Thursday, March 24, 2016

Freedom takes a dive in Georgia.

Having witnessed bowl after bowl of steaming crap offered up as "informed opinion" on the matter of Georgia's Religious Freedom Bill, and the entertainment industry's threats to abandon Georgia, I think it's pretty obvious that few, if any, of the opinions I have read are actually informed in any way. In other words, they haven't read the bill.

So here it is. Read it:
(and voting history for the same

Here's a summary of what it says:

  1. You can't force a minister of a religion to perform a marriage, rite, or sacrament in violation of his religious beliefs (19-3-11 paragraph (b)). Furthermore, government can't sneak up and punish him by taking away his tax-exempt status for having exercised this discretion (19-3-11 subparagraphs under (c)).
  2. Anybody can attend such a marriage, rite, or sacrament; or they may choose not to, at their own discretion (19-3-11 paragraph (d)). Furthermore, you can sue if you're prevented or forced (19-3-11 paragraphs (e) through (g)).
  3. If the company you work for is open on your sabbath (specifically, Saturday or Sunday), then they must make reasonable accommodations so that you have the same opportunity to have a day off on your sabbath as others (10-1-573 paragraph (a)).  
  4. The Government can't pass a law forcing your business to operate on Saturday or Sunday (10-1-573 paragraph (a)).
  5. No faith-based organization (which is expressly defined as not meaning an individual) may be forced to rent or lease their facilities for an event that is objectionable to the faith-based organization that owns the facilities. (10-1-1001 paragraph (a))
  6. No faith-based organization may be forced to provide services that violate sincere religious beliefs that they have demonstrated in practice or clear expression... except to enforce the terms of a contract that was freely entered into by that organization. (10-1-1001 paragraph (b)). 
  7. Furthermore, the government can't sneak in again and punish them for 5 or 6 by taking their tax-exempt status. 
  8. This one's important, so I'm quoting it verbatim (emphasis added):
    "Except as provided by the Constitution of this state or the United States or federal law, no faith based organization shall be required to hire or retain as an employee any person whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith based organization's sincerely held religious belief as demonstrated by practice, expression, or clearly articulated tenet of faith."  (34-1-9 paragraph (b)) As before, you can't dick with their taxes in a sly attempt to force them by finance to do what you can't force by law.
  9. Government can not substantially burden a person's exercise a religion, even if they pass a law, unless they have a damned good reason in the public interest, and the burden is the least restrictive means of meeting that interest. (50-15A-2 paragraphs (a) through (c))
  10. The bill doesn't allow "invidious discrimination" that is prohibited by law or the Constitution; it doesn't burden prisons and jails in violation of public safety; it doesn't create new rights; it doesn't protect public officers who fail to perform their duty. It has boilerplate language that makes it enforceable and repeals any unspecified parts of older legislation that may conflict with it.

That's it.


In discussing this case, a Georgian responded to me: "We are already protected under the first amendment, thank you very much."

He couldn't be more wrong. The First Amendment says what Congress can or cannot do, but does not prevent states or municipalities from passing laws. And in particular, while it prevents the passage of laws pertaining to religion, it does not prohibit the passing of laws mandating behavior deemed abhorrent to those who practice a religion. In other words, "You must be Baptist" is clearly forbidden, while, "If you rent out your building at all, you must allow Satanists to rent it, because equality" is something that could spend years in court.

Reading the bill, you'll see that it specifically states that it doesn't supersede federal law or the constitution. It specifically limits its definition of "government" to "the state or any political subdivision of the state or public instrumentality or public corporate body created by or under authority of state law."

Look at what the legislation does. It does not re-state the First Amendment. Rather, it provides protection from legislation that indirectly quashes free exercise under the pretense of some other cause. Such legislation is clearly necessary in that this kind of legislation is routinely passed and upheld. So, if like my Georgian friend, you argue that pastors are "protected" under the First Amendment, or that these things don't happen in reality, you're fooling no one but yourself.

In those situations where faith-based organizations have been targeted, it has been precisely because they operate a "for profit" business. It has been the completely unsubstantiated claim of lawmakers that, because faith-based organizations are routinely offered tax-exempt status, then it must follow that a for-profit business cannot be faith-based. Not only is this absolutely deplorable logic, it is entirely irrelevant to the First Amendment, which mentions no such thing. In fact, I argue that it is unconstitutional to require a church to seek government sanction to be granted the protections of the First Amendment. An organization can clearly be faith-based whether they seek tax-exemption or not, as these rights are granted by God to each individual. But the contrary assumption, accepted by the courts, leads to repeated persecutions that cannot be credibly denied. The remedy is to clearly define the law so that the courts cannot continue to misinterpret it.


