Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Florida Libertarians want to eat your flesh!

If there's anything left worth eating after reading the Daily Kos.

Florida-bashing has become a popular sport and of course there's plenty to bash, it being a Red State. It's a corrupt state as well, but then Florida is not unique in either respect nor are we unique in supporting parties and agendas that don't benefit and do harm our quality of life.  But sports and parties take on lives of their own and like all things that live, the prime motivation is to live and prosper at all costs.  So when we run out of  Flori-Duh stories, we confect some tasty and blog-nourishing stories out of a few carefully selected observations and peddle them everywhere. The Daily Kos ran an article the other day putting forth notion that because, in the heat of  tropical Summers, a kind of dangerous bacteria knows as vibrio vulnificus can be found in ocean waters.  It's warm in Florida in the summer, this is not news.

Now if  this "necrotizing" bacteria gets into a cut or scrape it can begin eating your flesh.  If it gets into your blood stream, it can kill you.  Hot climates everywhere have certain dangers and every year we read of  all the many children and dogs that die from being left in hot cars and every year we're made to think there's something new about it. We're never told whether the long term trends, if there are any, are up or down.  In fact we're usually made to believe there's a crisis at hand and that we need to be afraid or angry or motivated to read all about it: motivated to vote one way or the other. Florida is deadly! Says the Kos and the comment section is full of hissing hatevipers.  Never mind that you can get the bacteria anywhere the ocean is warm, at the beach in Texas or from eating raw oysters in Mobile Alabama. Never mind that you can die from Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba, anywhere: at  a Kansas swimming hole or a Minnesota water park, but Florida is dangerous, let us scare you, let us not inform you of the risks or whether it's getting better or getting worse, let's blame it on someone we don't like. You know, there are more boating accidents in Florida than in Utah -- must be the politics.

Perhaps the major difference between the swimming pool drownings, the lightening strikes, the heat stroke deaths, the shark and alligator attacks one finds more of in this climate, and the ordinary risks of disease and accident that account for so many deaths everywhere, is that they can be pinned like a paper tail on that old donkey, Florida by any half-baked  blogger or scandal hungry TV station and so all the media needs is some mold to press it into and sell it like candy. Florida is dangerous whether because of the lightening or the gun laws or the sharks or the bacteria or predatory racists.

You see all these people - all 11 of them are getting sick because of the Libertarians in Florida.  It's their fault that we don't test the waters at the beaches says Kos -- on our entire  2,276 Statute Miles of tidal coastline, the bays and estuaries although they offer no evidence of it.  Of course we do -- of course bacteria levels are monitored constantly in populated areas and beach closings and openings are announced all the time. When someone contracts the disease, it makes headlines even in right wing newspapers.

 Water pollution in fact is a very political and very hot issue here, with huge quantities of toxic industrial and agricultural waste being dumped into heretofore pristine waters, but even the Republican populace, if not the Republican representatives, is up in arms about cleaning it up.  Fishing and all water sports, in fact, are a very major support to the local economy.  The current Gubernatorial race seems to be all bout who will spend the most money on the environment, but nobody in Keokuk, Iowa or Manhattan will question the story and particularly not if they're jealous of Florida's climate or if they just need cheap reasons to be smug about living where the sun don't shine.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Gun Culture

It felt strange, even for someone who has owned some kind of firearm for more than 50 years, to open the trunk of my car, take out an assortment of rifles, and openly walk through the parking lot with what any newspaper reporter would love to  describe in lurid verse as an "arsenal" and including of course "weapons of war."   Wars are wars after all, even those that ended 150 years ago.  I was hardly the only one with an armful of expensive  hardware of course, it being a gun show. There were acres of cars that the acres of "gun nutz" had arrived in, but if I had been expecting vintage Dodge Chargers with Confederate flags or jacked up trucks with nasty bumper stickers and layers of mud, I would have been disappointed.  No Daisy Duke. I was parked between a Prius and a Cadillac.  After having  my relics examined by a nice chatty fallow to be sure they weren't loaded, to insert plastic zip ties to be sure they couldn't be loaded, I was advised not to take any less than $900 for one rifle.  Welcome to gun prices.  Welcome to the gun culture.

