2014-08-03_08-55-51“Well, we cuss the lawmakers . . . but I notice we’re always perfectly willin’ to share in any of the sums of money that they might distribute.” – Will Rogers, 7 April 1935

Being that we are coming up on an important election day in America I thought I would ramp up some of my feelings about politics here. I know for most, including me, this is a gutter issue in our country. We simply disdain those who we have currently chosen to represent us at the national level.

But as Will says in this quote. We seem to have disdain for all those other politicians but ours are OK as long as they get us more than our rightful share of the money they might distribute. By almost every poll taken in the last ten years we simply can’t stomach the goings-on in Washington but we seem to have no idea how to change that condition.

The first step in that  process is to accept that we are in denial when it comes to those we personally choose. In order to break the gridlock and dysfunction within the DC beltway means that we have to send a clear message to those folks. Attacking this problem around the edges has simply not had much of an effect. We send our local representative back to do the same thing over and over again and somehow expect a different result. How utterly stupid is that?

The only way things will change is to vote those currently in office out until they finally get the message. Yeah I know that might mean voting for someone who you don’t agree with on some or even many issues but you must hold your nose and do it anyway. I don’t think it would take more than a couple of total replacement for the candidates to get the message.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel in some of our current elections. It seems that an independent is leading the Kansas race. Kansas has never had a senator from a different part for over sixty years I think but that just might change this time around. If our friends in Kansas can do it surely the rest of us can also??

 

2014-10-19_08-26-11The instant the Ebola crisis hit American shores, the inevitable happened. The GOP blamed President Obama for it. First, it was the lame brained borderline racist charge that Obama either deliberately or through sheer incompetence did nothing to seal the borders to keep the virus at bay. The only slightly more intelligible attack was that Obama did nothing to command the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take panic measures to insure no incidence of the disease would turn up in the country. Then the GOP campaign strategists stepped in and had some of its top candidates suddenly parroting the kooky line that Obama was to blame for a supposedly porous and negligent CDC and border security lapse. Obama’s appointment of an “Ebola Czar” provided even more grist for the GOP hit mill on Obama. It was variously blown off as too little, too late or ridiculed as a desperate appointment of a supposedly medically unqualified political crony.

This is political gamesmanship of the lowest order, playing on media and public fears over a legitimate and terrifying health crisis, to again belittle Obama. And with the stakes sky high in the 2014 midterm elections, the dirty political pool by the GOP was totally predictable.

But the twist in the Ebola saga is that the dirty hit job has backfired. The attack opened the GOP wide open to media and public scrutiny of the galling fact that the GOP has systematically whittled away vital funding for dozens of health programs since 2010. The CDC, much the whipping agency for the supposed Obama health dereliction, was stripped of nearly $600 million; millions that could have gone to ramp up monitoring, screening, and education programs, as well as research on vaccines to deal with infectious and communicable diseases. The names of the more than two dozen Republicans who poleaxed the CDC budget have been published. And to no surprise the bulk of them are either directly affiliated with or have been in part bankrolled by tea party factions.

SOURCE: Republican’s Blame Ebola on Obama Ploy Backfires | Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

I know I vowed to stay away from politics at least for the most part but this latest fiasco from the GOP is just too “down in the gutter filthy” to ignore. I hope all of you who are not totally engrained in the Tea Party schemes will click on the source to see the article in its entirety.  We got to do what we can to send a message to these yahoos that this stuff will not be tolerated…..  enough said

Coexist Foundation

October 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-02_14-25-24Coexist was founded in 2006 in the United Kingdom. The organization formed as a direct response to heightening tensions between religious and cultural groups across the world, as evidenced by a 2002 Gallup Poll of the Islamic world. As a result of the poll, Elgawhary says, “people got to see what opinions the Muslim world had of the outside world and the West, and also what people in Western countries thought of the Muslim world. There was a glaring disconnect of understanding and perceptions between the two.”

SOURCE:  Coexist Foundation – National Geographic Education.

The one thing that saddens me more than anything else is all the killing around the world that is done in the name of God. Not only do people get stuck in their current view of God but they are ready to kill those who have a different view. I have become totally convinced that absolutely none of us have a lock on God. We all cling to our own religious documents as proof that we worship the only true god. When others disagree with us it far too often leads to conflict and death.

