Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Baby Trump

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It all started June 16, 2015. Donald J. Trump slithered down an escalator to declare his candidacy for President of the United States. Since that fateful day, the Republican nominee has been called an awful lot of names.

Racist, bigot, xenophobe, sexist, conman, and – one of my personal favorites – demagogue, just to name a few.

To justify all of the above name-calling, there’s a virtual smorgasbord of scandals to choose from. A few examples:

If in need of further data, on September 13, 2016 noted journalist, Keith Olbermann, host of GQ’s The Closer, offered a comprehensive list of “176 shocking things Donald Trump has done.” Olbermann’s 176 (plus a sequel of 74 more) were then followed by Trump’s 5 A.M. Twitter tirade against former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, and the self-professed respecter of women impotently bragging how celebrity allows him to get away with sexual assault.

So, based on the evidence, it appears the name-calling list thus far is accurate, and we can also add misogynist.

With most of his deplorable behavior well covered, some have added supplementary names to the list using his above behavior combined with his apparently Everest-sized mountain of lies. Again, just a few examples:

With reference to Trump’s documented lies, Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s Last Word called Trump a pathological liar, meaning his lies are compulsive. “He knows you know he’s lying […], but he simply cannot resist […].” Conversely, Fareed Zakaria of CNN and the Washington Post believes, at his core, Trump is instead a bullshit artist. “Liars and truth-tellers are both acutely aware of facts and truths. […] The B.S. artist, however, has lost all connection with reality. He pays no attention to the truth.”

So, whatever way you cut it, based on the evidence, Donald has told a myriad of easily exposed lies. This means we can now reasonably add to our list pathological liar, bullshit artist, or just plain ole liar, liar pants (made in China) on fire.

Seriously. Name-calling Trump is exhausting.

Every day it seems the Republican candidate for President provides us with yet another scandal, another lie, which ultimately lengthens this already extensive list of unflattering names. But when it comes right down to it, what does all this name-calling accomplish? We already know – and have known for some time – what this tangerine-faced, tiny-handed, Twitter meltdowning, dictator-loving, deeply narcissistic, profoundly insecure bully with the temperament of an infant, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, sexist, conman, demagogue, misogynist, pathological, bullshit shoveling, liar has always been…

Donald Trump is an asshole.

It all started June 16, 2015. Donald J. Trump slithered down an escalator to declare his candidacy for President of the United States. Since that fateful day, the now Republican nominee has said and done plenty of abhorrent things to warrant being called an awful lot of names. He didn’t just cross the line with his comments about Mexican immigrants, Muslims, women, veterans, the disabled, the media, the President, or any number of people, places, and things; he crossed a thousand lines a thousand and one times proving himself over and over and over to be the most unqualified, undignified, insufferable a-hole to ever darken America’s doorstep, not to mention a presidential election. When this all comes to a merciful end, November 8, 2016, it is my hope, as well as the hope of millions of other rational people around the world, that Donald J. Trump will finally be called the only name that truly matters.



Bill O’Reilly of Fox News fame apparently just can’t help himself. Appearing on ABC’s program The View, O’Reilly (well-known for his loud spouting of overbearing rhetoric), managed to rant his way into an embarrassingly bigoted statement. He also insulted and alienated co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to the point of them walking off the set. The topic was the mosque near Ground Zero. O’Reilly’s take was that it was inappropriate for the families who lost loved ones because, “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”

A description of the event from an excellent article in the LA Times:

If you wanted to know what’s wrong with American politics, all you had to do was watch “The View” on Thursday, when co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the set after Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly announced that “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”  In the wake of their departure, co-host Barbara Walters, who is becoming more schoolmarmish with every passing year, admonished her colleagues, telling the audience, “You have just seen what should never happen,” and adding that “we” should be able to sit down and talk calmly about politics even if we disagree.

Girlfriend, please.

