Women’s Health in Texas is Still Under Attack

The Planned Parenthood clinic in San Angelo, Texas has closed.

KUT – For Supporters Of Abortion Access, Troubling Trends In Texas – November 18, 2019

Planned Parenthood was the only place in the region that a woman could go to get birth control pills at a reduced cost. To get mammograms and pap smears done. The only place that poor women could go to see to their basic health needs. I know this because The Wife and I relied on that clinic when we lived in San Angelo. Now that clinic is closed and those women who are still in San Angelo have nowhere else to go.

The promise that Conservative Christianists made, that women’s health would not suffer in Texas because of their war on Planned Parenthood, was an outright lie. They don’t care about women’s health, they only care about maintaining male control over the female’s reproductive system. That is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story when it comes to why they hate Planned Parenthood.

It is the same reason why the founder of Planned Parenthood was reviled when she started this movement to care for women’s health first and foremost. She was liberating women from their reliance on men, and men don’t like that. It would be nice if this liars were better at telling the lies they tell. At least you could be comfortable in the lies that way.

RAnt(hony)-ings
RAnt(hony)-ings

Punishing Political Opponents? #ImpeachTrump

Trump is now considering revoking the security clearances of former intelligence officials who have criticized him.

Not even Richard Nixon went this far. It’s not just petty and vindictive. It’s bad for American policy. Former heads of intelligence agencies retain their security clearances so they can speak about sensitive matters with their successors and with Congress. Trump obviously doesn’t want them to.

Robert Reich

That’s right. Go after the most popular President in our lifetime, Mr. Orange Hate-Monkey. (OHM) Try to take away Barack Obama’s security clearance (What is a security clearance? Who has one and why?) Don’t mess around with the underlings from previous administrations. I mean, you act like you heft a decent sized pair of balls, you should take on the truly powerful in your current sphere not muck around with underlings. Take on the Clinton’s and the Clinton Foundation. I’ll get the popcorn out to watch those fights. This would be better television than impeachment hearings. An emasculation live on television, without all that bothersome blood. A lesson to white men everywhere. There is a limit to effective power.

But, he won’t challenge the truly powerful. This was revealed in Helsinki when he sucked Vladimir Putin’s cock live on television. The OHM has no balls, if his display of authority in Helsinki was any kind of example of his true manhood.

There are dozens of conservative pundits who are bailing out on the OHM and his racist, fascist, oligarchical kleptocracy in the making. They are bailing out because they can smell failure in the air. I don’t want to cast aspersions on Steve Schmidt (pictured at right) personally, but his cohort of conservative Republican operators created the fertile ground that the OHM’s candidacy sprouted in. They are the ones that accepted Nixon’s Southern strategy. They are the ones that built on that legacy. They are the ones that tried to navigate the tricky waters between outright, obvious racism, and just not liking the black Democrat in the White House.

Rather than just declaring that Nixon was wrong, abandoning the white nationalists and Christianist extremists that Nixon and then Reagan had saddled their party with, they kept trying to make a legitimate national party out of what has come to visibly be a regional/racial delusion, a frame of reference that can only be found within the minds of the overwhelmingly elderly, white, rural, Republicans that are virtually the only group voting for the OHM and his policies. Why they are voting for him remains the only unanswered question, because there is little doubt of the OHM’s culpability and criminality any longer.

All of this, all of it, comes from factionalization. Comes from believing that your political opponents are not just simply mistaken, but evil. Evil, malicious, law-breaking fraudulent actors. Conservatism is a political ideology, not a philosophy. Much like libertarianism, it simply does not have enough guidance, enough mental meat, to serve as a real philosophical basis for rational action. Failing to convince the rest of America that their conservative ideals were correct, political conservatives have continued isolating themselves until they can’t even accept commonly held scientific findings for fear that they controvert some pet belief of theirs. They insist on their own news outlets and their own facts. This is how ideologies fail, and modern conservatism has failed. It failed when it elected Donald Trump. It failed when it could not distinguish his lies from the truth that is all around them. If you think I’m going to cry for them, you are sadly mistaken.

Rachel Maddow points out that six of the seven people James Comey told about his meetings with Donald Trump are gone or leaving the FBI, with the one who hasn’t been made into a political punching bag, David Bowdich, firing Peter Strzok. All contrary to FBI personnel office guidance.

The OHM is destroying our justice system in front of our very eyes, and he’s doing it with the excuse that these people oppose his presidency. Yes, members of the justice department oppose your presidency Mr. OHM. Your actions are all the proof they need to justify their opposition. You can’t stop yourself from punishing people who criticize you once you’ve noticed them. It’s not in your nature. You destroy people. You always have and you always will.

Trump gave Sessions the job for the same reason Thump hired Cohen as his personal attorney.

Because he was looking for a crook.

Because he thought Sessions was a corrupt little toady with the same lack of morals as Trump himself, a guy who would abuse his office to attack Trump’s political enemies and to help Trump profit from the office and stick it to liberals and for no other reason.

And it’s right there in Trump’s own words.

Stonekettle Station

The OHM punishes the heroic and belittles the people who serve him. Most of them probably deserve belittling. Toadys. Sycophants. Yesmen. These are the kinds of people that he surrounds himself with. It’s not like this was news to anyone who knew him or knew the kinds of work he does. As I said the day he took the oath Caveat Emptor. Words to live by in the age of Trump.

