Monday, September 30, 2013

The Open Bar in the House.

Now I don't want anybody to get me wrong here. I am NOT a teetotaler and see nothing wrong with a drink now and then.  I happen to own more than a few bottles of one kind of alcoholic stuff or another, including some rather not-cheap bottles of good Scotch.  I like Scotch.  I like a beer every now and then and like a good wine with a meal occasionally.  I even have a glass of wine with the Cyber-wife very so often, too!

But if there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that there is a time and a place for everything, and if there is one place and one time which is most certainly NOT meant for drinking, it is on the floor of the US House of Representatives during a gaveled in session considering a bill to keep the government open past the end of the current Fiscal year!

Yes, you heard me right.  Last Saturday night, while considering the Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open into the 2014 fiscal year, Republican members of the House were on the floor, DRINKING.  It was so bad, members of the press in the gallery above the floor could smell it wafting to their level, and journalists outside the doors could smell it on the House members as they went in and out the doors.  One lady tweeted that she'd run into at least two of them in the liquor store!

The allegations by the press who witnessed this include the fact that it was Republican members who were guilty of this disgraceful behavior.

Now, in the last few years, we've seen and heard some awful things from the mouths of these people, and they've done some terrible things legislatively to some particular parts of the American people, especially gays and women.  But one can always claim that those are true differences of opinion based on differing political ideals.

Not this.  This kind of behavior betrays a contempt for the office they hold, for the Chamber of the Congress they belong to, for the government of which they are an integral part, and for the American people they have been elected to represent.  There just aren't sufficient words in the English language to express my utter contempt, disgust, loathing, outrage and simple abhorrence for not only the actions of these people, but for the men themselves who would dare to dishonor the sacred halls of our democracy and the traditions of this great country by such juvenile and contemptuous behavior in the very heart of where the laws of this land are created.

It shows their utter contempt for the democratic traditions of the process they are a part of and their complete lack of care for the people whose lives and well being they hold in their hands.  It shows the shameful lack of control which the leaders of the Republican party either inadvertently displayed or purposefully exercised on that occasion.  I tend to think it is an utter failure of leadership, whether purposeful or not.

This is outrageous behavior.  This is inexcusable under almost any conceivable circumstance.  I cannot possibly imagine what other countries must think of the United States after this display of complete and unbridled lack of not just decorum, but civilized behavior.

There was a time when, as an American citizen, I could hold my head up high, knowing that I was a citizen of the greatest and most honorable democracy the world had ever seen.  Knowing that our country was a shining light of what humans could endeavor to build in the way of governance and upholding human rights.

No longer.  After last Saturday night, this country has been demonstrated to be no better than a third world banana republic, unable to even maintain a minimum of civil behavior within the halls of its lawmaking body.

Today, I am ashamed to be an American.  Thanks, Republicans.  Thanks, a bunch.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Posturing vs. Reality

It is never so obvious when political posturing is exactly that than when a State is acting in its own best interests - reducing outlay - and simultaneously doing the best for its citizens.

The current political climate is a perfect stage for this to be center stage, front and floodlit.

Obama is the evil "other" (read that as "ni**er" to many Republicans) and thus cannot be compromised with nor negotiated with at the peril of a conservative losing his white conservative membership card, the right wing fundamentalist crazies have taken center stage, the floodlights and the orchestra pit by constantly refusing to have anything to do with anything the President has put his name to.  It is so bad, a common meme on Facebook is the suggestion that Obama could rid himself of his enemies by simply suggesting that humans survive by breathing oxygen, thus forcing all fundies to hold their breaths...

Thus, "ObamaCare", the appellation given to the President's signature legislative victory, has been denigrated, put down and vilified in spite of its right wing birth as "RomneyCare".  Republicans are so set upon destroying it as a viable program, they've tried to repeal it at least 43 times.  All unsuccessful, of course, since the Constitution specifies that the Senate and the President have to agree, which won't ever happen.  That doesn't stop them from trying, however.

State after State has refused to cooperate with the ACA's provisions of expanding Medicare, thus attempting to cause rates in their States to possibly be higher than in States that are.  As of this date, however, at least two States have announced that in spite of this non-cooperation, rates in both are likely to be much lower than anticipated.  Florida and Georgia.  So much for that tactic!

All this of course, is to torpedo the ACA, at least in the public's eye, so it will be poorly implemented and accepted so as to cause its failure.

All in an attempt to make the black guy look like a failure, too.

So, how does this set the stage for your typical but now front and center political posturing which rises to the level of hypocrisy?  Easy.

The great State of Texas (my birth State), while Rick Perry And Ted Cruz posture politically, Texas Proudly Implements Obamacare!

