Archive for the ‘Irreverance’ Category.

WTF! Find Some Good News Somewhere

No you won’t find it here. But you need to find some. I was one who used to argue that we could put the Republicans in charge and then Americans would finally learn the error of their thinking. I had no idea they were so dumb. What do I see right now? Well, the Republicans control everything, even the courts, and can’t seem to pass their ruinous policies, the nation is in a mess, we are led by a man unfit to lead and quite possibly mentally impaired, a Republican Congress at war with itself, and I can’t find a Democrat anywhere. Does that about sum it up?

I see where Paul Krugman was telling us how Scott Pruitt is quietly re-polluting America.  President dumb shit pardoned Joe Arpaio, and showed contempt for American courts and justice in general. Janet Yellen, our Federal Reserve chairwoman, is warning us not to forget the last financial meltdown as Republicans rush to tear down all the rules we put in place after the last one. Korea is firing off more missiles and in response, the Village Idiot put out rules baring transsexuals from entering the military. Chaos reigns as he attacks those he needs in Congress and the White House staff has more resignations or firings, we are not sure which. Oh did I mention the hurricane, Harvey, in Texas? As the planet heats there is more energy for more severe storms and global warming does not exist.

Oh, and did I mention that baseball itself has devolved into a brawl? The Tiger/Yankee game had three on field brawls and 4 hits batsmen, with the ejection of eight. WTF! Just as an aside, I have an answer to the intentional hit batsmen or the accidental fastball to the head (which happened in this game). Make it an automatic home run. Maybe that will cool the testosterone. So if you are looking for good news, as I stated this, you won’t find it here. But as I like to ask Trump supporters, got any of those jobs back yet? Calling them morons defames real morons.

Meanwhile, the people who serve the Village Idiot, or so the press narrative goes, do so to save the nation by reigning him in. Bullpucky. See Gary Cohen, Chief of his economic council, who wrote a letter of resignation after Charlottesville, but then rescinded it because he believed “he could be more effective as a public servant inside the White House than out of it.” Horse shit. He and the generals are simply enabling a demented man to remain president instead of quickly crumbling. When you have a nation of morons who support him, putting lipstick on a pig (again, sorry pigs), just enables the destruction of our democracy. It also makes a mockery of principles. Don’t tell me any of them are principled. Kind of like saying you worked for Hitler because you could make the slaughter more merciful.

But to document the sad state of our Republic, when the general public was asked what advice they would give the Village idiot, the number one answer was to get off Twitter. So if he does the same stuff, but doesn’t expose who he is regularly, then things would be better? Would they prefer a body double who reads canned speeches all the time and looks presidential, while behind the scenes the same idiot is in charge? Really, that is their advice? We have a mad man at the helm, demonstrating the worst of American behavior, and their advice is just smile more? Don’t sound crazy even if you are? My advice would be for him to take a flying fu…

So that is where we are. Government is a shambles and going backwards, we may default on our debt and destroy the world economy for a Wall that nobody mentions is an environmental and humanitarian nightmare, and people just don’t want him to say that out loud. I think we should be screaming it at the top of our lungs. My biggest fear is we are starting to get used to this insanity and it is becoming the new normal. Can’t wait to see how that war with North Korea is going to work out.

Some Painful Memories and Irreverent Thoughts About Vietnam, War, and What we Should Do in the Middle East

Update Today:  I wrote this a few years ago, but never published it.  Now I think it is time.  I added one paragraph at the end to try to relate it to today’s choices.  We have an administration coming in that has no idea what war is except what they have seen on TV.  Here are my subjective thoughts which I now feel comfortable publishing.  I doubt unless you have live this, you will understand it.

This blog is really written for nobody but myself. It is my subjective and probably unfair thoughts of the war as I knew it, from the air. Most of us have put this away. It is like another life you lived in on another planet. It all came rushing back to me on a hot smoky day recently when the forest fire smoke near my home had driven me inside and I watched three hours of the Air War in Vietnam on the Military Channel. I felt like I was transported back in time. I knew these people or ones just like them. I could smell it, taste it, and feel it. I was transported back to Udorn Thailand, Vietnam, and the friendly skies of Cambodia and Laos. In some ways, I did not want to go there, but I couldn’t turn it off. They spoke a language I had not even thought about in years and brought back so many conflicted thoughts and feelings.