This was originally part of another article that I have now broken into three parts and embroidered on all three. With any luck I’ll have the other two out by Monday, as well as an update for the Kavanaugh post.

The Unappreciated Art of the Troll

“To make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”

“To fish by trailing a baited line along behind a boat.”

Google search result for trolling

Everyone has their nervous tic, that thing that they just can’t keep themselves from doing. Popping gum, clicking a ballpoint pen, tapping their feet, clearing their throat, whatever form it takes, everyone has them. I have been known to create rhythms with clap-snapping while walking. Pen clicking is the reason I don’t like holding a pen in my hand, I’ve had enough of them slapped out of my hand over the years to realize how annoying some people find that repetitive noise. It can’t be because of the dysgraphia, that certainly wouldn’t have a thing to do with it.

But I also have a darker confession to make when it comes to nervous tics. I troll trolls. The barbed replies that I compose to posts in online forums and social platforms frequently happen without any planning on my part. As far as nervous tics go, trolling the unwanted and unwelcome, tormenting them with attacks that they will feel obliged to counter, speaks to internal issues of conformity and certitude that I wrestle with. And I do wrestle with them from online moment to online moment. There have been far more words that I’ve deleted from posts than I’ve actually ever posted in the decades since I started spending time on the internet.

Trolling is an obscure internet behavioral reference to just drop on the uninitiated. I figure if you got to this blog, you probably know your way around the internet. But still, most of us use words all day long that we don’t really have definitions for and can’t really define if pressed. I started this post with a definition for trolling, and I included both definitions for the behavior for a reason; and that reason is, trolling is seen in one light by the troll, in the other light by those being trolled. Trolls think they are the good guys. They are certain they know the truth and they think they are convincing people by trolling. They are speaking to the silent masses reading with a knowing eye, and not to the people they are arguing with. They are expecting their antagonists to admit that they are fakes and to walk away from the argument as changed people; that is, to whatever extent they actually take the people they are arguing with seriously. The fact that they just might be wrong on the ideas they are promoting never even crosses their minds. If the thought did cross their minds, they would never go where they go and say the crazy things they say.

So when a troll posts in a forum, any forum about anything at all, they are posting specifically to attract the unwary. Hoping against hope that someone will acknowledge their existence and gratify their longing to make a difference by taking the time to argue with them about whatever it is they posted. Cat videos in a dog forum. Dog memes in a cat forum. Rainbow colored memes in a conservative forum. Gun images in a liberal forum. Hentai memes in an Anime forum. Whatever it is, their fondest wish is that you click on their thing and reward them with your attention. Once they have a flame war going, they are like hogs in a wallow; able to roll luxuriously through the mud being slung in every direction. Which is generally where people like me show up. Flame war going, hogs wallowing, attention being lavished on the undeserving, from the anti-trolling perspective.

When people like me see an inept attempt to troll a group that the troll doesn’t like, we can’t keep ourselves from trolling them right back. Our desire is to put out the flame war, to deny the troll the attention that they are looking for. We offend the easily offended so that they will leave the conversation. Piss off the trolls so that they abandon their own threads, or cross some preset line of conduct that will get them evicted from the forum or punished in some other fashion. If nothing else works, spamming a thread with nonsense will generally put out a flame war because no one can keep track of what was said last by whom, silencing both sides with avalanches of bullshit.

Why do I and others like me do this? If you are going to take pleasure in causing someone else pain, at least have the decency to be good at it for fuck’s sake. That is why.

I have tried many things to remedy this nervous, twitchy, problem of mine. Proactive blocking. Spam reporting. Hate-speech reporting. Nothing seems to stem the unending tide of idiots who think they know how to score points on their enemy. There are just too many of you inept motherfuckers out there. I can’t escape you and your pathetic drivel, so I will do the only other thing available to me. I will write a primer on the subject so that I can hand it out to you when I regrettably run across one of you.

The first bit of business, like most subjects of discussion, isn’t what you think it is. You, dear reader, probably think that I’m going to illustrate how to compose a decent meme or perhaps lecture on shouting at people in ALL CAPS. This isn’t that kind of blog. There are other places you can go for that information. I am not your internet help desk. No, the first fucking thing to understand is knowing when you are being trollish. Learn to recognize when you are causing pain to another person and to ask for forgiveness if offense is legitimately taken. The first order of business is to understand what it means to troll. If you don’t know what you are trying to do, you will not be successful in carrying out your mission.

Your initial post should be savvy enough to be taken seriously by the casual observer. Posting porn images to a photography group will reliably get you banned the first time you do it. So don’t do it from an account you might want to use again, if that’s your thing. On the other hand, social posting has to attract attention in order to be social. A dialog rather than a monologue.  Why post at all if what you are doing is going to be ignored? Why talk to yourself online? You might as well log off and go masturbate if you are just playing with yourself; and frankly, most trolls would be better off masturbating more often anyway. It relieves the stress to perform well, take it from an old hand at this. If you are thinking about trolling, go masturbate first. It is better for everyone if you do.

Back already? Well, that was quick. Where were we? Ah, yes, the meaning of trolling, crafting a successful troll. You want to be provocative, but not offensive.  You want to question the status quo but do so in a way that won’t get you evicted from a group.  It is a consequence of this fact of internet life, the loneliness of it, the desire to gain the attention of others, that makes nearly every internet post an attempt to troll, an attempt to get people to pay attention to you, to dig me as George Carlin once put the question on his album Class Clown.

