Friday, June 28, 2013

The Republican Party is losing.

I am going to say it here and now:  The Republican Party is losing its Mojo.  It is on the long slide to oblivion.

Why, you ask?  I'm glad you did!

They are losing because since before the election, they've begun to act on what seems to be a realization that they cannot win without cheating.

  • Gerrymandering election districts.
  • Voter ID laws designed to restrict minority voters
  • Closing or moving election registration offices out of minority areas
  • Closing or moving Drivers Licensing offices out of minority areas
  • Halting or cutting back on early voting days
  • Halting early voting on Sundays to thwart minority churches busing to the polls
  • Refusal to negotiate with Democratic legislators over restrictive laws
  • Violation of legislatorial chamber rules by Republicans running those houses.
  • Violation of election laws
  • Violations of open meeting laws
  • Refusal to allow cameras in legislative chambers
  • I'm not even going to belabor their use of Fox News nationwide to lie and spread untruth and misrepresentation of the facts to fool their base into thinking black is white and white is black.
  • ...and last, but not least, altering of timestamps on house votes to try to legitimize a vote taken after a session's legal end has passed.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the Democratic Party isn't exactly lily white on this issue.  Their hands are dirty, too, as they have been accused and shown to have used at least some of the above tactics in the past.

I'll smack them round if I catch them at it in the future, too!

But let's be honest - the Republicans have done these things almost constantly over the last few years, taking every chance they could to not only avoid dealing with the Democrats, but to simply shut them down completely.  Doing that to an opponent who has been effectively shut down in a legitimate election by the voters, honestly and above board is one thing - the voters DO and should have a say on who represents them.

But to use the tactics of the cheater is to admit you can't do it legitimately, and that is now the case with the Republicans.

I mean, look at Rick Perry.  No sooner did the SCOTUS shut down the Voting Rights Act than his Administration immediately began enforcing their previously declared unconstitutional voter ID law, specifically crafted to keep minority voters away from the polls!  They have announced their intention to reintroduce the precise gerrymandering redistricting law that got shut down once already, precisely to get rid of that brave but pesky lady that just killed their antiabortion law.

All because they can't do it legitimately.

Boehner has repeatedly refused to bring legislation to the floor or up for consideration that could be passed with a minority of the Republican Caucus and support of the Democrats.  Because that would bring legislation to possibly pass that would make Obama look good.  Legislation that his caucus would not have the votes to stop - using the legitimate rules the House usually operates under.

The common thread in all this is that Republicans can read the demographic tea leaves - Conservatives are a dying breed, and are already a minority of the country.  They cannot address or even pass their agenda of hatred, intolerance and bigotry without using the power of the States they control or illegal or unethical tactics and shenanigans to get their way and shut down their opponents unfairly.

They know that if the people of this country had a real, honest, unfettered choice, their agenda would get thrown out like old garbage.

This not to say that the path would then be open to a totally progressive agenda.  It would not, because Progressives are a minority, too.  There is a large percentage of Americans who live in the middle, politically, and there would be a definite dialog going on between those middle-of-the-roaders and the Progressives over just exactly how far left the MOTRs would let them go.

But at least the country could get moving again, and would no longer be stuck in this quagmire of bigotry and hatred over the US having a black President.

Face it, folks, it is hatred, bigotry, intolerance and stubborn intransigence that has this country at a standstill today.  It is NOT the fault of the Democrats, because while they HAVE made their share of mistakes, it is the deliberate and calculated refusal of the Republicans to help run this country that has put us where we are.

Yes, they'd rather see this country sink into economic chaos than allow the black guy to win.  It's like the abusive spouse who kills his wife rather than let her get a divorce.

"If I can't have her, nobody can!"

That attitude is wrong at the personal level, and it is wrong at the national level.

If the Republican Party cannot get its act together and get control over their Party to end this bigotry and intolerant bullshit, the country should throw the bums out.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bigotry on Parade!

Well, given the SCOTUS' ruling shooting down Federal bigotry in defense of the imaginary "traditional" marriage, the Republican/Right Wing bigots are out in full force.

With scare tactics consisting of everything from warnings about bestiality to shrill accusations of bullying and attacks on beliefs, the right wing is doing everything they can to excite their base and frighten them out of their skulls.

But is the fears of the average christian I am concerned with, which shows that their scare tactics are getting through.

A woman (probably a friend of someone else) posted a comment on one of my friend's posts about the ideals of tolerance and respect:
Okay - I'm going way out on a limb. In the past when I've done this, I've been called names, but I have to speak up even if I get hurt. I think the reason some Christians don't support legalized gay marriage is because we're afraid that we will be hurt if it becomes legal. I just finished reading an article about a church in New Jersey that was sued by a lesbian couple because the church refused to rent their facility to them for a wedding reception. The judge ruled against the church. I don't want to deny anyone's human rights or their pursuit of happiness, but I don't trust my government not to force me (and my church) to do things that violate my conscience. I am a devout Catholic, which makes me a minority. Most Americans don't have the same moral system I do. I don't want to force my beliefs on anyone - I just want to live them out in peace. My government no longer defends my right to do that, and that's very frightening to me. I don't hate anyone, but I fear many of the people I disagree with.

I won't identify the writer - she deserves her privacy.  She later (in response to my request) posted the article she was reading that explained the issue.