While I appreciate Barbara Walter’s feeble and misguided attempt at keeping the peace, in an effort to do so she lost a lot of credibility. O’Reilly is not a humble philosopher. He’s an aggressive instigator; a hate-filled bomb waiting for the opportunity to detonate. Much like the Rev. Terry Jones fiasco, Walters and company provided O’Reilly a soapbox in the name of ratings. You can hardly blame the fallout when you’re the one who lit the fuse.


O’Reilly did later clarify his statement, inserting the word “extremists” into his argument, however, he still failed to explain how or why the mosque near Ground Zero is inappropriate for the Muslim families who also lost loved ones on 9/11.

Many thanks for the overwhelming amount of feedback, both on and off, on my last column: Freedom of Religion & Stupidity: The Rev. Terry Jones Story. Some loved it, some hated it, and someone actually compared me to the Tea Party (*Shutter*), but collectively everyone had a worthy opinion to contribute.

In response to everyone’s questions and comments, I’ve created the following Q&A to add to the discussion and further develop my position on this topic.


Q: Why do you care if the First Amendment rights of someone like Rev. Jones is denied?

A: I don’t. What I do care about is the current contradiction in this country where many Americans are cherry picking when, where, and who the First Amendment applies to.

There is no asterisk in the Constitution. Maybe there should be in some extreme cases, but when you start denying the rights of one person based on personal opinion, it weakens everyone’s rights and leaves the door open for more bias. Demanding a mosque not be built based on “feelings,” for example, is not a viable excuse to disregards someone’s rights; that is called discrimination.

Q: Isn’t Qur’an burning the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

A: No. Falsely, shouting “fire” in a crowed theater, though irresponsible, much like burning the Qur’an, the Bible, or the Torah is not specifically against the law. However, if it directly leads to injuries, death, and/or public services i.e. local law enforcement having to get involved, then the person can be held personally and financially responsible. In the case of Pastor Terry Jones, he was ordered to pay the city of Gainesville, Florida $180,000 to cover security costs.

As a potential counter argument, there is the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio where the scope of banned speech was ultimately limited to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot). However, if this addendum is considered applicable in the case of Terry Jones, we’re again confronted with the hypocrisy of cherry picking. Jones might be a bigoted lunatic, but what about an elected official like Newt Gingrich likening Islam to the Nazis or fear mongers like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck? The latter have their own TV shows every weekday, inciting hatred and violence in their loyal viewers. In fact, much of what they say could be categorized as “hate speech.” Shouldn’t they also be held responsible for the acts of crazy fanatics who have been inspired by them to aggression and murder? Who gets to decide when speech should be banned?

Q: Couldn’t the same logic be used to defend the KKK burning crosses in front yards?

A: No. Though the definition may vary from state to state, burning a cross on someone’s property and/or a public place is considered a hate crime and, if the purpose is criminal intimidation, it is a felony (as well it should be), so it does not fall under the First Amendment.

Q: What about the potential danger to our military?

A: Obviously I’m not a fan of soldiers getting killed, much less because some idiot thought book burning was a good idea. I just want to know how and where we can reasonably draw the line. I’d LOVE to see people like Bill O’Reilly off the air; hell, shutdown Fox News entirely. They incite hatred and fear – the verbal equivalent of burning a cross on the New York Imam Rauf’s front lawn – which could potentially endanger the lives of Muslims in America. Why are they allowed Freedom of Speech and the Press, but some preacher in a tiny church in Florida gets undeserved news coverage and worldwide condemnation?

Americans justify our country going to war by saying our military is, “fighting for our freedom.” It’s an utterly ridiculous concept for many reasons, but in this case, if it truly is OUR freedom they are fighting for, then why are so many in the U.S. using lies, hostility, and intimidation to take freedom away from someone else i.e. specifically Muslims who want to build an Islamic Center in New York?

[Video: Glenn Beck says we don’t want Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s help or money. He says, the Prince already sent us help and [he] flew that help into the Trade Centers.” Someone should probably let Beck know that bin Talal is a major share holder in Fox News’ News Corp.]

