Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Newsday article covered the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt that left dozens dead.  Muslim extremists took credit for the killings.  Go to

The article features a brief interview with a Coptic Christian couple on Long Island who were understandably upset with the massacres.  To quote from Newsday, "Still, they did not blame Muslims in general. “It’s not a question of religion,” Nabil Awad said. “It’s a question of terrorists. Some people put in their heads that this is the way you are going to heaven, if you kill a Coptic Christian.”

It is admirable that they obviously do not blame Muslims in general - they should not and they do not.  But to absolve the concept of religion is incredible.  The murders were precisely all about religion - it is the religion that inspired the terrorists to perpetrate the terrorism.  As Mr. Awad said, "Some people put in their heads that this is the way you are going to heaven, if you kill a Coptic Christian.”"

This is not socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, conservatism, anarchism, liberalism, communism or fascism or any secular ideology at work; it is a fundamentalist religious ideology at work, the religion of the followers of ISIS or Al Qaeda.

It is incredible but typical that many religious persons will deny the completely religious motivation of religious terrorists in an effort to absolve the concept of religious belief from any blame - but they are just in denial.  Holding a belief beyond question, holding a belief that is at complete odds with the evidence and holding a belief no matter how much misery it continues to create is the exact problem and it is the problem we continue to refuse to acknowledge.

What are they worried about?  Religion or some ideology is not a person; religion does not have feelings; it does not even have rights - people have rights.  Yes people have rights to believe what they choose to BELIEVE but they do not have the right to DO anything they want.  You should be able to say the obvious truth about a religion, that is part of the right of religious freedom - and who is harmed by your opinion?  Well, there is an answer to that question; the person who has their "feelings" harmed is the person that has placed their religion or the very concept of religion beyond question, and cannot objectively judge the value of religion by its consequences - even when dozens of innocent people are killed because of it.  There should be and there is no right to never having your feelings harmed.

Until it is generally admitted by most of humanity that evidence matters, that everything can be questioned, even one's faith and the faith of others, and that what really matters are the consequences of our actions and beliefs, we will not have a winning argument against those who have a deep faith in their murderous ideologies.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Is assaulting a reporter an asset?

Did Greg Gianforte win the Montana House of Representative's race in spite of assaulting a reporter who asked about the CBO scoring of the AHCA, or BECAUSE he assaulted the reporter?
I do not have the answer but it seems incredible that anyone would vote for a guy who assaults a reporter for a legitimate question. Even if the reporter was annoying (it does not seem that he was overly annoying, just persistent) according to the audio and witnesses, please note that Gianforte did not issue an apology until AFTER the election and the voting indicated he won. This is the act of a weasel in my opinion.
Many of Gianforte's supporters are also the so-called President's supporters; he has indicated that the media is the "enemy" of the people. Gianforte assaults a reporter and wins the election. You do the math.

ideology vs. right and wrong

Ramadan is beginning and many American Muslims are dismayed at how radical jihadists around the world have grabbed attention with terrorist acts such as the one in Manchester, England, timed most likely to coincide with Ramadan. Actually, more than just Muslim Americans should be dismayed; anyone who believes that if their religion, ideology, religious leader, scripture or manifesto calls for harming others for a religious or ideological reason should ALSO feel a sense of guilt and dismay. Why? Because it is that rationalization, that harm to others for the sake of ideology is justified, that leads to all sorts of harm and misery across the planet. It was not long ago that a majority of ALL Americans, Christians in particular, believed that making the lives of gay persons WORSE by denying them rights that were available to heterosexuals was justified, usually because of their Christian beliefs. That attitude has been changing but the foundational problem remains: that right or wrong can be based on a religious or secular ideology. It cannot. Right and wrong or ethical and unethical depends on whether someone is unjustly harmed or whether human well being is helped by a behavior or policy. Offending a god or religious or ideological leader is NOT justification - it is an abdication of each of our's responsibility to do what is right or wrong. If a terrorist's religion compels them to kill infidels, the only counter argument is that their religion is irrelevant - we must do what we can determine to the best of our ability makes the world a better place. Obedience to our "belief" is not moral - it is shirking our moral responsibility. We must always be asking moral questions. So here is the question to the reader; do you believe right and wrong is determined by your religion or ideology? If you believe right and wrong is determined by your god, scripture or ideological leader, then you agree with terrorists on this issue. It is only random good fortune, then, that your ideology is not as brutal as theirs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rights vs. tolerance vs. intolerance

