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Thread: Puke Watch

  1. #251
    Atypical is offline

    How The Conservative Mind Works On SCOTUS

    How Antonin Scalia Singlehandedly Destroys America's Claim to a Superior Justice System

    He doesn't think executing an innocent man matters. How can such a depraved human be on our Supreme Court?

    Salon by Heather Digby Parton

    September 8, 2014 |

    "While my views on the morality of the death penalty have nothing to do with how I vote as a judge, they have a lot to do with whether I can or should be a judge at all. To put the point in the blunt terms employed by Justice Harold Blackmun towards the end of his career on the bench, when he announced that he would henceforth vote (as Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall had previously done) to overturn all death sentences, when I sit on a Court that reviews and affirms capital convictions, I am part of “the machinery of death.” My vote, when joined with at least four others, is, in most cases, the last step that permits an execution to proceed. I could not take part in that process if I believed what was being done to be immoral".

    – Justice Antonin Scalia

    One might wonder how he can stay on the court after the revelation last week that two convicted murderers he once described as lucky to be given the blessing of a lethal injection have turned out to be innocent. That’s right, this is about the case everyone’s been talking about — the two brothers, both mentally disabled, who were railroaded onto death row some 30 years ago with coerced confessions by a corrupt police department. As the New York Times reported:

    The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been somehow overlooked by the authorities even though he lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found, and he had admitted to committing a similar rape and murder around the same time.

    The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential harm from false, coerced confessions and of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.

    They were 19 and 15 at the time of the murder and their conviction was based on nothing more than their coerced confessions, one of which was said to have ended with the defendant saying, “Can I go home now?” It was a famous case, used often by law and order Republican politicians in North Carolina as an electoral cudgel with which to beat Democratic rivals over the head. The state appeals process eventually reduced the sentence of one of the defendants to life in prison but until a state commission with power to subpoena evidence looked into it, the DNA from the scene was not tested and other evidence from the crime scene that implicated another convicted rapist was never processed. When they were, they exonerated these two men.

    What exactly was it that Justice Scalia said about them? Well, he cited this particular case in the decision on Collins v. Collins back in 1994 in which he disagreed with Justice Harry Blackmun on the constitutionality of the death penalty. This was the famous case in which Justice Blackmun disavowed his former support for capital punishment and declared that he would no longer “tinker with the machinery of death.” Scalia wrote, with characteristic sarcasm:

    "Justice Blackmun begins his statement by describing with poignancy the death of a convicted murderer by lethal injection. He chooses, as the case in which to make that statement, one of the less brutal of the murders that regularly come before us, the murder of a man ripped by a bullet suddenly and unexpectedly, with no opportunity to prepare himself and his affairs, and left to bleed to death on the floor of a tavern. The death-by-injection which Justice Blackmun describes looks pretty desirable next to that. It looks even better next to some of the other cases currently before us, which Justice Blackmun did not select as the vehicle for his announcement that the death penalty is always unconstitutional, for example, the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”

    Yes, how very enviable. Unless the defendants are innocent, in which case it is as horrifying as the brutal slaying of the victim, particularly after 30 years spent imprisoned in a small cell waiting for the day that he will know in advance he is to die. That alone is cruel and unusual punishment. Not that Justice Scalia sees it that way. (His comments suggest that the methods of punishment should be directly correlated to the luridness of the crime, an antediluvian concept rejected by the Enlightenment-influenced writers of the Constitution he alleges to take so literally.)

    Death penalty supporters inevitably use cases like this to illustrate that “the system worked” and, by implication, always works. Except that’s sophistry and everyone knows it. The only reason it worked in this case was because the state of North Carolina empowered an outside commission to investigate. And what they found was malfeasance, a coverup and a corrupt indifference to justice. The legal system obscured the truth at every level and every step along the way. There is no way of knowing how often that happens but any sentient being realizes that it is impossible that this was the only time.

    Worst of all, Justice Scalia and other death penalty proponents who find nothing immoral in the state’s conscious, coldblooded taking of a life are equally unconcerned that they might be taking the life of an innocent person. The horrifying injustice in such a mistake (or criminal corruption) is irrelevant. Apparently as long as the train of the legal system runs on time there’s no cause for him to lose any sleep. Indeed, Scalia has said so:

    "This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable".