I've heard the argument that entertainment companies are justified in putting economic pressure to bear in defense of their employees who may face discrimination. In other words, they're justified in picking up and moving elsewhere. While it's true that they are free to do this, whether they're justified in doing it is a matter of debate.

There are two parts to this... whether your employees would face discrimination, and the economic choices that would result. Let's start with the implied "slippery slope" of discrimination.

First, note that there is nothing whatsoever in this bill that requires anyone to discriminate against anyone. If you don't want your employees discriminated against, then don't discriminate against your employees. 

Second, what it does do is prohibit your employees from discriminating against others. This is a bad thing only if you actually encourage your employees to discriminate. Under this law they can't go to a minister and say, "I don't believe in what you believe; I'm not a member of your church, and am never going to be; but you have to marry me, bitch, or I'll sue." Got a problem with that? Then I have a problem with you.

Exclusivity is not now, nor has it ever been, synonymous with "discriminatory practices". Example: imagine for a moment if you ran a shelter for battered women and were told that you must open your doors to and provide services for child sex offenders. Or suppose you were told that you had to hire such an individual. You'd think it was an idiotic suggestion... purely laughable. Well, it's no less laughable or idiotic to assume that a preacher should be forced to preside over the wedding of gays or Satanists, or a man marrying a platypus; or hire someone who operates against their beliefs. It is not the purpose of that organization. And always keep in mind that this bill is limited to faith-based organizations; not individuals or commercial businesses that happen to be run by people of faith.

Congrats! You're a minister!
Furthermore, the refusal of the preacher to provide such services presents no burden to anyone wishing to get married or engage in any other sacrament. They have their li'l hearts set on getting married by an ordained minister? Well, anyone can become ordained and fully licensed to perform marriages in any state in under five minutes. And if the idea of a store-bought ministry genuinely bothered you, then you wouldn't be in a position that required it, would you? A genuine adherence to the tenets of any faith would prevent you from imposing on the minister in a way that you yourself know to be sinful. Face it. There's no burden whatsoever on those who wish these services. The only reason for claiming "discrimination" is to aggressively engage in discriminatory and punitive actions of their own.

And if you want to rent a church building, set your sights on a church you would attend. If you would not attend any church, then you cannot show any harm from not hiring any specific one. It may be a pretty building, but it's not yours. Again, think in terms of reasonability. Should that same faith-based organization be forced to hire out their facilities to the Ku Klux Klan? No? Then why should they be forced to hire out to you?

And if it's tripping you up to think of those mean old Christians, then apply your standard equally and fairly and ask yourself if anyone -- whether it's you, or the Klan, or a coven -- should be able to legally force a Muslim congregation to rent out their mosque to them. Then try to build a convincing explanation as to why you should be treated differently.


So we know that this isn't about discrimination. Rather, it's an exercise of power and control. So let's talk about the economic sanctions.

Companies can, in fact, pack up an move if they do not like the people or environment in which they work. These are the same people today as they would be tomorrow. If you're not going to like them tomorrow, then you sure as hell already don't like them right this minute, so why not pack your bags now?

Again, the law does not force people to discriminate. Now, if you don't like that a particular group doesn't provide services to you because doing so would violate their religion, then blatantly obvious to the simplest simpleton that they could just not do business with them. As a matter of documented fact, it's what both sides say they want. One side says, "we'll go elsewhere!" The other side says, "please do!" And then the idiots who claim they don't want to do business with bigots threaten to leave an entire state unless people they claim they don't want to do business with are forced to do business with them. It's not only stupid in the extreme, it's hypocrisy in action.

In every piece of legislation you have to ask yourself whether this can be done better with more freedom than with less. It's clear to me that this is a situation where more actual freedom... the kind so unpopular with the delicate snowflakes of the current generation... is required.

I've written about this before: the Jew doesn't go to court to force a Nazi to bake his cake. This is because a Jew has the dignity to not do business with Nazis. That's perfectly reasonable. If you think someone is bigoted against you, then it takes the most incongruously pathetic lack of self-esteem imaginable to beg a court to make that bigot take your money so you can support his business and feed his family. Rather, you should support other businesses, so the bigot's will fail. And you proudly stay where you are if you believe you have nothing to be ashamed of.

That doesn't appear to be the case with the entertainment industry. They want to force behavior, and to do so they threaten to 'punish' everyone for not allowing them to do so. The reasonable response to this is, "Don't let the door hit you on your way out," accompanied by the rational understanding that it's no punishment to the children who remain when a bully abandons the playground.

