Archive for the ‘Irreverance’ Category.

Veteran Worship

I went to a very nice party tonight hosted by a local couple who wanted to recognize those who served on this Fourth of July weekend. It was really a nice gesture and it was a lovely barbecue. But I never feel comfortable at those things. They wanted each of us who were veterans to bring a picture of ourselves in uniform, and any medals. Well I will tell you right now, the medal thing was out.

Medals back in my day (Vietnam) were issued kind of like merit badges, put up with x amount of shit and here is a medal. Now that is not to belittle medals won by many who did valiant things for them. I did not, and got medals based upon how many combat mission I had flown (and survived). It wasn’t like there was one moment where you did something extraordinary, it was like you are still breathing so here. So I don’t feel comfortable brandishing my medals.

I also am really uncomfortable with the modern hero thing. Again, don’t get me wrong. There are true heroes out there and they should be recognized. I and most of my fellow servicemen are just not one of them. We joined because … well, it was your duty. And we got up every day and did the job because, well, it was your duty. Some days required more get up and go than others, but it was not heroic. It was the job. Yes it was dangerous, and you could die, but so is driving in to work everyday with those nut jobs on the highways.

So all in all, I don’t too much like this thank the veteran thing. It was what you are supposed to do, and thank you is not expected. Once again, that doesn’t mean that there are not many who deserve our heartfelt thanks and the support they will need because of what it cost them. It just means that for most of us, serving our country does not mean we are heroes, just citizens. It just amazes me in this day and age how many never have served our country in combat, but then considering that the last war we really had to fight was maybe Korea, that is not a bad thing either.

Real Trouble in America

Things we are not doing or indicate we are slip sliding away:

Space Station – Now this one may would think would not be on the top of the list, but it is the epitome of our slip sliding. Our grand investment in space is dependent on the Russians to get us there. You know, that Vladimir Putin who is invading Ukraine. Our short sided planning and failure to invest in the program has put us at the mercy of others and is model for every thing else we are doing.

Roads and Bridges – I think the Civil Engineering community gives the status of our roads and bridges a D-. It is like a leak in the roof of your house. You can’t afford not to fix it because it will just cost you much more later, yet we do nothing. Here is the way to create jobs and invest in tomorrow and we do nothing. Oh, wait, we will get the private sector to fund them and make them all toll roads, further restricting the poor and middle class who can’t afford to travel in the fast lane.

Rapid Transit and High Speed Rail – One of the more interesting study, unless you are a conservative and don’t believe in social science, shows that the poor and middle class do much better in areas where they can use mass transit to get to better paying jobs. And their income is my income and my income is their income so why wouldn’t we be making this investment. Did you know that even Mexico has a high speed rail and we don’t. Another great investment in our future that would provide high paying jobs and we do nothing.

Airports – Even Vice President Joe Bidden commented on the sorry state of our airports compared to other nations. We look like a “third world country”. Why is that? Why do other countries update their major transportation centers and we don’t. Can you say Republicans and be afraid of the debt, until of course we are all in the poor house because we did not invest in our future (except for the 1% who can fly out of their private airports). It is critical to our ability to compete and we do nothing.

Water Supply and Water Treatment – Our water supply is going to be tested as water is going to be the next gold rush and we do nothing. Some 80% of all water used in California comes from to some extent wells and yet nobody is managing the amount of pumping going on. Are we building more storage? Have we changed anything except to ration and wait for better times? Are we upgrading and expanding our facilities for the future? No, we do nothing.

Sewer and Gas Infrastructure – It is aging and failing and we do nothing. The future will take care of itself, right?

Global Warming Impacts – We deny global warming, or at least that is the litmus test for Republicans these days when the science is conclusive. We are already feeling its impacts and we can predict its future impacts. So have we done anything to meaningfully reduce carbon usage like a carbon tax? Have we done anything to start preparing our infrastructure for raising sea levels, more severe storms and tornados? We have all this science and we do nothing.

