Wednesday, February 3, 2016

'Hillary Schill' or 'Bernie Blind?'

I've gotten very little blow-back from my previous post regarding Bernie Sanders, and I suppose that's a good thing. But I do get a high degree of blow back on social media when I support Hillary. The sense that I'm getting from the Bernie Sanders camp is a kind of star-struck euphoria that's typical of a rock-star following. And while I don't for a second believe that Bernie has the kind of electoral magic that Barack Obama had in 2008, I do think that Bernie's followers are rather blind. I sense this, because my pro-Hillary posts are often met with vitriolic comments like, "anyone but Hillary," or simply, "Bye!" as if, by supporting the only candidate I feel has a realistic shot of winning, I've somehow disqualified my opinion from even being considered.

Look, I like Bernie. And for the hundredth time, if he's the nominee, he will have my full support. But I find it silly to be so completely blind about the man! He's human! And the downsides I pointed out last time still apply. He is:

1.) Highly vulnerable to a "Red Scare" attack.
2.) Quite likely to get outspent by a fuck-ton of money.
3.) Simply too old.
4.) Politically untried outside of relatively quiet Vermont.

In short, a vote for Bernie is a gamble. And a BIG one!

So let's go easy on the Hillary supporters, shall we? I mean, it's hardly irrational to believe that the woman who has been attacked, and attacked, and attacked, and is STILL standing, has every realistic expectation of enduring just a little bit longer!

And if you don't think she's gotten all the dirt on every politician through her weekly prayer groups with the other politicians' wives, you're naive! And an even bigger fool for thinking we don't need that kind of ammunition in the years to come. Don't casually dismiss that.

And STOP being so BLIND when it comes to Bernie! He's a nice old Jew who would make a nice old Jewish president. But I believe we don't need nice.

I believe we need a complete bitch who is feared!



Friday, January 22, 2016

More On Hillary Vs. Bernie

In terms of candidates, the Democrats have already won. The two finalists, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are both outstanding choices. No matter who wins, we win.

Ah, yes, but which one?

I'm growing more accustomed to the idea of a Sanders candidacy. Back in August, I argued very strongly for Hillary being the candidate. But, as I said then, if Bernie somehow wins, I'll back him 100%. I still feel that way. But I have some grave concerns which I hear no one in the media talking about, which, I feel, means that I and this little blog need to address them. At least all seven of my readers will be in the know.

In my August post for Hillary, I focused on her attributes and why we need them. In this post, I'm focusing on Bernie's faults. I do this not out of malice, but because they are genuine, and need to be addressed now before we take the Big Plunge with the Iowa Caucuses. Bernie seems to be the ideal leftist. But is he? Let me voice my concerns here so that I can backpedal over to the pro-Bernie side, if the time should come, knowing I did my dirty, but necessary, civic duty.

First of all, and I for one am not afraid to say it, Bernie is too old. The oldest president ever to start his inaugural term was Ronald Reagan, who was 69, and turned 70 only three weeks after being sworn in (he was born Feb. 6, 1911). Towards the end of his second term, he was manifestly beginning to show signs of Alzheimer's disease. By contrast, Bernie just turned 74 back on September 8 (he was born in 1941). Assuming he wins the nomination and the presidency, he would be 75 at the time he took office, and nearing 80 when running for his second term. The risks for dementia increase exponentially after 70, and this is a grave concern when it comes to our commander-in-chief.

Is Bernie a severe risk? Certainly, I don't want to be ageist, and if a man has all his marbles, he should be allowed to use them in the best possible way. But he is manifestly beginning to slip. In each of the four Democratic Party debates I've watched, Bernie has had a moment where he lapsed. In the first debate, a question was posed to all the candidates (there were five at the time), and then the moderator called upon Bernie Sanders to answer it first. He jerked up as if startled, and said, "Excuse me, could you repeat the question?"

Oh, dear.

Now, as gaffs go, getting caught woolgathering is pretty light. Hell, I've been caught woolgathering in class ever since I was five years old. But this man was on stage with all the world watching him as a man with a serious chance to win the office of President of the United States! That's no time to be daydreaming! And what's more, he'd done this in each debate. Granted, only once each time, and only a slight lapse each time, but on occasion, his focus and  his ability to hear things clearly have abandoned him at key moments. Now, if he can't maintain during a three-hour presidential debate, is it not fair to ask if he can do so over an entire four-year stressful grind as president?

