Archive for November 2015

And Just Who is the Problem?

From the NYT today:

Two-thirds of Americans support the United States joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but a slim majority of Republicans remain opposed, the poll found. Sixty-three percent of Americans — including a bare majority of Republicans — said they would support domestic policy limiting carbon emissions from power plants.

So where do those Republican Governors, Senators, and Congressmen stand?  Strongly opposed.  It is becoming clearer and clearer that we are in the making of a natural disaster and Republicans are in denial.  They put partisan ideology ahead of fact and science.  Let’s not hear that both sides do it because it is bull shit.  One side keeps us from doing anything except tearing down what we have already done.

But what I think is even more problematic was an article I read yesterday about how the wealthy (and not just Republicans, although they are electing Republicans to do their bidding) are taking power in states with the agenda of fighting raises in the minimum wage and weakening unions.  Lower taxes and less spending, coupled with lower wages will bring us a bonanza of business growth!  There is something fundamentally disconnected here.

If people make less by increasing the bottom line for business through lower wages and taxes, who has the income to buy their stuff?  The only way I can make sense out of either of these examples, global warming denial and economic lowest common denominator thinking of Republicans or the wealthy in general, is that they are detached from reality.  They have created a bubble of like-minded thinking that reinforces what they perceive as benefiting themselves.

The most disturbing part is that with their wealth and their Supreme Court facilitated influence on our political system, we continue to do the same stupid things that don’t get us anywhere.  There is a solution.  It really is quite simple. People need to vote.  It is not just good enough that the majority wants something, they have to vote that way.  In a recent study of why many people in poor areas vote against their own best interests, the analysis revealed the simple fact that they don’t vote.  The key is to get them out to the polls.

I guess I will leave you with one white boy thought about Black Lives Matter as an example of the problem.  Black Lives Matter wants to do something about institutional racism that is quite frankly everywhere.  So they are mostly challenging Democratic candidates to take up their cause.  Once again it is a blame game which, while certainly some truth to it, will fail.  It is not what they can do for you, it is what you can do for yourself.  That means in the case of Black Lives Matter, they had better get out the black vote.  If you elect a wildly liberal President and the same Congress we have now, nothing changes.  And that is where we are headed.

Note:  “Rising seas besieging China’s economically vital coastal zones. Mighty feats of infrastructure, like the Three Gorges Dam and railway in Tibet, strained by turbulent rainfall and the melting of frozen earth. And on the Himalayan frontiers, the risk in future decades of international conflict over dwindling water supplies as glaciers retreat.

These and other somber scenarios are laid out in the Chinese government’s latest scientific assessment of global warming, released just before negotiations in Paris for a new international agreement on climate change.

Hmm.  Even the Chinese can figure this out but not our present day Republicans.  I guess when Miami is up to its ass in water they will think it is time to act.

The Real Terrorism Threat

A white male with a gun.  Let’s see, just recently there was the Oregon shooting and now this one at a planned parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.  What do these have in common?  A white male and a gun.  How again is more intrusive back doors to our smart phones and computers going to help this?  It goes all the way back to the Oklahoma City bombing.  Oregon, I can’t explain, but the other two I can.  We let lies and propaganda stand, mostly put out by Republicans seeking office and you have a segment of our society ginned up for violence.

Hate government.  They are ruining our lives.  Immigrants are pouring in over the borders. They are coming to get our guns. Be afraid, be afraid, be afraid.  It is the politics of divide, hate, and fear.  It has worked well for them, but there is blow back.  I wonder how much this nut case who killed three people in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood clinic was motivated by the lies of Carly Fiornia in the Republican Debates about live fetuses being cut up?  When does life get so sacred you take lives?

And of course this is terrorism, waged on women’s legal right to have an abortion.  I wonder if those wonderful Supremes with their attack on women’s rights through religious freedom laws see any connection?  They too are part of the problem.  I am quite sure, like an ISIS terrorist, this man feels fully justified by God for his actions.  Religious intolerance called religious freedom and Republicans have in many complex ways built the road this man went down.  I wonder if we will wake up and throw all these people out of office and restore sanity to this country.  It’s called tolerance.  Republicans are anti-tolerance.  Just listen to the lies in their campaign rhetoric.