    This man claims that he could not be a judge if he thought his participation in the death penalty was immoral and yet he does not believe it matters under the Constitution if the state executes innocent people. How on earth can such a depraved person be on the Supreme Court of the United States? On what basis can our country lay claim to a superior system of justice and a civilized moral order when such people hold power?


    There have been many innocent people released in the recent past AND people executed who were proven to be innocent after their deaths. The system is rigged to get convictions.

    And, apparently, some powerful conservatives don't care.
    Last edited by Atypical; 09-08-2014 at 02:48 PM.

  2. #252
    Atypical is offline
    Obama Vetted ISIS Speech In Off-The-Record Meeting With Establishment Media

    By: DSWright Tuesday September 16, 2014 5:02 am

    How much additional evidence is really needed at this point to show that the establishment media are courtiers to power not independent journalists? Well, here is a little more anyway.

    According to Michael Calderone at the Huffington Post, President Barack Obama met with over a dozen “journalists” in an off-the-record meeting to get input on how he should sell his war against ISIS to the American people.

    Previous to the HuffPo story only the New York Times lightly mentioned the meeting but never disclosed the attendees. The off-the-record meeting between journalists and policymakers will likely symbolize to many observers the incestuous and corrupt relationship between the government and the mainstream media where friends are made, favors are traded, and truth gets buried.

    "The group, which met in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in an off-the-record session, included New York Times columnists David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Frank Bruni and editorial writer Carol Giacomo; The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, Eugene Robinson and Ruth Marcus; The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins and George Packer; The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and Peter Beinart; The New Republic’s Julia Ioffe; Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll; The Wall Street Journal’s Jerry Seib; and The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, a source familiar with the meeting told The Huffington Post".

    The dean of the Columbia School of Journalism is a nice touch or really the finishing touch on the all too familiar picture of insider discussion and dealing between government and media elites. Why would such a meeting even need to be off-the-record? Is this a group of independent journalists or the president’s communications staff?

    Not surprisingly, the speech President Obama gave after meeting with the group of “journalists” was inaccurate, hyperbolic, and manipulative. Apparently no one told Obama to just be straight with the American people and tell the truth, but then why would you need to be off-the-record to give that advice?


    It is obvious that media should never be sycophants to government. But that is what they have been for a long time. This is just another example of it - and more than disgusting. Dangerous, too.

    We rarely hear/read what we need to know. We are only told what they want us to know. If you want to be knowledgeable you must not depend on mainstream outlets; six companies control more than 80% of what passes for "news".

    But, football season is coming so who cares. Right?
    Last edited by Atypical; 09-16-2014 at 05:07 PM.

  3. #253
    Atypical is offline
    Truly Shocking Video: Cop Shoots Black Man for No Apparent Reason

    As the man obeyed the officer's order, the officer opens fire.

    Alternet by Janet Allon

    September 25, 2014 |

    The sickening drumbeat of seemingly daily acts of police brutality, the use of extreme and unnecessary force, extrajudicial shootings and sometime executions with African Americans as the targets goes on.

    In an incident captured by the police car's Dash Cam, South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert approaches Levar Jones as Jones gets out of his car at a gas station. Groubert asks to see Jones' license, and Jones turns around to retrieve it from his car. Groubert starts yelling, "Get out of the car, get out of the car," and opens fire, shooting at Jones four times, and striking him at least once, reportedly, in the hip.

    All of four seconds had passed before Groubert escalated a routine traffic stop (he says for a seatbelt violation) to what could have been a deadly use of force.

    The very disturbing video continues with the bewildered Jones first putting his hands up, though he is injured, and asking over and over why Groubert shot him when he was just trying to comply with his request to get his license.

    Jones apologizes over and over again, despite clearly being the victim of an unprovoked assault. Groubert does not apologize.

    The only silver lining: Groubert has been fired, arrested and charged with assault of a highly aggravated degree. He is facing 20 years in prison if convicted. Makes one wonder what would have happened without the Dash Cam.

