Posts Tagged ‘meanie heads’

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You will know fear!

March 5, 2013

[Since I have seen the Sha of Fear (and beaten him in LFR, but then who hasn’t), it seemed appropriate to include a reference to the bastich in today’s presentation of NRA fear-mongering.]

Another physical manifestation of terror

The NRA seems to have recognized its weakness on universal background checks for buying guns, as their spokesmen made the rounds yesterday, trying to reinforce their campaign of fear-mongering against this popular gun control policy. Undeterred by the demonstrable falsity of their claims, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and Ronnie Barrett, an NRA board member and manufacturer of his namesake sniper rifle, preached messages of conspiracy theory and revisionist history, aiming to frighten any doubting conservatives, gun owners or NRA members back into line.

With three-quarters of NRA members supporting background checks, their leaders have some work to do, since they’re evidently not going to follow the will of their own membership.

*****

Let’s begin to face the peril with Wayne on Fox & Fringe, er, that is, Varney & Company on the Fox Business channel. Stuart Varney obligingly pretended to play devil’s advocate, offering a position in favor of background checks while doing nothing to counter LaPierre’s arguments. I guess he personified the straw man.

LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It’s going to be selectively enforced. It’s going to be abused. And the worst thing, you’re creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, “Hey, we’ll never use that list to confiscate.” That’s a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.

Media Matters goes on to explain, yet again, how the NRA chooses to ignore the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA), the law they worked to pass, which forbids the creation of a federal gun registry. It’s this law which has created the sticking point in Senate negotiations, as Republicans resist any kind of record-keeping — and as Democrats try to find an effective alternative to a federal agency.

The Raw Story also notes Wayne’s appearance on Fox Business, pointing out his empathic commentary on the mentally ill…

“It’s a speed bump for the law-abiding,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney. “It has no effect in the real world on stopping crime or keeping mental defectives from committing horrible acts.”

LaPierre goes on to claim that HIPAA laws and privacy laws will prevent would-be mass shooters from being entered into the system for psychological issues. This NRA article of faith, as usual, is demolished by the facts. As can be seen in this helpful infographic from the Center for American Progress, of the nearly 2 million people blocked from purchasing guns via NICS background checks, 1.1% are categorized as “severely mentally ill.” They cite FBI data on adjudicated mental health reasons for denial, and that percentage translates into 10,690 people who tried and were stopped from buying a gun.

Mind you, this is the current, flawed, incomplete record-keeping system that President Obama and Democrats in Congress are trying to reform and improve. This system that Wayne LaPierre claims isn’t stopping anybody, in reality, has stopped almost 2 million people.

I find it interesting, if a bit odd, that the likes of Wayne LaPierre continues to rain down abuse and trash-talk on the mentally ill. It doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the NRA business model. Then again, considering the NRA’s desired result of no new gun laws, maintenance of the status quo, ever more gun proliferation, and of course profits for gun manufacturers…

All right then, don’t tell me that it’s too perilous. Let’s have just a little bit more peril. In the form of Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing and a member of the board of the NRA. Yes, when I see an NRA board member on an NRA sponsored TV show, I see just another NRA spokesman. Barrett’s history of gun manufacturing and sales is…interesting, perhaps worth a moment to read that wiki article. This is another company who refuses to sell to law enforcement, specifically in California, as punishment for their state’s law against the company’s .50 caliber rifles.

In Ronnie’s case, he appeared on the NRA’s Cam & Company show on the Sportsman Channel. This NRA propaganda vehicle is often featured on Media Matters, and in my diaries for that matter. So here we go again, as Barrett compares gun laws to Nazi Germany and predicts genocide…

Ronnie Barrett, defender of liberty

BARRETT: In all of history when this kind of stuff has happened before, it’s bad news. You know and I hate to be one of these doomsday guys, but in past things like this result in the death of millions. You know, and World War II hasn’t been 700 years ago, it’s only been 70 years ago. And if people don’t think that these things don’t happen to modern, progressive, Christian nations like Germany was, they’re wrong, brother, I mean we’re sitting here just nearly repeating the same past of that, the disarming of the citizenry not based on any facts but based on cynical emotions that are put in and rushed through in the middle of the night before anybody has a chance to study the true facts, before their citizenry even knows what’s going on. I mean holy smokes, what kind of state government was that? I can’t believe that’s one of the members of the Union here, one of the members of our Republic. It’s just unimaginable.