No, you can not predict these things.  But we could show tolerance and compasion in our religious and political beliefs.  Right now one party is on the opposite binge and they are preaching hate.  So we are surprised?  But it is time to call it what it is, terrorism and realize we too have built a bridge to this kind of action.  It is time to blow that bridge up.

UPDATE:  Apparently I am a victim of all this violence talk too.  So as my friend suggested to me after reading this, let’s just tear the bridge down, not blow it up.

Cranks and Loons

Bernie Sanders is my man.  I know Hillary will win out, but Bernie is the one who truly puts forth policy positions that make perfect sense.  The NYT this morning had a great op-ed about Bernie’s approach to immigration and how in any other time, would have seemed like common sense, but with Republicans running around shouting lies and screaming be afraid, it appears radical.  The article finished with this:

In this bizarre campaign season, Republican candidates are playing reality-TV versions of themselves, filling the air with lies and irrational promises, while the Democrats — Mr. Sanders especially — are depicted by TV comics as cranks and loons. Mr. Sanders’s immigration plan is a powerful counterpoint to that stereotype. It is reality-based, moderate, practical and hopeful.

Sadly it is not just the TV comics, but TV pundits.  Remember the narrative that Bernie is just the Democrats answer to the Republicans going far right?  He is not, of course.  His policies address real problems that are out there for all of us to see and yet we are blinded by the fact that it is not part of our conventional wisdom. The impacts of economic inequality are just beginning to dawn on us.

Big banks have to be broken up, regulation will never work because we had regulation and they were co-opted.  Health care will only be really and truly effective when we get for profit companies out of medical insurance (single payer system).  This one really makes me laugh because the rest of the world has figured this out and we proceed with the most costly health system in the world with suboptimal results.

We need stronger social security not a weaker system.  When you think about a really vibrant competitive free market, if most of us had a minimal retirement system guaranteed by the government and our healthcare paid for by our taxes, taking the burden of both of these off business, we would be much more likely to take risks and move where the opportunities arise.  Did I just dream this up?  Nope, Scandinavian countries are proving this point.  Google it. And of course we can afford it.

So Bernie is just telling it like it is, and most of us are shocked, shocked, shocked I tell you, that out system needs some major adjustments.  And of course, those most against these changes profit from the status quo, but that is fewer and fewer of us which is exactly what Bernie is pointing out.

The real loons out there are the Republican Party and Democrats who don’t see the necessity of these changes.  No, Bernie is talking truth to power, and they don’t like it.  But I do and he is my man.

If Everyone has a Gun, Someone is Going to get Shot (Part II)

First this little tidbit to get your morning going:

The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

Yep, the whole world is festering with unhappy souls, and we are arming them to the teeth.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Okay, I promised to solve the Middle Eastern crisis in one simple blog.  You know, it is a great responsibility and not easy trying to save the world from my iPad in the morning, usually in one page or less.  But somebody has to do it because our mainstream press asks really important questions like, “Marco, what non-politician would you like to sit down and have a beer with?”  If that weren’t bad enough, he answered Malala who is probably underage and a Muslim (doesn’t drink).  I rest my case on the brain trust that is running for President on the Republican side.

Okay, the common perception is that ISIS is the problem.  So the easy answer (see Lindsey Graham) is to send in our troops and wipe them out.  However, we have the vacuum problem.  Who fills the vacuum after we go or do we just stay there forever being the policeman of the world? It’s what we did before. You get the problem.

But there really is a more fundamental problem which many have pointed out has to be dealt with or the problem just keeps raising its ugly head. This problem is the lust for  religious totalitarianism that cannot abide any other beliefs.  It is not just Islam, Christianity has this in its blood stream also, but we have a more tame version where if you don’t believe the “right” way you are just damned to hell.  God will get you in the end and that is good enough. That’s actually a comforting thought for us atheists since we think God is a figment of the imagination anyway.  And I am always reminded of priest and pastors who are “right” thinking, sexually abusing their flock.

