Friday, March 30, 2012

Probable Cause

Good god! How much “probable cause” do you need to arrest a confessed killer with a police record who just shot an unarmed teenager after pursuing him against advice and shooting him with a gun he was not supposed to be carrying while acting as an unsupervised and illegitimate community watchman? Oh, I forgot, it was a Black teenager carrying some ice tea and skittles, an obvious threat to an armed Hispanic adult who outweighed him by probably at least 60 pounds, perhaps even more.

Well, the boy is dead, the killer is free after pleading his right to “stand his ground,” because he felt threatened, an explanation immediately accepted by the police without any investigation whatsoever. An investigation was finally begun after the fact. I have not seen even one scintilla of evidence that the killer’s story is true, a story that completely defies credibility in the first place. As the facts begin to emerge (after the fact, of course) they contradict virtually every part of the killer’s claim. He was clearly not standing his ground as it is known he was pursuing the boy against the clear advice he was given not to do so. He was obviously the aggressor. He claims he had turned around and was walking back to his car when the (known to be frightened) boy supposedly attacked him (presumably after putting his tea and skittles down) with a single punch that broke his nose, knocked him down, to have his head beaten against the concrete. There is no evidence he had a broken nose, no evidence his head was smashed against concrete, the encounter took place on the grass, and he showed no visible signs of damage when videotaped half an hour after the episode took place. There is certainly no evidence he was attacked so savagely as to have to shoot the boy to death. It is clear from the cell phone conversation the boy had with his girlfriend that he was afraid and knew he was being pursued. His pursuer was not in uniform and could have been anyone. At least two eyewitnesses heard the boy cry for help and scream before two shots were heard and the screaming stopped. If all of this does not constitute probable cause it is difficult to imagine what else might be required. The coroner that prepared the boy’s body for burial reports there were no signs of violence apparent on the boy’s hands, face, or body. In fact, there was probable cause for an arrest at the scene and the probable cause by now is overwhelming.

What makes this case even worse is the inept handling of it from the beginning. The main arresting officer did not believe the killer’s story and filed a report calling for a manslaughter charge. But no such charge was filed as it was apparently overridden by the Prosecuting Attorney (who then recused himself). The Chief of Police decided to step aside temporarily. The arresting officer told the mother of the 13 year-old who witnessed the crime that it was definitely not a question of self-defense and there “was some stereotyping involved.” While it is commendable that the current Prosecutor wants to make sure she gets it right and do the right thing, the only reason she is hesitating I can imagine is that the case is likely to prove to be a scandal for the police, the original prosecutor, and the entire justice system that is involved. We now know, for example, that the Mayor had to override the police and the prosecutor to get the 911 tapes released (why should this have been resisted). We also know the fact that Zimmerman was handcuffed and taken to the police station in handcuffs means he actually was arrested and somehow became mysteriously “unarrested,” apparently an impossibility under Florida law.

I do not know that I have all of this information correct, but to the best of my knowledge it is. There is no doubt in my mind that a terrible miscarriage of justice was about to happen, may even happen yet. The law the killer is trying to invoke (that doesn’t even apply in this case) should more properly be called “The Stand Your Ground and Kill Blacks at Will, Bill.” It is an incredibly stupid law and I’m sure there must have been warnings about what it might lead to if enacted (in fact, these kind of killings have increased threefold since it was passed). Remember, the bill says if you (merely) feel threatened you have the right to act, including shooting someone who is threatening you. Who is it that routinely threatens American citizens? Black men, of course, and young Black males in particular. This may be unpleasant to admit but in contemporary American culture it is an unfortunate fact of life.

It is also a matter of our own making, festering for years. You have a population discriminated against for years, with massive unemployment and poverty, little or no hope for any future, some of whom inevitably take to drug dealing, delinquency and crime, thus providing a stereotype and an excuse for even further discrimination. By employing drug laws discriminatory and otherwise, and by a system of justice that is itself discriminatory (as I suspect is the case in the Trayvon Martin case), we have managed to put as many Black men as possible in prison, but as we can’t manage to put them all in prison (it’s getting too expensive among other things), what better way to proceed that to just declare open season on them. Thank the (totally irresponsible) leadership of the NRA, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and I suppose, unhappily, the good voters of Florida for creating this monstrosity of a law that has now spread like a cancer to 26 other states (I think). Just think, if President Obama were foolish enough to go out alone at night, it could happen to him as well.

Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence.
Francis Jeffrey

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting a Haircut in Podunk

Ordinarily getting my hair cut here in Podunk is pretty boring. That is because usually I am the only one there and the barber and I do not talk to each other beyond “hello.” I originally chose this barber on the advice of a friend who told me he wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t like barbers who talk to me. This is because of experience. I have never known a barber who was not a conservative, usually a rabid one. I am told by friends there are liberal barbers but I have never found one. So, although I knew this barber would be a conservative, as we did not talk it did not matter. Even having to listen to Rush Limbaugh on our local radio station, who apparently is featured on the station almost all the time, did not keep me from returning to the same barber, although I found it difficult not to laugh out loud at the braying jackass on the radio. This particular haircut was simultaneously interesting and depressing.

Anyway, yesterday was different. As I drove up to the place there were two pickup trucks parked alongside what I knew to be the barber’s car (you do not walk to this shop although they say walk-ins are welcome). I decided to go for a walk rather than wait. After a brisk 25 minute walk I retrieved my truck from where I parked it and returned to the shop only to find three pickups! I thought about leaving, but I really did need a haircut, so I paused trying to decide what to do. At that moment an older man with an enormous belly came out, got in his pickup and left. I decided to just enter and wait my turn.

There were two men with enormous bellies, one in the barber chair, the other waiting. Rush was on the radio talking about the Supreme Court. Then a conversation ensued. The barber, who must have been responding to one of the customers, said loudly, “I didn’t think it was possible to have a President worse than Jimmy Carter, but if he was around now I’d vote for him, at least he was a harmless liberal.” There was a moment of Rush carrying on about Scalia’s sarcastic remark, “Do they expect us to read all 2700 pages?” The three of them all agreed that much reading would be far too demanding, one suggesting maybe they could break it up and each read only 300 pages. The barber then observed that no one had ever read the whole thing and no one ever would. He then announced, “I’m not going to vote for anyone, I’m going to vote against Obama.” Although I felt somewhat cowardly I said nothing. I learned long ago not to discuss politics with morons. Rush continued his ranting about Obamacare and the government, what a travesty the hearing was, and blah, blah, blah. The three of them listened respectfully. I listened. Their conversation about getting rid of Obama was interrupted when the one’s haircut was finished, he paid, and left. I would have to wait only for one more haircut before it would be my turn. I basked in the fact that my opinion of barbers had been proven once again. I hoped for less conversation, but to no avail, as no sooner than the one customer left another enormously fat man entered. The three of them obviously knew each other and more conversation ensued. Predictably, I suppose, they covered the subjects of Obama’s questionable birth, whether he might be a Muslim, and their fear he would take away their guns. I couldn’t tell if they were truly concerned about Obama’s birth or religion but the fear of losing their guns was genuine and they believed it passionately.

What did I learn from this experience? First, I found it interesting that the entire conversation was only about Obama and defeating him. At no point did any one of these gentlemen say what it is the President had done they found so terrible (other than their fear of losing their guns). Nor was there any mention of any other topic, not jobs, not Iran, not Trayvon Martin, not contraception, only Obama, guns, and his raising the price of gasoline. I guess what I found the most interesting was their attitude towards reading the bill the Supreme Court was dealing with. Not only were they unconcerned that no one had actually read the bill, they seemed to agree that even expecting anyone, including Congress or the Court to read it, would be a terrible imposition. As the total age of these three must have been at least 180 to 200 years, I’m pretty certain that in all that time all of them together had probably not read 2700 pages of anything, so I thought their attitude was at least understandable. But why Scalia and the members of Congress and the Court would not be expected to read it I found incredible. I mean, what the hell do we pay these people for if not to read and understand the legislation they are engaged in? Similarly, although I can see how the “broccoli argument” might make sense to these dolts, I was appalled to learn that Scalia, if not the other justices, are apparently unable to tell the difference between broccoli and health care. Scalia was reported to be rather funny and the Court was apparently treating the question of health care with less than the seriousness that it should require. I found this terribly depressing. I mean, after all, the health care issue only affects millions and millions of citizens in a life or death matter, it hardly equates with broccoli, an absurd statement that should have been above even the partisanship of Scalia. Many seem convinced that Obamacare is doomed. I’m not so sure, you can’t really tell what the Court will do from the questions they ask.

I am beginning to wonder if this barber shop only specializes in men with huge bellies. I have never seen a child there, or even a young person. I once saw a woman. She was waiting for her husband to get his hair cut. Oh, and by the way, I have been worried about being a bit overweight and having a noticeable paunch, but compared to all of these guys I am positively svelte. Not only that, my barber told me I looked two weeks younger after my haircut. I’m sure he’s on to me.

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled sea of thought.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Get It Over With!

Please, merciful powers that be, get this ridiculous election cycle over with…soon, I don’t think I can stand any more! It doesn’t matter who the Republican candidate is, all of them have long since demonstrated their unsuitability for the office of the President. Pathetic would be too generous a term for any of them. If Obama doesn’t beat the Republican candidate, whoever it is, by a landslide it will only prove that our voters are utter nincompoops. This is not to say Obama is so great, only to observe that all of these Republican candidates are unimaginably awful. If you could add them all together you might have someone qualified to be a small town dogcatcher. I don’t care how much money Romney has, how righteous Santorum thinks he is, how much experience Gingrich claims, or what Ron Paul’s nonsensical program is, they are all absolute losers.

