Is that Jim Crow I Hear Cawing?

Credit: Steve Benson/The Republic

Credit: Steve Benson/The Republic

I’ve often pondered if people in our country are actually more stupid than they were years ago.  You would think that with all the advances in technology, education, you name it, we would get a bit smarter over time or if nothing else at least a little less ignorant.  When it comes down to it I expect the percentages of smart vs not-smart haven’t necessarily changed a great deal – despite the opportunities for people to learn and experience more given great strides in education and the advances we all experience in technology.  I think part of it is just that there are a lot more people overall and there just seem to be a lot more stupid people walking around.  I think the other thing that has happened is there are many more opportunities for people to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their stupidity and/or ignorance so many who in the past might have gone unnoticed are now out in the open.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln

And for those of you of more a religious persuasion –

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” – Proverbs 17:28

Arizona Legislators in Session

Arizona Legislators in Session

In the broader sense, the issue of gay rights is one of the opportunities for people to show their stupid and ignorant side.   The latest example is the current legislation that has passed in Arizona that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays.  In fairness to Arizona, they are not alone in their efforts to return their state to “better times” when the various Jim Crow laws legitimized discrimination and prejudice and worked very effectively to limit the rights of people in our country whom were not of the same mindset or belief system.  Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma – not really a surprise given not one of these states is ever recognized for progressive thinking.   Here again, under the guise of religion, we have a situation where one works to justify a horrid and what will eventually be recognized as illegal legislation.  The fact that the element of discrimination is entirely ignored by the legislators in Arizona is something I just don’t get although I do believe that religion can be mind-numbing when put in the hands of people who probably don’t think for themselves anyhow.   So it all comes down to Gov. Jan Brewer and her next move.

Someone should have mentioned SPF30...

Someone should have mentioned SPF30…

Do we trust Brewer will do the right thing and veto this law?  Remember this is the same woman who felt it appropriate to derisively wag her bony finger at President Obama on the tarmac during a visit to Arizona and who was too busy to attend a Governor’s dinner at the White House.  This is also the same woman who eliminated the Arizona KidsCare progam which provided healthcare to uninsured children and stopped Medicaid payments for transplants.  She loves guns and hates immigrants. This is the woman who in 2012 signed a law that barred state funding from going to any organization that provides abortion services. This meant that Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t use state money for abortions, was be deprived of funds they would have used to provide all manner of sexual health services, including services used by victims of sexual assault.  Bad enough on its own but when one considers that her son, Ronald, has been a patient at the state mental hospital for the last 20+ years after he was found not guilty of kidnap and sexual assault by reason of insanity.  In 1989, Ronald Brewer allegedly broke into a woman’s apartment, slapped her several times, and committed sex acts on her. After his 1990 indictment, his mother claimed that Ronald had “decompensated,” a psychiatric defense which means that although he’d been functioning normally before the attack, his state deteriorated. His lawyers argued that Ronald didn’t know, at the time, that what he was doing was wrong, and a judge agreed, committing Ronald indefinitely to the state’s hospital, where he still lives although he is free to leave with staff or with his parents.  Even more interesting is that in the days before Jan Brewer was sworn in as the state’s governor in 2009, Ronald’s criminal records were sealed – his case being only four out of 40,000 total criminal cases that were sealed in Maricopa County in Arizona in 2009.   She is the Tin Man – the epitome of a 2014 Tea Party Republican – a self-serving, do as I say not as I do, hate-mongering homophobe.

At least they were able to sit and get service....

At least they were able to sit and get service….

To allow this Arizona legislation to go forward brings us back to a time of which we should all be ashamed – but unfortunately only some of us are.  Religious Freedom my ass.

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2014 – In with a Bang

We are undoubtedly a nation with ADHD as evidenced by what has been almost a complete disappearance of any real focus on gun control this past year.  A small flurry to give some lip service so that the gun nuts (and those politicians bought by the gun nuts) don’t look like they don’t care at all but really more marching in place.  Most of these politicians had more important tasks at hand – like figuring out how to make the poor even poorer or how to bring our country to the edge of economic collapse.  But I digress.  It is not like we haven’t had the opportunity to have our attention clearly focused if we wanted to.  Since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary a little over a year ago, there has been no dearth of events to remind us of the travesty of an ineffective Congress aligned with an all-powerful gun lobby.  Even if we ignore the 35,000 Americans killed by guns in the last year, it is hard to pass by the 30+ incidents of mass murder with a gun.  In this year alone, not even a month into the new year, there have been at least 8 incidents in schools with guns – elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges – seems it is pretty much that no level is left out.  Of course pro-gun advocates immediately took to the mattresses to push for the elimination of so-called “gun-free zones” intended to keep areas with children and young adults free from guns.   More rhetoric from the gun-toting right that more guns is better.  This past weekend, the Mall shootings in Maryland again remind us all that none of us are really safe when we leave our houses.  And apparently even in our own house many of us manage to have our potential of death by gun rise – as has been recently publicized (but not new news), in houses where there is a gun a person is twice as likely to be murdered and 3 times more likely to commit suicide.  At least they keep it at home.   And if you are a woman, the likelihood off being murdered is even higher.   For you gun nuts who want to call bullshit, even the holy grail of news for people whom don’t want to think for themselves, Fox News, reported on the story – http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/01/21/gun-ownership-tied-to-three-fold-increase-in-suicide-risk/

 

g9

The answer is not simple in the details given the complexity of the problem.  To be perfectly honest, I am not in a place at all where I believe that guns should be outlawed.  I understand the important role they have played in our history but that lone isn’t reason to continue to maintain this national stupidity.  So if you want to shoot your food, go for it.  If you want a gun for protection, OK that is understandable – especially with the number of nuts out there.  Yes, there are alot of areas to be addressed beyond just increased gun control laws.  However, the solution of more guns doesn’t really seem to make a whole lot of sense.  The NRA mantra of more good guys with guns to take on the bad guys with guns just results in more people dead.  Pretty simple calculation and logic – more guns means more houses with guns which means more dead people (even just looking at the above stats).  We also have little chance of reducing the power and influence of the gun lobby but we can influence while picking out our legislators.  Let’s also get off the emotion train that somehow fuels thru rhetoric our inalienable right to have guns.  Ok but even if we go with the position that the 2nd amendment guarantees people the right to have guns, there is nothing in the amendment that precludes things like universal background checks or limiting gun magazine size to maybe a reasonable 6 or 7  (at least less than 10) bullets.