This week, Texas senator Ted Cruz is engaged in a pitched battle to defund Obamacare. He has pledged to filibuster any bill to fund the government that includes money for the Affordable Care Act. 
Last week, Texas governor Rick Perry went out of his way to insult the new program. In a letter he sent directing the Texas Department of Heath and Human Services to reject federal funds meant to enable the state to insure more low-income citizens through Medicaid, Governor Perry told the Texas HHS to ask for the funds as a block grant to be used to teach Texans “personal responsibility.” 
Meanwhile back at the ranch… At the very same time Governor Perry was disparaging Obamacare, and Senator Cruz was trying to kill it, the director of the Texas’ high risk insurance pool (known as THIP) was notifying Texans that Obamacare sign up is set to begin October 1, telling them how great the new program is, and encouraging them to enroll.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that this kind of posturing and hidden about faces are simply the stuff of politics these days.

But you rarely see it so poorly hidden.   So, without further ado, here's the letter:

Granted, nothing in there says "ObamaCare", or even "Affordable Care Act", but nothing else has that Marketplace it so proudly points to.

Well done, Texas, well done!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Christian entitlement strikes again - and backfires.

There are times when people in positions of authority in Christian organizations shouldn't be allowed in the same universe with a journalist.

Recently, Major Andrew Craibe, a Salvation Army Media Relations Director, went on public radio hosted by journalist Serena Ryan, to discuss a recent call by LGBTQ parents for a boycott of the nonprofit for its anti-gay policies and beliefs.

At some point, she asked him about their Handbook, used to train their new members, in which there are a few chapters which refer to the sin of homosexuality, including a section that cites Romans 1:18-32, which includes a admonition that homosexuals “deserved to die”;

“ Ryan: According to the Salvation Army gay parents deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?”

“Craibe: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.”

Ryan: So they should die.”

“Craibe: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.”

“Ryan: You’re proposing in your doctrine that because these parents are gay, that they must die.”

“Craibe: Well, well, because that is part of our Christian doctrine “

“Ryan: But how is that Christian? Shouldn’t it be about love?”

“Craibe: Well, the love that we would show is about that: consideration for all human beings to come to know salvation…”

“Ryan Or die…”

“Craibe: Well, yes.”

...and this fellow is their head of Media Relations?  Really?  The Salvation Army in recent years has had enough trouble relating to a changing cultural attitude about gays without a moron like this making statements like that.  Sure, they've got a doctrine, but on the other hand, they make themselves out to be a public charity, and claim to not discriminate on that basis:

“The Salvation Army encompasses a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on human sexuality and other subjects. The senior leadership of The Salvation Army continues to reflect on Christian and Biblical tradition, and especially on the themes of  justice and mercy, to further deepen the understandings of our own members and build a more healthy relationship with the LGBTQ community. We pledge to continue to offer services to all and to treat each person with dignity, respect and non-discrimination.”

I suspect that this statement is significantly undermined by the man at the microphone citing biblical doctrine when it gets picked up by a major gay website:

Salvation Army says “Gays Need to Be Put to Death”. (

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whew! I've been remiss for the last week!

I am truly sorry for not being here.  It has been a busy week, not the least of which has been the birth of the 7th and 8th grandkids of ours!  Boy and girl - Ben and Maddie!  Twins!

But there just hasn't been a lot of time for writing, plus I had a couple of series of books that were just begging to be read, and I just hate to torture books like that.  I was taught better.

What I wasn't, was taught how to write and read at the same time - different books, that is.  Or, to be correct, reading books and writing posts.  The old mind - and it IS getting old - just isn't that resilient any longer.  I get easily distracted, and you folks did not sign on to read an atheist blog set in the far future in the middle of an alien invasion.

Or, at least, I wasn't under that impression.   Correct me if I am.

Anyway, I have begun to rectify the problem of there being no new posts, and shall post a new one tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

I am more than just your worst nightmare...

The title of this piece begs the question:  What IS a Christian's worst nightmare?  Satan?  Being rejected by God for some transgression not remembered so never repented for?  Being rejected by God because of one's lifelong attendance at a denomination turns out to be the WRONG choice?  Being thrown into hell because one's death comes so close on the heels of a sinful transgression before repentance can be sought?  The bible seems to suggest that the worst that can happen to you is to be under Satan's control for an eternity.

I will admit that, were that scenario true, I would be hard to put to find something harder to endure - jokes about sexless women and whiskey bottles with no way to open them notwithstanding.

No, a Christian's worst nightmare - or somewhat beyond that point - is the realization that what has been feared and threatened for all of one's life is simply a lie.

Christianity (or at least the American's popular idea of it) has a two-fold construction in its picture of an afterlife - each part diametrically opposed to one another.  In one, a perfect existance, no hunger, no pain, everything is happiness and the wonder of worshipping a perfect being and the opposing part - the eternity of hell, burning, pain, and repetitive torture.  Obey the strictures of God's commandments and earn Paradise, but disobey and earn an eternity of pain and torture.  The traditional carrot and the stick.  One to pull you in one direction in hopes of obtaining the reward and the other to make you jump in pain away from that stick.

