The Left already has plenty of examples of their version of gun control

Obama-Angry1The typical knee-jerk reaction is already in full force. Less than six hours after the last shell casting hit the ground on the campus of Umpqua Community College, our President was at his pulpit, once again demanding the further erosion of our Bill of Rights. Beyond talking about himself at least 28 times in his 12 minute diatribe, he gave us a clear glimpse into the future he wants for America — to make it more like Australia. He used the phrase, “common sense gun control,” within the same breath of our allies like Britain and the land down under. It may sound innocuous, but Charles C. W. Cooke extols the danger of such a comparison. When used this way, the president is advocating the confiscation of guns.

Pandering to the emotions of the moment, it’s hard not to get caught up in the zeal to “do something” to prevent another gun-involved tragedy. Rather than spend a lot of time showing how the data of Australia’s great gun grab of 1996 shows a negligible, if non-existent, improvement in homicides and suicides by gun, as demonstrated by Mark Antonio Wright, let’s look at how the Left’s policies are already in place in tens of thousands of locations here in the United States.

The Left has already begun to implement their desired goal of removing all guns. Unfortunately, in all but 8% of the public mass-shootings in this country in the last decade, their solution fails. Much like Australia’s goal, to eliminate the citizenry from owning firearms, the creation of the gun-free zone is the penultimate step to a repeal of the 2nd Amendment. However, 92% of these mass-shootings in the last 10 years have all taken place right where Leftists believe they will not.

No-GunThe purpose of the gun-free zone is to prohibit any unauthorized individual from knowingly possessing a firearm at a facility or location so designated. Many of these are schools, but there are thousands of businesses, both public and private, that have adopted this policy to insure safety and security. They post the familiar sign of a gun with the red circle and slash on walls, doors and hallways, designating firearms are not allowed. And, as law-abiding citizens are wont to do, those who normally carry or posses a firearm leave those weapons at home or, at the very least, in their vehicles parked outside of these marked zones.

It’s Nirvana. Ambrosia flows through the drinking fountains and manna falls from the heavens. Never again will anyone within these magic zones have to fear the threat of coming face-to-face with a gun-wielding perpetrator.  The power of these signs, coupled with strongly worded regulations and policies, proves as effective as a John Kerry speech. It doesn’t matter how many adjectives, adverbs and interjections you include, just saying something out-loud (or in print) does not make it reality. I’m reminded of my old middle school history teacher’s favorite phrase, “If all the if’s and but’s were candy and nuts, what a nice world it would be.”

Often with the policies of the Left, it’s all about the intentions and never about the results. They always want to “do” something, but they never look at the consequences of their actions. They simply pander to the tyranny of the emotions of the present, slap themselves on the back for “doing” something and then they move along to the next issue, never looking back at the damage left in their wake.

In November of 2013, Interpol’s secretary general, Ron Noble, noted there are two ways to protect people from mass-shootings: “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves [should be] so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.” At issue, how do you put enough armed security forces around any possible soft target? He made those comments following the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where 68 people were killed. (One should not that Kenya bans both open and concealed carrying of firearms by civilians. Apparently that ban didn’t apply to terrorists.)

We can look back at all of the recent mass-shootings and see the pattern. They plan their attacks months (sometimes years) in advance. The perform detailed surveillance over the targets they choose and in 92% of the cases, they pick places where they are comfortable knowing no one will be able to shoot back.

How many remember the shooting at Clackamas Town Center Mall in Portland, Oregon in December of 2013? A shooter opened fire during one of the most crowded times of the year, killing two people before a concealed-permit holder stopped him by drawing and pointing his own gun at the assailant. That simple action halted what was sure to become a scene of mass-shooting. The national media, as they typically do, ignored the event. After all, it goes against the narrative that guns are bad.

These incidents share the same modus operandi. A crazed, mentally ill individual chooses a location where the odds of armed retaliation are small and proceed to immortalize themselves in the annals of mainstream and social media. Yet, when they do come across one of the “good guys,” the human toll is always mitigated if not eliminated. I could list instance after instance where a licensed and armed citizen in recent years prevented a mass-shooting tragedy.

We’ve seen the results of the gun-free zone. We see how these locations succeed at doing just one thing — disarming those who then line up to be perpetual fish in a barrel. Criminals, by their very definition, do not follow the law. A sign is not going to stop a criminal from following through on their designs. Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. We know what will happen to a disarmed citizenry. History is replete with the machinations of dictators whose first task it to remove the threats of the people. It’s why our Founding Fathers were adamant about the Bill of Rights, including the 2nd Amendment. As Thomas Jefferson noted, quoting the 18th century criminologist, Cesare Beccaria:

False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that it has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.

I could not have said it better. The experiment of the gun-free zone has run its course. If we are ready to face this issue with a serious, logical and reasoned disposition, it is long past time to bring this practice to an end and focus on the treatment of the mentally ill and insuring adequate training of law-abiding citizens. Banning guns is not only a facile argument, but also one meant only to pander to the low-information crowd in hopes of political gain. After all, that’s what President Obama himself said was his goal — the politicization of this issue, not it’s actual solving.

Those Inglourious Wealthy Basterds

Polls are showing Bernie Sanders pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton. It’s something a lot of people didn’t think would happen. But I saw it coming months ago, before Clinton’s scandals. Clinton could be the best angel from here until the primary election but it won’t help. You see, she’s old news. She was in 2008 and she is now. The only reason anyone was considering her way back when for 2016 was because she was the only one with her hat in the ring; that is, until Sanders. And now Joe Biden is looking to hop in too. Which means, Clinton isn’t going to easily take the throne like she may have thought she would. Did anyone else notice that? All that build up to her announcement. It was like she lost unfairly in 2008 and felt the Oval Office is now due to her in 2016. That was my impression.

You see, she lost in 2008 due to a charismatic character, a promiser for Change. The media pandered to him. They pitched softball questions to him. It was so obvious, Saturday Night Live had a field day with it (and may I add, made that show funny for the first time in years). No one wanted to see him trip. Set aside the fact that he’s bi-racial. Plenty of people of color have run for president under the Democrat banner. But none were treated with kid-gloves as Barack Obama. Isn’t he so nice? I mean, seriously. Put aside politics. I think I’d get along with him on a personal level. And that’s how you get into office. Clinton doesn’t have that. But you know who does?