Now, I should emphasize that I have no solid evidence that Bernie is losing it, nor do I have any inkling about whether or not he will go senile in the coming years. But it is not just his marbles I'm concerned with. The stresses of campaigning take their toll on the entire body. In the most recent debate (January 17th), Bernie was beginning to lose his voice towards the end. Sheesh! We haven't even started in Iowa, and Bernie's voice box is already going?

Back in 1996, when the 73-year-old Bob Dole was the Republican nominee, he was plagued with physical maladies which went beyond the old war wound in his right shoulder - one which forced him to always shake hands left-handed. A bout with the flu would take him out during a key campaign swing, or cancel a particular speech. At one point, he fell off the stage, leaving him with an awful eye-wound which turned the white of his left eye blood-red, making for a very gruesome picture to show the news cameras. Yes, voters might look past such things, but historically, they never have. Bob Dole lost by a mile to a younger and more vibrant Bill Clinton. Bob Dole was slightly younger then than Bernie Sanders is now. I would hate to see Bernie's campaign fizzle out in a similar way (although I highly doubt he is capable of polling as low as Dole did).

The media can't say it, but I can. A geriatric senator who has never had to contend with political rigors outside of relatively quiet Vermont might just be too far past his prime to be able to adequately perform on a nationwide stage.

And Hillary? She's no spring chicken, either. But assuming she wins the nomination and the presidency, she would be only slightly older than Reagan was when he took office. Factor in the biological fact that women live longer and hang onto their marbles a bit better, and age no longer becomes much of an issue.

Oh, and lest we forget, we Democrats were begging for Hillary to run ever since 2012. My, how fair-weather fans have bailed!

But I digress. The other factor not in Bernie's favor is money. Yes, he doesn't have any super-pac money. That's great in principle, and it just might work for getting nominated, but what good does it do to be the nominee when you get buried by the post Citizens' United avalanche of contributions from the ultra-rich? The Koch brothers alone have pledged half a billion! And while it's true that money can't buy you love (look at Jeb Bush, for example), it can buy up all the airtime available and price you out of the market. Bernie's voice could literally get washed out in the din of all the negative political ads.

Finally, there's the S-word: "Socialist." This one, at least, the media has been talking about. We who have been following things know that Bernie has drawn a distinction between "Socialist" and "Democratic Socialist." But will the electorate see things that way? I don't think society has cured itself of the stigma that it's held for Socialism, and even I, firmly on the left, have a knee-jerk reaction to the word. So have other leftists such as Chris Hayes, who famously ranted about it on numerous occasions. All the Republicans would have to do is play the "Red Scare" card, and Bernie could very conceivably lose. Yes, polls show him beating any Republican candidate more so than Hillary, but that's for now. Polls shift! And after a Red Scare tactic, they could very well shift a significant amount.

Hillary has baggage, yes, but she's strong enough to carry it. And she has many scars, but she's been battle-hardened. She has survived, and even thrived, on a national stage which has tried to knock her out at every opportunity - and failed. She'll win. Period.

That having been said, let me highlight my official qualifier. I'll still enthusiastically take Bernie over any of the idiots on the Republican side who are pretending to be candidates. A man with a good heart and a feeble mind or body is far superior to one with all his faculties and no heart whatsoever.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

But Is It True?

Seems like in recent days, terrorism is all the vogue. I've often posted about how we ought not judge Muslims based on the actions of a few lone radicals, but I hold no such restriction upon Islam itself. So let me take a quick swipe at the creed which some dare to kill innocents over. After all, if one commits an act of terrorism over a creed, it becomes more than fair to ask if that creed is even true.

The essence of Islam is that there is one God, and Muhommed is his prophet. So what do we know of Mohammed? He is revered as the ideal man in the Muslim world. But was he? Even the most generous depiction of Mohammed must admit that he waged war to spread his creed, tortured political opponents, married multiple wives (at least one of whom was underage even by ancient standards), and put believers of other religions to the sword (in Medina, if nowhere else). In other words, this guy was an asshole by any metric, ancient or modern. This, we must conclude that if there is a true religion, it must lie elsewhere - at least in the words of a different prophet.