High Speed Internet Capacity – We have some of the worst internet capacity in the advanced world. It is critical to our ability to compete and new innovation. Are we doing anything about it. Well in this case we are! We are ending net neutrality and making the big boys that provide this more of a monopoly and stifling innovation. Why don’t we look at internet capacity as a utility and expand it and make us competitive with other countries? You know, start laying the fiber. What a job creator! Yet we do nothing.

I could go on and on. Let’s not forget about immigration, long term unemployment, investing in education, helping the poor, all of which would boast our economy and yet we do nothing. Also don’t forget how the Supremes have put more money into politics making all of us even more unequal, and moving toward denying a woman’s right to choose. Yesterday there was an article in the NYT about how Millennials had lost faith in the political process. They haven’t been paying attention as most Americans haven’t. It isn’t politics, it is Republicans.

Right now they (Republicans) are obsessing about Benghazi, not about have we fixed the problems with our security, but with finding a conspiracy in the White House. And they seem even less interested in looking into their lack of funding for adequate security. As Jon Stewart pointed out, they are wondering where the outrage is, and yet they had none in the real scandal of the Bush/Cheney War lies.

Oh, and don’t forget repealing Obamacare, cutting funds to study social sciences so we have data to support policies, and their budget continues more tax cuts, failure to invest in tomorrow, and pay for tax cuts with more cuts to the poor and taxes on the middle class. Oh, and don’t forget less regulation.

It is the Bush years all over again and Millennials are confused? They are brain dead along with the rest of America. Maybe we have all become Cliven Bundy, squirreled away in our ignorance. Their’s just looks more hip because they can hide in their culture of technological denial (buried in their IPhones while the country falls apart while they withdraw.

I get angry about this maybe because I grew up in the 60’s. Instead of hiding in their technology, kids got out into the street and demanded change. Things today are far worse and while the draft no longer personally affects these new kids on the block, they are being drafted into the destruction of our country by their inaction. Republicans are winning by turning them off by their obstructionism.

To think people are clueless about what where we are going if we elect more of this anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-choice, budget cutters, is just mind blowing. Ask yourself this if you think your choice is more guns, less taxes, less regulation: How is that different from the road we are already on that you so dislike?

Religion is the Problem

Have you noticed one common characteristic that most of the crazies on the right have in common? They are in one form or another conservative Christians. From Rick Perry to Michele Bachman, across the whole spectrum of science and fact denying Republican crazies, they are deeply religious. I don’t think that is an accident.

Now one could argue that conservatives by nature like structure so a dogmatic religion meets their psychological needs for certainty and structure in a chaotic world. But I think there is another reason or maybe the primary reason, their ability to suspend their disbelief, in other words their unquestioning faith.

If you are a rational person then your belief system has to align with your rational mind. Religion isn’t just irrational, the more conservative (dogmatic) your religious beliefs, the more of science and logical thought you have to deny. You know, things like evolution, age of the universe, the virgin birth, trying to reconcile the vain and violent God of the Old Testament with the all merciful God of the New Testament, and all the contradictions and impossibilities in the stories.

So the more you adhere to fundamentalist Christian ideas, the more you have equipped yourself to deny science, logic, and the world around you. You have hard wired yourself to believe that if you feel it, it is true. It builds a whole way of thinking that allows you to limit your experience to what you know is true and to deny reality if it does not comport to your belief system.

I am not arguing that an argument for religion cannot be made, but I am arguing that those who have a dogmatic adherence to religious ideas that do not stand the test of reality or logic have developed a way of processing information that is highly flawed. With half of our Congress denying evolution, global warming, studies that show their economic and social policies are counter productive, and believing in unlimited regenerating oil, it is not a coincidence that most of these people are conservative Christians.

I think that is why rational thought no longer makes any difference. Sure there can be honest disagreements, but most aren’t and the solutions to most of our problems we know, we have done them before, and yet today, we deny them. I can only attribute this to fuzzy religious thought that has become endemic. I feel it is so, it makes me comfortable, therefore it must be true. To quote Al Gore, we are in for some inconvenient truths if we continue down this path.

