Thursday, December 19, 2013

Free Speech and personal responsibility.

Let's examine the First Amendment, shall we?  Specifically, the part of the FA that protects your free speech rights.

This is, of course, prompted by the firing of the "patriarch" of the reality show Duck Dynasty for his anti-gay statements on GQ the other day.  Right wingers are going apoplectic over it, saying that he is being stifled from speaking out.

The first thing to understand before we even start looking at this is that the Constitution is a blueprint.  It is the blueprint for how our government is to be built and managed.  The Bill of Rights is an addition that was added a few years later as the result of a compromise that allowed certain States to vote for the ratification of the Constitution because those States were worried that the original did not specifically lay out the rights that were guaranteed to citizens and prohibited the government from violating those rights.

Thus, strictly speaking, the First Amendment restricts THE GOVERNMENT from abridging your speech.  It cannot either keep you from speaking by censoring your speech nor punishing you for speaking.  Written or spoken, it doesn't matter, and some actions are also, by rulings from the Supreme Court, considered political speech, and this also protected.

Naturally, since the government cannot restrict your speech, neither can others.

But, and this is important, YOU can.  You can even enter into a contract with someone wherein you promise to censor your public speech and actions so as to not reflect negatively on the relationship between you and the other party.  In return, you allow that other party to take certain actions against you should you violate that part of the contract.

Which is what happened to Phil Robinson.  He signed a contract with A&E, probably a standard actor's contract, and that standard contract contains a reasonable and common clause that says he must restrict his public actions and speech so as to not reflect badly upon the reputation of the show.  

He then went on ANOTHER network and violated that contract by making controversial and hateful comments that did reflect badly upon both him and the show and A&E.  Little wonder that they fired his ass.

His free speech rights are NOT being violated.  He still has full rights to speak up and say anything he wishes, stupid or not.  He just lost the contract because he opened his mouth and said something he should not have said in public.  His choice, his responsibility.

The right wing IS big on personal responsibility, isn't it?  Well, this is the result of his acting irresponsibly.  Suck it up, big guy!  Ain't responsibility a bitch?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Next week is Christmas and on Saturday is the Solstice.  No matter which one you celebrate (and many people celebrate both) - it is time for family and feasting and spending time watching football - or is it basketball?  Soccer?  Frosty?  I know! The Abominable Snowman!

Oh, forget it, I'm going to Portland, Oregon next week to snuggle with new grand babies and spend time with the parents I haven't seen in longer than I like to think.  So, folks, I cannot guarantee that I'll have time or the inclination to post anything.

But hey, you might get lucky and see baby pictures!  Or, I might have time after all!  I'll be back after the first of the year.

So, for those who care, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy (Merry?) Kwanzaa,  Happy Solstice, and just for grins cause I know I'm early - Happy Chinese New Year!  I know I'm missing something, so if I missed your favorite holiday this month, Happy Whatever-it-is!

Or Merry, or Great or whatever floats your boat...I hope it is just as great as you want it to be!

I'm gonna snuggle babies, so there!

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's War, I say! War on Christmas! (or not)

Every year about this time, the Fundies circle the wagons, mount the ramparts and prime the cannon, all ready to defend Christmas from the evils of the secular "War on Christmas".

This year, Fox News is doing all it can, inflating whatever little niggles there may be anywhere in the country in order to fan the flames.  The main thrust of their complaints seem to be that "atheists" want to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas, and seem to want to attack them at any place or manner "they" can.


It gets tiresome, when the people you have to battle for every concession turn your arguments around and build elaborate straw men that they can then point to and inflate their own rhetoric, inflaming their base and pumping millions of dollars into lawyers' hands in an effort to defend the indefensible.

There is no War on Christmas.  There just isn't.  There may be a few lonely atheists with an agenda that includes eventually destroying religious faith and ending the hegemony of religion over mankind, but even the most fervent of them realize that is a multi-generational fight that they will never see the end game to.

I'll even admit that I may be on the fringes of that group, as I do see religion as harmful.

But that isn't the holiday fight we wage every year.  It IS possible to see milestones along the way, and the goal of managing to enforce the First Amendment's strictures of the Separation of Church and State is one such milestone, one which we join with many Christians to achieve.

Plainly stated, the First Amendment says that the government may NOT play favorites when it comes to the authorized use of public space for private purposes.  If it is going to allow one group or religion to display holiday symbols, it MUST allow them all.

