It’s Official! Obama’s Endless War

Amidst the various sporadic outbreaks of moronitude, people could be forgiven for missing this week’s top story. The Obama administration casually admitted that the US has been running a global, open-ended war since the 9/11 attacks, and it has no intention of stopping any time soon.

During a Senate hearing, Pentagon officials said that the “war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates” could last another 20 years; and claimed that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in order to allow the 2001 attack on Afghanistan was an open-ended authorisation to deploy violence anywhere on the planet. When an Independent Senator pointed out that the Pentagon has “…essentially rewritten the Constitution…”, this was met with a shrug, and “…I’m not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer of any kind…” from one of the Pentagon officials. Now, I’m not a lawyer either, but I’m aware that “ignorance is no defence” when it comes to lawbreaking.

The Pentagon is apparently aware that it is breaking US law (not to mention international law), and seems to be 100% comfortable with that fact. US democracy is revealed to be a sham when most Democrats loyally line up behind the Obama administration; meanwhile, Republicans, rather than oppose Obama’s shredding of the constitution, would rather pursue three completely fabricated attacks on Obama instead. As we already know, the Republicans are even more enthusiastic about pursuing illegal wars than the Democrats.

The current phase in the “war on terror” involves firing missiles at various targets in Pakistan and Yemen, and in the process killing far more civilians than fighters. Pakistan has just achieved the first moderately democratic transfer of power in its history; the US, in pursuing an illegal war against Pakistani individuals, against the wishes of the Pakistani parliament, can fairly be described as a terrorist entity. Under international law, Pakistan is within its rights to retaliate – though it lacks the power to do so, and any retaliation would only strengthen the case for continued terrorism by the Americans.

Yemen is a very poor country which is experiencing a severe water crisis. For a fraction of what the US spends on bombing the place, work could begin on securing water supplies and addressing poverty. But helping fix Yemen’s problems wouldn’t serve the Pentagon’s interests: in order to pursue endless war, it requires a frightened American population; and that needs an enemy. If American morons were to discover that the “terrorist threat” consists of small, scattered groups of idiots driven by poverty more than anything else, support for the Pentagon’s terrorist campaign would weaken.

Those people who were paying attention at the beginning of the “war on terror” (in which the neo-cons blamed Afghanistan for the actions of a small group of Saudi dissidents), will remember predictions that the war may last a decade; now it’s clear that the strategy is to keep kicking the can down the road. 20 years is a meaningless number. The “enemy” barely exists, yet so long as people believe it does, the war will continue, and create the illusion of an enemy as it does so.

The fact that the entire “global terrorist threat” against America has managed to produce 19 men armed with knives, and two men armed with pressure cookers, over a period of twelve years, would make intelligent people stop and think; luckily for the war machine, there appears to be a great shortage of intelligent Americans (or alternatively the corporate-run media ensures they rarely get heard).

Since the Republicans are doing their best to cover up for Obama’s attacks on the constitution, it’s up to liberals to break ranks. Sure, it was good to have a Democratic president, and even better to have a black one, but any dreams that Obama was any kind of liberal must surely have been shattered by now.

Americans, you are bringing death and destruction to places most of you can’t find on a map, just as you did during the “Cold War”. Billionaire interests are leading your country to destruction, and like sheep, you blindly follow. The more foreign civilians you kill, the more likely that some person, sickened by the death and destruction in their own country, will try to take revenge on you. And it seems equally inevitable that you will crap your pants and allow unelected interests to take even more of your liberty in response.

As one of your great men, Benjamin Franklin, said:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Free Shaker Aamer

Eleven years ago, a British resident, Shaker Aamer, was working in a school in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped. Since then, he has been illegally imprisoned and repeatedly tortured at the illegal US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The British government has requested his return, and he has been cleared for release – but is still there. He is reported to be one of the majority of Guantanamo detainees who are on hunger strike, and are being illegally and painfully force-fed.

Anyone who wonders why innocent people are being held and tortured by the US has not been paying attention for the past decade. Neo-cons wanted endless war, and in the absence of a real enemy, they had to create one: “Terrorism”. When they invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they offered generous bounties for “terrorists”, with the inevitable result that gangs of thugs kidnapped and sold people, at random, to US forces.

The people thrown into Guantanamo Bay, and other US “dark” prisons, were described by the Bush Administration as the most dangerous people on Earth. This helped frighten ordinary Americans, as well as whip up a climate of Islamophobia. It allowed both the Bush and Obama administrations to attack civil liberties in the US, and carry out a series of illegal wars and assassinations abroad. Shaker Aamer, and thousands of people like him, had their lives destroyed as a “necessary” part of this campaign. Almost all of these “most dangerous people on Earth” have been quietly released without charge; Shaker is the last remaining British victim of Guantanamo.