It turns out that the facility at issue was a lakefront property the church owned.  Now, the article didn't say, but I am betting that the church rents that facility out to the general public, mainly to make money. It is, after all, a valuable commodity, and people are willing to pay good money to rent such facilities for parties, reunions, weddings and so forth.  It is probably a significant revenue stream.

Which explains their reluctance to do what the law requires, which is to stop doing business with the general public and limit their practices to their own members.  Which would usually result in a major loss of income.

In such cases, many States or localities have laws that require businesses that sell, rent or do other business with the general public to adhere to specific anti-discrimination laws, which often very in content from State to State.  I do not know if NJ is one that includes sexual orientation in that list or not.  From the description of the lawsuit, I would guess that the answer is yes.

The case in NJ is typical of this type.  A church owns property it rents, or it has another business it owns outright, that does business with the general public.  At some point, that business is confronted with a gay or lesbian couple that wishes to do business with them, which is then denied on the basis of the church's beliefs about homosexuality.

They are sued, and a court finds for the plaintiff, telling the church that it cannot discriminate on a religious basis, because it is running a business that caters to the general public.

Church cries foul, accusing the court of violating their First Amendment rights.

In cases such as this, there is no foul.  They are operating a business, and they are bound by long established Constitutional principles to obey secular law - in running the secular side of their business.  And make no mistake, they ARE running a secular business.  There is nothing religious about renting a lakeside property - unless it is rented out ONLY to other religious organizations for religious purposes.

This is like the issue that occurred in a major East Coast city a few years ago, where the Catholic Church had an adoption business which was taken to court by a gay couple who wanted to adopt but were denied on the basis of their sexual orientation.  I don't remember the outcome, but the Church was threatening to close the business if they were forced to serve gay couples.  They wouldn't even keep it open for Catholics!

I don't know about you, but THAT is bullying.

In this country, the First Amendment is in place to protect ALL Americans.  Not just Catholics, not just Fundamentalist christians, but EVERYBODY.  All religions, or NO religion.  You have the ABSOLUTE right to worship AS YOU PLEASE, which could mean anything from attending daily Mass to simply silently thinking a prayer to yourself once a day or even doing nothing at all.  NOBODY has the right to force you to practice religion in a manner you find objectionable, nor can they stop you from worshipping your way.

If your way is sleeping late on Sunday, going to the beach and "worshipping" the sun, then that is your absolute right.

Because the government cannot force you to either adhere to a specific practice, nor can it stop you from doing it your way, the government is effectively out of the religion business.

Which means you cannot use the power of the government, at any level, to force your beliefs on the rest of us.  It means that when you operate in the public sphere, you have to obey the same laws of conduct, whether private or business, as everybody else.

Whatever your religion, or lack of it, you cannot force your beliefs on others.

But you are also protected from others doing the same to you.

A common complaint I've heard from christians is that keeping religion out of the public sphere is tantamount to forcing others to practice Atheism.


It IS very clever, because the essence of Atheism IS the lack of religion.

But the flaw to this accusation is that simply keeping religious practices out of the public sphere isn't denying you the right to worship as you please, it is simply keeping you from forcing the rest of us to endure your brand of religious practice.  Forcing you to practice Atheism would be stopping you from worshiping in your church or keeping you from praying at all.

Both of which would be as much as a violation of your rights as making me listen to your prayer in a city council meeting violates mine.

Is this getting through yet?  Is it beginning to become a little clearer that the First Amendment is a protection for ALL OF US?  That it prevents muslims from forcing their five times a day prayers on us, too, or Orthodox Jews from insisting that everybody stop cutting their beards?

Your PRIVATE worship practices are just that - PRIVATE.  Keep yours private, and I'll stop posting about how harmful and stupid they are.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hey, SCOTUS, it's time to bring your calendar up to date!

I guess time travel is possible after all.  It is easy, all you have to do is walk into the Supreme Court building, and it's 1964 again.

SCOTUS overturned one of the key provisions of one of the greatest and most influential laws passed in the 20th century - the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Congress can no longer treat the States differently according to conditions Roberts said were no longer in force, and must re-examine the conditions under which they shall be treated in the future.

The ruling did not end the pre clearance requirements, but it did change how that clearance can be determined.

In short, the Court has, once again, made a ruling that comes out of another time, another place and a completely different Universe from the one we live in.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The new Pope and how I still oppose Christianity.

I gotta say, this new Pope is a different kinda guy.  Anybody who can get elected to the highest position in an organization that is still considered an absolute monarchy, which is well known for imprisoning its office holders in almost two millennia of tradition and still figures he can stand up the entire Curia on a concert date can't be all bad.

Pope Francis has earned a rep as a stand up kinda guy that tends to live the monastic life his religion's purported founder said is the right way to live.  Which isn't easy when one is the head of a church whose real estate holdings in the center of Rome are, in both real property and contents, worth multiple billions of dollars at the very least.  Not to mention its property holdings world wide.

He lives in a small guest house, in a small suite at that, and hasn't spent a single night in the spacious papal apartments, nor does he wear the gaudy white-and-golden crap his predecessor did.  His ring, I understand, is silver, not gold.

One could almost say he is trying to live the common life.

But really?   Does any of that matter?  One can argue that the little things like that, which show "humility", do matter, and to be fair, when they do live the high life and wear the gold and the fancy clothes and the red shoes and live amongst the finery collected over almost two thousand years it does seem to send a totally different message.

One that says they don't really care about the common man and woman on the street.

But does living a simpler life, clothing and regalia of office really send the opposite message?  Is that enough?  Is it enough for the man to stiff the Curia by not showing up for a fancy concert in order to let everyone see that he is a different kind of pope?

