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IMO, the proto-typical Teabagger was not Ronald Reagan, necessarily...

He was, however, a prominent member of Reagan's administration.

Greg Wetstone, the chief environment counsel at the House Energy and Commerce Committee during the Reagan administration, who subsequently served as director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, argued that Watt was one of the two most "intensely controversial and blatantly anti-environmental political appointees" in American history. The other was Anne Gorsuch, director of the EPA at the time. Environmental groups accused Watt of reducing funding for environmental programs, restructuring the department to decrease federal regulatory power, wanting to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund which aimed at increasing the area of wildlife refuges and other protected land, easing regulations of oil and mining, directing the National Park Service to draft rules that would de-authorize congressionally authorized national parks, and recommending lease of wilderness and shore lands such as Santa Monica Bay to explore and develop oil and gas.

Watt resisted accepting donation of private land to be used for conservation. He suggested that 80 million acres (320,000 km²) of undeveloped land in the United States all be opened for drilling and mining by 2000. The area leased to coal mining quintupled during his term as Secretary of the Interior. Watt boasted that he leased "a billion acres" (4 million km²) of coastal waters, even though only a small portion of that area would ever be drilled. Watt once stated, "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."

Watt periodically mentioned his Dispensationalist Christian faith when discussing his method of environmental management. Speaking before Congress, he once said, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations."

In an interview with the Satellite Program Network, Watt said, "If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don't go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations."

A controversy erupted after a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in September 1983, when Watt mocked affirmative action by making the following statement about a coal leasing panel: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." Watt resigned within weeks of making this statement. In 2008, Time magazine named Watt among the ten worst cabinet members in modern history.


A harbinger of things to come.

White men and individualism: Anyone else notice...

...that whenever a white man deviates from societal norms in such a drastic way ( for example, any of the countless white male serial killers, mass murderers, and other criminals and terrorists), the individual white men are blamed, whether as a "crazy person" or a 'sociopath" or "mentally ill" and a "loser."

However, whenever a woman or a black person or a person of color in general does something similar or identical, it is not the individual women or person of color who is blamed, but all women and all people of color. Collective guilt applies to them, but not to white men.

The obsession with medicalizing and pathologizing white male criminality is an example of white male privilege. It can't be the fault of a "cultural pathology" (like it allegedly is for black people, for example) ; the pathology must be individual and personal, the fault of some aberrant, mentally ill white male "loser." White men have the luxury of being treated as individuals, while women and minorities are always held responsible as a group.

-My $0.02.

Why conspiracy theories aren’t harmless fun

Most conspiracy theories are, unless you’re the one pushing them, pretty absurdly funny. Conspiracy theorists are always good for a chuckle.

Until they aren’t.

In his critical introduction to conspiracy theories, the sociologist Jovan Byford notes that the academic study of conspiracy theories went through a phase where scholars treated these theories as intriguing pop-culture artefacts that were essentially harmless. In the X-Files-inflected 90s, decades out from the horrific anti-Semitic conspiracy fantasties of Nesta Webster and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, it was easy to treat conspiracy theory as an exercise of playful postmodern irony. No-one gets hurt, right?

Tell that to Gene Rosen, who helped kids who had fled the shooting at Newtown only to be hounded with abusive phone messages from people accusing him of being a government stooge. Tell that to the families of Grace McDonnell and Chase Kowalski, two seven year olds killed at Newtown, whose parents had to endure a phone call from the man who stole the memorial to their children telling them their children never existed.

But the harmfulness of conspiracy theory arguably goes much deeper than this. It’s not just that conspiracy belief sometimes causes people to do terrible things. It’s that attachment to the conspiracy worldview violates important norms of trust and forbearance that are central to how we relate to each other and the wider world.

To believe in conspiracy theory, you must believe in conspirators. To maintain a conspiracy theory for any length of time, you must claim that more and more people are in on the conspiracy. Clinging to degenerating research programs of this type involves making more and more unevidenced accusations against people you know nothing about. That’s not without moral cost. Suspicion should always involve a certain reluctance, a certain forbearance from thinking the worst of people – a virtue that is sacrificed in the name of keeping the conspiracy theory going. In the process, real human tragedy is made into a plaything, fodder for feverish speculation that does no real epistemic or practical work.


All of a sudden, social conservatives are *all about* protecting individual freedom, liberty, etc.

Because their freedom to deny those other people their freedom and rights and opportunities is being challenged and overruled.

Exhibit A: Gay marriage. When Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee talks about "religious freedom", they are referring to the freedom to discriminate against the less privileged. The freedom to be bigoted assholes without consequence. The freedom to deny other people any happiness, joy, love, or indeed, opportunities.