You can read more about Shaker Aamer here, or watch the video from his campaign below.

Ann Coulter and the Return of the Bell Curve

Before 9/11, when Muslims suddenly became to blame for everything, there were still morons; it’s just that they believed different myths back then. Right-wing Americans, who hadn’t yet been fed the “Islam is evil” myth, needed somebody to hate; and in general they chose to hate black people. White Supremacy, which went quieter after 9/11, and quieter still after Obama’s election, was the right-wing American moron’s prejudice of choice.

I spent a lot of time online in debate with some of these people. They had rehearsed their arguments well, but once the cracks in their reasoning were exposed, the whole edifice crumbled quickly. Their fundamental claim was that black people were genetically inferior to whites. This was old orthodoxy that had survived unchanged since the same argument was used to justify the slave trade, centuries earlier.

The racists made good use of a 1994 book called The Bell Curve, which examined both genetic and environmental factors in intelligence. However, noticing that intelligence is partly dependent on genes isn’t the same as noticing significant differences between races – something the authors themselves made clear, although the racist morons chose to ignore this point. They also made use of IQ test scores which showed black populations in America significantly under-performing whites. Claims of “white supremacy”, however, were dented by the fact that Chinese and Indian IQ scores were above those of whites. The poor supremacists were forced to accept Asians as their intellectual superiors, as the price of “proving” that blacks were their inferiors.

The argument was fairly easy to dismantle. IQ scores have been steadily rising since the tests were invented over a century ago, demonstrating that education is a major factor in IQ. In fact, the gap between today’s white people and whites a century ago is far wider than the gap between any two racial groups today; to claim that modern whites are genetically much different from their great-great-grandparents would be nonsensical. Additionally, black IQ scores are rising faster than white ones. Again, this rules out a genetic factor.

The race-based arguments are further undermined by breaking the racial groups into smaller subgroups. For example, in the UK, black immigrants from Africa educationally outperform those from the West Indies; and Indians do better than those from Bangladesh.  The arguments are old and thoroughly discredited.

So imagine my surprise when I was informed this morning that racist far-right American nut-job Ann Coulter was tweeting about a study about Hispanic “inferiority”.

This claim just happens to come at a time when a debate about amnesty for illegal Hispanic immigrants is raging. Which is convenient.

Ann is a genuine moron, but falls into the small group of morons who are just smart enough to make a good living from scaring those even dumber than themselves. She regularly pops up in the right-wing media to make racist and otherwise stupid comments that are calculated to get morons all hot and excited. The fact that she is blonde, and could be described as attractive (externally, rather than in her dark soul), if you like that sort of thing, certainly helps her win TV appearances and viewers. No doubt, Kleenex sales rise in Bible Belt states whenever she appears and calls for some country to be nuked, or calls Arabs “ragheads”. Or whatever.

I wish Ann was a little more considerate. Now she’s sent those tweets, my timeline will be filled by morons repeating the claims for the rest of the day. Sigh… and I was hoping for a quiet Friday.

Rand Paul: Civil Liberties Hero?

Delivery from President Obama!
Delivery from President Obama!

As regular readers will know, my political roots lie on the left; but I feel very little affinity with the left today, largely because it has lost touch with its tradition of support for civil liberties. The right loves to throw around the F-word (Freedom, I mean) but has never, in practise, believed in it. “Freedom” meant, under Reagan, the right to destroy democracy worldwide in the name of “fighting communism”. Today, “Freedom” means the right to destroy democracy in the name of fighting terrorism. The right in Europe and the US has always been the greatest threat to liberty; today, much of the left has decided to join it.

This means that, if you care about civil liberties, there is increasingly little to choose between Conservative/Labour, Republican/Democrat. George W Bush and the Neocons, who concocted a “global war on terror” when the “threat” comprised of perhaps a few hundred extremists at most, had a clear strategy; recreate the cold war climate of fear, and thus erode support for civil liberties. The Bush Administration carried out war crimes on a global scale and unprecedented attacks on civil liberties at home. Obama’s Hope & Change message seemed to carry a promise of a return to truly progressive values – most of all, defence of free speech – but the Obama Administration has not only preserved the core of the Bush attacks on civil liberties, but extended them (and continues to do so).

Free speech is even more under threat today than it was when Obama came to power in 2008. At this point, the partisan nature of US politics becomes tiresome. The right had, as ever, abandoned its commitment to Freedom when freedom came under sustained attack by Dubya. Now, the left largely averts its gaze when Obama does the same thing. The US mass media has utterly failed to hold Obama to account, just as it ignored the crimes of Bush. Even Fox, constantly attacking Obama for things he hasn’t done, has barely bothered to attack him for the things he has done. Fox-viewing morons want Obama impeached for a variety of bogus “crimes”, but not for the actual attacks his administration has made against the US Constitution – largely because these attacks are supported by Republicans even more than by Democrats. The US news organisation that has best held Obama to account isn’t Fox, but the progressive Democracy Now!