The so-called President's trip to Saudi Arabia put a renewed focus on religion and intolerance.  It's a strange thing about intolerance - it can be used by a group and against that same group and the intolerance can be unethical in both cases, ethical in some cases and ethical in all cases. Think about the case of rival criminal gangs - they may both be intolerable.

But consider the strange mix of ingredients we have here; a so-called President who advocated for a Muslim ban and who says "Islam" hates the U.S. and then turning around and selling hundreds of millions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia, home of the most extreme sect of Islam and birthplace of Al Qaeda and most of the 9-11 hijackers!

You also have the attempt to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and its modification by limiting it arbitrarily to certain Muslim countries that, coincidentally, the so-called President does NOT have business interests in.  And then you have the protests AGAINST that ban by numerous Americans who know a violation of the Constitution when they see one.

This is complicated; are all religions to be respected and accepted merely because they are major religions?  If they are not, is it OK to ban their spread?

I like to keep it simple and here is my take:

1) We should all have the right to practice any religion until this practice  interferes with the rights of others (including the rights of minors, by the way).
2) We should all be subject to the same laws of the land in a free, liberal democratic republic where certain rights are guaranteed for all as per the First Amendment, among other rights.
3) The First Amendment guarantees the rights of all of us to choose our religion, choose no religion and respect any religion we choose to respect or to not respect any religion we choose not to respect. 4) Not respecting a religion in no way diminishes the rights of those persons who practice that religion.  In fact, not being allowed to criticize a religion is a diminishing of our right to freedom of religion!

This is my reasoning for opposing any law that singles out or exempts a religion or singles out or exempts a religious practice for no reason other than it is the practice of a particular religion.

The Saudi Arabia trip buy the so-called President represents almost entirely the opposite of all these principles outlined above: the Muslim ban he previously proposed singled out a single religion was totally unconstitutional and the nonsense spouted in the speech in Saudi Arabia by the so-called President gave respect to a police state theocracy that enslaves women, persecutes gays and even executes all but true believers.  We need to respect the rights of others; but we should judge their beliefs on the merits, the kindness,the ethics and the humanity of those beliefs.  What we have gotten was entirely the opposite.

Here is some news from around the world to show why rights must be protected while withholding respect if warranted:,8599,1554629,00.html

The same story, over and over with this President

One could write a variant of this story pretty much every week or every other day: take something the so-called President has said in the past, show it to be full of untruths and fabrications and contrast it with something he is now doing or saying that shows him to be a hypocrite, liar, inept and totally without ethics.

While running for president, the current occupant said this about Hillary Clinton:
"Crooked Hillary says we must call on Saudi Arabia and other countries to stop funding hate," Trump wrote on June 13, 2016. "I am calling on her to immediately return the $25 million plus she got from them for the Clinton Foundation!"

Keep in mind that the so-called President could not verify the $25million figure; keep in mind the Clintons made no money personally from the foundation; keep in mind that independent charity rating organizations gave the Clinton Foundation high grades as a quality charity; and finally, keep in mind that at the worst, the alleged $25million donation diverted money AWAY from religious extremist causes and instead was actually used to help people around the world.

On the other hand, in the last week, the so-called President did this:
"When President Donald Trump closed a nearly $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia on Saturday, his deputies’ spirits soared. Policy advisor Jared Kushner high-fived National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as he entered the room where they held talks with Saudi officials. Aide Gary Cohn told pool reporters the deals represented “a lot of money. Big dollars. Big dollars.”