Of course, that's not the way things go in the real world. People aren't rational, and Disney will get their way as they usually do. They will forgo their own freedom to associate as they would like so that they may force the submission of people they say they don't like. And they will count this as a victory because it has never been about preventing bigotry...'s about putting their own bigotry first.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Reductio Ad Absurdum and the Birds and the Bees

Sometimes I wonder if anyone but me remembers what reductio ad absurdum means. Let's let Daniel Dennett explain it, because he does it quite well:

OK, so you've got that, right? This is a technique where you contingently accept your opponent's argument and show that it leads to an absurd result. It's not merely looking for contradictions (or P = not-P), but can look for untenable results... those that are clearly unacceptable. In this second form it's similar to a slippery slope, except that the untenable result is immediate and not part of a long chain of events. For instance, I might be able to avoid an audit by taking some action. If the action would result in my death, that's not a contradiction, but it's nevertheless an untenable result.

It's common enough, as Dennett points out. Everybody uses it in argument. The funny thing is that, for it to be effective, all parties must be able to recognize an absurdity or untenable result. I'm becoming increasingly less convinced that people can do it.

I'm going to jump right into an example and talk about the no-no and its consequences. On the one hand, there is a classic proposition:
People should reserve sex for partners with whom they want to have children.
Now that's pretty straightforward, right? You should be careful with sex because it's a valuable, productive activity with consequences. You still get to have sex, but you do it with carefully chosen partners for whom these consequences are a blessing. The exception is those people who have been neutered and have removed themselves from the gene pool. They have committed to not having children. Either way, some form of commitment is implied. And short of that, there's an awful lot of fooling around you can do without intercourse.

Some people find this untenable because they don't wanna. Sex is fun and they want to have it, and they want to have it without concern for consequences. And they're so selfishly afraid of commitment that they not only don't want to commit to caring for children, but they also don't want to commit to not having them.

I deliberately went looking for this,
because Rule 34 of the Internet. No exceptions.
OK. For the sake of argument, let's go with that: Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. Have sex whenever you want. Dance the horizontal mambo, ride the bologna pony, take the stretch limo to the carwash, or pick your own euphemism. But everyone who does soon finds that that having sex on these terms leads to an untenable consequence: unwanted children. Rather than recognize the untenable consequence and reject promiscuity, people attempt to "fix" the argument.

Considering the choices of raising a child or aborting the pregnancy, many people choose to abort. On the one hand, this leads to the untenable consequence of human death.  Rather than recognize the untenable consequence, people then attempt to ignore it or define it away[1]. In so doing, their actions lead to another untenable consequence: that of absolute inequality. When a woman has the sole right to decide whether to abort or not, under the laws of the United States, she also has the sole right to enslave her partner for a period of at least 18 years. In recent court cases it has been decided that it does not matter if he is aware of the pregnancy and it does not matter if both parties signed a legal contract absolving him of all rights and responsibilities. The biological father will be financially responsible for that child. He has exactly zero say in the matter. Even though both partners engaged in a consensual activity, even if both agreed in advance that they did not want offspring, he cannot demand an abortion. He is, in fact, enslaved. This is clearly untenable, but rather than recognize this untenable consequence of promiscuity, people attempt once again to "fix" the argument.

One attempt to fix it is to give fathers veto power over pregnancies. In other words, both parents must want a child to bring it to term. This leads to the untenable consequence of interfering with "a woman's body", which is summarily rejected, leaving the previous untenable argument -- slavery -- in place. This makes it no less untenable.

Now, a reasonable person might recognize that we're obviously getting into absurd territory here. But that doesn't seem to be the case in our society. Instead, double-standards are then perpetuated. Women who choose not to care for their offspring are "brave": men who choose exactly the same thing are "deadbeats". Women who kill are comforted: men who abandon are imprisoned. Rather than recognize that this is blatantly sexist bigotry; that the basic human rights of males are being violated at the whim of women as the result of a string of societal and personal bad decisions on the part of private individuals; rather than recognize these untenable consequences, people attempt once again to "fix" the argument... all so they can continue to have guilt-free nookie.