Romney’s latest proof of incompetence comes in the form of his claim that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe, a claim so devoid of thought, so excruciatingly stupid, so “last century,” as to automatically disqualify him from even thoughts of the Presidency. And when you couple this with his apparent desire to immediately go to war with Iran you realize you are dealing with someone so potentially dangerous as to be totally unfit for office. In terms of Foreign Policy experience Romney seems to occupy the same level of unreality as Sarah Palin (who can see Russia from her house and wants to debate Obama). Romney may or may not have been a successful businessman, but nations are not run for profit and should require at least a minimal grasp of the rest of the world.

Rick Santorum has somehow managed to survive as a candidate all this time in spite of his borderline lunacy. If Romney has completely blown the Latino vote, Santorum has done him one better by alienating the female vote. Anyone who would seriously champion doing away with contraception in the 21st century either is completely brainless or politically suicidal. Similarly, anyone who thinks they can just return to DADT has little control over their mouth. And speaking of Santorum’s mouth, he has gone to great lengths to portray Romney as the single most awful candidate to face Obama there is (because of Romneycare) and that he, Santorum, is the only viable conservative candidate. Oh, and by the way, he has now said he would be happy to be Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate! I’m all for it, an ecumenical ticket that could only be dreamed about. The sinking of the Titanic would look like a picnic compared to a Romney/Santorum ticket.

Gingrich should never have been in the race in the first place, should never have been given air time by the MSM, and has been in it only to sell books and give us the benefit of his egomaniacal pontificating. Newt Gingrich, probably one of the nation’s greatest confidence men, who has somehow convinced Republicans he is their intellectual superstar (“In the kingdom of the blind a one-eyed man is king”). It has been said that his comments on Obama’s statement about the Trayvon Martin killing were reprehensible. They were, but what would you expect from the poster boy of reprehensible? He is finally showing signs of maybe getting out of the race, good riddance, the sooner the better.

I suppose I should at least mention Ron Paul although he seems to have slipped into the background of late. Jack Benny said that Percy Kilbride was his favorite comedian, Ron Paul is mine. Aside from his wonderful anti-war position, his ideas on government and human culture are still locked up somewhere in the OK corral.

I find it difficult, even painful, to imagine what the next few months will bring us on the way to the November election. As Republicans have managed to alienate Hispanics, Women, the elderly, the young, those needing health care, Muslims, Gays and Lesbians, and as they will also not get the Black vote, I can only assume President Obama and the democrats should win in a landslide. But with control of the voting machines, suppressing the vote wherever they can, and so on, perhaps it will be close, as many keep predicting. What with their Superpacs and criminal tactics Republicans may manage to somehow win, a fate now even worse than Bush/Cheney (I would not have thought this possible).

Apparently Zimmerman’s defense is going to be self-defense. He now says (as I understand it) that he was walking back towards his car and was then attacked, knocked down with one punch that broke his nose, and was having his head beaten against the ground when he finally shot Trayvon Martin. So, I guess I am supposed to believe that a 17 year-old boy, who was on his cell phone frightened because he was being pursued, seeing his 200 pound adult pursuer start back to his car, then ran after him and viciously attacked him? I’d much sooner believe in the Tooth Fairy. This case smells so bad it is likely to bring down the entire Miami justice system.

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.
H. L. Mencken

Monday, March 26, 2012

American Obsessions

Every once in a while I have to pause and reflect upon American culture and what seem to be the most important issues of the day. At the moment it seems to me that we are obsessed with two major themes, sex and violence. Nothing else seems to even come close when you consider the almost total obsession we have with these two issues.

Sex, it should be obvious to everyone, permeates our lives on a daily basis. There is virtually no place you can escape it. Ads are so loaded with sex it cannot be avoided unless you live somewhere under a rock and cannot see, hear, or read. Ads for automobiles and trucks feature slightly clan young ladies leaning provocatively over the hoods or getting in and out of them. Ads for lingerie now approach the limits of soft pornography. Women’s clothes are designed to emphasize sexuality, as are their shoes. As a woman you must have sexy hair, sexy legs, sexy arms, sexy eyes, sexy smiles, and above all, sex appeal. You must also know what kind of sex men really like, how to behave in bed, what “turns him on,” the sexiest moves you can make, and so on. Motion pictures and television feature sex at every turn, even the so-called detectives in crime dramas have to have their sexy personas. Not only that, we are bombarded with ads for birth control and, more importantly, drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and others. Even ads in magazines for old people feature ads for artificial stimuli and instructions on more healthy sex lives. Little girls are turned into sex kittens and enter into beauty contests, wear training bras before they have breasts, and wear sexy outfits. Even the massive diet industry features sex as a motive for losing weight, “I’ve lost 100 pounds and I never felt so sexy.” Bikinis have become so brief as to be useless for any other purpose than to tease, gowns so revealing as to do the same. Whatever the product you can find beautiful women posing in the most provocative poses possible. Stand-up comics could not survive for long without sex as a major theme, and it seems the raunchier the better. Many television programs from soap operas to comedies trade heavily on sexual innuendo and sexual themes. We revel in sex scandals, especially if they involve important people or celebrities. Some people even pick their candidates on the basis of their sex appeal. We have contests every year to select the sexiest man or woman of the year. We are, in short, virtually inundated with sex, engulfed by it, smothered by it, surrounded by it, seduced by it, to the point where we just accept it as part of our everyday lives and are dismayed that other cultures do not see it the same way. We now accept this obsession with sex as perfectly normal and cannot imagine women in burkas or modest dresses. We want our women in lipstick, mascara, and spike heels. Modesty is no longer much of a virtue, nor even is virginity. I am not complaining about this, merely observing that it has become our way of life.

I find it difficult to decide whether sex is a more powerful obsession than violence or vice versa. We have become, I believe, a nation of “violence junkies.” I believe this because of what I see and hear on television that seems to absolutely thrive on violence. I actually do not watch much television but what I do see even with my limited exposure is almost constant violence. I guess there must be a few programs that do not feature violence but they seem to me to be rare. If they have anything to do with police or detectives you can be sure they will be violent. This is even more the case if they have anything to do with science fiction. There seems to be nothing but shooting, killing, explosions, rapes, torture, and violence in the extreme. The sports we watch are mostly violent, football, hockey, boxing, cage fighting (I think that is what it’s called), wrestling, automobile racing, lead the list, all violent in the extreme. Sports like baseball, soccer, and even basketball do not hold the same fascination as the more violent sports and, I suspect, will slowly disappear over time. Golf seems to be a remarkable exception. All in all we live in a violent environment full of vicarious violent thrills as well as daily accounts of murders, gun violence, stabbings, rapes, suicides, hate crimes, child abuse and pedophilia, automobile deaths, domestic violence, and what have you, violence, violence, everywhere. Pornography, too, trades largely on sex and humiliation, as does torture that has long gone underground but clearly continues, the “dark side,” as Cheney suggested, and apparently as many are willing to accept.

As with sex, we have become accustomed to this high level of violence. It is, I believe, unmatched anywhere else in the industrialized world, certainly gun violence is unmatched. We still seem to live in a kind of frontier world, where one shoots first and asks questions later. This has now been carried to such an extreme that you have license to kill even if you imagine you are being threatened, as is apparently the case in the Trayvon Martin killing. This is, if you will pardon me, simply insane, and you can thank the NRA and our cowardly state and national “leaders” for it.

Related to all of the above, I think, is also an obsession with competition, but that is for another time, sex and violence, the American way of life.

In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.
Marlene Dietrich

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sick of "War"

I’m back from a most pleasant interlude away from television, radio, newsprint, and any discussion of politics. It was wonderful. But now, I’m back to the “wars” once again. I confess I am sick of the wars, all of them. I don’t mean just the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and the as yet undeclared war on Iran. I’m sick of the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on women, the war on religion, the war on Christmas, the war on Gays and Lesbians, the war on immigration, the war on obesity, the war on voter rights, the war on the Middle class, the war on unions, the war on abortion, the war on global warming, the war on evolution, the war on environmentalism, the war on government, and even the apparent war on young (and not so young) Black people.

Perhaps we just need a better metaphor. But it does seem to me we are at war with just about everything these days. Of course these are not all truly wars, but speaking of them as if they are is, I gather, what sells, what makes them exciting, what defines our failures to ever find solutions to problems we have that would be eminently solvable if anyone was serious about solving them. Of course some of them are not wars at all, and in fact are basically non-existant. There are, for example, no wars on Christmas or religion, these are merely figments of some of the demented minds in the Republican ranks, hallucinations that allow certain individuals more air time. The war on obesity is not serious enough to be taken seriously by the ever-growing population of the obese.

Some of these wars are not really active any longer, having failed long ago. There is, for example, no longer any meaningful war on poverty, we seem to have just accepted the fact that the wealthiest, strongest nation on earth, cannot solve the problem of poverty. We have concluded that it’s their own fault if they are poor and giving them any further aid is just too expensive. As far as the war on abortion goes, it should have been solved years ago when it was made legal by our (used to be) Supreme Court. You would certainly not know it was legal at the moment as abortion doctors are being murdered, abortion clinics bombed, the law being subverted at every opportunity, and so on. In spite of the law this is one war that continues unabated.