So what is so at risk when gun control is discussed.  First let me separate out normal gun owners from gun nuts.  Interestingly, most gun owners have no problem with Universal Background checks or even many of the changes that have been proposed over the past year.  Most of these people might actually be reasonable and rational people – they do have some concern for their loved ones and they don’t see any imminent government takeover looming.  So we really need to focus on two areas.  The real gun nuts and the industries/individuals that are economically tied to guns.  So the NRA, gun makers, gun dealers, Congress – it’s really all about money.  Companies aren’t giving up large profits and politicians aren’t giving up deep pockets. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA mouthpiece isn’t going to give up his $1 million salary for the sake of anyone’s safety. To be honest, Wayne is pretty much in the realm of the TV Evangelist – just hawking a different religion but still living the high life on the backs of those without.  Our answer here is thru the power of the vote.  Our only road is to make sure your legislator – at whatever level – knows you won’t vote for him or her if they continue to ignore this issue.

g2

For the “average” American gun nut, it has to go much deeper on a psychological level.  There has to be something missing in these people – most likely a level of self-confidence.  I would suggest that most of them are pretty much scared of everything around them.  They always see danger lurking in the shadows.  They see their weapon as the “great equalizer”.  All of a sudden they can go from powerless to powerful.  From small and inconsequential to large and impactful.  But only really in their minds.  In our world today it doesn’t really come down to “who has the biggest gun”.   But it makes them feel better even though to most of the rest of us they really look like idiots.  If it wasn’t that they were actually dangerous at some point it would almost be laughable.  To be honest, I’m not sure what you do with these people.  There is no reason or rational place to discuss or reach agreement.  When all you see is “the government” coming to take your guns, not much else rings true or really important.  I think we need to give them less attention and over time maybe they will start to thin out a bit given the stats we see on guns and murder and suicide.  Unfortunately until then, we’ll continue to see incidents like this weekend in Maryland where we don’t really know the beef the shooter had but in feeling powerful and somehow rationalizing a response of murder there are now two families mourning the loss of young ones.  We need to fix our politicians and take away the power of the gun lobby as the juice they spew only emboldens the gun nuts and somehow gives merit to their fears.  Back to the power of the note and the vote – let them know and then follow it up at the ballot.

 

Now speaking of gun nuts, here in Pennsylvania we can’t go too far without a small look at one of our illustrious police chiefs who has taken it upon himself to make it clear to the world that his right to free speech and to bear arms is at risk and to prove it he takes an automatic weapon (not his – he likely couldn’t afford it) and goes on a video rant about his issues with the local government, including shooting at targets he names after two local Gilberton board members (who would be part of the decision to fire him).  This is one angry Police Chief – only to be outdone by many of the individuals commenting on the various articles about what a great role model he was and there should be more law enforcement leaders like him out there.  Interesting amount of bigotry and prejudice-laced talk – but not a surprise given my original direction of how afraid these people are of most everything that doesn’t look, think or talk like they do.    In any case, a few pictures are worth a thousand words –

 

Mark Kessler - Boy Police Chief

Mark Kessler – Boy Police Chief

 

Kessler showing off his political persuasion

Kessler showing off his political persuasion

 

 

Have to wonder who is covering french fry duty at the local McDs

Kessler “militia types” – Have to wonder who is covering french fry duty at the local McDs

 

And for those who believe Kessler actually has the ability to do the job, a little fact to remember – he managed to shoot himself in the hand during an off-duty bar visit where he attempted to keep order.  One last bit of distressing news – he is also a member of the local school board – bet you those budget meetings are interesting…..definitely the caliber of individual I would want making education decisions for my children.

ENDA – Another National Disgrace for Nation – Boehner and the House

Today, the US Senate passed a bill banning workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.  What you say?  It has not been illegal to fire people based on the fact they are gay or they are trans-gender?  No, in the United States while no one can can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, they can because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Of course, most all of the Fortune 500 companies (88%) have policies that cover this but there is no federal law that does.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation that was proposed for the first time in 1994 in the United States Congress.  It prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.  When I first read about this law I, like many, was surprised that we don’t have this law on the books already.  In fact, there are 29 states where it is perfectly legal to terminate the employment of an individual who may be gay or transgender. The reality is that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 29 states. For those who are transgender they can be fired or denied employment solely based on their gender identity in 33 states.  Take a look at the map – won’t be real surprising which states but that is a whole other topic.   Pretty astounding when you think about it that in 2013, more than five decades after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act and then subsequent passage of the American Disabilities Act, we still have a country where this can happen.  To be honest, this is one of those “duh” moments where you wouldn’t think there should be even a question – not like I’m forcing you to take healthcare.  But we have a couple of key problems we need to cover as we look at why this has been taking so long and why, given the stance taken by those broad and deep thinkers in the US House – John Boehner in particular.

capenda

Credit: HRC.org

The arguments justifying this continued discrimination are several:

