Friday, September 20, 2013

The GOP Drug

Facebook always creates some interesting dynamics.  I have one comment thread on one friend's status about food stamps that as arced into comments on foreign debt and even Benghazi!. I have another friend that is commenting on what drugs the GOP are on, presumably as a result of their recent House votes to defund Obamacare and take money from the food stamps program (SNAP).

I won't even mention the new Koch brother funded ads about Obamacare.  They are sick.

I did some quick research and found that foreign aid makes up about 1.5% of our total budget of $3.67 trillion.  Whereas the SNAP program makes up about 2% of that budget.  Also, SNAP is one of the most efficiently run programs with only 3.8% error rate in under/overpayments and the return on investment from $1 in food stamps is very high when you consider how much it returns to the economy.  The number that I have seen is $1.73.

Republicans are on a drug called religion and conservative fanaticism. If fictional Jesus were alive today, he'd be on food stamps and wondering what will happen to him if he needed medical care. He would be unemployed because the suits at the Koch brothers would never give a long haired dark skinned hippie a job.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thoughts on Recent News Events

It is a sad state of mental being when I am not really shocked by the events that took place at the Navy Ship Yard in Washington D.C.  The pro gun lobby will defend their position.  The pro gun control lobby will defend their position.  The mental health advocates will defend their position.  The religious bigots will defend their position.  And nothing will change.

The time-lapse video of the raising of the Costa Concordia was very interesting.  A pretty remarkable feat of engineering.  Reading stories about all the food stores that are sealed in refrigerators and freezers, etc., does not sound pretty.  I'm glad I won't be within 100 miles of that thing when they get ready to scrap it.  The biohazard is going to be nasty.

The Jersey Shore boardwalk fire was a crazy thing to watch.  30 mph winds swept through the whole place.  I guess they are now suspecting the damage from Sandy may have been the trigger for this fire.  Undoubtedly they will rebuild, and even though it may not have the old feel charm, I'm sure the new buildings will be quite extraordinary and a whole lot safer.  Not only from fire, but from future hurricanes and storm surge.  In the long run, it could be quite a boon for that area.

I haven't seen much of the Colorado flooding with everything else going on.  Crazy stuff happening there with hundreds of people still unaccounted for.  Coloradans that live in those locations are a hardy bunch.  I suspect that most of those missing will be found in survivor mode.  I wonder if the secession chatter coming from the north eastern counties will continue during the "emergency."  I'm sure any silence is only temporary.

The NFL completed its second week and I find myself pretty much in "meh" mode.  It is always more interesting once 4 or 5 games are in because we will then know more about who the pretenders are.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11

While everyone is thanking our military for protecting our freedoms, and rightly so, I can't help but think of all the freedoms we have lost since 9/11/01. We can't get on an airplane without taking off our shoes or belts. We've been subjected to full body scans. We can't walk into a government building without passing through a metal detector. All of our emails and phones calls are monitored for terrorist keywords. Our government has tortured people and held them without due process. We have targeted American citizens with drone strikes. We are paranoid about every non-white person who happens to be within 100 miles of a border. We get stopped by Border Patrol within our own country. We have lawmakers that are actively trying to reduce the number of people that can vote in a democracy. I recognize that we still have far more freedoms than most people in this world, and those freedoms are being protected by a strong military presence throughout the world, but I have to wonder if it has all been worth the cost?
Here is a post from a Facebook friend that is very scary to contemplate.  I haven't attempted to verify these numbers, but they don't seem out of line with what I have heard in the past,

R.I.P. The 2,976 American people that lost their lives on 9/11, and R.I.P. the 48,644 Afghan and the 1,690,903 Iraqi and the 35,000 Pakistani people that paid the ultimate price for a crime they did not commit.

And that doesn't even include the U.S. troops who lost their lives.  The numbers are staggering.  Are we really winning the war on terrorism?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


My procrastinating on this whole Syria thing seems to be paying off as we have more diplomacy coming to bear.  I had a post written about why I do not believe we should go into Syria, but now I am seeing all sorts of stuff coming from the right about how Obama has now blown it completely and we are no longer a real super power.  Um, OK Glenn Beck, whatever you say.  Some folks think we've been played by Putin and he now comes across as the dove in all of this.  I would remain skeptical.  We've known for months that Syria has had chemical weapons and has used them in the past.  Where was Putin with his suggestion then?  Where was the UN then?  It was the imminent thread of an attack from the United States that brought this idea to the forefront.  Were we played by Putin on this?  Could be.  Should we care?  No.  Anything that can avoid an armed conflict is probably a good thing, but the devil will be in the details.  So, to Glenn Beck, is there any other country in the world that could have flexed it muscles the way the US did and have gotten Russia or anyone else to step forward with a better plan?  Does that not make us a super power?

I have no idea how this is going to play out, but the question has to be asked, who else has even remotely cared about what is going on in Syria other than the US?  I'm not even sure Israel cared because it kept Assad and others in his country focused internally rather than externally.

The other question that has to be asked is how would the conservatives have responded had it been President Romney in the White House.   I can assure you that their position would have been very different.  I think it is a sad state of affairs that we have a Republican Party that is so hell bent on being anti-Obama that they don't have a principled bone left in their dead party.  These guys change their positions to the anti-Obama position so fast that I'm shocked they don't have whiplash.