That's why Ted Cruz says that legalizing gay marriage is one of the darkest days in American history. Their belief system is based on bigotry, prejudice, and moralizing against what they regard as "perversion" or "sin." They can't stand seeing their belief system being challenged, thwarted, and stymied...and furthermore, the fact that so many gay couples genuinely love each other in spite of the moralizers and the voices of condemnation and prejudice and hatred and the viciousness thrown at them - that really, really gets to bigots like Cruz and Huckabee in a bad way.

What a sad, pathetic life it must be, to seethe with rage at other people living and loving their lives in the way that makes sense to them, REGARDLESS of whether it makes sense to YOU ("you" meaning the bigots). I hope that the bigots find peace with themselves, for everyone's sake. Otherwise, they can just fuck off.

Slavery records will soon be easily searchable online

Millions of previously hard-to-access records on freed enslaved African Americans collected just after the start of the U.S. Civil War will soon be easily searchable online, likely allowing millions of people to trace their ancestry back farther than ever before.

The Freedmen's Bureau obtained handwritten, personal information about an estimated 4 million newly freed enslaved people, including details about who previously owned them, marriage and family history, military service, banking practices and hospital and property records.

Experts say such information will unearth a treasure trove of information that many African Americans have longed to learn about for hundreds of years.

"The records serve as a bridge to slavery and freedom," said Hollis Gentry, of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will showcase the records when it opens next year. "You can look at some of the original documents that were created at the time when these people were living. They are the earliest of recordings of people who were formerly enslaved. We get a sense of their voice. We get a sense of their desires, their goals, their dreams, their hopes."

Mark O'Connell, a psychotherapist who researches and writes about identity, adds that people of all races find power in family histories. "The more connected we are to something strong and heroic and dignified from our ancestors' past, the more we can feel capable of being that way in our own lives," he said.

Meanwhile, Morgan has spent a lifetime searching for her family roots, discovering the name of a black great grandmother born around 1800 and a white great grandfather born in 1670. She believes these records being disseminated throughout the country will serve a purpose for future generations.

"In order for us to deal with contemporary issues that we have today – racism, black boys being shot down in the streets – you have to confront the past," she said. "The land was stolen from the Native Americans. The labor was provided for free by African slaves. The entire foundation of American capitalism is based on slavery, on a free labor market. People don't want to deal with that and you have to."


Ted Cruz on gay marriage: "The last 24 hours...were among the darkest hours of our nation."

Hours after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage on Friday morning, the Texas Republican senator looked to pivot the defeat for social conservatives into a wedge issue between himself and his rival presidential hopefuls. And by the end of his day in Iowa, Cruz was outflanking any of the other aspirants on the right and was continuously accusing them of doublespeak.

In stops across northwest Iowa, Cruz said many in the GOP were "popping champagne" after the decision. He took swipes at both the integrity of the Supreme Court and his longtime friend, Chief Justice John Roberts. He suggested he would back a constitutional convention to scale back the high court's power, and concluded the day by calling for an amendment to the Constitution that would give voters the chance to end a Supreme Court justice's lifetime tenure early.

"This is not a typical moment in American history," Cruz told a crowd of more than 100 Iowans gathered on a baseball diamond in the small town of Pierson. "The last 24 hours at the United States Supreme Court were among the darkest hours of our nation."


Yep, gay marriage becoming legal nationwide ranks there with the Civil War, Lincoln being shot, Pearl Harbor, Kennedy being shot, 9/11...

Sanders and Clinton voted the same way 93% of the time in the two years they shared in the Senate


Being black and middle class doesn't mean you face less prejudice (The Guardian, 2011)

While this article is 4 years old and is specifically about the UK, it applies just as much to the American context.

What happens when you take the poverty out of racism? Much of what is written on race focuses on how it impacts on those suffering the sharpest inequality: unemployment, criminalisation, underachievement in school, poor housing. This has fed the view – commonly held by those on the left – that race is just a subset of class, and that those with decent education and jobs will experience little, if any, lingering inequality. But how do those "successful" minorities feel?

That's what a team at the Institute of Education have been researching, and their findings are released on Monday. Looking at African Caribbean families in particular, they have confirmed that there is a black "middle class"; that they work very hard to get the best for their children; but they also discovered that social status and relative wealth do not protect black people. "Racism is a reality in the lives of black middle-class families," states the report, The Educational Strategies of the Black Middle Classes. And research team member Dr Nicola Rollock, says: "Being black and middle class is fundamentally different to being white and middle class."

I understand what she means. Like many of those surveyed I would never call myself middle class, despite having a degree and a professional career. For me, middle class is a racially exclusive term in Britain: because it's not about wealth, or educational achievement, but about certain values that one has to adhere to. About living in the "right" area; following the "right" sports; attending the "right" theatres; sending your children to the "right" schools. And in all of these, the "right" is white.