Lots of army surplus clothing, holsters, belts, boots --  even bulletproof vests on display. Booths from a local gun range offering senior discounts on Tuesdays: booths full of sporting goods and bow-hunting items, a booth with costumed civil war reenactors who kept me there a long time talking about my 1863 Tower carbine.  Some of the gun culture, a large part of it, is history culture.

Tables and tables of new commercial ammunition, hand made cartridges, surplus ammunition which usually comes in boxes of  100, or 250 or 500 rounds and would having even one box delight those people who write howling headlines?  A couple of hours at the range?  Hell no, it's an arms cache suitable only for a mass murderer.

And of course there was a large, well staffed NRA booth with a bowl of Tootsie Rolls and piles of safety pamphlets.  Maybe they were perverts and murderers and closet Nazis -- even the ladies -- but they didn't look it. Still I walked on.  Well dressed businessmen, an off-duty cop I know, some guys in camo, some guys in Army uniform, a fellow Ham and pillar of the community Sunday School teacher type just there to buy a few boxes of ammunition for cheaper than Wal-Mart sells them.  It's the South and everybody loves guns. Even your mama.

All in all, a nicer looking crowd than I see at the barber shop and some of the restaurants I frequent.  I spent more time talking about history and historical weaponry and to people making sure I knew what my stuff was worth,  than I  spent conducting business and met several history buffs but not one snob and not one unfriendly person. No swastika tattoos, no white sheets, no one talking to himself. What can I say?  I may do it again.

I sold most of what I brought and all to licensed firearms dealers who yes, despite what you hear, really do conduct background checks  and boy, were my pockets  bulging when I left.  Did I mention that gun prices have soared and continue to soar?

I don't know, maybe it's like my experiences with the scary "biker Culture" that have had nothing whatever to do with the stereotypes we fling around.  I've begun to suspect that there are so many gun cultures that don't resemble either the others or the stereotype as there are kinds of Liberals or Conservatives or Bikers or Bookworms or Bloggers.  There might be a lesson about lumping people together, stereotyping people and making cheap shots here somewhere, but it's time for dinner and I'm part of the food culture too, doncha know.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

39 bullets?

I suppose I should be used to it by now, but such is the state of journalism these days that you can be sure that most of what you see and hear and read is not only in error but usually tendentious, intended to mislead, to create an impression, to add emotion for a purpose.

Whether it's about automobiles, health and nutrition and especially if it's about firearms, you can almost be sure the story is misleading and often intentionally so.  Certainly every story about firearms needs to be salted with buzzwords even if they don't apply. Anyone with more than two guns, for instance has an arsenal and even though it's common to buy ammunition in boxes of 250 rounds or more, the story must always stress how many "bullets" the owner has, (most often they're "high caliber, high velocity and armor piercing) and how frightening that is.  

So although there are several important things to discuss, several questions to be answered in the story of a Darby Pennsylvania shooting of a social worker and a psychiatrist, the headline reads that the deranged shooter was carrying "39 bullets" in his pocket and obviously intended to reload his ".32 caliber revolver."  Now to me, the question worth asking is how a convicted bank robber with many felony firearms convictions in his portfolio was walking about free, had a gun at all and got into a hospital with it.

Frankly I'm suspicious that the writer really doesn't know a revolver from an autoloader since .32 revolvers tend to be antique and use ammunition that hasn't been made in a long time, but it doesn't matter, the man had a gun, took it to his psychiatrist's office, flew into a rage about signs prohibiting firearms, shot a social worker at close range and shot the Doctor too, but only wounded him.  Now if you believe the story, he was attempting to reload says the story but he was also tackled by two men and he was also shot three times by the psychiatrist (with a .32 autoloading pistol.)  Will the real story please stand up?

