European Court Bans Blasphemy

And the same day Sinead O’Connor converted to Islam. It kind of undermines the European narrative that they’re more enlightened than us knuckle dragging MAGAs. I mean, Sinead was always bat-s**t crazy (I have video from 1988 of her appealing to MTV 120 Minutes viewers to send money to the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua), but the European court going full-on Fatwa? What’s next? Banning women from driving? Making men grow beards? Halal Big Macs in Paris?

The best write up I’ve found so far is on Tech Dirt. The anonymous writer concludes, “the idea that (1) that should be balanced against how upset it might make people and (2) that the balance should weigh against her, seems crazy and outright offensive to freedom of expression.”

S/he writes:

Multiple lower courts found that such comments could not be permitted, and it finally went up to the European Court of Human Rights, where much of the discussion centered around what the court believed was a clash, of sorts, between freedom to express opinions and freedom to manifest religion. And, the court comes down in this with an argument that would be laughed out of any US court, in that it sets up a “balancing” test. As Ken White has explained multiple times, the Supreme Court in the US doesn’t recognize any “balancing” test when it comes to free speech. In US v. Stevens, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected any sort of balancing test:

The Government’s proposed test would broadly balance the value of the speech against its societal costs to determine whether the First Amendment even applies. But the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs.

S/he points out that the balancing act between speech and hurt feelings – yes the EU’s Court explicitly bans speech thereby “protecting religious feelings.” I tell you, we’ve come a long way from “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me,” because in the EU at least, words can get you arrested and fined 500 euros.

I’m really not surprised. Europeans don’t get religion. I visit Europe fairly frequently and with each visit I see a culture that claims to be irreligious slowly being devoured by it. 2000 years ago when most of Europe was under Roman domination people were free to worship whomever (or whatever) they wished. But since the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 313 AD the continent became ground zero for one religious war after another, a state of affairs that continued well into the 20th century. Today Europeans believe they’ve moved beyond that, that religion isn’t important to them and therefore not really important compared to other burning issues like global warming or Trump’s latest tweets. They fail to recognize that not everyone thinks like them and that the vast majority of their own history belies deep religious zealotry, making their few decades of atheist tolerance an aberration that will soon be fixed by the continent’s Islamization or reversion to traditional European religion like we are seeing with the rising of the European far right. The EU’s recent state of anti-religious behavior is an anomaly. The continent will revert to its mean and when it does the only question will be the nature of the dominant religion: Islam or Christianity? Although I’m not a betting man if I were European I’d know whose suras to start studying.

One commenter in Tech Dirt’s article writes, “It’s quite simple, isn’t it? You’re free to talk what you want, but you’re not free to be an asshole (about religion or anything else). That’s something Americans can’t comprehend for some reason.” And the reason we don’t get it is because America is a nation of assholes and I am a proud one myself. The commenter doesn’t understand something that we Americans instinctively do: At heart everyone is an asshole at one time or another which is why governments should not be in the business of deciding who is one and who isn’t. It’s self interest. Even though I’m a decent, law-abiding bloke 99% of the time, chances are I will inadvertently be an asshole to someone at one time or another. Being an asshole should not be a crime, but the EU Court’s ruling does just that. Worse its ruling simply makes the court an extension of a Sharia court until some “asshole” Muslim is accused of hurting the religious feelings of some Jews.

Yeah, I won’t hold my breath for that one.

 

Photo by Monado

Photo by Newtown grafitti

Why The Left Owns Venezuela

On Quora an anonymous useful idiot asked, “Why do otherwise intelligent conservatives believe that liberals and progressives yearn to have a country like Venezuela?

While researching the answer I came across some very good articles, most referenced in the answer below, but one in particular is worth mentioning. Dan Hannon, wrote in the Washington Examiner last year, “Socialist selective amnesia is not new, of course: Rewriting the past was a characteristic of Soviet regimes, brilliantly dramatized in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The reason Leftists make such frequent use of what Orwell called “the memory hole” is that their heroes keep failing them.

The pattern is always the same. Socialists take power somewhere. Comfortable, middle-class Western Leftists rhapsodize about their achievements. Then, the regime leads, as socialist regimes invariably lead, to poverty and tyranny. At which point, without a blush, Western Leftists say that it was never properly socialist, and move on to their next Third World pin-up. ”

Well, on Venezuela the Liberals are in full memory hole, and my answer below calls them on it.

The question: Why do otherwise intelligent conservatives believe that liberals and progressives yearn to have a country like Venezuela?

Nope, nope, nope. I’m not letting you get away with that. I’m not going to let you progressives rewrite History. You guys loved Venezuela. It is yours. You broke it, you bought it.

