#FUCKTRUMP #FUCKPENCE #FUCKTHEGOP #FUCKPUTIN #FUCKRUSSIA
If a nation cannot afford to tend to the physical and psychological wounds suffered by its soldiers in war, then that nation simply cannot afford to go to war.
Such is the current situation in the United States. And it is beyond shameful. The amount of money we commit to spending on new weapons systems is measured in the trillions. Yet somehow, Congress cannot manage to fully fund appropriate medical and psychological treatment for wounded veterans. What exactly do the politicians mean when they proudly proclaim that they “Support Our Troops”?
I’ve started the following petition on the White House website. If it gets 100,000 signatures in the next few weeks, the White House will officially respond. And maybe that will be a start. Nothing else seems to be working – in this country that talks a good game about the price our veterans have paid for our “liberty and freedom”. It is time for the government to shoulder its share of the burden. You don’t have to support war, but we must acknowledge the horrific cost of our wars and help those who bear that cost. It is a debt we owe them. And we have been defaulting on that debt.
Please click on the link below and sign the petition. And if you are not an American, I hope you’ll repost this link on WordPress and other social media for your American friends to see. Thanks all.
Just before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress last week, the official White House Twitter account sent this eat-my-shorts (tan suit*) reference:
Chez Pazienza at The Daily Banter penned a brilliant reading of the President’s thought bubble, which I encourage you to enjoy:
* If you missed last summer’s TanSuitGate then (1) ignorance is bliss and (2) find out more here.
As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport.
The world has been drowning in the bloodshed of religious violence for thousands of years. Greece vs Egypt vs Rome vs Turks vs Mongols… Christians vs Muslims vs Jews… Shia vs Sunni… Catholics vs Protestants… eternal hatreds, endless wars. We like to think of ourselves as advanced and enlightened, but our medieval roots are showing.
Nine years ago, this commentary was published following the violent reactions of religious extremists to the publication of a Danish cartoon. So we don’t have to wonder what the late Christopher Hitchens would have to say about today’s massacre at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It’s worth another read, and sadly just as relevant now as it was then.
“Therefore there is a strong case for saying that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and those who have reprinted its efforts out of solidarity, are affirming the right to criticize not merely Islam but religion in general. And the Bush administration has no business at all expressing an opinion on that. If it is to say anything, it is constitutionally obliged to uphold the right and no more. You can be sure that the relevant European newspapers have also printed their share of cartoons making fun of nuns and popes and messianic Israeli settlers, and taunting child-raping priests. There was a time when this would not have been possible. But those taboos have been broken.
Which is what taboos are for. Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.
I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find “offensive.” (By the way, hasn’t the word “offensive” become really offensive lately?) The innate human revulsion against desecration is much older than any monotheism: Its most powerful expression is in the Antigone of Sophocles. It belongs to civilization. I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a “holy” book. But I will not be told I can’t eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.”
Read the full article at Slate:
Cartoon Debate: The case for mocking religion, by Christopher Hitchens
“Mockery of religion is one of the most essential things, because to demystify supposedly ‘holy texts dictated by god’ and show that they are man made, what you have to show is their internal inconsistencies and absurdities. One of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority… it is an indispensable thing. People can call it blasphemy if they like, but if they call it that they have to assume there is something to be blasphemed – some divine work, well I don’t accept the premise.” – Christopher Hitchens 16 May 2013
Here’s an update on the continuing destruction of traditional marriage in the United States:
BACKGROUND: In June 2013, the Supreme Court declared the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. That ruling compelled the federal government to recognize and treat equally all marriages considered to be legal in any one of the 50 states. At that point, there were half a dozen or so states that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples.
That ruling was a critically important step in civil rights in America, because while state laws govern who can be married, the vast majority of legal and financial benefits of marriage are bestowed by the federal government. In fact, there are 1,138 federal benefits that accrue to married couples that are not available to swinging singles. Benefits in areas such as Social Security, Taxation, Estates & Inheritance, Adoption, Immigration, Family & Medical Leave, Employee Benefits for Federal Workers, and much more. It’s not just about all that sanctimonious sanctity stuff.
That 2013 Supreme Court ruling did NOT strike down the anti-same-sex-marriage laws in any of the 40+ states still banning marriage equality. But the ruling was a seismic shift in the legal landscape. The writing was on the wall. The bigots had lost. But they kept up the fight… if only to keep those contributions flowing from America’s pews and Barcaloungers.