Bernie Sanders has held a government position for over thirty-years. He’s been at the federal level since 1991. He’s currently filling the role of United States Senator from Vermont. And I predict, he’ll deny Clinton the throne for the very same reason Obama took it. Character.

Sanders has been rather consistent with his views throughout his tenure in office. And I can respect that. That is rarely seen in politics. He brings social democracy to the table as a presidential candidate. He’s offering an economic and social model like that of Denmark and Sweden. He’s not shy at all to say we can learn from them. As if they’re lands of unicorns and leprechauns. This is Sanders’ version of Change. But is anyone fact checking to see if the Nordic Model does offer a better alternative?

This essay isn’t going to go after that model, show it’s faults, show that it won’t work here. It won’t even show it doesn’t really work there. You can google it out for numerous papers on the subject. I personally recommend seeking out Cato Institute papers and studies for a good analysis on why the Nordic Model isn’t a greener pasture. No, in this essay, I’ll tackle the one piece that trickles throughout the Democratic Party, even if the socialism aspect isn’t tagged on.

Wealth Redistribution.

It’s the theory that some people have more than they need and should be forced to let go of some and turned over to others who have less. This, the theory goes, would even the playing field. Everyone could then afford good housing, healthy foods, clean water, a secure living environment, proper healthcare and everything else that goes into a civilized society. Great, right? Why should some people live better lives than others? That’s practically feudalism. We have no kings and queens here.

So how do we do it? The Sanders Way, is to forcibly take it. And to use the power of government to do so. The Sanders model, the Nordic Model, is taking money from someone else, giving it to someone else deemed more responsible to spend it on a greater good, and setting it in motion.

Plato dreamed of a society ruled by the smartest people: The Philosopher Kings. These people would be the brightest, the best able to see what was good. Not subjectively, but objectively. They could see the true good, not an object thought to be good. For instance, a steak dinner is good but a Philosopher King would say that it’s not the steak that is good, it’s what the steak represents. It’s that abstract, ungraspable concept behind the steak. And then they go about philosophizing the properties of the steak that make it so.

But we don’t have Philosopher Kings. And you don’t want Philosopher Kings. Imagine someone else determining what is the best thing for you. Uh, wait. I almost gave away the conclusion. Let me divert a bit.

We have elected individuals with minimal qualifications to get those jobs. Speaking at the federal level, the President only need be at least thirty-five-years old, living in the United States for the past fourteen-years and be natively born. A United States Senator only needs to have achieved the age of thirty, a United States citizens for at least nine-years and living in the State represented at the time of the election. And a United States Representative in Congress need only have achieved the age of twenty-five, citizen of the United States for the past seven-years and a resident of the represented state at the time of the election. There are more qualification requirements on a McDonald’s application. Do you think the people who minimally fit the government job requirements have the ability to see the greatest good? Maybe. But look at how they spend the money already given to them. Now ask if more would be a good idea.

The overriding error, the glaring assumption in government mandated Wealth Redistribution is the expectation that State power is benevolent, made up of thinkers who are just and seekers of equal. The error, is in conceptualizing the State as a machine with a program uninhibited or encumbered by human emotion, politics, subjective reasoning and overall humanness. When you hear someone say government should force rich people to give up more money, what they’re really saying is some people should be allowed to forcibly take money from richer people and decide what other people should get it.

Sam Harris, an intellectual I greatly admire, imagined another option. A collective of billionaires, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (already engaging in such a collective), coming together to pool the money they have voluntarily chosen they didn’t need. And then, figure out where best to share it. This is a much better option than Wealth Redistribution run by the State.

First, it’s voluntary. All contributors are not being forced into a program that may or may not show results. This means if the money isn’t spent wisely (“wisely” defined by each contributor), they may withdraw. And if it succeeds, they may choose to contribute more. And success might bring other backers. The government option forces contribution regardless of results.

Secondly, there’s less of a political football involved. Or may I say, none at all. No one is trying to please a campaign contributor or lobbyist. And even if they do choose to spend their “surplus” on a favorite, personal program that doesn’t seem for the common good, so what? It’s their money.

The fact is, there are no purely altruistic people. Only people wanting others to be purely altruistic. Here’s the proof: When you’re doing your taxes, do you look for as many deductibles as possible? Do you shelter as much money as you can in tax havens? Everyone does. Everyone cuts corners, fiddles with the numbers, to keep what they’ve earned. I know of no one, and neither do you, ignoring all the options to keep more of their earnings. I know of no one, and neither do you, checking off every box to donate, donate, donate. Give, give, give. No one. But when they do give, they voluntarily do so but not with tax forms. They give to a program or person who can make something happen for them or their community. Now if the altruistic billionaire club could gather more members, that would be great.

I don’t yet have an answer as to how to increase membership in the Altruistic Billionaire’s Club. But I know that those with wealth already do give (See: Gates; See: Buffet). They just don’t give to the Jesus Point: That point at which they’re down to robes and sandals. This, I think, is what the Wealth Redistribution crowd wants to see before they’ll be appeased. They never recognize the contributions already given, always expecting more. But what I do know is that public shaming doesn’t seem to work. Exhibit A: Occupy Wall Street. It. Did. Nothing. It’s gone. It remains a bad memory of an angry, disorganized mob. It only encourages division. It makes those being attacked dig in, put up walls, not want to give anything to those yelling at them.

So I’m open to suggestions. If you think they should give more, how? How should you get more wealthy people on board? I’m open to ways of encouraging those with the wealth and means to join Bill and Warren and maybe give a little more. Just don’t tell me your idea is force. Because, well, we’ve been over that.

Happy birthday, America!


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776

Over the months and years since the inception of Freedom Cocktail, we have covered a wide range of subjects — some topical, most philosophical. None of us are clones of each other but one trait we all share in common is a reverence for the Constitution of the United States of America and the principles inherent in our Republic. While each of you enjoys your holiday and the 239th celebration of the birthday of these United States, remember, deep down, we are all Americans, united under one flag. Our national motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one. We may argue and disagree and fight passionately for our voices to be heard, but, in the end, we are strongest when we are together.