Compare this to the previous video of Wayne and Stuart tut-tutting about the confiscation of guns in the United Kingdom. How about that, anyway? A law was passed there in 1997, which banned private gun ownership almost completely. Surprisingly, years later — 10 years since the full effect of the law was achieved — no genocide. Wondrous. Well, it could be Barrett is just mad with them because his company used to supply sniper rifles to the IRA; I suppose Barrett may not be selling many Light Fifties there now. And in some previous work, I’ve gone over the revisionist history used by the NRA to falsely compare gun control legislation to the Nazis. Actual history shows that the gun laws in Germany were much more strict, prior to the Nazi regime, and that the 1938 law signed by Hitler deregulated guns for most Germans, while prohibiting gun ownership for Jews and some other persecuted classes. To quote again the historian Salon consulted on the matter:

“Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Of course, Wayne wants his flock to believe the myth that they are a persecuted class, even as he barks about gun laws unfairly treating a hundred million gun owners. A hundred million people, as a persecuted minority class? Wayne’s absurdities don’t stand up to scrutiny. What he’s counting on, though, is a lack of scrutiny. From gun owners, from the NRA membership, and a lack of scrutiny from the media won’t hurt his chances either. Which is why I value Media Matters’ work, and make such frequent use of it. Let some light shine on these hectoring blackcoats and their false dogma. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so the saying goes.

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Responsible, law-abiding gun owners exercising their free speech rights

March 2, 2013

[…and I’m spent. More chores to do tomorrow than today, so I do not expect to have much to write about on Sunday. Closing out the week with a mildly snarky collection of death threats and the like from some passionate gun enthusiasts, and the obvious connections to the NRA.]

Because freedom!

What can I say, it’s the weekend and I feel like mercilessly mocking some gun enthusiasts for going Godwin, issuing threats, and hoping for the rape of children. The alternatives to mockery that I’m considering seem like bad ideas.

I can’t help but be amused just a little, though, when even Republicans are forced to speak out against the threats and abuse, when they fail to pay the requisite fealty to the 2nd Amendment and then they start getting some flak.

Freedom loving, lawful and responsible gun owners, all, I’m sure.

*****

So a few days ago, this story broke about death threats and racial slurs delivered against two Democratic state representatives in Colorado. One of these Democrats, Rhonda Fields, represents the district where the mass shooting in Aurora took place last July. It seems reasonable that she’s playing a central role in the push to enact new gun laws in Colorado.

Fields, a Democrat who represents the district where 12 people were killed while watching a movie, is a leading proponent for new gun restrictions, and her role has thrust her into the spotlight.”I will not be deterred by threats,” Fields said in a statement.

Steven D’s diary from Feb. 26th goes into the details of the profanity, slurs and threats sent to these Democrats, and also mentions that Rep. Fields’ son was a victim of gun violence. So, yeah, I bet it’ll take more than that to stop her.

Unfortunately, they’re not alone. While gun enthusiasts in some states continue to push for ever more unfettered freedom to take their guns anywhere, many others have fought to pass new restrictions intended to make their states safer from gun violence. And so the diehard supporters of the NRA have spoken up across the nation.

In California, police arrested a man suspected of threatening a state senator over a bill to limit the rapid reloading of assault weapons. In Minnesota, a lawmaker who sponsored an assault weapons ban said she’s received threatening emails and calls. During hearings on gun bills this year, armed Minnesota State Patrol officers have been present, which is a rarity.

These examples demonstrate why the notion of ‘second amendment remedies’ isn’t so much of a joke, and why that contributed to

Sharron Angle’s spectacular flameout in Nevada. In addition to these examples, the news piece cites Republicans in Wyoming, who are being threatened for refusing to bring up a bill intended to exempt the state from any assault weapons ban.

