Friday, March 30, 2012

English, People

“Stimulus was supposed to be quick. In fact, they never intended to spend it and will not completely have effectively spent it until after the president’s re-elect. Always looking at how do you get the maximum hit when the president was up for re-elect.”

— Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, March 19, 2012

I came across this on March 21. Issa's lying about the stimulus, and his office, when asked for any evidence of the charge, had only slanders against Obama and no evidence. If you want to read about the falsehood of the charge about the stimulus, go to the Washington Post's Fact Checker.

Instead, I'm going to comment on Issa's illiteracy. For years now Republicans like Issa, who engage in eye poking and bomb throwing rather than reasoned policy dispute, have referred to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party. It's a Rush kind of childishness that I've presumed is intended to be a needling of Democrats.

Now, I see it's not childishness. It's just stupidity. Issa doesn't grasp that re-elect and re-election are two different forms of speech. The former is a verb and the latter a noun. Obama is seeking to have the voting public re-elect him. The campaign is for his re-election. See, not that hard to distinguish between them.

I guess the extra syllable of re-election was just too hard for Issa to muster. He had to save his energy for futile, fact free attacks on Obama. After all, he couldn't be bothered to put "the" in front of stimulus or a noun or pronoun in front of always.

Lazy thinking. The hallmark of today's GOP.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Conspiracy Advocation

Among the many things I'm reading is 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. I'm reading it in trade paperback form, being late to the bandwagon. It's a great book that I'll talk about more on Comics and... at some point.

In the fourth trade, titled A Foregone Tomorrow, there's a forward by Bill Savage, who's a Ph.D. in American lit at Northwestern U. He's a bit wordy, and I'll not get into all of the praises he sings for the book. They're deserved.

One of the premises of the book is that the US is run by thirteen powerful families who operate extralegally. These families have been running the US since its founding, or before. Savage wrote the forward during the Bush II years and, evidently addressing some previously spoken concerns about the believability of the premise, says "We live right now in a nation whose President is the son of a President and grandson of a Senator, who defeated a forme Vice President, himself the son and grandson of Senators, in an election in part decided by a Supreme Court Justice appointd by the winnder's father. Such a world of self-perpetuating political power is not htat far off, really, from Azzarello's vision of the thirteen families of the Trust running America from behind a screen of absolute secrecy and murderous violence."

Non-existent Lord save me from conspiracy theorists. Let's just start with 50 years of history in America. In particular, let's start with Presidents. Fifty years ago JFK was president. What was his big, controlling family connection? None at that point. The best they'd reached was him being Senator and his father being Ambassador. Not a lot of juice there.

Then there's LBJ. Poor kid from Texas with no family connections. Nixon? Another guy with no family connections. Same with Ford, Carter, and Reagan. It's not until Bush I that you get to someone with a family history in the higher eschelons of politics. And he couldn't even manage to get re-elected when facing a bumpkin from Arkansas with zippo connections. Next is Bush II and the royal history he and Gore have, such as it is, but the next president is Obama, who, again, has no family connections whatsoever, nor did his opponent, McCain.

So, out of 9 presidents in 50 years, only 2 have a family royalty at the time of their election. Kennedy's family wasn't political royalty until after his election. Even so, including him would only make for a third of Presidents having an American royalty pedigree. And as noted, one of them couldn't manage his own re-election, while another was assassinated.

And the Supreme Court allusion is even more suspect. For one, the Supreme Court didn't decide the election. The eventual recount that was halted by the Supreme Court showed that Bush won Florida, so even if it had continued, he would have won. For another, there are 9 Justices on the court. Bush I appointed only 2, and Souter didn't even agree with 2 of the 3 reasons for stopping the vote recount. In fact, there was a 5 Justice majority sufficient to stop the recount that didn't consist of either of the 2 appointees (the other being Thomas).

I don't care if Azzarello has has a dubious conspiracy at the heart of his story. I read conspiracy stories for the fun of the things. I haven't come across one conspiracy yet that was remotely believable. The only way to enjoy them is to take them for the fiction they are, just like an alternate history story where the South won the Civil War or something.

Savage's attempted defense of it as realistic is less realistic than the posited conspiracy. Say what you will about the influence of money in politics, it's the direct kind, not the behind closed doors machinations of murder that 100 Bullets has. In fact, at this point, it's not even the direct payment of money to representatives. It's the corruption of vast sums of money being used to anonymously slur candidates that's the problem. Lies are put out about a person with no requirement that it be known who's making the claims so that person's or organization's motivations can be known.