Note: I was wondering what the conservative reaction would be to Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey where Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson presents the scientific basis for the universe and life while walking a respectful line between what we know and religious belief in a supreme being. Well they “have their panties in a knot.”

News Creating News

I had to run some errands today and this is what I heard while listening to national news:

We don’t know anything about what happened to the downed Malaysia flight but it could have been caused by someone illegally smoking in the lavatory after a release of methane from the lavatory storage tanks, or not. There are terrorists everywhere.

There may be a new investigation of Chris Christie, but we are not sure. It could be related to political manipulation of the Port Authority, but we have no facts to support that and won’t know anything until someone is indicted. Now we turn to our panel to discuss what we don’t know.

Justin Biebir was charged with driving while intoxicated … Sorry just the mention of his name and I kind of drift off.

California needs to free the whales and legalize marijuana for fun and profit, although the Governor fears too many potheads.

Will Hillary run in 2016. Let’s talk to a few experts that know as little as we do about this…

Now I feel equipped to handle the issues of the day and make informed choices at the polls.

Breaking News: God Wrote the Constitution!

Tom Delay declares that the Constitution was written by God. That just furthers my thesis that evangelical Christians are the problem. I guess he missed that whole Constitutional Convention thing where they spent all summer fighting over the wording, or the next few years adding the first Ten Amendments and ratifying the document. Oh, and let’s not forget that most of the Founders were Deists, who believed that if there was a god, he didn’t dabble in human affairs. Delay and his brethren give us Atheists a good name.

I hate to break it to most people, but God didn’t write the Bible either. A bunch of guys wrote it hundreds of years after the fact and it is full of contradictions. Maybe some good literature there and a few good ideas, but it is the work of man, just as God is.

Blinded by the Light

I almost never listen to Republicans anymore. And for that matter there are quite a few older Democrats I ignore too. They are blinded by the light. The light is their political/religious philosophy that colors everything they hear and see, warping it into their fixed belief system. Before I attack Republicans for their gross denial, I will point out that I don’t think Bill Clinton is a savior for the Democratic Party and I think his hewing to the right while listening to his banking friends help bring about the crash in 2007. His description of unemployment as a structural problem (not enough workers trained where the jobs are) is just flat wrong.*

But what I see is mostly from Republicans who have a fixed idea about what it means to be a Democrat (some wild eyed spending nutcase), and is in deep denial about what his/her party has become and who controls it. Probably the most destructive force for our country is the anti-intellectualism we see in Southern politicians who are blinded by their evangelical beliefs and that they are the chosen people. Science be damned, God will take care of us.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night on her show, the head of North Carolina’s environmental department believes in the immaculate conception oil theory (if the world is only 4000 years old, then oil is being made within earths bowels continually and there is a limitless supply). The head of the the Congressional Committee on Science (Georgia Congressman Paul Broun) is another one who disavowals evolution and the Big Bang theory. Blinded by the light.

But in more mundane circles I heard/read two “moderate” Republicans once again blinded by the light. The first was Kathleen Parker who was being interviewed by Alex Wagner about the Republican war on women. Ms. Parker launched into a moderate ploy, there is not really a war and tried to refocus the discussion on the framing of the argument instead of the argument itself.

When you look at the record number of bills passed to restrict women’s choice, when you look at the Republican opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, when you look at Republican opposition to equal pay for women, what would you call it. Instead Ms. Parker pointed out that poor men were threatened as women became more empowered and while we should not call it a war on men, you can understand their feelings, right? Blinded by the light.

Then there was David Brooks this morning. David is the classic example of the “smart” Republican that goes into convoluted and twisted logic to try to hang on to failed ideas. This morning’s tome was David trying to explain why raising the minimum wage is a bad idea (destroying 500K jobs!):

The big new problem, Brooks (conservative Authur Brooks, no relation) writes, is that labor markets are sick. Fewer people are working and enjoying the sense of reward that is a key to happiness. Democrats embrace a raise in the minimum wage that could drive another half-million workers out of the labor market.