Of course the war on evolution should have been won long ago, as it has been in virtually every industrialized nation on earth except the United States. The relative age of the earth, for example, was determined to the satisfaction of geologists in the 1800’s, other evidence for the theory is so overwhelming that no one challenges it any longer except for some of the most extreme bible thumpers who refuse to recognize science as being of any importance. The same holds true for the war on global warming, well established by fully all serious scientists on the face of the earth, but inconvenient for corporations who wish to continue exploiting the world for short-term profits, and fundamentalists to believe only God can change the climate. The war on environmentalists has been raging now for some time as, again, there are those so intent upon their profits they are willing to sacrifice mother earth herself. The war on government continues, fueled by those who want to control it themselves and want us to believe people can somehow do without it.

There does appear to be a serious on-going war on women, the reasons for which are unfathomable unless, again, you are a true bible believer. This is a war that goes beyond merely women’s rights, it is a war against their health, as hard as it is to believe such a thing would even be possible in the 21st century. Those waging this war, Republicans, of course, want us to return to an earlier period when women were seen, not heard, belonged in the kitchen, pregnant and barefooted, and served their Lord and Masters without complaint. This particular war on women, along with the unstated war on Black people, seems to be the most heated and active at the moment.

The so-called war on drugs continues year after year even though it is perfectly obvious it is a dismal failure that not only wastes billions of dollars but also wastes thousands of lives, especially the lives of young Black people, and fills up our overcrowded prisons with non-violent offenders whose only crime is the use of marijuana, a weed used by literally millions of Americans most every day. This is a war so completely foolish as to be laughable if it did not produce such horrendous results. But of course there are those who profit from it and therefore manage to keep it going in spite of its obvious ill effects on our young people (and many not so young). And it is one war that could be easily won by simply admitting that the problem is a medical one rather than a political one and, if drugs were made legal it would virtually disappear.

Anyway, I’m sick of the whole business. All of these problems (wars) could be solved if as a nation we were serious about wanting to solve them. But too many people have vested interests in keeping them going, the very same people who control the means to solve them, and also the very same people who have now apparently reached the status of “Untouchables.” Sad but true.

I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?
Ronnie Shakes

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The One That Didn't Get Away

Note: I am going away for three days and will not blog until probably Sunday the 25th.

I did not want to write anything more about the terrible killing of Trayvon Martin, but as it is the only topic occupying all the news channels, and as there is obviously much more to come, I decided to make at least one more comment. I said previously that although I could try to consider Zimmerman innocent until proven guilty I do believe he is guilty. But in all honesty, if I lived in Florida and were called for jury duty on this case I would have to confess to being so biased I would not be able to serve. The more I learn about this vile unfortunate event the more I disbelieve Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. It is clear that Zimmerman was actually pursuing the boy in spite of having been told not to do so. It is also clear he was carrying a loaded 9mm pistol even though Community Watchmen are not supposed to be armed. While it is true Zimmerman apparently had a permit to carry a gun he still should not have had one while being on watch, besides which, he was apparently not formally appointed to that duty and just volunteered. He also continued to perform this duty even though there had been complaints about him. The claim that a 17 year-old boy carrying a bag of skittles and an iced tea would have attacked him lacks all credibility.

But what has pushed me even further into believing he is guilty is learning that he had called 911 some forty plus times in a few months complaining about seeing suspicious characters loitering about the community. I don’t know if in all forty-some cases he reported the prowlers as Black, but in the cases that were reported all of them clearly specified the suspects were Blacks. When you couple that with his complaint that “These assholes always get away” it would seem clear to me that assholes is clearly referring to Blacks, presumably those who managed to get away from him previously. It is also possible that on one of the tapes he reportedly says what some interpret as “fucking coons,” others as perhaps “fucking punks.” I confess I cannot make out either of these statements but something like that is clearly there. In any case, it seems clear to me these are derogatory remarks are referring almost certainly to Black people and thus are proof of racial prejudice. If this is true it would seem to open up the possibility of a hate crime, to say nothing of premeditated murder (although I have not heard any mention of either of these possibilities). I wonder if Zimmerman is pleased that one of the “assholes” didn’t get away.

It is also pretty clear, at least to me, that this particular incident and others like it, can be traced to the NRA and the Florida legislature for promoting and passing some rather stupid laws having to do with carrying guns and “standing your ground,” laws that basically led to essentially an open season on young Black men and others. As the Florida Police have not had very good relations with Blacks this is a situation than cries out desperately for attention (that it is now getting big time).

And speaking of stupid laws, the relatively low interest rates on student loans are about to double, plunging those students who have loans (most of them nowadays) even further into debt. Congress can act to prevent this but if they do not it will happen with disastrous effects on the economy. But the whole system of student loans is incredibly stupid to begin with. Why should students have to go into debt for their education? Colleges and Universities should be cheap enough that anyone could afford to go. Indeed, in my opinion they should be free, as they are in some more sensible nations. They should be cheap or free because it is in the national interest to have educated populations. How else can a nation maintain itself over time if it neglects to educate their young people? The obvious result of our neglect of our educational institutions over time is not becoming apparent as we are falling farther and farther behind most other industrialized countries. The spirit of anti-intellectualism we have fostered and the decline of our educational institutions are combining to destroy us. This, too, cries out desperately for attention, but isn’t getting much at the moment.

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
Frank Zappa

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Whatever Happened to the Constitution?

Once during a meeting in the White House President Bush was told that something he wanted to do might well be unconstitutional. He reportedly screamed back. "Stop throwing the constitution in my face, It's just a goddamned piece of paper!" From what has been going on lately I am beginning to believe many of our various “leaders” may feel sympathetic to that point of view. I cannot claim any particular expertise on the constitution, having at best only a passing familiarity with it, but there are some things I’m pretty certain are in it.

Consider Pennsylvania where it is reported that doctors have been given a gag order forbidding them to report on the various chemicals that might be used in “fracking” and whether or not they may be harmful. I’m sure our constitution says something about “free speech,” and I find it difficult to believe such an order can be constitutional, particularly when it bears directly on the health of our citizens.

Take also the business of forcing women to submit to medically unnecessary ultrasound procedures prior to having an abortion. Many states have already passed such laws and apparently others are considering doing the same. I’m pretty sure our constitution says something about a right to privacy, among other personal protections, so I can only conclude such laws must certainly be unconstitutional.

Similarly, consider the Tennessee abortion bill being considered that specifies that the names of doctors who provide abortions must be made public (thus rendering them vulnerable to those who do not hesitate to shoot them). Not only is that the case, the bill specifies that any woman who requests an abortion must be vetted as to her name, how many children she has, how often has she been pregnant, race, age, education, and so on. Someone suggested upon hearing about this, “They must be insane!” I would suspect that might be the case, but whether sane or not they clearly either have no understanding of the constitution or regard it with the same contempt shown by our former dimwitted President. And do not forget that in all these cases abortion is perfectly legal in the United States.

We are also struggling at the moment with a series of bills that would make voting more difficult or even impossible for large numbers of American citizens. These are obviously deliberate attempts to stop voters who might well be expected to vote democratic, young people, people of color, and the elderly who do not have the necessary documentation the new bills would require voters to have. In some cases in order to acquire the documents people might have to pay a fee, possess birth certificates they may not have, travel some distance to acquire them and so on. In some cases people who have voted in every election for many years are being turned away. Some of these attempts at voter suppression have already been stopped but more and more states are attempting them. It would seem clear to me that these attempts are blatantly unconstitutional, but those who are behind them seem unconcerned about such details, after all “it’s just a goddamned piece of paper.”

There are, of course, more important questions about the limits of Presidential power. We already know that the past couple of Presidents have gone to war without the proper Congressional authorization. On top of that we now have a situation where the President has ordered drone attacks and bombings on countries with which we do not have formal declarations of war. Some has observed there is no constitutional authority for dropping bombs “will-nilly.” That would seem to be an obvious violation on the constitution. There is also the fact the President seems to believe it is constitutional for him to assassinate American citizens with no due process, no trial, or whatever. This simply cannot be constitutional but it is happening. I know this has to be a violation of the 14the amendment, so I am prompted to ask again, whatever happened to the constitution? Does anyone care?

What are politicians going to tell people when the Constitution is gone and we still have a drug problem?
William Simpson

Sunday, March 18, 2012

God's Jury - book

God’s Jury The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, Cullen Murphy (Houghton Mifflin Hardourt, 2012)

If you are uninformed about things as I tend to be, you might take this book, from its title, to be about THE Inquisition. You know that terrible religious event that went on “back then,” that involved the Catholic Church and had something to do with persecuting people the Church didn’t like for some reason or another. It turns out as you begin reading this illuminating account that the author is using the term Inquisition as a collective noun as there have been and are any number of inquisitions.

During the 700 year period of what I thought of as the Inquisition there were three separate ones that are generally agreed upon: a Medieval Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition, and a Roman Inquisition. The first of these was dedicated mostly to discovering and persecuting members of the Church itself that were believed to be possible heretics. The Spanish Inquisition had most importantly to do with seeking out Jews who claimed to have converted but might have been lying or backsliding. The Roman Inquisition, that came later, after the Reformation, was aimed at Protestants. I, of course, did not know this before I read this fine and informative book.