The good news, like Christianity, most Muslims are quite happy with live and let live, so part of the solution is to mobilize them against the more crazy Muslims.  When we see shows like The Book of Mormon, being played out as The Book of Mohammed, we know we have arrived.  All kidding aside, just getting the discussion going without death threats within the Muslim world would be a big start. So whatever we do, that has to be part of the solution.

The next thing we have to do is recognize that what we have been doing does not work, period.  And from Libya to Yemen to Syria to Iraq and Afghanistan, our many varied approaches have yielded very little unless of course you manufacture and sell arms or more sadly, if you are in the medical rehabilitation field.  Oh, and it has worked swimmingly if you sell dilapidated boats to refugees.  So we have a region in chaos, millions migrating to Europe, and ISIS and al Qaeda exporting war to our shores.  Not what I would call a success.

So we throw everything we think we know away.  That includes established borders and who are our friends and foes.  Next we have to lay out our goals.  I know this is Project Management 101, but apparently those in charge could use a little.  Here would be my goals:

  1. Destroy ISIS and al Qaeda (and the idea of intolerant religions)
  2. Separate the warring factions and quit trying to get them to hold hands (Iraq)
  3. Stand behind our American principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (did I forget minority rights (Think women here)?)
  4. End the refugee crisis

For Goal 1, we make whatever deals we have to except allowing a war criminal like Assad to remain in power.  If we do let him stay in power, it will be self-defeating and violate Goal 3.  There are going to have to be some Americans involved and NATO has to step up to the plate, along with primarily Arab ground troops.  This includes putting the screws to Pakistan who have nurtured al Qaeda and the Taliban in their territories.

As part of this, we are going to have to establish a no-fly zone and using NATO  forces secure it so the refugees do not have to go to Europe (Goal 4).  This will also require massive humanitarian aid, to build a modern place to be safe while the nuts can fight their wars elsewhere.  Cause trouble and out you go. This could even become a proving ground for a modern Arab government, but tightly managed by NATO to ensure no backsliding.

To make the deals to in fact get an Arab force to fight ISIS and al Qaeda (and maybe Assad), they have to know that they get some of the spoils.  Since we have seen how promising an inclusive government does not work, they get to control the areas they win (Goal 2).  Iraq would probably become three areas (remember Joe Bidden said this years ago), Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.

Syria could go the same way.  Turkey is in for a rough comeuppance. Since they have facilitated the flow of oil and people into and out of Syria. Russia is not going to like this, but they either play along or get confronted.  Better now than later.  They can either play and have a role in a new Syrian government or they become part of the problem. The whole pack of nations has to clamp down on the flow of money and arms.  Remember this is a world solution to a creeping cancer.

Finally, the big one, Goal 3.  This is really what brings the Middle East into the 21st century and makes us a more civilized world. We help them separate and survive only as long as they promote the values of life, liberty, and happiness.  If they become like Saudi Arabia, they are just a ticking time bomb and will eventually go off, and not peacefully.  If we are going to solve this, we have to recognize that some cultures are not just different, they are destructive to the human spirit.  We have to use our force, influence, and money to become the good guy again.

One last thing.  We are not going to be the policeman of the world.  If it doesn’t work out, we walk away and let them fester in stupidity.  The only time we (NATO) get involved is if like ISIS, they start posing an international problem.  Then we squash them.  See, that was not so hard. Now with this framework in hand, and France now probably fully on board, let’s see if we can make some headway because this is a world problem and only a world solution will work.

If Everyone has a Gun, Someone is Going to be Shot

It was in my mind just a matter of time until someone had a conflagration with Russia.  Ha! you thought I was going to talk about gun control in the U.S.  Well I will in a minute.  A Russian fighter jet was shot down today, allegedly flying over Turkish territory.  I wonder why you have to kill people to make a point?  It just complicates an already very complicated situation.  As an ex-back seater in a fighter my first thought was wondering if the crew got out.  Apparently they did to be murdered either while parachuting down or after they landed by Syrian rebels.  These are our pals.  Isn’t that a war crime?

