17 November 2015

aliens among us

From the Gospel of Mathew Chapter 25
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Jesus as quoted by Mathew and found in the Authorized Version. Biblegateway
The governors of among other States, Texas and Illinois, have decided that their States (the idiots think they own them) won't be assisting in the resettling of incoming refugees from Syria. I mention Texas because that State's first bigot has been supported bt a legislator because an embedded terrorist could benefit from Texas' lax gun laws. The idea of changing those laws did not seem to occur.

Here in Illinois we are cursed with a first bigot, but at least most of our legislators have IQ's higher than their shoe size. I suppose I should be grateful. I shall work on it.

Jesus taught us to take care of the stranger, you know like the Syriac Christians persecuted by ISIL. Or the Iraqi woman fleeing the mess we helped make of her country. To date, since 911, something around 700,000 thousand refugees have found their way here. Yes, our standards are high and we do not admit everyone. In those 700,000 there has not been one arrested terrorist. But the State's chief bigots know that Mr. Obama is black, so they assume he will let Syrians in without the background checks and other security tests now in use. Given the governors' stupidity, one wonders why refuges want to come here.

So what can you or I do? We can start by treating Rohner as the irrelevant fool he portrays, and start looking for a real governor. I will donate the website and support for a Draft Jesse White campaign. And we can vote in this general election. Every Democrat we elect is a step closer to ousting the bigots. And with a copy of Mathew 25 handy, we can ask the pseudo-Christians in government, WWJD?

07 November 2015


The inevitability of the election cycle makes its length look ever more foolish. The damage done to the Republicans by the Citizens United case is looking more and more like a mortal wound. Life and politics in America move on, alas.
This week, Fox Business Chanel, a subsidiary of Fox News, used its ability to decide, completely on its own, what,  "national poll" means and which polls might be useful, to effectively gerrymander the next Republican debate. They chose a poll, recently named the worst in America for its consistent failure to reach reasonable conclusions, as one of the four used to determine which eight candidates will be invited onto the main stage, which two will be dropped to the secondary debate, and which two to eliminate entirely.
In the process:
  • Senator Graham, the only candidate who is a veteran, was dropped, right before Veteran's Day
  • Governor Christie, who is surging in New Hampshire, where the first actual primary is conducted, is relegated to second tier status. Of course, this has nothing to do with his relatively moderate politics which conflict with the Fox Tea Party lunatic view.
  • Former Governor Huckabee was also relegated to the lower level stage. Letting the "religious right" know this early that they have no chance, while true, is bad timing.

One who knows me might well ask why I notice, let alone care. I want to vote for Joe Biden, will vote for either Senator Sanders, or Secretary Clinton, and would not consider the current crop of Republicans. So if the administration of the debate makes the party look stupid, it does, if the party's sense of timing (really a vet right before Veteran's Day?) is amazingly awkward, it is, and if the spectacle of over a dozen candidates destroys the early conversations a party needs to define itself permitting its opponents to define it, yes it does, what is my progressive, Democrat beef?
I actually favor something a Republican called, democracy. Mr. Lincoln seems to have favored the idea, even if neither Dr. Carson nor Gov. Huckabee thinks it a good idea. I also can see the corrosion of too much uncontrolled money flowing into the entire process. I also remember fondly a time when "conservative democrat" and "liberal republican" were not oxymorons. What is happening to the Republicans matters because the entire country needs viable parties that do not engage in anti-intellectualism, fantasy science (Joseph built the pyramids as granaries?) and outright intellectual fraud (Republicans in Florida solved climate issues by forbidding the use of the terms "global warming" and "climate change" in State documents. Problem solved!
There is still time for the GOP's leaders to pull the plug on the next few debates and engage the League of Women Voters or someone else to moderate 2 or 3 more, open dates. I bet they won't. This is all rather sad.

28 October 2015


Polling data can be a bit hard to read out of context. This poll, in its entirety can be read on the web page cited below the quotation. I assure the reader, this is the entire question and its responses. I did reformat slightly for this blog.

Would you support or oppose making Christianity the official religion of the United States?
  • 32% Support making Christianity our country’s official religion
  • 53% Oppose making Christianity our country’s official religion .
  • Not sure 14%
Source: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/ReligionPollingResults.pdf

The article in which I found a reference to this poll noted another in which 75% of respondents favoured removing the First Amendment from the Bill of Rights. Three quarters(!) of the respondents! That is an amazing number. This is what they want to eliminate!