Now before I describe some of those thoughts, I want you to understand something that most people who are younger don’t get about that war. It was big and it was turbulent, and it was the focus of the nation for years. Here are some numbers comparing Vietnam with Afghanistan and Iraq (War on Terror)

Vietnam versus Iraq and Afghanistan
Deaths: 58,209 to  6,717
Wounded 153,103 to 50,897
Missing 2,489 to 3

One in ten Americans who served died in Vietnam. And what is not listed is death to the other side, which was estimated at about 2.3 to 3.8 million in Vietnam. In order of most casualties in our history, Vietnam ranks 4th after the American Civil War, WWI, and WWII (deaths per population). The War on Terror ranks 9th after the Mexican American War. My point is to not compare the sacrifice of the soldiers in the War on Terror with Vietnam. My point is to explain why its impact was far greater and the emotions still far deeper for so many of us.

The other major difference was that everyone saw Vietnam on television, they hated it, and most of us who fought it were conflicted. Of course coming home was different. Nobody gave a rat’s ass and nobody was trying to make themselves feel good not serving by telling us they appreciated our service. Grow some hair and get out of the line of fire was about the best advice you could follow. But the big similarity will be that both veterans served admirably and in the end, it, the war, really didn’t matter. The War on Terror veterans still have to come to grips with that one.

In my own theater of combat, the air, 1,737 aircraft were lost to hostile action, and 514 in accidents. 110 of the losses were helicopters and the rest fixed-wing. The plane I flew in lost more aircraft than any other type, 382 combat losses for the F-4. If you add in my aircraft, the RF4C which had 76 combat loses there were a total of 458 Phantom loses. A close second was the F-105 and if you include the wild weasels, the same combat loss as the F-4. My point is that this was a very different war than the war on terror. But what came ripping home to me, was this re-immersion in the mentality of war and survival, and the controversies that broiled around us.

There were the missions, the strategy, the lessons learned, and strategy applied; tactics ingressing and egressing a target, the people, everyone focused on the mission. There were the tactics to defeat a SAM, and what altitudes the various AAA was effective at. There was the anger and RoE (Rules of Engagement), targets not allowed, breaks in the bombing that allowed the North Vietnamese to restock and further defend targets that later got people killed. There was identical planning each day that told the NVA just what routes we would come in on and what time. There was the Mig 21 which was by far a better aircraft than any of us were flying. There was poor training (primarily AF) in fighter engagement tactics. It was learn by the seat of your pants. The Navy had far superior training and were not afraid to lose aircraft in training if it advanced their ability to deal with the enemy fighter threat. There was Disco (orbiting EC-121) and SAR, and your strategy if you got shot down. There was counting missions till you went home, and the celebration on your last mission.

It was another world where the lessons you learned were critical to your survival. And I am fairly sure when it was over, most were lost. When I got back and went into B-52s, it was like it didn’t even happen. A whole world, way of life, critical knowledge, that no longer existed. And I don’t think many people cared. You were transported to a different dimension on the other side of the planet and none of that stuff was relevant anymore. I am sure the War on Terror warriors feel the same way. And as you get older, there are fewer and fewer people who have any idea what you are talking about, except for morbid curiosity about that war in Southeast Asia.

But here is one thing on those films I watched that transported me back in time and place, that those guys still have wrong. They are sure that if we had just been able to fight the war without all the restrictions, many of our comrades would not have been killed and the war would have been shorter. They are right on the first part. The tactics and micro-managing from the White House maybe kept China out of the war, but got a lot of brave airmen killed. But the war wouldn’t have been shorter, it would have been longer and slower. We could have closed down North Vietnam and shutdown the supply routes, but they would have just waited us out. The war was never about shock and awe, but about the will of the Vietnamese people. The South was a muddled mess of corruption and selfishness, and Ho Che Minh always knew he would prevail if it took 5 years or 50.

The ultimate lesson is you can not win a war for another country, they must win it themselves. The Vietnamese just wanted the violence to end and us to go home. The war was never about who had the biggest guns or the best bombing strategy. It was about securing the homeland for all Vietnamese and we were the barbarians who invaded their country and set up puppet governments. It was always destined to fail.

I wonder today about how that translates to the Middle East today.  I wish we could do more for the Syrians and Aleppo.  But do my lessons from above translate?  I guess that is why Presidents leave office with white hair.  It is almost an impossible choice.  I am truly afraid that the ones coming into office have no idea about war and its costs.

Who is the Problem Here and Real Change

Two unrelated stories that are so related. First criminal justice reform:

“A major criminal-justice overhaul bill seemed destined to be the bipartisan success story of the year, consensus legislation that showed lawmakers could still rise above politics and take on a serious societal problem.