Apparently, some Republicans have heard of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which makes such laws pointless and unconstitutional. Not that this has stopped all manner of local sheriffs and state legislatures, mind you. This article is worth citing for the irony alone.

From Oregon to Mississippi, President Barack Obama’s proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions — and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.”A lot of sheriffs are now standing up and saying, ‘Follow the Constitution,'” said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, whose territory covers the timbered mountains of southwestern Oregon.

Yep, follow that Constitution, fellas. Read that Supremacy Clause and weep.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Honestly. I can understand pushing for laws at the state and federal level in support of gun rights, if that’s your bag of tea. But defying the feds, and demanding that they ‘read the Constitution’ — this stuff writes itself. Lest I leave out my charming home state of Arizona, this nullification rush has struck here, too. In fact, the proposed law here was so bad that the NRA spoke out against it

And the Constitution isn’t Smith’s only problem; he’s catching some friendly fire too. Todd Rathner, an Arizona resident who sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, told the Capitol News Service that he doesn’t like the bill because of what it would do to gun dealers, who must receive federal licenses and comply with federal regulations.“I worry about putting federal firearms licensees in the middle of a fight between us and the federal government,” he said. “It puts them between a rock and a hard place because they worry about committing a federal crime or a state crime.”

…ok, so you knew it wasn’t going to be an objection to the law as a constitutional violation, but that it might hurt gun dealers. Right? I mean, this is the NRA. And for going Godwin, I can’t forget the NRA rally in New York yesterday, with posters equating Governor Cuomo with Hitler. Of course, the NRA president David Keene was out there defending it, too.

I’m guessing the answer was no.

Asked about the Nazi imagery during an appearance on the AM 1300 radio show “Live from the State Capitol,” Keene told host Fred Dicker that the signs were in reference to the fact that dictators have historically limited citizens’ gun rights.

“Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to the history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here,” Keene said.

What gun enthusiasts are cognizant of is NRA revisionist history, and it’s popular stuff, as this piece from Salon has found. The actual history is interesting; the Nazis deregulated guns and ammunition and exempted many people from gun ownership regulations, while banning prohibited classes of people from owning guns. Salon quotes Omer Bartov, a historian at Brown University who studies the Third Reich:

He continued: “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Which brings us back to the Cuomo-as-Hitler posters, the abuse and death threats heaped upon any politician — Democratic or Republican — who steps out of line, and the president of the NRA preaching to his choir that they’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of those politicians.

“Because of the fact that we, as believers in the Second Amendment, are willing to do something that most people in this country are not willing to do, which is not just to stand up for our rights, but to support those people who stand with us and work to get rid of those in public office who do not,” the NRA president told the crowd.

“So we’re with you,” Keene added. “We’ll help you defeat the politicians that would deprive you of your rights. We’ll help you overcome these statutes in court. We’ll do whatever’s necessary to make certain the Second Amendment rights that we have had passed down to us are are going to be passed down to future generations.”

Did this NRA brochure come with a tinfoil hat?

It’s interesting to contemplate the jarring difference here, between the NRA leadership and various gun enthusiast cranks across the nation — the threats, the revisionist history, the abuse — and what they perceive to be such grave threats to them. While the President and various Democrats take great pains to assuage these anxious gun owners and accommodate their paranoia, what do we get for our trouble?

Well, I did mention that rape comment at the top…so I will finish where I began, in Colorado.

“There is this extremist element where it does feel dangerous to stand up,” said Colorado state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat who will be voting on the bills Monday. Ulibarri received a letter from someone who said they hope the senator’s daughter is raped. Ulibarri has a 2-year-old girl.

Gun enthusiasts need not ask why they now reap a whirlwind. After years of spending their money and time attacking Democrats, getting Republicans elected, and bullying anyone who dared defy them, things have changed. But this change needs to be realized in legislation — something to begin to address the plague of gun violence in this country. Our representatives endure having their lives and the lives of their children threatened. Don’t ignore their courage; speak up, and demand a vote.