Dozens of lawsuits were filed by same-sex couples wishing to marry in every state which still banned marriage equality. These cases percolated up through the judicial system. In state courts rising to state supreme courts, and in federal courts rising up through the appellate levels. And you can almost feel sorry for the folks working so diligently to fight marriage equality. Almost. They tried soooo hard. They tried everything. They continued even to the point of looking absolutely ridiculous – and wasting millions of their taxpayers’ dollars. And now, they have not only lost… They have been annihilated. In fact, on more than a few occasions, they have been basically laughed out of court. As well they should be.
Since DOMA was eviscerated, there have been something like 40 court rulings in a row in favor of marriage equality. In every corner of the country. From judges known to be liberal, moderate and conservative. Appointed by Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama. The bigots always put the same question to the courts: We think it’s icky, so why can’t we prevent gay marriage in our state? And they got the same answer every time: Denying gay Americans access to marriage is a direct (obvious, flagrant) violation of their Constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. Period. Now go home. And brush up on your constitutional law. One of my favorite of these rulings came from a federal judge in Pennsylvania, who wrote:
In some cases, a state stopped its legal campaign to prevent marriage equality once a federal court said it could not. (That was true in Pennsylvania after Judge John E. Jones III issued his ruling, excerpted above.) The governor or attorney general knew that to pursue this to the appellate court or Supreme Court would be a pointless waste of time and money. In the reddest of the red states, though, there was no backing down. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! When the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuits had all ruled in favor of marriage equality, five states appealed to the Supreme Court: Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana and Virginia.
The Supreme Court put these five cases on the list of those they would consider taking at the end of September. But when the Court released the list of cases it would definitely be taking in the new term, none of these marriage cases were on it. Hmmm. Que pasa, Supremos?
THEN TODAY, the first day of the new term, a bombshell: The Supreme Court announced it had rejected the marriage appeals from all five states. Whaaaaaa? That was initially misconstrued as a refusal to rule on these cases, but the decision not to consider the appeals is a de facto ruling, as it lets stand all of the appellate court rulings in those cases. And all of those rulings were in favor of marriage equality. And – double bonus feature! – Circuit Court of Appeals rulings, once given the force of law, apply to ALL of the states covered by that circuit. So, in addition to the five states who challenged the rulings, an additional six states are swept up in the nuptials news. It may take a few days for their unused machinery of legal equality to crank up, but you will soon be able to gay marry the gay of your dreams in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Kansas… looks like you’re not in Kansas anymore!
So yes, a good day for equality and for America. We went from 19 to 30 states with marriage equality. More than 60% of Americans are now living in states with marriage equality. Not “gay marriage”. Just… marriage. And the bigoted anti-gay laws in the remaining 20 states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, etc) are now hanging by a legal thread. Stay tuned for more rainbow-colored rice being thrown, coast to coast. Click here for a great series of maps showing the status of states with marriage equality, and the states with pending appeals (i.e., the next to go).
Many of us are disappointed that the Court did not take on these cases and issue a definitive ruling wiping the remaining discriminatory laws off the books, just as it did in 1967 with bans on interracial marriage. That may be yet to come. Some believe the 5th Circuit offers the (sad) possibility of issuing a pro-discrimination ruling. That would be appealed to the Supreme Court – which would have no choice but to take the case, given its action today. You cannot have a country where marriage equality is the law of the land, except in a handful of states. For excellent in-depth coverage of all the legal actions and status in the battle for marriage equality, go to FreedomToMarry.org.
And if you are mourning the loss of your treasured, traditional biblical marriage, I offer you this message from Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian. Like so many of your fellow flock, you may not really understand what kinds of marriage the bible endorses. Let Betty show you the light.
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Blogging, in its highest form, is a conversation. Last week, I wrote a post expressing my own sadness and anger that I live in country which talks about freedom and equality… but too often does not walk that walk. A woman named Lisa clicked the ‘like’ button on my post. That led me to her blog, where I discovered this post that she had chosen to reblog.
We do not have to be white to understand the injustices suffered by people of color. We do not have to be female to understand the injustices suffered by women and girls. We do not have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to understand the injustices suffered by members of the queer community. We already possess the only attribute needed to understand each other’s challenges: we are all human. Once you and I understand the injustices we all face, the only thing left for us to do is to act humanely toward each other. It is no coincidence that all of the world’s faith traditions and moral codes share one most basic tenet: Treat others as you want to be treated. What could be simpler? Easier? Less controversial?
I share this post with you because it speaks to the importance of looking beyond ourselves. I am not a woman, but I am a feminist. What about you?