There are five pillars of Islam according to the Sunni tradition. One is the declaration of one God, and Muhommed as prophet, which I just dealt with above. The second is obligatory prayer five times a day. Ridiculous! The very notion that any God would require such endless adulation so constantly is ludicrous in the extreme. Were I God, I would tell people. "Shut up, already!" The third pillar is charity. I don't really have too much of a problem, there. The fourth is fasting for Ramadan. I really don't think that not eating is particularly gracious or holy, and it isn't healthy, besides. And the fifth and last pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca. This one refutes itself, as the annual logistic nightmare that takes place in Saudi Arabia every hajj makes my case for me.

So, out of five pillars, four are ridiculous.

And people kill over this shit?

And that is merely today. Only a few centuries ago, Christianity tortured people to death in order to save their souls, all over a tautological blood redemption allegedly done by a man born of a virgin who walked on liquid water.

It's easy to ridicule others' beliefs. But your own beliefs are just as ridiculous.

Why believe when you can know?

My commitment to the truth is absolute. When I left Christianity, I did so because the evidence was incontrovertible that it was false. As a result, I lost nearly everything. I lost my golden-boy status, my career in the ministry, and my direction in life. I had to start all over again. Furthermore, were I to announce a return to Christianity after years of being an atheist, I would become a celebrity. I could write best sellers, do lectures, and become a millionaire! The reason I don't do so is because truth means more to me than millions of dollars. 

What's your excuse?

So when I am confronted by people who not only will not face the truth of their religion's falsehood, and on top of this, not face it to the point of inflicting it upon others, and on top of this being willing to kill others over it, I'm baffled!

How much does truth mean to you?

The real question, for all of us, is this: If evidence presents itself runs contrary to your beliefs, are you willing to change your beliefs as a result?

If your answer is no, then I argue, you are the true harbor of terrorism. Because terrorism thrives in such cognitive dissonance.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Paris Attacks - And What MUSLIMS Should Do About It

Almost a year ago, when Charlie Hebdo happened, I nearly went ballistic. I very nearly lashed out, calling out all Muslims as evil for simply being Muslim. It didn't matter how peaceful or moderate a Muslim might be, I nearly said, because the beliefs themselves provide fodder for extremism, which they - the peaceful of Islam - then don't bother doing anything substantive to stop. If you're peaceful and loving, and happen to be a Muslim, you have but one choice, as I argued then. LEAVE! Because only the abandonment of Islam will make terrorism stop! Only empty houses of worship make religious leaders change!

Well, I was right about that last part, as far as it goes. Fortunately, I was talked off the ledge by some very kind and intelligent friends who reminded me of what it's like for a peace-loving Muslim who upholds Western democratic values. They get reviled, insulted, spat upon, ostracized, all because of something they had nothing to do with and openly condemn. That's not fair! That's not reasonable! And yes, it's part of why people who are treated that way get radicalized.

I understand that part of the natural reaction to an event such as 11/13 (we might as well give the Paris attack 9/11 and 7/7 status, right?) is for people to become extra xenophobic. They want to yell at people who wear the hijab or burqua. They tell Arab-looking people to "go home!" They shout profanities at men who unroll prayer rugs in the park. But I'm also aware that this is part of what the terrorists want. They want us to be Islamophobes! They want us to lash out.

Just as I nearly did almost a year ago. It radicalizes the moderates, and the cycle continues forever.

I suppose I can't blame people for lashing out. I'm a pretty anti-war guy, generally speaking, and back then I was tempted to say "outlaw the creed and burn every Mosque and minaret." Today, I, even I, am tempted again to say we should simply drop two or three nukes on Daesh (ISIS) held territory and win the war by making the entire area a radioactive wasteland. After all, it certainly seems odd that a nuclear power is getting pushed around by some Kalishnikov-waving imbeciles driving Toyota pickup trucks, doesn't it?

