And it’s a New Dawn…

…to quote Gracie Slick at Woodstock, another time of an awakening starting in this country.

Not sure about the rest of you but today (January 20th) felt a little different – from yesterday and from the last four years. The feeling was similar to something I feel every time we have a large amount of “things” we cart down to our community’s Spring or Fall Cleanup. We load up all the items that stopped working or were replaced since the last cleanup, we take a swing around the garage and basement looking for items we really will never use or have no use for and we take it all down to our township building and and dump it all in one of the large trash containers never to see it again. Probably the best feeling is that our house, at least for a short period of time, feels lighter and less weighed down.

That is what this morning felt like. Our nation’s trash and the crap that is no longer useful has been taken out. Our “house” is lighter and the feeling of daily dread of “what is the asshole in the White House is going to do today?” is gone. Trump leaves in some ways no differently than he arrived. His truth is only his truth and his actions only fit this needs. At the end of it all, he left as he arrived – an egocentric, self-centered, integrity-free dickhead. He is now really irrelevant to most of us, pretty much what he was prior to being elected. The difference now is that while only those of us living reasonably close to NYC knew who and what he is, now the nation has seen. We also have the benefit of seeing who and what his family and followers are – needy, low-life grifters.


With all we have gone thru, there are a number of key learnings I think we can take away from the last four years.

  • When someone tells and shows you who they are, believe them. Trump made it very clear what kind of man he is – he has done it all his life. There is little in Trump to which one can aspire – unless you really like gold toilets. There are few, if any, redeeming traits and his character flaws are obvious. A man who grabs pussy, cheats on every wife, stiffs contractors working for him, lies about everything to prop himself up and values nothing but himself is not someone who has any of the qualities needed to run our great country. The man didn’t drain the swamp – he is the swamp.

  • Most of those Americans who profess to be religious are anything but. These “believers” were willing to sell their souls to the devil just to get a few judges on the bench. Not sure how any of them can look in a mirror or sit in a pew on Sunday without worrying about that bolt from above given their false prayers and allegiance. A surprise? Not to anyone paying attention but for us atheists, we’ve been pretty much in front of this for a while. A lot of the rest of you have some explaining to do – and not to me.

  • We have a country that remains racist and bigoted across the board. While we have made some progress in the last 50 years, we are far from anything that resembles what many of us have hoped we, as a country, are. We are still pretty fucked up and we have a ways to go. Luckily as the newer generations are coming up, we can see glimpses of goodness and acceptance that many of us in older generations never realized. The hardest thing is trying to figure out how after watching what this country went thru in the 60’s and 70’s (when I came of age), my “peers” (in the word only) never moved past where their parents were in terms of bigotry. If there was any silver lining in the past four years it is the reality of who we Americans really are, not the image with which we can pretend to be “woke”. We are at a reckoning point and it can’t be laid out much clearer.

  • In any group or organization we shouldn’t assume that “good” people will balance out the “not-so-good ones”. In the Trump administration those “good” people were usually described as “the adults in the room”, somehow making Trump less toxic. We see how that worked out. Let’s maybe not assume people who seem better aren’t actually pieces of shit themselves. Maybe it is just in comparison to the worse person in the room. Kind of like having one leg is better than no legs – no doubt a true statement but still pretty sucky. People like Trump surround themselves primarily with people like themselves – or with those they can easily manipulate to do their bidding. The latter is a quality we saw in both elections. For the want of something – or anything for that matter – these people will even support things that aren’t in their best interest. This tells you how important the need to belong is in most people. Attaching to the Trump camp gave identity. Not good identity but at least an identity. When you feel you are nothing, anything is a step up. Back to one leg is better than no legs. Similarly, these people still suck. This is important to remember because Trump isn’t the last asshole these people will glom onto. Trump doesn’t have the market cornered on “users” ready to take advantage. Josh “Douchebag” Hawley is ready and able to step in and fill the void. The lesson here…when you see a leader who is corrupt, rest assured that those closest to him or her are of equal integrity and ethics. It also works the other way – if you find an individual who is a lying sack of shit with no ethics, then there is a high likelihood their leader is of the same ilk.

  • Life is not a zero sum game. There is no basis to the belief that if someone else does better, you end up doing worse. Thinking that “I’m OK only if you aren’t” is a mental disease of the unintelligent, the inadequate and the do-nothings in our country. It is the product of a stated sense of self-worth that is, upon closer examination, a recognition that “I am really pretty much a failure”. To quote Shakespeare – “Thou doth protest too much”. You actually need to put some effort into achieving success.


  • People need to focus on their own business and stay out of the lives and philosophies of others. I think many in our country seem to feel it is their obligation to make sure the rest of us are following their rules. Related to #5, this is again an approach I see in people trying to validate how they have chosen to live their lives – whether they really live it or or it is really just rhetoric. I don’t ever have to justify or explain my “beliefs” if no one else can hold contrary or different ones. Again, a sign of weakness, especially among those who always take their cues from someone else – the ones we call followers.


  • You wouldn’t think it would be necessary but maybe it is time for actual law that says you can’t put children in cages. A law that says you can’t separate babies from their mother. If we can’t do that minimal effort then maybe it is time that we reposition the Statue of Liberty. Probably needs about a 180 degree turn.

  • Let us not forget – ever – January 6th, 2021. I’ve seen a lot in my 67 years and there only a handful of events (beyond personal) that rise to the top of the list of impacts. I remember the race riots in the 60’s. The Vietnam War demonstrations. Let us also not underestimate the path to an authoritarian government where personal rights and freedoms are really removed. Momentum is a hard thing to stop so vigilance and healthy skepticism is now a requirement.