The most recent attempt comes to us from Sweden, where the Liberal Party's youth wing proposes that men should be able to legally opt out of parenthood at any time up to the 18th week of pregnancy (coinciding with the last week a woman can legally have an abortion). By doing so, he informs the woman of the financial burden that she alone would face while she can still choose to abort. Avens O'Brien writes about this in "It’s Time The Sexist Double Standard Stopped – Nobody Should Be Forced To Be A Parent", published on the Libertarian Republic's website. We can envision some clear immediate consequences.
  • First, it would clearly raise the number of men who wish to opt out of parenthood. It's not a stretch to imagine that at least half the out-of-wedlock pregnancies are not wanted by men. But unlike similar terms in Geneva, this Swedish proposal isn't limited to out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Some married men will opt out of pregnancy as well. I don't have polling data for it, so let's just acknowledge that paternal opt-outs would go from zero to some significant number larger than zero. More broken families.
  • In some of these cases, the women will reluctantly abort. In many of these cases, the relationships will undoubtedly suffer. More deaths to celebrate.
  • In other of these cases, the women will not abort, but will carry the pregnancy to term despite increased financial hardship. More poverty.
  • In some of these cases, the increased financial hardship will be borne by the taxpayers, who will be held liable for the personal sexual decisions of the man (who chose to absolve himself of responsibility) and the woman (who chose to carry to term anyway). More social dysfunction. 

All paths lead to untenable consequences, and yet it is a hallmark of the morally blind that they will not recognize the fact. As you can tell from O'Brien's headline, people will eagerly double down on their prior bad choices with more of the same.

Meanwhile, Ivar Arpi, who writes for the Svenska Dagbladet daily tweeted, “No, men shouldn’t be able to have legal abortions. Men should take responsibility for their children. Period.”

If only we had this same expectation of women we could have cut short a long chain of absurd, untenable consequences with unworkable "fixes".

But hey... that three minutes on a sweat-soaked mattress was totally worth it, right?

I told you. No exceptions.

[1] I can document actual examples where a parent refers to a wanted pregnancy is a darling child for whom the parents are anxiously awaiting the arrival; and where the very same parent refers to an unwanted child at the very same level of development as a "mass of tissue". The same people support both abortion and laws charging the killer of a pregnant woman with double homicide. They do not recognize or acknowledge this as a contradiction and become defensive and angry when it's pointed out.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Reality Check 3: More Easter Misconceptions

Previously on Ruminations:


In the first I burst the bubble of New Agers and Atheists alike for their claim that Easter was "really" a celebration of Ishtar, an ancient Babylonian goddess. In the second I show that the Christian celebration of the Resurrection is a completely separate thing.

Oh, goodie! More "pagan-splaining" about what
a Christian festival "actually" means.

I could just point to the previous posts as I have in the past, and let them speak for themselves, but I choose not to for three reasons. One is that this meme is internally self-defeating, and the second is that it perpetuates misinformation in a way distinct from the Ishtar meme. The third reason is that it's been my experience that the folks who write these memes don't generally follow links.

To see what I mean about "self-defeating", note the text below the picture. These "informational memes" are going beyond humorous now. In fact, this one reminds me of the defendant, acting as his own lawyer, who asked the witness on the stand, "Did you get a good look at my face when I stole your purse?" This is proudly signed by "Atheist Axis - Adie", who establishes her(?) bona fides by the use of the label "Mr. Imagniary(sp) Himself". I assume that the word she intended to commit to pixels is "Imaginary". Having declared the historically attested Jesus of Nazareth to be "imaginary", she implies that the Eostre is "real", in that there is actuality involved in the ritual (we'll discuss that in a bit). Would a sincere atheist really choose one myth over another?

Adie then proceeds to perpetuate the trope that the whole rabbits and eggs thing has anything to do with Christianity.  It doesn't.

Oh, Christians do celebrate Spring. Everyone does! In every climate where seasons exist, there is also some form of Spring festival. People have been cooped up inside for a dreary Winter characterized by a largely colorless landscape. When the weather is warm and the flowers are blooming, they go outside and enjoy themselves. Christians are no different in this respect. They engage in secular activities for which -- to them -- there's not a shred of religious significance (see below). But these are things that happen outside of a church, not inside. The inside of a church is reserved for celebration of a singular event for which they have prepared for months. It begins with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the last day of excess before Ash Wednesday, followed by forty days of penance that is Lent, culminating in the Paschal Triduum... the three-day period in which Christians commemorate the passion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These things that are commemorated inside the church are the only things about Easter that a Christian holds to be part of the "Christian festival". The bit about bunnies and eggs is a secular observance that is co-existent.

In Anglo-Saxon countries, this is known as "Easter" due to the fact that it most often falls in the month that was known as Eostermonath (April). The first mention of it by that name was by Bede in the 8th century. In other countries it's known as Pascha. But where it's known as "Easter", this is in reference to the month. It's no more "really" the veneration of an ancient goddess than "July Fourth fireworks" are "really" a celebration of an ancient Roman dictator.