Sure it was easy to love when oil was pushing $200 a barrel in 2008 and Venezuela was awash in petro-dollars. But everyone knew the good times wouldn’t last. Everyone except liberals and progressives. California should take note.

Here’s what progressive fave Noam Chomsky said in 2009: “What’s so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created.”

And actor Sean Penn, speaking after the death of Hugo Chavez, “Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of vice president Nicolas Maduro.”

Michael Moore after the death of Chavez: “Hugo Chávez declared the oil belonged 2 the ppl. He used the oil $ 2 eliminate 75% of extreme poverty, provide free health & education 4 all.”

Director Oliver Stone made a movie about Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Latin America, South of the Border (2009 film) – Wikipedia. After Chavez’s death he released a statement, “’I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place.”

In 2005 Jesse Jackson had this to say about Venezuela, “Your focus on foreign debt, debt relief, and free and fair trade to overcome years of structural disorder, unnecessary military spending, land reform… these are some of the great themes of our time. They can change our world condition,” said Jackson.

After Chavez’s death future PM Jeremy Corbyn tweeted,

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stieglitz stated at a Caracas forum in 2007, “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appears to have had success in bringing health and education to the people in the poor neighborhoods of Caracas, to those who previously saw few benefits of the countries oil wealth.” Yep. Weasel-word appears. Guess he can technically disavow that statement.

And last but not least, former president Jimmy Carter praised Hugo Chavez after his death, saying, “We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”

Chavez died in 2013. Just 5 short years later: Analysis | Venezuela’s refugee exodus is the biggest crisis in the hemisphere

Where Progressive Policies End

The Stupid Party Does the Smart Thing (For Once)

Over the past few weeks of the Kavanaugh debacle I expected the Republicans to cave. Why? Because when it comes right down to it, the party leadership isn’t all that smart. When the Tea Party rose, they neutered it. The fight to overturn Obamacare? They bravely fled the field of battle. And when it comes to standing up to the Democrats they’ve always struck me as guys who bring knives to a gun fight. Or to use a less violent analogy, Charlie Brown to Lucy Van Pelt. Like Charlie Brown I think deep down the Republican leadership wants to be liked, and the Democrat’s are happy to leverage this feeling using their media allies to twist and bend anything the GOP says to fit their narrative of the party being a bunch of racist, sexist, gun-toting trolls.

So when at the 11th Hour Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Crazytown) released charges that she had sat on for 6 weeks, I felt for sure the GOP would take a run at the football by sacrificing Kavanaugh. And while waiting for Kavanaugh to speak after Ford on September 27 I thought Lucy’s temptation was just too great, particularly for senators like Susan Collins (R-ME) who is less of a Republican in that state than most Democrats in any state outside of New York and California.

Then something remarkable happened in that hearing. Kavanaugh stood up for himself. He didn’t hold back and there were several times I found myself shouting at the screen “Stop crying you damn wuss!” but his anger and his testimony were making the Republicans on the Judiciary committee look positively tough – almost bad-ass if you can imagine ever calling a Republican senator the term.

Lindsay Graham (R-SC): “If you wanted an FBI investigation, you could have come to us! What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat, and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that. Not me! You’ve got nothing to apologize for. When you see [Justices] Sotomayor and Kagan, tell them that Lindsey said hello to them, because I voted for them. I would never do to them what you’ve done to this guy! This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics, and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you have done to this guy.” Holy crap! Graham on national TV was channeling Joseph Welch, the attorney who stood up to Joe McCarthy and single-handedly took the demagogue down. Graham sounded angry, he sounded mean, he sounded like… well definitely not like a Republican.

Kavanaugh’s performance was so good, and the Republican’s refusal to sacrifice the guy so strong thanks to Graham,  it sent the Democrats back to the drawing board to dream up another attack strategy. The issue became Kavanaugh’s fitness for office because he directly and forcefully denied the allegations instead of Ford’s testimony.

And let me mention that testimony for a moment.

I heard from two women about that testimony, one of them was a member of the first generation of women to serve as enlisted in the US Navy in the 1970s. Both had worse things happen to them than what Ford reported, and both found her testimony less than convincing. Both women were suspicious about Ford’s lack of detail and her memory 35 years in the past. Both wondered why her allegations had never surfaced before late in the summer when Kavanaugh had been investigated for the Supreme Court for several weeks. While the media was happy to take her charges at face value, they both questioned her credibility, something that the GOP was too scared to do.

So if Kavanaugh denied the charges forcefully he was unfit for the job because he was “partisan” or a “drunk.” If he had not defended himself so forcefully – something the Trump administration feared the most due to his laid back temperament – the Democrats and their media allies would have said “See? His calm demeanor proves that he cannot defend his actions.” Kavanaugh was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t – no surprise since the Left were going to crucify anyone Trump nominated to the bench.

