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Why I Do Not Respect Beliefs

Monday, June 22, 2009

By Zack Ford
ZackFord Blogs

As a result of my post on Friday regarding gay exorcism, I have come under personal attacks for being disrespectful to believers and for being intolerant of diversity.

I wish to put, in simple terms, why it is that I “do not respect” beliefs, and what exactly that means.

It is a BOLD claim.  It is much harder to say than “I am gay,” or “I am an atheist.”  I do not respect beliefs.  Please allow me to clarify.

(1) I am referring specifically to supernatural beliefs held as truth.  Please see my post about the word “believe.” I am not referring to values, but actual beliefs, truths without evidence, faith.

(2) This does not mean that I do not respect believers.  This is an important distinction.  My lack of respect is only for those ideas called beliefs, not the people who hold them.

(3) This also does not mean I do not respect the right to believe.  Indeed, freedom of thought is at the core of my argument.  People are not only welcome, but entitled and encouraged to have any ideas they want.  The question I pose is whether all of those ideas deserve the same respect.

(4) My intent is an intellectual challenge.  My argument is that a belief is an idea just like any other idea.  It should be held to the same intellectual scrutiny.  It must be able to demonstrate the same evidence and support as any other idea one might consider and is entitled to no extra protection or respect.  Being shared by a majority of the population does not add to the merit of the claim.

(5) My resistance is a system of privilege that protects beliefs.  This system entitles an individual to say, “These are my beliefs and you must respect them,” and to feel personally attacked if that demand is not heeded.  This privilege is quite strong and largely unchallenged in our society, which is why I take such a risk in saying what I say....(Remainder.)


AmeriCorps Board Member: We Initiated IG Firing

By Zachary Roth
Talking Points Memo

The White House's decision to fire the AmeriCorps inspector general was set in motion by a unanimous request it received from the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which asked the White House to review the IG's performance, according to a board member.

The firing "would not have played itself out" were it not for the fact that the board raised concerns about the IG, Gerald Walpin, after the May 20 board meeting, a board member told TPMmuckraker. The board member added that the White House had no role in encouraging the board to make the review request, calling it "completely board-initiated." The White House had cited the request from the board in its letter to Congress explaining the reason for Walpin's firing.

Since the firing, Walpin has claimed that he was fired because the White House objected to his pursuit of an Obama ally, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, in an investigation into the misuse of federal funds. Some conservatives have trumpeted those claims.

The board member explained that the board had had "serious concerns" about Walpin's judgment, dating to before the May 20 meeting, causing board members to fear the "potential damage [Walpin] could cause to the corporation" through his erratic behavior. But the board member added that "the events of the 20th raised the board's concerns from concerns about his judgment to concerns about his capacity."

The original concerns, said the board member, focused on Walpin's conduct during his investigation of the St. HOPE Academy, the Sacramento nonprofit formerly run by Johnson....(Remainder.)


GOP 'Rural American Solutions Group' Peddles Coal Company Document as its Own

By Victor Zapanta
Think Progress

Leaders of a new GOP group, the “Rural American Solutions Group,” are distributing a document attacking climate change legislation as an economic burden to most of the country. As it turns out, the information in the press release was provided to the Republican congressmen by Peabody Energy, a juggernaut of the coal industry. Staffers for GOP Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK), Sam Graves (R-MO), and Doc Hastings (R-WA) are emailing around a map that purports to detail “how the Democrats’ National Energy Tax unfairly targets rural Americans.”

A closer look at the source of the image reveals the document’s origins:

Two employees of Peabody Energy are listed in the metadata of the map document: Chairman and CEO Greg Boyce and Communications Manager Chris Taylor. The congressmen opposing climate change legislation — Reps. Lucas, Graves, and Hastings — are simply copying-and-pasting information that has been directly fed to them by Peabody Energy....(Remainder.)


Birther Poll Finds Whopping 8% of Americans 'Troubled' by Obama Rumors

By David Weigel
The Washington Independent

WorldNetDaily "reports" on the results of a Wenzel Strategies poll, paid for by the fringe news Website, that asked 790 adults about the conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama’s citizenship. (Conspiracy theory debunked here.) Alex Koppelman goes through the methodology that allowed the site to claim that Birtherism was now a majority position.
The result trumpeted by WND is that 41.5 percent of respondents said “Obama should release all records, including long-form birth certificate,” essentially the “yes” answer WND was looking for. An additional 7.8 percent said they “are troubled by these questions,” which the site has been lumping in with the yes answer. The “no” answer, though, they split up into five different responses — “I am not concerned,” ”questions not valid,” “Obama has met requirements,” “Obama has answered all questions” and “requirements outdated — should be ignored.”
I asked Fritz Wenzel about this, whether it made sense to combine “I am troubled” and “Obama should release all his records,” as one intimates real worry about Obama’s citizenship while one just asks for transparency. “They are different questions,” he said, “but I think it’s reasonable to group them together. If people are troubled by a situation, they want more data.”...(Original.)


