Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shattered feet of clay.

It is always unsettling - and a bit sad - to see an icon fall.  Our society so badly needs its heroes and icons, and when one's feet of clay are finally exposed, a lot of people are often terribly disappointed.

But some icons need to be exposed, because the things they represent are so sordid and harmful to society, yet have been touted as being good.

Mother Teresa is one such icon.

Her public figure has always been a saintly one, so loving, so giving, the head of an order (which she established) devoted to caring for the poverty stricken in need of medical attention, and possessing over 400 missions around the world. Such goodness, such devotion to poverty, she was depicted as living as poorly as her charges.

Christopher Hitchens exposed her for what she really was - a hollow figure, callously sequestering millions of donated dollars, refusing to provide the medication and care her charges so badly needed, she essentially forced them into the suffering she felt was so central to her public faith.   But when she needed care, she got it at an American hospital.  One of the best, at that!  Flew first class, was feted by the high and mighty.  Especially by dictators and warlords, who lavished her with donations, which she gladly took and often funneled directly to the Vatican.

And talking about her public faith; privately, she agonized over a disbelief she admitted in letters and private writings, one which could never be made public.  In reality, she admitted she never heard Jesus or God speak to her, and wondered if they even existed.

Now, in a peer reviewed study, two Canadian researchers have revealed new information, corroborating Hitchens completely, and totally exposing the raw truth of her perfidy at allowing a media campaign which twisted her into a public saint.

What is worse is that the Roman Catholic Church not only allowed that campaign, but probably orchestrated it in a callous and deliberate attempt to create another saint.  A figure meant to illustrate and illuminate the church's dogma of poverty and suffering, which it claims brings its adherents closer to God.

A dogma which, in actuality, simply controls its members by helping them to be happy in their poverty, fooling them into complacence and compliance.

When I write about harm from religion, this is what I am talking about.  Policies and actions which take a true shameful condition of millions of people around the world - one which could be alleviated - and turns it into a control measure to avoid those unhappy people from upsetting the current political order.

While the current Pope talks about how terrible secular capitalists are about hoarding money and perpetuating poverty by paying poverty level wages, the organization of which he is the absolute monarch is busy propagandizing those unhappy poverty stricken millions into believing that their plight is a blessed one to be embraced instead of improved upon.

In the meantime, the world marches on, pouring billions and billions of monetary units around the world into military capabilities with which to grind those unhappy millions into human paste.

Thank you, Mother Teresa.  On behalf of a frustrated world population which yearns for a world at peace, thank you for helping to perpetuate a world at war.  A world which encourages poverty and suffering.

Like you did.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It’s your government. Why do you want to kill it?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that just last September marked the 40th year I’ve worked for the United States Government, first as a GI in Europe, then as civilian employee at FDA, under the Department of Health and Human Services.  I’ve worked with people as diverse as Vietnam Vets, entomologists, lawyers, contract specialists (who spend millions of your tax dollars), real estate specialists, IT personnel with a huge diversity of specialities, drug manufacturing inspectors, retired military personnel of several different services, and people with many other talents.  Some of them were functionaries who worked at the same drudgery day after day and complained constantly - others were some of the smartest people I’ve ever known.  Almost all of them, complainers or not, showed up regularly, worked to the best of their ability and many of them could have quit Federal Service and gone to work outside of government service for more money than they made inside.  Some of them a considerable amount more.  The one thing they all pretty much had in common was a willingness to work in service to the United States and its people with the understanding and the knowledge that their work made a difference.

I know of very few who could point to a Federal salary which led to wealth and fame.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve never seen any evidence that any of us were involved in a conspiracy to take your guns, infect huge numbers of Americans with deadly diseases or detain millions of you in concentration camps.  All I’ve seen is normal Americans engaged in careers that benefited the US and her people tremendously.

Yet, there is a persistent group of people whose purpose in their political lives is to convince as many of you as possible that your government is engaged in a large number of nefarious plots and conspiracies to kill, imprison, enslave, and generally wreak havoc on, in particular, white Americans.  Their plot revolves around another point, contradictory to the first, that the very same government is so inept and clumsy that it cannot perform the simplest of basic governmental functions without completely making hash of the effort.