Why did he need to reload after two shots?  Was he really using a two barrel Derringer?  Was he tackled after he was shot three times and critically wounded?  Will the psychiatrist, who had a concealed weapon permit get into trouble for having a gun in a restricted area? Will he have to face trial, lose his job for saving his life?  Do Pennsylvania laws require him to have run away instead of standing his ground?   Perhaps he will be prosecuted, perhaps not, but our Federal and State gun laws are very complex, very tough and often punish the innocent, despite what you hear.

We can be assured that the NRA will use this to argue for more guns in hospitals and we will guffaw in righteous indignation, but the fact remains that Dr. Silverman saved his own life and likely that of others by having a gun, terrible shot although he appears to be.  Democrats will fail to be embarrassed by the axiom that people cannot protect themselves with guns.  We'll be demanding "tougher" and more strict laws without really having an idea what they might be or knowing what already is in place, but apparently we won't be asking why all those regulations designed to keep guns from crazy people with violent and lengthy criminal records are walking the streets and finding ways to get and carry guns illegally, seem no more effective for all the severity. Some will go on insisting there are no regulations or restrictions of any kind and perhaps one of those will post an angry comment, as they so often do.

It's not about 39 bullets, it's not about the childish terminology, its about the reliance on legislation to make crime stop, it's about reliance on severe and inflexible sentencing instead of  spending money on security and enforcement. It's about refusing to look at statistics concerning types of weapons used in real crimes instead of hypothetical and highly inventive speculation.  Everything this killer did was illegal and I want to know if he bought this weapon under the table and if so, from whom.  I want to know if he passed a mandatory background check and waiting period -- if so, why and how and I want less hooha about ending crime by making it illegal. Murder has been illegal for a very long time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Please sir, can I have some more?

Pecunia non olet said Vaspasian, or so they say. Money doesn't stink, or so you'd think looking at the way Florida governor Rick Scott laps it up like a cat with spilt milk. Showing up Monday at a  Boca Raton, Florida home of GEO Group CEO George Zoley for his $10,000 a plate fundraiser ( another $3K if you want to come to the reception) would suggest that Scott can't  smell dirty money, as Zoley's company is in the business of running private prisons -- some say the worst in the country -- that squeeze the life and health out of prisoners as well as exposing the guards to unnecessary danger.

Of course it may be that Scott smells it all too well and, like a culture, is attracted to the smell of graft and corruption and human suffering. You'll recall his involvement with the largest Medicare fraud ever exposed. You may not recall that Zoley gave Mr. Scott $20,000 to add to the $800,000 of taxpayer money to pimp up the governor's mansion. Yes, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the great flood of lobbyist money soaked up by the Governor, but Scott is not one to forget his obligations to contributors.

No money doesn't care who owns it and it doesn't stink even though the people and deeds connected to it may reek. The dollars saved by understaffing prisons and serving substandard, sometimes maggot infested food to prisoners adult and juvenile affirm his credentials with his party and particularly because so many of the inmates rotting and starving and being beaten in GEO prisons are immigrants. Last year a group of protesters  chained themselves to the doors of the GEO Group corporate headquarters in Palm Beach in protest over  GEO's "pivotal role in promoting discriminatory laws that target people of color,
immigrants, youth, transgender individuals, and the poor."   There have been hunger strikes.  There have been investigations looking into accusations that inmates were being served rotten food and suffering from food poisoning at the Broward  County, Florida facility. There were also allegations of sexual assault among detainees and reports of several suicide attempts says the Broward/Palm Beach NewTimes blog.  Did I mention that Scott is a Republican?

