Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are We Not Men?

Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

I'd hate to make anyone think I'm an optimist. I'm not even sure I care too much about the human race aside from a few individuals, but that's what pessimism is about -- a cosmic frame of reference that sees no permanence; that sees everything that is on the way up as inevitably on the way down.

Perhaps not caring gives a clearer vision.  If it doesn't matter in the end that voting rights are in peril, or at least under continuing assault, then the failure of the Texas legislature to pass a bill further restricting abortion rights despite a ten hour filibuster by Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, is less likely to be overshadowed. She might have gone on but was ruled to have drifted off topic amidst a chorus of boos and catcalls, and the bill was declared dead at 3 AM.

For those of us who still hope for sweeping reformation and the triumph of truth and justice for all,  it's a little and perhaps temporary victory over the animal meanness of human nature and as Dr Moreau learned, you can dress up the animal and teach it to walk on two legs, you can make it recite pledges and formulae, you can make up stories about divine origins, but the beast is still a beast and evolution is so slow.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Signs, portents and frames of reference

It is the best of times, it's the worst of times and if you're like Glen Beck; if you're like nearly every blathering godsmitten idiot in the last few thousand years, it is always the end of times. There are always signs, always comets, always wars and rumors thereof -- earthquakes, storms, floods and droughts. There are always famines and pestilences, always cause to go to the mountaintop to await or dress in purple and take poison for the magic trip to the mother ship.  If Jesus said the end times would be during the lives of his followers, it's no contradiction.  There are always plenty of  editors, redactors and other verbal shell-game operators to redefine and revise the prophecy to suit the game.

Someone smart once said that if we live only in the moment, there is no difference between falling and flying and if we've read Einstein we know that truth is a matter of the frame of reference you occupy. If your idea of "the world" is the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire, the end of it means one thing.  If you mean the Universe, a mid 20th century concept of something incomprehensibly larger, the importance of things like coveting your neighbors' ass or eating a Philly cheese steak becomes hard to see or justify as is the importance of anything that concerns a peculiar, transitory trick of chemistry on an infinitesimal dust mote we call life.

But the Grand Wazir of Beckistan said yesterday on his radio show that  the Book of Mormon is "really a calendar" and perhaps like the Mayan Calendar, accurately predicts the end of all things.  It's a level of rank stupidity that, like the size of the universe itself, utterly defies any attempt at analogy.  He told his staff a long time ago, he said yesterday, that if he mentioned that book, it meant "we are at the end."  It's the "Story of America" he said, but a story of things that never happened, cities that never were and people who aren't who it says they are and a story written by a charlatan with a demonstrated history of fraud.

But of course although each Plank length of time (tP) the smallest possible interval according to quantum mechanics, is the end of something, it's not likely the end of anything we would notice -- like the end of Glen Beck.  It's not likely the end of the US government nor either political party, nor is it yet the moment of the "within 24 hour" predicted whistleblower he talked about earlier this week to an audience whose memory of world begins anew every morning

In a frame of reference where such a length is significant, not only are falling and flying indistinguishable, beginnings and ends are a bit meaningless in a frame that includes weeks and days and hours and indeed, human events.  In the frame of reference where the stupid dwell, where anyone would credit anything Beck might utter, a report of cannibalism, although at least as old as the Neanderthalers, is so unique as to mean impending cosmic calamity.  The Book of Mormon, like the Bible (only harder to read with a straight face) and many other religious texts inhabit a frame of reference so at odds with the physical universe and its properties and dimensions that talking animals magic fruit and other things and events that never existed abound,  can be and always are used to frighten us to the profit of prophets. 

"We are living in Biblical Times" Beck tells us; a statement hard to decipher since the last ravings of the Christian versions end sometime in the late first century, but of course there we have another blurry, woozy, foggy and crepuscular magic frame of reference where nothing really has much to do with anything outside of it; where nothing is true and all things are true and words have power.  No offense intended to individual Mormons, but the book in question is hardly a calendar unless it be for a universe that never existed, inconsistent with the observable universe and inconsistent internally -- just like the Bible and Quir'an and others  which speak of imminent calamities and events and places that are pure fiction.