The right wing would have you think that the situation is so dire the only way to solve the problem is to make the government as small as possible so it can be conveniently drowned in a nearby bathtub.  Without water, preferably, so as to make the entire operation as cheap as can be.

As the Right Wing Saint Ronnie put it, “The government isn’t the solution to the problem, the government IS the problem!”

Bullshit.  That’s just plain, unadulterated bullshit.  Pure, unrefined and complete.

We do not live in a country which is governed by the military.  The Supreme Leader of this country doesn’t exist.  There is no “Feuhrer” and no “Dear Leader”.  The government of this land is controlled, as described by the preamble of the document that establishes the framework of our government, by We, the People.  It is, as established and empowered by that document, a Representative Democracy, or as otherwise described, a Republic.

The Representatives, as elected by Us, are empowered by our collective Voice.  Their power and ability to act is only delegated to them through the collective actions of The People through regularly held elections.  The Government is headed, in the Executive Branch, by a President, elected by the People every four years, and has the power to sign legislation into Law after it is duly passed by both the House and Senate.

This is the part of the government which is guided and informed by The People - or a majority of them.  That’s where the democracy comes in.  Popularly known as government By Majority.

But, the Founders knew that Power corrupts. They knew that a majority could be convinced that the Constitution was wrong and needed to be circumvented, because, well, GOD!  Theocracy in Europe has a long history (in fact, throughout world history, not just Europe).  Many of them had personally experienced what that meant, and the recent history of religious war in Europe was well known to all of them.

Few of them wanted that repeated here!

So, they came up with a third Branch of government, and tasked it with the crucial job of protecting both the Constitution and the minority of people who disagreed with the Majority!  The judiciary has the power to nullify laws (otherwise duly passed and signed in a procedurally correct manner) which are not allowed under the Constitution.  So, even if the Majority hates some ethnic group and wants to discriminate against them legally, the courts have the ability to nullify those laws based on the Constitution’s Equal Protection clauses.  If the majority wants to give a particular religious group some advantage under the law, those laws too, can be nullified under the auspices of the First Amendment.

That is NOT judicial activism.  That is NOT judicial “legislation”.  That’s the courts doing their fucking job.

Look, the preamble of the Constitution says very clearly that the government is established by We, the People to “…form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”.

It is that General Welfare clause that encompasses much of the government’s power.  The Supreme Court has interpreted that clause very generously, and the fact is, that interpretation has actually worked out pretty well.

There is a reason that people have, for over two hundred years, virtually broken down the gates getting in here, and lots of them still experience tremendous hardships to do that, legally or not, in order to experience those “Blessings of Liberty”.  The reason is that our government provides for us pretty well compared to others around the world.  We enjoy a peaceful existence and a freedom from violence that many other countries envy tremendously.

Our frontier traditions have instilled in us the urge to care for those whom misfortune has struck, and as the country has grown in population, we have decided that the most effective way to pool our efforts is through the government.

That is an advantage over private charity, and there is one reason why.


We cannot control, as a society, the uses private charities put our money to.  There are some legal restraints, yes, but by and large, private charities can legally put that money to whatever use they please.  Much of the time, what pleases them is to enrich themselves.

But when we give that money to the government and establish programs to distribute it or use it for caring for people who have specific problems, that money WILL be spent for that purpose.  There is, legally, no choice.  If at some point, we decide to repurpose that effort, through Congress and the President, that gets done just the way we want.

Control.  If the government is doing it, EVERYBODY gets a say in how that money is spent.

If private charity is doing it, who knows where it will go?  Only the people who run that charity have the authority to make that decision.

Which is why the Right Wing wants you to give to private charity.  Because the rich folks run them, and get rich doing that, and the Right Wing gets to decide much of where it goes, and to whom it goes.  A lot of that is based on religious charities.

They do not have the control and cannot benefit from that money if it is funneled through government programs.

So, you get the Right Wing meme that government is corrupt (which they have proven by joining it and corrupting it), inept (which they have proven by joining it and MAKING it inept), and cannot solve the country’s problems (which they have proven by joining it and making sure it cannot solve those problems.