Virtually all comedy is trolling behavior. Anything you think is funny is probably offensive to someone. Posting humor will get you labeled as a troll, especially if you post that humor in places where whoever is being made fun of hang out. Telling Polack jokes on a Polish immigrant forum will get you banned as someone engaging in hate speech pretty quickly, and probably rightly so. Polack jokes are so 1990’s. Get with the times. Clearly the targets of choice have shifted back to the brown-skinned people South of the US border. If you are from Texas you reference them by pointing out they have to swim to get to this side of the border. In New Mexico, Arizona and California (states with land borders) that kind of reference is considered racist and will get you outed as a racist. And rightly so. So the second point of successfully trolling is to know the subject that you hope to exploit. Even in Texas you can be confused with a racist if you are so insensitive as to name a movie Deadbacks in humorous reference to the racial epithets of yesteryear.

Writing by its very nature implies that someone will read what you write. If no one reads it, do the words even exist? That is a bit metaphysical, isn’t it? Unlike speech, which elicits response if anyone can hear you, even when you are talking to yourself, writing really does imply that someone will read the words you write. Every writer imagines someone they are writing to while they are writing. That is how you gauge whether you are getting across to your audience, you imagine who they are as you type. Are they confused? Misunderstood? Go back and read anything you’ve written in the past, like I have done on this blog. Go back and read the things you wrote ten years ago, see if you recognize the person writing at that time. So many things we think are important at any given time look so pathetically misguided in hindsight.

Most people hate to think about the things they believe. Asking another person to do that is generally branded as trollish behavior. The most provocative thing you can do online is to challenge someone else’s beliefs. Any ideologue is a prime target for trolling.  It isn’t just conservatives in the wild who are susceptible. It is also anarchists and socialists, any group or person more allied with a set of ideas than they are with other people.

That homophobe or transphobe you are always running across is no more deserving of trolling than the social justice warrior who doesn’t know when to shut up. The Jehovah’s Witness who rings your doorbell on a Sunday morning that you’ve always wanted to introduce to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is on the same level as a target of trolling as that atheist friend who thinks all religion is stupid is a target. If you’ve asked a question specifically to get someone to question their beliefs, congratulations, you are a troll.

If you’ve ever engaged in anything other than casual conversation, you’ve probably engaged in trolling behavior yourself. Admit this fact, we’ll keep it between ourselves. No one will know of the secret pleasure felt when someone rewards you with a reply to your cleverly worded bait. It’s OK, we all do it. Everyone is a troll in some fashion, especially the people who think they would never do that. Like passive aggressiveness, everyone has trolled at least once. All of us find ourselves in conversations online and off, conversations that we weren’t invited to, have no real interest in, or are required to participate in because of social norms.  You just want a drink of water and the group at the water cooler stares at you as you approach. Do you offer an insight or just duck and cover? The smart person might keep to himself, but the adventurous amongst us probably attempts to riff on what the conversation appeared to be when it suddenly included them. If the comment can be deemed provocative in any way, congratulations you have just trolled the water cooler.

This behavior, trolling, is not really a new thing at all in spite of the fact that it never had a name before the internet evolved. It is the way the nature of conversation evolved over the millennia from basic communication needs, imparting information from one person to another that was life critical,

Food. There.

Into ways to convey complex levels of thought and to do so with enough rigor that the teachings were retained through multiple generations of descendants. The briefest of excursions into the subject of Freemasonry will shed light on just how convoluted verbal teachings can get, and just how misunderstood meanings passed down without writing and divorced of the concretes they deal with, specifically masonry in this case, can become.

It is not merely coincidental that some of the earliest human groups formed around the subject of masonry; nor is it coincidental that those groups sought to exclude others, the outgroup, from understanding what it was they were doing. The first recorded words that we still retain were recorded on stone by stone masons. And they retained their exclusive rank and that ability to divorce the spoken word from that impediment to communication, time, up until the fifteenth century and Johannes Gutenberg‘s masterful invention. It was only then that language becomes divorced from the spoken word. Only then that reading became something that anyone could afford to take time to learn and do, because it facilitated learning in other areas. Before the invention of moveable type you communicated all information directly, from master to apprentice, in words designed specifically to impart knowledge from the person with hands-on experience to the person who wanted to know how to do whatever that thing was.

After Gutenberg invented the printing press, it became more profitable for the master to write his knowledge down directly, so that his mastery could be spread wider. Could be spread to students who couldn’t hear his voice directly, because they lived in another town or even in another century. From Gutenberg’s invention until today we have continued to evolve the written word. From masters writing their knowledge down for the erudition of us all, into entire industries making billions of dollars off of the spreading of information world wide, into fat, naked old white men typing out their masurbatory fantasies in the darkness of their mother’s basement, all alone in the night. I’m not so sure this whole printing press thing is going to work out well, in the end.

The first time the veracity of the information imparted was questioned,

that ain’t food, that’s shit.