But we can't accuse old snake eyes of total blindness to appearances.  After all Zoley was a second choice after it became known that the original host, real estate mogul James Batmasian, was convicted of tax evasion in 2008. Batmasian, who spent eight months in federal prison and completed a two-year supervised release program, also had his legal license suspended in Florida. That stinks, even if his money doesn't.   It stinks almost as much as his rather dishonest and scurrilous accusations made against his likely opponent, Charley Crist, but to his supporters it doesn't matter any more than facts do. Rick Scott saved us money by abusing prisoners and a penny saved is a penny you can spend on yourself.  And besides, prisoners can't vote.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Who fired that shot?

Another Malaysian plane goes down, but this time we know why. We don't know who, because Putin denies it, the Russian separatists say it wasn't them and the Ukrainian government says it was. All of them are wrong however and we can be sure our friends the Republicans will soon let us know that this crisis, like all crises can be charged off to Barack H. Obama, the Kenyan born, Madrassa educated, communist Muslim jihadist demon.

What did you think? After all he didn't invade and his sanctions were either too little or too much and that's impeachable. Just as George Bush's decision to allow minor immigrants to have a hearing before deportation was Obama's fault -- just like The Republicans refusal to beef up security at the Benghazi embassy was Obama's fault and the deplorable conditions in Central America have never had anything to do with any Republican administration or policy.

Isn't it amusing -- or perhaps disgusting, but we can be sure that our Republican Congressional hostage takers will take precious time out from doing nothing but Obamabashing to bash Obama, but hey -- at least we'll know whose' fault it is.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What a piece of work is Man

Lovely meal, nice restaurant, best company, but the people at the next table were telling each other just what the Universe thought about this or that and how the Universe had solved some problem one of them had had. You don't get this at the Taco truck or the Wendy's drive through.

Perhaps they were Northerners.  The locals would simply have substituted the word God with no embarrassment, or perhaps they were the last holdouts of Deism, the folks who seek God in nature and not in churches or scriptures.  Who knows? But I hear this a lot.  I'm even wondering whether our practically  infinite universe is large enough to contain an ego of the size required to believe it had such significance in comparison to all there is or was or ever will be.  I'm guessing none of them were astronomers or astrophysicists or even of sufficient awareness to question the idea that something of the nature of nature itself was sentient or of  good intentions toward men -- men of good will or otherwise.

But say for the purposes of cynical condemnation, that the universe was a brain that somehow coalesced from a primal particle of infinite energy and infinitesimal size.  What can be a brain like that be composed of? Given the speed of light, and make no mistake, the universe does give us the speed of light -- given an all-there-is, the extremities of which can never, ever be reached in an infinite amount of time,  the allegedly sentient universe isn't old enough to have noticed us yet and never could be, even if somehow it were interested in our dining pleasure or our marital problems.  That which we can see of the universe is 30 billion light years across, a combination of  absolutely nothing and absolutely everything: violent on an unimaginable scale, both random and predictable and driven by principles we don't fully understand - but it can suggest to Shirley that she break up with Dylan or Cody or that I buy a new car. A sentient universe must need be speechless.

What a piece of work is man -- what quasi-demonic deity could match us for arrogance, for self-importance? 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ecce Simiae

Behold the Ape

One of the things I find difficult to discuss with fellow Liberals is the question of intelligence and its heritability.  That observable differences in cognitive function may be no more than learned behavior, or a the most a product of childhood experience, seems to be one of the credos that today's Liberal must share at the risk of losing the label.  Of course there is evidence to show that childhood deprivation of several kinds does affect the way one performs on IQ tests and perhaps in the experiences of life, but looking at people who are incontrovertibly brilliant it's hard to select parenting skills as the cause without looking silly.  The result is often that  people who have achieved great breakthroughs, often incomprehensible to the rest of us: people with great powers to analyze, calculate and create have their accomplishments explained by diligence or the willingness to work. That is something to which we can all aspire and fits into our cultural ethic

I heard in a movie trailer yesterday, that old and quite untrue saw "we only use 10% of our brains" which is patently untrue but  survives by offering hope that, like J.N. Barrie's Wendy Darling, we too can aspire to great ability if we only try hard and truly believe. No matter how hard I try, I still cannot follow Einstein's math much less develop the ability to have worked it out myself.