Neo-Nazis Are Nothing New on American Scene

By Ed Tant
The Smirking Chimp

He was an American naval officer who became an American Nazi. He claimed to regret having "fought on the wrong side" in World War II. His hatred for Jews, black people and anyone else who was not part of his "Aryan America" brought shame and sadness to his family members, who also were victims of his mad obsession.

He was George Lincoln Rockwell, and until he was gunned down by one of his own men in 1967 he served as the model, template and evil inspiration for later American Nazis such as James von Brunn, who fatally shot a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington earlier this month.

Like Rockwell, von Brunn is a former military man who hates blacks and Jews and embraces the deadly doctrines of the Third Reich. Like Rockwell, von Brunn's militant madness claimed family members as its first victims. Rockwell's parents had been vaudeville performers with many Jewish friends in the entertainment world, including Groucho Marx. They were heartbroken by their son's hatred. Von Brunn's murderous hatred caused emotional distress and embarrassment for his long-suffering wife and son.

Commander Rockwell, as he liked to be called, began his neo-Nazi crusade in the America of the late 1950s. He railed against the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement and, despite the laughably small size of his American Nazi Party, Rockwell had a vaudevillian's ability to garner publicity with speeches and appearances on television, radio and college campuses.

In "American Fuehrer," his biography of Rockwell, author Frederick James Simonelli says the neo-Nazi "never commanded more than a few hundred loyalists and never rose above the status of a curiosity to most Americans. Yet his influence on the racist right in American politics is lasting and profound. ... Within the racist right, Rockwell holds a place of honor and homage." Though he was deservedly disdained by the vast majority of Americans during his life, today he is championed by racists and reactionaries such as James von Brunn, who have gone even more crazy than usual now that a black man resides in the White House....(Remainder.)


Why Faith is Scary in ANY Form, Extremist or Not

By Zack Ford
ZackFord Blogs

Which of these images is scarier?

I’ll give you a clue: the one on the right isn’t fictional.

Autumn Sandeen over at Pam’s House Blend has this story about a gay exorcism at Connecticut-based Manifested Glory Ministries. (You can also view the local news story or watch the original YouTube video.)

That’s right, the poor boy on the floor is being exorcized. A whole group of faithful parishioners are present, committed to removing the evil from his body: his homosexuality.

I couldn’t watch the full video. I started to cry and decided it was not worth it to see this poor boy tortured any further. I might as well have been watching a tape from Guantanamo, if not something worse.
C’mon you homosexual demon, we want a clean spirit, get out of the way!
Pretty awful, right? It’s no more awful than “Love the sinner, hate the sin!” It’s exactly the same. The message is clear: You cannot be good and be gay. It (literally) demonizes homosexuality. This sort of religious abuse (that led to the kid seizing and vomiting) is just the playing out of that message. It is hate. It is intolerance. It is unacceptable. If you are so blinded by faith that you consider being gay a sin, then you can never properly love someone who is gay. (This pathetic account from a 1997 Today’s Christian Woman is a clear example of how this point plays out.)
Right now in the name of Jesus, I call the homosexuality, right now, in the name of Jesus!


Neocons and Iran

By Jim Morin
The Miami Herald


Gays, Minorities and Liberals Didn't Bring Down Wall Street: GOP White Males Did

By Mark Karlin
Buzz Flash

The threat to the white male oligarchy of the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor had gotten so out of hand that if it weren't for the inspiring drama of the Green Revolution, I might have been aphyxiated by now with the hypocrisy of it all.

Here we have the white male Republicans of Wall Street cratering our economy, only to be bailed out by middle and working class taxpayers. The Wall Street river boat gamblers lost their bets and then we gave them hundreds of billions of dollars in welfare.

But to BuzzFlash's knowledge, it wasn't the "threat" of gays, minorities, liberals, and empowered women who committed economic treason; it was due to the reckless and greedy actions of full-fledged members of the white boys club.

Ann Coulter should have directed her book "treason" at the Wall Street white male Republicans, but that wouldn't have sold many books.  You got to blame the woes of America on "liberals" and a "secular society" to get those desperately seeking a scapegoat to pony up for pages upon pages of demagoguery without any basis in fact.

And let's not forget our American version of the "Supreme Commander" (the new Shah) in Iran, the self-righteous fundamentalist right.  They blame the "destruction" of American society on "promiscuous sex," homosexuality, and liberals.  But the last time we checked, it was the God-fearing corporatist side of the GOP that drove the U.S. economy and foreign policy into the ground.