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One problem with being a west coastie

February 27, 2013

Due to my tendency to act up a bit politically, I get email…a lot of email. From advocacy groups all over the liberal spectrum of issues. And often they want me to call Congress! But I get the word late in the day, and when I get home it’s too late in the day, and then real life takes over, short term memory of a gnat and it’s gone.

Well, at least today I spotted one such alert in the morning before work and for once I can take advantage of the time zone differential. It’s probably not a big deal; the competing VAWA bills in the House are coming up, and based on his past history I suspect my rep. is on board with passing the Senate version and scrapping the inferior House GOP version. The GOP should be ashamed of themselves, and reportedly, maybe they are; their effort is losing steam, supposedly. But it was interesting to call anyway. That’s my first time trying. Poor Ron Barber, he already hears from me a lot through emails and petitions. I guess he’ll get used to it.

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More data on gun control policies even NRA members support

February 23, 2013

[This will probably wrap up my week of ranting about guns…I prefer to take a break on the weekend, and try to enjoy life a little before diving back into the suffering and despair that is gun violence news and debate. Maybe I’ll take some pictures of cats.]

Although I find the fixation on the NRA irksome at times — as if the NRA membership is the measure of what should and should not be law in this country concerning guns — it is interesting to peruse data on the level of popular support various ideas enjoy. While the NRA is quick to run its own alleged polls, to issue blanket statements and to spew much bluster, behind the curtain of propaganda, they are weaker than they will ever let on.

And, as can be found in polling data about 31 different gun policies, it’s also interesting to see what separates Democrats from the hardcore gun enthusiasts in the NRA.

*****

So, today I found this PBS article about what Democrats and the NRA have in common. This was research done by Johns Hopkins, or to be more precise the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I felt the need to investigate that name, as I expect anything with Bloomberg in it will immediately raise the hackles of most gun enthusiasts.

Originally named the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, the school was founded in 1916 by William H. Welch and John D. Rockefeller. The school was renamed the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on April 20, 2001 in honor of Michael Bloomberg (founder of the eponymous media company) for his financial support and commitment to the school and Johns Hopkins University. Bloomberg has donated a total of $1.1 billion to the school over a period of several decades.[9]

America’s most dangerous mayor! ACK!

Does this mean that Bloomberg has bought the university’s reputation and twisted it to serve his treacherous scheme of gun-grabbing? Well, sarcasm aside…no, not so much. More from the wiki article:

The Bloomberg School is the largest school of public health in the world, with 530 full-time and 620 part-time faculty, and 2,030 students from 84 countries.[19] It is home to over fifty Research Centers and Institutes with research ongoing in the U.S. and more than 90 countries worldwide.[20] The School ranks #1 in federal research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), receiving nearly 25 percent of all funds distributed among the 40 U.S. schools of public health,[19] and has consistently been ranked #1 among schools of public health by U.S. News & World Report.[21]

All right then, so when someone questions Michael Bloomberg’s affiliation with the university, I think it can rightly be dismissed as shooting the messenger based on the university’s excellent reputation. On with the show.

We were surprised that NRA members had the widest variation in their support (or not) of policy types than any other group. This means NRA members showed a lot of distance (in terms of percent approval points) between what they liked best and what they didn’t. Women, on the other hand, liked just about every policy, and approved of them at similar amounts.

Interesting point. The NRA will latch onto whatever statistics they can find, to claim that they enjoy popular support among women. But the data from Johns Hopkins doesn’t suit the NRA fantasy; out of 31 different ideas for reducing gun violence, only four — the four least popular overall — fail to achieve majority support from the women polled for the survey. PBS presents the results in a handy interactive table, which can sort by column.It’s worth noting here that women have already been identified as a key demographic that could shift the 2014 election results away from the typical party in power loses scenario. So, in addition to saving lives through progressive gun policy change, we could also improve our chances next year.