The weapons sale was one of the largest in history, totaling close to $110 billion worth of tanks, artillery, radar systems, armored personnel carriers, and Blackhawk helicopters. The package also included ships, patrol boats, Patriot missiles, and THAAD missile defense systems.

Much of that military hardware will likely be pressed into service in the Saudi fight against its neighbor Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have been killed over more than two years of heavy airstrikes and fighting.

This puts the U.S. in a precarious ethical position, say human rights groups and former U.S. officials. The Saudi-led airstrike campaign has hit numerous schools, hospitals, factories, and other civilian targets, leading to well-documented allegations of war crimes by human rights organizations. The war has also pushed much of the country to the brink of starvation, with more than 17 million people facing famine, according to the U.N."

Yeah but Benghazi and the email server.

For info on the Clinton Foundation:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

He's unfit, stupid!

The so-called President is unfit for the office of President and THAT is why he should be removed from office.  If the bar is that it must be proven that he committed a crime, colluded with the Russians, obstructed justice or has breached the emoluments clause in the Constitution and those crimes cannot be proven to the satisfaction of willfully ignorant Republican congresspersons, we will continue to have as President someone who: lies constantly; is a misogynist who has bragged about committing sexual assault; is a religious bigot towards Muslims, atheists and others; hallucinates, fabricates; bullies; is ignorant; is totally unaware of his own limitations; has numerous conflicts of interests; breaks BIG promises then lies about breaking them; and, oh yes, is the most perfect example of narcissism in the history of the planet.  In other words, even if he is not impeached for a high crime and misdemeanor, he remains unfit to be President.

The obstruction of justice and the emoluments clause are his biggest criminal problems but if he had not threatened and then fired Comey and was not milking his position for personal profit, would he be otherwise fit?  The answer is no.  Suppose, in an alternative reality, Comey had been a lackey who did the so-called President's bidding and did not get fired, would the so-called President then be fit? The answer is no.

He is simply mentally unfit for the job of being President.  This is not about politics since his replacement, VP Pence, is a more classic Republican than he is.  The 25th Amendment exists as the remedy when the President is unfit but it would take guts from VP Pence, guts the VP has never displayed.  But this is what needs to happen for the good of the country.  It's not a good idea to have a mentally unfit President no matter what his politics are or what the politics of his replacement would be.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump and Comey

Trump's letter firing FBI director Comey had a strange sentence inserted in it that basically had nothing to do with anything else in the letter but everything to do with Trump trying to convince the world that the Russia investigation had nothing to do with the firing. Yeah, right.
To demonstrate how idiotic this insertion was, and that only a person with the mentality of the so-called President could possibly be impressed, I have re-produced the letter with an "alternative" insertion (in CAPS):
"I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am THE BEST KISSER YOU EVER MET, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau. It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores the public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.
I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Donald J. Trump" 5/9/17
I invite the reader to insert some other non-sequitur into the letter and see if it makes any more sense.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Here is something the media does not much cover and as usual the reason is that if it DID cover it, many people would be offended and reject that media outlet.  In the age of the Internet, there are so many media alternatives that the turn off rate would be very painful for any media outlet to endure.  As a media outlet, you can't offend your customer and then expect to thrive.

What am I talking about?  The problem that is "ideology."  I use this term to encompass all belief systems from religions to secular ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, communism, socialism, fascism, anarchism, capitalism and much more.  Here is the key feature of an ideology: it's beliefs are accepted beyond question by the adherent.  Adherents often have their own set of facts to justify their ideology.  All can be explained, adherents believe, by their belief system.  No matter the miserable results of their ideology, adherents will remain faithful to their ideology!

One easily see how religions fall into this category and there is almost no need to explain the problem of religious ideology to a rational person (I know you're out there somewhere!) but secular belief systems can likewise fall into this same trap.  If a free enterprise economy leads to general and widespread prosperity, a Marxist will raise the very theoretical problem of the "alienation" of workers.  If a free market system leads to incredible income disparity and misery that begs for regulation or solution, libertarians will call the regulations or solutions "tyranny."