  • Last one – The call for the Democrats to focus on healing division. Nice try but there is still a lot about which to be angry. Many out there put a good deal of effort into messing everything up for the majority of us. While Covid-19 was bad, our nation’s lack of leadership and the ongoing unwillingness to “fix” it but Trump’s supporters is the primary reason we lead the world’s countries – first world thru third world – in Covid-related deaths. We do need to find a path to reducing anger levels. However, a bit of anger is always a good thing. Now is not the time to forgive and forget – it is too easy to fall back onto the aura of “let’s just get along”. There remains a good number of reasons – maybe 75 million – to stay angry. Time to clean up the politicians who seem to have forgotten they are there to do the work of the people rather than just gracing themselves with the benefits of their position…as well to remind all that climbing up someone’s ass is a dual-edged sword. But it isn’t just the politicians. Those complicit need to be held accountable. Whether neighbors or family, let us not forget the assholes that enabled the last four years. Let us never forget the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. We should be ashamed.

But at least this is goodness. And those fireworks were amazing!

The Problem with Power

Watching the events that have unfolded over the past several days should shake this nation to its core. Without change, we will not survive as a free nation. The problem of taking and abusing power is endemic and at its base are people of weak character, challenged intellectual capacity and a “follower” lemming mentality. Whether it be members of Police Departments, the Secret Service, the National Guard, the Armed Services, The NRA, Neo-Nazis, protestors who storm state capitals with assault weapons, these are people who spend their lives being scared, realizing they have little to raise them up and realizing they are powerless against others with influence. These are the individuals who see guns and a badge or shield of some sort as the means to “be” powerful or at least feel something approaching adequacy.

Can this be fixed in the individual? Not at all since it reaches down into the depths of what makes an individual. It started as children who never felt they made the grade or never excelled at anything. It is part of the psyche, it is part of the soul of the individual. Watching the “police” responses to those peacefully protesting in our cities gives a good view into many of these people. No, not every one of those in uniform and in riot gear but the thought (or excuses) that “it only a few bad ones” is wrong. It is not everyone but it is endemic in these organizations we have evolved to maintain order. It is more than a few which means the fix is more than firing a couple when an obviously horrific act occurs – as it did in the murder of George Floyd. These organizations draw a good number of individuals who see it as a means to feel better and to exercise strength that without their uniform and weapons just won’t happen. Power without earning it. How convenient. It is time to start over. Watching many of the police who took their level of intensity over the top with the protesters was horrifying. Shades of 1968 as we watched police using tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and their shields as weapons to actually injure people. This was not maintaining order. This was the look of a fascist state.

It is time for a purge of active personnel that includes anyone who has shown their willingness to step over the line. It is time to stop the Police Unions whose first job is to protect their members no matter what. It is time for real external review boards to monitor, discipline and dismiss. It is time that police unions be disbanded or be made to focus only on just job benefits not job guarantees. It is time that psychological tests and instruments be mandated as a means to getting any job where a gun and position of power over the community is present.

It is time that people stand up for injustice and wrongs against other people. It doesn’t work to set up racial, ethnic, religious or whatever slice of life we have as a focus of who needs to change or who needs to take what action. At this juncture, we all have a way to go.

And we need a President who sets an example and who doesn’t cover the fact he is a pussy with power plays.

You Can’t Cure Stupid…

Report Card

No, this time I’m not writing about the idiot-in-chief sitting in the Oval Office — although he is a mix of stupid, malice and money – not a great combination evidenced in what we have seen and become in the past three years. But I digress.

It has been a great many years since anyone has found my level of patience to be something to recognize as a core strength, even in normal times. It is a trait that I think has served me well over my long career but has taken it’s toll on most of those who have been forced to spend time around me.  It is something one would think with retirement should have ebbed a bit. Well, that’s apparently not happening – especially now.

Where I will most typically go quickly off the rails is in the face of stupidity and ignorance. Unfortunately the opportunities to experience those ever-present qualities among our fine citizens of this great nation abound. In normal times, I am reminded that I should recognize that it is a reality of life and that stupidity is a way of life for many and that is not going to change. I get it but don’t really accept it – I guess then I don’t really get it. But at this time when we have been now almost two months into this pandemic, I again struggle. maybe even more so given that the stupidity and ignorance of many wandering aimlessly out in public can, and likely will, add to the death toll…and unfortunately it won’t just be the stupid and ignorant whose herd we are ultimately thinning.

Why this today? Well, I just returned from what I thought was going to be a quick trip to the grocery store. Could I have done without it? Probably yes, but stubbornness sits up there with impatience in my makeup…again something those around me would not debate. I can rationalize my trek a bit given I don’t step foot in the store without my N95 mask and disposable gloves, as well as a Clorox disinfectant wipe or two in my pocket. I should have known as I wandered up to the entrance and two people wandered out sans mask (of any kind). While the store was not overly crowded, I was astonished by the number of people wandering the aisles without masks. Like to say it was mostly younger people who a often immune from those things that knock us seniors off balance but no, many were my peers. I, at least, can still move reasonably fast. Most of these people couldn’t get out of the way of a launched germ if they tried. I was also amazed at the number of children wandering around with a parent wearing a mask but they weren’t. I know there are times you would like to get rid of your kid but not sure this way works…especially since if they get Covid-19, then it is likely shortly coming your way. For many of these same people the concept of social distance appeared to also be something said in a foreign language. So, here we are weeks into this crisis and it now dawns on me why the media and most every health professional on TV still repeats the same instruction time after time after time after time. It isn’t just to annoy me, it is for the stupid and the ignorant.