Much better, he says, would be to expand the earned-income tax credit (EITC) or maybe use direct payments or loans to help people move to opportunity.

This is another hammock argument, that entitlements are killing the middle class (“Then they need to point out that it is the web of middle-class entitlements, even the home mortgage deduction, that really threaten benefits to the poor.”. But as Dean Baker points out, the earned-income tax credit has this giant disincentive to expand your income when you lose your benefit. And as Dean points out, had President Obama proposed an expansion of the EITC, Brooks would have been against that. Blinded by the light.

*Sadly when it comes to the economy, both Clinton and Obama were captured by the fear the debt campaign. There understanding of economics comes from their banking pals and is their Achilles Heel. Sadly they are in the home budget analogy camp looking for the confidence fairy. Believing in a Grand Bargain as an answer to our long term debt is just waiting for the confidence fairy to appear.

Breaking News

What? There are inaccuracies in the Bible? Flash bulletin: Archaeologists at Tel Aviv University sought evidence of when domesticated camels were first introduced into the land of Israel and the surrounding region. And behold:

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.

Like that is a flash bulletin? There has been tons of research just on the existing literature in the Bible to show many, many, many contradictions. But not to worry. Of course the Bible is the word of God and infallible. God works in many mysterious ways.

Meanwhile in NFL land, where men are real men until they lose their way with dementia from past head injuries, a young gay athlete has come out before the NFL draft and some in NFL land are wary. One player said that they were not homophobic, but being naked or in the shower with a gay man would be, well, uncomfortable and hurt team cohesiveness. I hate to break it to him, but that is homophobia (is he afraid he might be interested?) and think about it. The ultimate team sport is war and our armed forces got over it or at least are facing up to trying. Maybe the real men in the NFL could give it a try too.

But back to God. In Baghdad apparently a suicide bomber instructor blew himself and 22 of his students up during a class demonstration. As one Iraqi put it:

“This is so funny. It shows how stupid they are, those dogs and sons of dogs. This is God showing justice,” Mr. Hashim continued. “This is God sending a message to the bad people and the criminals in the world, to tell them to stop the injustice and to bring peace. Evil will not win in the end. It’s always life that wins over death.”

So maybe he does exist? Either God works in mysteries ways or stupid people do stupid things. Just another day in news to point out how irrational we are and to ponder how we ever got to the top of the food chain.

A Thought for Saturday Afternoon

I am sitting on my patio on this Saturday afternoon in my shirt sleeves, drinking a beer and enjoying an above 70º day at three thousand feet in the Sierras. Yes something has gone awfully haywire with the weather (I think it is called global warming). I worry about what this might bring this summer for my grapes, the rest of the farmers, and the animals and plants up here. But right now there is nothing I can do about it, so I am sipping a Heineken and listening to music streamed over my WiFi on my Sonos speakers. Then I wonder that other magical and beautiful “music” is in the air that we are just not in tune with. Food for thought.

Fox News: Santa is White

Well I guess it is time to address this nonsense. Santa isn’t a real person. It is an idea, a hope, a dream, a belief in some good in the world. It is the spirit of giving and renewal. It is the wonder that magical things are possible. Santa lives through us in our hopes and dreams. That doesn’t have a color. It is called the human condition. Oh, and there is no war on Christmas. People who don’t believe in Jesus can still have the Christmas spirit of giving, joy and peace without embracing someone’s narrow view of their personal religious dogma. Remember, Christmas was originally a Pagan holiday. And those who decide to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas are simply being considerate and kind, a characteristic removed from the Fox Noise channel. These people should be put out of their misery. That’s what I would like for Christmas, Santa.

Black Friday

I checked my email this morning and I noted that my local outfitter store (I live in a rural mountain area) is having a sale on guns on Friday. Gee, if I could just find some liquor sales it would be a perfect holiday. Guns and liquor, what could be better? See you in the emergency room.