Essential Services?

Governor Greg Abbott has fumbled the ball again.

Turner and others did express concern about Abbott’s decision to include religious worship as an essential service, leaving open the possibility of large gatherings at churches. At the news conference, Abbott encouraged churches to conduct their services remotely but said that if they must meet in person, they should follow the federal social-distancing guidelines.

“I’m unaware of a church that would want its constituents, its parishioners, to be exposed to COVID-19, and I think there’s enough public information right now for them to be aware of the practices that are needed to make sure that their members don’t contract COVID-19,” Abbott said in the interview.

There has been controversy, particularly in the Houston area, over church closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Pastors are in court challenging a stay-at-home order that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a week ago that restricts churches to online-only services.

To that end, Abbott’s latest executive order overrides “any conflicting order issued by local officials,” including those related to religious services. At the news conference, Abbott said local officials “still have flexibility to impose standards that they consider to be more strict” — as long as they do not conflict with his latest executive order.

There are at least 3,266 coronavirus cases in Texas, including 41 deaths, according to the most recent figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The cases are spread across 122 of the state’s 254 counties.

There have been 42,992 tests done in Texas, according to the latest numbers.

Texasstandard.org

Churches are essential services when schools are not? This conclusion says more about Texas than most thinking Texans are going to be comfortable admitting. It also says a lot about Gov. Abbott’s ability to be an effective leader; that he is more afraid of the religious right than he is of the plague that is sweeping across the country. He also continues down the path that he has set himself on, thinking his state government is more understanding of what Houston, Austin and Dallas citizens need than the governments we have put in place to govern our cities.

If Harris county leadership says the churches are closed, then the churches are closed in Harris county. Look to see that provision of the order reversed, along with a lot of the bullshit his Republican legislature has passed over the last year hamstringing local governments. It won’t happen soon enough to stop the landslide of coronavirus cases that will stem from letting people gather in churches because church services are essential.

The number of tests conducted in the state are pathetic. 42k? The number of asymptomatic carriers that will be at church spreading the disease to other parishioners will ensure that the wildfire of COVID-19 will continue to burn out of control in Texas until hopefully the summer months bring it to an end. If we are lucky.

…also. Women’s health is an essential service. This means that abortion services are essential services. Pretending that the procedures you don’t like are not essential and then banning its practice during this crisis is the essence of making something that shouldn’t be political, political. I want this on the record for the next time that Abbott and his Christianist cronies start tearing their hair and pretending that they want to avoid making this crisis political. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot.

Death Cult

I’m listening to the news today. Today is the first day I’ve awoken clear-headed in a week or more. I’ve binge-watched Star Trek on Netflix for the last two days, I’ve been feeling so poorly, and before that I was just going through podcast archives because I didn’t want to listen to the news. I’ve been avoiding the news since the El Paso shootings. I’ve been avoiding the news because I don’t want to hear about thoughts and prayers and I don’t want to hear arguments about what kinds of solutions that we could enact that would fix the plague of mass shootings in the US today. I don’t need to hear what we need to do, I know what needs to be done. I wrote about it two years ago. We won’t do it, and prayers don’t help, so why pay attention?

RAnt(hony)-ings

…and we don’t even notice all the mass killings that occur in this country anyway, because there are so many of them. Everyone is crying and moaning about El Paso and Dayton, but the death toll in Chicago over that same weekend was higher than both those incidents. Almost no one outside of Chicago noticed.

Today I wake up and I feel well enough to risk listening to the news. So I queue up the NPR news feed and throw in ABC (CBS?) and then I go on to the Texas Standard. That’s when I get derailed from my news consumption. They’re still talking about El Paso on the Texas Standard. Well, El Paso is in Texas, I should have expected that. Governor Abbott has held a nearly unprecedented impromptu news conference. Great. He doesn’t think he needs to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the issue of mass killings right here in Texas.

Seriously? The guy who thought we needed a special session over which bathroom you use doesn’t think we need a special session over gun regulations and mass shootings? The governor who is afraid of homosexuals and transsexuals doesn’t think that being shot while in Walmart shopping for schools supplies is a problem that we need the legislature to address? I mean, I guess he gets an attaboy for finally admitting that his president is a racist… No, wait. He said the shooter was a racist, not the president that the shooter quoted was a racist. Nevermind. No attaboy for Greg Abbott. I thought he might actually get one thing right while he was governor, but I guess not.