Trolling was born. Deriding or dismissing the offered information. Refusing a directive like turning a blind eye. Being known for writing a rebuttal to a treatise that history has long since forgotTrolling 101. Anyone can engage in this basic form of rebellion, just like the millions of meme-posters on Facebook, all of them convinced they are somehow unique and worthy of the attention of others. Facebook is the internet equivalent to the office watercooler, one step below icanhascheezburger on the meritocratic scale of trolling. Facebook is an intellectual level below lolcats, because lolcats know they are attention seekers and have to hone their craft against other self-admitted attention seekers. Most people on Facebook don’t even admit that what they want to gain by hanging out there is attention.

Facebook meme posters are to trolls what script kiddies are to hackers. Someone who only understands how to do one thing in a field that encompasses all known forms of things. Anyone can screen cap an offensive image and post it. Anyone can copy and paste a meme generator image, the kind you find reposted ad infinitum across the vast Facebook wasteland. It takes no talent at all to piss someone off.  Shit flinging monkeys can do it with a single gesture. Hell, if it exists, is filled with memes.

The internet is so full of amateur mental gamers, amateur trolls, that there are terms created just for them. Just asking questions is now referred to as Jaqing off. A Facebook friend went off on a tear recently because someone suggested they were playing devil’s advocate.  An artist never reveals his art as art. An artist creates and either the art is accepted or rejected.  If you are going to play devil’s advocate, be the devil’s advocate.  Don’t expect other people to indulge your mental masturbations, or to refrain from punishing you for your transgressions of norms. No one likes a show-off. No one respects an artist whose defense is but this is art or especially I was only joking.

The key to knowing when to troll and when not to troll is honesty. Knowing what results you want from a conversation and how you will get it. This knowledge turns a memer into someone interested in perfecting the art of the troll. A person interested in the shape of the conversation itself. It is at this point that the apprentice troll becomes a journeyman troll, believes himself capable of trolling like a master. This is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, as in “the asshole that ruined [insert name here] forum.”  I have been kicked off so many forums over the years that I’ve actually lost count.  I was kicked off of most of them because that is what I wanted the moderators to do, although I may not have known it at the time. Challenge authority publicly and you will be smacked down. This occurs because 99.9% of authority’s effectiveness in the wild is based on fear of the application of force. If the mundanes you have authority over are not afraid of you, you will lose control sooner or later.

Respect can replace fear most the time, but there has to be mutual respect for hard and fast rules for this to occur. Mutual respect for rules, while a basis for any good argument, is sadly lacking in most online forums. Rules have to be enforceable to be hard rules. Rules against doing something the authority cannot even check on aren’t rules, they’re wishful thinking. It is not within the ability of a forum moderator to compel civil discourse, to prevent or observe that one member has blocked messages from another member. It’s not hard to find fast rules on the internet. You can be banned from forums just for observing that forum moderators are as naked as the emperor. Never tell authority that their rules are meaningless. You cannot compel discourse or civility in the wild. You can only control who gets to have a voice in your forum.

Contrary to popular belief, trolls do not ruin forums, moderators do.  More to the point, a moderator is the shepherd of the forum, and the moderator needs to be given permission by the forum owner to do the job they need to do.  The most damaging belief among forum moderators is that applying rules justly equates to censorship. That you cannot remove posts and users without denying them their free speech. You may never hear from that person again, or they might be back in minutes as a new user you’ve never heard of before; but either way the activities of a moderator are not censorship. Applying rules justly is how civilization is maintained, how progress is secured. Make no mistake, a bad moderator can destroy a forum but a good moderator can make a forum work flawlessly if they simply have the knack for smoothing over the rough bits.

But getting back to the assholes as in this is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, assholes should be kicked off forums en masse, everywhere on the internet.  Kicked and kicked again until they graduate to the next level of trolling, or cease to troll altogether.  It is possible to not troll, The wife is one of those rare exceptions. Trolling is as alien to her as double entendres or puns.  When she ventures into those fields it is hilarious because it is so unexpected.  Every time she reads my posts she is baffled about why I bother.  Every time she reads responses to my posts she is livid, and it’s all I can do to keep her from hunting the offending party down.

The only way to deal with assholes is to remove them, and like a bandage it is best done quickly to limit the pain. As many times as I’ve been kicked out of groups over the decades, there are even more places that I’ve been a member of that have been reduced to ghost towns by assholes who simply don’t know when to shut up and had control over that Uniform Resource Locator or subreddit. On more than one occasion, that asshole was me.

Some of the assholes never learn.  They just get bitter. They just get angry. Anger is a copout. The targets of the troll are angry too.  Justifiably so, in their eyes. That too is a copout, but it is an understandable one.  People who are pushed, who are angry, lash out.  A good moderator on a forum does what the name implies. A good moderator moderates.

“Dude, I know you think this is fun, but your target does not. I know you can’t see the tears, but there are tears, trust me.”

When kicked from a group, understand that you are in error. Authority is never in error. Authority never admits error, in any case. The only time authority ever admits error is when they are pulling a Gorbachev. They are on their way out, and oh by the way, we fucked up. Sorry about that. Trolls live for that moment. But the kicking? That is personal.  It is all about you and your blindness to lines that everyone else knew was there and you didn’t. Until you crossed the line.  Now you know where the line is.  Cross that line again and expect the same results.  Cross the same line the same way and now you are just being stupid. Keep crossing the same line and you turn into a criminal, not a troll.

