The nature of religious privilege…

December 29, 2014

On BBC local radio here in the UK after the Sydney cafe siege, the presenter had a conversation with a local Imam on the subject of religious extremism. The Imam reiterated that the attacker was a lone nut, who didn’t represent Muslims. The conversation was one of damage limitation and worry for Muslims who may be abused and attacked in the aftermath. The rise of anti-Muslim hate must be addressed – one would hope with the promotion of civil rights & protections for all – but I was unsure that the conversation on BBC local radio that day was particularly helpful, when at one point, the presenter insisted that ‘all religions promote peace and love‘. To begin from that uncritical premise – as if it is a matter of undeniable fact – is just as problematic as beginning from the premise that all religions are violent and oppressive. The problem of religious dogma – that is, the chaining of morality to a single time and place (usually very patriarchal, middle eastern tribal squabbles) – is suddenly dismissed, and other explanations for extremism take its place. The rise of ISIS was blamed on Blair, Bush, and the Iraq war, sometimes on Israel, but little attention payed to religious dogma. It is almost as if it is too uncomfortable to accept that such ingrained religious traditions & much loved religious ideas may present issues within themselves and autonomous of surrounding context. And so it is a distinct religious privilege, to free its problematic dogma from shouldering any blame for extremism, instead blaming everyone else for its problems. No other ideological framework of power has that privilege. But it isn’t the only privilege religions currently enjoy…

When the debate over same-sex marriage came up before Parliament last year, the only dissenting voices – and those who believed themselves to have the privileged right to tell others whom they can and can’t marry – were those of the religious. It is as if “it’s unnatural, because Leviticus says so” is a legitimate argument in a 21st century that has extensive knowledge of the natural spectrum of sexuality. It is therefore a religious privilege for Christians to believe that firstly they own the institution of marriage; Secondly, that they and they alone have the right to tell others whom they can and cannot marry based on discredited myths; and thirdly, that breaking the barriers to equal rights and freedoms regardless of sexuality, is an assault on Christianity.

It is breathtakingly delusional to believe that extending rights that you have always enjoyed, to those traditionally oppressed by your faith, is oppressing you. It is even more delusional to assume that the institution of marriage is a solely Christian, unchangeable institution. Hebrew society engaged in polygamy much of the time, it certainly wasn’t frowned upon. Monogamy in a marriage is a pretty new development. We know that the Mohammad married Aisha when she was 6 years old. In Ancient Rome, marriage was civil, it was not overtly religious. In India, if the bride was born when Mars and Saturn are “under the 7th house”, she is considered cursed and could end up murdering her husband. And so to break the curse, the bride must first marry a tree, the tree is then destroyed, and the bride is free from the curse forever. In the Tidong community in Northern Borneo, after marriage, the couple must not urinate for three days. Marriage is not official within the Neur tribe in Sudan, until the bride has had two children. It was only in 1967, that the US allowed interracial marriage. By 1910, Arizona, California, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah had all banned interracial marriage. And what was used to justify anti-miscegenation laws in the US? Of course it was the Bible. The destruction of all other concepts of marriage, to the benefit of just one concept – the Christian concept – and then attempting to ensure that single concept reigns supreme, is wildly oppressive to say the very least.

A couple of months ago on the Bill Maher show over in the United States, in a debate on extremism Sam Harris referred to Islam as the ‘mother lode of bad ideas‘. Consequently, actor Ben Affleck- also appearing on the show – referred to Harris’ statement as ‘racist‘. It is a curious criticism and one that had me considering the unique nature of religious privilege, the language that sustains it, and its lashing out – by among other things, demonising criticism – when challenged. It is a religious privilege to be able to claim racism at criticisms of an idea. As a secular liberal, I define racism as the institutional disenfranchising and denial of equal civil rights based on ethnicity. Language can & does of course further add to the perpetual dehumanising of an ethnicity. Also as a secular liberal, I believe all ideas must be up for inquiry, criticism, satire, and mockery. Religions are not immune to this, nor should they be. Racism is not criticism, or even complete contempt for a religion. Much like racism is not criticism, or even complete contempt for a political ideology. Further, and by implication, I would argue that if words that offend a religion are to be deemed racism, then equally words that offend non-believers must also be deemed racism. And so, left-leaning commentators like Mehdi Hasan would be deemed racist, for rants like:

“We know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.”

– I am quite certain that if Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris had referred to all Muslims as ‘living like animals’, Hasan would be the first to call racism. Further, the New Testament, Old Testament, and Qur’an would be deemed incredibly racist books. Most chapters of the Qur’an begin with God explaining how great he is (a little arrogant), followed by a lovely little description of the fate that awaits those of us who have not been convinced that a God exists:

“[10:4] To Him is your return. This is Allah’s promise that will certainly come true. Surely it is He Who brings about the creation of all and He will repeat it so that He may justly reward those who believe and do righteous deeds, and those who disbelieve may have a draught of boiling water and suffer a painful chastisement for their denying the Truth.”

– Whilst Sam Harris simply referred to a religion as a bad idea and was deemed racist for doing so, Holy Books go beyond criticism, and become threats of eternal torture for non-belief. This of course would also mean that the idea of a Caliphate – in which non-believers are barred from highest office – is institutionally racist. It would mean that South Carolina was institutionally racist when Herb Silverman ran for the post of Governor in 1992 but was discarded from the race for refusing to swear an oath to God. It took five whole years for the courts to rule in his favour. It is therefore a massive religious privilege to demand and expect respect for a book that threatens people like me, with religious institutions that disenfranchise anyone ‘outside’ of the religion, whilst yelling racism if I am to call that book the ‘mother lode of bad ideas’. If one is to be considered racism, so must the other.

Along with compulsory worship in schools, and a Monarch whom also happens to be head of the Church of England, it is a religious privilege in the UK, for over 25 Bishops to have a permanent position in the national legislature, as if they have some sort of natural right to consider legislation based solely on which invisible being it is they believe in. To be called ‘Lords Spiritual‘, as if spirituality is a supernatural phenomena consigned to the religious only. The perpetuation of privilege based on the bizarre belief that a deeper understanding of a very unproven deity somehow grants one a position to legislate above the rest of us. It is worth noting that no religious scholar has any more of an idea about what happens after we die, than the rest of us, and that filling in that gap in human knowledge with myths is a ‘science’ consigned to the history books in every other realm of human understanding, yet when it comes to this particular question, we put Bishops in the Lords for their adherence to 1st Century Palestinian myths. It is also worth noting that spirituality does not in any way require a belief in God, or an afterlife, and is a perfectly natural and human trait. Religious supremacy has no more place in a national legislature, than racial supremacy, sexuality supremacy or gender supremacy. The very fact that structures of religious supremacy are not treated with the same contempt as those of racial, or gender supremacy, is in itself, a vast privilege milked for every drop it is worth by those in positions of religious power.

Often, religious privilege is sustained by the powerful few, & the denial of many. Those who are so invested in their religion, refuse to accept that it might be flawed. Jumping back to the racism theme, not too long ago Twitter exploded in rage at Lady Gaga wearing a full face veil. The charge was that she – a white westerner – had ‘appropriated’ a cultural symbol of the Islamic east. It is a wildly hypocritical religious privilege to claim the veil for one religion, thus dismissing it from every other culture that has ever used the veil, whilst refusing to acknowledge that Islam has appropriated Christian & Pagan stories, Temple Mount, the Hagia Sofia, the Palestinian freedom cause (Palestinians are all who live there – not simply heterosexual Muslim men), every piece of land deemed to be “Muslim land” (no land belongs to a religion), and when Mo Ansar recently mentioned the French invading Muslim Tunisia in the 19th Century as an act of western imperialism, he neglected to mention that Tunisia was only “Muslim” by the 19th Century, because imperialist Arab Muslims had invaded it and established the Arab Aghlabids dynasty in the first place. It is a religious privilege to rewrite history by deflecting onto others, the often violent ‘appropriation’ of cultural symbols into its own black hole.

It is a religious privilege for Christianity to be so enshrined into state constitutions, that it requires a national constitution to protect everyone else:
Arkansas’ Constitution:

No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this
State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.

Maryland Constitution, Article 37:

That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

Mississippi Constitution, Article 14, Section 265:

No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this State.

South Carolina Constitution, Article 17, Section 4:

No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

Tennessee Constitution, Article 9, Section 2:

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

Texas Constitution, Article 1, Section 4:

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

The list of religious privileges is endless. It includes Jehovah’s Witness families torn apart if a member decides they don’t believe any more. It includes apostates dehumanised and abused for leaving Islam & then referred to as ‘Islamophobic’ if they dare to speak out. It includes women covered from head to toe so as to not arouse the apparently uncontrollable lust of men. It includes Uganda’s Christian Minister for Ethics condemning homosexuals to a life of fear, whilst insisting that the rape of young girls in his country is, and I quote:

“… the right kind of child rape. It is men raping girls and that is natural.”

– It includes Pakistan’s grotesque blasphemy laws that punishes the ‘offending’ believers, whilst institutionalises the ‘offending’ of non-believers. It includes the Boy Scouts of America prohibiting the inclusions of atheists and whose charter states:

“The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.”

– It includes ‘In God we trust’ and ‘One nation under God’ placed on US institutions in blatant disregard of the secular founding. It includes Iran murdering gay people because an ancient, unenlightened, out-of-date myth condemns homosexuality and is taught to impressionable young minds as truth – despite the fact that many of those young minds, will be gay – whilst neglecting to teach the actual biology and genetic base for sexuality. It includes all of these things causing little uproar, whilst a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, or a “There is no God” billboard on the side of buses causes the religious to insist that their faith is under severe attack. It is the moment the religion of one, extends to control the liberty of another. In short, the nature of religious privilege.


Defining Islamism.

August 31, 2014

There has been a curious holding of hands in recent years between the Western political far right and those of the Islamist persuasion, both insisting that any individual interpretation of Islam and the definition of Islamism are in fact one in the same. The rhetoric from both is eerily similar in many instances. They both do not care too much for equal secular and liberal protections, and seek to restrict liberty for those they don’t particularly like – this is clear from the Bendigo Mosque case, and the anti-secular opposition to it – and they both insist that a state controlled by the dictates of one faith, is a duty for every Muslim to work to fulfill; a narrative used to justify oppression from both sides of that aisle. The implication is that anyone identifying as a Muslim, but not subscribing to a World domination interpretation of their faith, is not a ‘real‘ Muslim. When it comes to conflating personal faith, with political ideology, both the Western far right and Islamists agree.