In addition to his discussion of the three Inquisitions mentioned, the author explains at considerable length the unbelievable amount of archival material about the period that exists in the vast Vatican archives. Until 1998 none of this material was available to historians or other researchers, when at that time materials up to 1903 were made available. Since that time more and more of the archives have been opened. (some are still off limits). Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope, was instrumental in allowing access to this wealth of material. The Vatican has also spent a great deal of time and money in modernizing and updating the Archives and providing facilities for researchers. There are now many scholars from around the world doing research on the history and behavior of the Church including, of course the Inquisitions.
Murphy lays out the requirements for an Inquisition to occur. There needs to be a system of law and the means to administer it, there must also be a defined process for interrogations, as well as procedures for record-keeping and retrieving information. There must also be a bureaucracy with a trained staff to manage it, an ability to send messages across considerable distances and some capacity to control or restrict the communications of others, and a source of power to insure enforcement. The most important single factor in making an Inquisition is the conviction that the originators must believe they are morally superior and absolutely right. Although hatred, intolerance of others, suspicions, and so on were present for a long time in human affairs, the conditions for an Inquisition did not exist until the Middle Ages when they began to develop. As these conditions came to exist in a far more sophisticated form as technology improved, the grounds for Inquisitions are even more ubiquitous now than ever before. Murphy devotes his last chapter to a discussion of a few current bureaucracies with which we all have some familiarity. The source of power that drove the first Inquisitions came from the Church, but Inquisitions can obviously be purely secular as well.

When the Church opened the archives of the Inquisition to the public, it acknowledged the Inquisition as “a tormented phase in the history of the Church,” and maintained the Church “has no fear of historical truth” (although the archives dealing with the papacy of Pius XII, who was remarkably silent during the Nazi period and everything since have still not been opened). As scholarship proceeds and more and more information is made available it may indicate that (1) not as many people were killed during the early Inquisitions as we normally believe, and (2) when compared to what was happening in the secular societies of the time the Church may not have been as bad.

The subtitle of God’s Jury, The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, would seem to imply a steady growth of the Inquisition from the Middle Ages to the present. This could, it seems to me, be a bit misleading as the existence of Inquisitions in the Modern Age perhaps could possibly have more spontaneously arisen from the presence of the same conditions on their own with no necessary link to the past, but this is merely nitpicking. Similarly, as Inquisitions have been, and are, importantly secular as well as religious, one might also question the title, but again, that is mere nitpicking.

So, nitpicking aside, this is a very interesting and informative book, a job well done, a credit to the author, and a warning about the overly righteous whoever they may be.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beyond Outrage

I confess to be even more than outraged over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. You are no doubt aware of this case. Trayvon Martin, a 17 year-old teen was shot and killed by a man named George Zimmerman. I do believe that a person should be presumed innocent until he is proven guilty but there are times when it stretches your credulity to the limits. For me this is one of those times. Consider the facts as they are now being reported.

Trayvon Martin was walking through a gated community, in which his father lives. He was carrying a bag of skittles (whatever they are) and a soft drink of some kind. He was unarmed. Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain was patrolling the area. He saw Treyvon who was wearing sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt and called 911 as, apparently he was supposed to do. He reported the person was “looking at houses,” and was “suspicious.” He also said “he had something in his hands.” But he also said he had a hand in his waistband and he reported the person was approaching him. Then he said “these assholes always get away.” When he was asked if he was following the person he replied that he was and was told he did not need to do that. He obviously continued to do it in spite of the directions not to, there was some kind of altercation witnessed by other callers, one of whom reported he heard someone say “don’t do that,” followed by a shot and then silence. Another caller had reported two persons fighting. And still others reported hearing cries for help. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was allowed to go free because the Sheriff said he was “squeaky clean,” and they just took his word for what happened. Why am I so suspicious of this?

First, Zimmerman had just shot an unarmed teenager and killed him. To me that does not make him squeaky clean. It turns out he was not entirely squeaky clean anyway as he had had some altercations with the police previously. He had also had complaints about his behavior raised by other members of the gated community. So why was he being allowed to patrol by himself and carrying an automatic 9 mm weapon? Is it common for volunteer night watch people to go armed (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, what kind of gun laws do they have in Florida? Does Zimmerman have a permit to carry a weapon?). If the boy had something in his hands how did he also have a hand in his waistband? He was looking at houses. What else would one be looking at in a gated community at night, a parade? He looked suspicious, maybe like he was on drugs. What was he doing to make himself look suspicious or on drugs? “These assholes always get away.” To whom is Zimmerman referring? Had he had previous encounters with those who got away? Why was he an asshole, because he was there? And why did Zimmerman follow him when he had been told he did not have to do that?

There was some kind of fight or altercation. Are we to believe that a 17 year-old, 140 pound youngster attacked a 200 pound adult watchman? Why would he have done such a thing? Perhaps it was the other way around and Zimmerman was attempting to capture and hold him for the police to arrive? And if the boy was crying for help why was he shot in the chest and killed? This account in my opinion stinks to high heaven and leaves me in a state of complete disbelief.

While I know I am supposed to believe innocence until guilty, under these particular circumstances I find that virtually impossible, although I would certainly agree Zimmerman is entitled to a fair trial and I would accept the jury’s verdict. But I cannot understand why he was allowed to just walk free without a detailed investigation. Is shooting an unarmed teenager on his way to his father’s home such a casual event in Florida the shooter can just say it was self-defense and be believed? You can bet your life that if the shooter had been Black and the boy White he would have been immediately incarcerated until a thorough investigation was completed (if, indeed, he had not been hung). There have been far too many killings of unarmed Black men, including children, and often it is claimed to be self-defense.

My instincts, or my suspicious mind, if you prefer, lead me to believe Treyvon was suspicious merely because he was there, he was Black, and it was night. It is entirely possible that Zimmerman believed he was suspicious and his fear made him also imagine he was about to be attacked, however irrational and groundless that might have been. I simply do not believe the boy attacked Zimmerman, but I’m sure if Zimmerman was trying to capture him he may well have tried to fight back. Zimmerman had no business trying to capture and subdue him, that was a job for the police, but he obviously didn’t wait. If he was supposed to call the police in such situations why was he carrying a loaded gun in the first place? So, although I personally find it impossible to believe this was a case of self-defense, I do believe there should be a thorough investigation, the alibi of self-defense should certainly be questioned, and, if my suspicions are confirmed Zimmerman should stand trial for a capital crime.

Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence.
Francis Jeffrey

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Religious War of 2012

Yes, there is a Republican “War on women,” and it has escalated from a war on abortion to a war on contraception. In Arizona it threatens to be a war on sexual intercourse for any reason other than to produce a pregnancy. Arizona wants to pass a law to the effect that a woman would have to prove she wants a contraceptive device for a specific health reason, not for birth control (even though I don’t think this had anything to do with the approval of birth control in the first place). I don’t know who in particular is responsible for this absolutely idiotic idea, and I grant it is extreme even by most states, but it is fundamentally not unlike what seems to be a more widespread attempt to regulate women’s health and bodies. Rick Santorum has also indicated that believes contraception is harmful and promotes promiscuous sex thus “interfering with the way things are supposed to be,” whatever that is. I suppose if Arizona were to get away with allowing contraception only with a doctor’s prescription for an actual medical condition, it would be not long before you might have to prove you wanted to buy a bed or a mattress specifically only to sleep on. It makes me wonder if people in Arizona are born without brains or if homeschooling is responsible for such outrageous stupidity. Remember that until the 1930’s contraception was illegal in virtually all states. The Catholic Church in particular worked very hard to keep it illegal but eventually failed and it slowly became more and more permissible until now it has been used at one time or another by fully 99% of American women, including Catholic women. As the Church remains opposed to contraception even now, you can say there has been a religious “war” of sorts going on for a long time that has now resurfaced in importance at the present time, aided by Fundamentalist Christians.

But there is much more to this “war” than merely abortion and contraception. It is, in fact, the same war that Andrew D. White wrote about as early as 1895 in his well known work, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. You might think this important issue was settled a long time ago and it pretty much has been in all modern industrialized nations except, apparently, the United States. That this issue has appeared once again in the year 2012, and is now center-stage in the U.S. is incredible, mind-boggling, stunning, astonishing, virtually unbelievable, but it has. And make no mistake, this is a religious war on perceived “secularism.” Newt Gingrich, having tried three different religions and now settled on Catholicism, has said there is a secular war on religion, that the day Obama is re-elected he will immediately mount an attack on Catholicism. Rick Santorum has made it quite clear he does not believe in the separation of church and state. There have been all kinds of attempts to introduce “creationism” into our schools as an alternative to evolution, and even public attractions displaying dinosaurs interacting with humans, so say nothing of a gigantic representation of Noah’s Ark. Representative Jerry Bergevin has said that “evolution is an evil idea which has led to genocide and other horrors.” Many people apparently still believe the earth is a mere 6000 years old. Inhofe of Oklahoma has announced that global warming is a hoax because “only god can change the climate.” Santorum, too, believes global warming is merely a hoax. These people do not believe in science. Several of the recent Republican candidates for the nomination claim they were instructed by God to enter the race. This is not, strictly speaking, a war merely between secularists and religious people in general, it is basically a war between those who believe in science and reason and those who do not.