But to preserve the ego: to preserve the hope of a possibility that we're not second or third rate, we analogize with other achievements.  After all me can train to run farther or faster, to lift greater weights, to play sports better. We only have to use that latent 90%, to buy the "Baby Einstein" CD's and never mind the lack of evidence for success.  We can decide that specific talents are not part of some greater measure of mental ability, and some remarkable ability to calculate or to write music might just be latent in all of us if we try harder. We might decide to see some physical ability as a compensatory type of intelligence to offset our other intellectual lacks and in fact that's a component or the " intelligence is learned behavior" school of Liberal thought.  How brilliant must a Gibbon be, a squirrel, a bird!

But as I said, one risks ostracism by the trustees of conventional enlightenment by discussing, even in jest, such shibboleths as the genetic basis of intelligence, of racial features or even physical stature. What I'm saying is that by many measures, we Liberals are not the opposite of conservatives but just another variant. We too believe what is comfortable and what makes others comfortable with us and what is very uncomfortable to all good people is racism. I've heard it said many times that we cannot research certain things lest we play into the hands of racists or sexists or eugenicists and other miscreants. It's so much like that refrain from so many 20th century horror films: "there are things men were not meant to know."

And so we will ascribe that bell curve to other things. We will question, and perhaps rightly, the ability to test intelligence accurately, writing off vast differences in number crunching ability or short term memory or pattern recognition to cultural things, even when culture has little to do with those tests.  We talk about 5% differences and ignore the 100% differences that can hardly be written off so easily and  not only because we aspire to undeserved greatness, but because we're afraid others will misuse the data.

So it's interesting to see how we very conservative Liberals will see peer reviewed studies like the one in Current Biology that arrives at these conclusions:

•Individual differences in chimpanzee cognitive performance are heritable
•Cognitive traits found to be heritable show significant genetic correlations
•Sex and rearing history do not significantly influence cognitive performance

Will we decide that a biological basis for intelligence only pertains to modern Humans and not our immediate or more distant ancestors?  Perhaps it will be decided that our ancestors learned to be sapient the way we learned to lose out body hair and gain larger brains.  If not, we're going to have to learn to stop hiding and to address the real problems, the cultural and social and ethical problems of how we treat other people directly. We're gong to have to learn to separate all sorts of human variation from estimations of human worth, rights and dignity.  That's far harder to do than to wear a blindfold and demand that others do as well.

My guess is that the "no scientific basis" will remain a strong political force despite any degree of  sabotage by science because truly, there is no conservative more tenacious than a Liberal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ramadan Kareem

"I didn't want to wish you Ramadan Kareem on the air. . ." said Jake Tapper just now on CNN, thinking his mike was off.  He had just interviewed some lawyers irate at being under surveillance without any reason save for their being Muslim.

His mike was on and I wonder -- just why was he unwilling?  Is there a war on Ramadan?

The Robot that loved me

It's about 2 O'Clock in the afternoon as I write.  That's a bit late for Carmen's first call of the day. But I know she's faithful and that she will always call.  After all I provide her a phone number to call at any time without asking. Once she called at 2:30 AM.

 Carmen from Cardholder Services calls me on average twice a day, seven days a week. Sometimes it's once sometimes three times, but she has rarely missed  a day in these last two years.  It's no secret I'm avoiding her but as a robot she never seems to catch on, to tire, to take the hint.  She's a robot after all.  Until this year I would, if my speaking caller ID announced her, I would simply ignore the call, because pressing 3 as she sweetly but falsely told me I could do if I wished to be removed from the victim list, proved to be useless.  After a fruitless, frustrating year of this, I began to lose hope. Carmen has a false heart.