First, of course is the idea that it is okay to discriminate if something goes against the tenets of your so-called religion.  One of the core objections against ENDA bases itself in the religious right and flails around with the oft-cited “religious freedom” banner.  That too has been the rallying call behind the forces that have tried to stop many other causes that have come about to right the wrongs many of our citizens have endured over the years.  I read it as “I should be able to discriminate against anyone and anything that doesn’t fit into my set of beliefs” – which of course makes sense because they are right and there are no other belief systems with any merit.  But try to challenge their rights in any manner and listen to the cries of discrimination.  They feel that this legislation affords special protection to a group that is not disadvantaged so it isn’t really an issue of discrimination.  I don’t know but when I look around and see the second class citizen status these people have been pushed into, seems a bit disadvantaged to me.  For anyone reading my blogs with any consistency, you will know I have little regard or time for those who profess religious base and demand special rights but don’t see the same rights for others and have no issue refusing to acknowledge that their view of the world, which might work for them, might not work for anyone else.   See how far I would get if I, as an atheist, decided not to hire anyone who believed in a God because it somehow appalls me.  Not sure that would fly.  Of course, the immediate response would be that I couldn’t do that because you can’t discriminate against an individual based on their belief in a God.  But believing in a God doesn’t fit into my belief framework around religion.  Where’s my religious freedom?  Again. ridiculous argument on one level but not sure where it is that different – mostly because reality and what is “real” as far as beliefs and what fits and doesn’t fit is in the eye of the beholder.  And in the case of these religious zealots, the eyes seem pretty well closed.  And, oh by the way, while I strongly disagree it since we are still allowing discrimination, religious organizations are provided an exception from this protection, similar to that found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  So you already have your cake – you don’t need to eat it too.  We don’t have to live as you do (well, not that most of you really live what you speak – again, a whole other topic).

credit: http://www.believeoutloud.com

The Hypocrisy of it all
credit: http://www.believeoutloud.com

Now, onto John Boehner, the majority leader of the US House who has consistently demonstrated he doesn’t get that he is there at the will of the people in this country.  He, single-handedly, will keep ENDA from hitting the House floor and therefore will try to ensure we continue to allow states to discriminate.  Now, I happen to think that Johnny B. is somewhat of an asshole.  Okay maybe not somewhat but entirely.  Anyone who can effectively allow our government to shut down and bring us to the brink of default seems to have some flaws in leadership capability and really doesn’t get any points for style.  But I digress.  In the case of ENDA we see his opposition is really about jobs and the economy.  His spokesman, Michael Steel said the bill “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”   Anyone seeing a pattern here.  I think he has one page of talking points and it is “one size fits all”.  Aside from helping continue the Republican death march they started with the shutdown last month, this stance continues to play politics with our citizens and their rights.  Not sure I understand the frivolous litigation other than the reality that we won’t allow businesses to discriminate in this area and we are protecting the rights of real people – doesn’t sound frivolous.  Also easy to fix – don’t discriminate.  I don’t know what you can do about Johnny boy here other than hope that the cigarettes and tanning booths actually take an early toll.  In the meantime, I do have to wonder what skeletons he has in his closet – he doth protest too much.

Maybe John has a small secret?

Maybe John has a small secret?

So why did this particular item lead me to a blog?  Despite the rant and the throwing of my usual rocks, I hope this one is a little educational.  I pride myself on being up on most things but was taken entirely by surprise on the issue behind ENDA.  This is a national embarrassment that needs to be rectified as soon as we can.  If it be by election (hopefully it won’t take that long) then we need to inform.

Okay, last surprise – Fox News didn’t see ENDA as a news-worthy item as it advanced toward the Senate vote today – and of the 4 minutes of coverage it got, two minutes was spent discussing how ENDA was a planned distraction to take attention away from coverage of Obamacare.

credit: mediamatters.org

credit: mediamatters.org

Pocono Township, PA – Scumbag Politics & Tactics Flow Downhill all the Way to Local Politics

poconoTwnp_map

I don’t normally blog about local issues but we citizens of Pocono Township, PA in the heart of the Poconos are in the midst of a ballot referendum that has become rather heated.  At issue is the governing structure of our approx. 12,000 resident community.  The question is whether to move to a First Class Township structure or to stay as a Second Class Township.  In reality, the guidelines and rules are quite similar across class of townships with only several key areas of difference – albeit important differences.  While I don’t intend to go into the details to a great extent, my opinion and perspective is that the change reduces the likelihood of personal agendas and influence, governance by proxy (who is really pulling the strings behind the curtain) and the myriad of unethical and unacceptable actions that have taken place in local government for years.  While we have slowly moved forward from the “old boy” network that was evident when we moved here 26+ years ago, the back room dealings and decisions remain an ongoing event.  Is it just Pocono Township?  No, it is rife throughout Pennsylvania if one does a google of incidents of impropriety in local government in PA.  The move to put this First Class initiative on the ballot was driven by the actions of several of our current Supervisors.  In fact, we now sit on a million $ lawsuit as a result of these supervisors.  But back to the issue at hand.  As with any change there are those who support and those that don’t.  Same here but interestingly enough (not surprising though) the “citizen” group that supports the current Second Class Township structure is made up of local business interests who fear the change as their level of influence will weaken if not disappear entirely.  My opinion only but given the tactics and the information spin their campaign has taken you can see fear and loathing as they look at the potential shift in power.  Again, not surprising, this is primarily a group of Republicans.  Now if we have learned anything at all about the current Republican Party, whether national or state, taking care of the people’s needs is not a priority.  One needs look no deeper than the recent Federal Government shutdown to see it at the national level.  At the state level, look at the havoc Tom Corbin, our Republican Governor, and his massive cuts to education and social programs to see it isn’t about anything beyond politics.  And we in Pocono Township now can be our own microcosm of what we see at higher levels.

 

Our three Supervisors - Guess which one is the RoadMaster?

Our three Supervisors – Guess which one is the RoadMaster?