And when you get back to Wall Street, there's nothing to beat the casino playing that left us in ruins, followed by the ultimate government lavish dole, followed by hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses for failure -- or is it economic "treason"?...(Remainder.)


Sen. Max Baucus, Insurance Industry Lacky, Has Had Taxpayer Financed Benefits His Whole Life

By Joe Sudbay

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT [Blue Cross-Blue Shield]) is one of the most important players in the health care reform debate as the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. He's screwing it up.

Baucus is also the biggest beneficiary of insurance industry money:
As Sen. Max Baucus has taken the lead on health-reform legislation in the U.S. Senate, he's also become a leader in something else: Campaign money received from health- and insurance-industry interests.

In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by Baucus, D-Mont., and his political-action committee has come from groups and individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical-supply firms, health-service companies and other health professionals.

These donations total about $3.4 million, or $1,500 a day, every day, from January 2003 through 2008.
They've got Baucus doing their bidding.
From various sources, including congressional websites, I've figured out that we've been paying for Baucus's benefits for decades. Baucus graduated from law school in 1967. Since then, Baucus has been on government payrolls almost non-stop. He practiced law for a couple years in Montana, but besides that, taxpayers have been funding his health care benefits. And, the federal government has good benefits. Today's Washington Post explains that one good reason to work for the federal government is the "generous" benefits (to which members of Congress have access). On health care, the Post tells us:
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program offers the widest selection of health-care plans of any U.S. employer. Federal employees also have access to vision and dental plans, life insurance, flexible-spending accounts and long-term care plans.
That's what Baucus has had access to since he entered Congress over thirty years ago....(Remainder.)


Bill Would Boost Congressional Oversight of Covert Spy Programs

Legislation backed by Democrats would require the president to brief all intelligence panel members on classified operations. Lawmakers had said Bush withheld information to reduce scrutiny.

By Greg Miller
Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington -- Criticized for failing to challenge the intelligence operations of the Bush administration, key lawmakers have endorsed a bill that would force the president to make fuller disclosure of covert spy programs.

The legislation approved by the House Intelligence Committee late Thursday would eliminate the president's ability to keep classified operations secret from any member of the panel, according to Democrats who described the provision.

The measure was included in a broad intelligence spending bill that also would expand funding for spy agencies and require the CIA to videotape its interrogations of terrorism suspects.

Democrats described the measure as an important effort to bolster congressional oversight of intelligence activities. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), chairman of the intelligence panel, said the bill would "have wide-ranging consequences for the way the committee conducts its business." But Republicans voted against the measure.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the panel, said he favored a proposal last year that would have allowed the president to restrict briefings on sensitive topics with the permission of the top Democrat and Republican on the committee.

The debate centers on the controversial practice of restricting intelligence briefings to the "Gang of Eight," a group that includes the party leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the ranking Democrat and Republican on each intelligence committee....(Remainder.)


Examiner Leads Conservative Response to Liberal Blogosphere

Phil Anschutz' Washington paper hires right-leaning pundits, reporters to take on the 'Nanny State'.

By David Weigel
The Colorado Independent

Clockwise from top left: Byron York, Michael Barone, David Freddoso and J.P. Freire (YouTube screenshots)
For the first few years of George W. Bush’s presidency, Mark Tapscott was a journalist without a newsroom, shouting from the sidelines about his industry’s swift decline. Tapscott ran the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy, and trained reporters in the use of technology for research and crunching numbers. When he considered how few conservatives, libertarians, or real skeptics of federal power were working in newsrooms, he saw a problem that was making the growth of government possible.

“The [Freedom of Information Act],” Tapscott wrote in a 2004 commentary, “has been subverted from its original intent — shining light in all corners of the federal establishment — and used instead by the bureaucrats, special interests and politicians who live off the Nanny State, especially those hiding behind closed doors in places like Health and Human Services, the Education Department and Housing and Urban Development.”

Sitting up straight in his office at the Washington Examiner, where Tapscott has been the editorial page editor for three years, he repeats the point. “There are 57 people in the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame,” he says. “Three of them are conservatives — two of them, if you don’t count me. Now, that’s a problem.”

Since its launch in 2005, the second daily metro newspaper owned by conservative billionaire Phillip Anschutz (the first was the San Francisco Examiner) has struggled for an identity in a city crawling with political journalists. But since the November 2008 election, the Examiner has beefed up its staff and pulled prominent right-leaning reporters and pundits away from publications like The American Spectator and National Review. Tapscott and a growing staff of political and opinion writers are carving out an identity as the conservative version of the left-leaning opinion and investigative journalism sites that — in the view of many conservatives — have used reporting to embarrass conservatives and the Republican Party....(Remainder.)