The implication that any Muslim not actively pursuing a Caliphate is not a ‘real Muslim’ is a weak one of course, because no single Muslim has the privilege of speaking for the entire faith, nor carrying the definitive interpretation of the faith. Belief is dependent on a variety of concepts, not least personal life experience, socio-economic status, all working in unison to produce an individual interpretation. Islam; the Qur’an and Hadith are so vast in content, anchored to a time and place we know so little about, with a long history of contradiction that no one in the 21st Century can claim a definitive interpretation. Indeed, whilst we see Islamists insisting that homosexual people must be oppressed in the most abhorrent ways, we also see a Swedish Imam blessing a Muslim same-sex marriage last week, and wonderful Islamic gay rights groups like the Al-Fatiha Foundation working to protect and advance the rights of the Muslim LGBT community. Whilst we see ISIS beheading its way across the Middle East, justifying its hideous actions with Quranic passages, we see Imam’s like Dr Usama Hasan issue religious edicts condemning the group, using Quranic passages also. The scope for interpretation is so vast, that for anyone to claim to be speaking for the entire faith, speaks only to their own deluded sense of superiority.

So what do we mean by Islamism? Some claim it is a term that is so diluted, it is indefinable. I disagree. I think it has a clear definition. I’ve had this debate on social media over the past few days, and I’m yet to come across a notable objection to the term, that offers any reason to think the term itself is indefinable.

How I define & use the term Islamism:
A desire to enshrine Islam into the mechanisms of state, with law and rights based on the Shariah. The desire to elevate Islam to state privilege and power.
You may reasonably be described as Islamist, if you believe that I should be free, until my freedom contradicts the Shariah.

Indeed, the Sudanese Islamist leader Hasan al-Turabi uses the term ‘Islamism’ as I use it, in his book ‘Islam and Government‘. Al-Turabi notes that Islamists are:

“Political Muslims for whom Islam is the solution, Islam is religion and government, Islam is the constitution and law.”

– That’s it. It’s that simple. If an individual believes my liberty should be dependent entirely on the dictates of Islam – believing Islam having any inherent jurisdiction over my life whatsoever – this is Islamism. this is Islamism. Erecting institutional barriers to freedom according to the principles of Islam (however you interpret the principles), is Islamism. If an individual believes Islam must be granted state privilege of any variety, this is Islamism. If an individual believes my right to pursue my own goals ends where the religion of Islam begins, this is Islamism. The means of achieving that end may vary between democratically elected heads of state like Erdoğan slowly de-secularising a country and privileging one faith, or violent extremists willing to go the extra mile and wipe out all opposition (note; that is not to say that all violent extremists are Islamists). Indeed, the two may vehemently disagree with each other on progressing the end goal, or may differ theologically (some may argue that apostates deserve execution, others may not; the fact that both believe they have a right to decide whether an apostate lives or dies, rather than neither a believer nor an apostate having any right to decide who lives or dies, is the point), but the end goal remains the same. Whether you parade the streets of London with a sign reading ‘Freedom go to hell!’, or you wear a suit, attend a nation’s Parliament and seek to impose Islam by restricting equal civil liberty via an outwardly respectable legislative process; the end goal is the same.

When I peer out of my window, I see two trees, both of different appearance and levels of imposition. There’s a big tree with red leaves that blocks direct sun light from entering my window after a certain time. There’s a tiny tree with green leaves that balances precariously during windy nights. The two are very similar yet contain nuances that suggest differences; we still call both a tree, because the nuances do not negate the roots. It is fair to say that all ‘isms’, though rooted to the same principles, contain degrees of nuance to the point where one may refer to another as ‘not a real…[insert ism as applicable]’. An ‘ism’ is an umbrella term for a set of ideas. Socialism has a wildly varying degree of proponents from the peaceful to the violent, all seeking a similar goal. With Islamism, the nuances – the means of achieving control of the apparatus of state for Islam; thus the lives of others – may differ, but the principle itself remains the same. If you believe the liberty of others should be chained to the religious dictates of the faith of Islam – however you see that goal achieved – this is Islamism. I am yet to understand why this is a controversial definition, though I suspect it is less controversial, and more uncomfortable for some who fall under this definition.

One objection appears to be that we do not share similar terms with those of others faiths working toward the same end. I agree with this objection to a point, though fail to see how it negates the solid definition of the term ‘Islamism’. It simply – and rightly – suggests inconsistent use elsewhere. In the past, we have used ‘Clerical fascism’ – a well defined term focused on Christianity. In the 21st Century, we tend to refer – perhaps sloppily – to those we should refer to as Christianists as the Christian-right. We don’t refer to Islamists as the Muslim-right. This isn’t a distinction without meaning. We do this largely because by the 1950s, what we should call Christianism started to become aligned to the mainstream political right wing, especially in the US, and had several successes, not least ‘In God We Trust’ placed everywhere, slowly chipping away at the principle of church/state separation. The Christian-right are to this day aligned to the Republican Party, continuing its fight to enshrine Christian privilege into the mechanism of state (particularly Oklahoma). It is a similar tale in the UK. It was unsurprising that the voices of dissent over the UK’s same-sex marriage bill, were almost all conservatives (Tory and UKIP), using a Christian narrative in order to withhold equal rights for others. Tony Abbott’s right winged Liberal Party in Australia, appears to favour Christian dogma, over secular liberalism. That relationship between Islamists and mainstream politics isn’t as clear as it has been for their Christianist counterparts and so the term ‘Muslim-right’ would be wholly inadequate. So we use ‘Islamism’ – a term that seems to have gained its rebirth as an new concept in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution through to 9/11 and beyond; and so both ‘Christian-right’ and ‘Islamism’ are founded upon a social, historical context, both with a very clear foundation in the desire to impose the faith of one, over the lives of others through the functions of state.

Perhaps our familiarity with the term ‘Christian-right’ is a reason we do not change it to ‘Christianism’, we already have an established term. Indeed, whilst the term ‘Christianism’ and ‘Christianists’ is at times used – A Time article and Guardian article use it – I would argue that it isn’t used enough (on this blogging platform ‘Islamist’ is recognised as a real word, whilst ‘Christianist’ is underlined to suggest a spelling error) and that it is an objection Muslims are right to raise, though not in the context of negating or diluting the clear definition of ‘Islamism’ (as the Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin implied here, whilst bizarrely questioning why the media doesn’t offer a positive image of Islamism from time to time).

As noted at the beginning of the previous paragraph, the lack of a similar word (not a lack of any word, because we absolutely do use other terms to describe them that mean the same thing) for those of other faiths progressing the same desire, does not negate the definition of Islamism as an ideological narrative that seeks to control the lives of others, according to the dictates of Islam. This is a political narrative, and regardless of what both Islamists and the Western far-right insist, is not a term to be used interchangeably with Islam. And so as far as I can tell, the definition of Islamism may be uncomfortable for some, but stands as a perfectly adequate definition.


Saddam’s terrorists.

June 21, 2014

Saddam in court in 2004.

Saddam in court in 2004.

One of the more notable arguments employed against military intervention in Iraq back in 2003, was that Saddam’s regime posed no threat to the US or UK, and hadn’t attacked, threatened or killed anyone from the US or UK. Indeed, Michael Moore’s popular anti-intervention movie Fahrenheit 9/11 takes this claim and insists that Iraq was:

“A nation that had never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen.”

– I find the argument to be shrouded in ambiguity and wholly misleading. Whilst it might be true that Iraqi soldiers were not waiting for the command to storm Pennsylvania Avenue, nor is there much in the way of evidence to link Saddam or Iraq’s Mukhabarat to a cooperative relationship with al-Qaeda despite George Bush’s manipulative insistence to the contrary; to say that Iraq under Saddam had not threatened the US, or been involved in the killing of a single American citizen, is entirely disingenuous, and works to play down – in an attempt to strengthen the anti-intervention position – the role Saddam’s Iraq played in harbouring, funding, and protecting those responsible for hideous acts of terrorism resulting in the deaths of US citizens.

To shoot back in time to 1993, after leaving office, President Bush Sr took a trip to Kuwait, two years after the US helped to rid Kuwait of Saddam’s forces. During the tip, Kuwaiti intelligence discovered a plot to assassinate Bush and the Kuwaiti Emir using bomb material that they believed could have caused devastation to a quarter mile radius of the bomb site. This means it would have also murdered several other key US and Kuwaiti officials in the entourage. Kuwait arrested several suspects, including Al-Ghazali and Al-Asadi, whom both explained that Iraqi intelligence had recruited them to carry out the assassination. Bomb technicians connected the bomb circuit board and detonator that was to be used to assassinate a former US President, to known Iraqi bombs from elsewhere. So did Saddam’s Iraq threaten the US? Yes. They threatened to blow up an ex-President, and were only stopped at the very last minute.

Prior to the assassination attempt on President Bush, Saddam’s regime gave refuge several times to (and then themselves assassinated) the Palestinian terrorist Sabri al-Banna – Abu Nidal – a man who ordered the deaths of 16 people at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome from gunfire and killing two more when his men threw grenades at people boarding a flight to Israel. Nidal’s terrorist organisation is believed to have been involved in the 1972 Munich attack at the Olympics as well as aborted assassination attempts on the lives of Arafat and Abbas. Nidal, speaking of himself, said:

“I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing nightmares.”

– In 1986, Nidal’s group hijacked Pan AM flight 73. After sitting on the tarmac for several hours with 389 hostages, Nidal’s team threw grenades into the passengers in the cabin, injuring 100, and killing 16, including 7 Americans. Saddam had publicly kicked Nidal’s group out of Iraq in 1983 – three years before the Pan AM attack – in the hope of winning the US’s support for his war on Iran. But by 1988, Nidal’s group were back in Saddam’s good books, operating out of Syria, supported by Libya and Iraq, and were based primarily in Iraq from 1998, until Saddam had Nidal assassinated (though insisted he committed suicide) in 2004. Between 1998 and 2004, Nidal lived in Iraq, away from justice for his terrorist activities. Whether or not Saddam was involved in any way with the Pan AM massacre, is nor relevant, because he absolutely did harbour and give refuge to Nidal after the attack, allowing the terrorist network to continue unhindered. This also included harbouring Khala Khadr al-Salahat; a member of Abu Nidal’s organisation, found in Iraq in April 2003. Al-Salahat was responsible for designing the bomb that destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988.

A more direct connection between a Nidal attack and Saddam’s regime occurred earlier in their relationship. In 1982 (at the height of their courtship) Nidal was involved in an Iraqi ordered plot to murder the Israeli ambassador in London. Nidal’s group sent Hussein Ghassan Said, Marwan al-Banna (Nidal’s cousin), and Nawaf al-Rosan (a Baghdad intelligence colonel) to assassinate Shlomo Argov as he left a London hotel. Argov was shot in the head, but survived. The hit men later admitted that the guns used in the attack were handed to them by the Iraqi embassy in London, with the order coming from Baghdad. Saddam’s men were happily attempting to assassinate people on the streets of London, ordered by a man who would go on to murder 7 Americans using grenades in a hijacked plane, and later protected by Saddam.