None of this tirade would have made the blog if I hadn’t been pinged by Steve Kubby during my cardiologist mandated sweat marathon, something I’ve neglected for several days because vertigo makes exercise into an invitation to take a trip to the emergency room for a cause other than a heart attack. Falling off the treadmill can be about as traumatic as a heart attack, in the scheme of things.

The phone pings while I’m on the treadmill, and because I know I’ve turned off push notifications except for the apps that the family uses, I figure it’s someone I know needing something. So I (carefully) check the phone and notice it’s a messenger notification from Steve Kubby. Now, that’s weird. Steve Kubby blocked me on Facebook seven years ago. What the hell does he have to say to me today?

Who is Steve Kubby? Well, back at the dawn of the internet age, back in the bad old days of the full force insane war on drugs, Steve Kubby was a cancer patient that was jailed for possessing Marijuana. He was jailed for using a known appetite enhancer and pain suppressor to treat the side effects of his cancer treatment. I wrote about him way back then. I friended him on Facebook when I joined Facebook, as I did a lot of my libertarian friends of the time.

But time passed, and libertarians got even less connected to reality than they were before they could tailor their newsfeeds to only tell them things they agreed with, and the rest of the world got progressively weirder and less connected right along with them. I found I had less and less in common with libertarians as I became disabled and had to rely on the stingily released government services that I had faithfully paid for through all of my adult life. Became less connected as I relied on services that my libertarian friends and conservative family members condemned me for relying on (decrease the surplus population!) in the first place, just another bullet point in a long list of things that I no longer had in common with these people.

Then the world changed in some pretty shocking ways. Every bit as shocking as 9-11 was in its time, from my perspective. The terrorist attacks on our country were things that libertarians had seen coming. The US was breeding terrorists with every foreign intervention. This belief was part of the libertarian ideology, a piece of it that just happened to be true. What wasn’t on the horizon, wasn’t even in the calculations, was armed uprisings targeting our own people. The Sandy Hook massacre opened my eyes to the dangers of the killing machines in our midst, and the other horrible mass shooting events that seemed to occur far more frequently than they ever had before. Seven years ago, when Sandy Hook happened, we could go a couple of weeks before another shocking incident occurred. Over the first August weekend of this year we had two on the same day, and those were just the ones the media were willing to talk about. Incessantly talk about.

One wonders that, if the images of those dead children and their teachers had been plastered all over the internet, would that have altered the trajectory of armaphiles in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting? Would they have been less inclined to pretend that the attack was a false flag operation? If the pictures of the aftermath of mass killings were things that you could find easily, would these people who are sexually aroused by holding a killing machine have decided not to take the course they took? Would their masculinity shrivel? We’ll never know now.

We’ll never know because that wasn’t what happened. With Alex Jones, the pied piper of conspiracy fantasies leading the way, the armaphiles subscribed in droves to the truly insane idea that anyone would pretend to kill or actually kill hundreds and thousands of people just to have a pretense of making them give up their fetish paraphernalia. This image is just one of dozens I’ve seen over the years asking the question “Why do they care now? It’s because they want our guns!” In the midst of the Sandy Hook denialism, denialism that has only recently been stymied by successful litigation, I got caught up in a few different conversations about firearms and the purpose of having them. Conspiracy Cults; Getting What’s Coming to Them? was one of them. ZAP Doesn’t Include Firearms and Killer Pets was another. Both of those occurred after the date stamp on the messenger message that Steve Kubby was replying to, so maybe not. The only thing that corresponds to that period in time was the image (above) of the pyre that the Branch Davidians made of their compound in Waco, and contrasting that tragedy with the slaughter at an elementary school.

As I said in the message Mr. Kubby responded to today, responded to seven years after he blocked me and I subsequently wrote it,

Good. Less crap on my daily feed. As if truthers will ever have as much credibility as the just as clueless JFK conspiracy theorists. As if libertarianism hasn’t already seen it’s zenith in political relevancy (it has, by the way) and is determined to find the bottom of the political barrel as quickly as possible.

…to be unfriended by someone who goes to Nazi imagery at word go when it comes to discussions of weapons in the US. I think that’s a compliment. Stick to subjects like drug legalization, Mr. Kubby. It’s something you can at least speak knowledgeably about. That’s why I friended you, not your crazy ideas about other subjects, that much is certain. You were asking for support back then. No good deed ever goes unpunished, indeed.