Then the election got in the way. With Donald J. Trump demanding “law and order” and Senate Republicans divided on the wisdom of reducing federal mandatory minimum sentences, the effort that began with real promise stalled, and now its Senate authors acknowledge there is virtually no chance for action on the measure this year.”

And the Donald:

“Most voters consider Donald J. Trump a risky choice for president, saying he lacks the right temperament and values, but he is seen as more transformative and better at handling the economy than Hillary Clinton, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.”

How do they connect?  Republicans are the problem and Donald is just a much louder more of the same, only worse.  As an aside how can people be so fucking blind?  But let me explain.  In the first case Republicans are the problem.  You want change you have to remove them.  You elect the Donald and Republicans will continue their status quo ways.  In case you did not notice it, they support “business” people who basically like the economic inequality just fine.  And of course there is that data thing, violent crime is at its lowest rate since the 1970s:

Which is another thing these two stories have in common, how fact challenged Trump supporters and Republicans in general are.

Okay, now voters, according to this opinion poll feel the Donald will bring about real change and will be better for the economy.  Both are patently false based upon his past record and everything he says, which the media has let slide.  First lets look at real change.  Do you believe he will build a wall?  Do you not understand that we are building one? Do you think he will really deport the people that make our agricultural economy work?  Yeah, that would be real change in terms of a crashing economy and a giant debt.  But the other two things the Donald has told us in concrete terms about are child care and the economy.  So let’s measure that against real change.

On child care, he wants a tax deduction for child care. That only helps those who itemize on their tax return.  It would be a big boon to the wealthy.  And remember, the Democrats in 2015 propose an $80 billion tax credit which everyone would benefit from and the Republicans, those titans of change, killed it.  It is smoke and mirrors.  So let’s see how he would do on the economy. Here are some of his statements:

  • He projected 25m new jobs would be created broadly within the timeframe of a two-term Trump presidency, as a result of an average annual growth rate that would rise from current projections of about 2% to 3.5% through his tax-cutting and trade policies.
  • Trump said he could achieve such a boon to employment while keeping the national budget deficit neutral. “If we achieve 4% growth it will reduce the deficit.”
  • Trump proposed to simplify the tax code into three brackets down from seven, and to take poor earners out of tax altogether with individuals with an income under $25,000 (£19,000) and married couples under $50,000 paying no tax.

Wow! 25 million new jobs and a chicken in every pot.  Except this is all supply side economics, the same shit we have been shoveled  by Republicans since Ronald Reagan that has never worked.  We create giant deficits and the rich get richer.  From the Guardian:

  • However, with his tax cuts applying to all earners, no matter how wealthy, they would have a regressive effect. The Tax Policy Center has calculated the richest 0.1% would on average see tax cuts under his plan of $1.3m in 2017 compared with just $5,100 for everybody else.
  • …in other parts of his address, he underlined reforms that would be to the advantage of wealthy Americans, including his proposed abolition of the estate tax that is only paid on inheritances valued at over $5m. He also repeated his promise to slash the business tax rate from 35% to 15%, earning a robust cheer from the many corporate leaders eating lunch on the ballroom floor in front of him.
  • Trump’s economic manifesto has been widely criticized by analysts. This week the global firm Oxford Economics predicted that the US economy could shrink by $1tn by the end of a single term Trump presidency as a result of his proposed tax cuts, barriers to trade and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. That would be the equivalent of 5% of US GDP, with knock-on effects for growth around the world.

The Donald concluded by saying:  “I’m going to lower your taxes, I’m going to get rid of regulation, I’m going to unleash American energy. We are going to put the American worker back to work.”  In case you missed it, this is the same Republican crap we have been suffering under forever.  Some change.

Now I will add to this these little tidbits for the morons who think the Donald as a business man would be better for the economy (Atlantic):

  • The beauty pageant scandals where he call all women bimbos and tramps and climbed in bed with one uninvited
  • The housing discrimination in his real-estate deals
  • The mafia ties, alleged but never proven, although fined for keeping afro-americans away from a mafia boss
  • Trump University where he scammed gullible people (kind of like now)
  • His bankruptcy where his failed leadership left others to hold the bag while he got away unscathed (kind of like what he proposes to do to America)
  • The alleged marital rape (kind of like what he is going to do to America)
  • Contractors, waiters, dishwashers, and plumbers who have worked at Trump projects say that his company stiffed them for work, refusing to pay for services rendered.
  • Trump used donor money to his campaign to buy his book, sending the cash back to himself. Copies were given to delegates at the Republican National Convention.
  • Utilizing undocumented workers (200 Polish workers for construction, and models)
  • The Trump Foundation where he uses other people’s money and then claims tax deductions (illegal)