That's it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Nobody is trying to stop anybody from displaying their beloved Christmas symbols on the courthouse square - we are simply making the point that it is not an automatic authorization, nor can it be an exclusive one.  It shouldn't be that hard to understand.

It isn't about being offended.  It isn't about countering someone else's beliefs.  It is about the government of this country, from Federal to local, obeying the law.

If anybody tries to say it's about anything else, they've got a private agenda, so you'd better start looking for what they are really after!

Now, can we go enjoy the Christmas lights?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Customer Service Par Excellence!

I have a fantastic story of customer service, folks.

Every year about this time, we order gifts for our grandkids (as do millions of other grandparents). What we have chosen to do is give gifts from online companies offering toys and such for kids with a scientific or educational theme. Brain teasers, science kits, puzzles, etc., all age specific.

The company we have settled on is one called Mindware.

This year, we ordered as usual, and one of the items we ordered had two separate boxes, one for patterns, and one for pictures. A magnetic mosaic kind of thing. The online catalog had three different order numbers, with one being for both boxes. We got that one.

But when the order came today, someone had mistakenly put two of the same type into the shipping box, meaning we didn't have the second one, for patterns.

So, we called their customer service to correct the error, expecting to get a return authorization and shipping label to return the wrong box.

Nope, didn't happen. Instead, as she set up the order to have the correct item shipped to us in just three days, she told us to DONATE the mis-shipped item!

Yes, you got that right, they are allowing us to keep the item that was sent by mistake, on the proviso that we donate it to a charity that will give it to a needy child for Christmas!
We have decided to donate it to Toys for Tots, run by the US Marines, which is being collected at my office this year.  (Every year, in fact)


I am SO impressed by this company, I want all of you to share this story, because for a company to actually push donation as a solution to this kind of error is unheard of, and I think a wonderful solution it is!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Who'd a thunkit?

It's been a while since we've gotten anything juicy from the media about child sex abuse at churches.  It seems that the RCC has managed to calm things down a bit in recent months.

But wait!  What's that I see on the horizon?  Dimly, a bit fuzzy, not exactly major fare for the mainstream media in the US, but - yes!  Yes, it IS!

MORE child abuse scandals!  But, hang on, it's getting a bit clearer, lemme see, just a moment...

Oh!  This time, it isn't the Catholics!  Wow!  I can't believe it!  It's... it's...


I know, that first paragraph was just a bit harsh on the RCC.  I mean, they've kissed and made up... I mean, they've ...

Oh.  You mean they didn't?  Rats.

Ok, look.  Seriously.  This business of child abuse in churches IS serious.  And it isn't just a Catholic problem.  I did at least one post a while back that documented dozens of child abuse cases around the world, including all the major religions and a few of the minor ones.

Also, no, it isn't just a religious problem.  Children are abused at home, at school, in church, at the ball park, in the day care, at Aunt Martha's house, at the gym, the dance school - in short anywhere children are left by their parents under the care of some trusted adult they suppose will care for and protect their offspring.  Except that often, those "trusted" adults don't deserve the trust we place in them.

The reason that churches get the attention is that many people are beginning to understand that churches have gotten a free ride - a free pass from the scrutiny we often force on other less trusted venues.  I mean, church leaders - ministers, priests, etc., especially, are supposed to be above reproach.  Men of God.  Geez, if God can trust them, why can't we?

We are beginning to realize what we should have been remembering all along - they are human.  they have human faults, prejudices and desires, and often, those things can harbor darkness and evil.

Even preachers can be evil and/or do evil things.  Not all by any means, don't get me wrong.  I'd be willing to bet that the incidence of child abuse in churches is probably about on a par with that in other similar venues here children are left in the care of adults not their parents.

I have focused on it in the past because so many people give religion a pass.  Men Of God aren't supposed to be human, they aren't supposed to have carnal desires and certainly aren't supposed to harm children!

But, sometimes, they do.

So, what do we do?

Treat them like other professionals we wouldn't leave our kids alone with.  Insist on at least two adults being present at functions where a minister is left with children in his/her care.  Drop in sometimes unannounced.  Watch your kids for sudden changes in behavior.  Ask questions about their activities and watch for vague unexplainably evasive answers.  Don't let your routine become too routine and predictable.

BE INVOLVED!!  An involved parent is the best protection your kids can have.  Against just about anything, not just abusers.