Saturday, November 21, 2015

Vote For Benefits

If we want to require people on public assistance to do something for their benefits, it shouldn't be a drug test, it should be a requirement to vote.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On Refugees: Being The Worst We Can Be

This entire sentiment about barring Syrian refugees is disgusting.

It is no secret that the circumstances that resulted in the formation of ISIS are largely due to the policies and actions of the U.S. and other Western nations. The Syrian civil war is just one awful result. For people to freak out over promising to accept a mere 10,000 people fleeing that war over the next year is perverse. We already accept over 1 million immigrants per year. Ten thousand more is nothing. If we really wanted to do the right thing, we'd be taking a lot more and apologizing to the world for having be such a major cause of what's going on.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Violent Justification

If there is a philosophy of humanity it would certainly include the sentiment that there is no justification for violence unless you are the one perpetrating it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Death And Democracy

Story: 400,000 People Could Lose Their Health Care Because No One Turned Out To Vote Yesterday

We actually invade other countries, kill people and destroy countless lives on the claimed premise that it's worth it to impose democracy, yet we fail to take part in our own, voluntarily letting it die. This bizarre reality always makes me cringe.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Presidental Test We The People Deserve (But Won't Get)

With the attention being paid to Republican claims the CNBC debate was too tough for them to handle, I have developed a short list of questions anyone who wants to occupy the White House should be able to easily answer during a future debate. I hope a future moderator will offer these, but I doubt it as the answers would be more telling about each person's qualifications than anything else being asked.

1. Name as many federal agencies as possible represented in the president's cabinet.
2. Summarize the 12th Amendment (or any other generally unknown amendment) to the U.S. Constitution.
3. What is contained within Article VI of the U.S. Constitution?
4. Name as many differences as you can between a president and a prime minister.
5. Name countries with nuclear weapons.
6. How many countries does the U.S. maintain a military presence?
7. There are how many federal district courts; explain how they are connected to individual Supreme Court justices.
8. Explain the importance of the Gideon v. Wainwright Supreme Court decision.
9. What was the structure of the U.S. Government under the Articles of Confederation?
10. Talk about the president's foreign policy powers as outlined in the Constitution.

The questions could be a little different and could be expanded, but a civics-based test is something the public should demand. I doubt it will happen, but We The People deserve it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Fear of Seven-Headed Dragons

Story: Ben Carson's Church Believes the U.S. Government Will Team Up With the Antichrist

This entire topic always makes me want to put humanity in therapy.

The beginning of Revelation, the book where all of this comes from, tells the reader that everything in there is to happen "soon" and "the time is near." I think time ran out not long after the ink dried on the papyrus. At most, the lifetimes of the people who were live at the time would be the end of "soon" and "near."

To still be talking about this as valid literally makes me look at people like they are dragons with seven heads.

Dictatorship Template New GOP Playbook

Story: 'Daily Show' denied credentials to Iowa GOP event

This, along with the cancelling of an NBC event, shows the GOP continues to move away from the very idea of a democracy of We The People. Instead, they are becoming a paranoid and closed group motivated by fear of anything or anyone challenging their claims. This is the model of a dictatorship.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Soup Kitchen Defense For Bad Behavior

Since the proliferation of online videos making the worst of police brutality available for all to see, defenders of police like to tout the "good cops" in an effort to rehabilitate the image of police. One recent example is the participation of a police officer in a street dance-off in Washington, DC. There are other stories out there attempting to instill this image that bad cops are mitigated by others.

But when I come across these stories I can't help but put them in the same category as the impression created by a soup kitchen run by Al Capone. This help for Chicago's unemployed during the Great Depression gave many people a reason to ignore the gangster's violent criminal empire.

In both cases the awful behavior should not be seen as being mitigated by separate good behavior. We should not be picturing a scenario where the good things done by a group allows for any amount of bad behavior in what I'll call the soup kitchen defense. Being a decent person on occasion should never be seen as a justification for otherwise being awful, especially when it comes to those who have the power to take away your freedoms or your life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Conservative Christians Deny The God They Claim To Trust

Story: When police embrace 'In God We Trust': Column

When I see these ludicrous claims that using these kinds of phrases aren't religious, I can't help but wonder if they consider verses like Matthew 10:33: "But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven." It seems pretty clear to be a denial if they claim this phrase is secular and isn't about their god.

As most who know me are aware, I'm not religious, but I would have way more respect for those who are if they weren't so openly hypocritical so often. I try, but it's so hard to see people in a positive light when these kinds of things happen.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fail: Letting The Past Trump The Present

Story: Ben Carson: Pledge of Allegiance and other ‘founding documents’ prove America is a Christian nation

One of the many things I don't understand about how the bulk of humanity thinks is the idea that the past trumps the present--and the future. Like no other time in history, we are privy to better information every single day. What we know tomorrow will be better than what we know today, something that will be true everyday. Yet, so many of us still tell ourselves that the past is better.