The survey released by Women Donors Network, a self-described progressive “community of women philanthropists,” found that a subset of women voters who usually don’t vote in midterm elections are more likely to vote in 2014 on the issue of gun violence.That echoes what former Rep. Steve LaTourette (OH), now a militant moderate leader in the Republican Party, said on Tuesday when he cautioned his party against sticking too close to the National Rifle Association in the post-Newtown legislative push to reduce gun violence. If the GOP is seen as being in the pocket of the NRA, he said, it could cost the party big with women in future elections.

Poor Rep. LaTourette, he’s part of an endangered species! “Militant moderate” indeed. And to think, all we have to do is show the American people the truth, as the GOP is in the pocket of the NRA.

Anyway. What else has this Johns Hopkins study got to say? They asked Colleen Barry, the lead researcher.

“One surprise was that so many of these policies were supported by a majority of gun owners, and a second was that so many policies enjoyed support across political party affiliations,” Barry said.

Across the two parties, gun owners, non-gun owners, NRA members, all of them. It is impressive how many of these gun control policies enjoy widespread, bipartisan support. You wouldn’t know it from listening to Wayne LaPierre or John Boehner (perhaps not even Harry Reid). So from here on, I will be pulling percentages from that handy interactive table mentioned above. Check it out, it’s worth the time.Background checks, for example. “Requiring a background check system for all gun sales to make sure a purchaser is not legally prohibited from having a gun?” is the exact wording of their question. 74% of NRA members support this, and it just goes up from there. 86% of Republicans. 88% of independents. 92% of Democrats. All gun sales. No exceptions. And it enjoys the kind of approval even the President would like to have. I read this past week that he’s at 55%, a three-year high. I bet he’d like to score 74%. Well, seems like maybe supporting that universal background check may be one way to go.

So, out of the 31 policy ideas only four came in with less than majority support, overall. Worst case scenario, though, how’s the support from the NRA members look? This is where the surprise comes in. Thirteen different gun control policies on their list registered a majority of NRA members in support of them. From background checks, to requiring states to report more data and more funding to make it happen; banning guns for domestic violence convictions, or violating a restraining order, or for multiple alcohol or drug crimes; even taking away dealers’ licenses for record-keeping violations and ‘losing’ guns; and more still.

I can safely say from my interactions here that when the prospect of gun banning, prohibiting people from having guns, comes up, it’s generally considered as some kind of poison pill. Absolutely not, under no circumstances. But it seems even NRA members will support some reasonable prohibitions on gun ownership, accountability for gun dealers, and background checking and improving that system. Even if it means requiring that the states improve their reportage. The specific question was “Requiring states to report a person to the background check system who is prohibited from buying a gun due either to involuntary commitment to a hospital for psychiatric treatment or to being declared mentally incompetent by a court of law?” and it enjoyed the highest support among NRA members — 81% — for any of the 31 policy ideas. Overwhelming support for a federal mandate! Goodness gracious!

Hell, they’ll even support prohibiting people on the terror watch-list from having a gun (76% support from NRA members). Although it makes one wonder about the other 24%. What are they thinking? That they’ll be on it someday?

But enough about the NRA. Let’s talk Democrats. The Democrats polled for responses on these 31 gun control policies expressed support for 28 of them. Mind you, one of those three is a bit of a misnomer. “Allowing people who have lost the right to have a gun due to mental illness to have that right restored if they are determined not to be dangerous?” has a 32% approval rating. That’s about restoring gun rights. And nobody offers that majority support, including NRA members. Oh, but I said enough with them…what I want to focus on are where Democrats and the NRA dramatically differ, where we can safely say this is where we don’t agree with them, where the NRA’s opinions have the least sway in the Democratic party.

Sorting by Democratic percentages, one dramatic policy difference sticks out right away. Gun licensing. “Requiring a person to obtain a license from a local law enforcement agency before buying a gun to verify their identity and ensure that they are not legally prohibited from having a gun?” Democrats, 88%; NRA, 38%. Even Republicans support this idea at 69%, so folks opposing this are pretty much doing the bidding of the NRA and no one else.