Beyond these fine people, I also was blessed to experience a number of the people working in our fine supermarket, Giant Foods in Bartonsville, PA.  Now I do realize that we are in a crisis and “normal” (whatever that is) is off to the wayside.  However, not sure why given you would expect that most of us want to spend as little time in a store as possible and at the same time the store would most likely also want us out as soon as possible so we can’t spend too much time noticing how many shelves are not stocked, they only had two checkout lines open.  The self checkout, where I’ll usually try to go so I don’t have to depend on someone else, was not an option this time around and there was a line, no exaggeration, probably 10 or 11 people long – of course all practicing the recommended social distancing.  So, using my best judgement I looked at all the carts in front of me and did a quick evaluation of which line would go fastest.  Well, pretty much missed it.  At one point, with two people still ahead of me and nothing moving ahead of me for probably 10 minutes, I did wander around to see if the cashier I picked only had one arm.  Well, she had two but, aside from not moving very fast, she was dealing with a woman in line with no mask or gloves (see previous paragraph) and, no exaggeration, probably 25 bags or so…the cashier was doing all the bagging – ringing up 2 or 3 items, stopping to bag them, repeat and rinse…and she wasn’t wearing a mask either.  She was making sure she stayed behind the two foot wide, bulletproof barrier the store had put up so there wasn’t too much room to move. In fairness to my lack of patience (rationalizing more likely), the two people in front of me and the two behind me also weren’t too happy as I could hear muffled comments thru their masks.  Then it was my turn.  Of course I’m not patient enough to wait for someone else to bag my stuff so first I asked her if she was required to bag (which she wasn’t, just laziness on those ahead of me) so I bagged and did my part to moved things along.  By this time, I was convinced my frozen items were already thawed and our dinner tonight was going to be a bit different and much larger than planned.

Now on a more positive note (at least to like-minded folks), after seeing those many who feel no need to protect either themselves or the rest of us, I will make what to many would be a vast generalization. What I’m seeing among those idiots unfettered with masks are the Trump Nation.  A horde of people (“deplorables” fits here) who aspire to be something or someone they can never be. They have been too stupid and too ignorant most all their lives to achieve much and now they have been taken in by that lump of shit in the Whitehouse (I guess that could apply to many there) who has convinced them that many of us have been looking down on them for far too long and he is their savior…how fitting with Easter just around the corner.  Just thinning the herd….

Trump_Golum1

Trump’s Political Success – what it really says

No matter the current polls and rhetoric about the Republican race and ongoing surprise about the early and ongoing dominance of Trump, there should really be no surprise.  It isn’t really about Trump the man – who in reality is pretty much a know nothing, self centered, bullying narcissist.  Sadly, it is really about the people who make up a good deal of our country. A sad commentary indeed.

The vehemence shown by his supporters is driven to a great extent by those who represent the worst of who we, as a country, pretend to have moved past as a people and society.  In many ways we are less prejudiced, more tolerant, more accepting but it is really more generational than anything else.  However, we still maintain a large contingent of racists, bigots, haters and uneducated slow thinkers who feel that anyone on whom they can trounce only makes their squalid existence look more palatable.

Trump has zeroed in on the same people who drove the Tea Party phenomenon several years back (take a look at some of my earlier posts to get a better look at that crew).  It is a group of people who want everything  for themselves (because they are the only ones who really work hard and deserve it) and nothing for anyone else who disagrees with their views.  He feeds on those who, not surprisingly, are led around by many of the those religious giants such as Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson – all (including Trump) willing to live a life of luxury on the backs of the ignorant and stupid.   They all prey on the unquestioning among us.  They all throw around sound-bytes, little snippets of “wisdom” that hook into people’s doubts and insecurities.  The one group continually cites the Bible but does little that really demonstrates they live it.  They make these unimportant people feel important and that their wants and desires will be answered despite the evidence to the contrary that those like Trump are really taking it to the bank.  I strongly doubt that Trump (or any of those beacons of religion I cite) have ever stepped foot in a Walmart or a McDonalds.  Not likely any of them ever had to put Christmas purchases on layaway because they were living paycheck to paycheck.  But this is only evident to those who aren’t among this group – not that we are necessarily better (although we really are) but we are definitely smarter.  We see the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

Einstein

The good news – many of these people are the elders among us so they have a limited shelf life.   In reality it has already begun to impact the religious institutions in our country.  Look at the numbers of those who consider themselves aligned with a religion and the future is pretty obvious.  For those who will be around for awhile longer, since they aren’t really the movers and the shakers, their influence, like sound-bytes, have no real depth or longevity.  They will continue to make news as the next Trump shows up because we are always looking for the next flavor of the day but at the end of it all, they add no value and only detract and diminish what we want to be as a country.  Time cures all ills.

Trump – We’ve seen this before

One has to wonder if much of what we see with Trump is mostly his uncontrolled ego with his mouth moving faster than what his limited brain can process and with his ego what it is, an inability to backtrack on anything.  However, this last salvo of forbidding any Muslim from entering the US should make any thinking (and rational) US citizen sit up and take notice.  The lack of real outrage (not political driven) speaks to how America has changed in the last 50 years.  It is a sad commentary on much of the American mindset that a person as disgusting as Trump can garner the support he can.

Is it a surprise?  Not really as most Americans seem to be afraid of everything – which by itself is not entirely unreasonable but it becomes so when there is no action other than to blindly follow someone who appears as a father figure who can pat you on the head and tell you they will fix everything.  No thinking required – only feeling.  And to ensure they keep that “responsibility” whole, they play on fear – the most base of emotions.  It works well – particularly on those whom are not the smartest or most successful.  It is most effective on those who really don’t want to (or can’t) think for themselves.

Not something new – the church has done it for centuries.  In our country, the KuKluxKlan and the Neo-Nazis has kept their membership alive with similar approaches.

But looking on a broader scale, there has been one individual who managed to perfect the approach – nice company Donald!

Hitler1       Hitler_Quote1

 

 

Is that Jim Crow I Hear Cawing?