So that evening I knew that Kavanaugh was still in the game. The GOP had found something it had never found before, something remarkable: its spine.

The seat was clinched on Friday night, and it came from a place where I least expected it. Susan Collins.

I like Maine. It’s a great state and I have many Mainers for friends. But Maine is full of vegans and Suburus, it’s not known for barbecue and pickups which are usually associated with conservatives. Although I hoped Collins would support Kavanaugh, I wasn’t expecting her to do so vociferously. On Friday night Maine’s coon cat suddenly became a cougar.

Sen Collins (R-ME): “The President nominated Brett Kavanaugh on July 9th.  Within moments of that announcement, special interest groups raced to be the first to oppose him, including one organization that didn’t even bother to fill in the Judge’s name on its pre-written press release – they simply wrote that they opposed “Donald Trump’s nomination of XX to the Supreme Court of the United States.” A number of Senators joined the race to announce their opposition, but they were beaten to the punch by one of our colleagues who actually announced opposition before the nominee’s identity was even known.” Watch the video. It’s like watching a mom dress down her kids. I expected her to let Kavanaugh take the seat, but not deliver body-blows to those who opposed him while he did so.

This definitely was not my father’s GOP. Last night for the first time in the 16 years I have belonged to the party, I felt proud to be a Republican. I’m sure the feeling will pass as it must and the GOP will return to its Charlie Brown ways, but for once the Stupid Party has done the smart thing, and all rank and file party members and their grassroots supporters should be proud of it.

A Coup d’etat In The United States of America

We are witnessing the first coup d’état in the history of the United States. The will of the American voters is being completely overthrown not by generals on TV or soldiers in the streets but by unelected bureaucrats and administration officials behind closed doors. Although there are no tanks rumbling through America’s streets, don’t kid yourself: the outcome is the same. We are no longer a nation whose future is decided by the voter: we are a banana republic controlled by an elite where elections – and the parties that participate in them – no longer matter.

David Graham in The Atlantic piece We’re Watching An Antidemocratic Coup Unfold writes (about the people sabotaging Trump’s agenda) “Not only are these acts of sabotage legally perilous; the leaks about them are self-serving. Woodward does not reveal his sources, either in general or in specific instances, but a read of the book strongly suggests that Porter and Cohn are among those who spoke to him. By spreading word that they stood up to the president behind closed doors, these figures hope to burnish their reputations and distance themselves from the stain the Trump presidency leaves on nearly everyone it touches. In doing so, they’ve fingered themselves in another questionable pursuit. If the price of defending democracy and rule of law is to destroy both, the price is too high.” As Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept points out, Trump voters didn’t vote for the “unelected cabal that covertly imposes their own ideology with zero democratic accountability, mandate or transparency.”

The Atlantic is not a right-wing magazine and Greenwald is a committed Leftist. But some liberals recognize the danger to our Republic by those undermining the president. We have a constitutional mechanism in place to remove the president – the 25th Amendment. The 25th Amendment gives the Vice President and the coup plotters the means of deposing Trump. Although it would risk a constitutional crisis since Trump would likely not leave willingly, the plotters would likely be supported by many on the Left including high ranking Democrats who have already called Trump unhinged. At the very least our country would have the discussion.

If Trump is nuts then deploy it. But if he’s not crazy and the “resistance” is just against his agenda, then we have a huuuge problem.

Given what we are seeing in recent days with the Woodward book and the New York Times anonymous op-ed, there is likely some semblance of the “soft coup” attempt coalescing around Pence. Pence probably understands that the only way he will ever achieve the Presidency is through something befalling Trump. He will not be elected to that office on his own. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Pence would like to be rid of Trump since the Republican elite does.

It would be a fatal mistake though. The grassroots GOP voters haven’t forgotten how the elite neutered the Tea Party politicians elected in 2010 and how it conspired with the Democrats to turn the label into an epithet. Trump’s removal would be seen by Republican voters for what it is: a big f*** you by the elite as it works with the Democrats to flood America with undocumented workers to drive down wages, and allow China unfettered access to our markets, siphoning away jobs. Why would the average Trump voter vote for a Republican if there was no difference from the Democrats? They wouldn’t.

What we have here is the will of the American people being thwarted “for their own good” some would say, but thwarted in an unconstitutional and underhanded manner. Americans no longer governed by themselves. Elections no longer have consequences.

Today we are less free than we were yesterday.

Is The Roman Catholic Church Beyond Redemption?