In 1985, Muhammad Zaidan masterminded the attack on the Italian cruise ship, the MS Achille Lauro. After demanding the release of PLO prisoners held by Israel, and being denied docking rights at Tautus, the attackers murdered disabled Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer and threw his body overboard. Abbas was arrested and subsequently freed by the Italians, moved to Gaza for a while, fled to Iraq, where Saddam protected and used him as a conduit to make payments of $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He died in 2004 in US custody in Iraq.

It was 11:30am on April 30th, 1980, when six terrorists from the Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan – sponsored by Saddam’s Iraq – stormed the Iranian Embassy in London, and held 26 people hostage. During the days that followed the terrorists went on UK TV to announce that they intended to kill hostages. True to their word, they murdered Abbas Lavasani and threw his body out of the window. BBC Journalist Chris Cramer who was one of the hostages talks of the terror he felt at being held captive in Britain, by Saddam’s terrorists:

“My fear was that having killed one hostage, why shouldn’t they kill the next one? And then again, why shouldn’t it be me?”

– It took a full SAS siege to bring the crisis to an end. Saddam’s Iraq directly sponsored a terrorist attack on Iran, on UK soil.

In February 2003, the government of the Philippines expelled the Iraqi diplomat Husham Husain for using the Iraqi embassy to make connections with known Islamist group Abu Sayyaf (not affiliated with al-Qaeda). Officials in the Philippines say that Husain received a phone call from a leading Abu Sayyaf member in October 2002, a day after an Abu Sayyaf planted bomb blast in Zamboanga City that killed American serviceman SFC Mark Wayne Jackson. The bomb was deliberately set off near to Camp Enrile Malagutay – a camp playing host to American troops. The same cell phone used to call Husain was later used in an attempt to blow up a Catholic shrine in the same area. Iraq denied that Husain had taken any phone call from Abu Sayyaf members (one of Iraq’s many lies). But then in 2006, an eight-page fax recovered from Iraq and sent from the Iraqi Embassy in Manila to Baghdad in 2001, showed that Iraq had been funding Abu Sayyaf. After Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 20 holiday makers from the Dos Palmas resort, including three Americans, which gained international attention and was undertaken without Iraq’s knowledge, the Iraqi’s lost their patience. The document reads:

“The kidnappers were formerly (from the previous year) receiving money and purchasing combat weapons. From now on we (IIS) are not giving them this opportunity and are not on speaking terms with them.”

– This confirms that the Iraqi embassy in Manila was funding a terrorist organisation and ordering them to purchase weapons, but it also seems to suggest that support for Abu Sayyaf ended in 2001, and yet it is quite clear that Husham Husain – the Iraqi diplomat – had contact with a member of Abu Sayyaf a day after the bombing of Zamboanga. It seems Iraq and Abu Sayyaf rekindled their flame sometime after the bombing of Zamboanga. The Philippine’s immigration commissioner Andrea Domingo said that Husain operated an ‘established network’ of terrorists in the country, and Abu Sayyaf terrorist Hamsiraji Sali informed The Philippine Daily Inquirer that Baghdad had been funding them with up to $20,000 a year between 2000 and 2003. A direct link between the death of an American (deliberately targeted), and Saddam’s Iraq.

The 1993 attempt on President Bush’s life, and the 2000 – 2003 (at least) funding of Abu Sayyaf, along with the harbouring of Abu Nidal and Khala Khadr al-Salahat post-1990, is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 687, part 32, which reads:

“Requires Iraq to inform the Security Council that it will not commit, or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory and to condemn unequivocally and renounce such acts, methods and practices of terrorism.”

– And so to suggest Saddam’s regime posed no threat, and played no part in the threatening or murdering of American citizens, is a gross distortion of the whole story. Saddam utilised terrorist cells when he could (often at arms length), and irritated them elsewhere (Mullah Krekar insisted that Saddam was his sworn enemy). Saddam’s regime openly funded terrorist activities that lead to the killing of Americans. His regime attempted to assassinate an ex-President. His regime conducted a terrorist attack on a foreign embassy in London. His regime protected those already responsible for countless murders and terrorist attacks. His regime was behind the attempted murder of an Israeli official on the streets of Britain. But to read or hear some anti-war commentators – just as insistent that Saddam had not threatened or attacked the US or killed or threatened any US citizen, as George Bush was insistent that Saddam and al-Qaeda were working side by side – you would walk away under the impression that Saddam’s regime was an innocent victim of Western imperialist aggression. And that is of course, the manipulative aim. I am quite sure that the anti-war movement itself is guilty of lying or manipulating to secure support for its cause. By doing so, they grossly hide from view the crimes of one of history’s most brutal regimes, in the hope of strengthening their own position. Ironically, manipulating and hiding the facts, is the very same tactic they accuse the West of committing.


Time to reshape the Supreme Court.

February 27, 2014

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Duncan Lock, Dflock (Own work).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Duncan Lock, Dflock (Own work).

It is no big secret that the President has struggled to get his executive branch and judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate over his time in office. The incessant blocking effort by the minority Senate Republicans halted any attempt to diversify the courts prior to Reid’s ‘nuclear option’. In fact, over half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch and judicial positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. The effect of this staggering conservative grip on power can be seen in most evidently in the decisions handed down by the courts. From those decisions, we can see that corporate America has a dedicated team batting for their side in the courtrooms of the United States.

In 2010, the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee threw up a surprising result, in which the US Supreme Court used the First Amendment to strike down restrictions of corporations and unions using treasury money to finance political expenditure. This contradicted several previous court precedents, and Judge Stevens – one of the four Supreme Court dissenters – argued that the winning conservative majority had expanded the scope of the question they were addressing, to give themselves an opportunity to change the law. The dissenters argued that the threat of big moneyed corruption – essentially, vast sums of money spent on campaigns exchanged for Congressional votes – was a big enough reason to place limits on corporate expenditure. This was ignored, and the court applied First Amendment rights to corporations; entities that can’t vote, can’t be thrown in prison, are completely amoral, and whose purpose it solely to make money, and have never taken too kindly to democratic accountability. The court essentially decided that corporations are people.

In 2007, the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. led to the US Supreme Court finding in favour of corporate interests discriminating on basis of gender. Lilly Ledbetter was hired by Goodyear in 1979, retiring in 1998. During those years, she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts. This led to further inequality in her social security, and overtime pay. She only learned of this inequality toward the end of her career. The Supreme Court ruled that because she didn’t file suit within 180 of her first paycheck, she couldn’t sue for gender discrimination. The Supreme Court thus ruled in favour of corporate interests, when it conflicts with gender equality.

In 2011, the case of PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, the Supreme Court ruled that generic-drug companies cannot be held liable under state law, for failing to give full label warnings of potential side effects of the drugs they produce. This came about after Gladys Mensing sued PLIVA for failing to report the dangers of the drug they were producing, which led to Gladys developing a completely irreversible neurological movement disorder. The Supreme Court found in favour of PLIVA, even if PLIVA failed to notify the FDA of new health risks.

Time after time, the Roberts court in the United States rules largely in favour of corporate interests, ignoring past precedents, or just completely overturning previous finance, labor, health, environment, and tort law. Citizens United, Ledbetter, PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, Exxon-Valdez, Sorrell vs. IMS Health, Philip Morris USA v. Williams, Gross v. FBL Financial Services AT&T Mobility v. Concepción. The list is endless. And usually results in a 5-4 decision in favour of corporate interests. This is a direct result of the conservative grip on power over the courts in the US.

The constant threat of filibuster meant the President’s field of eligible candidates significantly withered, and professional diversity, nonexistent. According to research by the Alliance for Justice, of President Obama’s 281 judicial nominees, only 10 have experience in representing labor and worker interests in disputes. Only four of the 56 circuit judicial nominees have worked as public defenders, compared to 21 as prosecutors. Around 85% of President Obama’s judicial nominees to be confirmed have worked as Corporate attorneys or prosecutors. Of the 177 judicial nominees to the district courts, only 8 worked previously in a public interest role. A staggering 71% of President Obama’s district court nominees have worked primarily with corporate interests. The problem is clear; the courts lack professional diversity.

It is perhaps true that Reid’s Senate ‘nuclear option’ opened opportunities for incredibly talented judges from all walks of life, with experience representing individual workers and consumers rather than just corporate interests, to enter the district and circuit courts without fear of filibuster, but as it stands right now, the courts of the US lack that much needed diversity. As of today, there are 29 vacancies for the district courts, and six for circuit courts. Selection committees for the judiciary on a state level should be using this time to promote professional diversity, and specifically encouraging those with public interest backgrounds to apply. Reid’s nuclear option – requiring a simple majority to confirm nominees rather than a filibuster proof majority – presents a wonderful opportunity for Democrats to push for a far more diverse judiciary – not just in terms of racial, gender, and sexuality diversity, but also professional experience – and a unique opportunity to change the power balance in the US for the better.


Republican hero Ted Nugent in his own words.

February 22, 2014

“If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!”
– Sarah Palin’s reason for endorsing Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

It’s been a terrible twelve or so months for the Republicans. An objective commentator might point out that the shift too far to the right, or to the left, will always spell trouble for a political party. Most voters are not looking to radically shift the direction of the country to either extreme, and so the more a party appears to offer such a shift, the more voters will turn away. Instead of addressing the issues that Republicans seem to have in connecting with anyone who isn’t a white, middle aged, Christian, heterosexual male, they instead have weirdly chosen to embrace that mentality of exclusivity. An extreme ideological mentality – moulded and set by overly paranoid conspiratorial ‘analysts’ like Limbaugh – that will without doubt see them fall further from electability and harm the party in the long run. Nowhere is this more pronounced than their odious courting and embracing of Ted Nugent by Republican Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

So here is the GOP’s new hero, Ted Nugent, in his own words:

Ted Nugent in 1992 on anyone who wasn’t born in America:

“… Yeah they love me (in Japan) – they’re still assholes. These people they don’t know what life is. I don’t have a following, they need me; they don’t like me they need me … Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ’em; I don’t want ’em in this country; I don’t want ’em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ’em pumping my gas; I don’t want ’em downwind of my life-OK? So anyhow-and I’m dead serious …”

Ted Nugent on those fighting to break down barriers to gender equality:

“What’s a feminist anyways? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough?”

Ted Nugent on the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin:

“Trayvon got justice.”

Ted Nugent’s letter to the girlfriend of a guy he’d met, who wouldn’t let him go hunting:

“I wrote her something and I said ‘Drop dead, bitch’… What good is she, trade her in, get a Dalmatian. Who needs the wench?”

Ted Nugent after explaining how he dodged the Vietnam draft:

“But if I would have gone over there, I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed all the Hippies in the foxholes. I would have killed everybody.”

– Instead, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent worked up a plan to dodge the draft, whilst fellow Americans put their lives on the line.

Ted Nugent on rappers:

“MTV is a liberal lump of hippy snot. They are embarrassing. Those big uneducated greasy black mongrels on there, they call themselves rap artists.”

– Yes. The new hero of one of the two major political parties in the US, referred to people as “uneducated greasy black mongrels”.