Pure fiction, just like Becks mysterious 'whistle-blower.'  Predictions of the impossible based on things with no significance selected for the purpose. Concepts like the end of time are far beyond science at the moment.  We don't know when life will end, but the end of stupidity might just be as far off.  There are signs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Glenn Beck again.

"We are going to be greatly divided as a nation in the next ten days and you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before" Said Glenn Beck yesterday despite his recent claim that his vocal cords no longer worked. I was hoping that might have been the one true thing ever to escape his mouth.

It's true -- you're going to witness the last half of June, 2013 -- a historical first.  I'm pretty sure you're going to witness another spell of embarrassment for Glenn Beck too, not that he'll necessarily notice or acknowledge it.  There's a document, he says, that will "take down pretty much the whole power structure, pretty much everything" and he's going to announce it sometime today.

Those who remember back to last April, a set which obviously doesn't include his fans, might speculate that this new revelation will be as spurious and idiotic as his earthshaking revelation of a connection between Saudi Arabia and the Boston Marathon bombing.  Is anyone still waiting for an admission of error or a hint of humble retraction?

Of course to those folks who follow Beck in the way people used to mock dancing bears or court jesters, this is nothing new.  Students of buffoonery  and the charlatans who move their card tables and shells from one corner to the next in search of fresh idiots may not even notice this latest tantrum, but the clock is ticking Mr. Beck and there's not much time before the waitress brings you another plate of crow.  Do us a favor -- take a bite.


Well days have gone by now and no whistles have been blowing and Beck has only some mumbling about immigration which is hardly the stuff of unprecedented division much less something to "take down the power structure."  

Do his faithful listeners remember as far back as a day or two or are they just so choked up on each new day's revelation that they don't care about yesterday?

So, want so fries with that crow Glenn?  Can I supersize it?
“We are going to be greatly divided as a nation. In the next ten days and you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before.” - See more at:
“We are going to be greatly divided as a nation. In the next ten days and you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before.” - See more at:
“We are going to be greatly divided as a nation. In the next ten days and you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before.” - See more at:
“We are going to be greatly divided as a nation. In the next ten days and you are going to witness things in American history that have never been witnessed before.” - See more at:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The right to kill

No matter that states like Florida have a "stand your ground" law, you're always on shaky ground when defending your life with a weapon.  If you don't get Current TV, you may want to watch this documentary giving examples of how the law has been abused; about how legitimate defense may ruin your life and how homicide may go unpunished. 

Although the author of Florida's landmark law emphatically states that the law does not support confrontation, pursuit or aggression; although the law does not justify lethal force to protect property, nor shooting a fleeing suspect in the back, courts have acted as though it does and opponents of the law are quite happy to act as though the intent was precisely to give the right to kill to anyone who feels uneasy or annoyed for reasons not quite related to fact.

Consider the story of an IRS agent whose car was run off the road by two men who pursued him, threatening his life.  Unable to get help from 911, Mr. Lewis used his pistol and wounded one of the assailants and in the lengthy process that ensued, lost his job, his home and his savings when the assailant sued him. 

And then look at the story of a unarmed man, in some sort of religious state of Ecstasy was gunned down in the street by someone who felt threatened.  Look too at a Texas Prostitute who was shot for refusing sex and refusing a refund.  In both cases the murderer got off scott free.

When a Sheriff's deputy told me not long ago, that if I were to need to defend my life or family with a weapon, I should shoot to kill rather than face a decade or two of litigation that would surely impoverish me, I had to remember an acquaintance, a Baltimore policeman who was in fact forced into poverty after having justifiably shot someone in the line of duty. If you're trying to survive an attack, should you have to choose between being killed or maimed, sent to prison or being torn to pieces by the courts?  That quandary is the origin of  laws intended to protect those who need to protect themselves.

Evidently, "Stand Your Ground" and "Castle Doctrine" laws have failed in some cases to protect those legitimately protecting their lives as well as they have failed to protect harmless people.  In a country steeped in the fear of crime; a country being convinced by false propaganda of the increasing dangers awaiting us  from armed civilians and by armed criminals, is there a solution?  Can we protect the right to self defense while protecting us from unwarranted prosecution, from armed aggression posing as justified use of deadly force?  Will we even have the chance to debate this? 