I have become very aligned with the ideas of the Coexist foundation. If only all of us could agree to disagree about spiritual things we would make the world much closer to what God probably wants.  But that won’t happen within the hierarchies of our existing religious institutions. They are simply too engrained in their own rhetoric to be open to the possibility that they might not have it totally right about everything.  The idea of coexisting with other religious beliefs must happen at the grass roots level. It must be a ground swell that simply overwhelms our ever present religious establishment biases.

Religions to me are more about their self convinced truths than they are about God.  Surely deep in our hearts none of us really believe that God will utterly reject for eternity the vast majority of his human creation in favor of our very narrowly focused beliefs of him? Because of all this inter-religious strife I am currently very spiritual but not very religious and I think there are many others out there with the same mentality as me. As a matter of fact I believe that this is the primary reason that so many are currently leaving many church organization today or not even joining them in the first place.

When we die we just might come to learn that God loves all of us. Let’s all pledge to simply coexist with each other and wait for God to tell us his truths if he ever cares to do that….

What A Croc….

October 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I grabbed this picture off one of my friends Facebook pages. It made me LOL. ;)

I am somewhat new to Crocs, that is the shoes shown above. I just personally discovered them for myself this year. They are very practical for around the homestead in the warm weather months. I like to take strolls through my kingdom in the early morning after I have browsed the Internet and maybe penned a few posts for my blogs. When I do that there seems to be an ever present dew that thoroughly soaks my shoes. With crocs that is not a problem. When I am working in the garden and gotten mud on my shoes it is no problem, just take them off and hose them down.

I love my new found crocs….

Leaves of Grass…

October 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I recently got another copy of the book “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. This one had a thorough description of the history around the book.  It is interesting to see that Whitman continued to edit the poems contained in the book throughout his lifetime.

Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

2014-10-05_16-55-03Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first a small book of twelve poems and the last a compilation of over 400 poems.

The poems of Leaves of Grass are loosely connected and each represents Whitman’s celebration of his philosophy of life and humanity. This book is notable for its discussion of delight in sensual pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral.

I must admit that I struggle with poetry, especially those that don’t rhyme. :)

The point of this post is not so much to discuss the poetry but the process. I, like Whitman, am a tinkerer of my words and thoughts. Sometimes when reviewing past posts I come across something that I believe “must” be changed. Maybe a particular word I chose when the post was published just doesn’t seem right now. Maybe an additional sentence is added.

I do the initial write of most of my posts at least a week before they are published. Changes are usually made right up to the date of release. I guess maybe I am a compulsive when it comes to my words. But I imagine all of us are compulsive in one matter or another. Some need to disagree with everything that didn’t come from them. The “Not invented here” syndrome is along those lines.  Some are compulsive about their beliefs of God.  Many are convinced that they are the only ones to truly know the heart of God so therefore all religions but theirs are just plain wrong. Some others have to have the order of things a very particular way. If it is not they HAVE to change it. I guess when it comes to compulsive things needing just the right words is not a bad one to have.  At least it doesn’t hurt other people.

In the coming weeks I will be working my way through the book “The Leaves of Grass”. I don’t know which addition I have but that doesn’t really matter to me.  I have a highly commentated version to help me interpret the meaning of Whitman’s words. I hope to gain some insight into this very popular author from more than a century ago.

 

Now that I have had two posts here about mandating morality it’s probably time to address this general issue. I’m sure that after reading these posts some people question whether I believe there is any moral foundation. They are calling me a moral relativist. A recent article in The Week news site very much characterizes where I stand on this issue. Lets read some quotes from that post.  Click on the source to see the whole thing.

Haidt lays out six distinct moral foundations.

1. Care the desire to help those in need and avoid inflicting harm

2. Liberty the drive to seek liberation from constraints and to fight oppression

3. Fairness the impulse to impose rules that apply equally to all and avoid cheating

4. Loyalty the instinct to affirm the good of the group and punish those who betray it

5. Authority the urge to uphold hierarchical relationships and avoid subverting them

6. Sanctity the admiration of purity and disgust at degradation

According to Haidt’s experimental research,

social conservatives affirm the validity of all six foundations.

Libertarians focus very heavily on liberty and a modest amount on fairness, while showing something close to indifference on the rest.

Liberals, for their part, emphasize in descending order of intensity care, liberty, and fairness, and express little concern about the others.

Viewed through the lens of these differing moral foundations, we can see that positions frequently described as expressions of moral relativism actually flow from deeply moral assumptions and commitments.