Q: Is denying the Freedom of Speech of a Terry Jones really a “slippery slope” situation?

A: My fight is not about Terry Jones. It is against the idea that freedom is selective in this country. For example, if the Terry Jones’ of the world should not be allowed to burn the Qur’an because it might incite violence, then the Bill O’Reillys and the corrupt Fox News organization should be shut down too. Why is ANY hate speech allowed?

We’re already on a slippery slope in this regard. There was a time when whites were uncomfortable with blacks using their same drinking fountain. Now, despite the fact that it was extremists who attacked us on 9-11, people are uncomfortable with peaceful Muslims building a mosque. Some even go so far as to say Muslims shouldn’t even be allowed to wear a religious headscarf in public.

What if crucifixes were deemed offensive? Should every Christian be forced to remove them in public? What about Ash Wednesday dots? Nuns and their funny hats? Religious tattoos? Those damn Jesus fish alone are enough to provoke unreasonable anger.

To be honest, I’m happy Terry Jones was silenced. But he is not the root of the problem.

Q: So what is the root of this problem?

A: The way I see it, the real problem behind all this strife is:

  1. The media’s constant, irrational peddling of terror and giving insignificant people like Terry Jones an audience.
  2. Americans buying into the media’s propaganda.
  3. Religion.

Religion might be the worst of the three. People seem to forget that everyone has a God to kill for; they all just have a different name. Let’s just throw everyone’s holy book on a pyre and roast ourselves some marshmallows.

I’m not suggesting imminent lawless action, by the way; just a tasty, fireside treat using some potentially inflammatory kindling.

The world is watching. Photo Credit: AP/Getty Images

A fundamentalist Christian by the name of Reverend Terry Jones threatened to hold a Qur’an burning at his tiny Gainesville, Florida church on the 9th anniversary of 9-11. He said he believes the Qur’an is evil, that Islam is of the Devil, and he wanted to “send a message to radical Islam,” while also honoring those who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001. To him it was not a message of hate or bigotry, but truth.

Islam was wrong and he was right.

The fanatical, 58-year-old pastor faced a lot of scrutiny and interrogation in his quest, but initially remained undeterred. As an example, when asked on Anderson Cooper’s 360 on September 7th whether he knew any of the 9-11 victims’ names, he didn’t have a clue. As a point, Cooper listed a few of those names – Amenia Rasool, Gary Shamau and Sarah Khan, – some of the many innocent Muslims who also died in the World Trade Center that day, but Jones disregarded their relevance and stayed loyal to his message. Cooper then read a quote from General David Petraeus, current Commander of the United States forces in Afghanistan, explaining that his actions could “endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.” Jones was sympathetic, but nevertheless would still not back down.

With the anniversary and event date quickly approaching, the world was now watching this once insignificant figure and he seemed excited yet increasingly uncomfortable with the mounting attention. His resolve clearly shaken, Jones was visited by the FBI. He was condemned by President Obama. Even the Vatican threw in their two cents deeming his proposed gesture “outrageous.”

As an aside, when you’ve got the Pope’s people saying you’re wrong, you’ve gotta bet you’re probably going straight to Hell… at least whatever Hell your religion believes in… if any… if it exists at all. But I digress.

Then finally, faced with overwhelming pressure and hostility as well as more than 100 death threats, on Saturday, September 11th, 2010 at 7:56am, Jones announced on NBC’s Today show that he would, “not today, not ever” burn the Qur’an.

I hate to say it, but I was a little disappointed.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

– Evelyn Beatrice Hall

As I watched the timeline of these surreal events unfold, I couldn’t help but be vexed by three difficult questions:

  1. What kind of world are we living in where a backwards pastor, with a reported congregation of just 50 people on a good day, can provoke such worldwide outrage?
  2. Why did the media provide this lunatic with an audience?