And lest this be misunderstood, it is mathematically and astronomically impossible for the Christian holiday to even overlap with the Pagan one. The pagan celebration of Eostre is thought to have occurred on the vernal equinox. The Christian Easter is a moveable feast that occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. The earliest it can possibly be is the day after.

I say this because although this meme was created by an Atheist, I "overheard" it on Facebook where it was posted by a neo-Pagan who claimed, "I personally am sick of being hammered for celebrating one of our sabbats by Christians." This person is "sick" of something that never happens. Not only do Christians not "hammer" them for it, they really don't know that what the pagan is doing is distinct from the secular activity that the Christian will happily join in on!

In other words, "liar, liar, pants on fire."

Perhaps the neo-Pagan is conflating the springtime festival involving bunnies and rabbits with less light-hearted observances of the vernal equinox (such as by modern Druids at Stonehenge) at which a bunny is ne'er to be found. That's understandable. It's a little much to expect Christians to make distinctions among religions that literally swap rituals with instructions to [feel free to insert the name of your patron deity or the gods of your tradition here][2]. I'm not saying you can't do it... I'm saying you can't expect someone who follows Abrahamic traditions to take that level of devotion seriously.

I also find it humorous that the neo-Pagan would use the word "sabbat", as this is plainly cultural appropriation of the the Jewish "sabbath". Someone who's concerned about such things should certainly be more... sensitive.


Nevertheless, I find this meme a step up from the earlier one. As we turn our attention to the text above the meme we see that it almost correctly identifies the goddess Eostre. Her existence didn't begin with the Anglo-Saxon pagans, though. It was imported from Germany, where she was known as Ostara. Ostara was the goddess of the dawn and of the East. The words "Easter", "East", and "Austria" (from Ostarreich, or "Eastern Kingdom") all derive from this same source. Of Eostre, Bede writes:
Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance."
By the time Bede wrote about them in the 8th century, the followers of Eostre had died out. [1] We honestly don't know what form the "feasts" took. Neo-pagan practices are re-constructions of the 19th and 20th centuries based on what they could piece together from written sources, from folklore over a thousand years removed from practice and for which there is no literature, and from similar mythologies of other countries. But of written sources on the British isles, there is but one source, Bede, and this is all he had to say of it.

Thus, the claim that Eostre's "sacred animal" was a rabbit is a modern supposition. It's not without basis... in any Spring festival you're going to see breeding, because guess what? It's breeding season. So you're going to see prolific bunnies, chicks, eggs, and flowers. Let's not forget the flowers. The ubiquity of these Springtime symbols should inform you as to how it is that New Agers associate these very same symbols with the completely unrelated Babylonian goddess Ishtar.


Finally, let's move up to the title. "The Real Reason Easter Exists" cannot be answered for Christians without noting that the Christian observance (Pascha) is not a vernal equinox fertility rite that metaphorically represents those things seen in the season. It is a moveable holy day in observance of specific events attested to by eyewitnesses. Whether or not you believe the eyewitnesses is immaterial... that's what Christian Easter is.  It would continue to be that even without any of the secular observances that co-incidentally occur outside the church. This is proven by the fact that this is actually the case in non-Anglo-Saxon countries.

So the time of Easter has nothing to do with Eostre, and the reason for Easter has nothing to do with Eostre. It is Jesus.

But for speakers of German and English, the name of Easter is undoubtedly derived from Eostre/Ostara in the same way that "July 4th" is derived from Julius Caesar.

That leaves the form of Eostre. Within a church it is undeniably completely separate from Eostre; taking the form of a recounting of human events as as witnessed by people who told their stories to others who wrote them down.[3]  This is accompanied by singing and exaltation, none of which resembles a fertility rite. Where flowers are used, it is largely for decoration, as the Christians want their churches to look beautiful. Symbolism is reserved for the white lily as a symbol of purity, innocence, peace, and new life.

However, within Anglo-Saxon tradition, secular practices utilize symbols which we imagine to be those once used by pagans in genuine ancient practices. But these are the same symbols used in every culture for a springtime festival to symbolize renewal. They continue to be used in cultures having exactly no knowledge of Eostre, and for whom the word "Easter" is not associated with the Christian practice. In more recent times and in response to criticism regarding such secular observances, Anglo-Saxon Christians have deliberately assigned overt Christian symbolism to these ancient symbols. These days you can buy a dozen plastic "Resurrection Eggs", each containing some token symbolic of the passion and resurrection. The last of these eggs is always empty, symbolizing Jesus' empty tomb. But for a great many Christians around the world, there's no connection at all.