It's kind of funny because Savage is a liberal conspiracy theorist. Now it's the wingnuts of the Know Nothings (aka Tea Party) who are the big conspiracy advocates. Obama is ruining their lives, personally, you know. Just another proof that conspiracy theory is riddled with holes but will continue to be popular with whoever is sympathetic to whatever political position isn't currently in ascendency.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Planning Ahead

In the living room at my house there are a pair of matching 8x10 pictures. One has Karen and Katya while the other has me and Hob. They're about 10 years old, so Hob's about 2. In those days he didn't like getting his picture taken, to the point of crying about it. He did like hanging out with me, so I'm in the picture. We did the Karen and Katya one to balance it out.

In the picture Hob's still roly-poly. It's a casual picture, with both of us in T-shirts and shorts. He's sitting on my lap facing me as I sit on the floor. He's playing with my necklace. He still looks distrustingly toward the camera, even though he's a bit happier now that I'm in the picture with him. It's quite cute.

In recent weeks Karen commented to Katya how cute the picture is and that it's one of her favorites of Hob. Katya concurred and took it one step further. "If Robbie (everyone else in the family calls him Robbie) dies before I do, I'm going to have that picture in the collage at his funeral."

Nice to see she's planning ahead.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Speed Constancy

The route I take to get my daughter to dance class is frequently traveled. It also has some speed limit changes as the areas it traverses change. On the Baltimore County side, when it's Nicodemus Rd, it's 30 mph. When it crosses into Carroll Co and becomes Deer Park Rd it's in the reservoir and the speed limit goes to 45 mph. Once the reservoir ends and there are some sporadic residences, the speed drops to 40 mph, though that's newly dropped from 45 mph.

Anyway, far too many people drive the same speed on the road, regardless of the speed limit. Sometimes I'm stuck behind someone who was driving well over 40 mph in the 30 mph zone, but doesn't pick up to 55 mph for the 45 mph zone. Other times I'll have one of them come flying up behind me in the 30 mph zone, only to leave them behind when I hit the 45 mph zone. Then I may get them back in the 40 mph zone.

Look, people, the speed limit changes on roads for good reason. It's not random. Conditions have changed. On the Baltimore County side, housing is more dense, as is the frequency of side streets, even though it's zoned rural. Slow down. It's not the highway, or even Reisterstown Rd. But in the reservoir there's nothing. Pick up the pace.

These lessons apply to other roads, too. It's a good rule of thumb that you can safely drive 10 mph over the posted speed. Cops tend to leave you alone, too. Hell, even the speed cameras won't hit you until you hit 12 mph over the posted speed. So, keep it to 10 mph over the posted speed, and you'll get there safe, sound and timely, with no delays for a speeding ticket.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nonlinear Dying

As invasive species go, stink bugs kind of suck. Unlike other invasive species, like humans and honey bees, they're entirely detrimental. All they do is eat crops and emit odor. And their population keeps increasing because nothing in the Western hemisphere eats the blighters.

So I do my part by killing them whenever possible. I don't find their stink so offensive to put off killing. At worst it's a smell of damp socks. Most of the time there's no smell at all.

The most irritating thing about them, other than that they get into the house in large numbers, is that they're erratic. They can't fly worth a damn and just veer into you. Even in death, the damn things go off in wild directions. More often than not, when I whack one with the fly swatter, the thing doesn't just drop with gravity. It goes off at some angle and disappears somewhere to be found some time later.

The only good stink bug is a dead stink bug.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Unintened Consequences

VW has been running this 2012 Tiguan commercial since somewhere around the Super Bowl. You know the one. The mom's riding around doing errands in the tuner car with no trunk space due to speaker consumption while her daughter's out with her boyfriend in the Tiguan. When they switch cars and the boyfriend asks why the girl's mom always makes them take her Tiguan, the presumptive lesson is that the Tiguan is safer than the tuner.

Here's the lesson I'm getting out of it. There's nowhere near enough room in the tuner for the daughter to be having sex with her boyfriend. That damn thing's tiny and full of electronics. The Tiguan's nice and roomy. Mom's fostering a healthy sexual envirnoment for daughter so there aren't any cramped car injuries. Either that or mom just gets off on the smell left in her car after daughter and boyfriend are done. Not sure which is funnier.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vegan Myths

For the first time in a week I was exercising on March 19, pneumonia being an impediment to that sort of thing. My daughter likes to watch Ellen so that was on while I was doing some weight lifting. I don't recall a lot of details about celebrities. Most of them are of no interest to me. Nonetheless, I wasn't surprised to find Ellen is a vegan. This came up because she had guest on hawking a book of easy steps to convert us all to vegans.

I'm not going to argue with Ellen or her guest whether being a vegan actually provides them with more energy. That's subjective, so it's their own opinion.

I also don't know what's in the book, but their discussion sets up a false dichotomy that seems to me is common with the vegan crowd, small as it is. They did this with a "typical" American family by going to their house to start them on a vegan diet. The house has lots of junk food, which is not healthy. To Ellen and her guest, the alternative, and the only viable one, is being a vegan. That's not so.

For one thing, plenty of junk food is vegan. There's nothing animal product in it. Doesn't mean it's good for you.