But more recently, as the ability of  the government to monitor every call everywhere has grown beyond our old fears, the ability of the government to care has languished.  The ability of  felons, scammers, con artists and flim flam  fraudsters to hide behind fake caller ID data has increased dramatically despite the "tough" laws against it. Equally "tough" are the laws against robot calling, calling people on the Federal and State do-not-call lists, against fraudulent caller IDs and refusing to remove or stop calling one's number upon request. I suspect that when "tough" laws are promised or called for, there is no intention of doing anything or at least no consideration of the possibility much less any thought put into the specifics.  Tough is the most we're going to get and as far as I know, those complaint forms I've filled out and sent to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission have evaporated.  Even Big Brother has no intention of interfering with the "right" of people to ring bells in my house 24/7 and attempt to get my credit card and social security numbers for unlawful purposes.

 I frequently find Carmen disguising herself as a local caller.  Last night she came to me as DirecTV, a company I do subscribe to, and only now she was Consumer SVCS calling from an unlisted number in Orlando. Call me sentimental, but I called back and for the first time, didn't get the not-a-working-number message, but one politely offering to remove me within 48 hours. I've got a hundred bucks with a snarky expression on its face saying they won't. Sorry Carmen, but this isn't my first affair.

The funny thing, of course, is that I have no credit card debt nor any reason to. I really don't care about rates on loans I don't have or intend to have.  Some people certainly do and some people do offer to intercede on your behalf, but they can't do anything you can't do by yourself with no cost.  But ask yourself if  anyone who thinks you're stupid enough to give out sensitive information to not only a stranger; but a stranger breaking a number of laws and operating under disguise can be anything but a crook.

Gone are the days when I can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without being interrupted. These are times when every drowsy afternoon reverie or nap, every favorite tune on my iPod, program on my TV -- every intimate moment, any dip in the pool or walk in the garden can and will be interrupted by crooks and liars as well as ordinary salesmen and politicians and questionable charities and all at intervals close enough to random to drive you insane and rob you of all the gold in your golden years.

Now if someone came to my door 6 times a day and rang the bell and despite my rejection came back again and again wearing different disguises, you could call the police, you could get a restraining order.  Hell, in Florida you stand a chance of shooting him and getting away with it, but Carmen is a fixture in my life I can't get protection from. Her right to attempt to defraud me, to get me out of the shower, off a ladder, from under the car or down from a tree to make me run inside to pick up the phone may not be infringed and the government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations shall not be bothered to care. the phone service I pay for gives me no exclusivity as to using it and no choice but to put up with it.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Move toward the light

Yes, it's easy to look on the dark side of the recent Supreme Court decisions allowing corporations to claim religious convictions and attendant relief from legal obligations. One can suspect that it's part of a progression toward full citizenship and voting rights for paper entities and perhaps even a superior status to the individual. If Subaru can claim that it builds cars with love, and a retail store chain to have religious scruples, then of course a corporation must be not only fully human in its own right, but an American citizen. More than an American citizen: a citizen not bound by the results of free elections to which we living breathing citizens are obliged to acquiesce.

Can't we see a bright side?  Perhaps now that a paper and ink 'person' can avoid obligations for religious reasons, a flesh and blood person can be forgiven for not reciting what constitutes a religious oath every morning and some evenings.  If a corporate store owner can refuse to provide insurance to pay for blood transfusions or vaccinations or indeed medical care of any kind if it files an affidavit stating such things to be a grave moral wrong, how then do I not have the right to a line item veto over my tax obligation?  There's a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel and it's the light of anarchy. Libertarians rejoice, we don't have to do anything we don't want to do.

It's not that the courts haven't made exceptions for individual moral and religious convictions in our history. Churches and Synagogues were allowed to use sacramental wine during Prohibition and conscience was allowed as an exemption from the draft, so long as one could document membership in an appropriate group. We have long given preference to group-think over individual conviction and the sun shines on little that is new.