    And Jones is recovering and out of the hospital.

    Watch this highly disturbing video, with the precaution that it is highly graphic and upsetting:

    This goes on everyday, multiple times. It apparently will never stop - but it must. What might have been said by the cop if the dash cam was not recording? Think about that and read what was said by other cops before their account was contradicted by visual evidence.

    I've said it before; be careful out there. You may get shot over a seatbelt violation or something as minor.


    I heard the recording of the call to his supervisor after the shooting. His account was contradicted by the video. He lied. It's what many of them do.
    Last edited by Atypical; 10-03-2014 at 11:17 AM.

  4. #254
    Atypical is offline
    Reaping the Whirlwind, Again

    Friday, 07 November 2014 09:13

    By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

    I am tired. I am tired of speech
    and of action. In the heart of me
    you will find a tiny handful of
    dust. Take it and blow it out
    upon the wind. Let the wind have
    it and it will find its way home.

    - Tennessee Williams

    Here in rural New Hampshire, in this town without a traffic light, with a population so small that it would have trouble filling a Pop Warner football stadium, the old folks came out to vote in force on Tuesday.

    We vote here at the Community Center on Main Street, an old clapboard building with a coat of white paint that remembers the Eisenhower administration. It has wheelchair access, and thank God for it, because squadrons of elderly voters on Tuesday went through the long endurance required in order to simply leave the house, and came out, and made it inside the polling place, and got their ballots, and cut their chosen "X" through the provided spaces, and slipped their ballot into the box, and left the way they came: proud voters, each wearing an "I Voted" sticker that announced they had done their duty.

    I am world-weary enough at this point to swallow my tongue when I witness this kind of phenomenon first-hand while reading about how national turnout for Tuesday's midterm elections was historically low. When the President of the United States gave a press conference the day after an electoral wipeout of historic proportions to basically apologize for even feigning to represent the things that inspired people to vote for him in the first place, I didn't blink. People for whom voting requires half a day's hard effort showed up to cast their ballots, while the President could not summon the will to explain why his party might deserve their vote, and I refused to be surprised or astonished or disappointed.

    Par for the course.

    Hell, I called it on the third of October. "Come November," I wrote at the time, "if the Democrats wind up flopping and flailing for an explanation as to why they got routed at the polls, let me offer a succinct reply: You stand for nothing. You are the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters. Everyone expects you to go down to defeat, because you always lay down, because you are paid to do so. It doesn't have to be that way, but that's the way it is. When the midterms eat you alive, remember what I said. When you stand for nothing, you get nothing in return."

    Arkansas: Pryor got beat. Colorado: Mark Udall got beat. Kentucky: Alison Lundergan Grimes got beat like a steel drum. Iowa: Bruce Braley got beat by the demonstrably insane Joni Ernst. North Carolina: Kay Hagan, thrashed. In Illinois, Bruce Rauner won even as the citizens of that state passed a pile of ballot initiatives that Rauner will reject, given the chance. Sam Brownback has run Kansas literally into the ground, but will be governor again. Martha Coakley can't campaign her way out of a wet paper sack. The bright blue state of Maryland will have a bright red Republican governor named Larry Hogan.

    What did they stand for, the defeated ones? No one knows, and now they're gone.


    We managed here, with the geriatric squad being the only crew with the requisite number of damns to give in order to summon the will to actually raise their hands on the most important day of the year, to jettison the unendurable political herpe that is Scott Brown. Maggie Hassan likewise managed to hold the governorship. It's a hell of a thing when New Hampshire comes off as the liberal whackadoo state that actually votes for people who intend to govern. Go figure.

    I'm really glad the DCCC sent out those thousands of doom-and-gloom fundraising emails over the last couple of months. You know, the ones that said "It's over" and "Don't bother" and "TRAGIC NEWS" and the like. That really seemed to do the trick, yeah? I hate to quote myself again, but I'm going to: "Here's a memo to whoever came up with this particularly obnoxious fundraising tactic: You suck. I hope you get fired with such velocity that you can't even get a job drowning puppies in a kill shelter."