For another, a balanced diet is what's good for you. Vegan is just another extreme. Eating no animal products is simply not consistent with the evolution of the species. We're omnivores, not herbivores. Eating meat is one of the things that fostered our brain growth. We wouldn't be human without our ancestors having been meat eaters. Just eat it in moderation and don't eat the junk with no nutritional value at all or at a minimum. The occasional junk isn't going to kill anyone. It's junk as staple that's a problem.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, extremism in the defense of health is a vice.

Mmm... Cheese.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Islamic Idol Worship

One of the big tenets of Islam is no idol worship. Hell, the loons in the Taliban took that to the extreme of blowing up massive carvings of Buddha that were in cliffs in their territory. You know, blowing up historically significant art created centuries ago is a great way to show you secure in itself your faith is, as well as showing the world how responsible you are. Oy.

But here's the thing. Whether it's railing against others depicting Muhammad in cartoons (or any art), rioting over the accidental burning of the Quran, the genuflecting at the name of the Prophet Muhammad, or the waging of jihad, all too many Muslims have abandoned Islam as a faith by making these things into idols.

Islam, according to most interpretations, dictates that no human images should be created, either statuary or painting, lest they become objects of worship themselves, so there is no Islamic art that celebrates the human form, as Christian art eventually did by the Renaissance. It's a matter of theology whether that's idol worship or just appreciating beauty created by the deity. Don't much care for myself.

By trying force people not to depict the Prophet Muhammad at all, and particularly not in parody, Muslim protesters are saying his image is more important that any commentary anyone might have about Muhammad or Islam. As with the need some have to say "peace be upon him" any time his name is mentioned, this is idol worshipping behavior. You're not honoring the message he brought in creating Islam. You're worshipping the man.

The protests are quite hypocritical, too, considering the outright defamatory depictions of Jews, in particular, in more than a few Muslim curricula, despite the fact that Jews are supposed to be respected as fellow monotheists. Then again, Muslims kill other Muslims all the time, and that's not supposed to happen, either. And I don't mean domestic violence or street crime. I mean sectarian violence over divisions within Islam. 'Course, the usual excuse of religious sectarianism is that the other guy isn't really a Muslim/Christian/whatever.

Afghanistan is more severe than most, but it's not alone in the Muslim world in treating the Quran itself as an object of worship, rather than the message it conveys or the being it exalts. All the same, it's idol worship to treat the book as sacred, and apparently more sacred than the message. Considering the killing over the burning of the Quran in Afghanistan, while the Muslims of the country merrily kill one another over ethnic and religious divisions without protest, and considering that the Quran generally condemns killing, the message is not being observed. But the worship of the object sure is.

Then there's jihad. War to defend Islam is a tenet that goes back to Muhammad himself. Self defense is rather expansively defined so that some consider attacks on anyone they disagree with to be defending Islam. However, that alone isn't the issue when it comes to idol worship. It's the creation of the afterlife myth, and its attendant rewards for martyrs to the faith who kill others in the name of the faith, that creates a sort of death cult worship. These extremists of Islam have stopped practicing Islam and moved into death worship.

As I said in my Ben Roethlisberger post, they'd all be better off dropping the whole religion business and thinking about consequences independently and with reason. Not that it's going to happen anytime soon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Value

In a previous recent post, and they're all are recent posts at this point, I posited the "Mexico Plan" that a friend and I had come up with for countries that seemed beyond recovery. While we had proposed the solution in jest, evidently Staff Sargeant Robert Bales attempted to implement it in Afghanistan when he killed 16 civilians, mostly women and children.

There's since been much handwringing about the NATO mission in Afghanistan and the effects of multiple deployments on the volunteer armed forces. Some argue that we should have a draft army so as not to tax the resources of the volunteer forces so heavily. Evidently these folks are forgetting how many problems there were with the draft army in Vietnam and how hard the armed forces had to work after that to bring some respect to their service.

But none of that is the focus of this post. What I haven't seen anywhere is anyone noting how screwed up Afghanistan's culture is. When several Quran's were accidentally burned there was rioting. There were assassinations of NATO troops. There was bloodshed that killed quite a few more Afghans than Sgt Bales (presuming he actually did it).

How many riots have their been over these 16 dead civilians? How many attacks on the troops attributed to it (as opposed to the usual attacks that were happening anyway)?

What's even more amazing is that in a country with a literacy rate of 28.1% (43.1% male, 12.6% female), is that anyone believes that the riots were due to the Qurans being burned for their contents (the original contents, not the allegedly insurrectionist notes scribbled in the margins). People rioted in Afghanistan because the Quran is a talisman. Over half the males and nearly 90% of the females in the country can't even read the book. They're not upset over the idea of a book being burned but over a talisman being damaged. (This is highly ironic in a faith in general and a cultural application in particular, that is so opposed to idol worship. I'll address that topic more tomorrow.)