And yet - no. Islam really can be a religion of peace - if given the chance. It proved so back in the Christian Dark Ages when the ancient classics of Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras were nearly lost. The Islamic culture, not yet radicalized like it is today with Wahabiism, was able to preserve those works of learning, paving the way for the Enlightenment and what we today call Western values of freedom and democracy. How ironic that same culture has now transformed into something which gave birth to a terrorist philosophy which is trying to destroy the very democracy Islamic culture once helped create! Today, Islam is not a religion of peace anymore. But it once was, and could be again. How? I'll get to that in a minute.

Muslims point out that condemning all Muslims for the acts of a few among them is like blaming all Germans for the rise of Adolf Hitler. Good point - almost. The only problem I have with that line of thinking is, I do blame all Germans for Hitler! At least, the Germans of that generation. And I don't merely say so as an American of German descent. I say so because it is an historical fact. The Nazi loyalists never did achieve a working majority among the German populace. They didn't need to. The remainder of Germans, those opposed to the Nazi regime, were simply too afraid to speak out. They were scared of reprisals to themselves, and more importantly, to their families. As the Nazi party flourished, they looked the other way for the sake of their own personal well being, and for prosperity. That was to their eternal discredit. They should have had the courage to speak up and derail the Nazi regime before it threatened to bring the world crashing down into fascism. They didn't. Nazis, and their leader, Hitler, came to prominence largely because the peaceful majority of Germans did almost nothing to stop them.

Just as peace-loving Muslims do now.

Oh, I get it. Speak out against Jihadism, and you put the risk of your wife and children being knifed down in the middle of Brussels in broad daylight. Yeah! Who wouldn't understand that kind of threat? But isn't that level of evil even more reason why we should find some way of standing up to it? Can't there be some solution that allows us to dig in our heels, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and say with one voice, "Enough of this shit?!"

Up until now, the approach of peaceful Muslims has been to let the largely Christian military powers attempt the futile effort at exterminating the terrorists through the use of their military superiority. They feel that not speaking out against this is enough. Well, I doubt that. It hasn't worked so far. I mean, short of dropping several nukes between Syria and Iraq (and I still privately wonder why the hell we don't!) military might really isn't going to achieve much.

So what can we do? Shit, we have to do something!

And here's where my science-fiction writing ability comes to the forefront, because as a writer of tales, I can see strange strategies and plots where most don't. And what do I see?

I see a story - a grand tale about a secret spy organization whose sole purpose is to root out terrorism from within. Secretly funded by Muslims and Muslim-world governments, it finds the terrorist cells and then kills them before they strike. It is acting out on the realization that Islam's greatest P.R. challenge is terrorism, and that it cannot survive as a religion unless it is stopped. And so this organization goes forth, battling terrorism behind the lines, gaining intel that most spy organizations miss, killing the terror cells in their caves and their hovels, and keeping the world safe for religious freedom and democracy. Think of it as INTERPOL meets S.H.I.E.L.D. blended together with the Free Muslims Coalition and Muslims Against Terror. I intend to call this fictional super-spy organization the "M.P.K." for "Muslim Peacekeepers," and I think the story line would best be published as a graphic novel. I've never tried a graphic novel before, but I like the prospect of trying.

You see, Muslims could support something like this without fear of reprisal because it's a secret organization! Fuck, I'm a genius!

And here's my challenge to the peace-loving Muslims of the world: While I write about this organization in fiction, you should make it reality in fact - or at least enact something which makes a similar stand against terror. No, it doesn't have to be a super-spy organization with secret decoder rings and fancy exploding pens, but it does have to be making a stand - and a strong one. The way I see it, you have two choices if you want to live in Western democracies without hanging your head in shame. 1.) Fight terrorism with every fiber of your being, or 2.) leave Islam! Those are your only two choices. Because ever right-thinking Muslim prays the same prayer when some act of terror is first reported on the news. That prayer goes like this: "Oh, dear Allah, please let it not be a Muslim!" And I say that it's high time you did something about that prayer!

Hands that help are better than lips that pray, as Ingersoll once said. Ben Franklin once put it, "God helps those who help themselves." In other words, Allah says, "Answer your own damned prayer!"