    And most importantly…

  3. Should Reverend Terry Jones follow through on his threat to burn the Qur’an?

To answer the first question, it’s obvious that our culture and society has evolved (or devolved) to the point where anyone is capable of 15 minutes of fame. One need look no further than “Reality TV” to find a blueprint for making the unremarkable famous. (Can you believe they give out awards for these shows?) As to the media providing Jones with a stage to spout his ignorant rhetoric, they do it 7 days a week (and twice on Sunday at Fox News) because their business is ratings and ad revenue. Why should this non-story be any different?  News networks should show a bit more responsibility for who or what they consider newsworthy, however, the coverage did serve to bring much needed attention to more than a Motorhead-mustached kook. It shined a gigantic spotlight on how shortsighted some Americans have become in this debate against the Muslim religion; which brings me to the final question: Should the reverend have gone ahead with the Qur’an burning?


Demonstrators during a rally in support of the proposed Islamic center and mosque to be built near Ground Zero in New York, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. Credit: David Goldman/AP

The First Amendment of the Constitution includes two very important rights for all American citizens: Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech. The first of these two rights should have ended the argument as to why any Islamic Center or mosque could be built on private property anywhere in New York City. Whether you like it or not, whether you think it’s insensitive or not, it is their right.

Freedom of Speech, on the other hand, supports the tenet that there is no democracy without dissent. Public opinion nor presumed stupidity is not a negating factor here either, so as much I may object to the idea of Jones or anyone burning the Qur’an or as much as I felt it was wrong for him to still consider it knowing it could potentially endanger our troops, the U.S. Constitution affords him the right to do so as well. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. in the landmark decision of Texas vs. Johnson, said it best. The Supreme Court had overturned a conviction against Gregory Lee Johnson, a man who burned an American flag while protesting at the 1984 Republican National Convention, when Justice Brennan decreed:

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.”

In other words, freedom should be respected, not selective.

Don’t like it? Use your Freedom of Speech. Protest. Try to change the law. Write your congressperson. But never make the mistake of thinking they are wrong and you are right; that your feelings and opinions should ever supersede the rights of others. Wrapping yourself in the American flag and bragging about our brave military “fighting to protect our freedoms” while fighting at home to take those same freedoms away from someone else, is hypocritical at best. When you do, you say their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness has less value. That is bigotry above and beyond any “truth” Terry Jones was publicly advocating.

Whether it’s Muslims trying to build a mosque or a crazy Christian threatening to burn a book, if we use fear and intimidation to rob our fellow citizens of their rights, it sets a very dangerous precedent. It will mean America is not a free country. It will mean the freedoms our military are supposedly fighting for are conditional and subjective. And it will mean the next right that could be taken away could very easily be your own.

, though he couldn’t tell you any of the victims’ names.

We report, you comply.

It’s been said by some that Fox News is undeniably incompetent; useless, inept, stupid. Others believe that, hidden beneath their seemingly retarded and inflammatory exterior, is a deceitful agenda; lies, manipulation, evil. Are they truly “fair & balanced” with a hint of ignorance or are they really just a bunch of hypocrites in fancy suits?

When the controversy began over the proposed Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero, Fox News’ first weapon of choice in the debate was “feelings.”


Setting aside the First Amendment, Bill O’Reilly made the following request on his O’Reilly Factor program on August 17th:

I would appeal to the Muslim community to take into account the feelings of the 9-11 families who would prefer that the mosque be built further away from Ground Zero.

So the initial, somewhat reasonably “fair & balanced” conclusion from the network was that sometimes feelings should be more important than upholding the Constitution. And in this case, I assume, they were referring to the upset or insult to the non-Muslims who died on September 11th.

Highlight Reel

Now the argument has turned into an ugly circus with overzealous anchors, xenophobic “experts,” and bigoted political leaders and protesters all implying – not so subtly – that the building would be a symbol of victory for extremists and could act as a terrorist headquarters (kinda like the Legion of Doom in Super Friends) in the middle of Manhattan. No more sensitive feelings apparently, just a fear-mongering battle to the death! Their new weapon of choice?