This struck home very clearly this past week when we attended a “non-partisan” information session advertised to objectively address the differences between a First and Second class township structure.  The attorney, experienced in dealing in both structures, was actually very good.  However, on the table as one walked in was the propaganda literature being offered by the “Concerned Citizens of Pocono Township” (let’s call them CCPT) – a non-profit organization leaning heavily to the right.  I, for one, judge any organization by the honesty and accuracy of its message and supporting information – which means I do try to read and research most any statement or position taken before I decide my stance.  In this case, I’ve read (several times) both the First and Second Class Township Code documents so I think I’ve got the detail.  While it is obvious the CCPT has read and understands the differences, they have taken the liberty to play loose with the facts – something very obvious in their political literature.  Let’s take a look.

 

Concerned Citizens of Pocono Township Propaganda

Concerned Citizens of Pocono Township Propaganda

So – we have only CCPT choosing six statements to scare the public into voting against the First Class Township initiative this Nov 5th election.  When you dig a bit into the detail it becomes quickly clear that not one of these statements is really true – if we define true as meaning it is entirely true – so we have the spin factor to contend with.  These are all partially true – leaving out important details that when considered take the bite out of all of them.  To help put, I’ll rate these on a simple scale – the Bullshit Scale.  Pretty simple – the more BULLSHITs – the larger the lie or partial truth or the larger the manipulation. I don’t really need a symbol for entirely true since none of the statements actually qualify.

Let’s take a look at each one –

1. Raises the maximum general purpose tax rate to 30 mils.  Okay – in a First Class township this is true.  They are comparing to a Second Class Twsp where the GENERAL PURPOSE TAX RATE is capped at 14 mils.  However, there are several additional opportunities to add other tax mils to that number in the Second Class code – in actuality when comparing apples to apples, the total potential tax burden is actually higher in a Second Class Township – they just don’t have it all in the general tax bucket.  And, by the way, this is really about the maximum potential mils – doesn’t really read that way in this literature leaving quite a bit of room for interpretation that our taxes will rise. So this is not only misleading but implies something (raised taxes) that it has nothing to do with.

Rating – BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT

2. Mandates that all future police officers qualify as Civil Servants.  Yes, all future police officers will have to pass a test established by a Civil Service Commission established to oversee all matters related to the Police Department.  Not sure the problem with requiring that future police officers be required to pass a test that is specific to Pocono Township as it is a test created by the commission.  I guess the problem is that a board of three, non-paid commissioners can’t play favorites as easily and having it establish an equal playing ground for police qualifications means there might actually be a test to get a job.  No criticism of our current police force in Pocono Township at the moment but having to demonstrate qualifications is not a new concept for getting a job.  No current policemen lose their jobs and yes, there is qualification to be a police officer in the future.  Then again, anyone working for any form of government can be considered a civil servant – not sure why today’s policeman don’t fall into the same category.

civil servant

noun

: a person who works for the government : a person who works in the civil service

Rating – BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT

3. Mandates a Township Manager Position.  This one is somewhat true but it does require a bit more examination at which point it becomes less than forthright.  Our illustrious supervisors, since they all hold down township positions (part of the problem – they are their own bosses and accountable to no one other than at election time) felt the need to hire a Township Administrator at somewhere around $60K salary.  So the current position is not called “Manager” but it essentially does what the “mandated” role will do – especially since the commissioners can define the job generally as they please.  So to protest the new position might be a little disingenuous.  The other interesting consideration here is that the Code also provides the Commissioners with the power to abolish the position of Township Manager.  As I read it, doesn’t sound like a mandate.

Rating – BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT

4. Substitutes elected Supervisors with Court Appointed Commissioners.    Not really but in the initial transition to a First Class Township there is no provision for a special election and the new Commissioners need to be in their position by the January following the election.  A board of judges from our County Courts does the initial appointment but that is the only time there is not an election to select the Commissioners.  So part truth but a bit misleading all the same.  Once established, all Commissioners are elected as current Supervisors are.

Rating – BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT

5. Mandates that anyone holding a position with the township must quit their job before they can seek public office.  The only consideration close to this that I can find in the Code is that Policemen cannot hold any public office while being a policeman. I’m calling this one a total fabrication – sounds good as a talking point but this is an outright lie.  I’m only deciding not to give it 10 BULLSHITs since I can’t find it and I could have missed it – doubtful but maybe.

Rating – BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT

6. Can result with 5 new commissioners who have no experience running the township and potentially no experience with the sewer system and its known deficiencies.  Okay – I guess this is true but again we have an intent to mislead and make a problem where there is not necessarily one.  To be honest, this can happen anytime anyone new is elected to Supervisor in the current structure.   All we need to do is look at the current Supervisors (kind of our local Moe, Larry and Curley of sorts) to see that this concern about experience is not a new one.  Our current trio consists of an ex-policeman who most recently sold advertising for billboards, a road department employee and a plumber.  Don’t get me wrong, these can be honorable professions but I fail to see the deep experience that any of these three brought to the table with they were elected.  Not really anyone with broad and deep management experience or capability among them.  As far as sewer knowledge, I’ll give the plumber some latitude when it comes to dealing with crap but given the size of the sewer project (many millions, many years, much coordination), I might concede this point a bit if the number and the size of problems being realized wasn’t so large – and the plumber has been around for most of it.

Rating – BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT  BULLSHIT

Total BULLSHITs – 47 (yes, that’s a lot of BULLSHIT)

Average BULLSHITs – 7.83 – on my scale, I’d say this average rating positions the good Concerned Citizens of Pocono Township as pretty high up there on the BULLSHIT scale – pretty much full of shit.  Just the type of people I want leading my township and its future.