Easter Around the World:

Perhaps some hotshot should "pagan-splain" to the
Japanese that these Koalas "really" celebrate a long-dead
goddess of the dawn in a country halfway around the world.
Anybody think they'd care?

[1] In a manner similar to that used by modern Bible scholars when separating belief from historicity, I have no problem pointing out that today's neo-Pagans are not the Pagans of history. Their traditions and rituals are not those used historically. Though it may ruffle a feather or two to apply the same standard, we must.

[2] And what's with that "patron" bit anyway? That's more than a bit out of character for people who'd like you to be more sensitive to gender equality. Read Schuler, Elizabeth: A Balancing Act: A Discussion of Gender Roles Within Wiccan Ritual [PDF]

[3] Though the Gospels may be disputed to various degrees, they are at the very least attributed to historical human figures, and within a relatively short time of their passing. This differs greatly from traditional paganism, in which gods and goddesses are metaphors for natural events. ("goddess of the dawn", "god of thunder", etc.)

Monday, March 07, 2016

A Racist Waste of Air

Today I'm ranting. Normally, I'd let it go because it's looking like Bernie doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of getting the Democratic nomination, but he hit my sweet spot. So... rant mode on, and if you don't want to hear it, how about playing a few Disney games instead?

This bullshit appeared on the FoxNews Facebook page, but no worries, wielders of FoxNews ad hominems, it's an accurate quote from Bernie. It's not out of context.

Here's a fact for you, followed by some personal anecdotes:

FACT: Poor doesn't know what color you are.

My father was a drug addict. As he was being treated for an overdose, my mother fled with three children (my sister had already moved out) from Charleston to Columbia, SC. She got a job at the Shakespeare factory wrapping the little metal eyes onto fishing poles. We lived in a house shared by three other families, euphemistically called an apartment. There were days when we had onion soup because the only thing we had in the house was an onion. "Cereal" was the name we had for toast in milk. Plenty of the Black kids I went to school with were as ignorant of what it was to be poor as Bernie. That's not their fault, and it's not their problem. But the fact of life is this: whether you're poor is determined by two things alone:
  1. how much money you have or can net, and 
  2. how much that will buy.

FACT: Poor doesn't know what color you are, and there are ghettos filled with White people.

My first duty station in the United States Air Force was at Andrews AFB, Maryland. I was a married Airman First Class working at the Presidential/VIP radio station, and the only housing I could afford was in a DC ghetto. Two immediate neighbors died from violent crimes during the time I lived there, and my car was burgled. My neighbors were White and Black and Asian and Hispanic and probably a few ethnicities I couldn't put a name to because the subject never came up. I later moved into a trailer on the base. My wife left me with an infant son when I was stationed in England, and I fed myself for a week at a time on rice and $5 worth of irregular chicken parts I bought from the chicken wholesaler. This was because half my gross paycheck went to pay a babysitter since I was on 12-hour shifts and the base childcare center at RAF Upper Heyford wasn't. I had an entertainment budget: it was $10/month, and with it I bought one book per month from the Stars and Stripes bookstore. Because she did not want a disruption in her pay, my babysitter quit and moved without notice. I arrived one day to find her packing, and I left on a hardship discharge after I was forced to be late to work as a result and we couldn't come to terms on working hours.

I want you to mull that over. The military is often the last resort of people who couldn't find a job elsewhere, and I was too fucking poor to stay in. 

FACT: Poor doesn't know what color you are, and ghettos are filled with people of every color, and that doesn't just happen in cities.

When I left the Air Force in 1989, I moved to Union, SC... one of the poorest cities in what was not an affluent State. In 1990 I lived in a tarpaper mill house adjacent to a trailer park in a mixed-race neighborhood, and I made about $800 a month. While living there I came down with tonsilitis. The stuff is absolutely debilitating if untreated, and remember, I had to take care of my son, who was about 4 years old at the time. With no money, no insurance, and my apparent "White privilege" doing exactly bupkis to get me all that Free White People Care that ignorant jackasses bray about, my solution was to go to the pet shop and pick up as many packs of tetracycline and erythromycin as I could and self-medicate.

I'm not poor now because despite debilitating poverty, I never got caught in a cycle of government dependency. I'm not poor now because I admire people who get up and do something about their condition rather than blame others for it, and aspired to be like them. And to get to that point, I stayed poor for years, because even when you start a business from its bootstraps, "faking it 'til you make it", you discover that you (the 'boss') are the last person to get paid... after the taxman, the utility company, your suppliers, your employees, and the bloody gas station, as well as any loans you managed to take out... despite which some ignorant taxpayer-teat-sucking-do-nothing-career-politician-communist-wannabe is going to tell you that as a small business owner you're a rich bastard cheating the employees who, at minimum wage, take home more than you do. I'm not poor now because when competing with people who had far more than I did, I priced myself as a bargain so as to gain skills and the trust of those who hired me. That gained me recommendations and increased my worth. I'm not poor now because I'm worth more to clients and employers than I once was. But I spent six years after the Air Force taking home below-minimum wage, even when I worked for myself, so that I didn't have to stay poor.