The political news in America has been dominated for the past couple of days by a filibuster by the right-wing Senator Rand Paul. He spoke for 13 hours in an effort to delay the appointment of John Brennan as the director of the CIA. Brennan was the major architect of the drone assassination programme, in which at least 4,700 people, many of them innocent of any crime, have been killed with no due process (click for a photo gallery of drone strike victims).

Before we brand Paul a saviour of international law, let’s note that his concern isn’t over drone strikes in general, but primarily because the Obama administration claims the right to kill US citizens (apparently the other 95% of us are fair game). And we should also note that he appears to be using this event as a publicity-generator for a possible 2016 Presidential run. Yet, as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has written in today’s Guardian, it is shameful that only Paul has chosen to speak out on this issue (with some backing from only a small handful of Republicans and one Democratic Senator).

They say bipartisanship is dead in Washington; but when it comes to ignoring America’s global terrorism, torture and tyranny, under Presidents from both parties, the Republicans and Democrats are remarkably united. We can expect Republicans to excuse international law-breaking; we might hope that Democrats would know better. But they don’t.

Nobody on the left has any reason to like or trust Rand Paul; yet in this case, partisanship should be put aside. At a time when almost nobody is prepared to fly the flag of liberty, anyone who does so deserves qualified support. Obama has now won his second term. A Romney win would have been disastrous, and led to even more international criminality. But Obama – we should have noticed by now – is no progressive, and is happy to advance the military-corporate attacks on democracy.

The US left needs a reality-check. When the right-wing, corporate-backed Rand Paul is saying what Democrats should be saying, he deserves at least one round of applause.

NRA: National Rapist Association?

A suggestion for the National Rapist Association's new logo
A suggestion for the National Rapist Association’s new logo

Morons never seem to rest, especially on Twitter, and yesterday saw yet another surge of moronic activity as the hashtag
#LiberalTips2AvoidRape trended. In case you’re wondering, the gun lobby has found yet another way to sell guns to frightened people: the idea being that women should carry guns to prevent themselves being raped, and that in calling for gun control, those evil liberals are actually helping out the rapist.

The NRA, of course, has been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a very long time – for example using school shootings as an excuse to sell even more guns – but if there was any bottom still left in the barrel, this latest ruse may have finally worn all the way through. In its hysteria, the pro-gun American right has left behind any sense of decency, but also any sense of reason.

To start with, if guns are freely available, who is more likely to be carrying one – a rapist who pre-meditated his crime, or a woman who didn’t expect it? And if the victim is carrying a gun, how much use is it to her (or him) if there’s already a gun pointed at her (or his) head? Only two weeks ago, let’s not forget, Spanish tourists were raped at gunpoint in Mexico. Rapes at gunpoint are sadly common (as a quick Google will reveal); stories of potential victims escaping because they (and not their attacker) far less so. Guns are, it seems, far more the friend of the rapist than of his victim. I therefore feel it fitting to give the NRA a new name: the National Rapist Association; because no doubt, any American who has ever used a legal gun to rape anyone is grateful to the NRA for their tireless campaigning work on his behalf.

But let’s look at some hard statistics. How do we determine whether gun availability makes rape more or less likely? As the NRA constantly whines, there are US states (typically Democrat-voting) which do implement gun controls, as well as states (typically Republican-voting) that do not. Luckily, I already produced some statistics for a post I wrote a year ago, breaking down rape statistics by red vs blue states. The statistics revealed as follows:

Rapes per 100,000:

  • Average in Republican-voting states: 34.96
  • Average in Democrat-voting states: 28.33
  • Average in marginal states: 29.47

(Full table is available here as a PDF).

Or, to put it another way, rapes are 23% more prevalent in Republican states than Democrat ones. Not only does the right to buy a gun not make women safer, but it appears to make them less safe.

As I’m not a lying, rape-loving, spokesman for the National Rapist Association, let me make clear that I have only revealed a correlation, not causation. We don’t know that the guns are making rape more likely – we only know that states with softer gun laws have more rapes, but not why.

It should also be pointed out that America, uniquely, has a huge prison rape problem. A quarter of the world’s prisoners are American, and the brutality of the system turns a blind eye to rape in prisons – both by prisoners and guards. Given the NRA’s insane position on guns (that guns always make things better), let’s not be too surprised if they start calling for prisons to be filled with guns. After all, if guns help prevent rape on the outside, surely that same approach will work behind bars as well?

Yes, we live in a strange world where many people seem to be convinced that violence of all sorts can be solved by more guns. And then more guns. And then guns, guns, guns, guns, guns. The fact that America has both the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest violence of any developed nation doesn’t seem to stop morons from taking this plainly idiotic position.