Or is it merely window dressing?

To be frank, I don't know.  I do tend to be cynical about it, and it does seem that the Curia's obsession with their wealth is taken pretty seriously.  They don't seem to care about how it is perceived.

In all fairness, Francis does seem to care, in the way he refuses to bow to tradition and eschews the trappings of power and privilege.  I guess if one is a powerful message of "don't-give-a-shit", one can argue that the opposite one is as powerful a message of "yes-I-do".

Unfortunately for the new pope, there is more to caring than living the apparently simple life.  Yes, it does send the message that one should pay closer attention to Christ's teachings but if that is the message Francis wants to send, then he has much further to go in getting that message across.

If he wants to say to his faithful that he cares, then he needs to change the teachings of his church that are so painful and harmful to so many of them.  Things like how harmful condoms are.  Or how contraceptives are sinful.  How about the message that women are second class citizens because they cannot be priests?

To be frank, were I a woman, I wouldn't care if he walked around in a loincloth and barefoot - as long as he calls me less than fully human, he may as well be wearing all that gold filigree for all the good his choice of wardrobe will do him.

Same thing for those who do not fit the "normal" gender identities.

What counts is where the rubber meets the road.  Will he change the radical right wing direction his church has been madly veering in for the last three popes?  There are reasons why the RCC cannot attract enough priests and why their pews are getting emptier and emptier as the years go by, and whether or not the pope wears Prada doesn't make a hill of beans towards explaining either of those problems.

What will tell is who he appoints in the positions that will matter in how the Curia is run while he is office.  Whether they are conservatives who will maintain the same direction of radical fundamentalism or whether they will be more progressive and move the church towards a new direction.

Not to mention whether he can survive without getting "ill".

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ethics - Is it really that complex?

I did, way back in the day, graduate from college.  I got a bachelor's degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.

What that degree course of study did NOT include was one on ethics.  It is a lack I have always felt was a mistake.  It also did not include anything on philosophy.

So, please understand that I am approaching this entirely on my own, from my own lifetime's experience.

Ethics, to me is the study of how people should act in their relationships with other people.  Being ethical is following the rules our society generally sees as the "right" thing to do.  Now, there is of course, a lot of discussion, argument and downright shouting at times over what is "ethical", and there are a lot of wannabe lawyers who will be happy to tell you the difference between ethics and what is legal.

Webster says ethics is:
the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
 Webster says morality is:
a : a moral discourse, statement, or lesson
b : a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson
a : a doctrine or system of moral conduct
b plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct
3  : conformity to ideals of right human conduct
So, it seems that ethics and morality are inextricably mixed up with one another, and pretty much seem to be talking abut the same thing.

Human conduct, especially regarding how that conduct affects others, is at the heart of ethics and morality.

Now, our Christian neighbors will tell you that their morality is informed by the Bible.  I think we've talked about that before, and I have written before (but not on this blog) on how the Ten Commandments are a poor fit for what Americans see as moral and right - at least what I grew up with in the great State of Texas.

I did write a post about how biblical morals aren't American morals, and it is clear that they aren't.  You've just got to discard too many biblical verses in order for that to be true - I mean we actually fought a war over slavery, and most of us still see slavery as bad.  Americans are wedded to our mixed fabrics, eat who knows how many multiple tons of shellfish a year and make absolutely no distinction over whether our meaty animal donors have a split hoof or not.  I assume most Americans see genocide (including bashing babies) as an immoral act.  I certainly do.

So, if morals and ethics don't come from a holy book, where do they come from?


Morality and ethics is an inherently human thing.  I suppose one could argue that dolphins and elephants show moral behavior, and perhaps some species of hominids have their own version too, but the data from the examination of those species is pretty thin.

So, let's just go with the human aspect of it for now.

Humanity has been around in one form or another for several million years, although our current form, as Homo Sapiens Sapiens is probably from around 200,000 years or so ago.  For some reason, around 50,000 years ago, we began exhibiting more modern behavior, including cooking with fire and so forth, although there is now more evidence that we did use tools much earlier than that.

But for our current purposes, let's say that the human species has had at least 50,000 years of experience at building ourselves a civilization.  In geologic terms, heck, even in anthropological terms, that isn't much.  A lot of that time was spent hunting and gathering for a living, and it apparently took us quite some time before we discovered that cooperation was the key to not only surviving, but in getting ahead in the civilization game.  Slowly, over the intervening years, humans have discovered that group cooperation, including taking care of the elderly, the infirm and the unfortunate works even better as the groups get bigger.

Of course, a lot of other behaviors, including sexual, marital, professional, business and political, have become better and better defined, and we have found a lot of behavior that is best left out of our list of what is acceptable.

But religion has crept in and muddied the waters.  Too many people like to claim that our morals and ethics are defined by a revealed set of morals - morals revealed to us by some invisible deity.  Of course once we actually take a close look at those "morals", we find that most of them have to do with either allowable behaviors regarding the "in crowd" - the tribal group - or with proper religious behaviors, i.e., going to church on Sunday, not worshiping competing gods, etc.  Very few of the "revealed" proper behaviors are anything actually new, and most of the non-religious ones are values already known and enforced by previous societies.

The overriding value one sees as being seen as bad is the idea that one can hurt a member of the in group.  Overall, humans see the idea of not hurting one's friends and neighbors as being a behavior that is to be encouraged.  A lot of more complex behaviors can be extrapolated from that one idea, activities that cover the entire range of human activities.