Leaving alone the claim that the Christian religion (or any religion) was anything close to a key factor in the "founding documents," (having religion as part of government was actually something feared--Article VI, First Amendment), all laws we write for ourselves are always going to become outdated because we are not anywhere near smart enough to predict the future conditions under which we live, including the ever-increasing quality of the information at our disposal.

If we want to be a nation of something valuable and laudable, it should be the ability to modify the rules we set for ourselves based on the latest and greatest information we have. We should not want to live in a world where past decisions and actions are seen as applicable in the present without consideration of what's changed. That's just nuts.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When Being Unqualified Is A Job Requirement

I swear that when I see Tea Party types talk about how governments and societies should operate I can't help but think it's on par with what it would be like to listen to people who failed algebra give their opinions on running the Large Hadron Collider or the space station.

We have too many people who actually think people who are unskilled and uneducated in government are valid job applications. And what's worse, when those hired prove they don't know what they're doing once in the job, more people just like them are brought in. It's hard to think of a scenario where a type of group insanity would be more obvious when being unqualified is a job requirement.

If there was a wish to be granted for humanity's future, it should be to recognize our failures and do everything to fix them instead of seeing mistakes as virtues to be repeated while accepting new information as more valuable than the old information it corrects and improves upon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Acknowledgment of No Knowledge Surprise

It's been said in various ways that the more someone learns the more they realize how little they know. While I've been doing what I can to keep learning as time goes by, I didn't think I would get to the place where I acknowledge I know nothing so soon and with so little warning after experiencing patches of the illusion of  knowledge.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Superpower Privilege Is A Thing Too

I accidentally caught a few minutes of a conservative round table on TV for recently where they were talking about the Middle East. The overall tone of it was very similar to the discussions we now hear about race- and sex-based privilege. After hearing a bit of this discussion, it seems to me that nation-based privilege is a thing too.

The comments in this program were all about the U.S. telling the Middle East (and the rest of the world) what they are doing wrong, and how if they would just listen to the privileged North American superpower they would solve their problems. This is the same attitude we get from conservative white males when talking about racism, bigotry, and sexism. It's where the terms mansplain and whitesplain come from. Maybe we should begin to add Samsplain, as in Uncle Sam, to give it a name.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gun Advocates Think We Live In A Video Game

Story: Less than 90 minutes after Oregon shooting, CNN analyst suggests school’s ‘gun free zone’ to blame

The mind that comes up with this kind of thing must think we all live in a video game where everyone is always carrying around a loaded weapon, pointed and ready to shoot someone and then one person would only take one perfect shot at "the bad guy."

What an asshole.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

No, You Didn't Die For Your Country

Story: Tributes to war's fallen spreading

In the above story there is a common phrase that hardly ever gets challenged: "...gave their lives for their country..." Whenever this phrase is used it automatically shuts down any potential challenge to the claim because there is, for some reason, a built-in fear of doing so. That needs to change.

War is not something that is always done in defense of a country (or in defense of anything, for that matter). Even the name, Department of Defense, is inaccurate.War is more often an act of aggression, undertaken for the purpose of strengthening the power and increasing the wealth of those with the most power and wealth.

The way that people who are society's most vulnerable are convinced to fight in wars that bring them no benefit is to give them a false sense of danger. If people with no power can be convinced that another group is going to take away what little they have, they will be willing to fight. Add in a strong dose of simple-minded patriotism, and few will ever look past it to what's really going on.

The U.S. imperial war machine has been in operation since at least WWI, with the actual point in time being debatable. But since the invasion of Iraq, there is no question that our military is not an entity in place to protect the country. It's a monster that is unleashed to destroy and steal for the benefit of those who already have the most.

But we will never acknowledge this reality when people who fight these wars are seen by the general population as have done something noble. It's a terrible skewing of reality that is as ridiculous as it is evil. Tributes to those who have been duped into taking part is a part of the problem. Honoring them can't include the lie that they died for something they didn't die for.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

We Keep Acting Like We Hate Humanity

Two stories I ran across at about the same time:

Poor People Don't Have Less Self-Control. Poverty Forces Them to Think Short-Term.
"...poverty can force people to live in a permanent now. Worrying about tomorrow can be a luxury if you don’t know how you’ll survive today."
Education Gap Between Rich and Poor Is Growing Wider
"...the achievement gaps between more affluent and less privileged children is wider than ever..."

I couldn't help but see a future where we have at least two distinct groups, one with all the power and money and the other begging just to make it through another day. It is similar to what we supposedly left behind when we began moving away from feudal social systems. But, for some reason, our species seems to migrate back to this horrible model history has proven to create an awful existence for the vast majority of us.