The unfolding case against George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin should be forcing us to consider whether the law should be changed, but of course it won't. Although it seems clear to me, as someone who has read the law that one can't claim self defense if one is himself the assailant -- if one pursued, harassed, confronted and illegally tried to remove someone from a place he had the right to occupy, the trial will not be about that and no minds will be changed.  It will become a soapbox for airing ill considered and irrelevant opinion, both from people who aren't going to be hindered by objectivity or facts and has a vested interest in divisiveness and partisanship -- whether making at about racism, about the need for more guns, fewer guns, about whether strict gun laws have any effect, about the need for disarmament or any of the other passionately held and incorporated positions, everyone will stand his ground, defend his opinion, and nothing will change.

Is it really about 'gun cultures', the NRA or 20 round magazines or plastic gun parts or gun shows or waiting periods -- or is it about a nation crippled by gullibility, by activists and lobbyists and irrational fear?

Sunday, June 09, 2013


You know people do all kinds of crazy things to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. People do crazy things to get on TV and I'm convinced that what we have going on is a contest here.  People who shouldn't be anywhere near weapons are vying to see who can do the most senseless act of senseless violence and some don't care if it's the last thing they ever do.  Every shooting spree seems to trigger another in some sort of macabre chain reaction.

I don't know if rampage shootings are on the increase, or whether they're on the decrease  I expect than in the long term it's the latter, but although we have evidently made strides in reducing most violent crime, we have more crazy people, psychopathic and schizophrenic people, treated or untreated roaming about looking for blood and despite our efforts at making mandatory background checks effective -- way too damn many are slipping through the gaping holes in the system.

Santa Monica gunman previously hospitalized for mental health
shouts the headline.  So why, with all the gun control laws California has, was he able to get hold of a gun?  Did he pass a background check, did he buy it illegally, at a gun show; did he steal a gun?  I'm sure we'll find out, but the fact that he may have recently been hospitalized for urges to kill people and yet acquired weapons or retained weapons is inexcusable.

Yes, we are all upset at the failure of Congress to do something about our Swiss cheese system of background checks, but did we really read the bill or were we just satisfied as long as the title promised that everyone would have to pass a background check?  Did it only plug a loophole through damned little was passing?  Did it address the fact that 'no gun' lists are not adequately maintained or updated either because it's too much work for mental health professionals or because they are afraid of lawsuits or other repercussions? 

Passing laws that are not or cannot be enforced and are proven ineffective is inexcusable and while an effective approach must include checks, it must also make those checks real by making the reporting of such mental health issues real and if some are so concerned that the evil Obama is going to take their weapons and put stooges on the court that will make the second amendment nugatory, perhaps they should stop the kind of  stonewalling that is endangering the freedom they wish to keep. Perhaps our traditional practice of  writing and passing bills without reading them, without examining the assumptions and looking at past experience is going to have to change as well.

Background checks are necessary but they may as well not exist if we're going to prevent them from working, if we're going to be satisfied with doing the same things expecting different results.  But if we're to look at gun crime in general,  I have to agree with the USA Today article that discusses the failure of  our current approach that owes so much with our refusal to discuss or do anything about the poverty, the criminal subculture, the frustration and anger and hopelessness and yes, the untreated, unrestrained mental illness that that foster crime.  The most severe restrictions have far, far less effect on crime than their passionate advocates insist they do and in my opinion the traditional belief in bans and licenses and registration programs are always going to fail if we do nothing about the vast Petri dish of depravity that is America.

Friday, June 07, 2013

An embarrassment of witches

Yes,  many of us still think we can fix stupid with an embarrassment of regulations, but hey, there's one thing I've learned down here in the Cracker State is that you can't fix ignorance, hate, fear and superstition by kindness or firmness or cynicism or by embarrassing the practitioners thereof. People who like, who get rich on a society of serfs and barons don't want it fixed. If you're in the religion business, you sure as hell want a large reservoir of the downtrodden.

The town of Pahokee, Florida might be in Palm Beach County, but you'd hardly confuse affluent Palm Beach with this town of roughly 6000 people, almost as many churches, 12 billion mosquitoes and I don't know how many alligators. It's a sugar cane town and only an aging and unstable levee separates it from becoming the bottom of Lake Okeechobee once again.