This is the basis of my assertion that one can be good without a deity.  Good without god, if you will.  Examine the teachings of Jesus, throwing out the obviously religiously flavored ones, and the over riding principle one sees is this one - the thought that one should not hurt others, and indeed, should help them whenever and wherever you can.  It isn't unique with Christianity, however, and was part of several of the "mystery" religions in the Mediterranean area before the first century.  It is the heart of human "in" group behavior.

The thrust of our modern ideals of morality and ethics then, is convincing people to accept a wider and wider ideal of who, exactly, is or should be seen as being part of the "in" group.  It used to be family, then clan, or groups of families loosely related, then tribal and finally national.

Our modern era is now struggling with the idea that nationalism is the modern ultimate in divisiveness. At the same time, we are also struggling with the even more modern idea of dropping religion, which many see as even more divisive than nationalism.

Both nationalism and religion are about control.  Just about any governmental system is about control, and the further back one goes in history, the more controlling and divisive government is seen to be.  But today, if we can hold on to the ideals of democracy we started this country with, I think we can continue our experiment with the most free and the least controlling system man has invented.

But first, we need to drop the ideals of religion.  That is the most controlling of all, as it invades the mind and alters one's very view of reality.

It also twists one's view of morality and ethics.

Twisted ethics and morality are the bane of man's existence.  Let's get back on track.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Preemptive Strike with no guts, no glory and no effectiveness.

A very interesting article came out yesterday on Think Progress entitled, "Preemptive Strike: Conservatives Vow To Defy Supreme Court If It Rules For Marriage Equality", where a whole passel of fundies have released a letter Thursday vowing to ignore any U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
As the Supreme Court acknowledged in the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, its power rests solely upon the legitimacy of its decisions in the eyes of the people. If the Supreme Court were to issue a decision that redefined marriage or provided a precedent on which to build an argument to redefine marriage, the Supreme Court will thereby undermine its legitimacy. The Court will significantly decrease its credibility and impair the role it has assumed for itself as a moral authority. It will be acting beyond its proper constitutional role and contrary to the Natural Moral Law which transcends religions, culture, and time.
Unfortunately for these poor fundies, "the people" are not defined as only Conservatives, or only whites, or only the populations of conservative white Southern States.  In this context, "The People" are the ENTIRE population of these United States, and their white southern states ARE part of that union, like it or not.   And, much to their dismay, so are members of the LGBT communities.

The Court is not going to rule on the "definition" of marriage.  It will rule on the Constitutionality of the democratic governments defined and empowered by the United States Constitution being able to discriminate against a narrowly defined group of people based on a single narrow characteristic largely applied to human beings through the expression of their genes.  You know, much like the color of your skin.

If this results in the "redefinition" of marriage, then I'd say it was badly defined in the first place.  As a matter of fact, I believe the entire manner in which government is involved in "marriage" is badly done in this country anyway and needs to be revamped completely.

That said, this whole meltdown on the part of Conservatives is a red herring.  Even if the SCOTUS rules that governments cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation (the gay movement's Holy Grail), it will not affect the ability of the various religious groups in this country who object to gay marriage from continuing to discriminate on that basis.  For them and their marriage practices, NOTHING will change.

Let me say that again.

For the bigoted religious groups who see gay marriage as a sin and forbidden by their god, NOTHING will change.  They can continue to marry only heterosexual couples, forbidding same sex couples from enjoying the sacrament of marriage according to their god.  This ruling will affect only governments and how they can deal with sexual orientation.

So, what's all the fuss about?

Control and influence.

These religious fundamentalists are afraid of seeing another milestone in the decline of their continuing influence in the manner of how this society is controlled and run.   If they can no longer force governments to adhere to their religious practices, they will howl about another "attack" on their religion.  They will play the victim card, no matter how tattered and threadbare that card may have become lately.

It is a continuance of their nightmare come true.

I sincerely hope that the SCOTUS rules against the bigots.  I hope that they put a stake in the heart of bigotry in this country.  It is time for that nasty human characteristic to die out.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sexism. It's time for something that will make you sit up and think about it.

I ran across this on Facebook today, from UpWorthy.

It is about a site a women in Britain started, a place where women could put their stories about how they had been sexually harassed.  She thought she'd get a dozen or so - she actually got over 25,000.

From UpWorthy.

Go watch it.  Really, go.  I'd go to her site, but I don't think I could stomach it.

This is eye opening, at least for me.  Of course, nobody's going to sneak up on me on the Metro and grab my ass.  Except maybe for my wife...

Let me be clear about this.  Sexism in any form is wrong.  Harassment, discrimination, date rape, spanking your wife, you name it.  If it denigrates women, makes them unequal, pays them less, or fails to allow them the same full control and worth as human beings which men take for granted, then it is just wrong.

Even if we think we are doing it right.  Me included.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Crazy: It just keeps on coming!

Hey, folks!  It seems that the Republicans are bound and determined to both keep up the crazy stuff and also continue to alienate women, minorities and just about everybody else - but women seem to be at the top of the list.

Just the other day, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said that abortion should be banned as early as 15 weeks after conception because he has witnessed male fetuses masturbate at that stage.

Really?  I mean, come on, this country is simply INSANE about sex.  I can guarantee you that had someone taken a photo of an ultrasound showing a fetus masturbating, that sucker would have hit the internet in about 2.4 seconds.  Flat.  I know this is an argument from silence, but hey, YOU tell ME of any other subject that would garner more attention, huh?  I say if it ain't on YouTube, it ain't true.