Today there exists, simultaneously, two conceits that are taken as absolute truth, yet are both completely devoid of anything of the kind. The first being, if I disagree with your point of view, it must be because I hate you and therefore it is incumbent on you to hate me back. The second is, if I like (love) you, I must conform to every one of your beliefs in total blind allegiance, forgoing any unique or individual views of my own. Both of these ideas are poisonous to debate, to communication, to understanding and to our nation. The co-founder of this site, Eric, and I have been diametrically opposed on a handful of subjects, but we could not be better friends. And, though I dearly love my wife, there are days when we don’t see eye-to-eye. (Does anyone agree with their spouse 100% of the time?) Those disagreements do not turn my affections into hate or anger. I admire their tenacity and the degree to which they fight for their points of view. And I know they feel the same toward me. We call each other on our BS and we applaud a point well made. We always strive for intellectual honesty, couched in healthy doses of logic and reason. Yes, there is passion, but always tempered by fact and we are all the better for it.

So, on this celebration of our independence, let us all take a moment to recognize we are all unique individuals and not cloned automatons following each other off the cliff like a herd of lemmings. We are Americans and its time we get back to acting like it. We can fight to have our opinions heard, but, at the end of the day, we are still family.

Shakespeare wrote in The Taming of the Shrew, “And let us do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” Now that’s something worth raising a glass to while watching the rocket’s red glare tonight.

Happy birthday, America!

A Tale of Two Flags

I’m told there was a shooting, a lot of shooting. This happened in the South of the United States. A lot of black men and women died as a result. I’m told it was motivated by this belief that dark skinned people are inferior. The assault was allegedly committed because if action wasn’t taken, black people could take over the world. The aggressor felt he had no choice and it was time to take it to the real world.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and started the Confederate States of America. Other southern states followed and launched the American Civil War. More American causalities resulted from that war than all the wars the United States ever engaged in combined. And in the end, slavery was over and all the states that once seceded, came back.

I’m probably the only person who thinks the Civil War wasn’t necessary to achieve this. The Second Industrial Revolution that exploded in and around that period would have taken care of the problem as one tractor and other machines would have shown a much better option than housing, feeding and caring for slaves. But, hindsight is twenty/twenty. We’ll never know.

Anyhow, after the Civil War, some of the southern states that flew a new flag, kept it. Sure they put the United States flag above it, but in one form or another, the Confederate Flag was either flown in whole or some of its design sewn into the current state one. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia all have part of the Confederate Flag within their current state flags. And Mississippi has the Confederate Flag in its entirety, sewn into its current flag. South Carolina, the first to secede way back when, has a state flag with nothing confederate about it. However, South Carolina also flies the Confederate Flag whole right on capital grounds. Up until recently.

On June 17,2015, motivated by hate and false conspiracy theories and a whole bunch of other bunk, twenty-one-year old Dylan Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat with the people there, all black, who were holding a Bible study group. He stayed for about an hour, engaging in the discussion of scripture. Then, from survivor accounts, Roof stood up, pulled a pistol, started talking about how black people were raping or something and started shooting. In total, he killed nine people then fled. He’s since been arrested and will surely go on trial for this crime, rightly so.

Later, pictures surfaced showing Roof holding guns, burning the United States Flag and yet, holding the Confederate Flag rather proudly. Combined with his words and actions on June 17, it’s an open and shut case why he did it. And this has resulted in some calls to consider removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capital, if not everywhere else.

Okay, so, let’s sum up. The Confederate Flag was first used by states that seceded from the Union and the primary reason for secession was in defense of their desire to continue to enslave black people. The enslavement was necessary, so they claimed, because it was part of their economic model. And this was true. Yet they couldn’t see it was good economics for everyone but the slave. Or didn’t care. Years after the war, over one-hundred-years after the war, the flag to many of, at least, my peers, took on the meaning of “rebel”. The racist elements were somewhat ignored and it took on a new life, some states keeping it as part of history too. And yes, some people who flew it, drew it or used it did so like Dylan Roof. Because they believed in the same crap.

The actions of Dylan Roof seem to have reminded everyone what that flag was originally designed for, the racist elements have resurfaced and a debate about removing the Confederate Flag has begun. The governor of South Carolina called for the removal of the one flying over the capital. Other states with it in or around their flags are discussing it. People within and outside of those states are drawing up sides. Even retailers are removing it. Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears and E-bay have all stopped selling it. Apple is removing games on Itunes that display the flag. And the United States National Park Service has stopped selling them. It’s hard to keep up how fast it’s disappearing. Is this a good thing?

I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. I’ve always wanted to visit Rome. I’ve always wanted to see the Vatican and Mecca. And closer to home, I’d love to tour the ruins of the Aztecs. My only regret in life has been not to have done more traveling in my youth, prior to starting a family. But it is what it is. I’m not above playing catch up in retirement.

Surely if I get to Egypt, which is my first choice for exotic adventure since I was nineteen-years-old, I’d see statues of Thutmose III on display. I’d see the bust of Djoser and inscriptions about Userkare, Amenemhat I and Piye. I’d see as much as possible. I’d see several depictions of Pharaohs holding the crook and flail as well as the remains of pyramids built for egos. All of this would be on display, encouraged to see and take home replica souvenirs. And yet, consider that Thutmose III was a conqueror. Djoser started the ego pyramid thingy. Userkare and Amenemhat I appear to have earned their time on the throne through usurpation. And Piye ruled Nubia before deciding he wanted Egypt too and took it militarily.

If I get to Rome, I’ll see the remains of that once great city too. And I’ll be encouraged to take home souvenirs of emperors long dead, some of which ruled with iron fists and little mercy. The Vatican and Mecca have their own soiled history of conquests and the Aztecs used to rip out the hearts of living people and offer the bloody pumps to the sun, committing this act thousands of times per year. Don’t forget your souvenirs.

The good news is that every place I’d love to visit no longer has ruling, conquering Pharaohs or emperors, squashing people under them who have less power. None have human sacrifice. None call for holy crusades or conversions by the sword, aggressions against people seen to be less worthy of life if they do not. It’s all history, and treated rightly so.

This is what I think about the Confederate Flag. Take it down from capital buildings. Remove any remains sewn into current flags too. It’s history. And it’s a sore spot we never want to go back to or present as “active”. But by all means, let it fly over Confederate historical landmarks and monuments. And let the monuments stand too. It’s history. Don’t destroy history. I feel like Indiana Jones about all this, “That belongs in a museum.” I say this addressing state governments. Feel free as a private person with your private property to fly whatever you want.

Surely each state will have to decide for itself. I’d like them to make the right decision. It’s history, put it with the other history. And feel free to sell souvenirs.