First the gun thing.  No one will see it, but if you arm everyone in the Middle East, and that is exactly what we and others have done, there will be endless violence.  The hate and retribution just go on and on.  If everyone in the U.S. has a gun, we will at one point or another take a shot at someone.  So if guns don’t kill people, people do, should we ban people and leave the guns free to do what they want?

So with that sort of meandering intro, what should we do about the Middle East.  And the real question is what can be done?  In my perfect world, we would quit supplying them arms and let them sort it out.  But we have supplied them with arms and millions are leaving the area, while the religious fanatics are importing their violence to the civilized world.  So option one, the perfect world solution is out.

Now the first thing we have to do is sort through all the challenges.  Apparently Shiites and Sunnis cannot live together and share power.  Too much baggage and the natural proclivity to usurp your neighbor if he has more than you do.  In Iraq, that simply means the country has to be broken up and that will be no easy task since some parts have oil and other parts are poor.  And of course throw in the Kurds who seem to be able to handle modernity better than the rest of the cultures there.  Then we have the Turks afraid of a modern Kurdish nation that could cause trouble with the Turkish Kurds who might want to break away from Turkey.

Then you have all the power plays at the national level.  Iran wants a pal in a Sunni world so they have backed Assad who is a war criminal, but maybe the only game in town to fight ISIS.  The Saudis, who probably gave birth to all these religious fanatics, and are still a source of funding, are terrified of a strong Iran, yet do not want to become too embroiled in a war against radicals that could stir up unrest in Saudi Arabia.

Then you have ISIS, al-Qaeda, and throw in Pakistan, because without their tolerance of the rebels in their territories, they would cease to exist.  Oh, and Pakistan has nukes and we give them lots of money to not attack India.  Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, Russia, who wants to project power in the region so Putin can strut around the Moscow square.  Now I think I have it all.  Just remember that they are all swimming in guns and ammo so there is a lot of shooting going on.

I think I am going to have to make this a two-parter because there really is a lot to discuss.  Now we seem to be fine with most of the above until first al-Qaeda and then ISIS imported their violence out of the region, the latest being the Paris shootings.

And there is one other major challenge we seem to avoid like it was a pool of Ebola tainted blood, religion.  These are at the heart, religious wars, and dare I say it, Islamic radical fundamentalists wars.  We can’t seem to see that ISIS is a religion and is part of Islam, just as we can’t quite admit that the Christian religion has the same strains of tyrannical mono-theism at the root of the problem if we wanted to act crazy and intolerant like the radical Muslims are.  Well actually if you look at all the “good” Christians running for president on the Republican side, it is actually raising its ugly head again.

It is important to recognize all these issues because to solve it, if it can be solved, or at least create a way forward, is to recognize all the problems because then it becomes quite clear that simple-minded solutions are not going to work.  In that vein, Republican presidential candidates need not apply for solving anything.  Okay tomorrow, I will think/write out loud, giving all of the above, what one possible way forward might be.  The only other person to do this is Hillary and you might want to think about that America.  We can shoot ourselves in the foot again with Republican cowboy solutions, or we can see what is really possible with the least blow back and proceed accordingly.

Okay now I will see you tomorrow when I figure this thing out.

Ready, Shoot, Aim

From the Daily Beast:

Ben Carson told an ABC News reporter on Monday that he “saw the film” of American Muslims cheering after the World Trade Center fell on 9/11, an unverified claim about unspecified people, perpetuated by recent statements from Donald Trump. His reference to a “film” is allegedly U.S. news coverage from around the time; though no such film has been known to exist. Several hours later, Carson’s campaign said the candidate “apologizes” for a factual mistake and that he meant he saw footage from the Middle East of people celebrating the attacks; not from New Jersey.

So this is how the man forms opinons and positions on issues?  Donald Trump is just as bad.  Feed them some garbage they want to believe anyway, and that is what sticks in their minds as truth.  Now it is widely known that most of what they have said or believe is more in error than true, yet the fine morons from Iowa like these guys.  I can hear it now.  Opps, sorry about that nuke, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.  Is this a great country or not?