Ted Nugent on what constitutes “real” Americans:

“You know what I’m on top of? I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

– In the same interview, and following this quote, when told that African Americans were just as hard working as white Americans, Nugent said:

“Show me one.”

Ted Nugent on President Obama:

“communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.”

Ted Nugent and Confederacy nostalgia:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

– The South. You know, the region fighting specifically to uphold the institution of slavery.

Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

“You probably can’t use the term `toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”

Ted Nugent’s violent, misogynistic rant on what he’d like to do with his machine guns and women in politics:

“Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these [machine gun] into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? ”

Ted Nugent – having exhausted Confederate nostalgia, racism, and misogyny – now turns to repugnant homophobia:

“I got to tell you, guys that have sex with each others’ anals cavities – how can we offend guys that have anal sex?”

Ted Nugent solution to those people crossing the border from Mexico:

“In an unauthorized entry, armed, like they are right now, invading our country, I’d like to shoot them dead.”

Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

“Our politicians check their scrotum in at the door. Even Hillary, but obviously she has spare scrotums.”

After Nugent’s most recent vile Benghazi tantrum, in which he referred to the President as a “chimpanzee” and “subhuman mongrel”, Texas Governor, Republican Rick Perry said that he didn’t take offence at the comment, and:

“That’s Ted Nugent. Anybody that’s offended sorry, but that’s just Ted.”

– A few hours later, it would appear that Perry had a change of heart, when he then told CNN:

“That is not appropriate language to use about the president of the United States.”

– A bit of an odd choice of words. I’d suggest it’s not appropriate language to use about anyone, not just the President. It’s horrendously racist terminology.

The cynic in me might argue that Perry issued this second comment on the controversy, because Nugent’s ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘mongrel’ analogy is incredibly damaging to the Republicans, and to the campaign of Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. It was perhaps Perry’s way of attempting to create distance between the Republican Party, and a horrifyingly racist, misogynist, homophobic, Confederacy sympathiser. Greg Abbott on the other hand, will be continuing to campaign alongside Nugent. It is frightening that in the US, in the 21st Century, Wendy Davis – a great advocate of women’s health rights – will almost certainly be defeated in Texas’s gubernatorial race, by a Republican candidate who has fully embraced a venomous human being like Ted Nugent.

The love affair between Ted Nugent and the GOP, reflects perfectly the hideous direction the Republican Party has taken in recent years. Indeed, Nugent is the personification of the Tea Party influence on the Republican Party; his violent, misogynistic, racist, homophobic rhetoric, subtly masked with conspiratorial (Benghazi) tones as its weak justification, is the very essence of the Tea Party. It is a brand new Republican Party falling over to the political extremes more and more by the day. It is therefore a Republican Party unlikely to win the White House again in a very, very long time.


Faith: The “get out of bigotry free” card.

December 20, 2013

The backlash over Phil Robertson’s homophobic comments and subsequent suspension from ‘Duck Dynasty’ on A&E over in the US this week, has revealed three things. Firstly, the Christian Right seem to be under the impression that bigotry – when it is faith based- is acceptable and should come with no consequences. Secondly, they appear to be more offended at a suspension for bigotry, than they are by bigotry itself (is this what it means to be Christian?); And thirdly, they wish all private business owners to share their bigotry, and if those business owners wish the freedom to suspend someone for comments disagreeable to the business or the owners, this can only mean persecution of Christians, the end of free expression, and something about Stalin and Hitler.

For what it’s worth, I am a big free speech advocate. As an Atheist, I have argued that Muslim speaker – Mehdi Hasan – should be allowed to say of non-believers, that we’re headed for eternal torture, and that we live like animals. As disgusting as I find his views, I recognise that he will equally find my views on his faith to be ugly. The same Muslim speaker – Mehdi Hasan – then demanded we all say nice things about his religion, in essence, promotion of blasphemy laws; this, I cannot abide. They exist to protect faith. Faith has no inherent right to be protected.

It is worth noting that in Phil Robertson’s case, the state is not threatening to punish him. This is not a free expression issue. His freedom to be a bigot, is not under threat. Robertson expressed his view, he wont be punished by the state for it. However, a private business can still suspend him, if they are unhappy at what he expresses. This is true of every other business across the World. If I were to go on TV and express a thoroughly racist opinion, I’d expect to be disciplined by the network for it. If private companies wish to suspend someone for an ill-conceived and hateful racist, or homophobic rant, it is their right to do so.

Here is what Phil Robertson said:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus, that’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

– Leaving aside the obvious irony in a man believing in book of magical fairy sky man, dust Adam, rib Eve, and talking snake, having the nerve to call anyone else “not logical”; Phil Robertson here compares beastiality to homosexuality. At this point, the Christian-right expected no one to take issue with this grotesque rant. It is true that if you hold such appalling and uneducated views, you’re likely to face strong opposition with equally strongly held views (though again, you should not be punished by the state). It is the nature of holding extreme views.

For example, we could all point out that whilst Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination, 1 Corinthians 11:14 refers to Phil Robertson as a ‘disgrace’:

“Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him”

– But I don’t use this to build a system of bigoted privilege for those of us who aren’t a ‘disgrace’ For having long hair, Phil Robertson “won’t inherit the Kingdom of heaven. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right”.

Indeed, the free expression narrative is an interesting one. For the Christian-right, it appears to mean freedom-to-say-right-winged-things, and to threaten action against those who don’t. In 2011, The American Family Association issued a sort of fatwa against The Gap and Banana Republic, calling for a boycott of the business. Effectively hurting business, thus hurting people who work for those businesses, around Christmas time, because:

“The boycott is part of our ongoing campaign to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to put Christ back in Christmas. The boycott runs from November 1 through Christmas Day.
For years, Gap has refused to use the word Christmas in its television commercials, newspaper ads and in-store promotions, despite tens of thousands of consumer requests to recognize Christmas and in spite of repeated requests from AFA to do the same.”

– The AFA are quite the serial offenders for demanding private companies bow to their wishes. They demanded a boycott of Ford over its support for gay pride events. The AFA then announced that Ford’s drop in sales, was caused in large part by the AFA’s boycott. Congrats! Your free expression – according to you – hurt a business, thus hurting employees, all because the business didn’t come to you to draft it’s “What we’re allowed to support” memo.

Similarly, The First Baptist Church of Dallas, in 2010 launched a website designed to allow users to ‘name and shame’ companies who take ‘Christ’ away from the holiday period, in their ads and products. The Christian-right are naturally very talented at forcing their views on others, and silencing dissent, so to harm businesses – small and large – to harm the employees who work at these businesses by shaming them simply for not re-affirming the Christian aspect of Christmas every single second of every day.

In 2010, the late Helen Thomas made disparaging remarks toward Jews in Israel, when she suggested Jews should leave Israel and “go home” to Germany and Poland. Ari Fleischer – Press Secretary under George W Bush – said:

“She should lose her job over this.”

– Nine Speakers, Inc, the agency that represented Thomas then fired her, after the media backlash and ex-Bush staff calling for her to be fired. Sarah Palin expressed her anger at Thomas, and added to the media storm that eventually led to her firing. Palin today is standing by Phil Robertson for his equally disparaging remarks.

Indeed, conservatives were overjoyed that “they” managed to get Helen Thomas fired:
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Three years later, the same conservatives expressing joy at getting someone fired for expressing their view, seem to have had a sudden change of heart:
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And again:
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And again:
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– When it’s speech that doesn’t adhere to their Theocratic standards, they get angry and demand action. When the speech absolutely adheres to their Theocratic standards, they get angry at those who demand action. It’s beautifully hypocritical.

In December 2012, Alex Jones over at infowars started a petition that eventually gained over 100,000 signatures on the White House website, earning an official response from the President…. to deport Piers Morgan for advocating gun control. Apparently you’re free to say what you wish, as long as it’s Tea Party-esque, and you’re not foreign:
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And again:
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Hell, it’s not just Piers Morgan they want to deport either:
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– Essentially; give a voice to those who agree with us, and silence those who don’t.

As noted in yesterday’s article on the Christian-right in Oklahoma – they are not happy unless their faith dictates the operation of the state, the media, private businesses, the womb of every woman on the planet, and whom individuals are allowed to marry. The arrogance is astounding, and the religious supremacy that promotes and perpetuates homophobia is cancerous.

The use of the phrase “free expression” – which to the Christian-right means; freedom from any sort of repercussion or challenge – is only ever invoked when the views expressed confirm Christian prejudices. The same people then demand repercussions for anyone, or any business whose expression doesn’t confirm Christian-right prejudices. It’s a terribly hypocritical state of affairs, all in the hope of retaining the get out of bigotry free card for that which they call “faith”.


The GOP outrage machine: The President’s pies.

November 29, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Lawrence Jackson - Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House - Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Lawrence Jackson – Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House – Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

After months of shamelessly using the tragedy in Benghazi for political gain that eventually led to no scandal whatsoever, a new scandal took hold. The President was not attending Gettysburg for the 250 year anniversary! When that turned out to be in keeping with every other President since Gettysburg, the Tea Party brigade needed a new scandal. Well, this time, they really outdid all expectations of the crazy we’ve all come to expect; The First Family had NINE pies on their Thanksgiving menu!

For reference, here is the White House Thanksgiving Menu:

Dinner:
Turkey
Honey-Baked Ham
Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Stuffing
Greens
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Dinner Rolls

Dessert:
Huckleberry Pie
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Cream Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Peach Pie
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

– Bare in mind, this is the choice. They didn’t eat every single menu item. My fridge and freezer currently contains enough to make about 9 or 10 different dishes that I could put together. This doesn’t mean I will eat all 9 or 10 dishes. It means I have the choice. This is lost on Tea Partiers, who apparently believe that they must order every item that appears on a menu, when they go out to eat, judging by the feigned Twitter outrage below:

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– Only Commies would dare to employ chefs capable of offering nine pies on a menu! For reference, I’d like to know how many pies is synonymous with freedom loving Patriots?

11
– Actually, he might be on to something. Massive war expenditure, and the wealthiest in society choosing not to pay taxes, whilst the most vulnerable are left to suffer? Sounds much like 1789, and the entirety of the Bush White House years. A corporate Versailles.

10

2

3

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– The over dramatic whinge, we’ve all become so accustomed to hearing from the Tea Party Right.

5
– I don’t think this guy can go any better than this tweet. ‘Lying Pig’ is surely enough?

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– Arrogant! of course! AND RANDOM capitalised WORDS for dramatic EFFECT!

8
– What this means to say is, one per GOP-invented, reigned outrage, non-scandal.

9
– YEA…. wait, what?

6
– I believe Trotsky himself insisted that the proletariat could only be victorious in the great class struggle, if they had a menu with more than eight pies on it.

7
– Well, she did make it up a little bit. They had nine on the menu. They didn’t eat nine. They had a choice. Apparently the White House have chefs that are capable of offering several different dishes!