This is the other point I wanted to make. Trolls are not criminals any more than hackers are criminals. Trolls that continue pursuing the same person after they’ve been warned off are stalkers. Trolls that harass after they’ve been warned off are guilty of harassment.  Trolls (or anybody else) who threatens to harm another person have crossed one of the few universal hard and fast lines in human society. That person won’t be enjoying his liberty to troll people who aren’t in orange jumpers for much longer.

But there is hope.

I learned. I survived and evolved. I knew that this change had occurred because, for quite some time now I’ve changed tacks rather than bash my head against ineffectual moderation. Walked away from conversations that were clearly going nowhere.  Walked away from conversations where my target wasn’t ever going to appreciate the time invested in pointing out the error to them. I’ve simply packed up and left rather than finish the art, complete the conversational arc. I’ve walked away from forums where the moderators could not bring themselves to cull the assholes. The moderators couldn’t keep the Jaq-offs from posting every meme that crossed their newsfeed.  If the sub-group is going to be subjected to everything on the larger forum, why join the group? It really is too bad that Facebook is about the only place left to have an argument in the wild on the internet. Yahoogroups? Dead. BBcode forums? Dead. Usenet? I’ve heard rumors they still exist. Haven’t been there in years.

I’ve wasted enough time flinging shit at other shit-flinging monkeys.  There is no pleasure in it any longer. I have grown to appreciate the art of the troll while a growing despite for the mechanics of it keeps me from over-indulging.

You can say that you have graduated to an appreciation for the art of the troll when you can lead someone to a devastating conclusion blissfully unaware right up to that last step, and you leave them to it. You don’t hang around to admire the mess that ensues. That isn’t the point of a masterful troll, an artful troll. The point is to bring the offender into a position where they can recoil in horror at their own stupidity. Hang themselves with the lengths of rope that you’ve graciously continued to hand to them as they tied the knot and thrust their head through the loop to grin at you. Allowed the petty and the vain to impale themselves on their own sharp wits.

We all have a limited amount of time on this Earth and we can either fritter it away arguing with the ignorant and the ideologically blind, or we can spend time having conversations that have meaning and purpose and the potential for making positive changes in the world. More and more often these days, I’m choosing the latter. Anyone who comes into a forum for a specific point of view and purposefully trashes that point of view is not there to learn anything. They are there to convert by the sword. My response, now, is to repel with the sword. I block, report, and prosecute threats against my person. I block and report trolls who show up looking for a fight. I block, report and follow up on people who are racist, homophobic or Christianist to a dangerous level. That is how I’m going to make the world better for people who just want to live their lives as peacefully as possible.

If you are reading this, go wish Henry Edward Hardy a good day in hell from me. It’s because of him this was posted today.

My feeling is that the reckless, no-consequences, tantrum culture that has evolved online was something that sprouted and became normalized through SF fandom way back when, which makes it incumbent on us who are still part of it to do whatever is possible to make things better. The internet getting devoured by rage culture is only inevitable if we leave the trolls to the cesspool.

Atomic Junk Shop, The Exaltation of Anger

Not Bedazzled. GroundHog Day.

I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.

Stonekettle Station, Hunting the Unicorn — to Extinction

That take home line from Hunting the Unicorn to Extinction is worth including in the blog based on its own merits. But the subject of that Stonekettle Station article is something that is at the core of all politics and one of the reasons I find myself restless in the Democratic party right now; uncomfortable but determined to see this thing through to the end.

Jim was telling liberals and progressives that claimed they could not vote for Democratic candidates to stop it. Conservatives, we know you won’t vote Democratic. You proved that when you held your nose and voted for the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) instead of Hillary Clinton. As I’ve said many, many times, first saying it in Hillary for President? the Republicans were going to nominate a nutjob in 2016 because the Republican party is certifiably insane. They don’t know what they want and they just couldn’t vote for that woman. So they voted for a serial-philandering, money-laundering tax cheat instead when they could have had John Kasich, a perfectly reasonable fellow, someone that is quite demonstrably sane if a little preoccupied with eating. The Republican party has grown more and more dysfunctional as the Tea Party and Religious Right exert more and more control of the process of selecting its candidates, wresting control from traditional Republicans who find themselves ill at ease in the presence of so much openly expressed white nationalism and Christianist dogma. The current state of schizophrenia that the Republican party is experiencing is also proof positive that plurality voting does lead to the worst candidates rising to the top of the ticket and attaining office. Never argue with math.

So when the Democrats nominated Hillary, and why not, she was the most admired woman in the world more than once; and the inevitable misogynistic blurring of the lines between Bill Clinton’s actions and her still being married to him occurred, creating this illusion of taint on Hillary that the media was more than happy to feed on, a distinct vein of fear of Democratic corruption emerged. I see most of this as sour grapes. You never get the candidates you want, and if you do get the candidates you want, most of the time they can’t win anyway because you are not we and we elect leaders. That simple phrase is politics in a nutshell. But this dissatisfaction with Democratic business as usual persists. How much of it is real and how much of it is counter-intelligence operations by Russian disinformation services is entirely open to question.

Olga Yurkova, TED2018 Inside the fight against Russia’s fake news empire

The same people who refused to vote for Hillary, but were not Conservatives or Republicans, are still insisting that they can’t vote for Democrats who won’t swear an oath to support every, single, thing that these people think are important. They’d rather stay home and pretend they are doing us all a favor than to participate in the process and maybe be responsible for some candidate or other that they might disagree with getting elected. The point, as Jim makes several times in his essay, is that even not voting is a choice and if you don’t vote then you voted for the OHM and all his supporters anyway. And you did this because even not choosing is a choice with consequences which you cannot avoid. The current administration is a poster child for the fact that not voting leads to outcomes which are every bit as undesirable as any other you can possibly imagine. A textbook case for mandating voting and participation in the process at all levels, but that is an argument for another essay.