Why Would You Live in LA

Well, here is a blog written by someone who has never lived there and in the last 20 years has only seen LA from the edge of the freeway going through it, so judge accordingly.  I made my yearly trip down to San Diego to visit my son so I get my yearly taste of LA traffic and I-5 ignoramuses.  I wrote about the drive last year (Going Crazy Driving I-5) and my fantasy for a roof mounted rocket launcher on my car.  This year two things struck me as representative of where we have arrived at.

The first is that while the speed limit on I-5 is 70 mph, that would be in the slow lane.  But from time to time you either have a truck passing a truck or some ignoramus actually only driving 70 mph (or slower) in the fast lane, which slows everything down.  But generally everyone will que up in the left lane waiting for a their turn to finally clear the offending motorist and resume warp factor 5.  But there are always those who refuse the que, and come zipping up on the right and then try to cut back into the que when they get near the front.  I like to think of them as Republicans.  The rules only apply to others.

The other striking revelation is LA freeways.  What a mess.  The trip through LA on a Saturday morning added an additional 1.5 hours of travel time to the normal trip duration if you could have maintain even close to the speed limit.  There were a couple of times as we were creeping along that I was thankful for the creeping as the freeway looked like a giant pothole.  And of course there is construction everywhere.  You know those shows in LA like NCIS Los Angeles or Scorpion when they jump in their cars to get to some crime scene?  Right, not happening in a 1-hour time slot.

But how did we let our freeways get in such a state that a horse and buggy would be quicker?  I am sure like the residents of San Francisco, the residence of LA know their short cuts on city streets that keep them out of the log jams on the freeways, but again, how did we get here?  Why did we let things get so bad before we take action?  That seems to be the question of our times.  We can see this stuff coming and yet until we are sitting in a traffic jam we can’t seem to force ourselves to plan ahead.  Again I harken back to Republicans who think these things will be taken care of by the private sector, when government planning and investment are necessary.

The only flaw in that logic is that as soon as you enter Orange County (Republican stronghold) the freeways widen, Disneyland is coming up, and the carpool lane is actually two lanes. You ever seen a two lane carpool (HOV) set aside? I guess that says something about an affluent tax base and power to influence where transportation funds are spend.  Too bad LA county could not get in on that.  Of course then there is the problem of how you rebuild and expand a freeway system that you can’t get to because of the traffic jam that is parked over it.

So I will be looking for a longer route to San Diego which bypasses LA.  As you get older it is really important you keep moving so the next rest stop is not hours away.  Going home we will do it in the middle of the night. I wonder if the cat will forgive me for being gone.  The dog went to dog Disneyland so at least she will be okay with us being gone. Maybe irked that we came home.  You just can’t win.

Sadly, Crazy People Vote and the Rest of Us Not So Much

There was an interesting story in the NYT written by a person that asks the same question I do over and over again, why do people hurt by Republican politics vote Republican. Now there can be some obvious examples where people who have been helped by safety nets then turn against them because they perceive it just facilitating joblessness.  The other is that there is a whole class of citizens who believe that the poor just deserve to be poor.  They fail to see the connection between passing tax cuts for the wealthy and the smaller and smaller share of the pie that they get to share.

But then there are the surveys that show that the majority of Americans, when polled on specific issues, are much more liberal than conservative.  So what gives?  Well, Alec MacGillis in his article, Who Turned My Blue State Red, made the case that they weren’t voting against their best interests, they weren’t voting:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process. 

When he surveyed the poor going to a free health clinic, he found that most who availed themselves of these services did not vote and were poorly informed about health care policy in general.  His prescriptions for Democrats to re-energize these voters was to redouble efforts in poor communities who no longer had unions or other organizations to represent them.  To reduce the resentment of those above the poverty line that see more and more people dependent on support using it as a crutch to not work, find ways to increase economic growth in their area.  Hmm.