And if you’re worried about being raped? Well, in gun-loving Alaska, you are around seven times more likely to be raped than in gun-restricting New Jersey. Take your pick. And if you’re an aspiring rapist? Buy a gun, and send a thank-you donation to your friends at the National Rapist Association.

“But The Climate Has Always Been Changing”

2000 Year Temperatures (courtesy Wikipedia)
2000 Year Temperatures (courtesy Wikipedia)

One of my “fans” on Twitter is a fairly deluded Republican known as @gopthinking (I do try to maintain a level of objectivity here – if you feel that “fairly deluded” doesn’t sound objective, I invite you to read his timeline). If I admire @gopthinking at all, it is for a) his tenacity, and refusal to back down from insane positions in the face of mere facts, and b) the fact that he does engage, and has never blocked me. This second point is a serious one – I do respect those who allow themselves to hear alternative viewpoints, even if (as in this case) they seem incapable of comprehending them.

So, this week, we returned to discussion of a favourite MoronWatch topic: climate change. Mr (I’m assuming he’s a he) @gopthinking produced the following “facts”:

  1. The temperature on Mars is changing in line with that on Earth.
  2. The global climate has “only” warmed by one degree Celsius.
  3. A Nordic farm has been found buried under a glacier in Greenland.

Point 1) ranks high among the moronic “facts” that I encounter daily. The main question it raises for me (other than WTF?!) is “How do you know?”; given that many climate change skeptics claim it’s impossible to accurately measure the average global temperature on Earth, despite us living here n all, it’s a surprise to find they can accurately measure Mars’s average global temperature. Moving on…

Point 2) is an acceptance that we have recently seen a global rise in temperature. While running your bath one degree warmer than usual is unlikely to significantly change your life, one degree on average, globally, is a pretty big deal. Add to that, that the people who predicted this rise are predicting a rise of four degrees or more by the end of this century, and that models show this will make it difficult or impossible to sustain the current human population, and one degree looks significant. But it’s the next point that’s of most interest.

Point 3) is about a farm, built by Norse settlers in Greenland and subsequently abandoned and covered with glacial ice. By chance, I recently read the book Collapse by Jared Diamond, looking at why some societies “choose to” collapse while other don’t, and whether our societies today are heading for collapse (if you haven’t encountered Diamond before, I’d recommend all his books, starting with Guns, Germs and Steel). Among the collapsed societies he examines is the Norse colony on Greenland, which lasted from around 1000AD for five centuries before vanishing. The Norse colony died off for a number of reasons; its existence had always been marginal, and was supported by trade with mainland Scandinavia. But perhaps the killer blow was that the climate cooled, as the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age.

It’s at this point in the discussion that climate morons get excited and declare victory. “You see!” they yell, “The climate has ALWAYS been changing!!” This argument is impossible to deal with on Twitter, because it contains misunderstandings at so many levels. At its core, this idea lacks any logical basis at all; it’s one of the most moronic examples of thinking in modern political discourse. It’s equivalent to a murderer denying that he shot someone by saying: “But look – people die every day! Someone was run over by a bus only this morning! So how can you blame ME for that corpse in my living room with its face missing?”

Yes, the climate has always been changing; that doesn’t constitute proof that we’re not changing it now. All it demonstrates is that the climate is a delicate and complicated thing, and probably shouldn’t be fucked with.

Regarding the buried farms: the Norse had the luck (good or bad) to settle Greenland when temperatures in the North Atlantic (not globally) had pushed slightly upwards, making survival there a little less marginal. Three centuries later, and temperatures started to fall again; at the same time, other factors also turned against the Norse settlers – in particular, their valuable exports of walrus ivory had found new competition from African elephant ivory. Their settlements became unviable, and they died or left.

And, by the way, the Medieval Warm Period wasn’t that warm; it was cooler than temperatures are today, and far cooler than they will be in a few decades. Yes, the climate has always been changing; but it has never changed so drastically during the short time (10,000 years or so) that human civilisation has existed. We rely for our delicate existence on a whole series of factors, primarily that we can produce enough carbohydrates and protein to feed a population of seven billion (and that’s projected to reach ten billion soon). Climate change factors that we are seeing today already challenge our ability to maintain existing food production levels. We saw, when Bush began his moronic experiment with turning food into biofuel, that even a small impact on food production causes big impacts on human societies. The idea that we can rest easy, because 800 years ago it got a little colder in Greenland, is a masterpiece of wishful thinking.