To me, the lessons of the Quran burnings and the killing of the 16 civilians is that human life, even human life of the native population, is far less important to Afghans than the worship of a book. Not the contents and message of the Quran, but the physical book itself. Burned, really singed around the edges, books were worth killing. Other Afghans? Not at all. That's a seriously screwed up value system.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ban My Marriage

In comparision with my home commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Maryland has been a big improvement in living conditions, all the more so now that Pennsylvania has become Pennsyltucky. Really, I don't why my mom continues to live there, other than the fact that she has a lot friends there. She's much better suited to living in Baltimore and its environs.

But even Pennsyltucky has nothing on Mississippi and Alabama, when it comes to right wing craziness. A poll of likely GOP voters last week, with a sampling size of more than 1200, found that 21% of those voters in Alabama and 29% of those voters in Mississippi believe that laws against interracial marriage should still be in place.

Let's be clear. Forty-five years after Loving v Virginia was decided, there is still a substantial number of people in Alabama and Mississippi who believe that interracial marriage is not only a bad thing, but should be legally forbidden.

Ostensibly these voters identify with a party that is in favor of less government intervention in people's lives, but like abortion, what they really mean is less government in the form of taxes they pay. Not that they want any less government services for themselves. Alabama and Mississippi are tops among the recipients of federal largesse, after all. Like most "red" states, they receive far more back from the federal government than they pay. It's "blue" states like Maryland that keep Alabama and Mississippi from being total economic failures.

But back to the topic at hand. If these paragons of liberty had their way, my marriage would be invalid. Not surprisingly, I'm against that. And even though they're far too small in numbers to pass such a law in their own states, and the Supreme Court's Loving decision declared all such laws unconstitutional, it doesn't say much for the quality of life in either state that such a level of ignorance still exists. It's the kind of thing that keeps talented, intelligent people from going to live in such places, and sends those who were born there off to more open places. That kind of thing will keep Alabama and Mississippi forever as backwaters, dependent on the federal government for survival.

And that doesn't even get into the persecution of immigrants, which is a topic for another day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lying Boldly

When I first saw the interview with the tool from Youth for Western Civilization at Towson U I didn't see the back of his T-shirt. In the course of checking on the story on Fox45, I saw where he turned around to show the back of his shirt. And this is what it had on the back.

This from the kid who says he's just celebrating white culture in with his group. Except I'm white and I sure as hell don't celebrate the Confederacy as some fight against terrorism. That's a political point of view, and one that relies on some serious lies, or at least delusion.

Let's review. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. In 1861 the states south of Maryland decideded they didn't like the result of that free and fair election and decided to leave the Union. They left to preserve their agrarian way of life, as they argued at least. Of course, that agrarian way of life was dependent on slave labor and all the slaves were from a single ethnic group by that point - African decendants.

Once the south lost the war, that flag, which was a battle flag and not the official flag of the Confederacy, was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan as its banner in terrorizing black Americans to keep them from exercising their rights as free citizens. Lynchings, beatings, and whatever else the KKK wanted to use to intimidate blacks, and any whites who sympathized, were employed to terrorize people and keep them subjugated.

So this tool, whose name is Matthew Heimbach, is proclaiming that his messages of White Pride and White Power are merely expressions of ethnic pride, but is sporting a shirt that makes the bold lie that the Stars and Bars is a symbol of anti-terrorism. Instead, the history of that banner is its use as the symbol for the largest and most influential terrorist organization in the history of the US.

Youth for Western Civilization is obviously a client of It's a sad state of affairs when the most accurate and trenchant reporting on the malicious attacks on President Obama come from a comic strip. Then again, I suppose it's just the tradition of the court jester in action.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Disingenuous Innocence

Last week there was a nice little brouhaha at Towson University when a student group calling itself Youth for Western Civilization, in the traditions of the school, wrote chalk messages on concrete around the campus. No big deal, except their messages included "White Power" and "White Pride". And then we were off and running.

The school held a big campus meeting to hash out the matter, which is a good thing, but that brought forth two statements, from diametrically opposed forces, that were difficult to believe.

First, there was the black student who spoke and said he felt fear for his safety because of these chalk messages. Really? You're going to school in the highly diverse Baltimore County at a school that's at least as diverse as the county. There have been no attacks of any kind on a student based on ethnicity. Hell, the message itself doesn't advocate any such thing, even. Yet you fear for your safety? I don't believe that for an instant.

Second, and more intentionally, there's the tool who's the president of Youth for Western Civilization's Towson branch. In post campus meeting interviews with the media he proclaims that "White Power" and "White Pride" are no different from any other ethnic groups expressing pride in their group, which is a fairly common thing amongst black, Jewish, Hispanic, and a myriad of other campus groups.