Facebook Messenger message, 12/24/12, 1:24 AM

Today he responds with the infamous, inscrutable Facebook thumbs up. I have no idea what that means, especially seven years later. He’s changed his mind? He agrees with me? He’s flipping me off? (what the hand sign means in several countries) He agrees that we both have better things to do? In looking through the blog trying to figure out if I’ve written about this before, in the intervening seven years, I realize I’ve never touched on the story of the Branch Davidians and their immolation in the presence of federal officers intent on arresting David Koresh in Waco, Texas. Well, that was a good bit more than seven years ago. That predates the time when I started writing the blog, even.

If I tried telling that story it would take us way back. Back to the days when Al Gore was inventing the internet. Back to the days when Bill Clinton was the president, a conservative Democrat that couldn’t convince the Republicans of his time that he really was their buddy and they should work with him. He even passed the proverbial law and order legislation in his attempts to meet them halfway. Legislation that has helped lead to the highest levels of criminal incarceration in human history. All to no avail. Conservatives and Republicans still hate him to this day, even though he is demonstrably one of them. But I digress.

It would also take us all back to the days before science became political. Al Gore didn’t only invent the internet back in the 1990’s. According to conservatives he also invented global warming. I remember those days clearly. The outrage over the immolation of children shown to us on our TV sets was fresh. The fear of government overreach so graphically on display in those images. Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban that had every conservative convinced he was coming after their guns. The merest suggestion by scientists and science communicators that we might have to stop burning gasoline while sitting in line at a drive through window to get hamburgers. Every. Single. Day. The unfathomable belief that carbon dioxide could kill us. The belief that the ancient ice that covered the poles of our planet might melt and that the seas might rise. It all sounded… Apocalyptic.

Telling that story would take us back to the days when I believed a lot of that kind of conservative bullshit. Bullshit that was spread by word of mouth because there was no internet, no access to facts and research without hours, days and months of sweating through volumes of information in a library. It would take us back to the days when I first heard the ideas that would lead a shooter to travel ten hours across Texas in order to “shoot Mexicans” in El Paso.

Back then, these weren’t the kinds of things that believers talked openly about, except among friends that agreed with them. You certainly didn’t allow yourself to be caught subscribing to them after killing more than a dozen people. Killing more than a dozen people and not even being embarrassed about the bullshit that lead you to do it.

The truncated Branch Davidian narrative was just one of the stops along the route for these deadly ideals. Sovereign ideals. The route from white supremacist, christianist writings back in the seventies to Ruby Ridge and then on to the Waco siege. From there they traveled onward to the Murrah building in OKC and onward still to the Bundy ranch and the Malheur standoff fiasco that should have been put down and it’s perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Tax cheats and fraudsters have roamed free spreading their ideas far and wide for decades now, their wrong-headed beliefs largely unchecked and most likely uncorrectable aside from warning the uninitiated away from subscribing to them.

The concept of a sovereign citizen originated in 1971 in the Posse Comitatus movement as a teaching of Christian Identity minister William P. Gale. The concept has influenced the tax protester movement, the Christian Patriot movement, and the redemption movement—the last of which claims that the U.S. government uses its citizens as collateral against foreign debt.

Gale identified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as the act that converted sovereign citizens into federal citizens by their agreement to a contract to accept benefits from the federal government. Other commentators have identified other acts, including the Uniform Commercial Code, the Emergency Banking Act, the Zone Improvement Plan, and the alleged suppression of the Titles of Nobility Amendment.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For my part, I could never track down the facts behind what sovereign citizens believe, even though I spent several years off and on dedicated to the idea that there had to be some basis for the beliefs that my friends of the time clearly subscribed to. I wrote one article for the blog on the subject back in 2014 titled Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version a sort of tongue-in-cheek salute to my disillusionment with idealists in general and the whole notion of sovereignty in particular. As I said there,

The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, whether you will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.

Whether or not anyone other than a king can rightfully claim sovereignty as the term is defined is beside the point. The fact remains that all of these events, knowingly or not, were in some part inspired by the sovereign citizens movement and their ideas. They were inspired by these ideas because those ideas flow freely in the counterculture that is represented in the simple phrase bucking the system. That’s where you go when working within existing political structures represents surrender on your part. The counterculture. Being part of the counterculture, a scofflaw, puts you on the fringe, and the fringe is were ideas like those represented by the sovereign citizen movement reside.

…and those ideas have been widely adopted by disparate peoples, many of whom would be appalled to discover the white supremacist roots of the ideas behind sovereignty. There is no doubt that Gale and the group he was part of were white supremacists. These are established facts. What is in question is whether any of the hundreds if not thousands of flavors of the sovereign citizens movement still promote the white supremacist heart of the ideals, or if they simply subscribe to the popular notion that other people’s rules don’t apply to them.