The year is 2014. You are a white Western woman. You wake up in the morning in a comfortably sized house or flat. You have a full or part-time job that enables you to pay your rent or mortgage. You have been to school and maybe even college or university as well. You can read and write and count. You own a car or have a driver’s licence. You have enough money in your own bank account to feed and clothe yourself. You have access to the Internet. You can vote. You have a boyfriend or girlfriend of your choosing, who you can also marry if you want to, and raise a family with. You walk down the street wearing whatever you feel like wearing. You can go to bars and clubs and sleep with whomever you want.
Your world is full of freedom and possibility.
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The Master of Horror chimes in on the eroding wall between Church and State in America. Here’s the incredible irony: This country was founded by Puritans fleeing religious persecution by European governments. The notion of a wall separating religion and government was invented by people who wanted to keep government out of their religious affairs. Fast forward to the 21st century… and it is the spiritual descendants of the Puritans – conservative Christians – who want to tear down the wall so their religious beliefs can have easier access to the government. May seem like a good idea to them now. But once that wall is down, there is nothing to protect them when (not if) a future government is no longer interested in matters of faith.
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From the brilliant Mark Morford at the SF Chronicle / SFGate.com:
Much to the GOP’s bitter revulsion, it turns out a calm, intellectual black man really can run an entire country – certainly far better than an inarticulate Texas bumbler, and even in the face of what is easily the most obstructionist, hateful, acidic and often downright racist Congress in modern memory. Quite an achievement, really.
Be sure to read the entire piece – click here >>> The Best Worst President Ever
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No one alive today has experienced a world without conflict in the Middle East. The region has suffocated, seemingly forever, in a miasma of suffering, despair, hatred and war. For many observers, Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world seem to take turns wearing the villainous black hat. Many others chose sides long ago, even before birth, and have no interest in objective truth… if that even exists anymore.
In the hot, dry summers of the American West a single bolt of lightning or a spark from a campfire can cause a staggeringly destructive conflagration. And so we have seen in recent weeks: the horrific murders of children – Israeli and Palestinian – have sparked a massive explosion of violence, like a wildfire… out of control… and with a seemingly endless supply of fuel: hatred.
There is a corresponding explosion of public opinion and personal expression in all the social media channels. I’ve engaged with a couple of friends on Facebook, and one of them challenged my lament that “this is a thousand year old religious feud”. I respect this woman’s views (even when I disagree with her), so I googled around to try to find an objective a source of information on the history of this land and its people. Easier to look for the Holy Grail, right?
Did I succeed? I don’t know. But as far as I can tell, the people behind the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) appear to be committed to their independent and unbiased presentation of fact and analysis. Here are the opening paragraphs from what I would call “The Conflict – 101” followed by a link to the complete piece on their website. I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of how we got here to read this. For those who feel secure in their views, this should be required reading.
Whether you strongly favor one side or the other, or have a vague notion that everyone’s to blame, it can never hurt to be a little better informed. This certainly helped me to understand some of the complexities that I wasn’t aware of, or that I hadn’t fully appreciated. And while firing off an angry tweet or comment may feel good… if we’re just throwing more kindling on the fire, we help no one.
The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist (now Israeli) Jews is a modern phenomenon, dating to the end of the nineteenth century. Although the two groups have different religions (Palestinians include Muslims, Christians and Druze), religious differences are not the cause of the strife. The conflict began as a struggle over land. From the end of World War I until 1948, the area that both groups claimed was known internationally as Palestine. That same name was also used to designate a less well-defined “Holy Land” by the three monotheistic religions. Following the war of 1948–1949, this land was divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip.
It is a small area—approximately 10,000 square miles, or about the size of the state of Maryland. The competing claims to the territory are not reconcilable if one group exercises exclusive political control over all of it. Jewish claims to this land are based on the biblical promise to Abraham and his descendants, on the fact that the land was the historical site of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea, and on Jews’ need for a haven from European anti-Semitism. Palestinian Arab claims to the land are based on their continuous residence in the country for hundreds of years and the fact that they represented the demographic majority until 1948. They reject the notion that a biblical-era kingdom constitutes the basis for a valid modern claim. If Arabs engage the biblical argument at all, they maintain that since Abraham’s son Ishmael is the forefather of the Arabs, then God’s promise of the land to the children of Abraham includes Arabs as well. They do not believe that they should forfeit their land to compensate Jews for Europe’s crimes against Jews.