So when we look across the “concerns” and the “facts” as to why we should stay a Second Class Township, one would think that it should stand on its own merit – not the lies, spin and manipulation that is evident in this case.  Maintaining the status quo in this case only really seems to be good for those running things today – whether as supervisors or puppet masters pulling the strings in the background. They all have something to lose and it is personal in every case.

We can only hope that there are enough of us Pocono Township citizens who can see this for what it is when Tuesday rolls around.

Losers by the Handful

Just what we want in a Leader

Just what we want in a Leader

The last couple of months I’ve struggled a bit to keep my focus on this blog – something obviously not a problem prior to the last election cycle.  It is not that there is nothing to share feelings about – I think it has been more I’m not sure where to start.  My head spins as I look at what is going on around me – not the world but here in the United States.  For any one reading this blog it is obvious I’ve got a bit of anger – most of the time – and anger has fueled much of what I have written.  While it isn’t also the most pleasant for those around me, I’ll have to say that anger sits reasonably well with me.  I’m not saying it is good but it is an emotion I can deal with.  And I don’t see it going away any time soon – not with the direction we seem to be going as a nation.  But recently, there is a “buddy” to sit alongside my anger and this emotion is one I have always tried to avoid at all costs.  That “buddy” happens to be embarrassment.  While there is a lot to be angry about but we have reached a point in this country where we should all be embarrassed.  Not only because of the state of our politicians and the mess they have made but also about many of our people.  In particular the know-nothings and the loudmouths that continue to say they represent the American public or they are looking out for our country.  I’m embarrassed that Ted Cruz (and some others of his ilk) are US senators – but even more embarrassed there are people supporting them – and it’s not because they don’t believe what I believe – I’m used to that and I don’t expect that my views and beliefs work for anyone else.  It is because these people are generally not nice people in any sense of the word.  They are basically self-centered, don’t care about anyone but themselves, narcissists.  They feel better about their state in life by bringing down others. And they are stupid enough to actually believe that Ted Cruz believes in the same things they do and not that he is taking advantage of their ignorance to prop his own interests to the forefront.  I’m embarrassed we have congressional leaders that let freshman congressman wield the power to bring our economy to its knees.  I’m embarrassed we have become a people who generally don’t care about those that are not so well off and because there are some who take advantage and cheat the system, then everyone in need is bad. I could go on and on.

Fool me once.... credit: theguardian.com

Fool me once….
credit: theguardian.com

But today I read something that really encapsulates what we should all be embarrassed about as it speaks volumes of what we have become as a nation.  Take a swing over to The Huffington Post  – take a read of this article –  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/niels-gerson-lohman/us-border-crossing_b_4098130.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular.

For some out there, they will see nothing wrong – it is just the US looking out for our safety and security.  I’m embarrassed for you people too.

For once, Pennsylvania had some sense and got rid of at least one loser.... credit: pumabydesign001.com

For once, Pennsylvania had some sense and got rid of at least one loser….
credit: pumabydesign001.com

It is Scary as Hell

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.  –  John F. Kennedy

It has been quite a period of time since my last post.  Probably a combination of a number of factors but as I began to think about it, the reason became a bit clearer.  Am I any less angry or awash in angst over the state of our country at the moment?  Not at all.  In fact, my level of concern is at a level that I don’t believe has ever been higher.  The difference is I am also at a point of being frozen given I am beginning to doubt that we are fixable.  I’m not apathetic as I would expect that might cure my anger.  At times I’ve wondered if part of getting older is that the situation doesn’t really change but our perception is what morphs.   Kind of “It has always been this screwed up – I just didn’t notice or it made less of a difference.”  Well, I don’t think that any more – it hasn’t been this bad before.  Yes, times have been bad before and we have struggled as a nation and a society.  The difference is I think there was more of a set rules that bound us together as a nation and there were individuals who were actually able to work together for the betterment of the country – not a mass of individual wants or pockets of agendas that needed to get their 15 minutes no matter the cost.  I am no Pollyanna thinking that things haven’t always been unfair, the deck wasn’t stacked for many and that there haven’t always been agendas and benefits to the “haves” vs the “have nots” but we have arrived at this time as a country run by morons and half-wits who only see their self-interest as the end game.  Not sure where it was lost that we live in a democracy and that the majority basically rule.  Our constitution ensures that majority can only go so far but to have reached a point where every small political group feels their wishes need to be part of the solution has taken our country to the point where nothing works.  To believe that every solution has to work at 100% of everyone means that nothing will work for anyone.

I started this blog as somewhat of a catharsis to deal with the level of anger and frustration I feel as I walk, watch and interact with the world around me.  It started local and got broader as I found some nice targets as we approached the last Presidential election.  I tried to point out the folly of thought and the disconnect of action of many of those out there that profess to have the qualities to be leaders.  To be honest, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.  I’ll be the first to admit I have few answers.  I know what works for me and I know where my focus has been in particular on making sure those closest to me are okay.  In comparison to many, I’m in pretty good shape.  I want to little in terms of physical needs.  Despite my level of anger (i have my good days and bad) which is obvious to those around me, I’m at terms with most everything I can have influence over.  So back to my original point in why I haven’t been blogging – I’m not sure where to start for one thing.  I’m also frustrated that people don’t seem to want to help themselves.  I remain incredulous of the laziness and ignorance people have no issue sitting in.  As I’ve said many times, the fact that people are willing to support and vote against their own interest remains one of those things I don’t think I’ll ever understand.  I do reach a point where I wonder if we just need to hit rock bottom before most people start to pay attention and we realize, as a country, that it isn’t really politics first and people second.  To be where the Tea Party has any influence in any situation is close – it tells me that people’s moral and ethical compass is broken and true north has been lost.  When Miley Cyrus gets the number of news cycles she does, you have to wonder.  It is scary as hell.