Yeah, I know, that's a simplistic view, but reduced to the basics, that IS what the message of Christianity and Islam are.  Obey and live in Paradise, disobey and live, but under torture for all eternity.  For the record, that last part is rather exaggerated.  Born out of medieval forms of enforcement of feudal rules and legalities where torture, pain and death were common and often enthusiastically performed, this view of heaven and hell was painted to picture for the average medieval peasant a view of the afterlife that promised a better life - but the pain of disobedience was the familiar torture and death - and stretched out to an eternity to match the enormity of the ultimate Lord's eternal majesty.  What better instrument to ensure the earthly obedience of the more numerous peasantry who could have - and later did - overwhelm the nobility through the sheer weight of numbers, had there not been a way to utilize the common man's superstition to ensure his peacefulness?

In reality, the bible serves very little information on the substance of either heaven or hell.  The Church at various points in time did manage to paint a very detailed picture of hell and an amazingly detailed organizational chart of the hierarchical nature of the heavenly host, but all that was pretty much supposition.  So, Protestants of various groups have dropped the details, preferring to allow their flocks to use their imaginations, which is probably a better strategy anyway.

What a lot of folks today concentrate on is the morality of things.  The whole heaven and hell thing is merely to help you make the decision to be a better person, they say.  That is punctuated by a question a lot of atheists get exposed to - which is an accusation that they are bad people who do terrible things, because they have rejected Christ and the moral teachings of the bible.

The answer to which is always that atheists are actually better people than christians, because we CHOOSE to be better people, based on humanitarian principals, not based on a choice between reward or punishment.

Which is why we, atheists, are worse than the worst nightmare of Christian leaders.  We are because our lives, our public actions and how so many Christians are now coming to know us as individuals give the lie to the accusations of past Christian leaders.  As Americans have become accustomed to knowing gays as just normal people (and often friends, neighbors and family members), so they are beginning to become accustomed to us the same way.  It is becoming obvious to more and more people that secularism is not a dirty word and that living one's life outside of the strictures of religion is not the nightmare it was once made out to be.

We are becoming seen finally as rather nice people!

Which is why we are the worst nightmare of Christian leaders today.  We prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that living life apart from religion is really just as good, if not better, than with it.

And that proof is beginning to fragment the world of religion in America today.  In 50 years, practicing Christians will be a small minority, and secularism will be the rule.  There may be various spiritualistic beliefs and practices, but religion as an organizational and political power will be a thing of the past.

Which is really quite beyond the worst nightmares of the Religious Right.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

What's Wrong With South Carolina?

South Carolina is another one of those former Confederate States that cannot let go of its past.  Witness a while back a news story about a restaurant that - in 2013 - refused to seat a group of young blacks.

What's new?

A SC politician, Rep. Joe Wilson (R), the nutbag that called Obama a liar during a State of the Union Address, has dubiously distinguished himself again.

He spoke up, reading a written question on Syria in a wooden halting manner, at a  House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting today for Secretary of State John Kerry.
"With the president's red line, why was there no call for military response in April? Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obamacare enforcement, the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration or the upcoming debt limit vote? Again, why was there no call for a military response four months ago when the president's red line was crossed?"
What?  Has the man no sense?  Heck, the UN inspectors haven't even finished their investigation yet, and critics are even saying the President is jumping the gun for speaking up now!  And, more importantly, his supposed method for how Obama is trying to distract from these imagined scandals?

Doing nothing.  That's right, Obama is trying to distract from scandals by doing nothing!  Brilliant!  Why didn't any earlier politician think of this?  Obama must be simply astonishingly brilliant to be able to divert attention like that!

What a moron.  Twelve years in the House, and the only two times he can distinguish himself is by his stupidity.

But, wait!  That's not all!  Another SC politician, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), tested the Secretary of State's patience:

Secretary of State John Kerry erupted at Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) after the congressman charged that the Obama administration cannot be trusted to carry out an attack on Syria due to mistakes made in Benghazi and controversies involving the IRS and NSA programs.
"I cannot discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war without talking about Benghazi," Duncan said, questioning Kerry at a Wednesday hearing.
"The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people, due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago. When you factor in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the AP and James Rosen issues, Fast and Furious and NSA spying programs, the bottom line is that there is a need for accountability and trust-building from the administration," he said. "The American people deserve answers about Benghazi before we move forward in Syria's civil war."
Kerry dismissed Duncan's garbage rhetoric out of hand.
This is the SC politician who is at once a birther, conspiracy theorist about, of all things, the Census Bureau, and pushed Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing in April.

Another moron.  What is with you South Carolinians?  There has to be somebody in your state smarter than that...