Credit: Steve Benson/The Republic

Credit: Steve Benson/The Republic

I’ve often pondered if people in our country are actually more stupid than they were years ago.  You would think that with all the advances in technology, education, you name it, we would get a bit smarter over time or if nothing else at least a little less ignorant.  When it comes down to it I expect the percentages of smart vs not-smart haven’t necessarily changed a great deal – despite the opportunities for people to learn and experience more given great strides in education and the advances we all experience in technology.  I think part of it is just that there are a lot more people overall and there just seem to be a lot more stupid people walking around.  I think the other thing that has happened is there are many more opportunities for people to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their stupidity and/or ignorance so many who in the past might have gone unnoticed are now out in the open.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln

And for those of you of more a religious persuasion –

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” – Proverbs 17:28

Arizona Legislators in Session

Arizona Legislators in Session

In the broader sense, the issue of gay rights is one of the opportunities for people to show their stupid and ignorant side.   The latest example is the current legislation that has passed in Arizona that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays.  In fairness to Arizona, they are not alone in their efforts to return their state to “better times” when the various Jim Crow laws legitimized discrimination and prejudice and worked very effectively to limit the rights of people in our country whom were not of the same mindset or belief system.  Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma – not really a surprise given not one of these states is ever recognized for progressive thinking.   Here again, under the guise of religion, we have a situation where one works to justify a horrid and what will eventually be recognized as illegal legislation.  The fact that the element of discrimination is entirely ignored by the legislators in Arizona is something I just don’t get although I do believe that religion can be mind-numbing when put in the hands of people who probably don’t think for themselves anyhow.   So it all comes down to Gov. Jan Brewer and her next move.

Someone should have mentioned SPF30...

Someone should have mentioned SPF30…

Do we trust Brewer will do the right thing and veto this law?  Remember this is the same woman who felt it appropriate to derisively wag her bony finger at President Obama on the tarmac during a visit to Arizona and who was too busy to attend a Governor’s dinner at the White House.  This is also the same woman who eliminated the Arizona KidsCare progam which provided healthcare to uninsured children and stopped Medicaid payments for transplants.  She loves guns and hates immigrants. This is the woman who in 2012 signed a law that barred state funding from going to any organization that provides abortion services. This meant that Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t use state money for abortions, was be deprived of funds they would have used to provide all manner of sexual health services, including services used by victims of sexual assault.  Bad enough on its own but when one considers that her son, Ronald, has been a patient at the state mental hospital for the last 20+ years after he was found not guilty of kidnap and sexual assault by reason of insanity.  In 1989, Ronald Brewer allegedly broke into a woman’s apartment, slapped her several times, and committed sex acts on her. After his 1990 indictment, his mother claimed that Ronald had “decompensated,” a psychiatric defense which means that although he’d been functioning normally before the attack, his state deteriorated. His lawyers argued that Ronald didn’t know, at the time, that what he was doing was wrong, and a judge agreed, committing Ronald indefinitely to the state’s hospital, where he still lives although he is free to leave with staff or with his parents.  Even more interesting is that in the days before Jan Brewer was sworn in as the state’s governor in 2009, Ronald’s criminal records were sealed – his case being only four out of 40,000 total criminal cases that were sealed in Maricopa County in Arizona in 2009.   She is the Tin Man – the epitome of a 2014 Tea Party Republican – a self-serving, do as I say not as I do, hate-mongering homophobe.

At least they were able to sit and get service....

At least they were able to sit and get service….

To allow this Arizona legislation to go forward brings us back to a time of which we should all be ashamed – but unfortunately only some of us are.  Religious Freedom my ass.

2014 – In with a Bang

We are undoubtedly a nation with ADHD as evidenced by what has been almost a complete disappearance of any real focus on gun control this past year.  A small flurry to give some lip service so that the gun nuts (and those politicians bought by the gun nuts) don’t look like they don’t care at all but really more marching in place.  Most of these politicians had more important tasks at hand – like figuring out how to make the poor even poorer or how to bring our country to the edge of economic collapse.  But I digress.  It is not like we haven’t had the opportunity to have our attention clearly focused if we wanted to.  Since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary a little over a year ago, there has been no dearth of events to remind us of the travesty of an ineffective Congress aligned with an all-powerful gun lobby.  Even if we ignore the 35,000 Americans killed by guns in the last year, it is hard to pass by the 30+ incidents of mass murder with a gun.  In this year alone, not even a month into the new year, there have been at least 8 incidents in schools with guns – elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges – seems it is pretty much that no level is left out.  Of course pro-gun advocates immediately took to the mattresses to push for the elimination of so-called “gun-free zones” intended to keep areas with children and young adults free from guns.   More rhetoric from the gun-toting right that more guns is better.  This past weekend, the Mall shootings in Maryland again remind us all that none of us are really safe when we leave our houses.  And apparently even in our own house many of us manage to have our potential of death by gun rise – as has been recently publicized (but not new news), in houses where there is a gun a person is twice as likely to be murdered and 3 times more likely to commit suicide.  At least they keep it at home.   And if you are a woman, the likelihood off being murdered is even higher.   For you gun nuts who want to call bullshit, even the holy grail of news for people whom don’t want to think for themselves, Fox News, reported on the story – http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/01/21/gun-ownership-tied-to-three-fold-increase-in-suicide-risk/

 

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The answer is not simple in the details given the complexity of the problem.  To be perfectly honest, I am not in a place at all where I believe that guns should be outlawed.  I understand the important role they have played in our history but that lone isn’t reason to continue to maintain this national stupidity.  So if you want to shoot your food, go for it.  If you want a gun for protection, OK that is understandable – especially with the number of nuts out there.  Yes, there are alot of areas to be addressed beyond just increased gun control laws.  However, the solution of more guns doesn’t really seem to make a whole lot of sense.  The NRA mantra of more good guys with guns to take on the bad guys with guns just results in more people dead.  Pretty simple calculation and logic – more guns means more houses with guns which means more dead people (even just looking at the above stats).  We also have little chance of reducing the power and influence of the gun lobby but we can influence while picking out our legislators.  Let’s also get off the emotion train that somehow fuels thru rhetoric our inalienable right to have guns.  Ok but even if we go with the position that the 2nd amendment guarantees people the right to have guns, there is nothing in the amendment that precludes things like universal background checks or limiting gun magazine size to maybe a reasonable 6 or 7  (at least less than 10) bullets.