From a semantic standpoint, he's right. But that would be in a vacuum of history. The history of those expressions is one of oppression of anyone who's not white. He doesn't help his cause any by wearing a T shirt with the Stars and Bars on it while he's giving the interview. He knows perfectly well the baggage the phrases carry. He's just trying to poke people in the eye. I supposed it's to get attention for his group to get more members. There are only 8 of them on a campus of over 17,000 undergraduates and 4000 post graduates, so they're clearly desperate for some more members.

Besides which, there are plenty of ethnic pride groups for white people that don't have that baggage. Irish, Czech, Hungarian, German, Italian, and many more all have groups that celebrate their heritage. They don't do it by saying they're better than other groups. All they say is this is who they are and these are the things that their cultures value or have developed.

And to be thorough, I should point out the third disingenuousness that is the name Youth for Western Civilization. They're not for Western Civilization. They're for instability in the name of promoting ethnic superiority. Civilization means civil behavior not creating strife.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vegeterians and Right to Life

Funny how things come together. I sit as a panelist in arbitration cases for disputes between auto insurance companies. I do this once a month for half a day and get a free meal out of it. That and some time away from the desk, which is a boomerang kind of reward, seeing as all the crap I wasn't doing that morning is just going to be waiting for me.

Every auto insurance company that does business in Maryland is supposed to contribute employees to work as panelists once a month, but the hearing I attend is mostly people I know from my own employer with only a few from other companies.

The most recent of these panels somehow go on to the topic of whether a breakfast burrito that includes eggs is vegetarian. I thought it might not be, being as its an animal, albeit one that hadn't hatched, that's being consumed. One of the other panelists from another company insisted it was ok to eat eggs as a vegetarian. Vegetarians only leave out meat. Eggs aren't meat. Going to the point of no eggs or any other animal product is vegan.

Seems kinda deceptive to me, what with the name vegetarian suggesting only vegetables are being consumed but makes no real difference to me. To help remember, I came up with the simple rule that if it didn't take a breath, it's not meat.

And then I got to thinking. Vegeterians are like how the law used to be before the Right to Life crowd started changing the laws, post Roe v Wade. For the entirety of Western history a human being was not a human being until born. No one celebrates the date of their conception. Until recent weirdness, no one held funerals for miscarried fetuses. Basically, the way human procreation was created was that if it didn't take a breath, it wasn't a person.

Which made me wonder. If the Right to Life forces succeed in having the law declare that human life begins at conception, then all life has to begin at conception. After all, human life is a biological function similar to or the same as all other biological beings on this Earth. That would mean that a chicken is a chicken while it's still an egg. Ergo, ipso facto, Right to Life will have ended the age old philosophical question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Quite simply, they were immaculately conceived and came into being simultaneously because the chicken and the egg are interchangeable.

Of course, if someone serves you an egg when you ordered chicken, you're out of luck. They're the same thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unreality TV

Yet another reason not to watch the vast majority of reality TV. All-American Muslim has been canned after one season, primarily because the Muslims featured on the show were too well behaved. Although there was some minor uproar about the very concept of the show, as the usual suspects of paranoia about all people Muslim cried foul about the possibility of a humanitarian depection of Muslims, that just wasn't enough controversy to overcome the cast's good behavior.

But wait! There's a new bunch of Muslims coming to TV soon, as the Shahs of Sunset will be hitting Bravo's airwaves. Chances are few in the American viewing public will note that the Muslims of Dearborn, MI were Sunnis and these ones will be Shi'a, which is a very important division within Islam. No, the important thing will be that these folks will be screaming, shouting, and behaving badly. That's the core of the promotion for the show. They even manage the obligatory gay cast member, a neat trick in a culture where gays are far more oppressed than in the general US population.

Will Americans view Shi'as as ill behaved party animals and Sunnis as sedate, responsible citizens? Why not? Iran certainly continues to push a negative image of Shi'as, so even though this is entirely different bad behavior, and behavior that would probably get them jailed or killed in Iran, Shahs will help promote negative stereotypes of Persians. With its low viewer numbers All-American probably won't help the image of Sunnis any, though.

The key lesson in this is that reality doesn't sell. Fictional reality is gangbusters, be it housewifes, GTL morons, or the mothers of young dancers. As long as the behavior is bad, people will tune in. Bad or freaky, I guess. Nearly 20 kids and religious vapidity is freaky enough for people to watch. Mental illness that can be life threatening with clutter is freaky enough. Being a Muslim is not freaky enough. I suppose that, at least, is a good thing for American Muslims.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Clean Living

Somewhere around the time the Steelers and Broncos were to play in the NFL Wild Card game this year I read a column by a couple of writers, one from each city. It was a comparison of the Christianity of Ben Roethlisberger and Tim Tebow.