This essay is about the allusion that Jim chose to make in order to relate his point. He picked Bedazzled. He made a pretty decent case for it. But everything that applies to Bedazzled as an allusion goes just as well with a different, better film. The movie he should have drawn comparisons to is Groundhog Day. In Groundhog Day the title character doesn’t even know what he wants in the first sequence that he is doomed to repeat for years of time during the film’s duration, just like more Americans have no clue what it is they want. It is only after he has dallied with every other distraction in the terrifyingly small world he is stuck in that he seizes on the one thing that might save him, the wholly genuine character of the producer he’s been stuck with for all these years, all those years one repetitive day at a time, a character beautifully played by Andie MacDowell. It is at that point that he begins to move in positive directions, finally able to leave the hell of Groundhog Day that he’s been stuck in for much longer than the audience that watches the film is. He gets to leave because he finally becomes worthy of moving on from that place and time. Is the universe interfering, saving him from wasting his entire life on pursuits that were beneath him? Who knows? What we as the audience know is that the criteria set out for Phil have been met. He is more than he was. He can appreciate others for what they are.

It is true that the protagonist does learn his lesson by the end of Bedazzled as Jim outlines. Maybe the plotline of Groundhog Day is too highbrowed for beer swigging average joes. Maybe Jim has it right and Bedazzled is the film that the people he’s trying to appeal to prefer. I’ll happily step aside and let the parade march on. But the journey of Phil Connors is demonstrably the exact same journey that the malcontents who refuse to make themselves better citizens need to take. If you want better government, you have to be better citizens, Jim’s mantra for several years now. They have to accept that the problem is them and not every around them. Hopefully they manage to do this before killing themselves more than a score of times and spending a purported thirty-four years stuck in a time loop. In the meantime I’ll still be here repeating what I’ve been saying for the better part of two years now myself. There is no way forward until we acknowledge and atone for the mistakes that were made that brought us here. Caveat Emptor.

Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.

Phil Connors

Ted Cruz: Only Syrian Christian Refugees Are Allowed

Sam Harris’ latest Waking Up podcast,

Five minutes into this, and I’m already pissed off. Ted Cruz is right to call for only christian refugees to be let in? Only to the extent that an observation that only atheists be let in by an atheist is correct.

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy,” Ted Cruz said on Fox News, the day after the attacks on Paris. If there are Syrian Muslims who are really being persecuted, he said, they should be sent to “majority-Muslim countries.” Then he reset his eyebrows, which had been angled in a peak of concern, as if he had something pious to say. And he did: “On the other hand,” he added, “Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”

Atheists should be more welcome than christians, especially Christianists like Ted Cruz. Atheists are under more threat, and they have no religious test to inflict on our secular government if brought here. Cruz’s test would exclude these people as well as Muslims, which is why no test should be allowed beyond ascertaining no inclination to violence and links to terrorist organizations. We will have to trust, as we do with all citizens, that the refugees will attempt to conform to norms (normative behavior patterns) Whatever those are.

Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Democratic Official

The last political piece I wrote for this blog was titled Pharisee vs. Christian and it was about the Kim Davis farce that continues to play out in Kentucky.

I’ve apparently pissed off some people on this subject.  Not the religious people that the wife said would firebomb us for the title; no those people really can’t seem to care one way or the other (as I’ve noted over most of my life, the vast majority of people who identify as christian are reasonable, sane, and capable of rational discussion even on the subject of religion. There are exceptions as there are in any group) no, the group that I appear to have pissed off is Democrats.

Why? Well, Kim Davis is a Democrat.

The most frequent response I get from this observation is that conservatives can be Democrats, stated in a voice that seems to drip with disdain for requiring them to state the obvious.  This isn’t news to me, nor is it the point that I’m trying to make when I bring this fact up, although I could have worded my initial comment more clearly.

Specifically the fracas emerged on a Facebook post on Jim Wright’s wall. Jim rightly notes that the comparison that Huckabee is making (go to the link and read about it, I don’t care enough to even try to summarize it) really doesn’t hold water for various reasons; mostly because Huckabee is a grandstanding buffoon competing with Donald Trump for air time. Huckabee and Ted Cruz (another buffoon) are now embracing Kim Davis as their poster child for the persecution of christians. But I’d still like to point out to these two Republican Presidential hopefuls that they are defending a Democrat as being the best example of conservative christian in office.

A Democrat. A Democrat who refuses to do her job.

Now, I’ve been active in political circles for a long time.  There was a time when fraternizing with the opposition was commonplace, but that was before Newt Gingrich and the birth of FOX news. These days having anything nice to say about a Democrat spells disaster for conservatives who are trying to out-conservative all the other conservatives.  To this day the most telling criticism that can be leveled by conservatives at fellow conservative Governor Chris Christie is that he hugged President Obama. His hand in costing the state of New Jersey uncounted man-hours with the George Washington Bridge fiasco barely registers outside his own state.  Now these two buffoons are hugging a Democrat on national television.