I see another 40-point swing for background checks that take up to five business days to finish, but I’m not as concerned about that; even NRA members give that one 47% approval, it’s not that big a deal. Where I see an impressive difference is on assault weapons. You know, the issue that’s supposed to be DOA in Congress, that gun-cherishing Democrats like Harry Reid are so squeamish about supporting, because his pockets may be a bit stained with NRA blood money…

Only the NRA says these are worth keeping

“Banning the sale of military-style, semi-automatic assault weapons that are capable of shooting more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading?” 87% support from us. 52% from Republicans (a bare majority, but interesting). 15% from NRA members. 46% of gun owners are with us on this. This is not about gun owners. This is all about the NRA. And Democrats who vote this down — and I expect there will be quite a few — will hear from me about doing the NRA’s bidding. Of course, there’s more. Banning the sale of large-capacity magazines that hold more than 20 bullets. Banning the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. 83% support from Democrats for both of these. 20 and 19 from NRA members. Again, this is not a big deal for Republicans or gun owners; they show an even split, a bare majority of Republicans, just under from gun owners. Again, it’s all about the NRA. Even banning the possession of assault weapons, or of large-capacity magazines, provided that owners are paid fair market value for their weapons. 72% and 69% support from Democrats, respectively. Oh my flying spaghetti monster. Banning! Confiscation!

Only the NRA sees nothing wrong with this picture

Democrats support this. Americans overall support this. You might not know that, thanks to the impassioned denials and threats from gun enthusiasts, but this is not a threat or an anecdote or an obsolete argumentum ad Bill Clinton. It’s data, credible evidential support. And what the data shows is that many gun control proposals are much more popular than NRA mouthpieces or politicians either cowed into submission by them, or just in their pockets, will admit. It also shows which gun control policies enjoy widespread Democratic support, and extreme NRA opposition — showing how that opposition is right-wing fringe. It may not even be majority-Republican, it’s not Democratic, certainly not liberal.

Polling like this shows where we are strong and the opposition is split, and the NRA in particular is isolated and weak. Beyond that, I’ll be damned if I am going to give up on ideas that I support, that also enjoy broad support among Democrats. Especially on account of just the NRA against the rest of the country.

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A rare visit

February 17, 2013

I see my latest posting on the issue of JAMA picked up a troll (I think I’ll moderate that gun enthusiast for posterity). heh. Too bad for you.

Also, this morning we got a rare visit from the other orange poison kitty in the neighborhood. While Mudbug has been hanging out with us for a while now…

Mudbug-2

I haven’t seen his little brother for a good while now, but Stinkbug was out and about today. He must be much nicer with his owners because we don’t see him out much.

Stinkbug-1

The little one isn’t as stocky as his brother, and as an added bonus he can’t seem to keep his tongue in his head. I don’t think he was commenting on my housekeeping, anyway. But after taking him back outside and running into Mudbug, I see the two of them still don’t get along whatsoever. Go back home, little bug. The coast is clear.

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Please proceed, Wayne

February 6, 2013

Just checking in briefly to express my enjoyment at the news…that the NRA’s endorsement is not polling well, indicating that it may begin to do more harm than good. We already knew that their money spent in the last cycle was almost completely ineffective. It would be nice for their endorsement to become a curse. They already deserve the status of epithet.

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The delusion they’ll never live down

January 16, 2013

Yesterday I had one of those rare points of disagreement with someone I respect greatly. And since the subject is about damaging the coalition that leads to progress in our country politically, it seems better to put my answer here instead of there. Warning: it is rather long. That may be a problem. If so, just go “TL;DR” and check out this lolcat, then go on your merry way.

So, here is the relevant chunk of the article in question. It’s about Martin Luther King Jr., about whom I can’t help but have some mixed feelings, since it was religion that guided him to some good goals, but his claims about religion and the bible are still questionable. On balance I can only wish that I could do as much good with my life, because I never will.

The black church is still the center of much black life, and leadership is still drawn from it. Few of our churches are uni-class. We may attend service and be sitting in the same pew with a housemaid or day laborer.

Even those who moved away from Christianity, gathered around other preachers—like Malcolm.