Yes, conspiracy to commit terrorism should be punishable by the death penalty. France should probably bring back the guillotine and Germany should get over it's scruples regarding capital punishment. But otherwise, the only thing we can do is let Muslims stand against terrorism, or watch terrorism slowly destroy their religion forever. Why? Because Islam is radicalizing, and also growing somewhat, but it is also setting the stage for it's own destruction. Christianity did something similar before its current demise. It's coming, Muslims, unless you stop terrorism now.

People don't leave radical religions for any sort of outside threat. Believe me, I know, being a rare escapee from such, and knowing well the mentality. They only leave when their conscience is pricked, and that can only happen when we turn the other cheek, as Jesus is said to have recommended. It's not easy, but the best way to fight terrorism is to let the Muslims fight the physical fight, while we win the war of words, and defeat radical Islam (and Islam itself, I might add in my atheism-promoting moment) in the free marketplace of ideas.

In the meantime, go M.P.K.! I'm going to have so much fun writing this!



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Radical Proposal For Russia (And Reflections On Mom)

So, yesterday morning, my mother finally passed away from Alzheimer's disease - something no human being should ever have to endure. And consequently I find myself mulling things over, taking some time off from work, and reassessing a lot of things. Who wouldn't? And perhaps that's the sort of thing that causes me to write a blog post, not about my own mother, but about (oddly enough) foreign policy. Not that my mother doesn't deserve a write-up; believe me, she's going to get a big one, and not on something so deliberately tainted as this blog of mine. Rather, everything that she went through brings into focus how much I just plain see things differently than everybody else, and probably a lot clearer.

I could complain about how unintentionally condescending people have been, telling me to do this or that to help care for her - as if somehow she were somehow still there after her brain had gone. Or I could do a rant about how people actually dared to speak to me of spiritual matters in regards to her soul being at peace, as if somehow I didn't know far more about the subject than they do. Hell, I could decide to go off about how absurd it is for our culture to object to euthanasia in the face of such travesties as Alzheimer's. Certainly, were I to be diagnosed with the disease, I would join the Hemlock Society the very next day. Is the world really filled with that many imbeciles?

Then again, I really think I shouldn't be so cavalier. It's not like I don't suffer from my own delusions regarding what my mom went through. After all, I understood on an intellectual level that my mother's brain was gone long before her body was, and yet I scolded numerous hospital doctors for talking about her when she was right there in the room with us - people of science; people like me. They knew far better than I did how dementia worked, and yet I presumed to argue with them on their own turf! How arrogant of me! I understood perfectly well that science said she wasn't really there. But damn it all, that was my mother's face looking at me! I wanted to scream, "Couldn't we at least try to be polite and talk about her outside in the hallway?"

I guess I'm an imbecile too, sometimes.

No, I have my non-intellectual, emotionally driven moments, just like everybody else. So I'm not justified in going off on other people acting human in front of me. I therefore shrug it off when people say that they're "praying for me," telling me that mom's "happier now," or saying any of the other unintentionally insulting shit that goes along with learning someone has had a death in the family. They're not being stupid. They're just being human. Ultimately, I'm only human, too.

Which brings me, jarringly, to Russia.

Why? Well, the subject of Russia intervening in Syria has been something I've been pondering for quite some time. But when your mother dies and you take time off from work, one of the consequences is that you find yourself watching the first Democratic party presidential debate on CNN, and you see that nobody on the stage, not even Hillary Clinton, has as effective a plan for dealing with Russia's incursion into Syria.

And I do.

When my mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I moved back home, and the Obama economic recovery was being hampered by Republicans, and thus moving too slowly to have caught up with the accounting trade. Hence, I found myself living at home, in my parents' basement, turning 40, making very little money, and having very little prospects of pulling myself out of that hole anytime soon.

So I started writing. Honestly, what the hell else are you going to do in that situation?

And now, at my mother's death, I am again driven to catharsis, and find myself sharing the brilliant thoughts I had during the Dem-Debate. Hence, I'm sharing them. (Thanks again, mom.)