And if that isn't crazy enough for you, listen to this:
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) told colleagues on the House floor on Tuesday that young boys and girls should take classes on traditional gender roles in a marriage because there are some things fathers do "maybe a little bit better" than mothers.
 Huh.  Georgia.  Apologies to my Facebook friends in Georgia, but that comes as no surprise.

So, he doubles down:
"Of my three daughters and one daughter-in-law, they all work," he said. "They all work, some of them full-time, some of them part-time. But they’re still there as moms. And when they come home and take over that responsibility, they need a shared partner, and that partner is that partner for life. And I’m talking about, of course, the father."
Oh, yeah, the man.   So that's where he's going.  Now we have to teach our kids that being gay is wrong.  Never mind that nobody has a choice as to whether they are gay or not.  We are just going to propagandize all the little buggers from way before the time when they even know there's any difference between boys and girls to think that if they have any feelings that are different that they are just sorry, twisted, devil-infected faggots.  You know, so they don't get any funny ideas about dragging all their friends there with them...

Sick bastards.

Ah, but there's more!
Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) believes women have no place in elite military units, he said Tuesday in a Facebook post accusing President Barack Obama and the Defense Department of enacting a policy change that does not take combat roles seriously enough. 
"I find it completely hypocritical for everyone to be up in arms about military sexual assault, but then want to cast women into high stress small unit combat elements," he said. "The objective is obvious: destroy the last bastions of American warrior culture all for the advancement of a misguided vision of fairness and equality."
Yes, folks, now Obama & Co. are at war with America's "warrior culture"!!

Good.  Keep it up.  I do doubt, however, that the use of women in combat is going to do any harm to our "warrior" culture.  The Israelis have been drafting women for combat units for decades, and they are part of what is acknowledged world-wide as one of the most professional armies just about anywhere.

Think of another one, West.  You can do it!

On another note, the House has voted a bill to prevent the President from closing the Guantanamo Bay holding facility.  After, of course, criticizing him last week for not doing just that!

I know, crazy, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My long promised Restoration Saga!

A while back, I mentioned that my Mac had suffered the death of its Hard Drive, and Apple was going to fix it under warranty.  I also promised that I would come back here and relate the experience.

Here I am!  Sorry for the delay, things have been a bit hectic recently.

Anyway, on to the story.

Apple performed magnificently, returning my iMac to me within the promised time period, ironically the same day they released an update to OS X, version 10.8.4.

I went to the Apple store in the Montgomery Mall on Democracy Boulevard, dragging my large suitcase with me. (I was certainly not going to carry the thing, it weighs a ton - 27 inches of screen space comes with a heavy weight penalty - literally!)  I got some odd looks coming in the door, but I wended my way through the crowd in the store easily.

I checked in, having made an appointment to pick it up.  (Note to Apple customers:  If you drop off an Apple product at an Apple store for repair, you do NOT need an appointment to pick it up, they immediately take you to the front of the line.)

I was in and out of the store in ten minutes.

Got home, plugged everything in, turned it on, and...Nirvana!  It worked, as advertised.  They'd loaded 10.8.3 on it, which was no surprise, as the .4 version was released the day after they'd finished the repair.  They never put an unreleased version on repaired machines.  So, I had to do it myself.

As the machine had logged in automatically to an admin account, I simply went to the Apple App Store app and hit the selection for updates.  There were more than one, but the main one I saw was the 10.8.4 system update.

I clicked the "install" button and typed in the password for my iCloud account.  The download began, and took about 18 minutes.

The install itself didn't take long, less than 15 minutes, a restart and the Apple Menu showed in About This Mac that it was running 10.8.4!  Easy-peasy!

Next, I opened the app folder and the enclosed Utilities folder and started the Migration Assistant.  As part of the set up for it, you are asked first if you want to migrate data from another Mac or a backup.  I chose the Time Capsule backup, since that is where mine lives.

Less than two hours later (I've got over 680 gigs worth of data to restore - that takes time, even at Gigabit ethernet speeds), it was finished.

Perusing the files and so forth, I was glad to see my data had been restored, but there were issues.

1.  Missing apps.  A lot of apps I'd bought and installed were missing.
2.  Settings.  Many of my settings, for system and apps, were also missing.  Safari history, settings, extensions, etc., were also missing.

Desktop stuff was right where I expected them to be, though, and my account password, etc., appeared to be correct.

Well, it was late at night, so instead of doing the geek thing, which would have been to blow it away and start over, I had to wait a couple of days for the time to present itself again.

A few days later, that is exactly what I did.  I had NOT re-started the Time Machine backups, especially for this, to avoid any mixups.

I DID go into Time Machine to make sure it could "see" my backups.  They were there and readable.

I booted from a recovery disk I'd made last year, and opened Disk Utility.  Going to the Partitioning Tab, I repartitioned the disk.  This has the laudable and desirable ability to "erase" all the data on the disk in just a few minutes, instead of waiting for it to drag itself through all 680+ gigs of data to do that file by file.  MUCH faster, I can tell you!

I renamed the disk Macintosh HD.

Back at the desktop, I went back to the App Store, opened the Purchased Tab and downloaded Mountain Lion again.  That took another authentication of my iCloud account.

Launching the installer, I installed ML on the Macintosh HD.  This had the desired effect of installing the current version, which was 10.8.4.