In Poll, Wide Support for Government-Run Health

By Kevin Sack and Marjorie Connelly
The New York Times

Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.

Yet the survey also revealed considerable unease about the impact of heightened government involvement, on both the economy and the quality of the respondents’ own medical care. While 85 percent of respondents said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt, 77 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their own care.

That paradox was skillfully exploited by opponents of the last failed attempt at overhauling the health system, during former President Bill Clinton’s first term. Sixteen years later, it underscores the tricky task facing lawmakers and President Obama as they try to address the health system’s substantial problems without igniting fears that people could lose what they like....(Remainder.)


Fox Noise Says Media Pushing Obama Agenda. You Know, Like They Did With Bush

By Nicole Belle
Crooks and Liars

Oh noes! None of the right wing talking points that Roger Ailes has been distributing to his minions seems to be taking hold. Despite their best effort to throw all sorts of poo at the president, Obama still appears to be very popular with the American people. What's a RNC propaganda outlet to do? Declare that the mainstream media is in bed with Obama, naturally.
WALLACE: So let’s go over the record, and let’s put it up on the screen. CBS is running an interview today with Barack Obama, “An American Dad.” ABC is running coverage throughout the day on Wednesday of President Obama’s health care plan including a prime-time town hall. NBC just ran two specials, “Inside the Obama White House.” Tom Brokaw was named this week to a presidential commission. And Newsweek has put Mr. Obama on the cover 19 times since 2004. Steve Hayes, how do you explain all of that?

HAYES: A lot of people call Newsweek now “Obamaweek” because they’ve put him on so often. Look, I mean, clearly, his joke about rolling over and finding Brian Williams is more than just a joke. I mean, I think the sense is -- and you’ve provided evidence that it’s true -- that he’s in bed -- the media are in bed with Barack Obama.

Wow. The media is covering the "leader of the free world"! That's some seriously deviant and ideologically-driven behavior...right? Right?...(Remainder.)


Sen. Chris Dodd Slaps Down Closet-Queen Lindsay Graham's Socialized Medicine Meme


Robert Reich Says, Again, that Lack of Public Option Led to CBO's Projections


Maybe This Explains the Right-Wing Attacks on ABC News

By Eric Boehlert
Media Matters

The GOP Noise Machine's war being waged on the health care debate, and ABC News specifically, has to be put into context, and folks need to understand what's really behind the phony outrage, which is that the issue of health care reform appears to be a complete loser for the Republican Party. I think that's why conservative in the press are so desperate to squash any public debate.

The latest proof comes the NYT:
In Poll, Wide Support for Government-Run Health
The sweeping results:
Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
My guess is that if most Americans opposed health care reform than conservatives wouldn't be so nervous about ABC News hosting a debate on the topic....(Original.)


On CNN Kurtz Points Out The Hypocrisy of the Critics of ABC's Health-Care Pres. Town Hall


David Broder Cites a Poll That Undermines His Claims That Americans Have "Forgotten" Bush

By Media Matters

In his June 21 Washington Post column, David Broder asserted that former President Bush has "pretty much ... been forgotten" by Americans and that "Obama has become the only president the American people think about." He then pointed to "a series of polls," and in particular, highlighted results about President Obama's handling of the economy and the priority he should assign to reducing the federal deficit. However, one of the polls Broder cited undermines both assertions, finding that 46 percent of respondents said that the Bush administration is "most responsible for the federal budget deficit," while 6 percent said the Obama administration is most responsible for the deficit. The same poll also found that when asked about "the current economic conditions," 72 percent said it was a "situation that Barack Obama has inherited," while 14 percent said it was a "situation his policies are mostly responsible for."

Broder wrote: "In the five months since he left the presidency, Bush has immersed himself in his memoir. He has stayed home in Texas and rarely spoken publicly. The result has been that he has largely disappeared from the news and -- the point the Obama aide was making -- pretty much has been forgotten." He later added: "Five months into his tenure, Obama has become the only president the American people think about. And a series of polls last week showed that when Americans think about Obama, they are becoming increasingly critical." He then wrote, "The Wall Street Journal-NBC, the New York Times-CBS and the Pew Research Center polls all reported similar findings. Barack Obama retains his personal popularity, with overall job approval scores at upward of 60 percent. But when asked about specific important policies of the administration, the scores are much lower -- or even negative." Broder noted several results from the latter two polls regarding economic issues, including the Pew Research Center poll's finding that "the share of voters applauding Obama's handling of the economy declined from 60 percent in April to 52 percent now," and the CBS News/New York Times poll's finding that "[b]y a 2-1 margin, this survey found that voters answered negatively when asked if Obama has developed a clear plan for dealing with the deficit."...(Remainder.)



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