And a few days after the take down the Confederate Flag controversy, another flag was being pushed up the pole. One with pretty colors. The Supreme Court voted five to four in favor of legalizing gay and lesbian marriage across all fifty states. And the crowd went wild.

Two camps sprang up: Those in favor (most of the country) and those not. The “nots” have two divisions within it, crossing lines often: Some object on religious grounds. Others object on the fact that the Supreme Court overstepped it’s role, granted itself too much power. I’m happy to say that personally, I only know one person using the religion card. The other dissenters fall into the other camp which means we can talk about it. And although I can respect those who want to maintain integrity in how laws are made, I’m okay in this case with the way gay and lesbian marriage was fashioned.

Justice Scalia argued against the equality in marriage because it wasn’t the Supreme Court’s job but the day before, had no problem telling Congress Obamacare was garbage. He’s consistent when he wants to be. It appears Justice Scalia is willing to change job roles when it fits him.

There’s this hero of mine, Thomas Jefferson. And yet, a fallible politician. Twice he ignored the Constitution but the outcome is to our benefit. These twice violations were the Louisiana Purchase and sending the newly formed navy to combat the Barbary Pirates from North Africa. He was asked on what Constitutional grounds he made the Louisiana Purchase and kind of said it was for the good of future generations whether they knew it or not. And after years of the United States paying tributes and ransoms to the Barbary Pirates, when he took his turn as president, he ceased payments and launched the navy to stop the aggression, not bothering to notify Congress until the fleet was too far away to be called back.

And finally, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln through executive order, not bothering to seek approval from Congress, released the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of states that seceded from the Union. That, too, turned out to be the right choice. Even if some states still dig that Confederate Flag.

As long as we require government, decisions will be messy, boundaries will be overstepped. I risk extreme criticism with this next sentence. I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. Yes, admittedly this is a slippery slope. But let’s also be realists. How often does it happen? And how often are the results so tragic that a war is going to break out? I’ll say it once more, I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. And because of this, the Supreme Court made the right decision favoring gay and lesbian marriage in all fifty states.

The final thing to note is that fellow Libertarians have been complaining that letting gays and lesbians marry isn’t the point. The point is that government should not be defining social contracts between consenting adults. I agree. But government is involved in social contracts, giving out benefits and licensing for married people. So as long as this is happening, government must recognize same sex marriages too. If you want to change all this and get government out of marriages, file a petition. Get the ball moving. Or just join the Libertarian Party where all freedoms all the time are being pursued. We even got souvenirs.

King’s dream dying in a race-obsessed world

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!

Hamlet, Act II, Sc. 2

SHAKESPEARE-WORDS-facebookI’ve read this passage from Hamlet over and over in the last few days. I keep looking for the obvious racial tags that I’m told exist, but can’t find them. I have said these words aloud and in front of the mirror, trying to find any micro-aggressions (as coined by Columbia professor Derald Sue to refer to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color”) that must exist. After all, Shakespeare was a white, Anglo-Saxon, male and therefore is inherently racist. So, I search over and over, wondering where those racist words or phrases exist.

“What a piece of work is a man!”

Hurm? There is no mention of color or any particular race, but just a human being in general. Can’t be there.

“How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty!”

No indication of race, yet, and the words ‘noble’ and ‘infinite in faculty’ are positive and uplifting, so there doesn’t appear to be anything aggressive there.

“In form, in moving, how express and admirable!”

Still no racial indicators and to be admired certainly isn’t negative.

“In action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!”

Again, nothing here seems to call out the color of one’s skin, country of origin, ethnicity or cultural upbringing. If anything, there may be a bit of hyperbole given that no one is perfect, but at least it seems this part of the passage errs on the side of human beings wanting to strive for excellence, rather than being pejorative.

“The beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!”

Dammit. Still nothing to indicate the micro-aggressions and racist thoughts that must exist in the collected works of William Shakespeare. How can this be? After all, Dana Dusbiber, a Sacramento English teacher, says she avoids Hamlet and all of Shakespeare’s works because she believes her minority students should not be expected to study “a dead, white guy.”

Therein lies the deceit. In an effort to be all-inclusive, non-offensive and politically correct, while staying racially and culturally sensitive, Leftists have given rise to the unintended consequence of judging the merits of an individual solely by pigmentation rather than the quality of their character. After all, if you accept the premise of this teacher (and many who think the same way), you would have to conclude minorities cannot identify with such topics as lust, greed, anger and remorse. They lack the ability to relate to infatuation, teenage love, anger at one’s parents or being treated unfairly. They cannot relate to the notions of the power of kings, the machinations of tyrants, the manipulations of advisers and the benevolence of the clergy. Apparently, these subject matters, and many others cutting across the complete works of Shakespeare, only relate to those with fair complexions.

This is patently absurd! Which is more offensive, a belief that non-whites cannot relate to any of the above, or choosing to consciously deny the words of Shakespeare to them?

mlkihaveadreamgogoThis Leftist mindset of determining worth based on race is like a raging weed, taking hold and spreading it’s choking roots. Rather than help usher in the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who looked to the day when his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”, it has turned the goal of a colorblind society into one that is becoming solely obsessed with race. Think about many of the stories told in the mainstream media and across social media in the last several years. There is an obsession in our current culture with bringing race into the discussion, either as an excuse or as an indictment. And the problem with any obsession is it creates a paradigm of embracing a pinhole, tunnel vision of the world. It looks to find the one subject that fits into its lens, while ignoring everything else. It’s like the phenomenon married couples experience when they are getting ready to have a baby. Suddenly, they see pregnant women everywhere. Of course, “everyone” isn’t going through pregnancy, but it appears that way to the person who is focused on their own condition. The same applies when an obsession with race takes hold. Regardless of facts, it will seem as though evidence of racism is everywhere. If someone wants to see racist signs and intentions everywhere, they will.

So, what’s the best way to combat this presumption that all whites are inherently racist? If you buy into that notion, you have no choice but to elevate the minorities who are its target and denigrate the offenders. Therein lies the shift in Dr. King’s dream. It’s no longer about looking at the qualities an individual brings to the table, it’s only about countering the belief that all whites are racist and all minorities are victims; therefore, all whites are bad and anyone “of color” is good. This simplistic, one-dimensional, good/bad scale is such a dangerous way to approach any issue, let alone that of race. When the paradigm shifts to such a degree as to convince a person the color of their skin alone is the litmus test that labels them as victim or subjugator, all logic and reason is lost in the wide brush strokes of true bigotry. It leads to the belief that the only way to bolster a minority is to punish the non-minority. Rather than embracing the idea of a rising tide lifting all boats, it chooses instead to support the concept of drilling a hole in someone else’s boat so yours will eventually be higher than the one you sank.