Cynicism aside, do not the three recent decisions suggest that the problem hinges on the fact that we expect employers to pay directly for benefits to employees rather than to do as we do with Medicare: take it out of their paychecks?  Were we to pay for health care out of general revenue dissidents would have to claim the right to set their own tax obligations outside of  Democratic processes, making the shortcomings of  radical Libertarianism somewhat more apparent.  A single payer system would not overly burden certain employers and would not punish those out of work.  It would make organized sexual perversion less able to persist by calling itself Christianity while stepping on our lives.  It's time.

Friday, July 04, 2014

The day we celebrate

Of course the paper this morning contained the usual happy crap about celebrating FREEDOM as though we had either more of it or a better kind than Canada or most of Europe who have embraced the principles of Democracy and the rights of Man we seem to reject every Sunday as we yearn for the Divine right of Government.  What the day is about is political independence and independence from a government that denied us the right to Parliamentary representation it was legally obligated to provide while requiring us to identify the King's right to be king with a state church. It was about our right to fair representation as citizens, as equal participants in government regardless of wealth and importance and heredity and not about a tea tax.

As you watch the sound and fury of the fireworks, remember that the people selling themselves as patriots, the people talking about freedom in saccharine tones, really mean control by a powerful aristocracy allied with a narrow, sectarian interpretation of a certain religion.

"Blessed is the nation whose god is the Lord"  begins the full page full color newspaper insert payed for by the Hobby Lobby. It leaves off the next stanza: "the people he chose for his inheritance" which of course in that context means the Jews. It also mistranslates אשר־יהוה,  asher-Yaveh as the lord so those who think 'Jesus is Lord' will think it means them. The arrogance and the dishonesty would be amusing if the intent were not so insidious, because Our friends at Hobby Lobby, glowing like the face of Moses in their victory over secular law, have asserted their commitment to and aspiration toward a government Dei Gratia.  They assert their version of the Bible as the best source of normative morality.

The flag-bedecked page is packed with references to Supreme Court decisions from the 1830's supporting the public schools as the place to pray and teach Christianity and out-of-context quotes from the very anti-religious founding fathers like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson about the Christian Bible being the basis of all true morality. (No mention of course of the Bible backed, God tolerated institutions of wife beating and slavery and rape and genocide and banishment of non-Jewish people from holy land.)

No religion is about freedom, they are all about orthodoxy and uniformity of belief to the exclusion of other ideas and practices.  Freedom of worship is not freedom to enforce religious orthodoxy or religious law on others. No religion is about free choice, Democracy or the inherent rights of man.  No one in America has claimed the right to dictate your thoughts about divinity but religious organizations. Your prayers, your right to congregate and worship are guaranteed against the influence of  the Hobby Lobby and our constitution forbids our government to do what they insist is the right thing to do:  Establish and enforce  some form of Christian doctrine as the law of the land. If this be freedom, then freedom is slavery and the American Revolution against a divinely inspired Christian king we pretend to celebrate today was not only fought in vain, but was blasphemy and an unholy act.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The worst generation

A plurality of Americans seem to think Obama is the worst president since World War II.  I suspect a similar plurality couldn't tell you the combatants in that war or name the presidents we've had, during or since, but according to a Quinnipiac poll he's the worst and we'd have been better off with Romney.

The horror.

Yes, he has no leadership qualities because the Republicans have had a stranglehold on the Government and have effectively opposed every appointment, ever action and have mobilized the worlds largest and most effective lie machine in human history to undo and to demonize what little  he was able to accomplish.