So what is so at risk when gun control is discussed.  First let me separate out normal gun owners from gun nuts.  Interestingly, most gun owners have no problem with Universal Background checks or even many of the changes that have been proposed over the past year.  Most of these people might actually be reasonable and rational people – they do have some concern for their loved ones and they don’t see any imminent government takeover looming.  So we really need to focus on two areas.  The real gun nuts and the industries/individuals that are economically tied to guns.  So the NRA, gun makers, gun dealers, Congress – it’s really all about money.  Companies aren’t giving up large profits and politicians aren’t giving up deep pockets. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA mouthpiece isn’t going to give up his $1 million salary for the sake of anyone’s safety. To be honest, Wayne is pretty much in the realm of the TV Evangelist – just hawking a different religion but still living the high life on the backs of those without.  Our answer here is thru the power of the vote.  Our only road is to make sure your legislator – at whatever level – knows you won’t vote for him or her if they continue to ignore this issue.

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For the “average” American gun nut, it has to go much deeper on a psychological level.  There has to be something missing in these people – most likely a level of self-confidence.  I would suggest that most of them are pretty much scared of everything around them.  They always see danger lurking in the shadows.  They see their weapon as the “great equalizer”.  All of a sudden they can go from powerless to powerful.  From small and inconsequential to large and impactful.  But only really in their minds.  In our world today it doesn’t really come down to “who has the biggest gun”.   But it makes them feel better even though to most of the rest of us they really look like idiots.  If it wasn’t that they were actually dangerous at some point it would almost be laughable.  To be honest, I’m not sure what you do with these people.  There is no reason or rational place to discuss or reach agreement.  When all you see is “the government” coming to take your guns, not much else rings true or really important.  I think we need to give them less attention and over time maybe they will start to thin out a bit given the stats we see on guns and murder and suicide.  Unfortunately until then, we’ll continue to see incidents like this weekend in Maryland where we don’t really know the beef the shooter had but in feeling powerful and somehow rationalizing a response of murder there are now two families mourning the loss of young ones.  We need to fix our politicians and take away the power of the gun lobby as the juice they spew only emboldens the gun nuts and somehow gives merit to their fears.  Back to the power of the note and the vote – let them know and then follow it up at the ballot.

 

Now speaking of gun nuts, here in Pennsylvania we can’t go too far without a small look at one of our illustrious police chiefs who has taken it upon himself to make it clear to the world that his right to free speech and to bear arms is at risk and to prove it he takes an automatic weapon (not his – he likely couldn’t afford it) and goes on a video rant about his issues with the local government, including shooting at targets he names after two local Gilberton board members (who would be part of the decision to fire him).  This is one angry Police Chief – only to be outdone by many of the individuals commenting on the various articles about what a great role model he was and there should be more law enforcement leaders like him out there.  Interesting amount of bigotry and prejudice-laced talk – but not a surprise given my original direction of how afraid these people are of most everything that doesn’t look, think or talk like they do.    In any case, a few pictures are worth a thousand words –

 

Mark Kessler - Boy Police Chief

Mark Kessler – Boy Police Chief

 

Kessler showing off his political persuasion

Kessler showing off his political persuasion

 

 

Have to wonder who is covering french fry duty at the local McDs

Kessler “militia types” – Have to wonder who is covering french fry duty at the local McDs

 

And for those who believe Kessler actually has the ability to do the job, a little fact to remember – he managed to shoot himself in the hand during an off-duty bar visit where he attempted to keep order.  One last bit of distressing news – he is also a member of the local school board – bet you those budget meetings are interesting…..definitely the caliber of individual I would want making education decisions for my children.

Wrapping up the Year – Phil Robertson and A&E

I thought I would take a moment and walk back thru the various topics and events I took time to blog about over the last year.  To be honest, in re-reading some of my posts I was, if nothing else, rather wordy but if I keep in mind that my original intent of this blog was to look for some means of catharsis, I’m not surprised at the brain dumps I’ve shared.  In looking back I managed to hit a broad set of subjects from gun control (coming into 2013 on the heels of Newtown, CT) to the Presidential primaries and the election to a good amount of time on the current state of the country as it relates to where we are in the LGBT discussion.  Overall, I’d say the year was more good than bad as we managed to keep the Republicans out of the White House and the country actually moved ahead in a positive manner when it came to rights of members of the LGBT community.  Not only are the majority of Americans supportive of gay rights, we now have I believe 18 states where gays can legally marry – quite an increase from where we started the year.  Top this with the defeat of DOMA and overall not bad although the journey ahead is still long and will be painful.

Sadly though, we have actually taken steps backwards when it comes to gun control and the violence and death that inevitably links itself to owning a gun.  One does have to wonder why is is so easy to quickly forget the people innocently massacred this past year by people who are obviously able to legally obtain weapons when in most cases they probably shouldn’t be walking the streets among the rest of us.  No doubt this will be a topic of future posts as I expect there will be numerous incidents in the coming year where the idiocy of our fascination with guns and the right to kill will result in more death and mayhem.

credit to: StickerGiant.com Inc.

credit to: StickerGiant.com Inc.