By the way, I wonder if that teacher knows Shakespeare had a mistress? Though he was married to a white woman, he wrote passionately about a secret love. Here’s a sample of one of his most famous sonnets about her:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

– Sonnet 130

If the poetry of Shakespeare’s sonnet to his mistress is hard to follow, all you need to do is break down the descriptions and see what images form in your own mind. His mistress’ eyes are not bright like the sun, but dark; her lips, too, are on the opposite end of the ‘red’ spectrum, dark and brown; her breasts are also dark (“dun”); and, her hairs feel like black wires on her head. Is there any mistaking that Shakespeare’s mistress is of African decent? To refuse to teach the words of the Bard is to not only deny someone access to one of the greatest writers in the Western world, but also to ignore the fact that he saw through race and color in his own time, falling in love with his dark lady.

Like Shakespeare who saw past the color of one’s skin, it’s time to return to Dr. King’s dream and take the current discussion on race back onto the path where color is no longer a reason to be pro or con. Judging someone, either positively or negatively, based solely on color, is an act of bigotry that not only will continue to erase the gains of the civil rights movement as it exists today, but also, if left unchecked, threatens to consume our nation in a tide of anger and hatred over such a shortsighted, ignorant and ill-conceived stance.

Shakespeare is not the enemy. Yes, he was white. So what? Does that diminish the worth of his contributions to the world? Alexandre Dumas was black, born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), the son of a French nobleman and a slave girl. Should we elevate his works over others simply because of his skin tone? Or do those unforgettable words of his Musketeers stand on their own regardless of his race — “one for all and all for one!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a real conversation on race with those words of the Musketeers in mind, rather than the ones we are having rammed down our throats today, where we are being told color actually does make a difference, keeping us from being all for one and one for all? Is that what Dr. King would support if he were sitting at the table? Dumas? Shakespeare?

Shylock, in The Merchant of Venice, notes we are all the same when he states:

If you prick us, do we not
bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you
poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall
we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that.

When you take away the surface, we are all the same underneath, each with our own gifts and flaws. Our skin has no bearing on our contributions to the world — only our actions. Our color does not make a person good or bad. It does not determine someone’s intellect, honor, civility or disposition. It is as thin of substance as the air and more inconstant than the wind.

In our day, isn’t it time we got back to putting the content of ones character over the color of their skin?

Remember the Snowflakes

When my wife was a stay-at-home-mother, she had all the time in the world to be perfect. Before the birth of my daughter, our son was her only responsibility. She made sure that he was well fed, clothed, and that he had shoes upon his feet even before he could walk. When he was two-years-old, we enrolled him in his first preschool. And my wife volunteered to prepare some decorations for his Christmas party.

For several evenings before the big event, she’d travel to various stores, seeking the best materials. She’d bring them home and cut and paste and decorate to her heart’s content. She designed snowflakes for the backdrop for the stage where all the children would be singing their carols. She drew and cut out each snowflake, every one different. No two were alike. She went about clipping perfect edges, rounding several corners. Night after night, sitting at the kitchen table, my perfect wife steadied her hand to glue colorful beads and draw intricate designs on each flake. Then, a night or two before our son’s Christmas Party and sing along, she was done. Numerous hand crafted snowflakes were complete. Perfect.

A few hours before the show, she arrived early to place them. She arranged them with almost perfect precision, as if each were a world of its own, suspended in space, each keeping their distance and attraction to each other with their own centers of gravity. Against the wall where the children would soon arrive to perform for their parents, my wife prepared the most elegant backdrop of Christmas she’d ever done. And it would be her last. Oh, the horror of it all.

Children and their parents filtered into the Hall an hour later. Santa was set up in the corner, taking cues from parents on their children’s wants, creating an atmosphere of the all-knowing St. Nick. He wasn’t an impressive Santa. He wasn’t a perfect snowflake. But he got the job done. And the sound system that played music, well, it wasn’t perfect either. It was what I shall always refer to as a “Jam Box” thereby giving away my age in years. But it, too, got the job done. The punch and snacks were sub par but, they were good enough.

It was probably a good twenty-minutes or so before the Christmas Caroling would begin when the furious destruction occurred. Unsupervised children, running amok, round and round in a circle while parents took to face time with their cellphones. In the open area between the stage and the spectator landscape of tables, the dust devil showed itself. The tornado of running, circling children in an open stage game of tag or whatever spilled over to climbing up and off the stage, the stage with the perfect backdrop of perfect snowflakes. And while my wife looked on, the children tore at, tore off and turned the snowflakes into confetti. Before her very eyes, the many evenings of perfection lay all around the performance area, perfectly destroyed. She ran to the stage in an attempt to make salvage but, It could not be resuscitated. And the concert went on sometime later, with an empty backdrop.

Despite this unforeseen horror, my wife has always been happy with what she created despite the reception. That, in the end, is what counted. However, ever since then, when my wife starts making plans, or creating something, I remind her:

Remember the Snowflakes.

It’s a lesson I’ve put into my own work, my own writing. I’ve barely ever written a piece that turned out the way I first envisioned it. And on some occasions, my reader’s reaction has been unforeseen (for better or worse). I’ve written masterpieces only to be turned down at every proposal and I’ve written complete garbage that turned out to be everyone’s favorite. My opinion of my work is only the first step in a piece’s reception. When I’m happy with it, out it goes. I’m aware of the phrase, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Eventually, one must decide when enough is enough, when this edit is the final edit. That’s when I give it to other eyes. At that point, it has a life of its own. It grows or dies depending on an audience willing to share it, or ignore it or, in other cases, build on it. Yet in the end, if I was happy with the original submission, I can still be happy regardless of the fall out. No one else need be troubled any further if it falls short.

Remember the Snowflakes.

Hobbies aside, how many times have you gone to work at your job with a plan? Or envisioned your child growing up? You have a plan, right? Remember the Griswold trip to Wally World? Does life ever go as planned? No. And yet striving for perfection seems to be that which causes the most trouble and anxiety when things don’t go our way. We all have to learn that it isn’t just art that is abandoned. Every plan and pursuit just has to end sometime. About the only people who look happy about imperfection are the Buddhists. To them, it isn’t up for complaint. IT just IS.