Sadly people generally don’t see the consequences of their actions until it’s too late.  So far Democrats have been able to prevent the worst effects of Republican policies on this class so they remain oblivious.  As I watch our reaction to Syrian refugee-terrorists, that as far as I can tell don’t exist, I have little hope for rational arguments.  Somehow this country seems to have lost the ability to let rational thinking guide us over emotional outbursts.  I fear that as we dumb down our nation, we get dumbed down policies until it personally impacts us and then we wake up.

I guess in some ways I am like that angry nurse described in the piece who while turning her life around with the safety net when she needed it, felt resentful of the people she now helped with that same safety net because they took everything for granted.  She voted Republican because she felt there really was a hammock that allowed them to recline when they should be giving back.  I feel resentful because a lot of us fight really hard for their welfare and they can’t be bothered to vote.

We are facing immense problems today, the biggest being an over heated planet and a distressed ocean, and most could care less.  And they won’t care even with all the scientific arguments in the world until it is too late and then they will wonder why somebody didn’t do something about it.  How you get them out of their focus on their own navel and recognize that they are those somebodies is beyond me.

An Important Insight

We are starting to have a real discussion about what the problem is with ISIS and al Qaeda and how to deal with it. I have my opinions, but they are pliable.  They are pliable because it is such a complex problem that does not lend itself to easy answers.  Send in the Marines!  We did that last time and when we left, the vacuum was filled by terrorists.  Are we to be there forever?  Can non-Muslims really solve anything?  Sunnis, Shites, Kurds, Russian pride, Iranian fear of Sunnis and Saudi Arabia, Turkish fear of the Kurds, and boundaries that don’t make sense make it a complex mix and the answer is not just send in the calvary.

There is an extreme opinion that the problem at the heart of everything is Islam.  I have expressed that myself, but I am biased against most religions. There is criticism that Democrats can’t say radical Islamic fundamentalism for fear of alienating all Muslims.  But I won’t give you my argument tonight, but  Maajid Narwaz, a Muslim, who wrote in the Daily Beast today something we ought to all think about in regard to al Qaeda and ISIS.  Here are a few quotes and then I will make my point:

Recognizing this as an insurgency affects entirely how we react to it. We cannot simply shoot or even legislate our way out of this problem. Unlike war, counter-insurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant enough levels of support within the communities it aims to survive among. Recognizing the source of that support means avoiding the apologism of the far left or the sensationalism of the far right. Both of these reactions will render us blind to the real wellspring of this insurgency’s appeal: the Islamist ideology, as distinct from the religion of Islam.

President Obama, and many liberals, shy away from calling this ideology Islamism. Their fear is that both Muslim communities and those on the political right will simply hear the word “Islam” and begin to blame all Muslims. Instead, the mantra that is repeated is “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.”

ISIS did not radicalize those 6,000 European Muslims who have traveled to join them. ISIS propaganda is good, but not that good. No, decades of Islamist propaganda in communities had already primed these young Muslims to yearn for a theocratic caliphate.

…Islam is what Muslims make it. But it is as disingenuous to argue that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam” as it is to argue that “they are Islam.” ISIS has something to do with Islam. Not nothing, not everything, but something. If you’re going to talk to a jihadist—and believe me, I have spoken to many—you’re not going to find yourself discussing Hitler’s Mein Kampf. You’ll be discussing Islamic texts.

…Islam is a religion, and like any other it is internally diverse. But Islamism is the desire to impose a very particular version of Islam on society. Hence, Islamism is Muslim theocracy. And where jihad is a traditional Islamic idea of struggle, jihadism is the use of force to spread Islamism. Defined in this way, it becomes easier to understand how this global jihadist insurgency seeks to recruit from Islamists, who in turn operate among Muslim communities.

…We should be able to distinguish Islamist extremism from Islam by clarifying that Islam is simply a religion and that Islamism is a theocratic desire to impose a version of that religion over society. And once we do that, we are then able to clearly identify the insurgent ideology that we must get understand, isolate, undermine, refute, and provide alternatives to.