A restaurant I visited recently, had twelve desserts on the menu. It’s a small restaurant, and not once did I consider twelve desserts to be a clear symbol of communism in the UK. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe freedom lovers are fine paying for President Bush’s countless trips to the golf course, but should not be fine with any more than maybe five desserts, six at most on the White House Thanksgiving menu. Perhaps employing chefs willing to cook more than eight pies, is the very epitome of socialism. I have a lot to learn about this freedom loving thing.


Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

November 28, 2013

800px-Rand_Paul_Filibuster

It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

– Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

Let’s start with the most staggering.
Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

“To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

– Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.


Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013

THISLAND JOHN BIRCH

The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

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– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

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– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.


Operation Christmas Child: The Cult of Franklin Graham.

November 18, 2013

operation christmas child, atheists north carolina school, samaritan's purse, franklin graham, atheism,

It is around that time of year again when the cries of “Keep CHRIST in Christmas!” spring up, the same time of year we hear that there is some sort of conspiracy of Atheists and Muslims trying to ban Christmas. The persecuted Christians (who oddly, are in all major positions of power in the US) spring to life in an attempt to conceive of an anti-Christmas Atheist agenda that doesn’t actually exist. Sarah Palin has already used the phrase “The War on Christmas” this year and it isn’t even December yet.

This week saw a new apparent example of heartless Atheists attempting to undermine the spirit of Christmas whilst simultaneously impoverishing children further. The story is brought to us across the evangelical blogs and news sites. For example, WLTX reports that due to the big bad Atheist bullies, East Point Academy in Cayce South Carolina had cancelled its toy drive after being threatened by the American Humanist Association, simply because it was a Christian concoction. That’s the story posted. They even include a back up quote from the Principle Renee Mathews here:

“There’s no religious literature tied with it. There’s no speakers who come. There’s no religious affiliation at all.”

– The problem is, this isn’t true. It isn’t a case a benevolent charity giving gifts to the needy, for benevolent reasons, with no religious affiliation at all, as Mathews claims. Quite the opposite, and rather sinisterly so.

Operation Christmas Child, ran by Reverend Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical program designed to bribe the most vulnerable people into converting to Franklin’s particular brand of Christianity. They openly state their goal is:

“…the advancement of the Christian faith through educational projects and the relief of poverty”.

– Relief of poverty for the sake of itself is not good enough for this organisation, it must be linked intrinsically to the spread of the cult of Franklin Graham.

The cult preys on US school children by inviting them to give to what is believed to be an honest charity dedicated to helping the poorest children in the World, but before delivering those gifts, they slip in Reverend Franklin Graham’s propaganda material. Your children are not sending toys to vulnerable children, the toys are just a marketing technique for a cult that wishes to spread to message.

As chairman of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham is given around $400,000 a year. Graham is as Tea Party-esque as the Christian Right gets, having once claimed:

“The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active in our country. It’s infiltrated every level of our government. Right now we have many of these people that are advising the US military and State Department on how to respond in the Middle East, and it’s like asking a fox, like a farmer asking a fox, “How do I protect my henhouse from foxes?” We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. And many of these people we’ve brought in, I’m afraid, are under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

– He also claimed that the Japanese tsunami may have signalled the beginning of Armageddon. He publicly maintains that President Obama is not a Christian – which he deems to be unacceptable – has said that the President was born Muslim, is influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, and he recorded a public message insisting that same-sex marriage should be banned, with no same-sex union recognised by the state at all. Graham, therefore, has a very political agenda. A very public agenda. Whilst pushing this public agenda, he also have a right winged Christian agenda, that Samaritan’s Purse manipulates school children into being an unwitting part of. Why not agree to send those toys without any mention of religion, or Jesus, or God, as defined by a right-winged American evangelical?

When they seek out donors, Operation Christmas Child usually downplays its evangelism, so as to attract funding. So much so that South Wales Fire Service here in the UK halted their involvement with Operation Christmas Child after discovering the true nature of the ‘charity’. Director of Corporate Services for South Wales Fire Service, upon discovering the real motives of Operation Christmas Child wrote:

“Our involvement in Operation Christmas Child has been on the basis that the project was no more than a charitable event. We do not lend support to any political or religious organisation in their own right, neither do we wish to be associated with anybody whose activities would bring the brigade into dispute.”

– It seems Samaritan’s Purse completely manipulated the fire service, and abused their generosity.

In 2001, in response to two earthquakes in El Salvador, Samaritan’s Purse received $200,000 of federal aid money to provide relief in the country. They then proceeded to hold prayer meetings, before showing people how to rebuild their homes. Franklin Graham wrote:

“When we go into these villages and help people get back into their homes, we hope we’ll be able to plant new churches all over this country”

– The use of US aid money, to spread a cult defined by the Graham family, is not a cause that the US government should be funded, nor should it be allowed in US schools.

In 2003, Samaritan’s Purse released a report, which seems to boast of their manipulative efforts to bribe children. This is the case of a 13 year old boy who’s enticed into the stranger’s ‘house’ with gifts:

“Every day, Ramakrishna’s work route took him in front of a Christian church. As he picked up trash from the gutter, a woman invited him into the church. He always refused. Then one day the woman asked him inside to receive a gift. He was still wary of Christians and their strange beliefs, but the offer of a gift was too tempting. He accepted.”

The report then goes on to give us the real reason they use shoebox drives. To get around anti-conversion laws:

“India can be a difficult mission field. Many states have anti-conversion laws that make it hard for Christians to work. But Operation Christmas Child breaks down barriers and provides a way to reach the children. More than 325,000 shoe box gifts were distributed in 2003, and 265,000 children were enrolled in follow-up Bible study programs.”

– The imperialist cult of Franklin Graham.

Operation Christmas Child sends its propaganda to places that are mainly Muslim; they sent 30,000 Arabic Bibles out to Iraq after the first gulf war. They also aim their propaganda at poorer Hindu communities. This, after Franklin Graham once said of Hinduism:

“… hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism… bound by Satan’s power”.

“… no elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation”

– This isn’t about giving gifts to vulnerable children, this is about spreading a Biblical cult through any immoral means necessary; including the spread of bribery and bigotry. Visiting struggling countries, and offering food and aid, along with a Bible, is not something I am at all comfortable with, and it is not something that should be allowed to infect secular schools.

As a private organisation – regardless of how dubious and politically motivated their aims are – we cannot stop them. But it is entirely irresponsible and wrong to be manipulating state school children, in a secular society, to give up their belongings to a cause they believe is innocent whilst at the same time using that innocence to help spread the message of a fundamentalist cult, and the power of a very unlikeable evangelist.

For the cult of Franklin Graham, poverty and war are very profitable. Viewing poverty and destitution as a way to spread a religious agenda by preying on the most vulnerable, is so horribly wrong, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

It is not giving that is objectionable to non-believers. It is the use of propaganda in order to convert the most vulnerable, alongside the giving. I would encourage anyone who is worried that their good will and generosity may be the victim of a group like Samaritan’s Purse, to give to far more reputable sources. Oxfam Unwrapped for example, or Link To Hope’s shoebox appeal. Neither of these will include any form of political or religious propaganda, nor the spread of the message of a cult. Your gifts will be safe.

This hideous group should not be allowed anywhere near children.

It’d be nice for the news media to tell the full story.


A list of things Obamacare leads to…

November 11, 2013

A few months ago I wrote on the absurdities that conservatives tend to invoke when they’re losing an argument that they’ve staked their reputations on. Back then, it was gay marriage. The list of terrible, World ending catastrophes that same-sex marriage was going to inevitably lead to, according to conservatives, was extensive and staggering. But now they’ve moved on to a new subject. And so I thought I’d present a comprehensive list of the most outlandish and absurd suggestions that US conservatives have decided are the product of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

  • A Communist takeover of government and the end of the Catholic Church in the US. Here.
  • Following the path of Hitler (you know, the guy who killed 6,000,000 Jewish people in gas chambers, and tried to establish a “racially pure” empire) and Stalin. here.
  • Worse than Watergate. Here.
  • Worse thing since slavery. Here.
  • Armageddon. Here.
  • President Obama killing a variety of old people. Here.
  • Kids having secret abortions at school ‘sex clinic’. Here.
  • The most dangerous piece of legislation EVER passed. Here.
  • President Obama starting a race war. Here.
  • The death of all prosperity. Here.
  • Mandatory microchips implanted into all Americans. Here.
  • The destruction of the institution of marriage. Here.
  • The work of Satan seeking to destroy freedom. Here.
  • Obamacare causes cancer. Here.
  • The reintroduction of Feudalism. Here
  • The Government murdering people based on how productive they are, and children with Down Syndrome being judged by a panel on whether he or she can live or die. Here.
  • Conservatives sent to concentration camps. Here.
  • The US becoming a leading outpost of an Islamic Caliphate. Here.
  • Health insurance companies going along with the Affordable Care Act, are no different to Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps. Here.
  • Systematic genocide. Here.
  • As destructive to personal liberty as runaway slaves being forced to go back to their masters. here.
  • A racist tax against white people. Here.
  • Worse than the Boston bombing. Here.
  • A gay man going to prison because he has no money, and is forced to play roulette, because of Obamacare. Here.
  • Schools preparing children to accept Death Panels. Here.

    Naturally none of them mention the exact part of the bill that lead to their outlandish claim.

    When I began this, I didn’t expect the list to be as long as it eventually turned out to be. We are apparently a generation that is gifted with access to information and fact on a level no previous generation has enjoyed. And yet, it seems that facts and reasoned debate are often drowned out by a deafening constant screech of absurdity that creates an atmosphere in which Michelle Bachmann and Ted Cruz are trusted with political power. They represent nothing more than a comprehensive failure of education and access to accurate information in order to form rational and well rounded democratic decisions. What a waste of a wonderful gift.


  • ENDA: Civil Rights in the 21st Century.

    November 6, 2013

    enda, employment nondiscrimination act, usa, speaker boehner enda, house republicans enda, senate enda, politics

    The importance of passing ENDA in one quote.

    Two days ago, 61 Senators – including seven Republicans – voted to begin debate on the vital role of passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).

    ENDA; A bill that if passed in the coming days, would prevent workplace discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, the Bill ensures that workers should not feel scared that they might lose their jobs if their employer finds out (yup, it’s still taboo to be gay or transgender in the land of the free) that they happen to be in love with someone of the same gender as themselves, or happen to be transgender. It is a civil rights bill, an equality bill, a bill that levels the playing field. Which is why Republicans in the House oppose it.

    Predictably, a Republican House that didn’t wish to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act if it happened to cover LGBT couples and fought hard (though, ultimately failed) to prevent it passing appear to see ENDA as an opportunity to reiterate how much they dislike anyone who happens to be LGBT. The same heterosexual, male, anti-equality NO votes appear on every Senate roll call; Cruz, Paul, Lee, Rubio. A filibuster proof majority ensured the far-right in the Senate could not hold the country to ransom again.