Yep, he is one fine business man and will make America great again.  Are you fucking nuts.  Finally, as Timothy Egan told us this morning looking at Trump leadership:

  • He wants the United States to become a nation that steals from its enemies. He’s already called for war crimes — killing family members of terrorists, torturing suspects.
  • He would further violate the Geneva Conventions by making thieves out of a first-class military. “It used to be to the victor belong the spoils,” Trump complained to the compliant Matt Lauer in the now infamous commander-in-chief forum. Oh, for the days when Goths, Vandals and Nazis were free to rape, pillage and plunder. So unfair, as Trump said on an earlier occasion, that we have “all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight.”
  • Of course, the Mideast would be aflame with violent anti-Americanism if Trump’s troops sat on the oil wells in the desert. Iran, seeing a fellow Shiite-majority nation robbed of its lifeblood, would strike, and jump again into a fast-paced development of a nuclear bomb.
  • Trump would become a war criminal, a role he seems to relish — typical for a man who has never served a day in the military. Take it from someone who has served, and defeated another nation, Colin Powell. Trump, he said in emails leaked this week, is “a national disgrace and an international pariah.”

And yet, as the NYT tells us, …”he is seen as more transformative and better at handling the economy …” by many voters. Yes he would be transformative as he wrecks the economy and destroys everything we stand for.  Deplorable just doesn’t even get close to describing the ignorance of his supporters.  Hillary did not even scratch the surface.  And our news media, well don’t get me started.

Living and Working

I could rant about politics today.  But like many of you, I am totally disgusted with the media.  While we have a pathological liar and crook running for office, and yesterday (or was it the day before) he and his daughter gave a speech on child care that was a total lie and everyone ate it up.  First he/she said nobody had really thought deeply about how to provide child care help.  Really?  How many times have Republicans blocked Democratic proposals for child care?  Remember when universal child care came up in a State of the Union. Then the media told us it would be “politically” unfeasible because, you guessed it, Republicans.  Second he just lied and said Hillary did not have a plan.  Of course she does and all you have to do is go to her website.

Finally, he said his plan would give a tax credit for child care.  That would be good if it were true, but his website says tax deduction.  Note tax deductions only help those who itemize deductions (the wealthy) and a tax credit helps everyone (and if you read my link, Obama proposed one back in 2015 only to be killed by Republicans).  But I get distracted with what is the most abysmal media coverage of an election in the history of our country.  Let’s beat up on Hillary while the most corrupt and deceitful, and oh should I say it, deplorable man in the history of our elections mostly gets a free ride.  And yes, as a matter of fact and data, most of his followers are deplorable too.

But I digress.  What I really want to talk about is a good job and affordable housing.  Generally they don’t exist.  I read two related articles this morning, one in the NYT and the other on Vox that kind of makes the point that we may be constructing a society that does not work.  Said another way, only the executives can live in the cities and all the people who actually make it a great place to live can’t afford to live there.  My own personal experience is that I live on 21+ acres of steep Sierra foothills in the middle of a forest.  I have planted about 3 acres of vineyards around my house.  I live in one beautiful place, in a beautiful 3-bedroom home, detached garage and office above. But I am getting on in age and I have cancer which someday will be my demise.  So I would like to simplify.  I love it up here, but I have to face realities.  For me the perfect move would be down into Sacramento (San Diego but you can forget that) in a nice two bedroom cottage in a nice part of town.  I can’t afford it.  Yikes.

The first article it is about how young techies in San Diego are all migrating to San Francisco.  Basically, they all want to live where the action is in downtown San Diego and the tech companies are all located inland away from downtown where they can afford the rents.  The second article closes the loop and is the story of a young techie who moved to SF to chase his dream, but cost of living drove him to Arizona.  He married and had a 3-month old child when he got his dream job back in SF working for Facebook.  He loved it and was making a six-figure salary but they could not afford to live there and after 5-years left to go back to Arizona. He made the point several times that raising a family on one bread-winner was just about impossible unless you wanted to live in a seedy area or commute for hours.

