a settlement.

Frederick was suspended during a 2002 Olympic torch relay for holding up a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" while standing across from the high school.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school's position that Frederick celebrated the illegal use of drugs. The district will pay Frederick $45,000. In exchange Frederick will drop remaining claims not heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

It All Makes Perfect Sense Now

Some folks are just plain crazy. Case in point: David Caldarola, author of an op-ed piece in the Chicago Daily Herald claims that the election is a religious war, between "the faithful" and the dreaded, nasty, soulless, baby-eating atheists.

And here all along I thought that this Presidential election was between John McCain and Barack Obama. Silly me!

[link] Liberalism is socialism-Communism-Marxism; all of which require atheism.


This is not an election between Obama and McCain. It's between atheists and the faithful.

So, according to David "Batshit Insane" Caldarola, this is how it works: Liberalism = socialism = communism = marxism = atheism. Obama is a liberal, therefore, ipso facto, Q.E.D., Barack Obama is an atheist bent on world domination, who wants to distribute your wealth to puppy grinding facilities all over North America.

It's all so very simple - when you're crazy.

Holey frakkin' Christ crackers. I'm no Einstein, but I will be so glad to have this election over with, and finally have a President whose IQ is higher than mine. That would be a nice change.

BrainArmor's picture

Local kids done good

Here in California we've got a stupid ballot initiative that seeks to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Well the money has poured into the state from the Mormons and Dobson's Focus on the Family group and they're blanketing the airwaves, planting signs, and fielding troops on the ground to stand and street corners in matching shirts who wave Yes on 8 signs.

I just read an article about some high school kids who are doing their part to fight against this. Here is a great quote from one of them:

"Prop. 8 is not only a religious issue. It's an issue of discrimination and prejudice. Who's to say atheists and agnostics won't be next?"

This is a kid who started a school club called the "Freethinking Atheist and Agnostic Kinship student club"

Just maybe there's hope after all...

Brent Rasmussen's picture

President Palin's Acceptance Speech

Incredibly frightening satire from Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez over at AlterNet:

[link] So what else won’t change with me? I’ll tell ya. Freedom of religion won’t change either. You won’t find me settin’ restrictions on religion. It’s just gonna be a matter of learnin’ t’think about things a little different is all. We all know that there is really only one true religion and that’s why as governor of Alaska I made sure to add a Christian heritage holiday but did you see me do that for any of those other satan cults? No you did not and that’s because I know the difference, as a good a positive American, between religion and plain old superstition and crazy talk.

So you guys, I’m super happy to tell you today that you are finally free to be religious and that’s exactly what the founding fathers wanted when they wrote the USS Constitution out there in Pearl Harbor that time with the pilgrims and the Indians because they were Christians like me even if the liberals keep insisting they were Deists which also, is total crazy talk because there’s no such thing and never was as someone who believes in nature as God because God knows just like I know that nature is nothing more than his gift to us so that we can go huntin’ and drillin’ and drive around on ATVs. So you are free to pick the Christian church you wanna go to! Isn’t that awesome? There’s so many to choose from, it’s like when you go into the Target and you can’t decide which kind of disposable diaper to get. I’m all about choices.

For the first time in a long time we are on the brink of a political situation that could very easily become a death blow to this great American experiment of ours.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross ." - Sinclair Lewis

Heinlein nailed it more than 50 years ago in the postscript to his "2nd American Revolution" collection called "Revolt In 2100", but apparently we didn't pay attention:

[R.A.H.] "As for the second notion, the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture. It is rooted in our history and has broken out many times in the past. It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in the country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti- intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian."

"It is a truism that almost any sect, cult or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so. . . . The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue."

". . . Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not -- but a combination of the dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday's efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, Anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti- furriners' in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening -- particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

". . . Impossible? Remember the Klan in the Twenties and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. . . The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

Dang. I just got a little chill down my back there.

Jim Downey's picture

Like this is a surprise.

Md. Police Put Activists' Names On Terror Lists

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.

Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

"The names don't belong in there," he told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "It's as simple as that."

Jim Downey's picture

Never underestimate the stupidity of a bureaucracy.

Couple of weeks ago I got my notice from the state that it was time to renew my CCW permit. The whole process was fairly straight forward: go to the sheriff's office, hand over my driver's license and other ID, have them renew the paperwork on their end (checking to make sure I hadn't done anything which would warrant losing my permit); then over to the Driver's License center for a new ID.

I use a non-driver's ID for my CCW permit. It costs me an extra couple of bucks to have a separate ID, but that way if I have to hand over my DL to someone, they don't know that I have a permit to carry. It's not an issue for the police, should I get pulled over or something, since the CCW info is tied into the driver's license database. And this way, I always have a second photo ID.

So, I got to the Driver's License center. Light crowd, and it only took me a minute to get to a clerk. Who took my paperwork, pulled up the info on her computer, and said that since none of my information had changed, the simple thing to do was just to issue a renewal with the updated CCW expiration date. Cool.

Then she asked if I had a birth certificate or passport.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Second Atheist Soldier Files Suit

The MRFF helps another atheist soldier file a suit against the Defense Department:

[link] Spc. Dustin Chalker, who has served in Korea and Iraq, is the second soldier at the northeast Kansas post to file such a lawsuit. The New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation joined Chalker as a plaintiff in his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

Here's the PDF of the "Complaint For Injunctive Relief".

I wonder how long it will be before he receives his first drunken death threat from his fellow "good Christian" soldiers?

Jim Downey's picture

Ah, yes - "To Protect and Serve."

Another for the "Taser Abuse" files:

NEW YORK (AP) _ A naked, distraught man fell to his death after a police officer shocked him with a Taser stun gun as he stood on a building ledge, authorities said.

The man, Iman Morales, 35, was pronounced dead at a hospital after his nearly 10-foot fall Wednesday. Police said he suffered serious head trauma when he hit the sidewalk.

The death of the man, who witnesses and neighbors said had become distraught and had threatened to kill himself earlier in the day, brought renewed focus to the use of Tasers by the police.

Gee, I can't imagine why.

Then there's this:

Man Passes Gas, Charged with Battery on Officer

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- As if getting a DUI wasn’t enough, a man arrested for driving under the influence got in a lot more trouble at the police station.

Police stopped Jose Cruz on Route 60 in South Charleston Monday night for driving with his headlights off.

Jim Downey's picture

"You're in the desert, you see a tortoise lying on its back, struggling, and you're not helping -- why is that?"*

So, according to FOX News, our friends at the Department of Homeland Security will soon have a new trick up their sleeve: MALINTENT.

Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind

Baggage searches are SOOOOOO early-21st century. Homeland Security is now testing the next generation of security screening — a body scanner that can read your mind.

Most preventive screening looks for explosives or metals that pose a threat. But a new system called MALINTENT turns the old school approach on its head. This Orwellian-sounding machine detects the person — not the device — set to wreak havoc and terror.

MALINTENT, the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers.

Jim Downey's picture

Look, dipshits . . .

. . . there's this thing called a Constitution, and you can't just suppress people's freedom of speech (no, not even children's) without damned good reason and clear application.


Fightin’ Fifth-Grader in Obama T-Shirt Causes Flap at Colorado School

Another week, another free speech flap in our nation’s public schools. This time, we head to Colorado, where 11-year-old Daxx Dalton (insert snide “Daxx” comment here) has been suspended for refusing to remove a homemade t-shirt that reads: “Obama is a terrorist’s best friend.” Dalton’s suspension was reportedly for willful disobedience and defiance, not for wearing the shirt.

Jim Downey's picture


Your legal system at work:

‘Forgotten’ Defendant Sits in Jail for Two Years

The federal prosecutor in St. Louis says she is concerned about the performance of a lawyer who represents a defendant sitting in jail for almost two years with apparently no action to secure his release on bond.