    That being said, despite the fact that ENDA will almost certainly pass the Senate, and has widespread support from the public (60% support ENDA), Speaker Boehner refuses to bring a vote to the House floor. Insisting:

    “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

    – Just analyse that quote for a second. Really take in what Boehner is saying here. The Speaker of the House has just referred to lawsuits against employers that threaten your livelihood, your income, your ability to pay your mortgage, or feed your family, or pay your bills, the heartache and bullying it perpetuates, based solely on your sexual orientation – which is absolutely none of their business, and does not affect your work – as “frivolous”. The act of firing someone based solely on their sexual orientation, the Republicans do not apparently see as “frivolous”, and in fact consider perfectly reasonable and legitimate. To take this logic to its ultimate conclusion, they must – if they are to be consistent – also support workplace discrimination when it is aimed at race, gender, and religion.

    Ironically, this is the same House Speaker that has brought 48 frivolous anti-Affordable Care Act votes to the House Floor, and forced a frivolous government shutdown costing $24bn. I’m not entirely sure the Speaker of the House is in any position to be telling us what is and isn’t “frivolous”.

    Not only that, but it isn’t true that litigation would increase. There is no evidence for that at all. In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office there are currently 22 States that have their own anti-discrimination policies. The GAO report concludes that between 2007-2012, of those 22 States:

    “…there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed in these states during this time period.”

    – In other words, anti-discrimination policies work. Whether they are designed to level the playing field by working to end white supremacy, male supremacy, or heterosexual supremacy; they are not only morally right, they work.
    But that is just 22 States. Texas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and 25 more States currently do not allow for protection against discrimination in the workplace, if you happen to be gay. So, not only can same-sex couples not get marriage in Texas…. they also can’t mention their partner incase their employer finds out and fires them. This is why ENDA is vital.

    That being said, ENDA is not completely equality-oriented. Under ENDA, a religious organisation, or institution; including educational, can still proscribe LGBT people from holding office. A watered down ENDA Bill enshrines institutionalised bigotry, by suggesting that that bigotry is acceptable, if it is based on religious conviction; an exemption ensured by the voice of the Christian-right minority. ENDA doesn’t go far enough, but it’s a good start.

    Secondly, Boehner’s statement says unequivocally that the ENDA would cost American jobs. How so? Surely having the option to fire someone based on their sexuality orientation rather than the quality of their work, is a jobs killer. Is Boehner willing to tell the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have non-discrimination policies, that they’re killing jobs? Boehner’s comment implies that discriminating against gay people actually has a positive effect on the economy. For Boehner, the measure of your success through the quality of your work, is less important than who you fall in love with. Hard work pays, but only if you’re straight. For some odd reason, Boehner seems to saying that being able to prevent qualified and talented people from being employed simply for being gay, grows an economy. It quickly becomes easy to see past the “economy! jobs” veil that the Republicans tend to place over their faces to mask their inherent religiously motivated dislike for anyone who isn’t exactly like them. And don’t be fooled, this is just another attempt to allow religion to dictate policy and the concept of rights.

    Even if the Speaker’s claims were correct – that jobs were lost, and litigation increased due to ending workplace discrimination – it would not be a legitimate argument to perpetuate oppression and workplace bullying. Speaker Boehner has no credible argument for refusing to allow a debate and vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

    When recently re-elected Republican Governor of New Jersey – and potential Republican Candidate for President in 2016 – Chris Christie was asked how he would respond to the news that one of his children was gay, Christie said:

    “[If] my children came to me and said that they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them, just like I would do with any of my children who came to me with news that they wanted to give to me that they thought were important enough to open themselves up in that way. But what I would also tell them is that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. And that’s my position… And I know what [my child] would understand is that their father loves them, and that’s the most important thing.”

    – What he essentially saying is: “I love you and everything, but I will continue to vote to uphold a system that made it difficult for you to come to me in the first place, and that will inevitably lead to discrimination and bullying against you in the future.” Whilst Christie isn’t willing to protect his children against bullying, fear and discrimination, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently passing through the Senate works to address those problems. It is of vital importance to the cause of civil rights and equality that a secular and democratic nation like the United States has fought since its conception to ensure.


    Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates VI.

    October 28, 2013

    justin kuhnle, indiana's 3rd congressional district, marlin stutzman, republicans, democrats, house of representatives 2014, midterms 2014, indiana

    There seem to be two conflicting camps of thought on the House elections for 2014. On the one hand, 17 seats is a big majority to overturn. As noted previously, to do so would represent a post-World War II record for the President’s Party. On the other hand, history teaches us that if a Party moves too far to the left or right – as the Republicans most certainly have this year – they will be punished at the mid-terms. Support for House Republicans is at its lowest in decades, and lower than the 1998 House Republicans who lost five House seats and forced the resignation of the Speaker after self-destructively moving to the right over the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. So whilst it remains a very difficult feat in 2014, it isn’t impossible.

    Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District:
    The government shutdown may have provided Democrats with an opportunity to retake the House in 2014, but the battle is still to be fought uphill.

    Indiana’s 3rd is currently home to Rep. Marlin Stutzman, and considered a pretty safe Republican seat for 2014. Though that needn’t be the case, if we shine a light on Stutzman’s antics as Representative.

    Stutzman was right at the heart of the government shutdown, for which the public in general blame his rather nihilistic approach. When asked by the Washington Examiner about the Republican led shutdown and what demands the Republicans wanted in order to reopen government, Stutzman replied:

    “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

    – So, whilst voting to ensure the US wipe out at least 0.6% growth to the tune of $24bn (more than the annual GDP of Trinidad and Tobago)…. Rep. Marlin Stutzman had absolutely no idea what it is his Party wanted to gain from such a destructive course. The American people and the people of Indiana’s 3rd were not a concern or priority for Stutzman during the shutdown, the concern was purely Party political and incredibly opportunistic.

    This anti-Affordable Care Act stance from Stutzman, despite the fact that key Affordable Care Act findings for Indiana’s households show that every household income bracket, other than those earning over $250,000 a year, will be better off in five years time due to the Affordable Care Act, than under the old system.

    affordable care act, affordable care act indiana, indiana's 3rd congressional district, obamacare, marlin stutzman

    – It seems the only reason to so viciously oppose the ACA in Indiana, is because it works, and running an election campaign on the back of two years worth of scare tactics in order to repeal a law that benefits the majority of the citizens of Indiana, other than the very wealthy, isn’t going to impress too many voters.

    Neither is the fact that whilst Stutzman expressed his desire to see SNAP cut by an eye watering $30bn over the next ten years, he was receiving farm subsidies to the tune of $998,000 since 1995. Almost $1,000,000.
    Stutzman then tried to plead innocence by suggesting that the Federal government is actually forcing him to take almost $1,000,000 in subsidies that he doesn’t need:

    “we can’t say no.”

    – The US Department of Agriculture disagrees:

    “It’s a voluntary program, You can refuse payment on the farm.”

    – So, instead of working to end welfare for the wealthy – including himself – Stutzman is spending his time trying to ensure that Indiana’s residents pay more in health costs, and that the most vulnerable are hit devastatingly hard by horrifying cuts to SNAP. It is no surprise that Stutzman was absolutely fine with splitting SNAP from the farm subsidy program.

    Marlin Stutzman isn’t too keen on the Constitution. Introduced by Louie Gohmert (currently worried about cross dressing Satan worshippers invading Church’s as a result of gay marriage), Marlin Stutzman co-sponsored a H.RES.211 in 2011. The Bill states:

    “Expressing support for designation of the first weekend of May as Ten Commandments Weekend to recognize the significant contributions the Ten Commandments have made in shaping the principles, institutions, and national character of the United States.”

    – The text of the Bill goes on to recognise:

    “Whereas the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, declared the Ten Commandments to be `laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws'”

    – Unsurprisingly, the quote by John Quincy Adams was manipulated by the Gohmert Bill. Adams actually wrote:

    “The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes adapted to that time only, and to the particular circumstances of the nation to whom it was given; they could of course be binding upon them, and only upon them, until abrogated by the same authority which enacted them, as they afterward were by the Christian dispensation; but many others were of universal application — laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws.”

    – Quite clearly, Quincy Adams was suggesting that many of the ‘laws’ of the OT including those given to Moses, were for the time in which they were given only. Gohmert’s Bill omitted that part of the quote. Strangely, the Bill doesn’t note that John Quincy’s father – the 2nd President of the United States – had written that:

    “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

    – Equally as strangely, the Bill doesn’t note that the Constitution quite clearly states:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..”

    – And yet, here we are, in the 21st Century, witnessing far-right Republicans attempting to pass into law the establishment of one particular religion. The same far-right Republicans, who, in an apparent spirit of Christianity, vote against the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act (Stutzman was the only Indiana member of Congress to vote No on reauthorising VAWA), and vote to cut Federal help for the most vulnerable.

    Stutzman voted against Amendment 3 of the Back to Work Budget that would have eliminated tax loopholes, raised taxes on billionaires, brought education investment up, funded jobs programs for poorer areas, and cut defense spending to 2006 levels. Stutzman voted against all of those.

    Stutzman is anti-women, anti-jobs, Theocratic, anti-education, and works to further enrich the wealthiest few. He wastes an inexplicable amount of time and effort attempting to defund an established law – a law that actually helps the people in his State – and then announces that he has no idea what his side expects out of the damage they caused.

    Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District can do better.

    Opposing Rep. Marlin Stutzman for Indiana’s 3rd in 2014, is Democrat challenger Justin Kuhnle. And his website makes a very bold pledge:

    “If the unemployment rate of northeast Indiana on average holds at 7.25% or higher for the 13 counties represented in Indiana’s 3rd district, I will withhold accepting 50% of my salary and instead refer these wages to local community development projects.”

    – In one declaration of intent, Kuhnle has made the wellbeing of the people of Indiana’s 3rd, his key concern. This is how you put the people at the front and centre of a campaign.

    Whilst Stutzman is busy abusing the Constitution, and the democratic process through Theocratic ventures, and government shutdown… Kuhnle is promising to fight for the fundamentals of a market democracy; education, and collective bargaining. On education, Kuhnle says:

    ” To be successful, we need to invest in our children’s future and invest in our teachers that given their all day in and day out. We need to invest in our education system and the teachers that have dedicated their lives to educating our children. Too often they end up being the scapegoat for what is wrong in education, when it’s the politicians and corporate greed that are to blame. As an elected politician, I will devote all my energy to give our children and parents the choices they deserve to give our next generations of children the fighting chances that they deserve as well as skills necessary to compete on a local and global scale without doing any further cutting to education’s already thinned budget.”

    – Kuhnle rightly notes that state funded education, is the most important investment a generation can make in the future. Education is a key ingredient in lifting people from poverty, and providing them with the critical faculties a democracy requires. It seems that whilst Republicans work to reduce spending on education (currently stands at 6% of the Federal Budget, whilst Defense spending stands at a staggering 57%), Kuhnle notices just how important it is to invest in the future of the United States; its children.