Nothing is perfect or even begins or ends with our initial perception. Sometimes the surprising end is the reward in itself. Ever write a fiction story? I know that every one of mine surprised me in the end. Or when I got to the end, the surprise was discovering how much better it would be to change the beginning. Paintings, music, stories, I’m willing to fathom that every one began and ended differently than intended. This doesn’t just apply to the arts. It applies to every human endeavor. Every plan suffers from the planners pursuing the Logo yet the end result are shadows on the wall of the cave.

So if every plan ends up different than the planner’s expectation, is it reasonable to assume that the more people involved, the more people the project was intended to cover, will surely disappoint more people? Even if the plan is sufficient to the planner, isn’t it probable that the more chefs in the kitchen, the more differences of opinion will lead to more complications thereby pushing the project further away from even the planner’s intentions? Because this is exactly what I think when someone says, “We need a government, community program for that.”

Don’t be confused if you hear, “We need a public this and that.” Public in this atmosphere means, Government. It means taking your tax dollars, increasing them if necessary, to support a program that may or may not be what you want. It may sound good. Who doesn’t like the thought of a public transportation system? Or public schools? Or a public park? Or a public library? On the surface, it sounds like a grand plan open to everyone who can get to it. But that’s where it stops. That’s where the children arrive and trash your snowflakes.

Remember the Snowflakes.

In a prior post, I laid out how your very best intentions for a government program end up the very best political football in the very best trash can. Piled on top, underneath and around my wife’s snowflakes.

If you want to see what public medicine looks like, take a look at the Veteran’s Hospitals.

If you want to see what public housing looks like, come to Detroit and see them.

If you want to see what public transportation looks like, get on one of the buses or trains and see for yourself how well your shoes stick to the floor.

Well laid plans are always prepared forgetting about chaos theory. Government, public solutions are assumptions that everyone wears a size nine or ten shoe, give or take. The assumption is also that everyone has five toes, comparable arches and needs compensation for a bunion. As I’ve heard professional magician and fellow Libertarian Penn Jillette express, “With any problem, my first inclination is to see if we can solve it with more freedom.” Sometimes you can’t. But how do you know if you don’t try? You can always tighten the reigns later if need be. But loosening a well established knot is much more difficult.

It is important to acknowledge you are not the smartest person for every job. If you think fire rescue services should be public because private would deny the poor, well, unless you’re trained in the fire fighting, emergency services, transportation, medical care, etc, you probably haven’t thought that hard about it. Or, rather, don’t have all the information to make such a decision.

Who should teach children mathematics? A philosopher, painter? A culinary arts chef? Who should plot space travel? I’d argue that a philosopher and chef would be valid consultants considering just about every field would have to be in play to support human space travel. But would, say, an expert in ancient Roman history have any value? Before answering what appears to be an obvious “no”, maybe they would. I’m not a specialist in space travel so I can’t see a reason for it. Doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there.

Let’s examine some limited foresight of the Founding Fathers, locked into the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 authorizes Congress to establish the Post Office and post roads. The purpose was to carry the mail and create interstate communication. In reviewing some of the arguments on it, none argued in favor of privatization. Thomas Jefferson writing to James Madison in 1796 was the closest letter of complaint about turning it into a federal program; yet, he never went so far as saying a private company or person could handle it. But this is essentially what we have now. Private companies delivering letters and mail and consumer goods. Fed Ex, UPS, DHL to name a few of the big names. Flying, driving packages day and night. is considering getting into the automated drone package delivery system. Virtually speaking, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, et all pass millions of messages daily through texts, voice, social media and other services. Facebook, Twitter, et all are doing the same. What people in the 1790s could not see is happening today making Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 irrelevant.

Now does this mean don’t bother, give up in your private and public life? Nope. It means that if you have a great idea, it’ll be your great idea. You may be the only one who will think so (except, maybe your mother). If others flock to and adopt your idea, all the better. It’ll be voluntary. By all means, proceed with your great idea to better yourself or fulfill something missing or to make something but if it fails, you and those who voluntarily came on board will be the only ones to suffer the consequences.

As with everything you do, strive to please yourself first. Then send the finished product off to be reviewed by others. As Philip Roth said, “Don’t judge it. Just write it. It’s not for you to judge it.” Yet understand that your baby is probably going to be destroyed by someone who doesn’t see it as important as you. It’s part of the creative process. But as long as you’re happy with it, that’s the bottom line.


Remember the Snowflakes.

(I’ve intentionally chosen to stop editing before this piece was sufficient to my own heart. I’ve decided to abandon this right here and now. Just to teach my OCD a lesson).

Schrodinger’s Other Cat

During, and in the few days after CPAC 2015, I found myself engaged, again, in what it means to be a Conservative. I’ve been identified as one and I don’t hate it. But I don’t feel like it describes me. (More on that in a bit).

What brought on the renewed discussion was the presence and short presentation of the American Atheist organization at CPAC2015. A lot of fellow atheists covered social media with gasps of how a humanist organization, one seeking scientific solutions, could be at a Conservative convention. So, being comfortable in both swimming pools, I did my own reaching out. “Hey, fellow atheists! Look, I’m one too! You probably didn’t know this but now you do and we’ve been getting along forever. Isn’t that cool?” And the reception has been just fine. Its fine, because some assumptions were realized and broken. There’s still some head scratching over why I’d want to align myself with such a group (most atheists are of the Liberal persuasion). I believe the problem is because of what the popular definition of a Conservative has come to mean verse what I take it to mean. So let’s examine that. First, let’s examine what the definition of a Conservative is. Then the popular definition. And where else to start than to simply google the word, “Conservative” and see what comes up.

Via Google, the noun definition is: “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.”

Well, that’s a lot. What exactly is “traditional”? Is it a good thing? Slavery was traditional. So was polygamy. It was also traditional not to allow women to vote. Also traditional to burn heretics and witches at the stake. Yet I don’t know anyone who identifies themselves as “Conservative” and wants to bring back slavery and witch hunting. Hmmmm…

The adjective definition per Google is: “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.” So it’s about the same as the noun. Again we’re with the “traditional”. Yet here there’s also “cautious about change or innovation”. And it’s in relation to politics and religion. So you could be a Conservative Russian Communist pro-slavery, Hindu. But I’m probably the first person to put those identifiers together. No, the popular definition, which we’ll get to, is so far away from that. Hmmmmm…

In the Wikipedia entry for Conservative, we come across more of what’s noted above. Being Wikipedia, there’s deeper analyses and there’s this: “There is no single set of policies that are universally regarded as conservative, because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world—each upholding their respective traditions—may disagree on a wide range of issues.”