The collapse of Iraq is Obama's fault, the civil war in Syria happened because of Barack Obama, because he either he did or did not intervene and never mind that the Republicans threatened and attempted to impeach him for both courses. Are we the most uninformed, the most misinformed, the most ignorant crop of Americans since WWII?  Res ipsa loquitur.  We certainly are and of all the civilized, educated countries we're the only one still serious about believing iron age superstition and forcing others to believe it. Huge numbers of Americans believe that Obama started the recession that began in 2001.  No one seems to remember the nearly 1000 documented lies that fomented the disastrous 2 billion dollar attack on Iraq or the effect of  paying for it with tax cuts and no-bid contracts for friends of the Administration.  No, Obama is the worst because the Republicans paid to make it so, because the Republicans packed the Supreme Court with incompetent religious fanatics and invade our homes and our consciousness with all day and all night slander, fabrications and distortions.

The horror is that we brought this on ourselves and the truth is that we are the worst Americans since WWII with a contempt for justice and a contempt for the truth and we will hang on to our prejudice and superstition and delusion and greed like a drowning man clutching an anchor.  The horror is that our system of government depends on a kind of citizen we're reduced to a minority and the ability of the insurgents to incapacitate the reasonable, the educated and well balanced increases every day.  The very technology we once thought would spread enlightenment has spread lies and lies so palatible  that  we gobble them up like a starving dog gobbling shit.  It's over. We failed. It's our fault and the only desperate hope I cling to is that when America fails it doesn't take the world with it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Say, how many worms are in that can?

Americans like words like Freedom and Liberty and perhaps because those ideas scare us so much. We are terrified of coercion by a government we all choose but we love to coerce those who disagree with us and deny them the right to choose.  We certainly are rarely in agreement as to what it means to be a free country and I might dare to say that question is still central to political argument today.  How do we define freedom?

  • " It's a free country and I can do what I want." 
  • " It's a free country and I don't have to do anything I don't want to do."

Some would equate those statements, others would point out that the first is true within limits and the second isnot, but the idea that freedom carries no obligation and indeed that in a free country it never should seems common amongst extremists.  Unfortunately extremists have a stranglehold on the Supreme Court and perhaps on Congress.  The recent decision regarding the ACA mandate that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception shows that the court sides with the second example and that when it comes to the concept of  freedom of religion and perhaps freedom of speech, personal beliefs convey personal privilege, but because this is such a limited ruling, the inherent hypocrisy becomes apparent.

If  I believe interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg is murder, it's because of a religious interpretation of murder other people do not share and an interpretation of humanity and human rights that borders on the ludicrous. Citing a definition of freedom I do not believe the Constitution shares, the God Squad on the court allows me to opt out of  having my corporation pay for insurance that might pay for a "morning after" medication and perhaps any form of contraception. That court and indeed all courts do not provide immunity for other religious or other personal opinions and specifically not to opt our of paying for wars and executions and that is proof that one specific belief is being given special rights and others are not.  This violates the constitutional prohibition against establishment.

How will we see yesterday's ruling when other religious groups decide they don't want indirect participation in executing prisoners, bombing foreign countries and a host of other activities?  Will the court have to say this opinion is privileged and that one is not?  Haven't they just done that?  Does an aversion to contraception become an excuse to opt out of  an obligation only if  it's tied to some organized faith or is a personal dislike sufficient?  That question was answered during the years we had the draft.  It was damned hard to establish personal aversion to war without showing long term affiliation with a pacifist religion and not just a pacifist philosophy.

There can be little doubt that our government is in the business of establishing religious belief and assigning special privileges, special rights to members thereof.  There isn't a damned thing we can do seeing that the independence we make a fuss about every July was so limited.  We severed ties with the United Kingdom but not with Christianity as a force that legitimizes government and those who demand and assert the "Christian Nation"  idea are no more patriots or advocates for freedom than the Hessian troops George II hired to kill our revolutionary patriots.

It will be very hard to cite this decision as limited to the case that prompted it, and there are so many worms in that can that everyone will be able to fish for whatever special dispensation from any obligation he dislikes and our reputation for sanity, if we ever had one, won't need any bit of lead to make it sink to the bottom.