Liberals, for example, tend to be highly skeptical about American exceptionalism not because they deny moral truth, but because they are suspicious of group loyalty and highly concerned about making fair impartial judgments….

Liberals and libertarians on the other hand, can point to the comparative indifference to these same acts of harm among conservatives as evidence that they’re relativists.

Conservatives are merely somewhat less fixated on harm and much more concerned with group loyalty.

The conservative moral matrix might rub liberals and libertarians the wrong way, but it’s not an outgrowth of relativism. Rather, it’s a sign of a distinctive and different form of moralism….

All of which goes to show that pretty much no one in our politics and culture is a moral relativist. Our conflicts involve clashes among distinct moral outlooks…

SOURCE: Who are you calling a moral relativist? – The Week.

The six areas above I believe pretty much cover the foundations for just what morality is. As mentioned various groups tend to almost primarily focus to one or two of these issue and pretty much ignore the rest. Yeah I am part of that group. The words above pretty clearly distinguish between the three political ideologies that are currently around.

I am not one to believe that any of these groups are without their moral compasses. Being a social liberal I pretty much align with that thinking. I can certainly see that some of my conservative friends are mostly concerned with loyalty, authority, and sanctity whereas i put most emphasis on the first three in the list.

The next time one of my conservative friends tells me I don’t seem to have a moral compass I will remember this article and understand that neither one of us is lacking morality we just cling to a different area of it.

2014-08-24_10-27-11Islamic Sharia law was fairly dormant in the Indonesian province of Aceh until a massive earthquake and tsunami struck in 2004, killing more than 130,000. But as residents rebuild, Sharia officers have strengthened their grip, threatening rights of religious minorities and women….

There are two groups that are actually threatened by this formalization of the Sharia. The first group is religious minorities. More than 20 churches are closed down in Aceh over the last two years. They also banned 14 Islamic religious sects, like the Ahmadiyya, the Shia. We didn’t expect that.

The second victim is women. There are various, strange regulations being produced, for instance, banning women from straddling motorcycles. In some areas, women cannot wear pants to go to work or to go to school, which means that it will restrict their mobilities. Ultimately, it will affect their economic rights. Ultimately, it will affect their education.

SOURCE:  Indonesian province turns up Sharia law after devastating tsunami.

The picture above is of women riding around in the back of a pick-up truck looking for people who are not following strict Sharia law. Maybe they are not at the mandatory five-times-a-day prayer, maybe they don’t have sleeves long enough. Maybe they are unescorted young people. Some are chastised, some are caned and some get much worse treatment..

Islamic Sharia law is a combination of religious and government mandated morality. I believe that is the most dangerous kind. To put absolute power of life and death into one particular religious leader is in itself immoral in my mind. But of course that is Islamic Sharia law it very common in the Middle East where we have far too many of our young men and women in the military today.

Should morality be a mandated thing? Should we be told how to act and what to do in matters that only, at least for the most part, affect our personal lives? That question is currently be actively discussed in this country about our current marijuana laws. Two States have decided that the answer is NO. Several others are leaning in that direction. We currently have hundreds of thousand of our citizens in prison on marijuana charges. They are overwhelming our prison system.  Before you jump to any conclusions about my personal actions I will tell you that I have never tried marijuana and I don’t intend to even if it is declared legal.

Yes I’m sure that marijuana use, like alcohol, is an addiction to some but to most it seems to be just a way to relax. If we legalized marijuana and even some other narcotics we would virtually eliminate all the dark criminal organization that are reeking huge profits from its underground use. As learned from Colorado we would also get a robust tax revenue. It seems like a win-win scenario.

Mandating morality just doesn’t seem to work in any world society. Sooner or later, depending on how iron-fisted it is it will be thrown out.  I will purposely leaving the door open here for your thoughts if you care to give them and maybe we can have a lively discussion about this topic.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits

Fanatics will never learn that, though it is written in letters of gold across the sky

It is prohibition that makes things precious.

Mark Twain

 

I have recently come across several sources of what I consider mandating morality. That is trying to force your version of morality on others. Our personal view of morality can come from one person, usually a parent or other authority figure, telling us what we are to believe about this or that. It can come form one group who think they have it right and others need to get it. It can even come from countries that force their citizens to a certain version of morality. Many times it comes from various religious beliefs.