Cliven Bundy is a racist. That much is certain. His sons and their co-conspirators subscribed to the sovereign citizens ideals, they voiced concepts related to them more times than I care to count. It is entirely possible that David Koresh had no idea where his beliefs came from. None of the things that I’ve heard about the man suggest that he was capable of introspection, of questioning his own motivations to do this or that thing. So he may never have questioned why the rules of others should not apply to him; he may simply have accepted the arguments presented to him by the manipulators and con artists that seem to run rife out on the fringe of political belief. When you are profiting from the sale of weapons at gun shows while at the same time selling off the assets of your religious sect to support your and their lifestyles, all the while having sex with all of the women housed on the sect’s property, you tend to not study your relationship to the truth too carefully.

However, the government didn’t kill those children in Waco, as tempting as it is to believe the imagery of that day as I remember it, as conservatives and sovereigns remember it. The followers of Koresh being caught up in a suicidal belief system predicated on the looming end of the world lead more to their demise than any action that the US government did undertake, or even could have undertaken, in the best of circumstances,

The tactical arm of federal law enforcement may conventionally think of the other side as a band of criminals or as a military force or, generically, as the aggressor. But the Branch Davidians were an unconventional group in an exalted, disturbed, and desperate state of mind. They were devoted to David Koresh as the Lamb of God. They were willing to die defending themselves in an apocalyptic ending and, in the alternative, to kill themselves and their children. However, these were neither psychiatrically depressed, suicidal people nor cold-blooded killers. They were ready to risk death as a test of their faith. The psychology of such behavior—together with its religious significance for the Branch Davidians—was mistakenly evaluated, if not simply ignored, by those responsible for the FBI strategy of “tightening the noose”. The overwhelming show of force was not working in the way the tacticians supposed. It did not provoke the Branch Davidians to surrender, but it may have provoked David Koresh to order the mass-suicide.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The ultimate cause of the demise of the Branch Davidians in Waco was not a problem of gun control, the point of drawing a parallel between Sandy Hook and Waco. Most of the Branch Davidians died from causes related to the burning of CS gas, namely cyanide poisoning. The ATF did overstep their authority in this instance, they should have listened to the local police enforcement and allowed them to arrest Koresh the next time he came into town. But the federal government’s missteps did not directly cause these peoples deaths. Their being part of a death cult caused their deaths. If you are hoping and praying for armageddon, you too are part of a death cult.

If anything, the gun show loophole that sovereigns and scofflaws rely on to get their weaponry lead directly to the massacre. It was the purchases of weapons for resale at gun shows that put the FBI on Koresh’s trail in the first place. Had there been proper regulations for weapons of mass destruction like semi-automatic weapons are, there would have been no lucrative arms business for David Koresh to engage in, and he would never have gotten on the FBI’s radar in the first place. At least, not until the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints showed up on government radar, and even then it would have been to quietly arrest the leaders and then liberate the people held in ignorance of their own rights.

The two events, the Sandy Hook massacre and the Waco siege, are not related. They are apples and oranges except for one tangential fact. The US as a whole has adopted a siege mentality in the years following Waco. Like the Branch Davidians did right before their self immolation, we see enemies all around us and we know the doom of our way of life is on the horizon. We are all caught up in a death cult. All of us, and most of us are in denial about this fact.

What cult, you ask? The cult of economic growth.

As I sit here finishing this article, the Amazonian rain forests are on fire. They were purposefully set on fire by people who hope to profit from farming and mining on that land. One of the last reserves of rare flora and fauna, as well as one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, is being destroyed in the name of profit. But it isn’t just the Amazon that’s on fire. The tundra in Canada, Russia and Alaska, tundra across the entire arctic circle, is melting and in places it too is on fire. We’ve had glaciers that have gone extinct in our lifetimes. Glaciers that supplied drinking water to thousands that essentially don’t exist anymore. The mythical Northwest Passage that explorers searched for in vain is no longer a myth. There is ship traffic now passing Canadian coastline that was covered in permafrost even during our lifetimes. The planet is warming and the evidence is all around us. The evidence is all around us, and still we make the problem worse.