If an alien race were to visit the planet, they could correctly conclude that we hate ourselves.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trickle-Down Heaven Should Be Happening Now

With the presidential debates now underway, we again hear in near unison the conservative talking point about how tax cuts for the rich will create jobs for the poor. This "trickle-down" idea has been at the core of just about every Republican's rhetoric when it comes to the economy and job creation. Leaving aside studies and expert opinions directly debunking this notion, have are living the middle of all the proof we need: rising income inequality.

There is no doubt that the gap between rich and poor is large and getting bigger. But if the trickle-down idea was valid, everyone at the bottom would be benefiting from the wealth increases being experienced by those already at the top of the economic heap; we would be living in trickle-down heaven. Instead, those at the top are hoarding it in amounts so great that they are eligible for their own Hoarders reality TV show. To allow them to accumulate even more money through tax cuts will only result in more of the same hoarding behavior.

Yet, despite existing within the proof of this false notion, people still push it as valid. Our fate need not be as sad as this direction is taking us.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Our Fundamental Worship And Praise Problem

This evening I watched on the National Geographic Channel "Inside North Korea," an hour-long special from 2009 with Lisa Ling. She accompanies a medical team visiting the country to do cataract surgeries and train North Korean doctors. Most of it was what one might expect from a documentary about North Korea, but the end of the program was a big shock for me as it showed how those who regained their eyesight due to the medical procedure emotionally thanked their country's former dictator for healing them, not the medical team.

The way the people reacted was exactly like fundamentalist religious people act when they give credit to their god for doing something done by doctors (or anyone, really). If you watch the episode beginning just after the 41 minute mark, you'll see what I mean.

I can't help but think we humans have a fundamental flaw that allows so many of us to worship in this manner. So many of us are willing to misdirect our praise, and we do this for real people as well as fictional ones--it doesn't seem to matter. Once that part of this unfortunate aspect of some of us is tapped, it is apparently open to be directed without integrity.

I can only hope that at some point our descendants will outgrow this serious problem.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Self-Defense, Fetal Personhood, Stand Your Ground All Support Abortion Rights

With misleadingly edited Planned Parenthood videos putting abortion in the news, I think it's important to again bring up a missing justification for abortion that hardly ever gets the attention it deserves: self-defense.

A pregnancy certainly is an assault on a pregnant woman's body. She, therefore, should be legally allowed to take measures to end the attack, including abortion. The legal recognition of self-defense as a valid action goes back millennia.

But adding to a valid self-defense claim are two tactics pushed by anti-abortion forces that actually increase the legality of abortion. The first is what's known as the fetal personhood idea. If, as supporters of this idea desire, a fetus is declared to be a person like any other, the claim of self-defense against that "person" becomes just like any other claim against any other person. There is no exception to the legal concept of self-defense when one person is being attacked by another. This is constitutionally supported  under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause.

The second tactic comes form those who support "stand your ground" laws, the legal idea that "individuals can use force to defend themselves without first attempting to retreat from the danger." These laws exist in some jurisdictions now and are being pushed by conservatives to be enacted elsewhere.

People who to try to outlaw abortions don't realize it, but these combined legal points actually increase the legal justification for abortion at any time.

So, if a fetus is not legally seen as a person, there is no basis in the law on which to outlaw abortions because the pregnant woman is not harming anyone. On the other hand, if the fetus is declared to be a person, a pregnant woman actually has the addition legal support of the universal tenet of self-defense that clearly allows an abortion to be performed if so desired, and in areas where "stand your ground laws" exist, her legal justification is even more solid.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Little Evidence That Humanity Doesn't Hate Itself

I can find no evidence against the notion that our society is purposely configured by us to be our own enemy at just about every turn. This is not a new notion, of course. It was the point of a famous Pogo comic from 1971 with the line, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

But even though we all likely admit this failure when pointed out, we do nothing to correct it. And this adversarial relationship we've continually setup between ourselves and the processes we create to serve us is everywhere. A partial list includes health care, education, the act of voting, banking, environmental issues, commerce, Social Security and other post-retirement issues, law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, the plethora of agencies and individuals who spy on literally everyone, and more.

Our overall cultural practices also include this problem with examples including racism, misogyny, bigotry, poverty, and lack of support for varied family structures. It's so bad that even when an individual tries to help another individual directly outside of these awful conditions, there are people and systems in place to put up a fight. Perhaps the most obvious are feeding the homeless without a permit (which can't be obtained in many cities) and giving money directly to someone who needs help without some sort of potential penalty.

We could very easily be accurately tagged as a species that is suffering from some sort of mass mental illness. What else could it be when we are responsible for our own condition and we continue to purposely make ourselves miserable?