Top Morons Of 2012

Print2012… what a moronic year it’s been! This blog is now over two years old, and despite warnings from some that my base may be eroded by improving education and the global spread of information, worldwide moronic activity shows no sign of peaking. So attempting a comprehensive round-up of moronic events has proven to be way beyond my capabilities. Instead, here’s a selection of my favourite moments from the year. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

A big Thank You to those of you who read this blog, follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcasts. There’s plenty more to come in 2013, including – watch this space – MoronWatch: The Book! Please subscribe to my mailing list to make sure you catch all the news.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present my moron selections for 2012! Spoiler for lazy people: my moron of the year is nominated at the end of this article.

GOP Madness: I’ve tried my best to maintain a global view, but as ever, the US has managed to punch above its weight, thanks in large part to the Republican Party. The Republicans have become MoronWatch favourites by adopting an unusual electoral strategy: represent only the interests of billionaires. This isn’t a sure-fire way to win elections, as billionaires represent somewhat less than 0.01% of the US population. To make up the difference, the Republicans have embraced a diverse selection of moronic policies to attract the votes of nut-jobs ranging from creationists to lovers of hi-tech weaponry to good old-fashioned racists, and pretty much anyone with an IQ below 70. This is a fairly unruly group to control, which meant that no electable person could be selected to run for President in this year’s elections. The result of that was that Mitt Romney was chosen, because he was the candidate that fewest Republicans hated (though few of them actually seemed to like him). And the result of that was that Barack Obama was cleanly elected to serve a second term. Special mentions must go to the crazies who failed to become Republican candidates, but provided me endless entertainment, including: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and perhaps the greatest moron of them all, Rick Santorum. Only the absence of Sarah Palin, who in her endless search for media attention endlessly hinted that she might run, detracted from an otherwise top-rank moron line-up.

Slutgate: Right-wing moron-jock Rush Limbaugh was outraged in March that contraception advocate Sandra Fluke, could dare call for public funding to be put into making contraception more easily available. So outraged, that he labelled her a slut; and then since that clearly wasn’t extreme enough, he also called her a prostitute (reasoning that, if the public were paying for her pills, she was basically being paid to have sex).

Invisible Children: Kind-but-gullible people were convinced by Kony 2012, a viral video campaign, to donate to a non-profit organisation, Invisible Children, that was “raising awareness” about the horrendous Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. The video, however, was deeply inaccurate, was pushing for US military involvement, and didn’t make clear that the campaign’s devil-figure, Joseph Kony, had already been chased out of Uganda. Furthermore, the video presented a complex situation as a simple good-vs-evil one, failing to point out the rapes and other human rights abuses of the “good guys”, Uganda’s moron President Museveni and his army. But it worked, and raised millions for a dubious cause. Some of these millions were apparently put to good use by the group’s leader Jason Russell, who, just after the campaign peaked, was found naked in the street, masturbating and pounding his fists on the pavement. He later said his mind had “betrayed him”. I guess a few million dollars buys a lot of… “mind betrayal”.

Panicky in the UK: British fuel tanker drivers made a strike threat in Spring. Government ministers tried to win the propaganda battle against them… by warning of coming fuel shortages, and telling people to fill up their tanks, just in case. Francis Maude went even further, telling people to fill up jerrycans and keep them at home in their garages (presumably forgetting that widespread amateur storage of flammable substances may be considered a fire risk). British morons like nothing better than a good panic-buying spree, and quickly long queues developed at petrol stations around the country, with some suppliers running dry.

Tennessee Gateway Sex: It seems that runaway rates of Christian belief in Tennessee have failed to prevent runaway rates of teenage pregnancy (strange – how can you get pregnant while you’re praying?) – so the state legislature passed a bill banning the “promotion of gateway sexual activity” by teachers. The bill was strangely lacking in detail, raising the concern that teachers may be sued for allowing kids to hug or hold hands.

Carolina Warming Denial: With global CO2 emissions reaching new records, it’s looking increasingly likely that the targets set 15 years ago in Kyoto will be missed by a mile. Scientists are despondent about staying within the “safe” warming target of two degrees centigrade by 2100. It’s even increasingly likely that the unthinkable “human civilisation might collapse” target of four degrees may be breached. Brave Republican lawmakers in North Carolina, a coastal US state that may see huge costs from sea level rise, seem to have found a solution: they outlawed the use of scientific projections that predict sea-level rising due to climate change. Now, let’s just hope that the global climate respects North Carolina law.

Lock Up The Gays: Staying in North Carolina, Pastor Charles Worley thinks he’s found a sensible way to deal with the “lesbians and queers”: lock them up behind an electric fence and wait for them to die. That would work.

South Carolina Rape Victims Don’t Matter: While the Republicans fight tooth and nail to maintain tax cuts for the wealthy, Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, vetoed $450,000 of spending to help rape and sexual assault victims, explaining that this money went only to help a small minority of people in the state. Apparently rape is only an issue when above 50% of the population have fallen victim.