And even then, I'm only a couple of paychecks away from chicken bog rice. And I've been lucky. I've managed to stay dry, even when I had to skip a few payments. I've taken in people who had no other place to stay... because I was blessed with a roof and a couch. I've had friends who've gone from having a great job, to losing it, to eviction and homelessness. And the Senator from Vermont chooses to believe that such a person can't know what it's like to be poor though they can't afford a razor or a clean shirt for an interview!

FACT: Poor doesn't know what color you are, and it takes an ignorant, privileged racist to say it does.

The candidates were asked, "What racial blind spots do you have?" Bernie Sanders' racial blind spot is that he flatly does not know that poverty can affect anyone. He does not know that anyone can be poor. He's 74 years old, and after all that time and opportunity to observe the world he lives in, he still believes that you have to be Black to be poor, and is secure enough with that stupid fairy tale that he passed up an opportunity to actually meet a Black person or two prior to the South Carolina primary rather than running off to Texas to talk to ten thousand White people in his rush to capture his 33% of their all-important vote. If he had met a few he might learn that people are people and that you can't identify the ones in poverty by their tan lines.

And that worthless, ignorant sack of wasted air tells me *I* don't know about being poor. I have a few anatomical impossibilities to suggest for him. 

To say that purely because of the color of your skin, and no other factor, you cannot know what it is to be poor is as good a demonstration of racism as any ever displayed. If you want to try it without racism for a change, you might start with looking at the situation of each individual as a person without the prejudicial bias of race. You can't get rid of institutional racism by being one who propagates it, and here Bernie has no credibility.

Bernie Sanders is an ignorant racist putz, and I don't mind pointing it out. Between this and his economic ignorance, as far as I'm concerned he can have a vote, a recommendation or the time of day when he runs for office in Hell.

Rant over. Here's what gets me. Sanders has what amounts to nothing of the Black vote already, because he's got no credibility. Not only does he miss the fact that Whites can be poor, but he misses the fact that not all Blacks are; and that racism isn't dependent upon your economic class. Sanders always answers a question about racism with a sermon on the poor vs. billionaires. He doesn't seem to notice that a Black person with a job can be discriminated against just the same. And if I were Black, that's what this rant would be about.

So having whiffed the Black vote, the major source of natural support for his Leftist giveaway policies -- poor Whites -- are being told that they can't even know what it's like to be poor. Nobody's that disconnected from Reality. Sanders has got to be trying to throw this election, or he's really that stupid, and I'm not sure which it is. His remaining support is from left-wing hipsters and artists. Very nice, compassionate people, but he couldn't win a race for dogcatcher with that alone.

This might be my last Sanders post. If he's not even going to try he's not worth the effort.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Losing the Moral High Ground

Friday afternoon (yesterday) I was as disappointed in a person an a populace as it is possible to be.

Bob McLain, the afternoon drive-time host on WORD 106.3 talk radio, was entertaining calls from Trump supporters, all of whom were calling to face Mitt Romney's criticism with their metaphorical fingers in their ears and a loudly shouted "Lalalalalalala...".

Most of these complaints can be summarily dismissed. They didn't vote for Mitt, and therefore blame Mitt for not having won the Presidency in 2012. Brilliant reasoning, that. For the record, here's what Romney said:
Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.
-- transcript via
As a reminder, this isn't an "interpretation" of Trump's intent. It is a plain reading of "I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and "you have to take out their families." And all the ridiculing-of-the-messenger in the world won't change the fact that his message is spot-on.

But what struck me hard was what Bob McLain himself stated in the midst of this discussion. McLain condoned the statements using the same reasoning that Trump himself did when proposing them... by using relativist morality to argue that we're not as bad as they are. In short, the argument is that since Muslims behead Christians and perform other atrocities, it's OK for the United States to commit atrocities in response. McLain proclaimed, "In my estimation there is no debate about who has the moral high ground between us and ISIS. Are you kidding me?  With the horrific, seventh-century kind of tactics but they're using on civilians. Not on terrorists. Not on uniformed military personnel. On civilians. So don't talk to me about the moral high ground in the war on Islamic terrorists."