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.   –  Mark Twain

Let’s call stupid and bigotry what it really is….

credit: classwarfareexists.com

credit: classwarfareexists.com

 

Point of today – actually two points – we are who we follow and let’s do a better job of calling bullshit when we see it.

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” – Pat Robertson

It is obvious I have issues with religion and those who unabashedly profess to be leaders of the masses – many of whom are actually more bigoted, unforgiving, selfish and most everything anti what I was always taught the teachings of the bible are about – one person you won’t see with a WWJD bracelet on is Pat Robertson.  I won’t go into much detail about his first son being born out of wedlock (do what I say, not what I do) or his repeated misogynistic stances regarding women and their place with men (essentially men cheat because their wife doesn’t take care of them as they should) as that would take too much time and space for today.  I happened to be channel surfing and stopped on the 700 Club – not a usual stop but given the SCOTUS decision on DOMA this week, I thought there might be some reaction from Pat.  I was not disappointed as my timing was right on.  He was discussing the issue with Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ, a right-wing, pro-life group that focuses on constitutional and human rights law worldwide (as they define them).  Just for context, Sekulow is also a regular on Fox News.  As expected, the discussion was obviously on the horrible decision made by the court but where did Robertson immediately go? His first question was whether Sekulow had any insight into whether Justice Kennedy had any homosexual law clerks.  He followed it up with a derisive comment on the judge in California who had declared Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, immediately leading the discussion to his understanding that the judge was in fact himself a homosexual.  So no discussion on human rights, equality under the law or anything else other than a view that all these decisions were no doubt just self-serving actions – something I expect that Robertson knows quite a bit about.   What a piece of shit – and well representative of all those who support him and his extravagant lifestyle.  But he is consistent on one level – he pretty much holds both gays and women to the same level of contempt.

“The reason that we fought the [American] Revolution in the 16th century — was to get away from that kind of onerous crown, if you will.” —Rick Perry

I also caught a brief news clip on that illustrious governor of Texas – Rick Perry – another shining example that if you’re from Texas, you don’t have to be very smart to get elected to a high office.  While much of the country was giving high kudos to Sen. Wendy Davis who held up the vote on more limitations on abortion and women’s rights in Texas, Perry was quick to play the “man” hand and pretty much dismissing her accomplishments (not sure Rick could even spell “HARVARD”) and bring it down to some stupid comment on learning from her mothers’ decision not to abort her and therefore reversing her stance on abortion rights.  Key word – “rights”.  Heaven forbid anyone traipse on their religious “rights”.  It was also rather revealing that during Sen. Davis’ filibuster, it was only the men in the room who work to thwart her effort.  Another situation where men work their hardest to control what women do.

So, a quick take away from these two seemingly separate items.  It is really about women and how they decide to deal with all these idiot men.  These people in power only maintain their position if women support them.  Probably a little less influence over Robertson but maybe not quite as much an issue.  At 83 years old, we can only hope he gets to meet his maker before long – and assuming I’m wrong in my lack of belief in God, he gets to explain himself to the big guy.

As far as Rick Perry, one can only hope that the women in Texas begin to understand his concern is not for women and he is willing and able to work against the rights due all women.  In the meantime, I’ll stay thankful none of us live in Texas and the women in my life can still think for themselves.

credit: moveon.org

credit: moveon.org

Another take on the DOMA decision was made this morning on Face the Nation this morning with Bob Sheiffer.  Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, an American conservative Christian group and lobbying organization shared one of the horrific impacts of the decision.  Let’s put the Family Research Council in some appropriate perspective here – In 2010, the FRC paid $25,000 to congressional lobbyists for what they described as “Res.1064 Ugandan Resolution Pro-homosexual promotion” in a lobbying disclosure report.  The US House of Representatives, in a moment of rationale thought,  passed the resolution condemned the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a bill which, among other things, would have imposed either the death penalty or life imprisonment for sexual relations between persons of the same sex.  Let’s make sure we recognize what kind of christian organization we are talking about here. 

credit: back2stonewall.com

credit: back2stonewall.com

In any case, back to Tony.  He was very concerned of the impact on bakers, photographer and florists who would inevitably lose their religious freedom by being forced to do work with gay couples looking to get married. He in fact indicated that there were already a great number of court cases in play and there were instances where these business people were being forced to sell services to gay couples.  It did take Schieffer a moment to clear the incredulous look off his face as he forced what was essentially a “Really?” out of his mouth.  Tony was firm in his view that when people realize this sort of impact is inevitable, the tide will turn, people will regain their senses and all will be right with the world again.   Can’t say that was an impact that I was really worried about.

Gun Control – Gone but hopefully not Forgotten

Over the recent weeks I’ve been somewhat distracted from this blog – quite a change from the time where it seemed I put something new out there almost every day.  Part of me has been distracted with the loss of our pet, Gunther, 5-6 weeks ago.  It is still hard to pretty much do anything without realizing how integral he was to our house, our family and the rhythm we came to expect and enjoy.  Boy, the pain and the tears stay pretty close to the surface – more a testament to how great a little guy he was.  I’ve also had another shoulder surgery a couple of weeks back – due to a great extent of me maybe not taking the first one as seriously as I should – I’ve been a lot less active this time around including doing a bit less typing.  So I have some excuses but when I look around there seems to be somewhat of a diminished intensity on areas or issues which were pretty important not that long ago.  We are definitely a society with ADHD – how quickly we let things pass and become non-issues when something new shows up.  Pretty sad overall.  But not enough reason to give up.  I stay stubbornly positive in hoping that knowledge and commonsense will ultimately prevail – maybe not because I necessarily believe it deep down but I’m not sure I can make my head get around the fact that ignorance and emotion will rule the day.