After the restart into the newly installed system on the Macintosh HD, I again went to the Migration Assistant and again told it to restore from the Time Capsule backup.

THIS time, around two hours later, my system was back to where it was the hour and day it last did a backup before the HD died.  Settings, apps, data, everything, exactly where it was supposed to be, as if the drive had never died.

What was the difference?  Why did it not restore perfectly the first time?

While I cannot attest to this under oath, I'd bet that the reason is that the first restore was done on an upgraded system instead of a fresh, clean install of the latest and greatest.  In my experience, clean installs are best, as even a system freshly installed that is then updated can introduce glitches in subsequent operations, especially a restore.

Don't get me wrong, upgrades and updates are perfectly fine, and I've had machines that were updated and upgraded for sometimes years in between clean installs without so much as a single glitch.  But this attests to the fact that a major operation like a complete system restore is best done with a nice, clean new install.

So, for those with the stick-to-itiveness to still be reading this far in, here is the take away from my experience:

1.  No matter what your chosen Operating System, Mac, Windows or Linux, BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP.  None of this would have been possible if I'd not done a backup.

2.  Backup consistently.  Doing it occasionally is a recipe for the disaster of lost files.  Do it regularly.  Be religious about it.  Set your backup app to do it automatically, and CHECK periodically to ensure that it is still doing it right.

3.  VERIFY your backups.  Periodically, find a file at random on your disk, move it to another location and restore it back to the original location using your regular backup app.  This will ensure that when the inevitable happens, your data is still there to be restored.  If the backup is corrupted or somehow been deleted, you may as well not be doing it at all.

4.  Keep a separate off-site backup.  What will you do if a natural disaster destroys your house?  If you have no off-site backup, you may as well have not bothered to waste your time.

5.  Use the Cloud.  Besides the Apple iCloud offerings, there are other companies which offer Cloud-like functionality to allow you to keep email, photos, music, and so forth stored in their servers, completely away from the possibility of anything which might happen to your computer.  This can reduce considerably the amount of local disk space you may need for your backups, too!

Last and not least, I will always, unless Apple does something immensely stupid, advise my friends, family, and readers to buy Apple products.  I can attest to the fact that their normal, standard offerings for regular users like you and me are robust, easy to use, compatible with most other platforms and offer an easy but powerful backup technology to keep your data safe.

There, Mr. Cook, I've earned the two bits you guys still owe me for advertising your products.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Proof to point to!

I have been using this blog for a while to point to religion as harmful to society, harmful to our democratic structures, and to individuals.  I've tried to differentiate between the belief and the believer - that my arguments are not to point out any person as being stupid or backward mentally simply because of holding those beliefs, but that the belief itself is subject to misunderstanding, manipulation, and outright fraud in ways that are truly and openly harmful.

I know that I have been only partially successful, and will try harder in the future.

But last night, there was a wonderful experience that I must relate to you.

I host a discussion group through the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) that meets in my home once a month.  We have attendance of between 10 to 20 people, depending on how attractive the subject is, the time of year and how busy our usual crowd is that month.  We also have a few folks each month who come to us though the site.  Some come back, some don't.  It has been going on for around five years now, and by and large, it is considered a success.

Last night, we had a special guest come to present his findings about his sociologic studies on religion, which he has written up in a book.

The young man, Ryan T. Cragun, is an Associate Professor with the University of Tampa's Department of Socialology, and he has written a very interesting book, "What You Don’t Know About Religion (But Should)"

Instead of trying to characterize it myself, I shall treat you to the précis on his web site about the book:
What You Don’t Know About Religion (but should) is an introduction to the social scientific and sociological study of religion for non-experts. Using clear and simple statistical analyses with US and international data, Ryan T. Cragun provides the answers to these and other questions. At times irreverent, but always engaging and illuminating, What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) is for all those who have ever wondered whether religion helps or hurts society—or questioned what the future holds for religion.
 Professor Cragun has not only written an interesting book, but he is a fascinating speaker, and is often asked to go to various places where he delivers speeches on the subject of religion and his study of it.

If you have ever doubted my assertions of the harm religion does, is capable of doing, or how it gets twisted into such a harmful state, pick up the Professor's book.

His book is available on Amazon, and he said it will be available as a Kindle book on June 15th.

I strongly recommend his book, and also has a few videos on YouTube, one of him at the Atheists of Florida.

Go.  Listen.  Read.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Really, Texas? Really? Are you people that insane?

When I grew up, Texas had a reputation of a State with a finely honed sense of justice.  We even had the Texas Rangers to prove it.  Still do, supposedly.

But what insanity has gripped the people of San Antonio that they would allow a man who would open fire on a woman, unarmed, who wasn't even looking at him to get off scott free?  When I grew up, shooting a women, even one who may have deserved it, was as close to a hanging offense as one could get in modern day Texas.

The defendant said that he paid for sex, and she refused to give it to him, so he was justified in shooting her under a Texas law that allows deadly force to retrieve stolen property.

So now, it isn't just that property is more important than a human life, but now we know just exactly how much Texans think your life is worth - if you are a woman.


I could buy a toaster for more than that.  Heck, my iPhone cost way more than that!

For shame.  For shame, I say.  Hang your heads in shame, people.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

How much longer can we call ourselves a Democracy?

I have been an open critic of the Patriot Act since it was passed in 2001.  I was unhappy when it was reauthorized in 2006, and even more openly critical when it was again reauthorized in 2011.