There ya have it. Sure does look like “Conservative” is whatever the hell you want it to mean. So it’s no wonder that when I’m having a conversation about politics with someone who says they can’t back a Conservative agenda, I’m having such a hard time wondering why. We may have different ideas in our heads. We may be talking about different things. Everyone is a conservative and everyone is not. The word is practically meaningless. Or, better yet, the word means whatever the speaker considers traditional.

Example: A Christian conservative may feel that one man, one woman is a proper marriage. Their conservative view of marriage goes back to a time when polygamy was no longer welcome.

Example: A Muslim conservative may feel that one man, many wives, as young as nine, is a proper marriage. Their conservative view of marriage goes back to their religious history when that was practiced. (And it still is in many parts of the Muslim world).

Now we come to the popular definition of a Conservative. It has some baggage and I think this is where the problem comes in, and where American Atheists found their comrades wondering why they were there.

The term has been hijacked (in part, intentionally and, in part, unintentionally) by a small subset. This subset is summed up as heterosexual, white, Bible loving, Christian, primarily from a southern state, possibly anti-vaxxer, climate change denier and white with a side of white and more white with old, white money. The current trend is to assume that this person wants to hold marriage to one man, one woman. This person wishes to keep women’s wages lower than a man’s. This person also wishes not to grant the LGBTQ equal rights. These people, for all intents and purposes, wish to keep America divided and unequal, with themselves at the top. They love their guns. They love their “traditional family values”. They are pro-death penalty but anti-abortion. And, first and foremost, they have a tighter grip on the United States Constitution than their Bible. Have I missed anything in the stereotype? Please add in the comments.

Of all the descriptors noted above, only four of them are something the person had no choice in. The only four that qualify as “not my fault” are being white, being heterosexual, being born in a southern state or being born into old money. Other than that, the rest are matters of opinion formed after birth. So unless the anti-Conservative is a racist, I’m sure the problem is more with the other descriptors.

How did all those other descriptors get in there? That’s a whole other study, too big for the present piece. Regardless of how it happened, it happened. And we’re living with the stereotype today. And when, for the sake of brevity, I identify as one, all that baggage comes with it.

I addressed that in a prior piece here and here so I won’t get into it again. And I asked my fellow Conservatives to review their histories and policies and see the flaws. So clearly, I’m not in the stereotype because I’m trying to clean house. And, quite frankly, other than being white and heterosexual, I don’t have any of the other traits. Yet, again, for the sake of brevity, I use the term, “Conservative”.

The only position from the descriptors noted above that I hold dear, is a grip on the Constitution. But it’s not a holy grip. The Constitution is amendable and rightly so. It has been amended, for better or worse, twenty-seven times. In most cases, it’s amended as Thomas Jefferson suggested, always keeping in mind the original spirit of its making, always choosing the position that grants the most individual freedom. The Founding Fathers recognized there was a future they couldn’t predict and allowed for measures of change. I’ve already covered this here. A desire to see my government run closest to the boundaries of the Constitution is why I use the term Conservative. Everything else is baggage I’d just assume do away with.

So maybe I could use something else. Maybe Conservative doesn’t serve it’s purpose for people like me. So, let’s drill down again.

In the Wikipedia article on Conservatism there’s numerous camps under the umbrella, too many to get into. But there’s this entry for Libertarian Conservatism. Hey, I do call myself a Libertarian. So let’s look at that. In part, it defines as, “Its five main branches are Constitutionalism, paleolibertarianism, neolibertarianism, small government conservatism and Christian libertarianism. They generally differ from paleoConservatives, in that they are in favor of more personal and economic freedom.”

Oh geesz, more big words to define.

For fun, let’s look at the first: Constitutionalism. The Wikipedia article says, “Constitutionalism is “a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law.”

Sheesh. It’s complex and has patterns. More things to dig into.

How about Paleolibertarians? This form is based on the policies and philosophies of Murray Rothbard and Llewellyn Rockwell. So now we have a breakdown based on two personalities.

How about Neolibertarianism? Also known as ring-wing Libertarianism. Sigh. Please define “right wing” now. And this contrasts to left-Libertarianism.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, in the Wikipedia side box of the Part of a Series on Libertarianism, under Schools, are the following:

Agorism, Anarchism, Anarcho-capitalism, Autarchism, Bleeding-heart libertarianism, Christian libertarianism, Collectivist anarchism, Consequentialist libertarianism, Free-market anarchism, Fusionism, Geolibertarianism, Green anarchism, Green libertarianism. Individualist anarchism, Insurrectionary anarchism, Left-libertarianism, Left-wing market anarchism, Libertarian communism, Libertarian Marxism, Libertarian socialism, Minarchism, Mutualism, Natural-rights libertarianism, Paleolibertarianism, Panarchism, Right-libertarianism, Social anarchism and Voluntaryism.

My brain hurts.

Maybe it’ll help if we look at what is currently considered the opposite of a Conservative: Liberalism. Back to Wikipedia and the opening paragraph reads, “Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as democratic elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.”

Sigh. That sounds like Libertarianism. That even sounds like Conservatism.

It sounds like the only way to really describe myself is to use more identifiers than any person could ever understand in polite conversation. It might take twenty different isms to get to the bottom of it. And imagine saying, “I’m a Libertarian, equal rights, social anarchist, voluntarily, liberal on speech and natural rights, conservative about the Bill of Rights except that embarrassing 18th one”. It’s rubbish.

After looking into these and tossing some dice on others, it breaks down to is this: I’m Eric. I’ve lived on this planet for almost forty-five-years now and spent a good part of it sampling much of what life has to offer. I’ve adopted policies and philosophies that seem the best. And they clearly come from different pools. So when someone calls me a Conservative, well, they’re right in part. When someone calls me a Constitutionalist, well, in part. When someone says I practice the Socratic method, yes, but I also like the scientific method, find it a better way at getting to the truth. When someone says I’m White, maybe. But I like peach better.