As the quote above from Mark Twain says if you prohibit someone from doing something it just makes that thing seem more desirable to them. Tell a kid he can’t have something and that is usually the first thing he tries to get. Mandating morality often times has the opposite effect than what was intended.

Let’s look at a morality that was mandated in the U.S. almost a century ago

2014-08-24_10-38-18Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun…But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America’s Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.

SOURCE:  Prohibition: About the Series | PBS.

There were many who were convinced that alcohol was the root of all evil. It was the most immoral part of our society. After ten years of trying to push that morality on the country they finally managed to accomplish it with the  18th amendment to the constitution. When that amendment became law many smaller communities who were the most enthusiastic supporters actually closed their local jails! They were convinced that they would no longer be needed.

Of course what banning alcohol actually did was to drive it underground and put it in the hands of very immoral men like Al Capone. It took almost twenty years to finally convince the majority of citizens that outlawing alcohol actually increased crime and its over use.

Yes, I acknowledge that some, due to a genetic makeup, are destroyed by an addiction to alcohol but for the vast majority it is simply a way to get together with others and forget about the drudgery of life for a few hours.  Alcohol is very much ingrained in to the social fabric of life.

Don’t Label Me …

October 13, 2014

2014-10-07_08-16-26In fact, Raven tells Oprah that she rejects the notion of labels completely in all areas of her life. “I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.

“The remark seems to catch Oprah off guard. “Oh, girl,” Oprah says, shifting in her chair. “Don’t set up the Twitter on fire… Oh, my lord. What did you just say?”

“I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to,” Raven explains. “I don’t know how far back they go… I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person.”

“You’re going to get a lot of flak for saying you’re not African-American. You know that, right?” Oprah asks.

Raven puts her hands up. “I don’t label myself,” she reiterates. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”

“You are a melting pot in one body,” Oprah says.”Aren’t we all?” Raven asks. “Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?”

SOURCE:  Raven-Symoné: Don’t Label Me ‘Gay’ Or ‘African-American’ VIDEO.

I was totally fascinated by Raven Symone as a little girl on the Cosby Show. Even at that young age she was a person well beyond her years and proves to be that way even today. She might be naive in some aspects of life and an idealist but those are assets the way I look at it.

I too don’t like to be labeled and I never have. I very seldom talk about my deafness and I definitely don’t label myself with that affliction.  Yes, I am deaf and that means I cope daily with different obstacles than many but that is not who I am.

I think, but am not sure that my distant relatives came for Scotland but that fact does not mean that I am a Scottish-American. One blood line is in the native-American category I am kind of proud of that fact but I don’t go around calling myself a native-American.

Yes Raven America has been labeled as a melting pot but in some sense it is far from that.  A melting pot means everyone is the same and treated the same and we all know that is simply not the case, at least yet.

I need to find out what Raven has been doing in the entertainment field since the Cosby show. She still seems to be quite a unique young lady…

If the old guard on the partisan Christian right envisions itself to be crumbling, there’s nothing more apt than a forceful restatement of terms, preferably with a fresh face. But if it’s crumbling, it’s because the foundations are weak, and illustrating that inadvertently isn’t going to make its last gasps any more graceful. Far from being the death knell for the American Christian left, Vicari’s book might be little more than a signal that this is the Christian left’s moment to rise.

SOURCE: Christian conservatives have a terrifying new bogeyman: The Christian leftist – The Week.

Another interesting article from my new friends over at The Week.  I think I have made it pretty clear here that I am a “Christian left” as described in this article and yes I do very much tire of seeing the Christian right bemoaning the condition of the world today, particularly the Christian version.  The church which I was once a member had its members that had strong opinions in this area. The major problem in those cases is when the pastor/leader of the church is also in that mode.

I continue trying to learn a lesson from my blogger friend Stephen Mattson that Christ is perfect but his church on earth is far from that state.  It distresses me when I hear my fellow Christians put down the Christian left for seemingly caring too much for others, particularly when those others are not of the same religious beliefs. I now thoroughly believe that God loves all his children equally; there is no one outside his favor. More on that topic next Sunday.

It troubles me when the Christian right adamantly oppose our government having programs to help the poor and disadvantaged. They say that is not the government’s job but since the church on earth as a whole  gets a D- in this area someone has to take over that responsibility?

I kind of think that the quote above is the reason for all this moaning among the Christian right.  The foundations of their narrowly focused beliefs are weak and that is the problem. At least I hope that is the case….