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So with that, let’s talk gun control again.  I read an interesting and relevant article in the May 2013 Scientific American – not a magazine I usually read as most of it typically flies over my head but my son frequents it and this recent one ended up on our kitchen table as one of the key articles was on 3-D printing – a new world (well relatively new to consumers) our household recently entered into.  In any case, I came across a great article by Michael Shermer, who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine where he attempts to add some facts to the current discussion and takes on the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and the view that essentially more guns are the only way to make things better.  He sites a couple of studies on guns that paint an interesting picture – one that many of us I think already know (that more guns mean more problems) but the stats are interesting so I thought I’d share some of them as well as the link to the article (which I would strongly you read and take way what you may) – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gun-science-proves-arming-untrained-citizens-bad-idea

 

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credit: factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com

 

Some highlights for those of you who don’t want to read it all (credit again to Mr. Shermer in Scientific American – May 2013 issue as I’ve shared this verbatim) –

 

A 1998 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that found that “every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” Pistol owners’ fantasy of blowing away home-invading bad guys or street toughs holding up liquor stores is a myth debunked by the data showing that a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt or a homicide than it is for self-defense.

From a 2013 book from Johns Hopkins University Press entitled Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, edited by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick, both professors in health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In addition to the 31,672 people killed by guns in 2010, another 73,505 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for nonfatal bullet wounds, and 337,960 nonfatal violent crimes were committed with guns. Of those 31,672 dead, 61 percent were suicides, and the vast majority of the rest were homicides by people who knew one another.  For example, of the 1,082 women and 267 men killed in 2010 by their intimate partners, 54 percent were shot by guns. Over the past quarter of a century, guns were involved in greater number of intimate partner homicides than all other causes combined. When a woman is murdered, it is most likely by her intimate partner with a gun.

US-Gun-Control-Laws-85835243137

 

For gun nuts who really don’t care, numbers and statistics are, well, just numbers and statistics.  But for the rest of us who could easily be one of the statistics above, I’d actually want to make sure we don’t lose sight of how important an issue this is.  Newtown shouldn’t just be a distant memory.  Pretty disappointing how quickly we all forget.  Equally scary that the likes of Wayne LaPierre gets his way and sees validation of his views in the inaction and antipathy of the American public.

 

 

The more it stays the same…

credit: worldnewscurator.com

credit: worldnewscurator.com

“All in all, today was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” – President Obama

While this statement was pretty much focused on the unsuccessful gun control efforts driven by the massacre in Newtown, the ramifications and considerations are obviously more widespread than just that incident.  Yes, the NRA is a big part of the issues of the level of violence we are seeing – not all but a strong contributor.  However, we are a nation of ADHD.  The outrage and attention this past week on the events that began on Monday at the Boston Marathon will all but disappear to most by the end of the month.  The shock and sadness from the recent tragedy at the Texas fertilizer plant will begin to fade for most within two weeks.  Most in this country have all but forgotten about the 21 children brutally murdered less than 4 months ago.  The inability of our people to sustain any real focused intensity for any extended period coupled with the obvious apathy and unwillingness to take action of any sort leaves most decisions to the small few in Washington DC who, to any person who actually pays attention and can think, have little interest in reflecting the wishes of our people.  We have become accustomed to violence to the extent that I would suggest that no other civilized country is at.  And much of it sits with our love affair with guns.  Ignoring over 11,000 gun-related deaths a year should be no easy matter but yet it is.

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Can we just blame the politicians?  Not entirely but we the people are who should shoulder the real blame.  We put them there and we let then stay there.  These politicians really voted against increased gun control because of the 10% of the American public against the increased control vs. the 90% who supported it.  Figure that math out.  Many of the politicians knew the bill was the right thing to do but voted against it because those 10% are the ones they know will come out to vote.  So the problem is with the 90% who voice that they care but are too lazy to extend the effort to execute their civic duty.  How sad is that.  I will guess that those 10% also were the ones that took the time and energy to write or call their politicians and made their voice heard.  I actually wrote to mine this time around – and I’d like to think that it had some impact on Senator Pat Toomey’s (my senator in PA) decision to join Senator Joe Manchin in legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to obtain guns while preserving the rights of law-abiding people to do so.  Both Senators are from gun happy states and they figured it out and potentially put their next election at risk – and maybe they heard more from the people they represent.  But obviously in many other states, the senators either didn’t hear from their constituents and/or lacked the conscience or fortitude to do what it right and what is needed to better protect our people.    People, time to pick up a pen, a phone or your keyboard – is it really that hard to take that small step?

On the other hand, we still have organizations like the NRA who actually exist primarily to ensure that business, in this case gun manufacturers (and related industries) make as large a profit as possible.  I, for one, have quite a problem with the power that has been handed off to an organization like the NRA.  No matter their stated intent or objectives as an organization, there is something wrong where an entity that only really represents the interest of 10% of our country can influence so much.  So to all you NRA supporters – do you really think they are looking out for your best interest?  And it extends well beyond this recent stance against universal background checks. We can also see it in another perspective that is directly tied to the Boston Marathon bombings.  Luckily, given the events of the week we have a conclusion (of a sort) in less than 5 days – we know who, which is really the core of any other actions.  But let’s say that events didn’t unfold as they did and the perpetrators were a little smarter and we didn’t know who they were.  We would still be looking at evidence left behind and a good deal of effort would be on the homemade bomb remnants, looking for traces of where things came from as a way to track back to individuals.  If we were dependent on this evidence at this point, we can thank the NRA for the difficulty that would be encountered in tracing back where the devices were made based on the explosives used.  And as a result, we are all a bit more at risk.