But as my last post of 2013, I thought I’d stay with a topic I’ve commented on numerous times this past year.  And in this case I get to wrap up a number of my rants into one situation – that of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty and the recent attention he has received given his ongoing display of bigotry and ignorance.  I won’t spend too much time on his comments about how happy black citizens were in 50’s and 60’s in his home state of Louisiana but just that professed opinion (which I have no doubt he actually believes) pretty much defines Robertson for what he is.  When we look at his homophobic view of gays and his justification thru religion and the bible, I again froth at the mouth at the obvious schizophrenic nature of many who profess to be followers of Jesus and his ways but yet preach hate and intolerance.  In the case of Robertson, like many “born again” Christians, we have people who were pretty much shits and lowlifes who all of a sudden become good people and all is forgotten because they found God.  Pretty convenient and quite the means for Phil to become a patriarch who can stand up and profess more knowledge and wisdom on how others should lead their lives.  Lest we not forget that Phil had quite the struggle with alcohol, ran into issues with the law based on his inability to control himself and managed to actually abandon his wife and 3 kids early in their marriage.  Even his shallow-thinking wife, Kay, admitted that he was running around on her during that time – but, nice excuse, it wasn’t really Phil, it was the devil.  Where is Flip Wilson when you need him.  For those who feel that Robertson has it figured out I do point them to reasonably recent comments he made on marriage and the benefits of marrying when the girl is still around 16 or 17 because once they hit their twenties, all they want is to pick your pockets.  Wow, pretty enlightened.  But again, I forget we are talking about Louisiana whose primary contribution to society has been muskrat stew and levees.

Phil_Robertson_football_throwing

Pre-Jesus Phil

I’ll admit, I’ve watched Duck Dynasty quite regularly and despite the religious overtones, the right-wing attitudes and the crap coming out of Phil’s mouth,  I did stay tuned given the entertainment value – nothing I haven’t had to tolerate in just normal day-to-day living.  To be honest, most of us know this was mostly schtick made up for the camera.  It wasn’t that long ago that none of the Robertsons had beards.  When the comments Robertson made in GQ came out and A&E initially suspended Robertson, I did take the time to let A&E know I supported their decision.  I guess I was in the minority as A&E has since managed to retreat from their position and reinstate Phil just in time for the filming of the next season.  In hindsight how stupid was I to think that A&E wouldn’t whore themselves out as soon as the dollars became the focus – in actuality that is what almost every decision in today’s world is really about.

DuckDynasty_not

So to follow a theme I’ve set in previous blogs, those of us who are somewhat educated and actually believe in human rights can speak equally loud on the reversal of A&E’s stance on Robertson by making it clear where we are spending our time and money.  If we don’t watch Duck Dynasty, that potentially drops advertising revenue.  I will not watch it again.  This is again an opportunity where we need to speak up and make it clear that there are some beliefs we can’t support.  And it’s not about Free Speech and First Amendment rights – nice try – you can all say anything you want – it’s just that the rest of the world has equal right to say what they won’t accept or support.  To stay on a theme – Most importantly we can speak thru our wallets.

A&E_not

LGBT Equality In the Workplace – 2013

Back in the June 2012 timeframe, I posted several blogs referencing the position companies in America have taken regarding the rights of the LGBT community as reflected in their corporate or company policies.  For anyone following the issues – political, legal, social, whatever – faced by this community over the past year, there has been some real positive change achieved – key events I’ve also tried to capture as they happen in my blogs.  While there has been a good deal of positive movement forward it is unfortunate we still have the haters and bigoted core of people who see their mission to ensure that anyone different – in most ways – from themselves be held to the same rules of life they profess to hold – not necessarily live by but at least say the words.  My view on these people need not be repeated in this particular blog as it is very evident in most of what I have written – basically a pox on these dim-witted and heartless cretins.  Sorry – I digress.

But with all the progress I think we’ve seen this past year, we can’t forget we still need to get the message out where we can actually influence.  While I don’t expect to ever change their views – it takes an active mind and ability for them to think and reason – I still submit the best approach is in what remains the greatest lever we have as a country – hit them in their pocketbooks.  We all have the opportunity to choose where we spend our money – or where we don’t spend it.  The HRC or Human Rights Campaign Foundation provides us an ongoing view of how Corporate America takes account of equality across our people, particularly in terms of how the workplace approaches Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality.  Every year they publish their Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and the publication for 2013 was recently released.  This is the 11th year of the Index and it has provided a good means to track how we are doing in the Workplace no matter the inequities and bias that remains in the various levels of our government.   There is a wealth of information available in the publication to which I can’t really give justice so I would suggest a visit to their site – http://www.hrc.org/ – or  http://www.hrc.org/corporate-equality-index/#.UozWxOLyQYk  to view or download the actual Corporate Equality Index publication.  While I’m happy to say that the company where I am employed is in that group of Fortune 100 corporations scoring a perfect 100 on the CEI scale, the number of major corporations that remain out there in 2013 that don’t is astounding as well as a disgrace.

Some of the good news:  Despite the reality that people can be legally denied a job or fired simply for their sexual orientation in 29 states and their gender identity in 34, Corporations in America have ignored antiquated and biased legislation to provide these protections in their company.  From the report – “For the first time in history, a majority of the Fortune 500 offers both sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Beyond these basic and essential protections, record numbers of Fortune-ranked and other major businesses have comprehensively updated their benefits packages to ensure that newcomers to their workplaces can expect both partner benefits and transgender-inclusive benefits and that retiring LGBT workers will see the financial benefits that they have worked so hard to accrue will go to their surviving family members.”

STATEWIDE EMPLOYMENT LAWS AND POLICIES - From HRC.com

From HRC.com

The bad news is that there are still many corporations and companies who remain staunchly opposed to equality in this space.  The HRC site has a great tool that should help you decide where you might want to open your wallet and more importantly where not.  Their “Buyer’s Guide” is located at http://www.hrc.org/apps/buyersguide/index.php#.UozaNeLyQYk.   Here you can view, by shopping category, those companies which excel in workplace equality as well as those companies where progress has been essentially non-existent.  To help us when we are on the go, they actually have an Iphone application for anyone with mobile Apple devices.  For other mobile platforms (Android, Windows 8) they offer the ability to access the data from any mobile phone by just texting SHOP and the company or product name to 30644.