    So here's what happens next: In a diligent effort to appear conciliatory and bipartisan, President Barack Obama will be neck-deep in the set-your-watch-by-it upcoming congressional effort to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to slash Social Security benefits by way of the chained CPI, and to pass the Keystone XL oil pipeline. These things will have to happen because the Democrats must compromise, don'tcha know. The President wanted these things before Tuesday - and we know this by his own words - and now he can have them...oh, and God help our soldiers, along with anyone who gets in their way, because no one else will; they're going to be busy as hell for another two years, if not more.

    The environment. The wars. The economy. The living and the dead, and the damned besides. We are not our brother's keeper, despite all the strident oratory that would have us believe this nation actually stands for something beyond bedrock greed, lazy coddled indolence, and bluejeans on the cheap. That much, at least, was proven on Tuesday.

    "God is a comedian," said H.L. Mencken, "playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." The old folks here in rural New Hampshire came out on Main Street to vote on Tuesday. Most of the rest of the country couldn't be bothered, or weren't given a reason, or were denied the chance, and we will all reap the whirlwind because of it, again. So it goes.


    There is much to say about the election. Professional explainers usually point to one or two big reasons, but, rarely, is it that simple. There are many reasons people vote the way they do, and they are not often as rational as the pundits allege; put another way, their reasons are not always about the obvious issues that many think motivate voters.

    If your principles are humanistic, empathetic, reasonable and rational you should be alarmed by what has just happened. That comment should in no way be seen as being a shill for Democrats, as my posting of this article should prove.

    Many of the election winners can be considered borderline insane and will actively oppose many programs that benefit those who voted for them. Those voters have stupidly assisted in their own destruction.

    A big reason for the outcome is in this article: Democrats have also assisted in their own destruction. If you are not an ideologue you may either know that now or it will soon become apparent.

    Regardless of your political preferences know this...all of us have lost.
    Last edited by Atypical; 11-07-2014 at 11:05 PM.

  5. #255
    Atypical is offline
    Christian right’s rage problem: How white fundamentalists are roiling America

    Far-right Christians like Todd Starnes think their nation's in danger. You won't believe what they want to do next

    Salon by Edwin Lyngar

    Over the past few years, America has been divided by religion. The culture wars have heated up with secularists on one side and God-fearing Americans on the other, and to understate things: They disagree. But does that mean we hate one another? If the animosity is so intense, what kind of outrage goes too far? Bonnie Weinstein has tackled this issue in an important but very troubling book out Dec. 2, titled “To the Far Right Christian Hater … You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both: Official Hate Mail, Threats, and Criticism From the Archives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.”

    Married to Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the author has collected and annotated a sampling of the hate mail the foundation has received over the past few years. This hate mail is not trolling or anonymous “Internet comments.” The letters are specific and threatening and most often include a return address or email. The Weinsteins’ home has been vandalized — many times — and the family has had to take serious and expensive security measures. It’s no joke. As I read the book, curled up on my couch, my wife kept asking if I was OK. My face was fixed in an expression of horror and disbelief as I read the rage, hate and cruelty cataloged on every page. Bonnie has uncovered a shocking reality: Self-professed Christians deny the fundamental humanity of other people they don’t even know.

    As hard as it was to read in places, it’s important to read and understand. It offers an unflinching examination of a subset of American fundamentalism, created by a segment of our society that is whiter, more conservative and a lot angrier than the rest of America. For some people the future of their faith and of the nation are in danger, threatened by secular forces controlled by Satan himself. This existential threat to Christian supremacy justifies the most offensive, vulgar and cruel letters I’ve ever read. Think I’m overstating it?

    Read the book.

    I’ve interviewed Mikey before. He’s a lawyer and an enthusiastic warrior ready to take on the haters and assholes. He’s not in the atheist movement (he considers himself agnostic), but he comes from a long tradition of tough secularists who aren’t afraid of personal insults or an ugly fight. You can’t help sensing that Mikey loves the game. When I interviewed Bonnie about her book, I found her nothing like that. She believes in and supports the work of the MRFF but is shaken — to her core — by the people who sling the vilest filth at her and her family. She is an often silent witness to the worst humanity and religion have to offer. She exudes a sense of profound sadness, and in only a few minutes chatting with her, she became my hero and my heart broke for her.