The lesson I learn when I look at the face of young Martin, is that he could have been any black child I see today. One of those black children missing no one pays attention to.  One of those black children murdered by stray gunfire. One of those black children who winds up in the school to prison pipeline. One of those black kids headed off to Sunday school.

I am also reminded (no matter my own non-christian persuasion) that those on the left who deride religion and spiritual faith openly on forums such as these, do little to forge the coalitions we need to move forward.

For many on the left who pride themselves in their openly militant atheism—poor whites and their churches and revival meetings are merely objects of scorn. There is vocal derision of evangelicals, yet one of the most powerful progressive voices we hear today is that of Rev. William Barber, head of the N.C. NAACP, an evangelical pastor.

The fact that you don’t believe is your business. Mocking those that do disses many members of our most solid and stable Democratic Party voting block.

Young Martin’s family was guided by their strong spiritual belief. This is true in many black families.

So when you quote or cite the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remember young Martin.

Before you post remarks categorizing all people of faith as delusional, remember young Martin.

Before we get swept away in the celebrations to come—look at his young face. Then look at the faces of young black school kids.

Celebrate our children today.

Accept that many are growing up as he did.

Guided by faith.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s some irony to be sure — if only religious belief, or the lack thereof, could be simply our business. How hard is it to swap a few words from his speech, after all.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their belief in god (or lack thereof) but by the content of their character.

Dismissing atheism as simply my business is to dismiss the discrimination that goes on in this country. Whether it’s the latest silly uproar about some nativity display or monument to the Ten Commandments, or the new House rep from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, who seems comfortable with being an ‘out’ bisexual but not an ‘out’ skeptic, to the point that she’s officially dodging the question and refusing the label. She knows that skeptics in Congress are damned rare — Pete Stark was the last, and he lost last year — and she knows that label can damage her. The next Republican opponent could well campaign against her on the issue, and probably will in spite of her obfuscation. Here, in Arizona? You bet! I will try to remember this so I can report back next year.

At the same time, comparing the current lot of the American skeptic to the discrimination and outright violence that black folks still suffer to this day diminishes their experience; that dismisses it to some degree, I think. So, it’s tempting to buy into that reconstruction from ‘I Have a Dream,’ but no. It’s not that bad. Not nearly. We may now have a black President while the prospect of having an atheist President in my lifetime seems…ridiculous, impossible. But we’re not prone to being attacked and murdered even now, as the ‘stand your ground’ laws have permitted in Florida, for example. Gun enthusiasts may argue, of course they would argue with that. But, like it or not, successful or not, Floridians have taken that law to mean open season if they feel threatened. As a result of their own racism, for example.

Still. This statement questions my openly militant atheism — which is kind of laughable in itself, ‘openly militant atheism’ — wow, we question nonsensical beliefs and attack religious conservatives who discriminate and legislate and work to punish women, gays, minority groups — that’s what counts for militant these days. I kind of scoff at the very notion of being a militant, like it does not do the word justice. The militant muslim, in Bangladesh, attacks an open ‘militant’ atheist and tries to stab the skeptic to death for the crime of blogging. That’s no joke, but perhaps the comparison is! The militant christian, in America, Scott Roeder, shoots and murders Dr. George Tiller for the crime of performing abortions. Protestants led the KKK. And us joker atheists, damn our hides, we discomfit you. We offend you. Wow. Thin skinned much eh?

And yet my atheism, speaking out against religiously inspired discrimination and suffering and violence, that’s militant and damaging to the coalition. I shouldn’t speak out against evangelicals because some of them are nice people whose religion coincidentally leads them to do good things. Well, you know what? I’ve never spoken out against Rev. William Barber, give it some time and I could probably find something…but I doubt it. I choose my targets with care and they deserve the attention I give them. And if guilt by association is enough to damage our coalition, then perhaps these evangelicals should think twice about those with whom they associate.

Not every skeptic speaks out with discretion, though. I understand that. I agree about the damage some skeptics do, and, hell. On DK I’ve had to help drive off one such fellow and helped get him banned (this diary was one good example of the skeptic going too far). That was truly a bizarre experience, but in the end I let the site rules dictate what to do. However much I would have liked to sympathize with a fellow skeptic, he made it real hard to.