While I have had some insight into the companies I don’t want to buy from, in reviewing the information across the categories in the Buyer’s Guide I was astounded by some of the companies that remain in the social dark ages.  I’m sad to say that a good number of my purchases have been from companies in the list below – just one example of the information in the Guide – it includes the Company, their brands, their overall CEI rating (Green, Amber, Red) and their actual CEI score.  Guess I won’t be purchasing that Rolex any time soon…..

I wish I could easily provide all the data but it is just too extensive but I would suggest you at least take a quick stop at one of the links I’ve indicated above and become a more informed consumer and shopper.  We’ve all been made aware of the companies that extensively use sweat shops and basically slave labor to provide their products from overseas (hello, Walmart?) – maybe we need to be a bit more discerning of how companies that do business on our own shores treat our sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, whatever – your choice of whose success you want to support.  Is it possible to stop shopping at all the sub-par companies? Probably not unfortunately given the wide expanse of ones we all typically shop at but, to quote Chinese philosopher Laozi – “The longest journey begins with the first step”.

NOTE: The following copied directly from the HRC Buyer’s Guide

Apparel & Accessories

Business Rating Rank
Abercrombie & Fitch  abercrombie kids; Gilly Hicks; Hollister; 100
Gap  Athleta; babyGap; Banana Republic; GapBody; GapKids; Old Navy; Piperlime; 100
Levi Strauss  Denizen; Dockers; Levi’s; Signature by Levi Strauss & Co.; 100
Limited Brands  Henri Bendel; La Senza; Pink; Victoria’s Secret; 100
Nike  Cole Haan; Converse; Hurley; NIKE Golf; Umbro; 100
Nordstrom  1901; Calibrate; Classiques Entier; Halogen; HauteLook; Jeffrey; Last Chance; Nordstrom Direct; Nordstrom Rack; Public Opinion; Trouvé; Zella; 100
Sears  Apostrophe; Canyon River Blues; Covington; Jaclyn Smith; Joe Boxer; Lands’ End; Structure; 100
Target  C9 by Champion; Cherokee; Circo; Gilligan & O’Malley; Honors; In Due Time; Liz Lange; Merona; Mossimo; Nick & Nora; Utility; Xhilaration; 100
TJX  HomeGoods; Marshalls; T.J.Maxx; 100
A|X Armani Exchange  95
American Eagle  77kids; aerie; 95
J.C. Penney  a.n.a; Ambrielle; American Living; Arizona; Arizona Jean Co.; cooks; Decree; east5th; Every Day Matters; J. Ferrar; Linden Street; Okie Dokie; St. John’s Bay; Stafford; Studio; Worthington; 95
Bon-Ton Stores  Bergner’s; Boston Store; Carson Pirie Scott; Elder-Beerman; Herberger’s; Younkers; 90
Kenneth Cole  Gentle Souls; Kenneth Cole New York; Kenneth Cole Reaction; Le Tigre; Unlisted; 90
Macy’s  Alfani; American Rag; Bar III; Bloomingdale’s; Charter Club; Club Room; Epic Threads; First Impressions; Giani Bernini; Greendog; I.N.C.; Jenni by Jennifer Moore; JM Collection; Martha Stewart Collection; Style & Co.; Tasso Elba; 90
Ralph Lauren  Chaps; Club Monaco; Denim & Supply; Lauren; Lauren Jeans Co.; Ralph Lauren Black Label; Ralph Lauren Childrenswear; Ralph Lauren Collection; Ralph Lauren Golf; Ralph Lauren Purple Label; RLX; RRL; Rugby; 90
REI  Novara; REI Private Brands; 90
Tiffany & Co.  90
Fifth & Pacific  Juicy Couture; kate spade; Lucky Brand Jeans; Mac & Jac; 85
A�ropostale  P.S. from Aéropostale; 75
Coach  Reed Krakoff; 75
Hanover Direct  International Male; Silhouettes; UnderGear; 70
The Jones Group  Anne Klein; Bandolino; Easy Spirit; Enzo Angiolini; Evan-Picone; Gloria Vanderbilt; Joan & David; Jones New York; Judith Jack; Kasper; l.e.i; Le Suit; Mootsies Tootsies; Napier; Nine West; Rachel Roy; Sam & Libby; 70
L.L. Bean  65
Burlington Coat Factory  Cohoes; MJM Designer Shoes; 60
Hanesbrands  Bali; Barely There; Champion; Duofold; Gear for Sports; Hanes; Just My Size; L’eggs; Outer Banks; Playtex; Wonderbra; 60
PVH  Arrow; Bass; Calvin Klein; IZOD; Tommy Hilfiger; Van Heusen; 60
H&M  55
Brown Shoe  Avia; Buster Brown; Dr. Scholl’s Shoes; Famous Footwear; Franco Sarto; Lifestride; Naturalizer; rykä; Sam Edelman; Vera Wang Lavender; Via Spiga; 35
Ann Taylor  LOFT; 30
J. Crew  crewcuts; Madewell; 30
The Men’s Wearhouse  K&G; Twinhill; 30
Adidas  Reebok; Rockport; TaylorMade; 15
Burberry  15
Collective Brands  Airwalk; Keds; Payless ShoeSource; Saucony; Sperry Top-Sider; Stride Rite; 15
Donna Karan  DKNY; 15
Foot Locker  CCS; Champs Sports; Eastbay; Footaction; Kids Foot Locker; Lady Foot Locker; 15
Guess?  G by GUESS; GUESS by Marciano; GUESS kids; 15
Neiman Marcus  Bergdorf Goodman; CUSP; Last Call; 15
Urban Outfitters  Anthropologie; BHLDN; Free People; 15
VF  7 For All Mankind; Bulwark; Eagle Creek; Eastpak; Ella Moss; JanSport; John Varvatos; Kipling; Lee; lucy Activewear; Majestic; Napapijri; Nautica; Red Kap; Reef; Rock & Republic; Seven for all Mankind; SmartWool; Splendid; The North Face; Timberland; Vans; Wrangler Jeans; 15
Warnaco Group  Olga; Warner’s; 15
Berkshire Hathaway  Acme Boot; Fruit of the Loom; Garan; H.H. Brown Shoe Company; JERZEES; Justin Brands; Russell Athletics; Spalding; 0
Cabela’s  0
Chico’s  Boston Proper; Soma; White House/Black Market; 0
Dolce & Gabbana  D&G; 0
Fossil  0
Giorgio Armani  Armani Collezioni; Armani Jeans; Emporio Armani; 0
Gucci  Alexander McQueen; 0
Quiksilver  DC Shoes; Gnu; Hawk; Lib Tech; Radio Fiji; Roxy; 0
Rolex  0
Ross Stores  dd’s DISCOUNTS; 0
Under Armour  0
Versace  0