In a strange time warp soft of way, Obama has successfully turned the Republican Party into the anti-war party.  Maybe he deserved that Nobel Peace Price just for that.  Geez, even Donald Rumsfeld is criticizing the President on this.

Politics aside, I'll be happy to see a diplomatic end to this rather than see an escalation of violence.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Death of Ariel Castro and Prisoner Assisted Suicide

Trigger Warning:  Suicide

Let's start wading back into the blogging waters with the subject of suicide.  Since I have recently experienced a situation involving suicide, I feel it is only appropriate to provide a trigger warning first.  This post is not intended to be about the subject of suicide in general, especially as it pertains to mental health issues and those struggling with other issues where counseling is probably the best course of action.  This post is going to be more on the subject of suicide/death penalty, and the actions taken by law enforcement that results in the death of a suspect.

My first reaction to seeing the news on the death of Ariel Castro was pretty much along the lines of good riddance.  I am in no way saddened by his death.  I even commented on a friend's Facebook post that I doubt law enforcement officials did much to make sure materials were not available to him.  Crime and death is always a tricky minefield to navigate, so let's step with care and see where it takes us.

There have been several recent, high profile incidents in the last year with respect to criminals being killed (or killing themselves) prior to being taken into custody.  I'm going to dispense with the alleged part of this since these are cases where the person was clearly guilty of committing a crime.  Two recent examples are the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston Marathon fame and the former LA Police Officer that was the subject of an intense manhunt in and around the LA area.  His name escapes me and is not relevant.  The bottom line is that I have no issue in either case with the criminal being killed in the process of searching for them and barricading themselves and fighting back.  I simply have no moral dilemma on this matter.  They clearly chose a path of resistance and have shown themselves to lack the necessary moral compass for me to consider having any compassion for them.  Good riddance and I won't lose any sleep over their passing.  I'm not even going to lose sleep over the fact that we may not know their motivations for their crimes, although in this case, I think those were clear.  The acts that were committed by the individuals in these two circumstances clearly have no basis in rational thought and if there is one thing I've learned over the years, trying to apply a rational reason for an irrational behavior or act isn't going to get you anywhere.

So, Ariel Castro killed himself.  I'm not sure we are going to know why, and I don't think it matters.  Maybe he had a change in conscience and couldn't live with his actions.  Maybe he couldn't stand the thought of living the rest of his live in conditions that were probably far better than what he subjected his victims to.

There are thousands of people in jail for life without parole and/or on death row.  It is routine to see a court order a prisoner be placed on suicide watch.  What if we abolished the death penalty and commuted all death sentences to life without parole, then offered an assisted suicide option to prisoners?  Would this be morally wrong?  Is it a better solution than an explicit death penalty?  Should the victims have a say in whether or not the criminal can make such a choice?  I don't know.

I would imagine that there are plenty of prisoners sentenced to life that would take the option if it was administered in much the same way the death penalty is (perhaps via lethal injection), but without all the creepy stagecraft and allowing victims to watch or observe.

For now, I simply pose the questions.  I'm not sure what my answers would be to those questions, but I am leaning toward being in favor of what I guess would be called prisoner assisted suicide.

Time to Start Blogging Again

I've been away from blogging for quite some time now.  There are many reasons for it.  However, I can assure you that it is not because I've softened in my convictions on various subjects.

One of the reasons I stopped blogging was because I was shocked at the continuing escalation of insanity in the various Republican Presidential candidates.  I mean, you can only call someone quanophrenic so many times before it loses its impact.  I really didn't think they could keep topping themselves in stupidity, and yet, here we are, experiencing ever increasing levels of bat shittery.  I simply ran out of adjectives and I haven't really found any new ones.

Second, I just felt that many people didn't care, so why bother.  It's not like I'm an expert voice on many of these subjects.  In fact, what I realize now is that blogging about some of these things have helped me to really think about some of those gray areas and moral dilemmas.  For example, the death penalty.  I've been neutral on it for quite some time.  I felt that I could justify it at times, but not others.  I read a lot of other blogs on the subject and listened to their arguments.  Then came the realization that if you can make arguments for and against a position, then you should probably adopt a morally defensible position as the default, and that is, quite simply, to be against the death penalty.

Third, I found myself in a very unexpected relationship.  I simply didn't feel the need to sit down and and write about a bunch of this stuff.  Again, not that I changed my position or abandoned those beliefs, but for the first time in a long time, I simply had something much more important to do, and that was to engage myself quite happily into this relationship.  I'm very happy to say that we will be getting married in October.

Now, for the reason to start blogging again.  There have been some news items recently that have left me with some dilemmas as to how I feel about it and the best way for me to resolve those dilemmas is to write about them.  The two big things recently are the Bradly/Chelsea Manning and Snowden affairs, and Syria. Just today, the suicide of Ariel Castro and how that all plays into the right to die/assisted suicide issue.

There are other subject that I want to comment on such as Obamacare and the game of chicken the GOP is playing with the debt ceiling.  The implosion of the atheist blogosphere with respect to the war on feminism and rape culture.  Recent rulings in marriage equality.  And, all the other usual suspects that I have written about in the past.

So, expect to see some blogs on these subjects over the next couple of weeks.  I can't promise much in terms of blogging frequency, but I will try and write something a couple of times a week and see how it goes.