This week, the predictions of numerous outspoken critics like Senator Bernie Sanders have come alarmingly true, now that the actions of Verizon in providing the communications records of millions of its customers to the NSA have been revealed.

The Patriot Act, I am convinced, is about as directly unConstitutional as a law can get, and is only protected from being struck down by the perfidy of the SCOTUS in shutting down lawsuits against it by disallowing plaintiffs' standing to sue.

There is a reason that the Constitution set the Fourth Amendment in place, restricting the ability of the government to search your person and your effects for evidence of criminal activity, and that is due to the British actions during the Revolutionary period in violating citizens' persons and property looking for just such evidence without so much as a by-your-leave or a single excuse me.  That colonial power used its exclusive possession of military force to allow its agents free rein in turning people's lives upside down both in those searches and in the imprisonment that inevitably followed.  That amendment was put in place to stop the new US government from doing the same thing.

The only reason we aren't up in arms about this latest invasion of our privacy is that we can't see it.  It is invisible, sucking in every little bit or byte your computer or telephone puts out and storing it for possible use against you should the invisible powers doing the sucking decide that you might be a national security risk.  What's more, the very law the government has passed giving itself the power to violate the Constitution prevents your carrier - Verizon in this case - from even notifying you of that violation of your privacy!  Furthermore, should you find out, the SCOTUS has ruled that an illegal disclosure cannot give you standing to sue for relief.

The blame for this is a Congress that has repeatedly reauthorized this illegal and massive violation of privacy twice since its passage.  A Congress that has no backbone and, since President Obama's election, no desire, to stop the ongoing Presidential Power Grab.  Unfortunately, this Congress has even less backbone for this, as Republicans have only one desire - to turn this into another "Obama scandal".


This is not "Obama's" fault, it is the fault of a governmental system that perpetuates the acquisition of and the hoarding of as much power as possible for whichever Branch of government can manage it.  It is enabled by government officials who are blinded by corruption and money wielded by Corporations whose only goal is the acquisition of as much profit as possible.

The solution is for the members of Congress to take their integrity back.  The answer is for them to put some steel into their backbones, stand up to the moneyed interests and refuse to go along any more.

But don't look for any of that.  Congress has been taken by the Republicans, not by the usual process of elections, but by the cowardice of the Democrats, who have refused to take a principled stand against pride, corruption and sheer stupidity and have allowed themselves to be dragged through the muck and the mire of political grandstanding and corruption.

Don't ask me how to fix it.  I'm fresh out of ideas.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Backup, backup, backup!

I won't finish writing about this for a few days, as my dear, precious iMac is still in surgery, having a new hard drive installed.  It's kinda like a heart transplant combined with brain surgery for you or me...

Poor thing.

But, she's lucky being mine, because I am positively anal about one thing: backing up my data.

Fortunately, Apple, Inc. makes it easy to do and to keep your stuff safe.  All you need is a relatively current version of OS X and a backup disk, or perhaps a Time Capsule.  In my case, I have both.  The Time Capsule is the primary backup, backing up my stuff hourly, keeping one daily backup weekly for the long term.  In addition, I also have two portable drives, one terabyte each, which get rotated periodically in and out of the bank vault where our safety deposit box is kept.

That way, I am covered, if I need to recover just one file, or, as in this case, the entire HD goes south and Apple has to replace it.  When they give it back to me, it'll have OS X 10.8.4 installed, and all I have to do is use Migration Assistant to migrate all my accounts and all their data back onto the new HD.

Takes about an hour and a half, depending on the amount of data to restore.  Easy!  In the long run, no data is lost at all, and new stuff saved in the Cloud migrates down back to the requisite apps on the new hard drive once it comes back up.

I never lose a thing.

Why am I so anal about this?  Because I once ignored my backups and, thinking they were just fine, lost an entire year's worth of data, including some photos, because the backup I thought I had was corrupted.

Never again!

So, my message to you out there is, back it up.  Don't take it for granted, check those backups periodically, to ensure that they really do contain the data you think they do, and that they are not corrupted and have good data retention.

If the data you have is irreplaceable, then KEEP IT IN MORE THAN ONE PLACE!!  Pay for a cloud based backup service, use an external hard drive and have an extra one you keep in a safety deposit box.  Three backups are just barely enough IF one of them is off site to ensure you against theft, disaster or fire. 

Data lost is data lost, and it CANNOT BE replaced.  Electronic bits and bytes are fragile and can disappear in an instant.  Don't take any chances, folks, you'll never get that photo of your great grandmother again and your kids will never be so cute as they were at two.  And you'll probably never get that incriminating shot of your spouse as sauced as he/she was last New Year's again, so KEEP THEM SAFE!!

You've been warned.

Monday, June 03, 2013

More Christian Crazy

Well, its been a while since I've done a post on how crazy those christian can get, and boy, howdy, they haven't disappointed!

Chris Rodda, whose blog "This Week in Christian Nationalism" on FreeThought Blogs is a regular stopping place for me, has a regular feature where she shares the wonderful "love" that is shared with her by Christian writers on a pretty regular basis - like every day.

Today's email is an interesting read, but I warn you, the crazy will make you want to wash your brain out with bleach when you've seen it all!