Very little separates it from most rural South Florida towns. High crime, low income, high unemployment, low education and a hell of a lot of churches, both mainstream and esoteric; most of whom seem overly concerned with witches. Yes, I did say witches and in that respect, Pahokee seems to have much in common with far flung places like Wasilla, Alaska where a popular preacher and friend of Sarah Palin has bragged about killing such unfortunates in Africa.

The Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina will, if all goes well,  host its first Lake Okeechobee Summer Solstice Festival on June 19-23. Now, recognizing the change of the Sun's apparent angle in the sky is more than geometry.  As every SwampChristian knows it's PAGAN and pagan means witchcraft, and witchcraft, both here and in pagan Papua New Guinea as a great danger to our moral, spiritual and actual health and the preachers of Pahokee ain't gonna stand for it, by God.

"An abomination" said Pastor Brad Smith, Florida Director of Kids for Christ.  “We don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever,” said Rev. Raul Rodriguez, of Church of God Door of Jesus Christ.“We cannot expect our city to survive and prosper if we allow these things,” said Pastor Eugene Babb, of Harlem Church of God. “God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community,” said Evangelist Lillian Brown, of Saints on the Move. “We are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells,” said one citizen at a recent city commission meeting where protest against letting anyone express the most attenuated form of  religious freedom: abominations like belly dancing lessons.

So am I indulging in the same intolerant  thing by mocking the rubes, poking fun at Christians because I'm an atheist and think I'm superior to people who believe that occult incantations change nature and that tolerance of freedom risks having one dragged down to eternal torture by demons?

Not really. I'm mocking people who think it will ever be different, people that a free and liberal democracy is compatible with the culture that derives from and thrives on ignorance and superstition and hate, that tolerance of and indeed the support of such ignorance, poverty, disease and depravity is required by the mandates of "Smaller, less intrusive government."  I'm talking about the Republican base.

What will I be doing while witches shake their demonic bellies while the Devil beats the drum on the 21st?  If weather and witchcraft permit I'll be on Green Turtle Cay.  I mean who wants to be near Pahokee when the sky begins to fall.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Smoke gets in your lies

They asked me how I knew
None of this was true
Oh I of course replied
It cannot be denied
Bill O'Rielly lied

 -With apologies to Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach-

Newspapers have long been chastised for either getting it wrong or just plain lying on the front page and apologizing or retracting on the last page.  And then there's Fox News where the lies never stop, the lies never die -- ever.

On a recent Thursday night, Lyin' Bill  O'Reilly told us he'd found a "smoking gun" of some unspecified sort because  former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman had visited the White House 157 times between 2009 and 2012. One has to wonder what kind of smoke it was or into what orifice it was being blown since in actuality, as it came out the following day, the story was fake, Shulman having only attended 11 events having to do with health care, far fewer than he had been cleared to attend and having nothing to do with any kind of scandal, real or imagined. 

"You must explain under oath what you were doing at the White House on 157 separate occasions."
 Not much need to actually, Shulman had been cleared, as the public record shows, to meet, mostly in other venues than the White House with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill.  Still he did not attend 146 of them. Is it possible, under oath or not to explain what one was doing at a place one was not?  Perhaps Lyin' Bill would like to explain what he was doing in North Korea 157 times.  What?  He wasn't there?  Now there's a smoking gun for sure.

But it's too good a story for Fox to let go, even if it's not true, so although the debunking was thorough, Lyin' Bill was at it the next day saying:

 "We still don't know much about former IRS Chief Douglas Shulman visiting the White House 157 times.  That's extraordinary."

No, of course we don't know what he was doing there when he wasn't there to do anything and  if anything is extraordinary it's Lyin' Bill's ability to charge about like a bull in the arena with all sorts of facts stuck in his hide like banderillas and  bellowing discredited and debunked charges ad nauseam. Of course we're talking about Fox News here and their garbled and disreputable gospels have a following of the faithful and of course it was picked up as divine word by Investor's Business Daily and metastasised through the drainage system of the Blog world where, at least in the minds of the Right, it became true.

You know we still don't know about Bill O'Reilly meeting 157 times with Kim Jong Un to discuss an attack on Hawaii.  I think he needs to explain under oath just what he was doing there don't you?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Church of Hate

The old cliche has rats leaving a sinking ship.  Southern Baptists aren't that smart and it seems they do intend to go down with their foul and foundering wreck of antique bigotry.