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This amendment:
  • is what stops the USA from establishing a national church;
  • underlies conservative recent legislation affirming various "religious rights;"
  • guarantees free uncensored press, blogs, facebook posts, and yes, tweets, for us all;
  • permits us to form political parties.
That last item should be important to conservatives. If the Republican party achieves the self-immolation it seems so determined to reach, they may need it.

In short, it is a lot of what makes us different. If you want to see how the First Amendment matters, consider this one insidious sentence in the constitution of the former USSR, "The Communist part shall be the only political party." That did not work out well, except for the dictators.

If these tea party people, the 75%, win elections, and they have been doing disturbingly well, this country could actually become a theocracy. You should note that "theocracy" is a synonym for, "dictatorship."

Giving up freedom is never a good idea. That way lies danger.

22 October 2015

Guns, and Mental Health

“The aftermath of a mass shooting might actually be the worst time to talk about mental health, because for the record, the vast majority of mentally ill people are nonviolent, and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally ill people,” Oliver said. “In fact, mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators, so the fact that we tend to only discuss mental health in a mass shooting context is deeply misleading.”
John Oliver on "Last Week" 10/4/2015

This little piece of logic is something the far right needs to read. Over and over again, those who want to somehow sanitize guns blame mental health. It is not merely a cop out, it is amazingly cynical as these same dopes want to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, and defund Public Health. So they use "mental health" as a target, they do not propose to fix any of the many, many flaws in our (you should pardon the words) mental health system.

In a rational world, we might notice that the number of stabbings in countries like Canada in no way represents the same level of killing as the per capita shootings just South of the border. Guns change the equation in a number of ways. They are not nearly as up close and personal as knives, and they can be operated by any idiot. Stabbing requires at least some understanding of anatomy, some strength, and an ability to overcome a victim. None of those is required for a side arm at 25 or 30 feet.

But while we are being rational, we should notice that those with diagnosed mental illnesses are actually LESS violent than those we (perhaps optimistically) call normal. Denying guns to mentally ill people solves exactly nothing.

So, should there be a national version of Illinois' FOID? Yes. Do I care if that triggers someone's paranoia? No. "Background check" should not mean that any contact with mental health professionals is a disqualifier. I think some sort of shield law permitting professionals to comment on their perception of the control issues of patients is needed. Should at least some former prisoners who have passed an investigation and have stayed out of trouble be eligible? I think so. But these are political issues and we should have an honest political discussion about them.

I think a national Firearms Owner's Identity card should be electronically linked so that a seller can check it. That would allow for restrictions for instance on .50 ammo, or 17 round magazines, requiring permits and safety classes. Again, how much restriction is a subject for political discussions. Shouting, "Second Amendment" is not. Shouting about mass shootings, also is not.

20 September 2015

Musing on Domesticity

It really does not matter very much what should be the highest priority, when any group of campers gets to a campsite, you can be fairly sure that the first thing they will turn to is setting up the tents and sleeping gear. The exception is a military unit in a hostile countryside mode. For the soldiers, establishing the perimeter, and setting guards comes first. When horses moved fighters, second was the rub down and feeding of those partners in war.

But today, when campers are likely to be Scout units or tourists, tents and sleeping gear are just naturally the first things. We humans may not be birds, but we like our nests. Kitchen gear, fires, grills, and the like are often second.

This is true, even when the logical choices might be different. Arrive at a campsite near dusk, and a search for fuel, or bear-resistant food storage locations might make more sense, (Nothing is bear-proof.) Canoe or raft to a site, and securing the boats might be more important. But up come the tents.

This afternoon there were probably six things more urgent than hanging lace curtains over the door to our parking area. Except, I finally had assembled the needed tools (trivial unless you had to get them from boxes packed in indecent haste as the foreclosure date drew near) and I knew where the drapes and rods were. So, finally, months after the move, we have some privacy. Our new neighbors are not snoops, we have been behind in some of our domestic chores.

I feel a perhaps undeserved sense of achievement. I know my sons think we should be farther along in our nesting activities. We still have dozens of boxes, some to be unloaded into furniture standing empty awaiting our glass and china, others probably headed to either Goodwill Industries or a dumpster. No one would accuse of us of being settled.

But the basics are largely done. I can more or less cook, even if we cannot afford much in the way of groceries. I recently located my hiking boots, important when the snow comes. We negotiated an improved parking space, no small thing with my spinal issues and Sue's ankles facing a Chicago Winter. I think I actually know where a good deal of that glass and china is going.