My wife and I were both raised in the Roman Catholic Church and left it during our early adult years. Several years ago she presented the following scenario to me. “Imagine you are the Devil and you’ve just helped dispose of the Son of Man only to watch his apostles spread The Word. What would you do to roll-back the impact of Christ in the World? You’d take over the Church.” She believed that all the evils perpetrated by the Church over the Millennia, the religious wars and Crusades, the persecution of Jews, the impoverishing of the peasantry, the Trial of Galileo – all could be explained easily if one set aside all preconceived notions of the Church, ignored the propaganda, and viewed it for what it was – an institution developed not to spread the Word of God but of Satan. The recent grand jury indictments in the Pittsburgh diocese brought that scenario back to mind.

“A pedophile priest made a nine year-old boy give him oral sex before washing his mouth out with holy water.” If true, can anything be more Satanic than that sentence? Unfortunately given the number of sex scandals uncovered over the past 25 years, no extraordinary proof is needed because the statement is no longer extraordinary. I remember the anger when singer songwriter Sinead O’Connor tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in 1992 to protest the abuse scandals rocking Ireland. Americans weren’t ready for O’Connor’s protest. It would take another decade before the scandals erupted in the USA.

As a Catholic school student and altar boy there had always been whispers of abuse although I personally was never confronted by it. I recall hearing that one priest at my all-boys high school was a bit overly-friendly and “touchy” with boys, but I don’t know how far his behavior actually went. One of my teachers, a Jesuit novitiate, took my friends and me to see a movie that in retrospect was inappropriate: Liquid Sky – a low-budget movie about sex and drug addiction. We were interested in art films and New Wave music, and we had a good time discussing the movie afterward at a brightly-lit all-night deli. Nothing untoward happened. The priest remains one of my favorite teachers from high school and I still regard him highly. I later learned that he left the priesthood soon after we graduated which was probably a good idea in retrospect.

Although I left the faith, I’ve always felt somewhat protective of it. My late mother was a devout believer and so are many others who I respect and cherish. My atheism/agnosticism cannot be used as a weapon against any people of faith if that faith brings them comfort and solace in this extraordinarily heartless and cruel world. Faith or its lack should not be weaponized – an interesting phrase. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the abuse in the Pittsburgh Diocese the “weaponization of faith.” He cited the following instances:

  • One priest tied up a victim with rope in the confessional in a “praying position.” When the victim refused to perform sex, the angered priest used a 7-inch crucifix to sexually assault him.
  • At a parish rectory, four priests made a boy strip and pose as Jesus on the cross while they took photos. “He stated that all of them giggled and stated that the pictures would be used as a reference for new religious statues for the parishes,” the grand jury wrote. Two of those priests later did jail time for sexually assaulting two altar boys.
  • Priests told children they would “go to hell” if they told anyone what happened and “nobody would believe a lying child over a man of God’s word.”
  • In one church, a priest told a boy who confided he had been gang-raped as a 7-year-old that he had to provide sex to get to heaven. He would then be molested for three years before the priest was transferred.

Reading these allegations I am left speechless. Maybe the Church is irredeemable and unable to provide comfort and spiritual guidance. So I put that question to the experts at the social media website, Quora.

Carl Smotric believes it is. “Irredeemable? Yes, I’d say so. They’ve wielded too much power for too long. They’re sincerely convinced that their many undeserved privileges are an entitlement, and that, in reality, they needn’t answer to any law but their own. Unable to provide comfort and spiritual guidance? Ironically, they’re able to do that. Heroin is comfort to the junkie. A stuffed toy is comfort to an abused child. And the Church’s message of salvation can be comfort to the billions of people who were told by that very same outfit that they’re broken, hell-bound and in deep trouble. The Church breaks peoples’ legs, then demands their gratitude for providing crutches. Spiritual guidance, same thing: if people are willing to buy the bullshit, then it’s spiritual guidance to them, more or less by definition.”

William Gray writes, “As long as the RC church insists on the priests’ celibacy, they are self-selecting for pervs. Of course most priests do not succumb to acting out on temptations of the flesh, but even one molested child is too many and the church’s moral authority will remain a mockery.”

Others disagreed. Ernst-Otto Onnasch, former Professor of Philosophy at Utrecht University, writes, This is not very likely. What happens within the Roman church, also happens within regular families. Is the family therefore a corrupt institution? What happened is done by individuals, although being represents of the church. The problem are these individuals and not the church as institution”.

James Hough, Catholic who teaches Catechism, RCIA, and Prayer classes, writes, “The Catholic Church was founded by Christ, as Pope Francis said, as a field hospital for sinners. And everyone in it is a sinner. One does not judge a hospital by how many wounded end up there, but by its cures, by the people who took it seriously and actually followed Christ. Thus to judge the Catholic Church, we need to look at her great saints, and see if we are following them. We need to pray and sacrifice for our Church, because it is only going to be as effective as its weakest member. If that weak member is cooperating with Christ, the Church is going to accomplish great things.”

So what do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.