    The word “hate” is important, even valuable, and we must not let those who preach hate misappropriate the word itself. Today, in America, people who stand up for LGBT rights are sometimes called “haters,” by Christians. Atheists who want equal rights are accused of “hating god.” This is a specific attempt to take a word, a weapon, from the people who are most afraid of it. I asked Bonnie if the word was too strong to describe the letters she shared in her book, and she said it was far too mild. “We should come up with a new word that really describes this stuff. It’s beyond hate,” she said.

    It’s also important to differentiate between this book and so-called nut-picking, that timeless practice of finding the most extreme, agitated and stupid of your opponents and treating them as the norm. Bonnie’s book is too exhaustive to be dismissed. The MRFF gets at least 10 of the very worst type of letter every week, totaling many more than 500 a year. The book offers only the smallest glimpse of the avalanche of hate mail.

    “A lot of people will say these letter writers are not true Christians, but they are acting as if this is what their lord wants them to do. This is how they behave and they justify it through Jesus. It’s insidious and understated,” Bonnie said.

    I will spare you, dear reader, actual excerpts from the book. Instead I will summarize almost every letter: The MRFF hates America, Weinstein is a dirty Jew who deserves to be raped / murdered / skull-****ed, some truly awful sexual filth directed at Bonnie, ****-shit-****, cocksucker, and Jesus is Lord. Frankly, I’m downplaying it a lot. Bonnie adds commentary and worked with an artist to create some fun illustrations to give the book structure, and the letters get worse as toward the end of a book, reflecting real life. As the MRFF has racked up success pushing back against the creation of a Christian army — also outlined at the very end of the book — the letters the MRFF receives have gotten angrier and meaner.

    The saving grace of the book is Bonnie’s charm and humor as she annotates the entries, making light when she can and rhetorically rolling her eyes throughout. She manages grace while the vilest insults are hurled at her personally, her children and her husband. I was most surprised by the strong anti-Semitism exposed throughout almost all the letters. Bonnie said she could have written an entire book just on this one issue.

    I also chatted with Tyson Cornell, publisher at Rare Bird Books, who published the book. “This is not a fringe issue. It’s a core civil rights issue that’s on par with women’s right to vote, segregation rights, LGBTQ rights,” he told me. He respects what the MRFF does, and, like anyone who spends time reading the nonstop hate mail, is disgusted by it.

    One of the reasons this book is important is that the hate is so common. Many other secular, First Amendment and civil liberties groups have published examples of hate mail for years. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (the FFRF is no relation to the MRFF) publishes a newspaper, Freethought Today, that features a random sample of hate mail in every issue, yet it’s much too easy to ignore the filth in small doses. When reading Bonnie’s book, the scope of the problem in the fundamentalist, dominion theology is obvious.

    The sad thing is that everyone knows one of these letter writers. You do and I do. Perhaps it’s an uncle who yells about “the communists” or won’t stop demanding “Obama’s real birth certificate.” This person holds the view that the American military is a Christian army out to tame the heathens (most often Muslims) in a latter day crusade. The person may have not even been to church in 10 years, but he uses Christianity as a shield to spew hate.

    Hate as a political weapon has gone mainstream in America, but this isn’t the first time. We’ve seen it during the awful red-baiting of the ’50s, during the civil rights era and segregation and earlier than that during the American Civil War. But in my lifetime, I don’t remember seeing such naked hate as we do today. I had a hard time sleeping after I finished the book.

    Cont'd Below

  6. #256
    Atypical is offline
    Cont'd from Above

    Despite the condemnation these letter writers deserve, I would argue many of them have been goaded into their ugly views. There is a systemic, manufactured religious war going on in America. It’s passed down through families and churches. It’s exploited by “family values” spouting politicians. It has been created to line the pockets of the most ignorant and vile flimflam artists who dare call themselves “reverend.” It’s used to fill pews and collection plates and to generate votes for the self-proclaimed party of God, the GOP.