Everyone knows about Tebow's showy brand of Christianity, with his prosthelyting reaching such a height that his very move to bended knee, despite it's commonality as well as similarity to Rodin sculptures, has become a verb tense of his name. Less known is that, post allegations of sexual assault in a bar, Roethlisberger has returned to his family's Christian roots and married a nice church girl.

I've been a Steelers fan as long as I can remember, so I like seeing Ben settle down. The partying and stupid things like riding a motorcylce without a helmet, legal though it is in the ever crazier commonwealth of my birth, were destructive behaviors that were bound to catch up with him at some point if he didn't change. I guess the assault allegations were the impetus.

Still, I find it puzzling and troubling that so many people who engage in these sort of behaviors have to go through a church to stop. Instead of taking a look at themselves and what they're doing to reach an intelligent conclusion that it's not sustainable, they exchange the crutch of excesive consumption for the crutch of religious orthodoxy. Having a religious group, whatever its creed, tell you what to do isn't much better than being beholden to your impulses.

I'd much rather see Ben or anyone else with similar problems grow in the strength of himself, able to make decisions for himself that promote a longer, healthier life, beneficial to himself and others. Taking on someone else's creed isn't doing that. It's abdicating decisions for yourself.

Maybe Ben will take another step and learn that he can make decisions without consulting a higher power or institutional doctrine. Most don't because they associate non-religious thinking with the destructive behavior that they were engaged in. But it's not the non-religious thinking that was the problem. It was the lack of control.

I've been an atheist all my life. I've never had a problem with drugs or alcohol. I've never harrassed anyone. Well, harrangued for stupidity and such, but not sexually harrassed. I've been married nearly 20 years. I have two children who, so far, appear to be responsible and headed toward fruitful, happy lives. It's not necessary to have a religious doctrine to be a responsible person. I make the hard decisions in my life based on as reasoned a line of thinking as I can muster, independent of rules that have their origins 2000 years ago in an agrarian society that was afraid of a lot of things, like gay people and women.

Friday, March 9, 2012

More Rush

Sometimes I just like the low hanging fruit.

As Rush continues to lose sponsors in the wake of his calling a perfectly nice, respectful young woman a prostitute and slut just because she thinks contraceptives should be covered for women the same way men's birth control is covered, Rush is now seeking to blame Obama and "leftists".

He blames Obama because, well, you know. Obama is responsible for every negative thing that ever happens. He's part of a cabal that controls every aspect of your life, no matter how minute or how much someone not under paranoid delusions might think is the product of your own decisions. One of the best things about the Obama paranoia of Rush and his acolytes is that it's so determinist. Obama controls all and is responsible for all, hence anything that happens to me isn't my fault. Obama made me call Sandra Fluke a prostitute and a slut. Hilarious.

Equally hilarious, Rush apologizes, in the usual non-apology sort of way of the infamous and cowardly. You know, the "if anyone was offended" sort of apology. Hell, we wouldn't be here if large numbers of people weren't offended. He manages to throw in a bit of his own spin to that by apologizing for behaving like the leftists who so often attack him.

Right. 'Cause Rush was just some babe in the woods, respectfully advocating for conservative causes when people from the "left", which I suppose is Barry Goldwater and anyone to the left of him, started attacking Rush. He never said anything insulting about people who disagreed with him before anyone attacked him. He's a fine exemplar of respectful public discourse who had a minor slip in the Fluke matter.

Breaking News! Brooklyn Bridge for Sale! Cheap!

Rush is, quite possibly, more responsible for the decline in the civility of public discourse than anyone in America. That he now cries that he's a victim of leftist attacks is a pillar of hypocrisy that may never be exceeded.

I hope enough of his advertisers withdraw that he gets dropped altogether, but that's doubtful. A pipe dream, but a fond one.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

God's Intent

Once again showing why I'm glad I live in a more rational state like Maryland, Oklahoma legislators have taken the first step to passing a law that will require abortion providers to advise women that they can hear the heartbeat of a fetus prior to the abortion (obviously not after).

The surprisingly sympathetic thing about this is that these purveyors of interference in the decisions of women and their health providers is that they didn't require that women hear the heartbeat prior to the abortion.

I swear, these guys, and they're almost all guys, are some kind of sanctimonious paragon. To quote state Senator Dan Newbury, "The heartbeat is the only way for a fetus to communicate that it wants to live. It can't say please don't kill me, it can't say I want to live. It can't say anything," he said.

So now an autonomic activity like a beating heart is equivalent to a statement of intent. There's a hell of a bit of reasoning. Of course, I see people posting on Facebook about how God's looking on them with favor because they're entire family woke up that morning. God's got a low bar for accomplishment on par with the Oklahoma Senate.

Look, people. The fact that you woke up just means that you didn't die. Believe me, you'll die eventually. Does that mean God no longer favors you when you die? If you're on God's side, doesn't your death mean you're going to spend the rest of eternity with It? Isn't that supposed to be a good thing? Seems to me that the logical conclusion of you waking in the morning is that God doesn't like you because you're still here with the rest of us.