Fuck these people and their false values!  Their every effort is to convince you and the rest of America that private enterprise is more effective than government, and that American Values are somehow based on GOD.

Both ideas are wrong, bankrupt and just plain unAmerican.

Vote Blue!  Vote Democratic this November!   Throw the bums out and lets take our government back!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

First Amendment, redux.

I suppose most of you have heard by now about the lady in Indiana who got pulled over by a State Trooper for a traffic violation and got proselytized and handed pamphlets instead, when she "admitted" to going to church, right?

That's bad enough, but listen to what the American Family Association of Indiana has to say in the officer's defense:

“Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Asso-ciation of Indiana, said that although the traffic stop might not have been the best time to quiz someone about faith, he questioned whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech because he is wearing a badge. 
“‘I have people pass out religious material all the time. Mormons come to my door all the time, and it doesn’t offend me,’ Clark said. ‘(This case) might not be the most persuasive time to talk to someone about their faith, but I don’t think that a police officer is prohibited from doing something like that.’ ”

Take another look at the part I emphasized.

That's the part that burns me up.  I hear this shit all the time.  Every time a public servant pulls out the religion card some right wing moron pulls this crap out of his hat in defense.

It is well established in past SCOTUS rulings throughout the 20th century that when a person is acting as an agent of the government (of whatever level) he/she is not acting in his/her capacity as an individual.  That person is acting in the "person" of the State, and has the authority of the State.

That's why, when a police officer confronts you for a violation of the law, that officer has the authority to summon you to court.  That isn't the cop telling you to go to court, it's THE COURT summoning you.

And he's doing it with a gun on his hip that he is authorized to use to kill you if you endanger him or a member of the public while he is performing his job.

Read this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,...
Now, then, think about that for a moment.  It is known as the Establishment Clause.  It means that Congress (and by virtue of the 14th amendment, that goes for State and local governments, too) cannot pass laws (or regulations) that favor a religion.  In other words, establishing an official relationship between the government and a religion.

Now, read that again:
               Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,...
Is it becoming any clearer?  A cop, or any public servant, in the course of performing his/her official duties, while acting thus as an agent of the State, cannot act in a manner consistent with the establishment of an official relationship with a religion.  Favoring a religion gives the impression of such an official relationship.

Giving out pamphlets gives the impression of such an official relationship.

Asking if someone has accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior gives the impression of such an official relationship.

Every cop is familiar with the principle of time, place and manner.  Some things are only appropriate at a certain time, or in a certain place, or in a certain manner.  That is how it is with religion.

If that cop had approached the woman on the street, in civilian clothes, and engaged her in conversation and handed her that pamphlet, she would have been free to disengage and refuse the material.  His approach would have been proper, and legal, and nobody would have any grounds to complain.

But by approaching her with those words and that material in uniform, with a traffic citation book in hand, she was NOT free to disengage.  She could not leave, and she was well advised to be in fear that had she demurred his offer of that material, she would have been awarded with a traffic citation.

No.  The officer had no right to put an innocent (or even a guilty) civilian in such a position.  Yes, his First Amendment rights get checked at the door when he puts on the uniform.

You see, there's another aspect of the First Amendment that needs to be understood here.

It applies to what is called Prior Restraint by the government on your right to speak, or to the prohibition of the government's ability to punish for past speech.

The government.  In this case, yes, his employer is the government, but because he is in an employee/employer relationship with the government agency in question, that agreement governs the relationship.  Part of the implied (and often implicit) governing rules of that relationship is the employer's right to restrict your speech while acting in its behalf.  It has the right to make you say things that are in accordance with its views and policies, and to NOT say things that are not in accordance with those views or policies.

That goes with ANY employer, private, public or government.  That's because in entering in that agreement, you do so voluntarily, by exercising your free will.  So, you are voluntarily giving up your right to speech while acting as your employer's agent.  This not a new or controversial rule.

Apparently, to the Indiana AFA, it is.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Playing Catchup!

I was just looking at the blog stats today (down, but surprisingly, not out) and realized I've not posted anything for over two months.