From: (email address withheld … yes, MRFF even withholds the email addresses of assholes)
Subject: your family and friends will burn first. then you
Date: June 2, 2013 11:14:38 PM MDT
To: Information Weinstein <——>

Bought your ‘No Snowflake book’. Right after Fox news reported that Ayatollah Hussein Obama appointed (should we say ‘annointed’?) you to persecute loving Christians in our U.S. armed forces. Burned that book right after reading it all. Spirit of Satan on every single page. Saw how you brought your fellow evildoers Joseph Wilson and Lawrence Wilkerson to your pentagon meeting. Our church is near a large Army base. Our church had a faith retreat this weekend. Many military families among us. You were the main topic. You are a very dangerous man to America, Michael Wienstein. You grow more dangerous every day. Especially to Jesus Christ. We have agreed that you are irredeemable. Now your forcing Christian paintings to be taken down on military bases. The pentagon is very afraid of you even. Of course that is Hussein Obama’s plan. Because if they stand up to you you will sick our Muslim president on them. You have this demonic power of darkness in abundance. Saw the pictures of you and your family in the book. Too bad for you. And worse for them. We prayed at the retreat this weekend that they will surely burn for all time. In the unquechable fires of hell. For your willing sins. John 3:36. Mark9:43. We prayed that Wilson and Wilkerson will also burn in hell for your sins, Michael Weinstien. We prayed that you will be the last to burn. So that you may first experience the divine eternal suffering of your wife, children and Wilson and Wilkerson. Our Lord and Savior has promised us this.  That He will make our prayers for you to witness those you love and care for suffer come true. It is already written. 1 John 5:14-15. Your time draws near. You think all is peaceful and secure for yourself and those you harbor. But there is no escape. 1 Thessaloninas 5:3. You will watch them all burn in chains forged by the Son of Man. And then you will burn, son of satan.

At first, I was going to just give you a little taste, but I got carried away.  (My precious baby, Pop's iMac, is having surgery to repair a failing hard drive this week, and the Blogger app on the iPad sucks at such basic things as entering url links, so you'll just have to google Chris' blog and go read her post yourself.)

As for these idiots, there are several things that stand out.

First, upon "deciding" that Mikey is irredeemable", they immediately fail their first test - because to Jesus, all things are possible - so they should simply pray for his soul, according to their scriptures.  But instead, they are praying imprecatory prayers against him, with the intention of asking god to harm him - AND HIS FAMILY!!  Not to mention his FRIENDS!!

Now, I don't know about you, but it doesn't seem to match their lord and savior's teachings to pray to harm someone, but to pray for the harm to family and friends is just so outrageous as to be completely over the top.  They also specifically pray for the eternal suffering of his wife and children.

I've written before about these dirtbags and their insistence that their brand of christianity is the right one, and that's crazy enough.  But once again, they have proven that there just isn't any humanity left in them, and their religion is simply the same thing as Islamic fundamentalism - an excuse to dominate others with their particular brand of thuggery.

This isn't religion, it is using religion to attempt to come to power for what otherwise is a secular purpose - to gain power, to wield power and to deny freedom to anyone who disagrees with them.

Unfortunately, religion, by its very nature, lends itself to this kind of thuggery and twisted gangsterism to a very high degree.  Too bad more people can't see it.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Nature vs. an absence of Nurture.

I just finished watching the second episode of the Discovery Channel's new series, North America.  It is a nature series with beautiful photography, fascinating animals and well documented stories of how they survive from year to year, season by season.  This episode documented, among others, how 30,000 grizzly bears survive in the Alaskan wilderness.  How a mother bear cares for her brood for two years before cutting them loose as she mates again.

As I contemplated this show and its fantastic photography, I ruminated about the difference between the animal kingdom and how man has developed over the last ten to fifteen thousand years.

We've gone from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an advanced civilization capable of sending members of our species to the moon and our remote devices out into the galactic spaces between the stars. This is a remarkable journey, directly attributable to man's development of a cooperative instinct combined with our ability to learn from our (and our ancestors') mistakes, however spotty and temporary such lessons may be.

We've learned that we can stick together and cooperate in everything from hunting, to farming, to distributing the resulting products to a large and distant population removed completely from the mechanics of food production.

Animals can't do that - all of their efforts must go towards the obtaining of enough food to allow survival through the winter until food becomes available in spring.  There is no leisure time.

People have leisure time. Our cooperation allows us to spread the work of providing food, shelter and other necessities among enough of us that the larger number of us don't even have to know how food is produced and distributed!  Too many of our kids have never seen an animal slaughtered for butchering, or even are aware that the process exists!  Food comes from a supermarket, not the ground or with the death of an animal.

Pretty astonishing that we could do this in ten to fifteen thousand years, given our proclivity for violence.

But there is a fly in this wonderful ointment.

It is called the Republican Party.

Recently, I have seen Facebook memes to the affect that Republicans want to take us back to the 1930's, or even the eighteenth century.  This is patently false.

After viewing this program, it is obvious to me that Republican "values" of libertarianism would take us back, not a hundred years, nor even two hundred.  These values are so damaging to what humans have learned in the last ten thousand years, their efforts would destroy our ability to cooperate in maintaining an advanced society at all, and would set that ability back at least four or five thousand years, if not eventually the entire ten thousand.

One cannot maintain an advanced technological society without an educated population.  One must know and understand science and the scientific method in order to be able to be a productive citizen either as a worker or a voter.  Republicans are intent on destroying America's public education system, a system we developed over the last two hundred years and which assisted us in becoming one of the most technologically developed countries in the world in the 20th century.

They want to force social values back to a patriarchal system that kept mankind poor and struggling in violence and bloodshed for much of those ten thousand years.

We must not allow that to happen.