Similarly, the logical conclusion to a beating heart being heard is that a bunch of cells have reached the point of a heartbeat. By Newbury's logic the beating heart should be used in criminal investigations to glean the intent of suspects. He's probably never read Poe, but The Telltale Heart wasn't an actual beating heart stating intent. It was the guilty mind of the killer.

Of course, that's what Newbury and his ilk are seeking. Instill guilt in women seeking abortions so that they won't have them. Anthropomorphize a collection of cells incapable of independent existence so that a woman won't want to terminate it. Ironically similar thinking to PETA and its equivalency of human and animal lives. Now there's some strange bedfellows.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rush is Wrong, as usual

Low hanging fruit time.

So, Rush thinks that an adult woman who wants to have sex is a prostitute and a slut. Doesn't matter if he tries to hide under the shield that he's an entertainer, he can't have his cake and eat it, too. He's trying to sway public opinion on public matters, so he's not just out there entertaining. He's advocating.

Now, to my way of thinking a woman who wants to have sex is a very good thing. Seriously. If you're a man who wants to be with a woman who doesn't want to have sex, there's something seriously wrong with you. Sex with a woman who's not into it is not fun. You'll have more fun in solo stimulation than with a disinterested woman. Disinterested man, too, I suppose, if you're a man who likes men. That one's not my area of expertise.

But Rush's alleged objection is that taxpayers, employers, insurers or someone other than the woman who wants to have sex are being asked to pay for the contraception that will keep her from getting pregnant when she doesn't want to be pregnant.

Rush is far behind in the bandwagon against the promotion of irresponsible sex at the expense of taxpayers, employers or insurers, though. Vasectomies are covered by insurance. Viagra and other ED treatments are covered by insurance. The difference, of course, is that these are for men. So, the conclusion is that it's ok, in Rush's world, for men to want to have sex, and to do so without running the risk of unwanted pregnancy, but not for women.

Ah, well. I shouldn't expect much of a guy who thinks the Lord's Resistance Army is a good thing for central Africa and that it's a terrible thing that the US government is trying to stop their depredations. If there's even a hint of Christians, no matter how homicidal, fighting Muslims, the Christians must be in the right. Nice bit of logic, that. Maybe reading The Unknown Soldier by Joshua Dysart would help him with a primer on the situation.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Here's an interesting thing. I'm watching CBS Sunday Morning on March 4. There's a story about a business, founded by a couple. It's a furniture business. It's been around about 25 years.

This couple have their furniture manufactured in North Carolina. They have day care for the employees. They have an indoor walking track. They have a gourmet cafeteria. This is not a tech company. This is a furniture manufacturer.

The gorillas of industry have outsourced, and outsourced, and outsourced some more to find the cheapest, lowest skilled employee in some far off land, once they determine that the low income areas of the US are still too high to pay.

What this company has done is pretty impressive.

What they've done in their relationship is even more impressive. They were a romantic couple as well as business partners for a couple decades, but amicably split on the romantic side of things. In fact, one bought the other out of their house, with the seller pricing low because of the buyer's known affection for the property. Each is now married to someone else, but they still run the company together, quite successfully.

This is a business run with the interests of not just its owners in mind, but its employees as well. This is a relationship run on cooperation and accomplishment rather than acrimony and recrimination. This is how busniesses should be run and how personal relationships should be handled.

Too bad their business is in a state that wouldn't recognize either of their current marriages. This former couple and current business partners is Bob Williams and Mitchell Gold, a furniture manufacturer known straightforwardly as Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

Now, some may argue that this business can provide the benefits it does because the furniture is high end. True. The furniture is high end. But, the profit margins of the large manufacturers of the US are also high end. Look at the bonuses paid the executives, not to mention other perks. If these businesses employed Americans at a livable wage with some fairly simple benefits rather than providing rapacious returns to a select few, the jobs wouldn't be sent overseas. Jobs overseas is just a way of providing more for the pockets of the 1% while enfeebling the 99%.

More companies should be modeled after the operations of this couple, exemplars of American business succeeding for both the owners and the employees, despite their second class citizenship in the state where their factory is located.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Luxury Vehicle Owners

An easy target, yes, but here we go.

I live in a fairly affluent area, or at least among those who think they are affluent. I'm not among them, but I got here first. Anyway, there are plenty of luxury cars in northwest Baltimore County, so I see lots of them on the road.

Is there something in the owner's manual that says if you buy a luxury brand you should not use turn signals? Do the cars, at all that expense, not come with turn signals? No single vehicle segment is more easily predicted than that a luxury vehicle driver will not use a turn signal.

This is especially so of German luxury vehicles, with Mercedes being more so than BMW. It's a constant presence around here. If you see a Mercedes, you can count on the driver not using turn signals. I suppose the sense of entitlement just says "I don't have to tell anyone my intentions, safety be damned."