Almost 40 years ago the government developed a way to mark explosives to help trace terrorist bombs. But Congress blocked the research, even after a test of the device helped catch a bomber in Baltimore.  Who was behind Congress in voting it down? – the explosives industry and the National Rifle Association, citing safety concerns.  More likely driven by lost profit resulting from increased costs and oversight of the process.  Then the Oklahoma City bombing put it back on the table and President Clinton proposed legislation to resume the Treasury Department study of the feasibility of mixing tracers, called “taggants,” into dynamite and other explosives. There was discussion to include the fertilizer used to make the Oklahoma City bomb, or other materials that detonate such bombs.  A blast would scatter these tiny plastic tracers, which survive as a clue to help find the bomber.   Opponents said the government had not proved the devices were safe. Tampering with explosives could put miners and others who work with them at risk, the Institute of Makers of Explosives said. Opponents also argued that the taggant program would be too expensive.  The NRA again raised similar safety complaints about taggants in gunpowder, and also likened it to federal registration of firearms. The government wanted to mark the black powder used by owners of old-style muzzle loading guns because it is often used in pipe bombs.  Oh-oh – another possibility of federal government in their house. Again, Congress took direction from the NRA and cut off all funding of the taggant program.  Interesting, one of the phrases thrown around a the time was “The problem’s not fertilizer, the problem’s people.”  Boy, does that sound familiar to the rhetoric of the pro-gun lobby today.  Different day, same shit.

Credit: LA Times

Credit: LA Times

Will increasing the gun laws fix every problem and keep incidents like Newtown from ever happening?  Not at all and that argument by the NRA should be soundly called as bullshit.  To not realize as a country that we need to take steps to begin to reduce the likelihood is where the focus and conversation should be.  I have reached a point in my life where absolutes never matter – it’s really about the journey to get there and what we can accomplish on that path forward.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step” – Old Chinese Proverb

William Shockley…in another Flavor?

Maybe it is Brain surgery...

Maybe it is Brain surgery…

Interesting paths that some individuals take to relative notoriety.  Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, has made the rounds as of recent from addressing President and Mrs. Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C to wowing the crowds at CPAC.  Hard not to make a splash at CPAC when you take an obviously successful black man who is Republican and have him attack Obama policies…but again, he was preaching to the choir, so to speak.  Apparently quite the Christian also.  But just when you have an new face in the Republican camp who is all of a sudden being talked about as the next best thing next to sliced bread who will be a leading contender for the 2016 Republican amazing race, it becomes obvious they left the bread in the toaster a little too long.  The good Dr. choose poorly and joined Sean Hannity on Fox News and again, quickly provided evidence of why the Republicans are where they are and why many even within the party are shaking their heads in wonderment.  If you missed it, the exchange basically was as follows:

HANNITY: All right, last question, we have the issue of the Supreme Court dealing with two issues involving gay marriage. I’ve asked you a lot of questions. I’ve never asked you that, what are your thoughts?

CARSON: Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition. So he, it’s not something that is against gays, it’s against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications.

Huh?  You’ve got to be kidding – say what?  Brain surgeon?

So here we have someone who is apparently an esteemed surgeon (questionable) who equates gays with pedophiles and people into bestiality.  Excuse me?  I wouldn’t let this guy near my brain if it was leaking out all over the floor.  I guess the good news is we can really see what this guy is made of and where his values lie.  Reach a little further back into his views and you get that which is the hallmark of these conservatives and right-wing nut jobs – “I can tell you what to do and how to live but don’t try to do that to me.”

In his book America the Beautiful, he shares the following view:
“I have no problem whatsoever with allowing gay people to live as they please, as long as they don’t try to impose their lifestyle on everyone else. Marriage is a very sacred institution and should not be degraded by allowing every other type of relationship to be made equivalent to it.”

Interesting point I must have missed – I didn’t realize the gays were trying to “impose” their lifestyle on everyone else.  I might be a little slow but I still don’t get how gay marriage somehow changes marriage between a man and a women.  Is this anything like gay teachers trying to convert children to their lifestyle?  In all honesty, in looking around at the state of most heterosexual marriages, one might be able to easily make the case that it needs a little help or change.
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So again we have someone who gets a great deal of attention as a conservative who manages to step wholeheartedly into the pit of ignorance by demonstrating not only an opinion that most in this country would obviously abhor (at least if they are younger than 40 years old if we go by polls) but also the stupidity to say it aloud so there is no room for error when someone looking and listening to him tries to figure out if this is someone to whom they can relate as a person.  I guess the net result of the comments made in this last election cycle by the likes of Todd Akin and Richard Murdoch (and even the 47% speech by Romney) hasn’t made much of an impression on some in the party.
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What I might suggest to the good Dr. here is a quick review of the position taken not all that long ago by another Republican. William Shockley.  William Shockley won the Nobel Prize for inventing the transistor, founded Silicon Valley, was a virulent racist, and donated sperm to a sperm bank for the super intelligent.  So on one hand a rather accomplished physicist and inventor.  On another hand, he managed to pretty much put it all out there with his views of blacks.  While teaching at Stanford he became intrigued by racial questions and population control, and began publicly claiming that blacks are less intelligent than whites, by genetics and heredity.  Shockley believed that the higher rate of reproduction among the less intelligent was having a dysgenic effect, and that a drop in average intelligence would ultimately lead to a decline in civilization.  When asked if his views amounted to racism, he famously answered “If you found a breed of dog that was unreliable and temperamental, why shouldn’t you regard it in a less favorable light?”
William Shockley showing off his latest invention - Siamese Tea Cups

William Shockley showing off his latest invention – Siamese Tea Cups

So, I ask Dr. Ben how different his views of gays as equals to the rest of us are from how Shockley viewed blacks a few decades ago.  Looks like some haven’t learned much about how it feels to be looked as inferior.   And these are supposedly the “smart’ ones.  I might suggest that Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus consider reprinting the latest Republican Manifesto so maybe a wider population can “get it”.
                                                                                                                                            RNC Growth                                                 growthRNC