Now take a step back a minute and think about cooks, cleaners, SCHOOL TEACHERS, cops, firemen, waitresses, sales personnel, and it goes on and on.  If you are young and willing to bunk 4 to a room, fine.  But in the end, you want a family and that is no longer viable.  That was the amazing thing about New Orleans, many of the poor owned land there, but after Katrina, they did not have the funds to rebuild (nor could they get loans) and, well, the rich did fine.  Here is the ultimate story about economic inequality and what it is doing to us.  If school teachers, and university professors can’t afford to live near their schools they move on.  In SF this is becoming a crisis.  Going to a good school is only for the rich.

What to do about the inflationary spiral of housing?  It really is what to do about the inflationary spiral of economic inequality.  Some need to earn more, some less.  We need to more equitably share our productivity gains and really, athletes don’t need $100m salaries.  We can’t afford to go see them.  What something costs is relative to how much we make.  Bernie Sanders gave us a way forward.  And back to politics, Trump is showing us the way to more inequality.  Hillary is going to fight Bernie’s fight.  So the choice is yours.  If you think we just need fewer regulations and lower taxes and we will all get great jobs, you have not been paying attention for about the last hundred and fifty years or so.  The lessons are out there, we just seem to be ignorant of them.

Three News Items This Morning

First, in South Carolina with all the rain and flooding they are saying this is a once in 500 year storm.  Not any more.  I know you have heard of climate change and global warming, but since a large portion of the state (at least their state government) denies it, maybe this will wake them up.  Oh, and when all you hate government Republicans start screaming for Federal help, we will be there for you.  Hope you remember that next time you go government bashing and cutting budgets.

Fareed Zakaria on CNN had Bibi Netanyahu on as his guest.  All I could think of during this interview was how much he reminds me of Dick Cheney with his total self-confidence about his views, all of them wrong.  All his predictions about doom and gloom have failed to materialize, while he pushes more and more settlements to make the problem that much more intractable.  Bibi needs to get out more and get some new friends.

Finally, Meet the Press began with a report that the father of the shooter in Roseburg had called for more control.  Then the reporter countered with the fact that one of victims opined that if more kids at the school would have had guns, it would reduce these things.  At this point Chuck Todd, told us that there are lots of opinion and we would explore them in a few minutes.

I have to stop them right there.  Yes there are lots of opinions, but the facts are clear, less guns, less gun violence.  Now we can continue on the same path, even arm more people, but that is accepting the status quo, or we can do something about it.  But let’s make no mistake.  We know from other countries and even within our own country with states that have tougher gun laws, fewer guns equals less gun violence. The fact that we can’t even have a debate on how to make the guns we have safer tells you all you want to know about “this debate”.

Why is Religion Special?

In a country where religion is unquestioned and ubiquitous, that may seem like a stupid question, but I am talking about in the legal sense.  Why should religion be treated any different or any other belief system or ideology as say conservative or progressive?  Seem like a dumb question?  Why do religious organizations get treated differently than non-profits in the tax code?  Why do religious objections get preference over good public policy like exemptions for vaccines? Why do we “respect” religious beliefs that fly in the face of known facts?

Well, I think the answer is our history.  In order to establish our Constitution and government for all the people, we had to assure people that government would not interfere with their religious freedom and that the tyranny of the majority would not ostracize those with minority religious beliefs.  On the other hand the Founders did not want government that was religious in nature (whose religion?) so there is no religious test for office, and government is prohibited from making a “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free expression thereof”.

Ay,  there’s the rub. When does the free expression of religion impinge on the rights of others and when should that be limited? The problem with that question is the very reason for the Enlightenment and a government established by the Founders that tried to restrict religious interference and influence in its governing.  It’s not rational.  The problem is when deeply held religious views are challenged, in many cases they are not subject to logic, reason, or compromise.  When does your deeply held belief against abortion infringe upon my right to control my body (assuming I was a woman)?  When does my right to traffic in the public square supersede your religious intolerance of me?

The Founders and our solution has been to allow any silly or religious or superstitious belief you have until it crosses a line of infringing on others rights, and because religion has been such a controversal force in public affairs, we have tried to give it a great deal of sway.  But we have now seen Hobby-Lobby where an employer’s religious freedom can dictate how an employee is treated regarding medical benefits.  We have seen how states controlled by the religious right are trying to deny access to a perfectly legal abortion.  We have seen how once again religious conservatives have pushed laws that would allow them to discriminate when providing public services to those they choose on religious grounds.  And we have seen how religions, while given non-profit status, do not have to show how their money is spent for the betterment of their fellow-man like other non-profits.  I think it has gone too far.