So why would Russia be so anxious to get involved in Syria? As is often the case, it comes down to money and resources. Syria is one of the few nations willing to trade with Russia in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine. While other nations are slapping sanctions on Putin, Syria is willing to provide much-needed oil - below market. Russia depends heavily upon oil exports because it is one of the few resources that gets around trade sanctions, and the Syrian oil fields would go a long way to sustaining the Russian economy. When trade sanctions are lifted on Iran, Russia will be able to compete for Iranian oil, but this additional resource will also flood the market, driving oil prices down. With lower oil prices, one of the only commodities left to Russia for export will become a lot less profitable.

So! Into Syria Putin goes! His goal? Well, he says there are only two options: The Assad regime, or ISIL. He sides with Assad, and is currently trying to rescue his rule from rebellious factions which seek to oust him.

But oddly, he isn't bombing ISIL targets just yet. Why? Well, he doesn't want an incident between Russian and American planes, to be sure. But also, ISIL sustains itself primarily from oil sold on the black market at a discount.

And Russia is undoubtedly a primary buyer!

So, what Putin really wants is the oil. He will eventually target ISIL. But he'll seize the oil wells before he targets the troops.

Our goals in the region are to oust the Saddam-Hussein-like Assad, and then encourage the region towards democracy while simultaneously eroding ISIL and driving it to extinction. Easier said than done. And the real problem is that Putin has a valid point. There really isn't a pro-democracy force with the military strength or political will to guide Syria to democracy.

Which is where my radical proposal comes in: How about we ask Putin to oust Assad and temporarily rule Syria while guiding it to democracy?

Yeah. I know. That's big. It's huge. It's a real gamble. And it just might fucking work!

But what can we offer in exchange? Why would Russia be willing to get even deeper into a military quagmire in a middle eastern country just for us?

My second proposal regarding that is even more radical: In exchange, we push for partitioning off a portion of Eastern Ukraine for autonomous rule. Possibly even a newly annexed Russian territory.

Am I seriously proposing the violation of the sovereignty of two nations in order to permanently end the conflicts in both? Yes! It's not fair to the people of Western Ukraine to lose another region in addition to what they've already lost in Crimea, and it's not fair to see Assad given a golden parachute to live out his days in the lap of luxury in Petrograd. But at a stroke, it achieves peace in two regions of the world while satisfying democratic freedom in both. I think that's worth it.

It might be a tough sell in the U.N., but I think the nations of the world would be willing to forgive another Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory if it meant building a new democracy in Syria. Trade sanctions on Russia could eventually be relieved, and the U.S. and Russia together could tag-team to defeat ISIL. (It would mean a new Republic of West Iraq, but that's a subject for another blog post.) Putin may be mad, but give him an opportunity to play the role of international hero, and he may very well jump at the chance.

Like a patient with Alzheimer's, we could let the whole thing fester until it dies horribly, or we could end the suffering quickly.

I argue for the latter - for reasons of regret as well as realization.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Another Mass Shooting

So, big shock, another asshole with guns up the wazzoo has shot up a school. This happens with such disturbing regularity that we've gotten numb to it, and unless it happens in our own back yard, we seem not to even care. In fact, the knee-jerk reaction to all this is for so-called conservatives to immediately condemn any attempts at attempting to regulate firearms in the aftermath, almost as if to say "Don't even think of using this tragedy for political ends, bub!"

Now let me be clear, I'm very much in favor of defensive weapons. I believe we have the right to protect ourselves and our homes from burglars and/or random assailants. The real question, at least for me, is where do you draw the line between a defensive weapon and an offensive weapon? It bears repeating that you don't need an AK-47 to shoot deer, and you hardly need an Uzi to keep burglars away from your front porch. So, in light of another mass shooting, where ought we draw the line? Because it's perfectly clear by now, we'd better draw the damned line somewhere.

Perhaps now is a good time to look at the second amendment to the Constitution and remember what it says:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Now, here's where I get confused: Where in there does it say the government can't issue a license or a permit? So far as I can tell, it doesn't. Where does it say that citizens must be allowed to sell such guns to others without any oversight? It doesn't say that, either. In other words, taken at its literal meaning, the government can regulate the shit out of firearms! It's only the keeping and bearing of them that cannot be infringed. But buying, selling, and bartering for firearms is fair game!