    Todd Starnes is a frequent critic of the MRFF and Bonnie’s husband, Mikey, in particular. He wrote a book last year himself outlining his view of the war on Christianity. It was filled with mistakes, bad research and straight-out fabrication, but it still does tremendous damage to America. Though you would never hear Starnes use vulgarity and hate speech, he (and many like him) is directly responsible for much of the pain and hate inflected on people like Bonnie.

    “People keep saying, ‘It can’t get any worse,’” said Bonnie. “We’ve stopped saying that because every day it does get worse. As long as there are parents and mothers and preachers teaching this hate, it’s not going to end.”

    The MRFF, American Civil Liberties Union, American Humanists Association and many other civil rights groups are not out to promote atheism. They don’t even dislike Christianity. Bonnie and her family are not members of the New Atheist movement, and in fact, most of the people represented by the MRFF are self-described Christians who simply object to military-imposed religious services and worship. They often don’t like the fundamentalist, dominionist flavor of Christianity so common in the military. These men and women who serve their country deserve to have their religious freedom protected. The military could fix itself in months or even weeks with some strongly worded policies and even the smallest amount of political backbone. Sadly, our toughest generals lack the guts to stand up to the religious right.

    When I finished the book, I was struck more than anything with an overwhelming sense of sadness. I was sad that people would write such awful things about a family they don’t even know. I was also sad that so many people spew so much hate in the guise of religion and freedom, and I was the most troubled that I don’t think it will change, at least not any time soon. As long as there is money to be made and votes to be mined, people in the far-right wing of American religion will vilify this family and anyone else who dares to stand up to them.


    There is an ongoing effort in this country to force religion on everyone and everything because it is "good for us". Guess which party supports that obsession.

    The founders, and the documents underlying their goals, preferred religion to be a private, personal decision, not involved with the government's operations.

    Isn't it grotesque that someone belonging to a belief that professes love, kindness and the better instincts of humanity would then do the disgusting things that are so common among the stridently religious? Shows that religious belief does not ensure good, decent or moral behavior.

    This article is just one example. There are countless more.
    Last edited by Atypical; 12-02-2014 at 06:46 AM.

  7. #257
    Atypical is offline
    Merry Iconoclastic Christmas

    Thursday, 25 December 2014 10:17
    By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

    The Houston Chronicle reported late Tuesday night that former president George H.W. Bush was rushed via ambulance to a local hospital after suffering shortness of breath. Despite the fact that the man is in the habit of throwing himself out of perfectly good airplanes to celebrate his birthdays, the truth is that he has passed 90 of them, so the medical precautions being taken to safeguard his health are wise.

    This probably makes me a terrible person, but my first thought was to take sharp note, in the context of the times, of what happens when a wealthy white man says, "I can't breathe." Not to put too fine a point on it, but really, there it is.

    I'm just sayin'. I sincerely hope the man recovers in time to celebrate Christmas at home in the mansion with the rest of his wrecking ball of a family. Everyone deserves a holiday. Hell, even God took a day off.

    My grandmother would have scolded me for such talk. "That's not very Christian of you," she would have said.

    And therein lies the funny part.

    If you pay heed to the talking points boiling out of evangelical Christian churches all across the land, as well as media outlets like Fox News, you would be led to believe the United States is a "Christian nation." There is no passage in the founding documents to confirm this claim - and a mountain of established facts, in fact, to refute it right down the alley and into the dumpster - but this has not ceased the increasing fictionalization of the nation's creation. If the trend continues, the next generation of benightened evangelical home-schooled children will be raised to believe the Constitution was written by Jesus Christ as he rode a saddled Tyrannosaurus Rex over the graves of Muhammad and Martin Luther King, Jr.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the loudest practitioners of Christianity in the United States are so consistently able to sidestep and ignore the core teachings of their religion with apparently no shame whatsoever. For example:

    "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

    That's the New American Standard Bible version of Matthew 6:5-6, and is arguably the bedrock argument for how and why American "Christianity" has gone viciously sideways. Pray alone? Don't be seen doing it? But how else will everyone know how falsely pious you are?