Israel’s “Infiltrators”: Israel’s drift to racist nationalism gained global attention when mobs turned on African immigrants and their businesses. The politicians, including Israel’s moron leader, Netanyahu, just stoked the anger, and said that African “infiltrators” would be sent home. The irony of Nazi-style language and tactics being used in Israel was apparently lost on many Israelis.

Boy Band Jihadis: top British boy band One Direction ruffled the feathers of right-wing moron blogger Debbie Schlussel when Muslim band member Zayn Malik tweeted about Ramadan. One Direction, she decided, are an insidious plot to “pimp Islam” to gullible teenage American girls.

Economics For Morons: George W Bush, the President who inherited a budget surplus and left office leaving a huge debt and a burst housing bubble that stalled the global economy (but richer billionaires), launched a book on Economics. No, really.

World’s Most Moronic Sheriff: In 2011, Barack Obama neatly handed Donald Trump his ass by publishing his long-form birth certificate just as Trump was getting into full-blown birther mode. Realising that birther morons are still looking for a hero, Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio took up the baton this year, announcing that his investigators had proven Obama’s birth certificate to be a forgery. Such conspiracies are largely met with a yawn these days, but apparently not to Arpaio’s devoted supporters.

Homophobic Fried Chicken: Dan Cathy, CEO of US “Christian fast food chain” Chick-Fil-A (yes, apparently even junk food is religious in America) decided to speak out against gay marriage. It would be nice to be able to say this hurt Chick-Fil-A’s profits, but Republicans such as Mike Huckabee stepped in to support the deep-fried morons, declaring a “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”, which saw morons lining up to eat gay-hating poultry.

Jobbik Jew: Nationalism is Europe’s nasty little secret, and it’s back with a vengeance – no more so than in Hungary, where the far-right Jobbik party is rising in popularity. So it was with great amusement that we watched outspoken anti-Semite Jobbik MP Csanad Szegedi get unmasked as a Jew, whose grandmother had been in Auschwitz. Reportedly, this hasn’t done wonders for his political career.

Legitimate Rape: Tea Party-backed Senate Candidate Todd Akin made global headlines when, during an interview about abortion, he claimed that pregnancy from rape was rare, because women’s bodies have the magical ability to prevent conception in the case of rape. This even upset some in the Republican Party – presumably because it implied that God carries out abortions on behalf of rape victims. Thankfully, the people of Missouri decided that Akin wasn’t for them, and he lost his election bid on November 6, along with a number of other Tea Party morons.

The Joy Of Slavery: Yet more crazy Republicans… Jon Hubbard of Arkansas published a book in which he claimed that “slavery was a blessing” because it gave Africans the chance to live in “the greatest nation ever established”. He apparently didn’t notice that Europeans and Asians were given the same chance – but without being raped, forced to work, beaten, killed and separated from their loved ones.

BNP Fail: Conscious that his far-right British National Party (BNP) is losing support, Nick Griffin decided to play the homophobia card, apparently not realising that British attitudes had changed. When a gay couple won their court case against a hotel owner who refused to let them stay, Griffin tweeted their address, with the threat that a “British justice team” would be visiting them. The BNP then followed up with a poll on their web site, asking: “Would you leave a gay couple to babysit your child? Vote now!” – the result? 98% voted yes, which probably wasn’t the answer the fascists were expecting.

Moronissimi! Europe’s most conservative country showed its disdain for science when seven Italian scientists were convicted of manslaughter for saying that an earthquake was unlikely in Aquila, shortly before the quake in 2009 that killed 300 people. The undoubted effect will be to push scientists out of Italy, and frighten many of the remainder into silence. Meanwhile, a Rome-based fraudster who claims to be God’s representative on Earth, but also failed to predict the quake, was not charged with any offence.

Kentucky Lends God a Hand: God, apparently, isn’t powerful enough to speak for himself – luckily, he has the Kentucky state legislature on his side, which passed a law mandating the state Homeland Security building to post a plaque outside recognising the “power of almighty God”. Never mind that this law blatantly breaches the first amendment to the US Constitution – anyone breaching it faces 12 months in jail.

O Canada… WTF!? Remember when Canada were the good guys? The sensible ones who had the misfortune of having all those nut-jobs located south of their border? Not any more: all that tar-sands oil seems to have gone to their heads. Flush with all the new cash, Canadians elected a hideously right-wing government in 2011. This year, the UN General Assembly held a historic vote to finally recognise the battered and bruised state of Palestine, which was passed resoundingly. Only nine states of 193 voted against, including (predictably) Israel and the US. The other seven included world giants like Palau and Micronesia. And Canada. Not only did the Canadians feel comfortable belonging to such a bizarre little club, but their moron Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird then threatened to retaliate – presumably by cutting off Palestinian aid.