Okay where am I and where do I think Maajid is going with this?  Maajid is a Muslim and I am an atheist.  And in that distinction we see the same thing.  Maajid, I believe, finds comfort and truth in his religion.  I find religion nonsense, although I recognize its utility.  But both of us have no need to conquer the world with our beliefs.  In fact we see the utility of the diversity of beliefs.  My view is that Islamism is no different than those who wish to legislate their religious beliefs into our U.S. constitutional system.  Conservative right wing religious organizations want to prevent you from excercising rights they find religiously objectionable.  They are not content with the freedom to abstain, they must make sure you do too (Hobby Lobby).

What we see is the intolerance of religious belief.  And the point Maajid is trying to make is that the seeds of this theocracy of belief is in the religion itself.  To deny it is to not be able to face head on the real problem.  Islam is not inherently evil nor is Christianity from my atheistic point of view.  But the seeds for it being used for evil are within the religion and unless we face that head on, we are spinning our wheels.  Amen brother.

Oh, and one other thing.  The media is all over how maybe these insurgent radical jihadist groups are combining forces.  Get a grip.  These are really small groups with radical and deadly tendencies that can cause havoc in civilized society because they are not afraid to die.  But they will never work together because in the end each is seeking power through their fantasy of religion and they are never going to agree on whose fantasy is the right one. In reality it is just another power trip.  If they were successful in establishing a caliphate together, it would be a short period before they would be warring against each other in a fight for whose vision of the perfect caliphate is right and who was in charge.  Or as it ever was.

The Race to Madness

This past week has been like a trip back in history where ignorance, racism, and xenophobia were normal American political carrion calls.  Now the Donald tells us maybe registering all Muslims is a good idea.  A Democratic Mayor in Virginia thinks the “good” example of the Japanese internment during WWII could be used again.  Ben Carson, suggested refugees of the Syrian conflict should be screened as they might be “rabid dogs”.  And of course we have this moronic bill the House just passed to “toughen” up the standards for refugee status.  And it all is what it sounds like, racism, ignorance, and xenophobia running wild.

A few words about the bill.  The House panicked  when a passport was found in Paris that indicated that one of the attackers could have come in as a refugee.  Note that to date that has not been verified and those identified were all citizens of Europe, not refugees.  The passport could very well have been a plant to get this exact reaction.  Since 2011 only 2000 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the country, 3/4 of them women and children.  They had to go through a vetting process of 18-24 months. None has ever broken a law.  So be afraid!  Meanwhile any of the attackers in Paris could have bought a ticket to the U.S. from Europe with no checks, and been here in a day.  And they still can.  What the fuck are they doing in Congress?

These guys and gals in Congress cannot sit down and authorize force to be used in the Middle East, but in two days they can create a bill from ignorance and stupidity to pander to the very worst fears and emotions of Americans?  It tells you all you need to know why government does not work.  Oh and listen to them pander to each other, with nonsense like we need to step back a minute and look at the program.  Yeah let’s make it impossible to run where there was no problem in the first place.  And this is from Republicans who say government is the problem, and now we know why.  They make it so.

But the worst part of this is that 40 Democrats voted for it.  And right there is why the Democratic Party always fails.  It does not stand for anything.  This bill should have been appalling to anyone who calls themselves a liberal or a Democrat.  This should have been a line in the sand. Yet they pandered to their voters who are in a mad rush to hide in their shopping centers.

It harkens back to our worst days of racism, xenophobia, and ignorance.  You remember when we sent Jews away in 1939 to die because we were afraid they might be communists, interned the Japanese Americans, or persecuted blacks.  At least our Presidential candidates in the Democratic Party get this totally un-American behavior.  Maybe the 40 ought to be expelled.  If the Democratic Party is ever going to rise again, it has to mean something, and those 40 should be held accountable.

Oh, and I had one other thought.  While America is in the throes of a full-blown panic attack, Paris, the country that was actually attacked, is leading the way showing us how not to lose our principles, going out into the streets and continuing to embrace refugees.  Remember when those brilliant tacticians in Congress wanted to rename French Fries to Freedom Fries?  Funny, the French were right then too.  Right now the French are showing Americans how to be American and we look like feckless fools.