What is happening on the Right is nothing less than another Crusade. These people believe they have the truth and they are determined to impose it on the rest of us. They do not hesitate to promote “wars” with Muslim countries to rid the world of that (false) threat to our Christian way of life. They want to believe that Obama is a secret Muslim determined to turn the U.S. into a Muslim country. The Mayor of Clovis, New Mexico not only believes that Obama is “the carnal manifestation of evil,” but has also been trained by the CIA to accomplish the goal of promoting Islam, crazy, yes, but not completely unusual in “Tea Party” circles. You often hear pundits and others say that for Republicans to want to do away with contraception and force women to endure unwanted sonograms and so on is political suicide and makes no sense. That is true, but it is not politics that is driving their war on women, it is the same kind of religious fervor that drove the Crusades and fueled the Inquisitions. It is a religious war against what they characterize as “godless secularism,” or what used to be “Pagans” and “Heathens” and other “Non-believers.”

These conservative religious Republicans want you to believe there is a secular war on religion. But that has it entirely backwards. If some 97% of the world’s scientists say global warming is real, and I want to believe in science and thus in global warming, this does not indicate I am at war with religion (in fact I think religion in this context is simply irrelevant). If the scientific evidence is completely clear the earth is far older than 6000 years, and I believe it, that does not mean I am at war with religion. It only means that I, along with the vast majority of educated people in the world, believe in science rather than completely unsubstantiated myths and fairy tales. This religious war on the rest of us is clearly biblically driven by Fundamentalist bible believers that insist the bible is the true word of god and is infallible, and by the Catholic Church that insists it is the only true faith and in most respects has not changed since the Middle Ages, especially as it relates to the position of women. I am hardly an authority of the bible, having never been able to get past the first 6 or 7 pages, but if you want some idea of how it views women read an article in Truthout today by Valerie Tarico, “15 Bible Texts Reveal Why ‘God’s Own Party” is at War With Women.’” Of course if you wish you can drudge up some Biblical justification for virtually anything you want, just another reason to not take it seriously.

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
Ambrose Bierce (The Devil’s Dictionary)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Plausibility Index

Given the fact that virtually everything that comes out of the mouths of Republicans (and, to be fair, politicians in general) are either distortions, exaggerations, or outright lies, we desperately need something by way of a plausibility index, or meter, or scale, or measure, or however you wish to describe it. Not only do we need such a scale it must also be a universal one, a scale that everyone can believe in. I certainly have a personal plausibility scale that I employ, but I’m sure that other people’s scale , if they have one, doesn’t necessarily agree with mine. I don’t know precisely how we might create such a scale, perhaps a completely independent agency dedicated only to the truth, an impartial jury that can weigh the relative plausibility of the thousands of claims we hear all the time. Some of these claims might have an air of plausibility about them but many are completely implausible. How might we be able to rank them as to their plausibility, and what, if anything, might we do about them?

If Mitt Romney, for example, announces authoritatively that “If President Obama is re-elected Iran will have a nuclear bomb,” what are we to believe? He has no way of knowing that, unless, of course he might have some secret source of information we know nothing about. But surely that is most implausible. On the other hand there is a slight degree of plausibility if only because Iran might eventually have a bomb no matter who is elected President. We cannot say with absolute certainty there is no plausibility whatever in this case. One a scale of one to one hundred, with one hundred being the highest, maybe we could consider Romney’s claim at about one percent.

If, as some claim, Iran is secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb, although they deny it and there is no evidence for it, what plausibility might we assign to that claim. About the only reason to accept it, in the absence of proof, is because we know we would do it if we were in their place. That we probably would is plausible, but that they are doing so is somewhat less plausible. Let’s give it another one on our scale.

When New Gingrich says if he is President we will have $2.50 gasoline most of us would certainly regard that as completely implausible, and recognize it as merely an empty promise. But Gingrich must believe that at least some people might believe it or he presumably wouldn’t say it. On the grounds that gas could conceivably come down to that little, depending upon the world market, if speculators were not allowed, and etc., I guess we could say it has a plausibility factor of perhaps one half of one per cent.

Rick Santorum falsely claimed that President Obama “wants everyone to go to college,” and is therefore a “snob.” President Obama did not say he wanted everyone to go to college, but only to go on to school beyond High School. But Perhaps President Obama would like everyone to go to college, an obvious exaggeration of his position, would that lend plausibility to Santorum’s claim? How about Obama wanting everyone to go to college so they could be “like him?” I think we could reasonably dismiss Santorum’s claim as just another election exaggeration and implausible.
If Iran were to get a nuclear bomb it would change the situation in the Middle East, that strikes me as perfectly plausible, certainly the case. But if someone says If Iran gets a bomb they will use it on Israel that is completely implausible. To believe that one would have to believe the Iranians are crazy and would be willing to sacrifice their own existence to do something that suicidal. When someone else says if they get a bomb they will attack the U.S. it is beyond implausible and you would have to believe the speaker was perhaps out of his/her mind.

Sarah Palin says that President Obama would like us to return to “pre civil war times,” a statement so patently absurd as to be seen as little more than the babbling of a near moron. Pre civil war times would mean that Obama would most probably be a slave, a condition that clearly he would not envisage. It is not difficult to see how completely implausible Palin’s claim is, so “off the wall” as to not even be considered as serious. So why do the MSM keep insisting on giving her air time?

Then there are people like Santorum and Inhofe who believe global warming is a “hoax.” They also do not believe in evolution. To claim global warming is a hoax, and that evolution is not true, is to push plausibility to an extreme. Aside from the fact that the vast majority of scientists all over the world believe global warming is real, and in fact the evidence is now right before our eyes with the disappearance of the glaciers and so on, to deny that it is happening is implausible. And to not believe in evolution and global warming is basically to not believe in science itself, a position that in the 21st century is just not plausible. It is because people do not agree on such things that we need an objective authority on such matters, although there are probably some who would not believe in any case.

This is a complicated issue. It probably doesn’t matter much if Gingrich makes absurd claims about the price of gasoline, or if Santorum makes silly claims about Obama’s position on education, but it matters a great deal if people on the public stage make implausible claims about Iran’s intentions or deny global warming and evolution. What could we do with respect to those who make egregious and dangerous claims that could have absolutely devastating effects on human life? I guess capital punishment may be rather extreme. We do, after all, believe in free speech, and people are entitled to say whatever they wish with virtually no restrictions (other than yelling “fire” in crowded rooms, etc.).

I suggest those who can be identified as the worst offenders when it comes to making dangerous and implausible statements should be restricted to the amount of air time and publicity they are allowed to have. The more extreme and thoughtless their remarks the less they get to say. Granted this is a bit draconian, and even perhaps a mild form of censorship, but it seems to me the right to free speech must carry with it some responsibility as well. It is completely irresponsible to say implausible things like Iran is going to attack Israel or the United States when they don’t even have a bomb, or even if they did have a bomb. This is just a dangerous form of hysteria that can only have undesirable consequences. Maybe if they were curbed a bit by denying them a bit of air time they might take the hint and clean up their acts. Maybe we could make them wear dunce caps and sit in the corner for a time, like children used to be disciplined for irresponsible behavior.

The hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity.
Benjamin Disraeli

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

He Don't Get No Respect

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield managed to go a long way in comedy with his famous complaint, “I don’t get no respect.” The line was funny and Dangerfield milked it for what it was worth. It is not funny, however, when it has to do with President Obama.

Apparently, because he is Black, he has not been treated with the respect normally due to the President of the United States. Thus we have to watch the ditzy Governor of Arizona waving her finger at him, and a member of Congress yelling out in the middle of his speech, “You lie!” He has also been subjected to many absolutely unprecedented attacks on a President, such as being a Muslim, having not been born in the U.S., being everything from a socialist to a communist to a fascist and at the very least an “Other.” Some want to denigrate his accomplishments at Harvard as due merely to affirmative action, accusations that can no other foundation than racism. He has also been subjected to truly vicious cartoons, depicting him as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose, dressed as Muslim, and even worse. A Montana judge has circulated an email suggesting his mother mated with a dog, and no matter what he has done Republicans refuse to give him any credit whatsoever. Many people have come right out and admitted they will not vote for him because he is Black, and there is no doubt there are many more who feel that way but will not admit it publicly. He is often pictured as weak on national defense and indecisive, the implication being that he is not really up to the job (he’s Black, you know), in spite of the fact he has been none of those things. And, finally, Republicans, following Mitch McDonnell, have vowed from the very beginning to make him a one term President. They said this even before he had been given much of a chance to do anything as President so it could not be because of his poor performance in office. The fact is, not everyone in the U.S. was or is prepared for a Black President, racism is playing an important part in the refusal of Republicans to give him any credit whatsoever and their obsessive desire to remove him from office even if it damages the country.

The most important aspect of all the above is it not only has to do with President Obama himself, but also disrespects and cheapens the Office of the President. This is virtually unprecedented in our history. Many Presidents have been hated by some, and many have been involved in questionable ventures, but the Office itself has never been so disrespected. Do you believe the Governor of a State like Arizona would have ever wagged their finger in the face of FDR, Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon? Or would have publicly accused a President of lying? Would any foreign dignitary like Netanyahu, for example, presume to tell the President of the United States what to do? Do you believe that someone like Sarah Palin would ever have dared to suggest she could debate the President of the United States? This kind of behavior is not only appallingly disrespectful of President Obama, but is also disrespectful of the Presidency.