We are poisoning the biosphere that keeps us all alive and pretending that the impending doom of our civilization is not something to worry about. Sea levels are rising, coastal cities are flooding in ways that we’ve never experienced before. All of this was predicted by the models that climate scientists have constructed, but conservatives and evangelicals refuse to believe. What they instead say is “god will provide” never understanding that what he will provide is death, just as he provided death to the Branch Davidians. He provided the death, the release from their burdens, that they prayed for. That is what omnipotence means. If it happens, he does it.

As nature itself turns against us, we live more in terror of being caught up in the next mass killing than we worry about the impending end of our civilization. The terror? That is by design. It is not the design of the government that wants your guns, but by the design of the white nationalist, sovereign, christianist, terrorists in our midst. The people who run the NRA. Young earthers. Evangelicals. The people who back Donald Trump, the Orange Hate-Monkey, his precious #MAGA, the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. All of them. They want their armageddon. They want to meet Jesus, and they want to do it while they still have truck-nuts on their diesel SUV’s and an AR-15 in each hand. They want this disaster to continue to unfold exactly as it has been spelled out. They’d rather be dead than be wrong about everything.

Death is coming for them. Death is coming for all of us even if we do change our ways. But if we change our ways our children might have a world to live in rather than to have to die with us. If we embrace renewable energy like any sane person should, we can get over this looming catastrophe and possibly avert the apocalypse.

This has to be stopped. Their campaign of terror has to end, and we the people, the citizenry of the United States have to stop it. We are the only ones who can. If they require us to disarm them in order to get started on the real work at hand, reversing climate change, removing ourselves from the death cult of unquestionable economic growth, then that is what we will have to do. I would prefer that they could be made to see reason, but I am increasingly pessimistic that they will admit to their error before most of the currently living are already dead, and we cannot afford to wait that long.

We cared about the dead children in Waco, but we were powerless to stop them from being killed. We cared about the dead children in Sandy Hook, and we were stopped from preventing the next hundred, the next thousand mass shootings from occurring by people too stupid to know they were part of a death cult. We care about the dying biosphere all around us, and we are similarly being thwarted by these same stupid people who want desperately for their god to prove them right.

Those people? They are insane. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is insane to kill yourself when there is no need. When no sacrifice is needed. When suffering amounts to having to walk rather than drive. Cook rather than eat out. Not have the firepower on hand to take down an army single handed, just because you want to have it. They are insane, and we should not be listening to them when it comes to determining our, and our children’s, future.

Featured image Rollingstone: Flashback – Waco Cult Showdown Ends in Disaster. I found the original conversation with Steve Kubby that occured on my Facebook wall since I wrote this article. This is a completely different story than that was, so I will just link that story in this editor’s note. A mental note to myself, if to no one else, that I found the other half of this conversation. Whew. That’s a load off my mind.

Grand Conspiratorial Fantasies

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s Razor

The image at right was culled from a friend’s Facebook wall a few years back. The image serves as an introduction, the proverbial rabbit-hole, a building 7 to 9/11 truthers, a lead-in to draw you deeper into this post dedicated to critical thinking. Humor me, dear reader. I’m going somewhere with this.

You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn’t recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the  text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable. This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.

I have no problem with the image. I probably don’t have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren’t theories.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.

Grand conspiracies aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn’t like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.

Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than it does about anyone else.

I’ve argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign myself to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study to see if I could head off the impending disaster,

Rebecca Watson May 18, 2015, No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated their heads was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are detectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

After I rebutted the chemtrails argument the conversation with that Facebook friend I mentioned proceeded to spiral down the proverbial rabbit hole, morphing into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn’t want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at a time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That’s really all there is to it.  Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn’t a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn’t keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA’s spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.

After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I’m left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?

However this willful blindness to the state of US politics on the part of the people whom the government supposedly represents does have a cost. It is not all fun and games as we pretend that lizards run our country or that we narrowly missed being governed by a pedophile in the last election. Conspiracies do exist, yes. And when they are represented in plots hatched by a foreign government, especially on that speaks a different language and is on shaky ties with the US to start with, they can be quite large and even link to the leadership of that government, and still take years for us to catch wind of it.

It turns out that the Jade Helm 15 fantasy that took the nation by storm during the Obama administration came from somewhere, and that somewhere wasn’t inside the United States. It was created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord.

If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don’t understand how your government works – but then again that’s not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn’t understand how the very government he is part of works either.

Stonekettle Station, Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas

So the answer was yes. Yes Russia could and did interfere with our politics; and they continued to do it from that point straight on through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) as president.