– from “A Primer: Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict”
The Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)
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I’m reblogging this post from six months ago, in light of this week’s Supreme Court decision taking away abortion clinic buffer zones. It’s time for all of us to volunteer to be escorts now.
P.S. This unanimous decision came from nine Justices who decided last year that they deserved a 100+ foot buffer zone from protestors. Which makes them hypocritical pussies, imho.
How many times have you come face to face with it? Must be thousands. Standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, you look up and there it is telling you How to Lose 5 Lbs in 5 Mins! or What He Wants That He Won’t Tell You or Lipo: Is it for You? Cosmopolitan magazine. But I guess I’ve always been more of a People guy. “Cosmo” (in the vernacular) aims at a demographic target that is, as far as I can tell, the opposite of me. So, imagine my surprise when I clicked on the link in a tweet and landed on this. Of course, it’s not what you think. I have a newfound respect for Cosmo. And for Cosmo girls, if this is the sort of guy they shed lbs for.
The article highlights just one of the insanities in America caused by “mostly older white men……
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Tank Man is 25.
It is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. Yesterday marked 25 years since this unforgettable scene in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Here are two recollections of that time and place from Jeff Widener, the AP photographer who captured this extraordinary moment on film – and how he almost didn’t get the shot. The first is from the BBC:
And here is a link (click on the image) to Time magazine’s interview with Widener:
We call him “Tank Man” because we have never learned his name. Who was this man? What became of him? Is he even still alive – and what would he have to say about that day? About China today?
This photograph is a pure and perfect metaphor for the imbalance of power between us (Tank Man) and the State… and a poignant reminder that we are not powerless. Twenty-five years later, the world has changed in so many ways. In America, some of us fear that the State has become too powerful; others fear that government has become ineffectual against the rise of corporate power. Whatever these tanks represent to you, we should remember what Jeff Widener took away from his encounter with Tank Man’s defiance:
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We post photos of ourselves holding signs.
But there is always one more.
One more… person is killed with a gun.
One more… person kills himself with a gun.
And another, and another, and another…
In the last 50 years, more Americans have been killed with guns than have died in all of the wars in this country’s 238-year history – going back to the Revolution.
When President Obama went to Newtown to grieve with the families and their shattered community, he spoke to a nation that was badly shaken by the horror of what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.
But, eighteen months later… We do tolerate it. These tragedies have not ended. We have not changed. And we have not done any better. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook, more than forty thousand Americans have died by gunfire.
Even as I write this, I cannot fathom the scale of the slaughter. It is more than 12 times the number of people that were killed on 9/11 – another unimaginable crime. That comparison doesn’t really help us to understand the loss. But it is impossible to ignore the massive disparity in our responses to these threats. John Oliver nailed it:
Consider our government’s response to the 9/11 attacks. The Bush Administration, with the blessing of Congress:
(1) completely reorganized our law enforcement and intelligence services into the massive new Department of Homeland Security…
(2) launched not one but two wars…
(3) brought the United States into the company of nations which torture and detain prisoners indefinitely, no criminal charges, no trial by any court – in direct violation of international law, the Geneva Accords and the U.S. Constitution…
(4) added, by most accounts, more than $3 trillion to the national debt…
(5) and we have only recently learned the shocking extent to which Americans’ constitutional rights have been annulled with virtually unchecked domestic spying by NSA.
Now, consider our government’s response to the horrific toll gun violence has taken in this country in the 15 years since the Columbine massacre in 1999:
(1) The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, including the Federal Assault Weapons Ban on semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines, was allowed to expire by Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress in 2004…
So: a sweeping and unprecedented series of government actions initiated by Bush and continued in large part by Obama – including two wars raging over a decade – in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people. But in the 15 years since Columbine the federal government has allowed one major gun control law to expire and it has enacted no new gun regulations – in spite of overwhelming public support since Newtown. During this time… more than 400,000 Americans have been killed by firearms.
I do not equate 9/11 and our epidemic of gun violence. But I do think it is appropriate and necessary to compare the astonishingly disproportionate responses by the federal government. Gun violence since Columbine has rained down more death on Americans than the 9/11 attacks happening every six weeks! And we have done nothing to protect ourselves or our children.
Are we better than this? So far, no! Why not? The @Mayors and the @Moms and now @Everytown have had the best of intentions but almost zero impact. What can we do? I leave you with this opinion piece by Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times. (click on the graphic for link to the LA Times)
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The silent camera
Musings from a father of four. Boys. Four boys.
Onward and/or upward
(Less) large grumpy woman; small adorable kitty. Things are good around here.
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