It is, of course, not only because President Obama is our first Black President. The office of the President has been increasingly demeaned since the Clinton Presidency, when the Republican Party, desperate to unseat him and unable to do so legally, began to resemble more a criminal conspiracy than an ordinary political party, and began using tactics more commonly found among those unconcerned with precedent, law, or even common decency. Prior to Clinton, for example, no President would ever have had his private life so invaded, especially his sex life. John Kennedy was a notorious womanizer but it never became a subject for impeachment. Never before did we see anything like the Starr report, a document usually reserved for scandal sheets or Larry Flynt. What happened to Clinton was the beginning of a process of denigrating the Presidency that has continued to the present day. Of course Clinton helped the process along when he elected to answer the question of whether he wore jocky shorts or boxers, a question so inappropriate as to indicate no appreciation of the importance of the office.

The slow degeneration of the Presidency, in my opinion, was further encouraged by the election of George W. Bush, basically an insult to the electorate. Everyone knew Dubya had been an abject failure at everything he had attempted, was basically a figurehead Governor of Texas, had a questionable military background, as well as a questionable life as a heavy drinker and a lousy student. And yet he became promoted to the Presidency because of his name, family, and a partisan Supreme Court. I personally believe he was probably marginally retarded and his two terms as President did little to dispel my concern. John McCain demonstrated his contempt for the Presidency when he picked the totally unqualified and abysmally ignorant Sarah Palin as his running mate. The idea she could be a heartbeat away from becoming President was an act so irresponsible and unbelievable was so frightening it will surely never be repeated.

Further proof that the Presidency has been demeaned can be seen in the current election cycle. That anyone could believe the various Republican candidates that were front runners from time to time were qualified for that high office indicates clearly the office has now become considered basically unimportant. Palin, Backmann, Trump, Perry, Cain, and even the surviving four, with the possible exception of Romney, cannot be considered truly fit for the Presidency (and even he is questionable). It’s like Gingrich himself said, “We don’t need a smart President now” (or words to that effect). Similarly when people believe an adequate credential for being President is because “He’s someone you can have a beer with,” you know the office is being trivialized. Now when Sarah Palin suggests she would be open to be the nominee if there is a brokered convention, and the MSM even bothers to report this, you know she is not the only delusional one in the country. Similarly, I find the idea that Rick Santorum could be considered Presidential quality virtually unbelievable. Of course there are some that no doubt believe that the Presidency is now occupied by a Black man also demeans it, but the effect is the same. The dignity, importance, and the value of the Presidential Office has been seriously compromised. I don’t know if it can be restored.

It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.
H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Heart of Ignorance

Someone the other day, I think it was Jonathan Capehart, said Romney was behaving like he was on a safari in his own country, what with his exclamations of surprise over discovering cheesy grits, and a new language, y’all. I gather he was also surprised that the local women were greeting him with hugs. I wonder if he realized that it was a safari that would lead him directly to the Heart of Ignorance? Alabama and Mississippi should certainly count as the heart of ignorance, as approximately 50% of the citizens in those two states believe President Obama is a Muslim. That is ignorance in the first degree. It’s probably also stupidity because you would have to be pretty stupid not to bother to learn just how fantastically absurd that belief is. In addition to the 50% who believe he is a Muslim there is another 40% who say they don’t know, leaving somewhere around 10% who believe he is actually a Christian.

It is also the case that Alabama and Mississippi are two of the most backward states in the union, they rate near the bottom on nearly every measure of accomplishment you can think of, average income, education, health care, welfare, and so on. They are also among the top with respect to the number of Evangelicals who do not believe in evolution, global warming, science in general, and no doubt also have average IQ scores well below the national average. They also lead in obesity, a condition that also suggests the not-so-bright.

As you might suspect their primaries this evening elected Rick Santorum as their choice to carry the Republican banner of ignorance as far as possible. Rick Santorum has about as much chance of becoming President of the United States as Cheetah (were he still alive). There is no doubt Santorum represents their views better than the other three candidates, he is a religious nut-case, wants to do away with abortion, contraception, health care, does not believe in evolution or global warming and science, thinks the public schools are indoctrinating our children, believes that going to college is an act of snobbery, and is quite likely a racist (although this is not completely clear). In any case he fits right in to the cultures of Alabama and Mississippi. I guess both he and the residents of Mississippi and Alabama are unaware this is the 21st century, the 19th and 20th having been left behind.

Willard Mitt Romney finished an abysmal third in both of these races, thus insuring the Republican comedy will continue probably to the very bitter end. Gingrich has vowed to continue on to the convention no matter what, a plan that will probably deny Santorum a victory and helping Romney who he apparently hates. There is nothing like cutting off your nose to spite your face, as the saying goes. Romney, knowing he would lose in the South (although hoping he would do better), fled the scene so as to not have to make concession speeches. Now it’s on to Illinois. I don’t know at the moment how he fared in Hawaii or American Samoa but I’m pretty certain he will win there. He may very well manage to become the Republican candidate in spite of his lack of appeal to most everyone in the Republican Party. I have been trying to imagine him as POTUS (Panderer of the United States) in Russia, saying clever things like “I’ve just tried borscht for the first time and I love it,” or “I just love fish eggs,” or Chicken Kiev has always been my favorite, or even “The trees here are just the right size.” He seems to want desperately to fit in wherever he goes and whatever the circumstances, or at least pretend to fit in, but just doesn’t understand how to go about it. Constant pandering is not going to make it. He has moved so far to the right with his pandering to the Republican base it is doubtful he will be able to recover even if he does become the Candidate. His latest claim to do away with Planned Parenthood will probably be the last nail in his coffin.

If Gingrich would bow out of the race Santorum might actually have a chance for the nomination. We could look forward to a fascinating voyage further and further into the heart of ignorance. If Romney survives and becomes the candidate we can look forward to being tossed about forever on the shores of indecision and flip-flopping. In either case we will no doubt have to listen to the most outrageous lies about President Obama, nonsensical claims about gas prices, “Obamacare,” tax breaks, shrinking government, and all the rest of the traditional gaseous falsehoods parroted constantly by Republicans. Oh, and no doubt how we should rush into war with Iran as quickly as possible, if only to save the billion or so Muslims from their shocking non-Christian beliefs. I can hardly wait until the “Little Lady” is back in the kitchen, barefooted and in her flour-sack dress, producing new children one after another, we’ll have prayer back in school, and maybe cannon-ball making will once again flourish.

Women and cats do as they damned well please, and men and dogs had best learn to live with it.
Alan Holbrook

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sex and the Single-minded

It is true there have been some cultures where sex has been considered a more natural phenomenon than in others, aboriginal Hawaii, Tahiti, the Trobriand Islands and others, even contemporary France where sex, as someone said, “just is,” as opposed to the U.S. where it is regarded as “a problem.” What with all the controversy at the moment about contraception, women’s health, and the Republican “War on women,” I have been led to try to understand what this is all about.

I don’t believe sex, as such, is a problem in the U.S., aside from a few people like Rick Santorum and other Republicans. The fact that it has become a single-minded obsession for Americans is the problem. Sex here in the U.S. has become a commodity, it sells, it sells everything from automobiles to shampoo, to boats, trucks, cosmetics, fashion, underwear, especially lingerie,vacations, cooking utensils, and just about anything else you can name. On women’s magazines in particular it sells hair styles, smiles, skin tone, eyes, slacks, fingernails, thighs, tampons, contraceptives and even sexy armpits. More importantly, perhaps, it also sells sex tips on how to please your man, what to do to “turn him on,” how to behave in bed, what men really like, and so on and on and on. Sex in contemporary America may well be the most important commodity we have. It is literally everywhere, television, radio, books, movies, advertisements, almost always in view somewhere. While it can be argued that prostitution has been fairly common around the world, and sex has long been a commodity in that sense, nowhere has it become such an important commodity as it is here in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century.

The rules and regulations, beliefs and laws, that in other cultures, and in previous periods in American history, that controlled and monitored relations between the sexes have been mostly abandoned. Contraception has had much to do with this, of course, but the greater problem has to do with the control of female sexuality in general, and the apparently universal fear on the part of men that it can so easily get out of control and cause trouble. In most tribal or traditional societies, for example, there are well-known rules that attempt to solve this universal problem. Incest taboos often prescribe who legitimate sex partners may be, and proscribe often large groups of people with whom sex is prohibited. These rules are often rigidly enforced. Adultery is prohibited and the penalties can be severe indeed, from putting a hot rock in the woman’s vagina, to cutting off her nose, stoning her to death, and branding her as guilty with a scarlet letter, and so on. Women in some places are regarded as unclean and dangerous and should be avoided, even marital intercourse requires ceremonies to purge oneself of contamination. Initiation rites, sometimes very painful, reinforce the necessity to avoid sex with other men’s wives and men, as well as women, can be severly punished including banishment and even death. Women’s dress and behavior are often monitored carefully to insure sufficient modesty. They are made to wear veils, even head to toe burkas, or mother-hubbards, or even wear heavy rings around their necks, grotesquely stretch their lips, to make them undesirable to other males, and forego cosmetics, and so on. In some places they are not even allowed to go out in public unless with a brother or father, or uncle. They can be prohibited from even being in the same place with a man who is not a relative. And, of course, they did not work outside of the home and everywhere they were legally or traditionally subservient to men, especially when it involved politics or religion. Even in so-called matrilineal cultures it was the maternal uncle who was in charge.