TEXAS STANDARD|May 4, 2018|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’”

Texas Tribune, Hysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

Does this mean that the OHM is a Russian stooge? No. No it doesn’t. Why? Because those links are tenuous and unproven. Likely unprovable. He is a money launderer and a client for Russian oligarchs, but he isn’t an invisible bomb-throwing ninja of the scale necessary to pull off that kind of spy intrigue. He’s just another conman who was used in a con that targeted the American people. The sooner we figure that out and get him out of office, the better everything will be.

However, he is one of the people who believed the Jade Helm story at the time. Just like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just like Ted Cruz. This is the cost of believing these conspiratorial fairytales. The cost being that these people have been shown to be unfit for office. They are far too gullible to be trusted with handling the daily business of our government. Unfortunately for the average American, they’re still caught up in so many other conspiratorial fantasies that they probably haven’t noticed that their leaders have been shown to be just as clueless as they are.

A previous version of this was originally posted here.

Insult Added to Injury

From the October 24th New York Times story;

After 21 years in the military, three deployments, and a roadside bomb blast that left him bleeding and unconscious, Christopher Van Meter got a letter from the Pentagon saying he improperly received enlistment bonuses and now owed the government $46,000. 

“I was having to choose between buying diapers and food for my children and paying this debt,” said Mr. Van Meter, 42, a former Army captain who now teaches high school near Modesto, Calif. “I spent years of my life deployed, missed out on birthdays and deaths in the family, got blown up. It’s hard to hear after that that they say I haven’t fulfilled my contract.” 

Mr. Van Meter is one of nearly 10,000 National Guard troops in California who have been ordered to repay re-enlistment bonuses and other incentives doled out during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after an audit in 2011 uncovered widespread fraud, mismanagement and overpayment by the Guard in the state.

I had heard of this story before I read it on StonekettleStation, but I don’t think I’d given it that much thought. Not nearly as much thought as Jim Wright did. That is understandable, I don’t have any skin in the game. Maybe I should have; but the truth is I don’t, and the truth hurts.

Perhaps, they say, they’ll, maybe, address the issue during their lame duck session AFTER the election, or perhaps not — I suppose it depends on who wins and whatever bullshit reason they come up with for continuing NOT to do their goddamned jobs this time.

And while this goes on, 10,000 (and more) soldiers who served this country, who put their very lives on the line, who were enticed into a war started by a lie with yet more lies, pay the price as they always do.

Here’s what needs to happen: The President and State Governors, the executives one and all, must immediately issue executive orders halting the collection of such debts — not waive the debt, the executive can’t do that, only Congress can change the law. But the executives CAN chose not to enforce the law exactly as they accuse the President of doing and EXACTLY as they threaten to do if Obama comes for their guns and marriage via legislation.

This is an election year, and this is the way that the House of Representatives thinks they can treat our veterans? When WE THE PEOPLE are about to go vote for every one of their jobs? After they’ve let every scumbag on Wall Street go? After they’ve failed to prosecute ANYONE from the Bush administration for the many (MANY) transgressions that his administration is guilty of? This is the kind of thing they think we’ll just let go without noticing?

I think we can address this situation directly.

Dear Representative Williams. (Find your representative here) Do you job. Alter the law so that these collection efforts cease and the criminals who ran this con are brought to justice. Do your job or we will replace you with someone who will do your job.

Dear Governor Greg Abbott, please act now to stop any debt collection in our state until the federal congress can be compelled to do their job. Please, Governor Abbott, do your job.

Dear President Obama, when Congress and my Governor fail to do their jobs (and they will) please do your job. Stop this debt collection now.


This came across my desktop today;

The Obama administration has ordered the Pentagon to immediately cease demanding the repayment of enlistment bonuses from some 10,000 National Guardsmen who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service argued that the soldiers were not qualified to receive the money or that accounting errors had resulted in improper payments, despite many of them having served multiple tours.

However, this isn’t over.  Not by a long shot.  The only way that these debts are vacated is if congress acts to change the language in the law so that the debts can be forgiven.  That means Congress still has to act.  So ask your congressman when you see him on the campaign trail will you protect our veterans, or are you like all those others in Washington D.C.? Do you only remember that you represent us when you need our votes? It is not likely, but it is possible we can sort the wheat from the Chaffetz and get only the best people re-elected to represent us.

Partnership by Any Other Name

Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.

On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him.  But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. I’m trying to stick to the legality of the issue at hand here.


It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial, that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex.  Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.

I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don’t see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.