It is time to recognize that religion has no special place in entitlement of intolerance.  The intent was to allow the free expression, but that expression when it tramples on others does not deserve special exemptions because it is a religion.  Note that Wicca (witchcraft) has been ruled by the courts to be a religion. If we go down this road, pretty soon nothing can be enforced because it violates someone’s religious beliefs.  We don’t think about this because religious tolerance is infused in our culture and we think only of mainstream religions.

This is going to be especially hard because instead of what Fox News has claimed is a war on Christianity, some elements of Christianity are waging a war on the rest of us.  We have to keep these policies of special exemptions out of the public sector.  We could start by treating religions just like we treat other non-profits under the law.  We need to understand that they are pushing a political agenda and where they do, remove their non-profit status.  And finally we mustn’t allow them, under the guise of religious freedom, to enslave the rest of us under the rule of their dogma.

Make no mistake, these types of antics by the religious right are multiplying and taking us back to a dark, dark time.  Ask the Republican candidates for President where they stand on evolution, gay marriage, religious freedom laws, and global warming and you will see the hand of religious intolerance reaching out from history not only enabling religious intolerance, but stifling science. It is not an accident, and if secular government is to survive, we must be clear about basic human rights and how religion cannot trump them.


An Atheist’s Sunday

Ever wonder what an atheist does on a Sunday?  It is pretty simple.  He is hoping the faithful are being faithful so he can get to the store, ski slopes, golf course, beach, lake, or whatever, and beat the crowds.  He is thanking his lucky stars for the faithful.

You probably thought I was going to make fun of the faithful since I am an atheist.  Mostly I don’t care.  One of the things the faithful get perpetually wrong about atheism is that they assume it is like their belief, just another form of religion.  Actually it is just the opposite.  We don’t have any beliefs.  Oh sure, you can find the anecdotal atheist that is out to convert all the religious to atheism, but think about what you just said.  What is it you are converting them to?  Religion is mainly made up of a belief in some magical being, with a whole lot of dogma attached via their sacred  books.  Atheists simply believe there is no magical being and all that magical stuff is nonsense, full stop.  That is why atheism school doesn’t exist.  You can get the whole ideology off a bottle cap,  “There is no god, Live with it”.

There is another thing the religious don’t get about atheists.  It is not a need.  I will get to Sigmund Freud in a minute, but religion for most fills a need.  Needing to believe colors everything you see and hear (think about confirmation bias).  The religious think atheists have that same need, to not believe.  It doesn’t work like that.  Many atheists were raised religious and want to believe.  They simply can’t take that step beyond their own perception of reality.  Atheism is not faith-based, it based upon a lack of evidence and our inability to suspend our disbelief.  It is a totally different way of thinking than those with faith and they simply can’t understand it.  As that commerical once said, “Where’s the Beef?”

Some scientists have postulated that there is a religious gene, that religion had a positive effect on the survival of our species, and so the need to believe, to have a social community organized around that belief, helped Homo sapiens survive.  I just read an article that people with faith are more likely to partake in risky behavior (like ignoring global warming). All I can tell you about that is I do not have that gene, and most of my fellow atheists, as near as I can tell, do not either.  We don’t have a need for you to not believe.   When we look at the modern world without the need to believe, without the need to have a mystical and magical all-powerful, all-knowing God managing the world around you defining moral codes, what we see is amazing amounts of energy, not mention death and destruction, spent on ridiculous superstitious beliefs, uniformed by intellect and reality testing.

It is amazing when you talk to a believer.  We certainly live in two different universes and talk right past each other.  From an atheist point of view, our life view is based upon reality testing.  Does that make sense in terms of the known world and are there other more compelling explanations for what the faith-based claim?  I guess that is it in a nutshell, faith-based thinking versus reality testing.  When you are talking with someone who thinks in a faith-based manner, logic is useless.  But for us atheists, it is everything.  As Tom Cruise’s character once said, “Show me the money.”

So I thought I would layout in a logical manner some of the things that bother us atheists about religion that prevents us from accepting the magical father in heaven theory.  Oh, and don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot of things right with religion in terms of a moral philosophy (and a lot wrong, see ISIS or religious freedom laws).  But we atheists would tell you that you can arrive at the same moral philosophy (good or bad) without the magical god creature.  And without dogma, you are free to change your moral philosophy as your understanding evolves.