In the United States until not so very long ago many rules pertained to women. They did not work outside the home, they were subservient to their husbands, they were supposed to dress appropriately (no slacks, for example, or full body bathing suits), and were basically wards of their husbands. They were not supposed to enjoy sex and, while it was legal for a man to sue for “loss of consortium,” such laws did not pertain to women. They were supposed to stay at home, cook the meals, bear and raise the children, and were not allowed to vote or even express themselves in public. Ladies wore gloves and hats, carried lace handkerchiefs, and even fainted at the mere mention of sex. When they say “we’ve come a long way, baby,” they certainly have. With working women came greater mobility, the right to vote, and, more importantly, contraception. Most if not all of the rules that constrained women have disappeared. They can now engage in sex whenever and with whom they wish, with no fear of pregnancy, and, in fact, little fear of punishment, even adultery means little or nothing nowadays. Divorce is commonplace, working women are not necessarily interested in marriage, single mothers are not uncommon, and as a result women and female sexuality have become potentially more dangerous than ever before. Women have power over men, much greater potential power than ever before, and they can come between fathers and sons, brothers, lovers, and thus be potentially socially disruptive. Curiously enough, I think, converting female sexuality into merely another commodity, helps to overcome this universal male fear, but it does so by essentially denigrating women by categorizing them automatically as sluts (except, of course, for sisters, mothers, and wives). It is not the act of sex itself that is so important, if, that is, it occurs only in the marital bed and begets children, but the fact that men can no longer control when and where and with whom sex might occur. Thus it is that people like Rush Limbaugh can characterize women who want birth control to be “sluts” or “prostitutes,” and suggest they should film their presumably shameful acts for all to see. It is specifically female sexuality that is the problem, how much have you heard lately about male sexuality, the scandal of the Church, the price of Viagra or Cialis? Women must be kept in their place either as disgusting sluts or mothers. It is not surprising that Santorum, an avid Catholic, would be promoting this as it has always been the position of the Church. To control women you must control their bodies, nothing else counts for very much, not their health care, not their right to privacy, not their legitimate desire to control their own lives, just their bodies to do only the work of the lord. The potentially dual nature of women has been with us for many years. They are good for sex and selling things or, conversely for motherhood. Sometimes it is said we should “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Here we seem to have embraced the sin, but hate the sinners. Hallelujah and Amen.

God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I've ever met.
Farrah Fawcett

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Limbaugh, Gays, and the Left Hand

I have been hesitant to comment on the recent Limbaugh controversy because I don’t like the aura of uncleanliness that surrounds it, the sense of having to roll around in the slime with the fat sexist toad of talk radio. Most everyone seems to be upset by Limbaugh’s vicious attack on an innocent young woman, calling her a slut and a prostitute, according to Fatty, “because she wants to be paid for having sex,” which had really only an incidental part to play in her concern. For Limbaugh to claim she wanted to get paid for having sex is, of course, a deliberate and completely untrue characterization of her concern, to say nothing of being an absolutely disgusting remark about a completely respectable young woman. But truth never has anything much to do with what the hate merchant is about. Personally, I am nowhere near as concerned about his name calling as I am about his unhealthy voyeurism. He wants to watch her having sex! He said clearly that if we (he) had to pay for her to have sex he wanted her to make videotapes so he could watch! That he could even say such a thing to a perfectly decent young woman represents a depravity far beyond decency. This, in my opinion, is far more slimy and disgusting than his unwarranted attack on her. I have no trouble whatsoever imagining Limbaugh spending his spare time engrossed in pornography, hunched over the computer or television vicariously watching others doing what he probably can’t accomplish himself without his Viagra and artificial stimulation. Let’s face it, Limbaugh is a disgusting creep that should have been chased off the air years ago, a cheap hate merchant of the worst kind, a bigmouthed liar with a complete lack of even the most basic common decency, a slobbering fool drooling over the possibility of degrading others by watching their private moments. Yeah, I know, he’s a shock jock, an entertainer, that’s his job, and blah, blah, blah. His job ought to be cleaning outhouses or sewers where he could truly be in his more natural element.

Someone named Kirk Cameron, who I gather is some kind of actor and Evangelist, has taken it upon himself to announce that homosexuality is “unnatural.” My childlike brain (still with me in my dotage) immediately screams out, “What is natural?” Of course there is no hope of answering this question but I couldn’t help thinking about it. Of course it is “natural,” probably some 3 to 8% of the human population is born with a preference for the same sex. You may not like it, but it happens. Homosexuality is also known in animals, many different species apparently, and certainly occurs in sheep. To claim it is unnatural is basically a desire to deny it happens, or should happen, and must be somehow a mistake. God made a mistake, or nature made a mistake, or it is a statistical aberration, or it is somehow not “normal.” Sorry, it is just a fact of life, as natural as the majority created as heterosexuals. And no, it can’t be “cured,” although it can be denied, covered up, and repressed, but only at some psychic cost. Many Gay men marry and have children but they still remain Gay and sometimes “come out” at some point later in life, especially nowadays as being Gay is beginning to lose its negative connotation.

But, then, how about cleft palates? One in one thousand to 2.5% of newborns are born with cleft palates. We have no problem considering this unnatural. But it is merely a physical abnormality and can often be corrected by surgery. Being Gay might well involve some genetic factor but it cannot be corrected (at least not now). But why should it necessarily even be corrected? Being Gay is no longer considered a mental illness as it once was, it doesn’t harm anyone, Gays can marry and raise families just like others do, if, that is, society does not condemn them and make a big deal about it.

Being Gay is much more like being left handed than it is like having a harelip. Some 8 to 15% of the population is born left handed. Is this unnatural? Of course not, it just happens. There was a time, and perhaps still is in some cultures, when children born left handed were encouraged, even forced, to use their right hand like “normal” people. Sometimes they more or less succeeded but not without some psychic damage, stuttering or some other problem.

This whole problem seems not to have anything to do with what is natural, but, rather, what is considered normal. Most people are right handed, most people are heterosexual, most people do not have cleft palates, that does not make others unnatural, just different from the norm. It all comes down to matters of opinion, personal preferences, value judgments. But what is the point of most value judgments, especially when it comes to the question of what is natural? I believe having brown eyes is natural, blue eyes not so much, but so what? Being a White Western-European I think White is natural, Black and Brown not so much, so what? Nothing that occurs in nature is any more unnatural than anything else, it just happens naturally. What we make of it is another matter. Personally I think Evangelicals are unnatural as they are made rather than born and believe in utter nonsense. No one is born hating others, you have to learn to hate. We seem to be much better at teaching hate than the opposite. That too, it seems to me, is unnatural, but perhaps not.

I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.
Joseph Baretti

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Still in Kansas?

Gee, Dorothy, I think maybe we still ARE in Kansas. Did you notice that the pundits and the media last night, after the Super Tuesday results were coming in, actually began to talk seriously about a scenario that could produce a Rick Santorum candidacy for President of the United States? It’s a simple enough idea that has Santorum winning in the Southern states and Gingrich bowing out so that in a two man race (forget Paul) Santorum might actually beat Romney for the nomination. Understand that the various pundits apparently believe that Rick Santorum could be a SERIOUS candidate for the most powerful position in the world.

Need I remind you that Rick Santorum, a Catholic, does not believe in the separation of church and state and has criticized John F. Kennedy for promoting that well established constitutional standard? He also claims the Crusades did not represent aggression against Muslims. He wants to annul previous Gay marriages, is opposed to abortion, and even wants to outlaw contraception used by 99% of American women, including Catholic women. He also wants to reinstate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the armed forces. If that is not enough, he wants to repeal health care and believes global warming is a “hoax.” In addition, he does not believe in evolution, thus indicating he does not believe in science. He also believes the public schools are “corrupting” our children, and says that President Obama is a snob because he encourages people to go to college. But wait, there’s more. He believes our society is falling apart because of single mothers who keep “breeding more criminals.” He also does not want to take money from wealthy (read White) people to help out others (read Black people). He has also claimed that President Obama has been helping Iran get a nuclear weapon and thinks we should bomb them forthwith. To top it all off, he believes the DEVIL is interfering with our lives. He is, in short, little more than a raving religious nut case who simply cannot and should not even be taken seriously, but here he is with a possible chance of becoming the Republican candidate for President, and (although completely inconceivable to me), even a distant chance of becoming President. As I have noted before, we here in the U.S. do not take our elections seriously. A Santorum candidacy seems to me so far-fetched as to exist only in diseased minds of some kind. That a person like Santorum could even presume to be President of the most powerful society on earth in the 21st century is absurd, that anyone could possibly take this seriously reveals just how insane some can be.

Ordinarily I would find this laughable. But it seems to be serious. There is only one way I can imagine the Republicans allowing Santorum to run, assuming that he could defeat Romney, that is if they have in fact already conceded the coming election to Obama and are willing to sacrifice some nitwit to the cause. It would give them four more years to denigrate Obama and damage the economy, thus setting the stage for an easier road to the White House in 2016, probably running the third Bush to continue their previous criminal dynasty. If this is the case it probably doesn’t matter whether their candidate is either Santorum or Romney, both merely sacrificial bodies for the gods and goals of free-market capitalism (better known as corporate crime).