    Kuhnle also neatly summarises the failings of a fundamentalist approach to free market economics, by stating exactly whose side he stands on:

    “I will stand with our workers, both unionized and independent, to ensure that their rights of working a living wage, a safe working environment that is not just physically safe but mentally and emotionally safe, and productivity standards are not skewed to extremes that put workers at a disadvantage.”

    – He isn’t dedicated to those earning over $250,000 a year – like Stutzman is seemingly dedicated to – Kuhnle is promising the huge task of working to rectify the deficiencies of the system. The increasing cost of living, the erosion of worker rights, a lack of consideration for those suffering psychologically, and safety in the workplace.

    Kuhnle is right to point out that low wages are an issue for Indiana, that Stutzman is failing miserably to address whilst busy trying to defund a healthcare law that actually lower living costs for families in his own district. Kuhnle notes:

    “To grow our families stronger, we need to focus on increasing the opportunities of earning a living wages”.

    – Kuhnle appears to be more in-tune with real people, and their real concerns about education, fairness in the workplace, and healthcare costs, than his Republican counterpart. The Indiana Institute for Working Families echoes Kuhnle’s concerns:

    “Given the new economic reality that families across Indiana face, including stagnating wages and the increasing costs of supporting a family, targeted work supports are more important than ever.”

    – Indeed, only Democrats have so far co-sponsored the ‘Fair Minimum Wage Act’. Whilst Kuhnle appears ready to govern for Indiana, Stutzman appears to me to be a Tea Party opportunist whose concern is not for his district, but for his ideology. If the people of Indiana want a Congress that works, it is useless to elect a candidate whose ideology is more important to him than they are. It is useless to elect a candidate who will throw a stick into the wheels of government unless that government does exactly as his small group of extremists demand. Indiana’s 3rd can do far better than that.

    It will be a tough campaign for Kuhnle, but it is most certainly possible. He is a much needed voice in Congress. Click here if you wish to help the Kuhnle campaign, and help to paint Congress blue in 2014.

    Vote Justin Kuhnle for Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District in 2014.

    See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 2nd, and Illinois’ 13th Congressional Districts.
    See here for FD’s focus on West Virginia’s 2nd, and Colorado’s 6th Congressional Districts.
    See here for FD’s focus on California’s 1st, and California’s 25th Congressional Districts.
    See here for FD’s focus on Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District.
    See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 19th Congressional District.


    Stimulus: GOP Letters of Hypocrisy.

    October 22, 2013

    The Republican hypocrisy machine has been in full swing for quite some time. For the past forty years, it has been Republicans pushing for employer and individual health insurance mandates. Just nine years ago, anti-universal healthcare Republicans were proclaiming the necessity if a US funded universal healthcare system in Iraq. Just three years ago, House Republicans were expressing their staunch opposition to attaching legislative vehicles to Continuing Resolutions. It would also seem that four years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, Republicans are still highlighting their “No” votes, as a sure sign of their fiscal responsibility, and evidence for the President’s ‘socialist’ credentials.

    With 2014 fast approaching the GOP talking point appears to be “getting spending under control” insisting that only Republicans can achieve a fiscally responsible future. And so the hypocrisy machine is back in full swing.

    Congressman Pat Tiberi of Ohio’s 12th District was a vocal critic of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. The entire idea of stimulus angered him to his very core. He announced that:

    “it’s loaded with Nancy Pelosi’s grab bag of big spending wishes.”

    “What the Democratic Stimulus does include is unprecedented, record-breaking spending that saddles future generations with mountains of debt. Americans deserve better.”

    – In public, Tiberi was so incredibly angry with the stimulus package put forward in early 2009, that by September 2009 in private, he signed a letter of support for the TIGER programme built into the stimulus package for a Federal grant for his district, with which he notes would:

    “…not only continue the ongoing economic development in the region, but enhance mobility and liveability in the communities in and around Columbus…”

    “… enhance economic competitiveness in the region…”

    – The grovelling letter continues in that tone for another few paragraphs. But don’t take my word for, here is the final paragraph, and the Congressman’s signature, to see for yourself:

    Untitled-1

    Rep. Tiberi is of course not the only one. Here is a brief summary of before-stimulus, and after-stimulus GOP statements:

    Rep Gus Bilirakis (R-FL 12th) called the stimulus the worst bill he’d ever voted against, adding:

    “Congressional Democrats have produced a bill that does nothing to aid small businesses and will not spur economic growth according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

    – In September 2009, Bilirakis penned this letter:

    Gus Bilirakis, stimulus, 2009, obama, republicans, gop hypocrisy, usa economy
    – In less than a year, Bilirakis went from publicly insisting that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would not spur economic growth, to producing a letter insisting that stimulus funds to his district would spur economic growth.

    The ex-Representative for Ohio’s 7th district, Steve Austria blamed Franklin Roosevelt – elected in 1933 – for the Great Depression – began in 1929 – and used this as a reason why he voted No on stimulus, stating:

    “When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

    – Given how catastrophic (and wrong) Steve Austria believes a Keynesian approach to economic struggle would be for the US, it seems odd that he’d become a part of that predicted catastrophe, by suggesting the opposite is true:

    steve austria, gop hypocrisy, stimulus 2009, obama stimulus
    – Interestingly the “Republican Liberty Caucus” voted Austria 84% for his support of what they see as economic liberty. An 84% economic liberty rating, despite Austria begging for stimulus funds that the “Republican Liberty Caucus”, in 2009, deemed to be:

    “Marxist stimulus”

    – I guess that would make Steve Austria 16% Marxist.

    On July 28th 2009, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) spent his time in the House Chamber asking:

    “Mr. President, where’s the stimulus package? Where are the jobs? […] Mr. Speaker, this is not the change the folks in Coffee County, Georgia, can use. They need jobs.”

    – On the same July 28th 2008, the same Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) sent out two Press Releases taking credit for almost $250,000 worth of stimulus money toward hiring new police officers and combating violence against women, and internet crime involving children:

    “We’ve seen from experience that local initiatives go a lot further toward solving local problems that policies set in Washington. This funding will provide tax relief by savings local tax dollars and, under the stewardship of Chief Livingston, will go a long way to fight crime more effectively through community policing.”

    – What he means by “local initiatives” is “the Bill I am currently shouting down in the House”. Not only that, but less than two months later, the same Jack Kingston was back again, asking for even more stimulus money. According to a Press Release on his own website:

    Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA/01) announced today that the City of Savannah is the recipient of a series of grants from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The city will receive a community development block grant (CDBG), an emergency shelter grant (ESG) and a HOME grant to support affordable housing.

    “This series of funding is essential in helping the city strengthen its low-income communities” Congressman Kingston said. “The money enables the city to give continued support to the agencies in the area that support that mission which is even more important during this tough economic period.”

    – Needless to say, the Press Releases does not mention that this package comes almost entirely from the stimulus package he spent July insisting wouldn’t work, wouldn’t create jobs, and wouldn’t help the people of Georgia at all. But Kingston was finished there. After claiming credit for stimulus funds directly benefiting his constituency whilst simultaneously fighting against stimulus, he also penned this letter demanding more:

    jack kingston, stimulus 2009, president obama stimulus, gop hypocrisy

    It would appear that as long as you keep up the bravado of being anti-government, anti-spending, fiscally responsible to a conservative audience who are under the odd impression that the President is some sort of reincarnation of Joseph Stalin, you can simultaneously be as pro-government, pro-spending as you wish in private in the hope of taking credit for the outcome of that spending. Your district can then be shown to be job and wealth creating during difficult economic periods, whilst maintaining an anti-government spending mask, rather than telling those who benefitted from the created jobs that you fought to make sure it couldn’t happen in the first place. It is an unjustifiable, insincere rhetorical device and grave hypocrisy.


    The Superiority of Secularism.

    October 19, 2013

    “I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look round for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the Churches in all these centuries have made”
    – Bertrand Russell.

    Secularism is the natural and logical human reaction to the oppressive Patriarchal, Theocratic, Despotic, irrational, dogmatic, anti-human values that are so disagreeable to the human desire for freedom and equality.

    Indeed, at its core, secularism is a level playing field, a natural system free from dogma that is conceived for the sake of anti-institutional-prejudice. That is why secularism is superior. It is that simple. Anything other than secularism tilts the playing field in one particular direction, thus becoming radically unfair. It then follows that anything other than secularism, is the advocation of the supremacy of one particular faith; a system of unjustifiable privilege and power.

    I maintain that any system of power cannot be justified without enshrining equal rights for all under a legal framework for protection of those rights; gender equality, sexuality equality, race equality, and the right to believe, think, and express however you so wish without threat. All of those notions of equality are not compatible with any other system of power thus conceived by human beings, other than secular democracy. By enshrining these rights and noting that we are all born equal regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or belief; we maximise the possibility of human social advancement, understanding, and compassion by enfranchising those who would otherwise be held back, and treated less than equal under any other system. This is secularism and democracy.

    The fact that we reached a stage of social evolution where it became necessary to separate church from the power of state in order to secure basic rights, is evidence of the cruelty that religion imposed upon the people when it did have power. One only need look at states that are still Theocratic, to see a continuation of that cruelty and oppression in 21st century. See my article on the treatment of homosexuality in Saudi Arabia. Secularism is the forward march of rationality and progress that must be combined with democracy for the sake of the rights of all. Religion when mixed with politics and law is cultural stagnation – usually anchored to far more violent periods of history – based on unverifiable dogma masquerading as universal truth and beauty for the sake of the social supremacy of those who believe over those who don’t. One read through a religious text quickly teaches us that we have in fact progressed since the barbaric days in which they were written.

    Imagine secularism as a line of power. A line on which stands all genders, all sexualities, all races, all faiths. The line ensuring all are considered equal. No one group above another. A line that transcends generations. If any one of those groups deviate and raise above the line, or choose to push others below the line, we suddenly find ourselves in a situation in which secularism has been replaced by an illegitimate authority that has no right to do so (or no right thus rationalised adequately). The maintaining of that line, is necessary to protect against dogmatic injustices that appear as a result of one group raising above the line.

    Secularism allows for the religious to believe and express the violent notion that we non-believers are cursed to spend eternity burning in the unforgiving flames of hell. That is your right to believe and to say. Similarly, I have a right to say that I find that disgusting, worthless, outdated, and worthy of nothing but ridicule and condemnation. Under a Theocratic system, believers would be free to believe and express the violent notion that we non-believers are cursed to spend eternity burning in the unforgiving flames of hell, but we non-believers would have no protection under the law to criticise and ridicule and hold those views to be contemptuous and cancerous. The level playing field of secularism is the protection of all ideas regardless of how insulted we may be by them.