    Meanwhile, these same so-called Christians overwhelmingly approve of Dick Cheney's torture program, even in all its grisly details, and according to the polls, likewise don't seem to have a problem with unarmed Black people being gunned down or choked to death by police all across the country.

    Here's another one to chew on: According to Revelation 1:14-15, Jesus Christ had "hair like wool," and his feet were "like polished bronze."

    A number of recent bad movies, and a museum hall's worth of paintings that have poured down over the centuries, depict Jesus as a blue-eyed straight-haired pale-skinned White man come to save us all. I don't know if he existed, and I have wild doubts about anyone who is declared "divine," but one thing is certain true fact: Whoever got nailed to those crossties on Golgotha bled from brown skin.

    The police are stacking unarmed Black bodies like cordwood, and many in this "Christian" nation cheer them on. Innocent prisoners in Iraq were shredded and tortured; children were reportedly raped in Abu Ghraib by US soldiers in front of their mothers, who then asked to be killed because they could not live with what they had been forced to witness...and the polls say most of this "Christian" nation approves.

    Conclusion: The majority of "Christians" in these United States of "Christian" America don't give a single solitary damn about the lives of people who resemble their "savior" a whole hell of a lot more than they do. The mental and emotional disconnect, fully encompassed, is a Doctoral thesis on how deftly the powerful have played with history to their capital advantage, and on how so many others bought it.

    In point of fact: It's Christmas, upon which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, which is entirely wrong, because the Roman emperor Constantine gave Christianity its first taste of state sponsorship in the year 312, and later Christianized all the standing pagan holidays to consolidate his power. Jesus was not, in fact, born today. At the Council of Nicaea, the emperor and his crew made sure the "Good Book," and its interpretations, would read the way they wanted it to down through the centuries, and that flex has lasted for close to two thousand years.

    Beyond these historical anomalies are the pressing modern realities, chief among which is this madhouse push to acquire personal belongings as a means of celebrating a man who cherished and preached the benefits of poverty and self-denial. Our annual carnival of consumption stands in stark contrast against the legacy of someone who took a whip in hand and beat the holy hell out of the bankers in the temple.

    It's probably considered not "Christian" to say these things, either. But it's honest, at least.

    There is what we believe, and there is what actually happened. There may very well have been a guy born in Bethlehem who spent three years preaching against the order of his day until he was executed for it. That may have happened, but the gross manipulation of that alleged event definitely happened, century after century, at the hands of people not seeking piety but power. So much of our culture has been shaped by the aftermath of the arrogance of the righteous, and we are all the poorer for it.

    Jesus was not born today. Constantine told me so. Regardless, have a very Merry Christmas. The best present you can give yourself is an understanding of history. Misleading mythology withers on the vine of knowledge, and that is always a good thing.

  8. #258
    Atypical is offline
    Chris Hedges: 'American Sniper' Caters to a Deep Sickness Rippling Through Society

    $200 million in box office receipts is a measure of how messed up this country is.

    By Chris Hedges / Truthdig January 26, 2015

    "American Sniper" lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.

    The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

    “Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”

    “Yes, sir,” the boy answers.

    “That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”

    The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”

    The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.

    “They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”

    The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

    “I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

    There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.

    “The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”

    Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the SEALs and the Army Special Forces.

    The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get news—announces the 1998 truck bombings of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen about a “war” against the United States.

    “Look what they did to us,” Chris whisper

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  9. #259
    Atypical is offline

    He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are sheep.

    We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The movie slips, as it often does, into clichéd dialogue.

    She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the **** you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

    “Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”


    “Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he says.

    She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.

    “Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.

    “What’s wrong?” he asks.

    “No!” she yells.

    Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side. …”

    Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack. The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.

    Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the ceremony.

    “Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.

    The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do “head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the Olympics.”

    Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.

    “There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”

    Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates children—we see a child’s arm he amputated. A local sheik offers to betray The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”

    Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re ****in’ savages.”

    He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

    “And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to **** with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, mother****er.”

    The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”

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  10. #260
    Atypical is offline

    Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental.

    “Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

    “Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”

    “I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying **** about them.”

    He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.

    He wrote: “If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?”

    "People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked about death, about things we saw."

    He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The investigation went nowhere.

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