(Caution - Excuses ahead - if you cannot tolerate excises, lame or not, you might want to skip a paragraph or two...)

The summer was brutal - tenants moved out and we had to clean the place up, deal with contractors, etc., in preparation for putting the house on the market, which we did last month.  Every single weekend has been gobbled up by that house - and it is a bit over an hour away, so just going there is a chore.

Physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Well, we've had a couple of weeks of only a single trip up there (not both weekend days) and that just to water some flowers and make sure the A/C/Heater is working properly for the weather.  The house is professionally staged, and to let the flowers wilt into an early death might spoil the affect, dontcha think?  The Cyber-wife thinks so, so we go - or at least I do...

But all this while, I've been perusing Facebook, reading the news, talking with friends, online and off, and generally trying to soak up the feelings this election cycle.

I do tend to be a bit optimistic at times, but my considered opinion is that the Republicans are screwed.  Why?  The polls are mixed.  None of the pundits agree, either with me or with each other.

President Obama is still in office, the Republicans are still livid that he is, and determined to obfuscate at every opportunity - and even when there are none.

Republicans are still spouting nonsense, some are getting arrested or investigated, and the rest are acting like either children in kindergarten or high school kids with hormonal problems.

Democrats are still divided, one or two are playing the get-arrested-for-idiocy cards like Republicans and are still failing to play political hardball to take full advantage of Republican faults - which are many.

And Pat robertson is still talking like a demented Altzeimer's patient on steroids.

In short, everybody is doubling down on what they were doing last election, including Bernie Sanders, who seems to make more sense than most of them.

So, why do I think Republicans are going to not win this election?  (Notice I said "not win", instead of "lose" this election.)

Because they pretty much didn't win the last one, and they've done nothing to change their game.  While they've attempted a bit of fluff here and there to try to reach out to women or Hispanics, none of it went far, and never was a serious attempt, so neither went anywhere.  No wonder, all their energy went towards marginalizing and shitting all over both groups.

In at least one Senate race, today, it was noted the Republican in the race, an incumbent, is down with women by 18 points.  That is not an insignificant amount, and could lose him that election.  I don't remember the State, unfortunately, and I'm too lazy to go look it up.  They didn't say if that State has a significant Hispanic population, but the media has largely ignored those fine folk unless commenting snidely about immigration.  But the number of States who do is growing by the year, and in many of them, that population is often tending towards the Democrats, and not the Republicans as in the past.

I guess that wall down along the Mexican border is finally sinking into the Hispanic consciousness.  Republicans still haven't realized that the demographics there are catching up with them, and the media ignoring them hasn't helped.

That's cool, I hope they keep it up!

Last election, I posted almost daily about the shenanigans the Republicans were getting into - ;was passing against women, pronouncements against immigration, crazy, stupid statements about rape, abortion and women, and all of the typical crap they tend to spout.

I've avoided that this year for a couple of reasons.

First, I'm sick of it.  I could, if I wanted, do that again, but then again, I'd be repeating myself.  Day in, day out, like a broken record (younger set, google that!), same old crap.

Which brings up the second reason - if you really want to read any of that, just go back in my past posts and look up the last cycle - no use writing it again, I've already done that!

In short, Republicans haven't done anything different.  Same old anti-Obama crap, anti-immigration crap, same old anti-woman crap, same old anti-abortion crap.  Maybe a bit of shallow discoloration as camouflage, a few wilted leaves here, a bare branch stuck in a cap there.  Nothing to really disguise what they are still selling.

Unadulterated conservative crap, leavened with corporate bribery and topped with the fluffy whipped cream of religion.

It is less than a month before the election, folks, and some States allow early voting beginning SOON!

GO VOTE!!!  Get off your ass and get your friends, family and neighbors out to vote - especially if they are Democrats.  Urge everybody to vote Democratic.


Not only can't we afford to lose the Senate, but we really need to narrow the lead of Republicans in the House.  I don't know how much good that may do now and in the next two years, but it sure will make the next election easier to take the House back when we have a better chance!

And it wouldn't hurt to change a State House or two back to Democratic control, either.