Lifelong member President Jimmy Carter left that self-righteous ship of fools about 4 years ago over Church teachings about the subservient role of women and I'm waiting to see who tumbles into the lifeboats over the latest decision to dump the Boy Scouts because they decided on May 24th that they no longer are going to excommunicate gay Scouts.

It's a "Moral" thing you see and it's not really bigotry because they justify
it with some ancient political propaganda they somehow attribute to some god and so they can, in all good and righteous confidence recommend that Southern Baptist Churches all over the South withdraw support from about 100,000 scouts.  I wonder how many of those will, lacking something decent to do after school or in the Summer, lacking the impetus toward self-improvement will wander toward making bad personal decisions and wind up getting into trouble and into jail where predatory Southern Baptists can recruit them for the faith as though youth homes and penitentiaries  were prep schools and seminaries. 

Of course the SBC was a supporter of Slavery and Segregation because it was a moral thing and a Biblical one - not because they're a bunch of bigots and moral cowards. It's what God wants and who can question the absolute truth of anything someone put into God's mouth for his own purposes?

Yes, yes, they decided to stop beating that dead horse and renounced all that back in 1995 -- decades after the horse died but perhaps that's only because they had gays and women to turn to while blathering about God's word.  One wonders what they will choose as the next life raft when the world of decency, respect and morality, in due course rejects once again that rotting prison hulk of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

No, Florida, I expect you to die

"Clearly, it’s time elected officials in Florida started looking out for the people they are supposed to be representing."

Wrote Florida's Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson in a Tampa Tribune editorial Thursday last. But they do, in fact.  They're supposed to be representing the mega-polluters like the Fanjul family and the Republican thieves and pirates who would like to run the state like some Central American fiefdom: the people who elected him.  Florida Governor Rick 'Medicare fraud' Scott doesn't want any of that Federal tax money to come home where it could create jobs and make Insurance more affordable because a failing state is a Republican state and failure through sabotage, after all is the game.  All the poorest and sickest states are doing it, after all.

 And so Scott, being an expert in defrauding the government out of your tax contributions, is ready to sign a bill;  legislation that, as Nelson writes:

"will remove the authority of Florida’s insurance regulator to approve, modify or reject rate hikes by health insurance companies for the next two years — effectively deregulating health insurers and allowing them to raise prices and gouge consumers at will. And, it conveniently allows officials and insurance companies to blame any rate hikes on the Affordable Care Act."  

Well of course.  That blackguard Scott has already turned down $1 million in federal funding

 "that would have helped the state cover the cost of overseeing insurance rates under the new health care law," and  " has not even applied for another $5 million in federal funding that is available to help states control their insurance markets"

Earlier in May the rogue state of Florida state refused to expand Medicaid to some 1.2 million poor and disabled Floridians who would have received health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act and thus tossed away over 50 billion bucks in Federal funds allocated to pay for it.  That's right, he doesn't want a tax refund for us, a refund of our own money,  because Big Sugar who made billions on 'reclaimed' land the taxpayer gave them and who thrive on Federal price supports wants the Obama administration to fail, wants the economy to fail, wants you and me to fail -- assuming we're not rich, of course or our name isn't Fanjul.

Look, I don't want to argue the niceties of the definition, but sabotaging Florida and the entire
US if they can get away with it is treason and of course the massive, pitchforks  in the streets opposition that one might expect to wholesale rape and pillage isn't happening.  Sure, we're all in arms, pun intended, about crime waves that don't exist and other pet Liberal shibboleths the Visigoths use to distract us but you and I are going to get old and sick, and choosing between bankruptcy, homelessness, starvation and that operation you need will sure as hell be our future if we let them get away with this scofflaw enterprise, this cold rebellion, this silent Civil War.

But we won't even write a letter.  We're too busy blaming the long standing health care crisis on Obamacare  too busy yelling Benghazi and IRS scandal.  We're too damned stupid, too damned ignorant and misinformed and too riddled with hate and superstition and bigotry and racism and our own pet issues and like those women who deserve it because they don't wear burkhas, getting screwed.