Another key point, as has often been pointed out, is that the technology of warfare has changed radically over the last 240 years. The most common application of weapons technology at the time the second amendment was written was the musket, and the pinnacle of weapons technology was the impossibly bulky cannon. A well regulated militia meant that people would be called to war, at which point fathers would get the family musket from off the fireplace mantle and go fight. Both federal and state governments were also usually strapped for cash, and income taxes were unheard of. They simply couldn't afford to arm draftees! It was hard enough just to feed them! It was literally an era of BYOG - bring your own gun. But my, how times have changed!

Today, our wealthy nation has developed cruise missiles, laser-guided bombs, Abrams tanks, harrier jets, stealth aircraft, napalm, aircraft carriers, gunship helicopters, satellite surveillance, drones, and very likely soon, droid armies. And, let's not forget, the atomic bomb. Now, if the second amendment is to be taken at face value, then citizens should be able to obtain "arms" of the same technological advancement by today's standards, as the musket was back in 1776. But that means that the average citizen would be able to purchase bazookas, rocket-propelled grenades, landmines, tanks and fighter-jets. But just try obtaining any of these! The government clamps down on you like a vice! And rightly so! Armed citizens are one thing. Heavily armed citizens are quite something else! The government has determined that modern military equipment should not go to common citizens. Good thing, too, or else Donald Trump would be able to buy his own private military to go to war against the private army of Bill Gates!

So the government has already determined that some weapons are illegal. Somewhere between musket and atomic bomb, we need to draw the line. And here it is good to point out one of the more common arguments used by gun advocates, namely that citizens need to be armed in order to prevent the government from taking away citizens' rights and freedoms. If the citizens are disarmed, they will have no defense against oppression.

Um, two things in response to that: First, the government has already taken away your rights and freedoms! Uncle Sam has been ass-fucking the people since Vietnam! Gerrymandering has stolen their votes by the billions! Corporate interests have bought our government and transformed it from a democracy into a plutocracy - an oligarchy of the elite wealthy class. The revolution that assault rifles are supposed to be needed for should have happened with the Citizens' United ruling! And yet the rednecks of our nation just sit there on their fat asses, never bothering to march on Washington with the weapons they claimed were meant to defend our rights! What bullshit!

The other point is this: You are already disarmed! Do you really think a puny little assault rifle matters to an M-1 Abrams tank? Do you think the government will care if you shoot down one drone while the other fifteen take you down? Do you think your stockpile of ordinance will even matter if one smart-bomb hits it with napalm? Fighting our government's massive arsenal with AK-47's is akin to fighting a fire-breathing dragon with a book of matches!

But disarmed though we may be, people who stockpile guns are still a significant threat to other citizens. They can't take on the government, but they can certainly target a room full of defenseless students, or a day care full of kids, or a theater full of moviegoers. Our government could at least protect them. Instead, it protects the shooters - at least until after the massacre. What madness!

We need private hunters to help regulate our wildlife, and we need citizens to carry small arms to help prevent those who would go on a shooting rampage from getting very far. But honestly, can't we all agree that someone who buys 100 Kalashnikovs at a gun show is probably up to no good?

If the NRA were about defense, as it claims, then no state of the union would be able to outlaw tasers. A taser is a defensive weapon, and thus We The People have a right to it. But the NRA doesn't give a fuck about that. Five states and the District of Columbia all outlaw tasers. Seven states and D.C. outlaw assault rifles. Four of those states, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, at least outlaw both, but Rhode Island is stupid enough to legalize assault rifles while banning tasers! And where is the NRA? Nowhere to be found. Wisconsin used to be similar to Rhode Island in this respect, but the concealed carry law, passed by Scott Walker in 2011, lifted the ban on tasers. Wisconsinites can now own them - with a permit.

Why not a permit for other defensive weapons as well?

Yes, you have the Constitutional right to bear arms. You do not have the constitutional right to stockpile. You need one gun for defense. A few if you want options (shotgun vs. handgun, for example). But if you own dozens of guns, you're nuts! Oh, you're a collector? I don't care. Find another hobby!

Yes, you have the right to buy a gun. You do not have the right to buy one without oversight. And you sure as hell on earth don't have the right to sell it to someone else afterward!

Yes, you have the right to carry a gun. You don't have the right to do so without a license!