I certainly will talk to you about the moral high ground, Bob. Somebody needs to, Christian to Christian, as more than a few very pertinent Sunday School lessons apply.

Trump's premise is that since ISIS kills civilians, it's OK for the United States do the same. So long as we don't behead Muslims, it's ok to bomb Arab villages filled with noncombatants and watch women and children burn, their flesh crisping away from their muscle, their fat fueling the flames. THAT is the moral high ground, according to each and every individual Trump supporter who defended Trump's bullshit statements.

Of course it's bullshit. One's war crimes can not excused by the 'evilness' of his enemy. They are determined by objective standards of Right and Wrong. An atrocity is an atrocity regardless of why you did it. This is a principle that Christians should particularly hold sacred, and more especially public-facing high-profile Christians who host radio programs. I don't care how righteous you think you are... that kind of attitude isn't a sign that you're saved, but that you're fatally deceived.

Apparently, in the King Trump version of the Bible, Jesus Christ is quoted as saying, "But I say unto you, Screweth over evil: and whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, take out his family." -- Matthew 5:39 (KTV)

That's stated very differently in the original text. And while the Bible does contain a lot of descriptions of atrocities, unlike the Quran, which holds them out as a model for continued behavior, the Bible depicts atrocities as such, with consequences. In the Old Testament, when Israel sins, Israel is punished by exile, slavery, invasion, and persecution. In Deuteronomy, "an eye for an eye" replaces older practices of unjust retaliation with the principle of limited punishment befitting the crime. For the record, my Bible leaves no ambiguity on the matter, "Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16)

I'm afraid many of the self-professed Christians of this radio audience couldn't handle the actual text of Matthew 5:38 and the following verses. You think you have a better theological angle than Jesus on this one, Bob? If so, tell me about that moral pedestal that God put us on, because I can't find one word about it in the literature I have.

Here on Planet Earth. we have to be very careful about proclamations that God is on our side. It's exactly what the enemy does, and if you don't believe it of them despite their undeniable deep and unwavering faith, you shouldn't allow your own deep and unwavering faith to lead you into actions that you know would be evil if perpetrated by anyone but yourself. Faith alone can mislead. You don't know its source. That's why you have the written word. Our job is to seek guidance with humility and to attempt as best we can to follow it.

NOT EVEN TRUMP could defend Trump's statements. After having been called out in the debate about it, his campaign issued a revised statement (or "flip-flop", if you will):
“I will use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies. ” the statement issued by his campaign said. “I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters. I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”
--via the New York Post

The sad, sad thing is that the Trumpoholics[1] didn't call for that revision themselves. They will accept and support anything the man says, no matter how stupid, no matter how antithetic it is to their own values, to the point of endorsing war crimes. That should scare the living shit out of you, Bob, because you got caught up in it yourself. By doing that, you don't get to stake out the 'moral high ground' and put on holier-than-thou airs. You just don't. I invite you to see the error of the statement and get a retraction on the air. Think about what you're saying, and don't play the hypocrite.

UPDATE: Bob McLain Responds:

Thanks for your opinion. When we are fighting a group of people who approve of marrying 6 year olds then raping them to death I find little basis for comparison.I'm not talking about carpet bombing civilians, I'm talking about giving our military rules of engagement that allow them to win.
Best regards 

My take: Bob's making my point. He once again engages in comparison while simultaneously saying there's little basis for comparison. I say there's NO basis for comparison. War crimes are not determined by whether they incrementally less horrific than the crimes the other side is committing. Reasonable people should be able to agree that ISIS is evil AND that we don't have to do evil things to beat them. Why is this difficult?

And while Bob says he's not talking about carpet bombing civilians, that's exactly what Trump was talking about. Everybody can agree that rules of engagement should allow a win. That particular straw man is not even contended. But that's business-as-usual for Trump supporters:
  1. listen to something horrible he said
  2. substitute stuff that you think is acceptable for him to mean, and 
  3. pretend that the acceptable stuff is what he said. 
Well, it isn't. Trump flatly said the horrible stuff. Trump is the one running for office. So why in the world should we ignore what he plainly said? Listen to his actual words. I doubt you actually agree. In face-to-face discussion, when pressed to stick to what was said, I haven't found one person who does. It's always, "Yeah, but..." and the usual waffling peppered with "at least..." and "he tells it like it is," which itself is an objectively provable lie.

[1] "Trumpoholics", because I have yet to hear one argument from any one of them that doesn't sound like it was made under the influence of a half-bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.

Photo of the "Door to Hell" in Durweze by Stephan Krasowski, modified by Dave Leigh using the GIMP.