Although I do believe President Obama tries to do the right thing by defending the middle class and the poor, and trying to keep us out of another stupid “war,” and is in general on the side of the 99%, at least for the moment, and is also considered by some to be threat to the Wall Street and corporate status quo, he has been in many ways a “fellow traveler.” He has protected Bush/Cheney from being investigated and prosecuted for their known war crimes, has protected the banks and Wall Street, and is, in fact, not truly much of a threat to the status quo. He has been able to promote Gay rights, get rid of DADT, pass “Obamacare” (that still involves private insurance companies and even gives them more subscribers), equal wages for equal work, and so on, because those are not issues of great importance to the powers that be. Perhaps given a second term he will be free to pursue far more democratic goals.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

I feel better now. Now that I have finally come to the realization that our current political system is not meant to be serious and is, rather, just a grand show that continues on for a long time like any other soap opera. I have suspected this for quite some time but this Presidential election cycle has proven it conclusively.

No nation that is serious about electing leaders to lead their country would even dream of a system as completely ludicrous as ours. First, you need not have any particular qualifications to run for the most powerful position on earth, especially if you have or can raise obscene amounts of money. Second, the campaigns go on interminably, now starting about the same time the new President is sworn in and thus continuing for almost four years. Third, it is not necessary, and in fact is undesirable, to tell the truth about anything. Fourth, there are no restrictions on what candidates can say, no matter how blatantly false and absurd it may be. Fifth, it is important to avoid speaking about any genuinely important issues when concentrating on more trivial and titillating topics can be emphasized. Sixth, it is no longer necessary for a candidate to be serious about wanting to be elected to the Presidency, getting publicity and selling books will suffice. Seventh, candidates need no longer even be truly competitive as the media will make any candidate look competitive. Eighth, the candidates are selected in advance by those who have power, if not the precise candidate, the others will be weeded out by the media controlled by those who are making the selections. Ninth, like Valentine’s day, our elections are held primarily to make money for those who are in charge of conducting them, namely the media which reaps in billions of dollars on advertising. Finally, the outcome is, if not predetermined, controlled by those who, largely behind the scenes, have picked and shaped the show and will make the final decision. Like most everything else these days it is merely infotainment, but infotainment on a grand scale.

All of this has been played out during this current election. It began eons ago, it has featured those with either personal fortunes or wealthy backers to make their candidacy possible. It has continued on seemingly endlessly. One unqualified candidate (entertainer) after another has had their moment on the stage: Palin, Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry, Huntsman, Pawlenty, until only Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul survive to oppose Romney, none of whom will be able to get the nomination. Romney, who was picked to win in the first place, will no doubt win (unless he becomes so bad they shift to someone else), but only after spending multi-millions and wasting time in an attempt that was a foregone conclusion in the first place. Along the way they have all lied with regularity, often making claims that are not only false, but simply absurd. Romney, for example, announcing that if Obama is re-elected Iran will have a nuclear bomb, Santorum accusing Obama of helping Iran get a bomb, Gingrich claiming Obama is the most dangerous President in American history, and that he, Gingrich, will provide $2.50 gasoline, and other even more fabulous pronouncements and accusations. So obsessed with destroying Obama they don’t even bother to offer any positive solutions to any of the real problems facing the nation. Some of the candidates entered the race with no intention of winning, or even dreams of winning. Romney is the only candidate who is believed to have any chance of beating Obama, no one really wants him as a candidate, but once he emerges as the only obvious candidate the media and everyone who has spurned him, will make him into a giant of possibility and all of his shortcoming will be forgotten or distorted beyond belief. By the time this strange and esoteric contest is over the media will have made fortunes for their corporate owners, whoever is elected will have obligations to whatever powers made their success possible, and the whole thing will begin all over once again.

The sad fact is, the United States is just not serious about our election process. If we were there would be public funds for the candidates, private money, especially in huge and obscene amounts would not be permitted, the candidates would be selected on merit, the process would be played out in one or two months, it would be relatively inexpensive, only candidates with years of truly relevant experience would be allowed, and the media would perform the role it should as a fourth estate, making certain no candidate could get away with serial lying without being challenged. Every citizen would be obliged to vote, no exceptions. Lobbyists would be carefully controlled both in numbers and amounts of money or other inducements they could offer, officials found guilty of taking bribes and selling votes would be quickly and severely punished. The Republic envisioned by our Founding Fathers would work for the benefit of the people as it was intended to do.

I know this is all “pie in the sky” and has no chance of realization. So we will continue to muddle on with the single most dysfunction political system imaginable, continuing to fall behind others, and eventually self-destructing. Happily, those most responsible for our demise will not be able to take it with them.

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Ambrose Bierce

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Try a Little Tenderness

I listened to President Obama’s speech to AIPAC. I didn’t like it. But I suppose given the audience and the present mindless hysteria about Iran, it was no doubt what he had to do. Obviously it was not the place to discuss Israeli war crimes, colonial designs on Palestinian lands and water, or their terrible racist treatment of those in Gaza. The one thing that did rather enrage me was his claim of Iranian hypocrisy. I do not know what he had in mind as it seems to me Iran has been very straightforward in its behavior. Besides, for an American President to accuse Iran of hypocrisy is so hypocritical itself as to be laughable. I realize that to say any positive words about Iran in the present climate of hate and distrust will be met with derision, but I truly believe we should calm down and consider carefully what is happening.

The basic issue is, of course, the possibility that Iran may make a nuclear bomb, at least that is the ostensible reason for the hysteria surrounding the situation. But consider what the situation must look like for Iranians. George W., the Dim, started the latest wave of anti Iran propaganda when he stupidly labeled Iran as part of an “axis of evil.” It seems to have taken root. We have John McCain singing “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” for example. AIPAC is constantly promoting war, all of the Republican candidates for their nomination, with the exception of Ron Paul, are not only in favor of attacking Iran, but apparently eager to do so. Newt Gingrich has promised that if he became President he would “hit them” for what they are doing. What they are doing is precisely what they are legally entitled to do, enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Romney has announced that if he becomes President Iran will not have a bomb. Rick Santorum, barely a hair’s breadth away from being a raving lunatic, has even accused President Obama of helping Iran to get a bomb, and has announced his intention to stop them. Both Israel and the United States have repeatedly threatened military force if they develop a bomb. In fact, Israel wants to stop them from even having the ability to make such a bomb, an obviously impossible task. To that end Israel has been systematically assassinating their nuclear scientists. They have also attacked their nuclear program with a computer virus to disrupt it as much as possible. At least one Congressman has said if Iran gets a bomb they will use it against the U.S., a claim so fantastically absurd as to make you wonder if he actually has a brain at all. And many people keep repeating that Iran is a threat, not only to Israel and the U.S., but, indeed, to the entire world! Someone else has even claimed that Iran wants to re-establish the Persian Empire! Another Congressman has announced that Iran has been at war with the U.S. for years. There seems to be no limit to what Iran can be accused of doing. Repeated over and over again is the accusation that Iran has said it wants to “wipe Israel off the map.” It is well known that is not what was said, but that is what the hawks want us to believe. And on top of all that, we have made it obvious that we would like a regime change. Consider at least a bit of history:

In 1953 the United States and the U.K., using the CIA, completed a coup in which they deposed the democratically elected leader of Iran and replaced him with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a brutal dictatorial leader that inflicted untold misery on the people, ruled until 1979 when a revolution, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, finally forced him to flee into exile. From 1980 to 1988 Iran was in a brutal war with Iraq, because Iraq had attacked them and was encouraged and aided by the United States and, although the war was not won by anyone, Iran was forced to sign an agreement to end the hostilities. Iran is believed to have suffered somewhere between 500,000 and a million casualties. For anyone to say now that Iran has been at war with the U.S. is, in a sense, true, but it is far more accurate to say the U.S. has been at war with Iran all that time. At this moment Iran is under severe sanctions and being isolated from the rest of the world, sanctions that basically will be extremely harmful mostly to civilians, including children. Is it any wonder that Iran does not want to surrender?

Iran (Persia) has had a high and cultured civilization for a very long time, since our ancestors were still dressed in the skins of animals. They have not attacked anyone for more than 200 years. They have repeatedly approached the U.S. to negotiate with them and have been rebuffed every time. They have announced they are not building a bomb and do not want to build such a bomb. The Ayatollah has said nuclear warfare is sinful, immoral. No one wants to believe him. In order to comply with Israeli demands Iran would have to give up what it is legally entitled to do. The fact that Israel and the U.S. insist Iran comply with their demands to stop enriching uranium (which they are presently doing under the watchful eye of the international community), and that Iran must be secretly trying to build a bomb is, to me at least, a tacit admission of our own wrongdoing. It is difficult to believe someone is not doing something when you know that you would do it if you were in their place. Tragically, everything Israel and the U.S. are doing is designed specifically to eventually cause Iran to do the very thing we say we do not want them to do. Our policy is so completely wrongheaded it cannot possibly succeed short of war. Of course our “Leaders” don’t care, they won’t die in it. And just think of all that delicious oil!

At least President Obama has so far resisted the pressure to attack, he has not yet kissed the hem of Netanyahu’s trousers, let us sincerely hope he will never do so. Most all the world knows that the U.S. and Israel are far more of a threat to peace than Iran, a truth that must be helping to sustain them throughout these dangerous times. Diplomacy will work with Iran if given a chance.

Note: The political system of the Islamic Republic (Iran) is based on the 1979 Constitution. Accordingly, it is the duty of the Islamic government to furnish all citizens with equal and appropriate opportunities, to provide them with work, and to satisfy their essential needs, so that the course of their progress may be assured.

If this isn’t working perfectly for Iran, consider the United States, where it isn’t working at all.