    When George Wallace was sworn in as Governor of Alabama, he stood on the same spot that Confederate President Davis stood 102 years earlier, and swore:

    “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”

    – He was arguing and fighting for the perpetuation of the supremacy of the colour of his skin, enshrined into law. Individual liberty, and the realisation of ones dreams and hopes and ambitions were severely limited to what colour your skin was. It takes a very long time to undo the vicious chains applied by the power of the supremacy of one particular race, but it is necessary and rational to foster a system that breaks those chains and levels the playing field, and whilst the UK and US still has major roads to travel until the ideals of secularism and equality are realised, they are on the right path. There are also some wonderful secular Muslim groups working to the same end – ‘British Muslims for Secular Democracy’ for example – who must be supported and defended against all those who wish to subdue them.

    Speaking of those who wish to subdue others. Religious supremacy also tends to have male supremacy, and heterosexual supremacy built into its very foundations. A critic of mine, the increasingly Patriarchal Hakeem, when rather putridly attempting to defend grown men marrying children, says:

    “Due to being moral relativists, the critics of Muhammad must judge him precisely as they would judge anyone else who lived in that time period; they cannot morally condemn him if, in his day, it was the norm to marry someone who is younger than today’s age of consent and consummate the marriage later. The only way to provide an objective basis for morality is to believe in a transcendent being (God) which, as atheists, the authors of “Does God Hate Women?” deny.”

    – And here, for once, I absolutely agree with him. There is no God. Therefore the Prophet – when it comes to his marriage to a young girl – cannot be judged entirely by today’s standards. He is anchored to the cultural context of the period in which he lived. It would be arrogant of me to suggest that had I lived back then, and in that region, I would have felt the same way as I do today. Of course I wouldn’t, because I am constrained by the context of the time. But Hakeem fails in his basic premise, when we flip the argument back around to face him. The Prophet Muhammad, to Hakeem, was in touch with the eternal. He was in touch with a being that transcends time. He is not restricted by the cultural context of 7th Century Arabia, and in fact for Muslims, the Prophet is there to change the context of the time period. He certainly isn’t restricted by it.

    Therefore, the ‘objective’ moral base from Hakeem’s God – who sees fit to intervene to demand which direction people should pray toward, but doesn’t see fit to intervene to suggest marrying a child might be wrong – has no problem with grown men marrying children. The Prophet today, would be absolutely fine with marrying a 9 year old girl, because his God permitted it not just for the 7th Century, but for all time. This is the absolute epitome of Patriarchy and abuse and very very dangerous. And Hakeem wishes to uphold it. His article is one long pointless ramble that could be summed up with “It’s fine to marry kids! Aisha loved it! And all those who say otherwise are white supremacists blah blah incoherent rant.”

    However, whilst Hakeem is right to claim that we Atheists – in order to be consistent (unless we argue from the Muslim perspective) – cannot tie the Prophet to anything but the context of his time, Hakeem is wrong in suggesting that we secular Atheists believe we have an “objective” base for our moral understand. No Atheist will tell you we have an “objective” base for our moral values, when “objective” is defined by the religious. I simply say, that human basis of right and wrong – whether you’re an Islamist like Hakeem, or an Atheist like myself – has never been defined by religion, that we have always used our rational judgement to make a moral decision based on our understanding of the World at that moment, and that that ability to rationalise is key to the evolution of our collective understanding of right and wrong. Sometimes we have got it wrong, but we learn and we improve, as an in-built species survival mechanism derived from a group mentality that has shaped our evolutionary history. This is a process of necessary cooperation, conflict resolution, altruism, and the part of our brain that deals with empathy. I maintain that all religions simply grabbed on to the moral context of a time that they were born into, and try continually to compel us all – by force of religious supremacy – to lay stagnant in that context, on fear of punishment.

    Similarly, we see primitive forms of “morality” in the nature of our primate cousins. They appear to recognise the situation of their contemporaries and act accordingly. They (what we might call “anthropoid apes”) show evidence of empathy, and group cooperation. There are some excellent studies into the empathetic displays by certain primates. I would argue that to dismiss the evolution of empathy within primates, as a key ingredient to human morality, would be to suggest that it has no bearing on our decision making, and to dismiss all understanding derived from scientific observation and experimentation, instead putting your hands over your ears and saying “la la la I’m not listening! Allah did it!!”.

    Another key ingredient, is the accepted scientific method of observing and evaluating what works, and what doesn’t work; what helps humanity and the individual within the society (both important factors) and what doesn’t. Again, this is a product of our evolution as a species. If I put those two together; our evolved sense of “morality” and our socially evolved sense of empirical evidence gathering; this is where that which we have labeled “morality” stems. Human beings are wonderfully reasoned primates.

    Regardless of the way Hakeem twists the words of his faith to appear less vicious, less supremacy-driven, less Patriarchal… it cannot be escaped. Religious supremacy, at its core, is no different and no less oppressive than any other form of supremacy. It demands subjugation of others. The Qur’an makes quite clear:

    “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.). Regarding the woman who is guilty of lewd, or indecent behavior, admonish her (if she continues in this indecency then), stop sharing her bed (if she still continues doing this lewd behavior, then), [set forth for her the clear meaning of either straighten up or else we are finished and when she returns to proper behavior take up sharing the bed with her again], but if she returns in obedience (to proper behavior and conduct) then seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.”

    – Indeed, the website “Islam Tomorrow” explains this verse:

    “Now we can properly understand that Almighty God has commanded the men to provide for the women and allow them to keep all of their wealth, inheritance and income without demanding anything from them for support and maintenance. Additionally, if she should be guilty of lewd or indecent conduct, the husband is told to first, admonish her and then if she would cease this lewdness. If she should continue in this indecency, then he should no longer share the bed with her, and this would continue for a period of time. Finally, if she would repent then he would take up sharing the bed with her again.”

    – There is no sense of equality here. There is only the sense of an owner (the man) and his animal (the woman). The woman is treated like property that requires a man to keep her in her place, on threat of punishment. This is Islamic supremacy, & male supremacy. Secularism ensures this kind of poison does not infect the lives of those of us who believe in the beauty of equality. I am quite sure that Emily Pankhurst wasn’t fighting for the right of a man to “admonish” her if she freely chose to act “lewd” according to a man’s interpretation of that term.

    And then Hakeem moves onto a complete misunderstanding of secularism (though this is from a man who, when he cannot provide any logical argument – which is all the time – resorts to calling all those who disagree with him, a white supremacist):

    “A perfect example of this is the issue of homosexuality. If you read literature by early secular socialists, they were vehemently against homosexuality, some arguing it was an unnatural behavior that was a product of capitalism. In the modern era, however, socialists are among the most vocal of advocates in normalizing homosexuality. Now some would give them a pat on their back for their more tolerant and progressive views. The question is, based upon what criteria are they progressive? And who is to say they won’t flip their views a couple of decades from now, believing once again that homosexuality is an elitist lifestyle of the capitalist upper-class, as they once argued? And then they would get another pat on the back for being progressive, when in reality, all that happened is they allowed their morality to be fluid, rather than based on a solid foundation.”

    – Firstly, he is correct that early Communists violently disapproved of homosexuality. That’s where his “being right” ends. He fails to note how viciously his own religion treats gay people in Islamic countries, and how mainstream Islamic opinion is entirely negative toward sexuality being anything other than “straight = right, gay = hell bound!”. I would argue that the reason gay people have been so mistreated and abused for centuries, is down exclusively to the heterosexual supremacy of religion. Hakeem is wrong to use the term ‘secular’ to describe anyone who disapproved or may in the future disapprove of homosexuality. To disenfranchise, punish, or single out homosexual men and women for abuse or second-class rights, is the antithesis of secularism, and the establishing and ensuring the supremacy of heteorosexuality enshrined into the cultural fabric.

    He seems to not understand the term “progressive”. We have moved from a stage of not understanding sexuality in the slightest, because our understanding up until very recently was based on Biblical prejudices that have endured for centuries…. to a position upon which we have based our understanding of sexuality on research and reason. And by doing so, we notice that heterosexuality and homosexuality are just two points on a spectrum, with neither being “better” or “natural” and thus “supreme” in comparison to the other. Thus, progress. To then suggest we might one day decide otherwise, can only be true if we suddenly decided to reintroduce religious considerations into the debate. Or, regression.

    The misrepresentations are rather malodorous at times to say the least. One common misrepresentation is that secularism necessarily leads to eugenics, and the rise of Nazism. To suggest that the Nazi Party – which based its ideology on the advancement of one particular race, and worked to destroy the Jewish identity – was the result of secularism, is a catastrophic misunderstanding of secularism. The narrow frame upon which they tend to establish what led to the rise of Hitler is so intensely flawed that a response is largely unnecessary, but given the point of this defensive article, I thought it worth mentioning to highlight the basic flaws in anti-secular thought (I use the word ‘thought’ in its loosest possibility). Firstly, let’s point out that those – like Hakeem – obsessed with the idea that Atheists have no “objective” base (by which they mean, metaphysical base) for their morality echo the thoughts of Hitler, who in April 1933 said:

    “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith …we need believing people.”

    – Secondly, the economic situation in Germany along with the humiliation of the Treaty at Versailles and centuries of anti-Jewish rhetoric spewed by the Catholic Church, led to the rise of Hitler and the horrendous genocide that followed. As a young man, Hitler read a lot of works by Martin Luther, the German Protestant reformer. One of which – “On the Jews and their lies“ – calls for Jews to be put to use as slaves, and Jewish schools burnt to the ground. This is the antithesis of secularism. It is the perpetuation of a system of privilege based on one particular race, and the conclusion of 2000+ years of Christian inspired anti-Jewish hate. Hitler wasn’t reading Thomas Paine or John Stuart Mill… Hitler was reading Luther.

    And thirdly, supremacy. The Nazis were fighting to place their particular race above the aforementioned line of equality and establish racial supremacy. The illogic is no different to Hakeem attempting to place his religion above the aforementioned line of equality and establish religious supremacy. Only secularism ensures they cannot oppress, and that irritates both Islamists, and white supremacists. Hakeem’s dream for an Islamic-controlled state, is the reintroduction of Jim Crow based not on white supremacy, but on Islamic supremacy.

    Secularism – as mentioned above – advocates a level playing field upon which no single gender, race, religion, or sexuality has a natural right to supremacy over any others. No one gender can rightfully be considered the “maintainers” of another. No one race is “greater” than another. No one sexuality is more “natural” than another. No one belief deserving of authority over others. No one is free to oppress another if the other is an apostate. Secularism allows for the ingenuity of everyone regardless of trivial differences to work to their full potential, the freedom to excel, to argue, to reason, to create, to live, to love, and to experience life in their own way, to their own beliefs. If you wish your particular gender, or sexuality, or race, or religion to deviate from that line of equality, you are going to have to work particularly hard to convince the rest of us to bow down in unquestioning subordination to your new found desire for supremacy, with reasoned and uncontentious points that stack up to more than “Well if you don’t give us power over your lives, you’re basically Hitler”.

    For further reading, see my article on the right to blaspheme.
    For more further reading, see my article on Hakeem Muhammad and his ludicrous claim that Atheism is a product of white supremacy.