As the report says: "White middle-class parents often presume an entitlement, both to a good education for their children and to educational success." Black middle-class parents do not, due to "their own negative experiences of school, the labour market and wider society on account of their race".


People are violent because their moral codes demand it

Across practices, across cultures, and throughout historical periods, when people support and engage in violence, their primary motivations are moral. By ‘moral’, I mean that people are violent because they feel they must be; because they feel that their violence is obligatory. They know that they are harming fully human beings. Nonetheless, they believe they should. Violence does not stem from a psychopathic lack of morality. Quite the reverse: it comes from the exercise of perceived moral rights and obligations.

Individuals and cultures certainly vary in the ways they do this and the contexts in which they think violence is an acceptable means of making things right, but the goal is the same. The purpose of violence is to sustain a moral order.

Perhaps this all sounds a little too convenient. Some violent individuals might say that their actions were morally motivated. How do we know that they are not simply lying after the fact? Surely it’s not difficult to make up moral justifications when one is actually motivated by selfishness or evil?

That’s a good question. Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t undermine the big picture very much. What we must remember is that the justifications perpetrators provide for their actions tell us a lot about the moral ideas of their community. If the American football player Ray Rice claims that his fiancée hit and spat on him before he punched her in 2014, it’s because he feels it mitigates his crime in the eyes of people he cares about. If people actually do care whether his statement is true, then Rice is right. The excuses that perpetrators offer reveal the moral standards of those being appealed to.

None of this is to say that such interventions should never be pursued, particularly in cases where they don’t cost much. Better background checks are probably a good idea. But if we really want to cut rates of violence, we must focus on its moral motives. Simply stated, violence must be made immoral. This must hold both for the perpetrators and the people they care about. Only when violence in any relationship is seen as a violation of every relationship will it diminish.


Dear Fox News and other right-wingers: On the CSA, apartheid South Africa, and Rhodesia...

Specifically, how these three vile regimes all combined white supremacy with Christianity and right-wing politics.

While countless Union soldiers and northern civilians depended on theological narratives to sustain them, a providential view of history particularly influenced how Southerners reacted to and interpreted the events of the war. After all, the preamble to the Confederate constitution, unlike the federal one it replaced, explicitly invoked “the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” They were, Southerners believed, a people chosen by God to manifest His will on earth. “We are working out a great thought of God,” declared the South Carolina Episcopal theologian James Warley Miles, “namely the higher development of Humanity in its capacity for Constitutional Liberty.”

Miles held, though, that divine mandate extended beyond simply the Confederate interpretation of states’ rights, and that Southerners were bound by the Bible to seek more than merely “a selfish independence.” The Confederacy must “exhibit to the world that supremest effort of humanity” in creating and defending a society built upon obedience to biblical prescriptions regarding slavery, a society “sanctified by the divine spirit of Christianity.” In short, as the Episcopal Church in Virginia stated soon after the war began, Southerners were fighting “a Revolution, ecclesiastical as well as civil.” This would be a revolution that aimed to establish nothing less than, in the words of one Georgia woman, “the final and universal spread of Gospel civilization.”

This “Gospel civilization,” many believed, didn’t just permit slavery — it required it. Christians across the Confederacy were convinced that they were called not only to perpetuate slavery but also to “perfect” it. And they understood the Bible to provide clear moral guidelines on how to properly practice it. The Old Testament patriarchs owned slaves, Jewish law clearly assumed its permissibility and the Apostle Paul’s New Testament letters repeatedly compelled slaves to be obedient and loyal to their masters. Above all, as Southerners never tired of pointing out to their abolitionist foes, the Gospels fail to record any condemnation of the practice by Jesus Christ.


According to Afrikaner theologians, God had separated the races at the tower of Babel and the races were not intended to mix. Following World War II, the Afrikaners obtained political power in South Africa and began to implement a policy of apartheid. This policy of racial separation, according to South Africa’s Council of Churches in 1947, was "not only born of circumstances but has its basis in Holy Scripture." Theologian J.H. Kritzinger wrote:

"Scripture teaches that God willed racial apartheid and we as Christians may not make light of it."


The case of Rhodesia represented a singular appeal to the global Christian right. As Norman H. Murdoch writes in his book Christian Warfare in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe: The Salvation Army and African Liberation, he explains the ideology of the country's leader Ian Smith as believing that “to be Christian was, in his mind, to be white, European, and anti-Marxist.” William F. Buckley, the founder of the National Review, went on expenses-paid trips to Rhodesia and also made trips to South Africa. Of South Africa he wrote that the apartheid system has “evolved into a serious program designed to cope with a melodramatic dilemma on whose solution hangs, quite literally, the question of life or death for the white man in South Africa.”


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