Even I may shoot my mouth off a bit much for the DK community, I guess that’s why I’m writing here and sometimes I refuse to speak my mind there. I seem to have been lucky so far, I’ve only spotted one hide rate on anything I ever wrote, and that one’s just funny. I got dinged in retaliation for attacking someone who used the racist epithet ‘Uncle Tom’. That guy was so in the wrong, I don’t even fret about it.

Ok, finally. On the topic of delusion. I think it’s fair to say at this point that this idea, which I think dates back to 2006 and The God Delusion, is one where Dawkins kinda stepped in it. You can read above about “categorizing all people of faith as delusional”. And I know from experience, over the years since, that most people take it in the psychological meaning…

1
: the act of deluding: the state of being deluded
2
a: something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagatedb: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also: the abnormal state marked by such beliefs
Unfortunately the word is associated with mental illness, so that’s how people take it. Guilt by association again, I suppose.

A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.[1] As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.

Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental). However, they are of particular diagnostic importance in psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, paraphrenia, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression.

But I have his book, and I’ve read it, and Dawkins pulls out his dictionary and provides for what he meant, “a false belief or impression”. He concurs with a definition that looks much like the first sentence from the Wiki article. However, he also quotes Robert Pirsig from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

It’s hard for me to argue against that point. Hard for anyone, I would say. And so the last recourse is simply to find it offensive. Cases like Martin Luther King Jr. serve as examples of religion being put to good use. And yet, he was a Baptist; and the Baptists, I find, have a checkered past in this country.

Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Struggling to gain a foothold in the South, after the American Revolution, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the leadership of southern society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery and urging manumission (as did the Quakers and Methodists), they began to interpret the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery and encouraged good paternalistic practices by slaveholders. They preached to slaves to accept their places and obey their masters. In the two decades after the Revolution during the Second Great Awakening, Baptist preachers abandoned their pleas that slaves be manumitted.[18]

Religion might seem like an utterly beneficent influence in the context of MLK, but it’s not hard to look a little further back — or forward — and find it problematic instead. It’s interesting to consider the matter of interpretation that took place amongst Baptists trying to spread into the South. A hell of a thing to do, actually. Rather than stand on principle, they abandoned that principle, reinterpreted, and grew popular; and the bible, their holy book, has enough contradictions in it regarding slavery that they could actually do it. For every instance of abolitionist rhetoric

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

…there is another to support the institution of slavery

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;

Now, I would bet that Martin Luther King Jr. gave this some thought. And at least his Baptist religion at that point in history had learned from that mistake. Religion can have a good influence on society. Those who are guided by faith may turn out well. But this is not inevitable. Being guided by faith does not always result in good outcomes. At best, it is a guess, a shot in the dark — that is the essence of faith, after all, as even MLK’s quote above explains. Faith is no guarantee of good results. Good intentions, perhaps. Yes, well. The religious have a saying about that, too.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I reserve my worst mockery not for beliefs, but the horrible actions they inspire. We are entitled to believe what we want, but acting on it, that’s different, as religious users of peyote in this country have learned on occasion. Again — if this guilt by association offends, I suggest the believer reconsider that association. If it is bothersome to be catholic while the RCC covers up the scandal of pedophilia, if conservative evangelicals seek to pass laws to punish women for having sex, if right-wing religious nuts effectively murder their children by forbidding them simple modern medicines and choose prayer instead — the problem is not the believer’s offended sensibilities!

What’s the difference, anyway, between the likes of MLK and the case of Kara Neumann, who died of undiagnosed diabetes when her parents refused to seek medical help and chose prayer instead? In both cases we see people guided by faith. But one of them led to convictions of second-degree reckless homicide.

For my part, I will continue to choose my targets with care and criticize bad actions over mere beliefs, even if the beliefs are often disgusting. Eternal suffering in hell, for example. But I’ll try to be careful and focus on the real world and the consequences of religious beliefs. Hopefully, in return, those who are guided by faith will take it under advisement how little difference there is between them and the Neumanns.