Finally, let me point out that the problem is not crazy people. We're ALL crazy! The problem is that even the sanest among us can crack. Even the nice guys occasionally go postal. If we assume that someone is crazy just because he kills people, we make a dire mistake. Ted Kaczynski was one of the most sober and sane people alive, but that didn't stop him from becoming the unibomber.

You say guns don't kill people? People kill people? You're right! People kill people - with guns!

I mean, come on! If we can't at least ban the big shit after this latest tragedy, America really doesn't stand a chance.



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bible Disproofs Where You Least Expect Them

In my ongoing quest to re-invent my career yet again, I have stumbled upon yet more Bible verses which prove that not everything written therein is accurate. This time, it chanced upon me in the form of a very boring booklet which my welding theory class is forcing me to read. The author (whom I will graciously not name here) recounted many Bible passages detailing how the early Philistines and Israelites show the progression of the invention and use of forged iron and steel. At times, he seems almost enamored of how many Bible passages confirm his hypothesis. And yet, the very first Bible passage he quotes presents him with a very serious problem, if he would bother to think it through.

The verse he initially quotes is the Genesis reference to a man named Tubal-Cain. In this part of the Bible, a very long and boring genealogy is spun which details names of the first artisans, all of whom are descended from Cain, the slayer of Abel. Cain, after his exile, fathered Enoch, who fathered Irad, who fathered Mehujael, who fathered Methusael, who fathered Lamech. And Lamech, it is then revealed, had two wives, Adah and Zillah. Adah bore him Jabal, who was the forefather of all nomadic cattle-herders who lived in tents, and Jubal, who was the forefather of all those who played musical instruments. Now, at this point, it is self-evident that we are dealing with a kind of caricature of history in which various professions are all ascribed to one particular mythical figure out of folklore, But this particular author overlooks that. Zillah, the other wife, bore Lamech his other son, Tubal-Cain, and this man, according to Genesis 4:22, "instructed all those who forged bronze and iron." From this, my needlessly wordy author concludes, the forging and use of metals is steeped very early in human history. While this is undoubtedly true, there are better and more relevant evidences than scripture which can be cited to make this point.

The problem arises in the earliest known uses of bronze and the earliest known uses of iron. Bronze began to be used around 3,300 B.C.E., whereas iron and steel did not make their earliest appearances until about 1,100 B.C.E. - a difference of well over a millennium. It is therefore highly unlikely that the same individual, living in a time which pre-dated Noah's purported flood, developed and used both bronze and iron technologies, even if Methuselah did live to be over 800 years old (which is highly suspect). And what's more, the dates I just cited are cited by this very same author as well, meaning that he should have been able to spot the discrepancy staring him right in the face!

Now, I know first-hand how difficult it is to see a contradiction within one's own dogma and/or scripture when it happens to be part of the religion you were raised upon. After all, every Christmas we see nativity scenes showing the baby Jesus beneath the Star of the East, not even realizing that this is a clear depiction of astrology, which not only is obvious pseudo-scientific bunkum, it is a practice of divination forbidden by the Law of Moses - proving the story to be of Roman rather than Jewish origin. Nevertheless, this particular author completely misses the Tubal-Cain contradiction, not bothering to question how the same man could be the progenitor of two separate metallurgical arts eleven centuries apart. Now, other Bible versions, such as the NIV, attempt to soften this problem by saying that Tubal-Cain forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron without bothering to name him as the first instructor or inventor. But this hardly erases the problem, as the flood of Noah came at 2,400 B.C.E. according to the Bible, and Tubal-Cain and all his students would be killed off. The bronze and iron arts would then have to have been revived or re-invented by Noah's sons, Shem, Ham or Japeth, and the span of time found between bronze artifacts and iron artifacts according to modern archaeology would not jibe with the Bible either.

It's really amazing how many Bible errors pop up where they are least expected. I sincerely doubt this particular author is anything more than a layperson when it comes to Biblical scholarship, nor do I expect many would-be welders are particularly astute in theology. Nevertheless, even in the world of blue-collar skill trades, there are ample opportunities to see the errors of fundamentalist Biblical literalism, if one simply bothers to look.

One wonders how it remains such a profound influence among politicians.