It is interesting that no ideologue can actually point to the actual existence of an ideal economic or political system in practice - they've never existed and the reason is simple; we humans are not ideal.  We are not reasonable so everything we do will be screwed up in some way by human nature.  A free market will be ruined by greed; socialism ruined by sloth.  Free speech is ruined by lies; government controlled speech is ruined by lust for power.  If humans were perfectly reasonable, an ideal system would arise organically - reasonable solutions would present themselves and reasonable humans wold adopt those solutions.  But since we are not always (or often) reasonable, and we don't adopt reasonable solutions, but instead cling to ideological solutions, all economic and political systems will scream out for limits, rules and patches to address the weak points that human nature will exploit in these ideological systems.

Even total freedom is a frightening prospect; anarchists seems to ignore the danger of the sociopaths and psychopaths among us; how does one enforce anarchy anyway, aside from "might makes right?" And of course, we need to look no further than North Korea to see the opposite system where the government tries to control everyone's very thoughts.

Think about the current debate over health care; one side objects to the "tyranny" of a government regulated system that steals money from the rich and sends it to the poor in the form of subsidies for health care insurance.  There are those on the other side, however, that simply hate "big pharma," insurance companies, hospital systems and so on, ideologically because they are part of the capitalistic system that we use in the U.S.  They would prefer a socialistic system where the government controls it all, from hospital, pharmaceutical companies and doctors.

A non-ideological approach would be to observe the facts around the world and ask "what works?"  The answer increasingly looks like a "Medicare for All" system actually delivers more health care to more people for less cost.  Those who live in those countries actually live longer while spending less on healthcare.  These observations are verifiable.

If one attempts to be reasonable and non-ideological, one can see the merit in this kind of approach.  As an example, George Will, generally a conservative commentator, pointed out this week that the American Public has started to see heath care as something similar to a "right."  In this country, we all are entitled to police protection, protection against invading enemies and so on.  These protections are somewhat similar to "rights" in that we have agreed, in this country, to provide them to everyone.  No one is clamoring for police protection as if it were the latest iPhone.  We need police protetion and defense for the country but we would like to be safe for as little cost as possible.  Now, it's not as if we are clamoring to be treated for being ill; we NEED to be treated when we are sick - this is not a market decision.  We just want our health if needed for as little cost as possible.  We need to treat health care the way we treat police protection and national defense, and this is without regard to the free market aside from encouraging some efficiencies.  We all need it, but want only what is necessary and for as little cost as possible. Medicare for All may accomplish this.  Imagine if we all individually had to pay for police protection or national defense and if we did not were excluded somehow?

Why shouldn't we all, from innocent children, to the elderly, to the disabled, to the poor and everyone else be protected from sickness and injury?  Indeed, why not?  The only argument against this is the selfish argument, the "tyranny" argument - the wealthy being resentful of some of their wealth being used to assist others by democratically and constitutionally enacted law.  For some reason they believe their minority position should trump the position of the majority on this subject.  It's as if those who support that position really believe humans are islands - it's as if we are all really on our own.  All the evidence, however, points to the fact that humans need each other - that is one of the feature of being a human.  That's why democracy seems to be a necessary component of a thriving society.

Ultimately it seems reasonable to take the approach that no "pure" system will ever work as long as humans are selfish, greedy, lazy and irrational.  When we become perfect, no system will be necessary.  That is why ideology is to be avoided like the plague it is.

But here is the irony: in the way that "faith" which is the rejection of reason in favor of a comforting though unjustified (by the actual evidence or logic) belief, is thought to be a virtue, being "ideological" is also thought to be virtuous in public discourse.  It is not; accepting the overwhelming evidence that humans are not perfect and that ideologically based systems to guide our lives are sure to be ruined by imperfect human nature is imperative.  We are far from reaching that imperative.

The only systems worth having are those tested by their results, with the knowledge that the tests are ongoing and the results never assumed to be permanent. Change and adaptation is to be expected and even welcomed as we think of better ways to do things.  We need to turn "ideology" into a dirty word.