A highlighted card.

Fox News anchor and ignoramus, Eric Bollig. (Note to Gretchen Carlson: Try looking it up on next time sweetheart.)

On the August 19th edition of Fox & Friends, anchor Eric Bollig and his fellow analysts attempted to loosely tie (using mights, maybes, and possiblies) the leader of the effort to build the new Islamic center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, with some bad dudes. Without a single brick laid or dollar raised on the project at this point, Bollig still waved his card, with a series of potential financial backers highlighted in yellow, saying that we need to “question the money trail.”

Fairly Unbalanced

At this point in the conversation, my conclusion would be that Fox News is less “fair & balanced” and more obnoxious and unprofessional. When shouldered with the responsibility of reporting news to the general population, you’d think they’d strive for truth and accuracy over speculative nonsense.

From what would happen next, I should’ve known better.

Six Degrees To Evil

Later that same evening, following trivial pursuit with Fox & Friends, in the opening segment of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, host Jon Stewart also played his own game of guilt by association. The piece, titled “Extremist Makeover – Homeland Edition,” used the same tactics as Bollig, however, this time the subject of the conspiracy was Fox News itself. The following is a rough translation of the segment from The Daily Show with my comments in ()s:

Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News. He definitely has ties to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal who owns the second largest share of News Corp. (the media conglomerate behind Fox News, 20th Century Fox, The New York Post etc.) outside the Murdoch family – 7%, 2.5 billion dollars. Now they say he’s a liberal Muslim, but he is in the Saudi Royal Family which may have ties to funding the Wahhabist mosques, the same particular brand of Islam practiced by some of the terrorists. And he may have business dealings with the Carlyle Group whose clients include (in addition to George H. W. Bush) bin Laden family, one of whose sons – now obviously I’m not going to say which son – may be anti-American. […] (Also) after 9-11 Mayor Rudy Giuliani would not accept $10 million dollars from this same Prince Al-Waleed because he (Al-Waleed) had cited (the U.S.) mid-east policy as one of the reasons that we were attacked which is the same reason they (Fox) said that the Imam down at the Ground Zero mosque was a radical.

"So I think that really when you look at this card and you do highlight it in yellow the only thing you can come up with is, 'Is Fox News a terrorist command center?'”

Think that was bad? Now here’s where it gets really frightening.

Rupert Murdoch donated $1 million dollars to the Republican Party in June this year. Though mentioned on over a dozen media outlets, Fox failed to report Murdoch’s hefty political contribution.


Also, on August 23rd, Fox & Friends got more specific about Imam Rauf’s financial ties to terrorism by citing another potential backer for the “Ground Zero Mosque” in The Kingdom Foundation. They called the group, “a Saudi organization headed up by THE GUY who tried to give Rudy Giuliani $10 million dollars after 9-11 that was sent back.” Yes, Fox was referring to the same Prince Al-Waleed – part owner of Fox News and a man a handshake away from a hefty donation to the Republican Party – a terrorist. By the way, Fox failed to say his name or show his photograph during the segment.


The Internet isn't lacking for villainous pictures of Al-Waleed bin Talal. Says Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac, "You don't even need to doctor them! He already looks like he's about to feed Timothy Dalton to his white tiger."

My Final Conclusion

Taking all of the above into account, I still honestly don’t know if Fox News is stupid. Their tactics and choices of weaponry, however (and let’s not forget Glenn Beck), certainly do make them appear, at the very least, intellectually challenged.

I’m not sure if Fox News – or the Republican Party by $1 million dollars worth of guilt by association – is evil either. Nevertheless, when they insist on selling fear over the facts and conveniently overlook their own hypocrisy – whether due to incompetence or intent – the only fair and balanced thing one might, maybe, possibly conclude should be:

Fox News: Fair & Balanced Bull Sh*t.