U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway spoke to the St. Louis Post Dispatch about the case of Joseph A. Shepard Sr., charged with intent to sell methamphetamine and gun possession. The newspaper labels Shepard “a man the system forgot.”

Lawyer Michael P. Kelly has not filed any documents on Shepard’s behalf in all of 2007 and 2008 and apparently did not seek his release on bond, the story says. "I am very concerned about his lawyer's performance," Hanaway told the newspaper.

No kidding. But others seemed unconcerned, including Shepard. From the St. Louis Post:

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Sarah Palin And The Get 'Er Done Vote

I had never even heard of Sarah Palin until Vox Day picked her as the VP nominee two full days before it was announced by the McCain camp. (How the heck did you see that one coming, Vox?)

Now, a week or so later, I am a bit worried.

You see, like Mrs. Palin's future son-in-law Levi, I'm also a fuckin' redneck. I like to to camp, hunt, ride dirt bikes, shoot guns, and hang out with the boys. Like Todd and Sarah, I too have five kids. I worked in blue-collar, 12 hours a day, up-to-your-elbows-in-grease jobs most of my adult life. I like country music. I wear a cowboy hat. I ride horses. I drink Coors Light. I listen to the Blue Collar Comedy guys, and think Larry The Cable Guy is an unsung comedy genius.

Like I said - a redneck.

The one thing I don't share with my farmer-tanned brethren is god belief. I don't have any, but most of them do. This places me into a really weird position politically. For most of my life I voted Republican. Heck, I was a conservative Republican. But the overt and covert religiosity, and the growing dominionist, theocratic themes in the GOP turned me away. I switched over to the Libertarian Party - but it's not a great fit for me either. I don't think I'll ever be a registered Democrat. I just don't identify with enough of their platform. That's not to say that I won't vote for a Democrat though, or for a Republican for that matter, if I decide that they happen to be the best person for the job.

In any case, my point is that Sarah Palin could have stood up at the Republican National Convention and read the phone book (well, People Magazine, anyway,) and the redneck "Get 'er Done!" folks would have still voted for her - not McCain alone - in droves.

I am *already* hearing it from my redneck friends and family members. "She's just like us!" They exclaim. "That nice Levi boy is going to marry Bristol, and she's not going to kill her baby! And her mom supports her!" And what about "Iron Dog" Todd Palin, commercial fisherman, champion snowmobile racer, and oil field worker? "The First Dude is a real man - did you hear how he finished a snowmobile race with a broken arm? Very cool. I think it'd be awesome to hang out with him and have a beer." Not to mention the absolutely golden video of little Piper Palin licking her hand and smoothing down Baby Trig's hair was about the cutest thing they say they've ever seen.

Do not underestimate the redneck vote. They will rise up in a flurry of mullets and "Who Farted" hats and absolutely crush Obama and Biden if those two don't get their poop in a group and do something quickly. (Here's a tip, Barack my friend; I like you, but ease up on the anti-gun stuff, and please try to stop coming across like an Ivy League asshole when you talk to us regular joes. It's going to lose you this election if you're not careful.)

I don't know if McCain made this choice, or if it was orchestrated by Rove, but whoever did it thought it through. It is either an act of sheer genius that will sweep McCain into the Oval Office, or Palin will self-destruct even past the point where getting the redneck vote can save her. The Republicans are betting that she holds it together, obviously, and she well might.

If she does hold it together, then we might all be in a lot of trouble. Because make no mistake about it, she is a far, FAR right religious theocrat who has used her political power in the past to endorse her own wacky theology. She seems to believe that she was chosen by her God to do well in the political arena, spurred by her prophetic pastor's encouragement from his pulpit - and the VP nod is only going to fuel their conviction that she is being supported supernaturally by Binky The Magic Space Clown (or whoever she thinks made the universe with magic.)

In short, we've got to win this one folks. If we don't, we're screwed. McCain is just too damned frail to have someone like Palin sitting in the on-deck spot.

Your thoughts? What am I missing here? Is it as bad as I think it is?

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