Israel’s Moronic Expansion: Israel then decided to “retaliate” against the vote for Palestinian statehood by announcing a huge expansion of illegal home building in East Jerusalem (which doesn’t actually belong to Israel) – this new development is hugely significant because it cuts Palestinian East Jerusalem off from the Palestinian West Bank, effectively annexing all of Jerusalem for a future invasion and occupation by Israel. Middle East watchers will have noticed a pattern here: Israel “retaliates” against almost anything, from Palestinian rocket fire to the sun rising, by building new homes in Palestinian territory. Palestinians know that new home building is an inevitability, regardless of what does or doesn’t happen. The only thing that could stop this endless theft of land is for the international community to show some guts in backing international law – but the US (and its poodles) won’t allow that to happen.

Guns Don’t Kill People, X-Boxes Do: The year ended with yet another school shooting in the United States: 20 children were gunned down by yet another crazy with easy access to automatic weaponry. The US then went into its carefully prepared response to such events: a debate – incomprehensible to international observers – on whether the problem in America is caused by too many weapons or too few. I’m one of those who agrees that these kinds of events aren’t driven by gun availability alone – there are deeper problems. But a recent event in China proved the point: a madman attacked 22 schoolchildren with a weapon; none died. His weapon? A knife; the parents of those children can at least be thankful that a gun wasn’t available. Moronic gun lobby group the NRA were silent for a few days after the massacre, and then broke their silence with a press conference hosted by Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. A low-key, compromising stance had been expected; but LaPierre failed to deliver this, instead delivering a speech described by the New York Times as a “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant“. He blamed pretty much everything and everyone – except the guns. He called for armed police in every school (funded by the taxpayer, not the gun industry, of course). In a fair world, LaPierre would have been gunned down by a crazy during his speech – but alas, he lives to spew bile another day. Wayne LaPierre, well done: you are our Moron of the Year, 2012!

Election 2012: America’s Tipping Point?

Fox News team looking sad
Why the long faces?

America has two broad histories: what happened, and what Americans think happened. America’s brutal history is hard to square with its talk of liberty and equality, but the schizophrenic nation somehow manages to blend reality with fiction almost seamlessly. The fairy tales start from the nation’s very beginning. The Enlightenment in Europe was proposing radical new ideas: that science and reason should triumph over religion and superstition; that tolerance and fairness should triumph over persecution. Americans are sold a story in which the early settlers were chased out of a barbaric Europe that refused to tolerate their religious beliefs; in reality, the Enlightenment was challenging the most intolerant religious factions. Those Christian zealots who fled to America weren’t running from intolerance, but fleeing because their right to be intolerant was under threat.

These origins created a contradictory, fractured nation: a constitution based on the Enlightenment, but a population that was strongly opposed to Enlightenment values. As a result, America has always been an outlier when measured against other continents. More religious, more violent, less tolerant than other countries of similar levels of wealth; clinging on to slavery long after the Atlantic slave trade had been outlawed by the British; creating racial segregation laws unlike anything seen in post-medieval Europe (with the exception of Nazi-era antisemitic laws).

For most of its history, the US white majority has been strongly racist and deeply religious. The civil-rights era laid the groundwork for true equality in some future time, but it frightened and enraged the white majority. The Republican Party, once the party of abolition, embraced its infamous Southern Strategy to mop up the white racist vote that had once belonged to the Democrats.

For decades, this strategy worked. From 1972 until 2008, there were six Republican presidential terms and only three Democratic ones. But predictable changes were happening. America’s social values were inevitably becoming more progressive, for several reasons: in post-civil rights America, young people of different races were – slowly at first – beginning to mix with each other; immigrants from around the world were bringing new ideas; the population was urbanising; and, thanks to the Internet, Americans were becoming exposed to a global market of ideas from which most had been previously excluded. Republicans were dominant, but their dominance was reliant on a shrinking base.

The tipping point arrived quietly at some point in the past decade. With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, it seemed America had passed a point of no return. The symbol of a black President gave an unmistakable message of change. The Republicans needed to accept and embrace the changes in society, and many attempted to. But they were tangled in their own past. A huge segment of Republican support was right-wing, racist and religious. With some help from Fox News and cash from corporate backers, the so-called Tea Party movement emerged; an enraged backlash against inevitable change. They successfully seized the Republican agenda, removing moderates from office and shifting the party to the extreme right. Their calls to “take back our country” failed to mask the unmistakable screams of a lynch mob.

The Republicans became perfect moron-watching material. Every week would produce a new story so outrageous, I would have to check multiple sources before tweeting or blogging about it; attacks on women’s reproductive rights, rejections of mainstream science, attempts to include religious orthodoxy in mainstream education, witch-hunts against Muslims.

The life of a Republican presidential candidate was made impossible – how to present yourself as far-right to the angry, white, religious Republican base while simultaneously as centrist to the wider electorate?