So, for someone pushing 70 with a bad back, a damaged heart, and a family of critics, I am think Sue and I can feel something like well done this evening. Now all I have to do is figure out dinner!

Update: Dinner was late, but actually rather good too.

15 September 2015

Tests, and Paths

David Weber, one of the most readable science fiction writers I have discovered in a long, long time, posits a planet, "Greyson" where the dominant religion believes in something he calls, "the test of life." The idea being that all of our lives are in some way faced wth divinely sent tests of our ability to use our gifts, and express our faith.

There are some interesting issues there if we treat the proposition seriously. And I think that worth doing.

From the viewpoint of a traditional Christian, the first problem is that we do not earn our way. Life itself, and redemption of both our world and ourselves is a free gift from God.

But then we have to ask what we are doing here? God could simply announce the free gift and take us all wherever that takes us. He does not seem to do that: so be it for our benefit, creation's redemption, our refining, here we are. Facing trials and tribulations as the hymnists have it. In short facing for ourselves, not for God, a test.

While I am not an expert, but to the extent I know at least, several of other major religions could accommodate the idea of a test too. The idea is not all that odd, albeit Christians are not perhaps, used to the terminology.

If indeed we are facing a test, not because God needs to know us, but perhaps because we need to know ourselves, not because God needs us refined, but because God gives us the opportunity to become refined, improved, or perhaps, the best we can achieve; we should perhaps take stock. On a clear, calm, cool September night, I face this question: am I, answering my test? Are you?

I cannot speak for myself, so I certainly won't try to speak for my (few) readers. I hope I am facing my test confident in God's eventual aproval, or at least something like, "good try." One thing about being nearly 70, is I know that conversation is not all that far ahead.

g I do think the question worth facing. I hope you are confident you are facing your trials and tribulations as well as God wants.

Note: I have never met Mr. Weber, and I am mentioning his fictitious religion merely as a way to set the frame. It is entirely possible that I have miss-stated the concepts in his fiction, and if I have I apologize to both him and you. I do highly recommend his books. Here is a link to his site Again, I am a mere fan, not an expert!

30 August 2015

customer service and truth

OK, confession first. Sue-z and I are broke. We have been so short, I had to deliberately choose to not fill some prescriptionslast month, and without the food pantries and pastoral support from our faith communities, we would have run out of food. We did almost run out

We are better off now, albeit not much. It is our expectation that shortly, with a bit of good fortune, we will be more nearly financially functional. So, yes we have been having issues.

One of our creditors is ComCast. Comcast has an effective monopoly in our apartment complex. Yes I know that is illegal, we should be able to get Direct TV, or AT&T, but for on reason or another, they simply are not available.

So, when we moved in, we got the minimum tv and internet packages. Even that, when I could not pay for insulin, was too much. Yes I owe them some money. And I will be paying it later today. The conduct of Comcast personnel, however, is amazing. Several weeks ago, when I knew I could not pay, I called them. I told them I would pay when our social security came. I offered a predated check internet transaction. Not to maintain the service, that I knew was probably impossible. But at least to make them whole.

The lady I talked to told me to wait a week, then call in the prepaid check. She told me we could avoid a service interruption. So I did that. The person whom I now spoke to changed the deal. She demanded a double payment, when I had $12 in my checking account, and no cash. Clearly this was impossible. So is speaking to a supervisor. So I said, "No, you or the person I spoke to last week lied. I do not care which." I hung up.

This week, we have our only income, our social security check. So, I planned to pay off the account. But wait! Now a marketing person calls to sell us Comcast! I was driving, so Sue took the call on my phone. After some discussion (and my parking,) Ms. Springfield told me that if I paid the due amount, and re-ordered the service, we could avoid service charges and installation fees, with a first payment date based on our social security. Finding as we have, the absence of wi-fi a real problem, and having found ways to both pay out less cash and slightly increase income, I agreed. Ms. Springfield read me her notes on our file, and put me on hold for the individual who could both accept the payment and activate the orders.

He came on the line a timed 25 minutes later, told me there were no notes on the file, and demanded more money! I was stunned, had Ms. Springdfield lied? Was he lying? I finally told him I would pay off the past due, and as his employer has already claimed their equipment I hoped never do business with them again.

Which leads to a question: does anyone marginally competent, and passingly honest work for Comcast?

If you can get your internet and / or tv from anyone else, my advice is do!
St Laika's

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