I know, I know, I’m a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I’ve heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?

The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually.  I know that I wouldn’t have to make that deal with a business partner.  But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them.  This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.

Most people don’t even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We’ve discussed so many different scenarios that I’d be hard pressed to name an event we haven’t discussed and what her wishes would be.  Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy.  Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years.   The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.

That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.

Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction.  That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.

I’d like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.

The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they’re making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.

As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I’ll leave that to Stonekettle.  He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could.

You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from. 

Stonekettle Station

The NYT article that debunks the 50% divorce rate myth (yes, it is a myth) has a lot of good information in it on the subject of marriage and divorce.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist

 Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.

It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70’s persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.

Fewer people marry these days.  That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce.  Can’t get divorced if you never marry.

The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.

The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement.  She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I’m sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal.  Their rejection of this observation doesn’t actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor’s benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them.  Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970’s.  That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.

When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn’t even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial.  If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.


The SCOTUS did render the correct decision and not force the people at large to add marriage equality to the long list of changes we’re going to have to make when the Constitutional Convention is called to reverse Citizens United.  It would have been nice if the court had made its decision based on the unconstitutional sexual discrimination which all the objections to same-sex marriage exhibit, as discussed in this article on Salon;

The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.

But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.

No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week.  We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place.  Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.

One way to get that might be to hold certain attorneys feet to the fire.  Attorneys like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz who have violated the ethical rules for their profession;

The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.

Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz’s behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.

Wendy Davis

13 Hours to Midnight: The Wendy Davis abortion filibuster, 5 years later June 25, 2018

This entry is a placeholder. A place for me to collect my random thoughts over the course of the months that followed our introduction to Wendy Davis. And when I say our I mean Texas and me, because I’m reasonably certain that most Texans had never met a woman like her before. I will be adding things that I wrote on Facebook at the time About Wendy Davis. Hopefully there will be enough to make this entry look less miniscule. From the time that she first emerged on the scene as a woman willing to stand up to Texas Christianists, to the failed campaign for governor, this article will weigh in. I hope. I know I had thoughts at the time. I talked about her incessantly to the children and the wife, they can vouch for that. I will collect those thoughts here as I stumble across them wherever I left them.

She would have been a better governor tha Abbott has proven to be, without a doubt. The publication date marked the beginning. The day she took to the floor and brought progress on this misogynistic bill to a stop.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.


Texas Tribune

I find it mildly amusing that Republican leaders can’t get enough government interference when the activity is something they don’t like; activity like women choosing to not have children, or democratic candidates who have too much money. In those cases, there just can’t be enough government interference.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.


Texas Tribune

News of Abbott’s appearance with Nugent, a Republican, generated a flurry of news stories and thousands of tweets — many of them referring to the entertainer’s smash talk and controversial past. State Democratic Party leaders criticized Abbott for campaigning with Nugent. Several of them are hosted a teleconference Tuesday prior to the campaign event to condemn Abbott and call on him to cancel the appearances, and Sen. Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, said in a statement that “Greg Abbott’s embrace of Ted Nugent is an insult to every Texan — every man, woman, husband and father.”

SBOE Approves Bible Course Guidelines

Gotta love this. The Leg, not satisfied with simply raping the Texas State pledge and making the students say god during newly mandatory daily pledge recitations (god twice, if you count the mandatory federal pledge recitations. Could be even three times if you choose to pray during your mandatory moment of silence. I don’t like pledging, in case you hadn’t heard) has also decided that Texas students need more indoctrination into the already pervasive christian religion; so they have passed a law that all but mandates bible school classes be offered in Texas public high schools.

…And the SBOE, run by ID supporter Don McLeroy has dutifully passed guidelines, clearing the way for these courses to be taught.

Board members approved the new class, which will be in some high schools this fall, even though officials are awaiting an opinion from the attorney general on whether the state law authorizing the course requires all school districts to offer it.

The board adopted general guidelines for the course on a 10-5 vote, disregarding the advice of several members of the House Public Education Committee who urged approval of more specific requirements to head off the possibility of constitutional violations and lawsuits.

“It’s better for us to go ahead and do something now,” said board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. “We have met the requirements of the legislation. We don’t want to stifle what they [school districts] are doing in classrooms.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott has told the board that although the state standards for the Bible class appear to be in compliance with the First Amendment, his office can’t guarantee that the courses taught in high schools will be constitutional because they haven’t been reviewed.