The only exception I know is my boss. She has a Mercedes and uses turn signals reliably, those few times I've been driving around somewhere the same time she is. But she's apparently violating some kind of code that only the luxury vehicle owners are privy to.

Just sayin'.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Paranoid Much?

This blog, short as its existence has been so far, relies heavily on the crazy and the stupid. They are the inspiration without which my objections could not proceed. And yet, their obstinately ignorant bloviating can be infuriating, especially when I consider that a lot of people might actually believe what they're saying.

A handy "for instance" came up on Leap Day. My son's a 5th grade student, so next fall he'll be heading off to middle school. Franklin Middle had an open house for parents on Leap Day. Like many others, I missed the part about it being for parents only and brought the boy along, but he had a nice time with a few of his friends who were there, too. After a tour of the school, the kids were segregated to the main cafeteria to talk with guidance counselors about what to expect as 6th graders while the parents were presented information about the school.

And then the floor was opened for parental questions. The second question was when the crazy train arrived at the station. A guy who clearly spends too much time listening to talk radio and surfing right wing conspiracy web sites prefaces his question by saying that he read on line about a school to the south (not clear if he meant further south in Maryland or further south in the US) was teaching a class where students were taught sharia law, given Muslim names, and otherwise, by implication, indoctrinated in radical Islam. He wanted to know if any such class was taught at Franklin.

Our title today was my first reaction.

But really looking at this, it's dumbfounding how much ignorance there is in the entire supposition.

Ignorance number one: Any teaching about Islam is teaching radical Islam. It's as if the very mention of the word Islam is equivalent to strapping bombs to kids and sending them out to blow up the local mall. Criminy. You'd think someone so concerned about the influence of radical Islam would think it a good idea for kids to learn about Islam so they'd know what to guard against. But he's more interested in his fear than alleviating his fear.

Ignorance number two: Giving kids Muslim names. This one has two aspects. One, it's not unusual for kids to have foreign names as part of a foreign culture or language class. My 8th grade daughter has a Spanish name for Spanish class. It's just a fun thing to encourage immersion in the learning of Spanish. No big deal. Two, there's no such thing as a Muslim name. There are Arab names, Persian names, Indonesian names, and so on. Muslims around the world have various names based on their local culture and sometimes in honor of significant historical figures in Islam, such as the Prophet Muhammad. It's no different from my name, Thomas, being a result of my father's liking of Thomas Jefferson and my maternal grandfather's middle name being Thomas. Because Islam began in Arabia, Arab names are seen throughout various Islamic cultures around the world.

Ignorance number three: Sharia law is taking over the US. In the course of writing this post, I did a little searching, mostly for some pictures to put up on here, as my last few posts have been shy of illustrations. Holy crap is there a cottage industry of paranoia about Sharia? Damn, the results on that are ridiculous. I can see why this guy's panties are all in a bunch, especially if he's one of the many who are short on critical thinking skills. Below is a link to the one site that came up on the first page of the Google results that takes some time to debunk a hysterical article published in Military Press magazine in October 2011. At least Military Press retracted the article, but it's no wonder we're having problems in relations between military personnel and Muslims in the lands where they're serving if they're being told that Muslim fifth columnists are trying to take over the US.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Familiarity and Racism

Gonna give the hypocrisy trail a rest today. There's plenty of that to address later.

A little family history today. When I was a kid I had my liberal parents and my conservative maternal grandparents. That was most of the family with whom I had contact on a regular basis, especially up 'til the time I was 10 and we moved from suburban Philly to central PA, a good hour plus away from the grandparents.

Moving to central PA, where racism was casual and common, I quickly figured out that much of it stemmed from the fact that these overwhelmingly German, Protestant descendants knew almost no one who wasn't just like them. It was a casual racism that wasn't any more virulent than their disdain for me as an outsider to the area. They were suspicious of that which they didn't know. It's not my mindset, but it's not an unreasonable one, if not taken to an extreme.

I always figured my grandfather's racism was of the same sort. He didn't seem to know anyone who wasn't white. Of course, he was also anti-Catholic even though his next door neighbor was Catholic, and they were friends. So, I'll start right off by saying that the logic of racism or sectarianism is an oxymoronic phrase. I should probably stop trying to figure it out. But, either in my grandfather's declining years when he was deep into dimentia or shortly after he died I was looking through yearbooks from when he was in public school back in the '30s. Damned if he didn't go to integrated schools in Philly. There was some indication in the yearbooks that he was even friendly with some of the black kids.

Which is odd to me. If you know people outside your ethnicity, and are apparently friendly with them, why paint with the broad brush of racism? You can dislike an individual without disliking everyone who shares some superficial commonality with that person. Is it really that hard to categorize by individual rather than broad categories?

Gotta love humans, especially when they're in your own family. One big bundle of contradictions.