I believe Obama’s 2012 victory is more significant even than his 2008 win. This time, he was an incumbent with a varying record in office. This time, the novelty factor of a black candidate was no longer in play. The US economy is not in great shape. He has faced relentless campaigns trying to prove that he was born outside the US or labelling him a Muslim. Yet he won. The screams of rage from the right this time are louder than before. Because this time, his victory can’t be blamed on some kind of black sympathy vote, or on John McCain’s suitability as a candidate. The 2012 victory demonstrates the existence – for the first time ever – of a narrow progressive (or at least centrist) majority in America.

Obama’s win wasn’t the only sign of this. Two states voted to legalise recreational use of marijuana, and four voted in favour of gay marriage. The screams of rage are in mourning, not just for an election defeat, but for an America where white, Christian, racist males dominated. This was best summed up by the right-wing Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly on election night when he glumly stated: “the white establishment is now in the minority“.

The Republicans need to embrace the new reality, but that’s easier said than done. A constituency of white, Christian racists still exists, and it numbers in the tens of millions. In a multi-party democracy, the Tea Party could form its own political party, but in America’s enforced duopoly, they have nowhere else to go, and so the chance that the Republicans can move towards the centre is remote.

Unfortunately, the Republican swing to the right has taken the most important issues off the US agenda. Climate change, inequality and the corporate threat to democracy were barely mentioned in the election campaign. Big oil and corporate power were the winners.

One thing is certain – the US religious right is still huge, is angrier than ever, and still controls the House of Representatives. Now cornered, expect its last stand to be spectacular.

Muslims, The Far-Right And Gay Rights

Gay Muslims
Smashing Moronic Stereotypes

The distinctive difference between the European and American far-right is this: European fascism is often secular in nature, while the US variety fanatically adheres to fundamentalist Christianity. This allows European fascism to paint itself as “modern”, and so in contrast show that “foreign” cultures are backward. This method worked in demonising Jews in Nazi Germany, and is being deployed today against Muslims.

This difference shows itself most strongly when it comes to issues surrounding gay rights; the American right is viciously homophobic. No hurricane or earthquake can pass without some moron calling it God’s retribution for tolerating homosexuality. The American right rallies “in defence of marriage” – a coded term for rejecting same-sex unions. Meanwhile, European fascists loudly parade European “tolerance” of homosexuality as a stick with which to beat Muslims. They claim that intolerant Muslim immigrants are poisoning “our culture of tolerance”.

This is a straw-man argument. Europe’s supposed tolerance of gay rights is extremely recent, and far from universal (11 of the 27 EU members don’t recognise gay marriage). The Nazis’ slaughter of homosexuals in concentration camps is almost certainly the greatest attack on gays in history (since Sodom, anyway). Although homosexuality was legalised here in the UK in 1967, gays were still afraid to openly walk the streets until perhaps the late-90s, when public acceptance had finally reached tipping point.

The far-right method is simple: point out the barbaric treatment of gays in Iran and Saudi Arabia, where executions take place; then blur the line between these two states and the 50+ other Muslim-majority countries. All this is done while ignoring attacks on gay rights in the non-Muslim world, including in the US. While some of the worst abuses of homosexuals have come from Christian-majority African and Caribbean states like Uganda and Jamaica, these are ignored – especially when US evangelicals are found to be backing Uganda’s attempts to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality.

The fascist method is to create simple myths about whole groups of people. The idea that there is a single “Muslim culture” is laughable to anyone who has travelled extensively. The cultures of Muslim Arabia and Muslim West Africa, for example, couldn’t be more different.

As for the idea that Muslims are somehow less tolerant than Jews, Hindus or Christians? Reality flatly disputes this. A poll of British Muslims and Christians last year found that Muslims were marginally more proud than Christians of Britain’s tolerance towards homosexuals; when asked if they agreed with the statement: “I am proud of how Britain treats gay people”, 47% of Muslims agreed (contrasting with 46.5% of Christians). And how about the French Imam who blessed a gay union earlier this year? Reality undermines the myth that somehow Muslim immigrants are reducing European tolerance.

Conservative religion worldwide is guilty of extreme homophobia; American evangelical leaders, the mullahs of Iran and Saudi Arabia, and leaders in many African countries – Muslim and Christian alike – attack homosexuality as an evil. Amusingly, some non-white homophobes often refer to homosexuality as a “white disease“, showing much in common with the fascists who label homophobia a Muslim import.

My own experience agrees with the poll quoted above. Most Muslims I know are accepting towards homosexuality; and a night I spent in a very gay (but mixed) nightclub in the Moroccan city of Agadir showed me that these attitudes are widespread outside Europe too. Fascists, of course, deliberately ignore all these subtleties. Their job is to convince morons that Muslims are damaging “our culture”, and that requires simple, black and white stories to be disseminated.