Critics contend that the standards – based on old guidelines for independent studies in English and social studies – are so vague and general that many schools might unknowingly create unconstitutional Bible classes that either promote the religious views of teachers or disparage the religious beliefs of some students.

Earlier this year, the Ector County school board agreed to quit using a Bible course curriculum at two high schools in Odessa that the American Civil Liberties Union said promoted Protestant religious beliefs not shared by Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and many Protestants.

However, state board members supporting the Bible course rule adopted Friday said such lawsuits are rare and should not be a problem for most school districts.

Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who voted against the proposal, said teachers of the course would be given far less direction from the state than they receive in most other subjects.

“We need to do more work on this instead of jumping off into the abyss,” she said.

The course is supposed to be geared to academic, nondevotional study of the Bible, and cover such things as the influence of the New Testament on law, literature, history and culture.

Dallas News

So, we in Texas can look forward to turning out students who erroneously think that murder is illegal because the Ten Commandments say you shouldn’t do it. How long before they start teaching a nondevotional course on the Qur’an or the Talmud? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

For me, the solution is simple. Take the Bible Class Challenge.

aajoeyjoThe Texas Bible Class Challenge – Jul 18, 2008

If the schools know that they are going to face hostile students in these classes, very few of them will want to offer them in the first place. If the schools offer the classes, and don’t respect the contrary opinions, they can be shut down through lawsuits. It’s an expense we the taxpayers should not have to face, but then we elected these idiots to do this to us, apparently.

Jane Fonda & The Seven Deadly Words; Texas ban struck down

I’ve had this post in the draft queue since the day (Feb. 14th) Jane said cunt on network television. Maybe I just wanted to be able to type the word cunt (more than once) and not have the wife throw bricks at me. Or maybe I just have my suspicions about why her slip of the tongue (rimshot here, please) still goes unpunished.

True, the word cunt is only the horrendous insult that English speaking American women think it is, in America. Everywhere else, it doesn’t even strictly apply to women. In Britain it could just be the stupid guy next to you.

Strictly speaking, it’s just a low brow word for the female genitalia. But it does rate the list of deadly words on the FCC list. The seven deadly words that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe even bring us, God help us, peace without honor; um, and a bourbon. George Carlin at his best.

The reason Jane’s language malfunction is going unpunished, the only reason that makes sense, is that the FCC knows that they will not win this battle; no matter what they say, they will be made to look like the paternalistic jerks that they are. Jane was on with the author of The Vagina Monologues, and I wouldn’t put it past the two of them to have cooked this up (much like Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction was completely staged) as a publicity stunt to do exactly what Jane Fonda’s apology says she wants to do; change the way that the word is perceived by the average American.

Good luck with that.

An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.

Aldous Huxley

Speaking of paternalistic jerks getting what’s coming to them (rimshot again, please) the Texas legislature and the court system have been told that they need to stay out of bedrooms and stop trying to count or control who purchases and uses sexual aids in the state.

On Feb. 13, sex-toy retailers in Texas rejoiced when a federal appeals court ruled—just in time for Valentine’s Day—that a Texas prohibition against the sale of dildos and pocket pussies violated the 14th Amendment.

According to the Texas (ahem) penal code, it is forbidden to sell or to advertise an artificial penis or vagina “primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” The statute makes an exception for instances in which the purchase meets a “medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement” need. Even so, in Reliable Consultants v. Ronnie Earle, the normally conservative5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban on the grounds that it violated the right of ordinary citizens “to engage in private intimate conduct in the home without government intrusion.”

One of only four states banning sexual doodads (the other three are Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama), Texas is not about to take this insult lying down. Last week, state Attorney General Greg Abbott petitioned the appellate court to reconsider the matter

Slate

Sexual aids. Really, it’s a dildo law, I might as well say dildo just as blatantly as I said cunt a few minutes ago (third time, I better start looking over my shoulder) Texas’ dildo law has been overturned. Women can finally ask for and purchase a dildo by name without running the risk of being punished for it. Salesmen can now market a device for it’s real use, rather than having to resort to euphemisms about glow and vitality, without having to face fines and/or jail time.

After all, it was only 1952 when Hysteria was taken off the list of medically treatable diseases. Don’t know what Hysteria is? Then you probably need to read The Technology of Orgasm by Rachel Maines. Doctors treated their patients with “pelvic massages” to produce “hysterical paroxysm” as a cure for the disease. Vibrators were invented in the 1880’s to assist them with this treatment.

I guess, like all medicine, it’s only bad when you start treating the problem yourself…