I think I would like to start with H.L. Mencken, journalist and writer in the early 20th century.  What Mencken did was try to list some of the gods of our antiquity and asked the question:  “Where is the graveyard of dead gods?”.  In other words throughout our very short history we have had a bunch of gods and they were feared and revered.  Feared to the point of tens of thousands of deaths due to sacrifices and wars and yet where are these feared creatures today? “What has become of Sutekh, once the high god of the whole Nile valley? What has become of:” and then he list feared gods from the old testament.  I counted over 80 he listed that are now relegated to the trash bin.  And his point was simply this: “They were gods of the highest standing and dignity— gods of civilized peoples— worshipped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.

So we have had a lot of them and so you might be saying, yeah, but now we got the right one.  So if you buy that consider Christopher Hitchens  and his thought about why the Old/New Testament god (there seems to be two of them) is the right one:

The human species has been in existence as Homo sapiens for (let us not quarrel about the exact total) at least one hundred and fifty thousand years. An instant in evolutionary time, this is nonetheless a vast history when contemplated by primates with brains and imaginations of the dimensions that we can boast. In order to subscribe to monotheistic religion, one must believe that humans were born, struggled, and expired during this time, often dying in childbirth or for want of elementary nurture, and with a life-expectancy of perhaps three decades at most. Add to these factors the turf wars between discrepant groups and tribes, alarming outbreaks of disease, which had no germ theory to explain let alone palliate them, and associated natural disasters and human tragedies. And yet, for all these millennia, heaven watched with indifference and then— and only in the last six thousand years at the very least— decided that it was time to intervene as well as redeem. And heaven would only intervene and redeem in remote areas of the Middle East, thus ensuring that many more generations would expire before the news could begin to spread!

Because they are the chosen people!  Not buying it.  So why did we even invent gods?  Because we needed them to explain a world around us and make sense out of chaos.  To give us control.  Carl Sagan tells us this:  “The gods watch over us and guide our destinies, many human cultures teach; other entities, more malevolent, are responsible for the existence of evil. Both classes of beings, whether considered natural or supernatural, real or imaginary, serve human needs. Even if they’re wholly fanciful, people feel better believing in them.”  And you have to ask the question, why are the descriptions of demons and gods culturally centric?  Carl gives us this insight:

How is that apparitions of the Virgin Mary are common in the West but rarely occur in places in the East where there isn’t a strong Christian tradition? Why don’t the details of the religious belief cross over the cultural barriers? It is hard to explain unless the details are entirely determined by the local culture and have nothing to do with something that is externally valid.

In other words, there is a ton of stuff that raises the issue of why this is the “real god” and those other gods are the false ones?  As I believe Christopher Hitchens once said, most religions deny other religion’s gods so they are only one god’s denial away from becoming an atheist.

Then there is the whole issue of the sacred books being overcome by science, the conflicts in the books, the incestual story telling*, the hypocrisy of an all powerful and merciful god being anything but in reality.  The clearest example of this is when we see a tragedy strike and someone thanks god for sparing them.  And you as an atheist say, if he was responsible for sparing you, isn’t he responsible for the killing of all those others?  And if he is all powerful, why did he let it happen in the first place.  Ah, but “God works in mysterious ways” is the faithful’s way of inserting an untestable hypothesis into the debate.  Well, we atheists just won’t have it.  It makes no sense, or as John Stuart Mill tells us when talking about his Dad’s view of religion:

He found it impossible to believe that a world so full of evil was the work of an Author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness. His intellect spurned the subtleties by which men attempt to blind themselves to this open contradiction.

But wait you say!  What about the miracles?  My favorite one comes from David Hume, another of the philosophical thinkers that greatly influenced the thinking of the writers of our Constitution.  He first gives a long explanation of what is evidence, especially the eyewitness kind, and what is reliable human testimony (not much as he considers comfirmation bias even back then).  He questions the eyewitness testimony of an ignorant people who have a need to believe,  He then questions the fact that we never see “miracles” in our times.  And finally concludes with the thought that the only miracle he has been able to uncover is the miracle that people believe this stuff in the first place.

Then there are the arguments that without religion, there is no morality.  I do laugh at this one.  I believe that the immoral acts committed throughout our history has no preference to the religious and the unbelievers.  Remember that the Old Testament tells you how to treat your slaves.  Just reading this book gives you a whole list of immoral acts done by “god”.  See how our view of gays are evolving.  As Aemin Havabi, a Muslim who ultimately rejected his faith tells us (Why There is No God):  ” … moral standards, as we understand them, are social constructs. They are tied intimately to cultural circumstances and can change over time. Nevertheless, the source of these standards is rooted in sentiments such as sympathy towards our fellow conscious beings and a desire for living in a peaceful and cooperative society.”  