ENDA – Another National Disgrace for Nation – Boehner and the House

Today, the US Senate passed a bill banning workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.  What you say?  It has not been illegal to fire people based on the fact they are gay or they are trans-gender?  No, in the United States while no one can can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, they can because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Of course, most all of the Fortune 500 companies (88%) have policies that cover this but there is no federal law that does.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation that was proposed for the first time in 1994 in the United States Congress.  It prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.  When I first read about this law I, like many, was surprised that we don’t have this law on the books already.  In fact, there are 29 states where it is perfectly legal to terminate the employment of an individual who may be gay or transgender. The reality is that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 29 states. For those who are transgender they can be fired or denied employment solely based on their gender identity in 33 states.  Take a look at the map – won’t be real surprising which states but that is a whole other topic.   Pretty astounding when you think about it that in 2013, more than five decades after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act and then subsequent passage of the American Disabilities Act, we still have a country where this can happen.  To be honest, this is one of those “duh” moments where you wouldn’t think there should be even a question – not like I’m forcing you to take healthcare.  But we have a couple of key problems we need to cover as we look at why this has been taking so long and why, given the stance taken by those broad and deep thinkers in the US House – John Boehner in particular.

capenda

Credit: HRC.org

The arguments justifying this continued discrimination are several:

First, of course is the idea that it is okay to discriminate if something goes against the tenets of your so-called religion.  One of the core objections against ENDA bases itself in the religious right and flails around with the oft-cited “religious freedom” banner.  That too has been the rallying call behind the forces that have tried to stop many other causes that have come about to right the wrongs many of our citizens have endured over the years.  I read it as “I should be able to discriminate against anyone and anything that doesn’t fit into my set of beliefs” – which of course makes sense because they are right and there are no other belief systems with any merit.  But try to challenge their rights in any manner and listen to the cries of discrimination.  They feel that this legislation affords special protection to a group that is not disadvantaged so it isn’t really an issue of discrimination.  I don’t know but when I look around and see the second class citizen status these people have been pushed into, seems a bit disadvantaged to me.  For anyone reading my blogs with any consistency, you will know I have little regard or time for those who profess religious base and demand special rights but don’t see the same rights for others and have no issue refusing to acknowledge that their view of the world, which might work for them, might not work for anyone else.   See how far I would get if I, as an atheist, decided not to hire anyone who believed in a God because it somehow appalls me.  Not sure that would fly.  Of course, the immediate response would be that I couldn’t do that because you can’t discriminate against an individual based on their belief in a God.  But believing in a God doesn’t fit into my belief framework around religion.  Where’s my religious freedom?  Again. ridiculous argument on one level but not sure where it is that different – mostly because reality and what is “real” as far as beliefs and what fits and doesn’t fit is in the eye of the beholder.  And in the case of these religious zealots, the eyes seem pretty well closed.  And, oh by the way, while I strongly disagree it since we are still allowing discrimination, religious organizations are provided an exception from this protection, similar to that found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  So you already have your cake – you don’t need to eat it too.  We don’t have to live as you do (well, not that most of you really live what you speak – again, a whole other topic).

credit: http://www.believeoutloud.com

The Hypocrisy of it all
credit: http://www.believeoutloud.com

Now, onto John Boehner, the majority leader of the US House who has consistently demonstrated he doesn’t get that he is there at the will of the people in this country.  He, single-handedly, will keep ENDA from hitting the House floor and therefore will try to ensure we continue to allow states to discriminate.  Now, I happen to think that Johnny B. is somewhat of an asshole.  Okay maybe not somewhat but entirely.  Anyone who can effectively allow our government to shut down and bring us to the brink of default seems to have some flaws in leadership capability and really doesn’t get any points for style.  But I digress.  In the case of ENDA we see his opposition is really about jobs and the economy.  His spokesman, Michael Steel said the bill “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”   Anyone seeing a pattern here.  I think he has one page of talking points and it is “one size fits all”.  Aside from helping continue the Republican death march they started with the shutdown last month, this stance continues to play politics with our citizens and their rights.  Not sure I understand the frivolous litigation other than the reality that we won’t allow businesses to discriminate in this area and we are protecting the rights of real people – doesn’t sound frivolous.  Also easy to fix – don’t discriminate.  I don’t know what you can do about Johnny boy here other than hope that the cigarettes and tanning booths actually take an early toll.  In the meantime, I do have to wonder what skeletons he has in his closet – he doth protest too much.

Maybe John has a small secret?

Maybe John has a small secret?

So why did this particular item lead me to a blog?  Despite the rant and the throwing of my usual rocks, I hope this one is a little educational.  I pride myself on being up on most things but was taken entirely by surprise on the issue behind ENDA.  This is a national embarrassment that needs to be rectified as soon as we can.  If it be by election (hopefully it won’t take that long) then we need to inform.

Okay, last surprise – Fox News didn’t see ENDA as a news-worthy item as it advanced toward the Senate vote today – and of the 4 minutes of coverage it got, two minutes was spent discussing how ENDA was a planned distraction to take attention away from coverage of Obamacare.

credit: mediamatters.org

credit: mediamatters.org