This Democrat might be conservative, I don’t know.  She hasn’t changed her party affiliation, something that former Democrat and former Governor Rick Perry can tell you is easy to do. So her claim to be conservative doesn’t equate to her huggability as a Republican by other Republicans. She is demonstrably not acting in a christian manner, so I doubt very much that she really qualifies as a christian.  She is acting in a way that the homo-obsessed religious-right lead GOP embraces, I get that part of the equation. Homophobia equals conservative in that light, if conservatives want to go there that is their business. If the GOP wants to endorse homophobia as a plank in their party platform, more power to them.

But what will this little farce look like in a year, a month before the 2016 elections?  That really is the question.  What will the optics be in the rear-view mirror?  I imagine that neither of these two will be on the dais debating whoever the Democrats end up nominating, but just how will the GOP attract votes from any group outside of the aging white demographic of the religious right when they’ve gone out of their way to embrace lawlessness, racism and homophobia all in the space of the campaign for selecting their nominee?


Stonekettle

11/09/2018 – Neither Huckabee nor Cruz were ultimately the nominees for the Republican party in 2016 in spite of all the demagoguery and pandering. They were apparently too sane to make the cut. We got the Orange Hate-Monkey instead. Kim Davis switched to the Republican party and ran for reelection this year. So at least the headline Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Republican Official can now be substituted for what actually happened that day in 2015.

However, Kim Davis lost her reelection bid. The gay man who was refused a marriage license by Kim Davis was not the candidate that defeated her, unfortunately; although he did run as a Democrat in the primaries this year. That would have been a priceless bit of news. But he lost to the same challenger that faced off against Davis previously and lost, when she was also running as a Democrat. This time the Democrat won, again. Hooray for partisan loyalty? I guess so. Let’s see if he’s a better human being than Kim Davis was when she was a Democrat holding that office. It would be hard to be worse.

Pharisee vs. Christian

Christian is another one of those things that isn’t a thing (because there is no one set of beliefs that all christians, or even a majority of christians, will agree upon and practice in their daily lives) but comparative labeling is sometimes illuminating.

I’ve been about half paying attention to the little farce that is the case of the Kentucky county clerk that refuses to do her job.  It really doesn’t interest me that much as a legal question.  She’s clearly going to lose; lose her job, lose her freedom, etc.

There is a perspective on this story that I do find interesting though; she’s already lost her faith, although not many of her fellow faithful will even notice.  How’s that, you ask?  Because she’s a doctrinaire, and doctrinaires are the kinds of people who killed the man she calls savior.

It really is too bad that most people do not read.  If they read they might understand the subtleties of the stories that swirl around them. In this case it doesn’t even take reading to really grasp the argument.  Just ingest a sufficient quantity of your preferred mind-altering substance and then watch Jesus Christ Superstar (a link to make the process easier for you) one of my favorite soundtracks, if not one of my favorite films.  In fact, you probably should listen before watching.  Create images in your own head for what the songs mean before polluting them with images that others have come up with.

Working for a Real Estate Developer in San Angelo (feels like a lifetime ago) the first real drafting job that I landed in that oasis in the desert of West Texas, an architect named Constantin Barbu was running the design studio there.  An immigrant from Europe, he had the most amazing collection of classical music I’ve ever seen before or since, and a sound system built into the studio that an audiophile would commit mass murder to possess.

Constantin was a decent mentor.  In the short time I worked there he not only convinced me that classical music was beautiful and inspiring, but he managed to teach me the value of the narrative in construction documents; something I carried forward through the rest of my years drafting and designing architecture.

He had an original vinyl copy of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I forget how the subject came up, but I’m sure we got to talking about religion (no subject being taboo to me) and to prove some religious point or other he demanded that we listen to the soundtrack. Like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and then The Wall which were so different from the pop music that I had been listening to up to that time, that soundtrack opened vistas of thought that I’d never experienced before.

I had never thought to look at the story of Jesus from outside, from an artistic perspective. The stories that I had grown up with suddenly had a completely different meaning for me than they had when told in a religious setting. Suddenly the characters became characters in a play, people with feelings and dreams.  The caricatures that are communicated religiously are pale comparisons to the real people who lived those moments in history, if those moments were ever real at all.

Put yourself into that time, the beginning of an age.  All life is change. Jesus was an instrument of change if he was anything at all. The doctrinaires of his time, the pharisees of the bible, rejected his calls for change. they knew the law and his preaching violated that law. It was their hands, and the hands of their followers that delivered Jesus to Pilate for judgement.

We are in the midst of another time of change, and the doctrinaires who know the law would declare to us what the law says and what the punishment should be. What is good and proper and what is not, deciding for their fellow men what course they should take, transgressing on every man (and women)’s freedom of conscience.

Marc Murphy; Courier-Journal

That county clerk took an oath to execute her office. She is bound to that oath, and to what the office of a county clerk requires.  If she cannot do her job, then she should leave the job. Let someone else who can cope with the change handle it.  If her religion is really that important to her, then what she needs to do is go find what the teachings she claims to honor really mean.  Because from where I’m sitting it is obvious that she doesn’t have a clue.

Partnership by Any Other Name

Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.

On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him.  But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. I’m trying to stick to the legality of the issue at hand here.


It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial, that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex.  Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.

I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don’t see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.

I know, I know, I’m a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I’ve heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?