I guess all in all for most of us atheists, none of it, religious belief, makes any sense.  Why do all religions have an end game where the sheep get slaughtered and the chosen move on to a place most of us do not want to go (*From Hitchens:  All religions must, at their core, look forward to the end of this world and to the longed-for moment when all will be revealed and when the sheep will be divided from the goats, or whatever other bucolic Bronze-Age desert analogy might seem apt.”)?  ISIS right, up there with evangelical Christians, are waiting for the second coming and redefining when that is going to be.  In the meantime all this nonsense uses up resources and lives to worship nonsense and enslave people’s minds.

Like I said at the start, mostly I don’t care, but when faith-based thinking intrudes into our logical world and starts redefining reality, passing laws that would allow religious discrimination, and impacts our ability to use science and data to solve our problems, well then I care.  And so should you.  Enjoy your Sunday.

Note:  Most of the quotes were taken from Hitchens, Christopher (2007-12-10). The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever . Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition, and Navabi, Armin (2014-10-06). Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God (Kindle Locations 420-422). Atheist Republic. Kindle Edition.

*As some Biblical scholars have pointed out, the Gospels were compiled decades after the events, from those who are eager to promote Christianity, edited over time, and the claim of multiple independent attestation are clearly not independent.** Some like to argue that Christianity has lasted 4000 years and is proof this is the real religion.  Well that would be Judaism.  Christianity as we know it is about 2100 years old and Buddhism is 2500 years old.  Hinduism could be far older than that.  We know Islam began about 1400 years ago.  Then there is the Roman Empire realizing the threat from Christianity, worsening the problem by persecuting them, and finally co-opting the religion to the only true god of the new Christian Roman Empire.  And it has been such ever since, a wonderful tool to wield power and enslave people’s minds.

**People who start quoting the Gospels as historical proofs remind me of Dick Chenney.  Remember when he leaked a WMD faked proof, then went on the Sunday talk shows to quote the leak and the news media’s printing it as independent confirmation?  Not much different.  I guess they could be true, but they could also be nonsense and there is just no way to tell.  Revelations are not proof to most of us, but faith based nonsense.


Super Bowl Sunday

And sadly all I can think about is I hope all those people who are attending have had their measles vaccinations. Frank Bruni pointed out this morning that the centers of population where people forego their kids vaccinations is in affluent communities (steeped in pseudo science) with this great quote that applies to more than just the choice not to vaccinate:

You can be so privileged that you’re underprivileged, so blessed with choices that you choose to be a fool, so “informed” that you’re misinformed

Reminds me of some Facebook posts posted by the usual suspects.

But there is more! Pro-team cheerleaders are using this focus on football to lobby for employment rights and fair pay. It certainly is a job and they deserve to be paid like any other job, even if the profession is to appear to be a bimbo sex symbol. Athletic dancers for sure, but sex symbol is a must. It is the perfect balance for the game, sex and violence. Let’s not kid ourselves about the art.

And like professional baseball, who are the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks? Hometown boys holding up the honor of their town? Hardly. Highly paid professional hit men is more like it. So in reality, it is a fantasy to say they represent the hometown. They are a gang of highly paid athletes who went to the highest bidder and we hope that is our team.

And many of them will pay a price for our entertainment in brain damage resulting in loss of cognitive function, increased aggression, and quite possibly suicidal thoughts. But forget that, have you seen Friday Night Tykes? Kids as young as six are now head butting each other. A survey of NFL players showed that if they played contact football before the age of 12, they were 20% more likely to show signs of brain damage than their already brain damaged compatriots.

The part I like best is that somehow their winning for us makes some kind of a statement about us. My team won! We are number one! Oh, and I can’t afford a ticket to the game, any game. But somehow I feel pride in their winning as though it says something good about me. That would be followed by drinking and burning cars in the hometown I love so much.

Okay, okay, it is better than gathering on a Sunday and talking politics. While there can be violence and aggression in sports among the fans, usually nobody gets killed (except sometimes). And in sports there is always next season while in politics, it is take no prisoners. Besides some of those players you hate so much might get traded to your team and be your next best friend. That never happens in politics.

For me, I don’t care. I kind of really like the guy (Marshawn Lynch) who would not play the game (of sideshow) and was only there so he wouldn’t get fined. In a way he had a fix on this whole circus that most of us are missing. What is really important today is the food (I love good hot wings), and the commercials. Both say something about us as a civilization which may be that we will not long endure.

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?