“I oppose the planned location of a mosque in close proximity to Ground Zero,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement released Saturday. “The concerns of the 9/11 victims’ families and the citizens of New York City should be respected.”

So some Muslims want to build a mosque and Islamic community center a few blocks from Ground Zero.

Okay. So what?

Well, it seems the former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and former Alaskan Governor and potential 2012 Presidential Candidate (God help us all), Sarah Palin – among others – have a big problem with this.

To those who want to build the mosque, Giuliani claims, “All you’re doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

But doesn’t feeding the fear and bigotry, by not building the mosque, just endorse people’s prejudice and allow for more division, more anger, and more hatred? They are blaming an entire religion for the acts of a radical, fundamentalist few. According to the Pew Research Center there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, including 3,264 members of the U.S. military. Are they ALL terrorists?

The Catholic Church, with reportedly 1.16 billion members world-wide, has been rocked by scandal after scandal about pedophile priests. In fact, their own leader, Pope Benedict XVI, has repeatedly been found to have taken part in the cover-up. How many new Catholic Churches will we allow to be built near schools and parks? Wouldn’t that also be considered a slap in the face to the thousands of abuse victims? Hell, I once saw a liquor store literally next door to an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) center in San Francisco. WWJD?

A-Holes In Politics

To make matters worse, a-holes like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich back up the ignorant opinions of people like Giuliani, ensuring fear and bigotry remain alive and well.

From The Los Angeles Times, Gingrich was quoted as saying, “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” Destroy our civilization? Really? Islamists, Gingrich further warned, want to impose Muslim religious law, or Sharia, on the entire world, including the United States. A religion with the goal of recruiting and converting new members all over the world? Where have I heard that before?

As for Palin’s brilliant take on the situation:

There are a hundred mosques already in New York […] If the purpose of this mosque, as we are lead to believe, is to create this tolerant environment, to avoid anything like 9-11 ever repeating, you have to ask why didn’t one of those 100 mosques already accomplish such a thing? […] So I don’t buy into that reason, that that’s the purpose of this location being chosen.

Sarah Palin, Fox News, August 16, 2010

Yes. Sarah Palin is blaming the 100 existing mosques in New York for 9-11. Following her misguided thread of logic, shouldn’t we also blame the 300,000 Christian Churches in the U.S. (and/or its 56 million worshipers) for the actions of Evangelical Christians who, in addition to preaching “Thou Shall Not Kill,” are responsible for a multitude of bombings, attempted bombings, murders, attempted murders, and death threats against abortion clinics, doctors and staff?

Palin furthermore seems to be insinuating that there’s a hidden agenda to the choice of the mosque’s location. What does she think they’re planning to do? 9-11 times 100? Perhaps rather than spouting hate-mongering rhetoric, she should hire a new fact checker or scribble better cheat-sheets on her hand.

From the Fact Checkers at the Associated Press:

To be sure, the center’s association with 9/11 is intentional and its location is no geographic coincidence. The building was damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks and the center’s planners say they want the center to stand as a statement against terrorism.

Practice What You Preach

If religion teaches us anything, it is that we should only do unto others as we would have done to us. Quoting President Obama from a 2009 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, this is the one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

On September 25, 1789, our founding fathers protected these sacred truths when writing the Bill of Rights, the 10 original Amendments to the Constitution of the United States . The first of these ten declares:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

At this moment in our country’s history, some Americans are not only treating Muslims like the enemy, they’re trying to prohibit their basic right to practice their religion how and specifically where they choose. If I’m remembering my history correctly, the United States was established by men and women who fled Europe in the face of religious persecution, which eventually lead to the very Bill of Rights that now protects that religious privilege. I’m told many, of every faith, in the U.S. military have fought and died as well so that we can maintain this and all our other great freedoms. Why?

It’s time to stop paying lip service to faith, feeding the hate, and ignoring history. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness isn’t just a catchphrase; it is a right – one that has been fought and died for – and it applies to every American whether you’re Christian, Jew, or Muslim.