The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually.  I know that I wouldn’t have to make that deal with a business partner.  But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them.  This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.

Most people don’t even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We’ve discussed so many different scenarios that I’d be hard pressed to name an event we haven’t discussed and what her wishes would be.  Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy.  Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years.   The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.

That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.

Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction.  That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.

I’d like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.

The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they’re making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.

As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I’ll leave that to Stonekettle.  He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could.

You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from. 

Stonekettle Station

The NYT article that debunks the 50% divorce rate myth (yes, it is a myth) has a lot of good information in it on the subject of marriage and divorce.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist

 Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.

It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70’s persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.

Fewer people marry these days.  That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce.  Can’t get divorced if you never marry.

The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.

The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement.  She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I’m sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal.  Their rejection of this observation doesn’t actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor’s benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them.  Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970’s.  That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.

When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn’t even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial.  If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.


The SCOTUS did render the correct decision and not force the people at large to add marriage equality to the long list of changes we’re going to have to make when the Constitutional Convention is called to reverse Citizens United.  It would have been nice if the court had made its decision based on the unconstitutional sexual discrimination which all the objections to same-sex marriage exhibit, as discussed in this article on Salon;

The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.

But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.

No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week.  We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place.  Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.

One way to get that might be to hold certain attorneys feet to the fire.  Attorneys like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz who have violated the ethical rules for their profession;

The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.

Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz’s behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.

Let’s Talk About Religion Then: The Westboro Baptist Wannabe Martyrs

The Westboro Baptist Church was forced to cancel its plans to protest at Leonard Nimoy’s funeral at the weekend when no-one would tell them where it was.

The group often descends upon the funerals of celebrities and soldiers with neon signs filled with homophobic slurs, but couldn’t locate the late Star Trek actor’s after planners decided to make the memorial private.

The Independent, Westboro Baptist Church

I’ve said my piece about Leonard Nimoy’s passing, albeit it took me two years to write what I thought about it and never posted the article anywhere aside from this blog. It is like a lot of entries on this public blog. They are here if anyone is interested enough to go back through the archive and look for them. These articles aren’t for general consumption, they are my thoughts set down for my own reasons, thoughts that I don’t mind sharing with the curious if there are people who are curious. So this blog entry really isn’t about Leonard or my feelings for Leonard or Spock. This is about a penchant for grandstanding in self-destructive ways by a particular religious cult in the US.

I have broached this subject several times on bulletin board systems and email groups, but I’ve never said a word about Westboro Baptist church on this blog because I really don’t have much of an opinion about the beliefs of others unless they potentially impact me or the people I love. I don’t talk about things that don’t interest me on my blog, so I generally don’t talk about religion. Being an atheist and freethinker myself, I have almost no use for religion, but there are occasions when the discussion of religion can’t be helped. This is one of those times.

The Westboro Baptist Church members are essentially the same as most other christianist/dominionist cults in that they think we are in the end times and they want to bring about the second coming of Christ. They hope to do this by provoking attacks upon themselves, and they do this by inciting rage in people who really cannot be relied upon to be sensible in the face of provocation. Those people are the survivors of tragedy, the funeral parties for the recently deceased.

What has evolved over the years that these protestors show up at funerals is, the Westboro Baptists are penned into a protest area where they are out of sight and hopefully out of earshot of the grieving. This is stalemate between the grieving and the protesting is achieved by local police forces who are understandably just trying to keep the peace. I believe that this entire effort is counter-productive and in the end ineffectual. There is a simpler, albeit more violent, solution that will end this stalemate, permanently.

We should not be protecting the Westboro Baptists when they attempt to picket funerals. What should be done instead is that local law enforcement takes the time to explain to the leadership of this church that the grieving are statutorily exempt from criminal charges if they attack outsiders who attempt to disrupt funerals. Funeral attendees are demonstrably not of their right mind. The leadership should be informed that picketing funerals is an attempt to have oneself killed as a martyr. That attempting suicide in this fashion is an admission of insanity on the part of the Westboro Baptists; and that they consequently can be detained without trial for mental evaluation indefinitely, and possibly committed to a mental institution for the rest of their lives if they insist on persevering in this deranged behavior. Then we as a culture sit back and wait. If the Westboro Baptists picket, they get to go talk to headshrinkers for the rest of their lives, the few of them that survive. I’m good with that, and they do need help.

As a side note, I’ve had quite a few people object that we shouldn’t require funeral attendees to kill the Westboro Baptists in this fashion. I agree. We should be able to have the insane committed for their demonstrable insanity. Insanity like believing that if they die martyrs they’ll go to heaven. That Jesus hates homosexuals (he doesn’t, that passage is in the part of the Bible that came from the Torah, the Old Testament) There are a whole host of ideas which are insane on their face that the religious really should be cautioned about espousing belief in, in public. What they believe inside their own heads is their own business. Just don’t expect the rest of us to endorse these ideas when you speak them or act upon them, because there are broader concerns that should be of more importance than their personal insanity.

Facebook status update backdated and expanded upon for the blog. This is the first of the Let’s Talk About Religion Then articles which will be published eventually. Chronologically it will appear before Atheism is Not a Belief System but that can’t be helped now. I’ve written many things in other places over the years and this monologue about Westboro Baptists emerged about the same time as my original authorship of the atheism article on that now defunct BBS that I continually mention.