In essence, part of the problem is that in the United States, we have a two party system. Of course there’s other parties. I belong to one. But the deck is currently stacked against them. So for all intents and purposes, we’re dealing with two. And there’s no possible way to encompass all the different ideologies and life choices in two parties. In fact, everyone is pretty much there own party.

Should we drop labels all together? No. A label gives the frame. Despite this bunch of confusion, I accept being called a Conservative because it’s a frame that I’m closest to. It doesn’t mean I don’t share some opinions outside of the frame. In fact, I share quite a bit. But we just don’t have the time in a day to drill everyone down we meet. Ideally, the best thing to do if you have enough time in conversation is to not bring up a defining label at all. Start with issues. Ask where a person stands on this or that. Bet you’ll find out, as stated above, that no one fits perfectly into a box.

Remember, Schrodinger’s Cat could be either dead or alive in that box. That’s extraordinary polar opposites. Yet, both are as capable of being true until you check. You have no idea what its status is until you open it and check for yourself. I say, labels are convenient. They’re a starting point, hardly a finish. But before you generalize about someone, open the box.

So because of this, I’ll also have to revise my own policy to never argue with Democrats or anyone in the “Communitarian” pool. Maybe someone is in that pool but more like me and I didn’t even know it. Maybe I’m using the label Libertarian and they’re using the label “Communitarian” but were both in favor of the same things and the same way of getting to them. The labels are what’s getting in the way.

And by the way, if you google the word, “argue”, you’ll see two definitions. One reads, “give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view.” and the other reads, “exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way.” Don’t do the latter. Do the former. Because in the former, there’s no “heated or angry way”. Angry hats never look good and no one learns anything. In fact, angered, heated disputes on politics usually ends up reinforcing a stereotype. And what we want to do, is break them. Bet we’ll find we want much of the same thing and that some of it just might be details.

The World Won’t Listen

In the third week of February 2015, the Anti-Extremism Summit commenced. At the behest of President Barack Obama and the White House, said Summit was held over a three day period and welcomed some world leaders to discuss reasons why someone might become “radicalized” or turn to an “extreme” belief system and engage in acts of terrorism. Remarks by the President and United States attendees centered around the argument that we could curb the desire to join an extreme group by offering better employment opportunities or more integration, less separation in society. Or maybe better, inclusive government. Or maybe education? Yet, for all the time spent on the subject of what draws someone into a radical view, one thing wasn’t said: That this summit was really all about Islamism.

If it weren’t for the assassinations at satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo and the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, we wouldn’t have held this summit. So why not call it what it is? The Anti-Islamism Summit. Well, actually, I can understand why not. It would immediately shut out the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, thinking that their religion was on trial. So calling it Anti-Extremism is fine and would have allowed the Summit to talk about all groups, like neo-nazis, if they wanted to. But they didn’t. Without saying it, this was really about what’s been happening in Islam’s name. So call it Anti-Extremism if you want. But whereas I am certain Adolf Hitler and Mein Kampf would have been brought up to discuss neo-nazis, we never heard about how Islam may be part of the Islamic State.

Islam is a religion.

Muslim is a person who practices the religion of Islam.

Islamism is the desire to govern under the rules of Islam, Sharia Law.

Most Muslims practice bits and pieces of Islam, most ignoring the violent parts, engaging in Ramadan and other peaceful festivals. In summary, they keep it to themselves. Just like most practitioners of other religions, you might not even know someone was a Muslim if you just saw them in a shopping mall unless they wore clothing associated with Islam. Even then you might be wrong.

And then there are the few who want everyone to live under Sharia Law, live under the rules of Islam. These are the Muslims that make up the Islamic State. These are the ones who shoot up cartoonists. These are the ones we are at war with. These are the ones violently working to achieve Islamism.

It is Islamism that should have been put on trial. This is what the Summit danced around. Yet no one said it. Why?

On February 20, 2015, TIME published “Obama is Right Not to talk about ‘Islamic’ Terrorism” (1). Said opinion piece claimed that President Obama was right not to say we’re at war with Islamic terrorism because doing so would eventually lead people to believe we’re at war with Islam itself. In other words, people would start to think all Muslims are terrorists. Maybe. Maybe not. But it is what was on the table without a label at this summit. I suspect there is a taboo so big here that we risk continued violence if we avoid saying it.

My attention to the TIME article was from a Tweet from the Counsil on American-Islamic Relations (@CAIRNational), clearly in support of the opinion piece and reasoning not to call a spade a spade. And it occurred to me, the problem is going to have to start with Muslim organizations themselves. These organizations are going to have to stop pretending their holy books don’t say what they say. It has to start with them. After that, it’ll be okay for everyone to say such things. We can poke fun all we want at Moses and Jesus without being shot, right? We’ve yet to see that kind of tolerance about Muhammed.

What if King Salman of Saudi Arabia held this summit and declared Islam has a problem? What if Iran held such a summit? Here’s the point: The problem has to be recognized, named and analyzed by those practicing Islam. Then maybe all of us outsiders can join in without being told we’re being bigots or racists. Maybe we’ll have some momentum.

A collective group of, primarily atheists, have been pointing out that cases like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, or Boko Haram or any other organization operating like them, are not radical Islam, but Islam per se. That is, Islam exactly as it’s written. We have it backwards. It isn’t the radicals that are promoting violence. The radicals are the majority of Muslims who don’t fight Christians, Jews and unbelievers. The radicals are not the ones who are beheading. The radicals are the Muslims not taking the Qur’an or Hadith seriously, the ones who practice like most Christians and Jews, taking the “good” parts and ignoring the bad. The radicals are the ones who have integrated into a secular society, living under secular rules and laws and not attempting to put their country under Sharia Law. We need Islam’s version of Martin Luther, who needs to pin the list of grievances on the doors of Mecca.

Consider the Catholic religion. The Vatican has laid out it’s rules: No birth control, no abortions, observe Lent, go through the acts of Catechism and so forth. But lots of Catholics use birth control, have had abortions and still call themselves Catholics. These are the radical Catholics. The real Catholics are the ones practicing Catholicism as close to Vatican orders as possible. The radical Muslims are the majority who operate the same as the radical Catholics. Those adherents that take seriously the exact word of the Qur’an and Hadith, those are the ones to be worried about. Just as I’d worry about a Christian who suggested we bring back Deuteronomy.

I’d like to stop using radical to name the problem Muslims. The radicals are the good guys. They are thankfully more numerous and work and play and do business with and make enjoyable company with the rest of us. The problem is Islamism, those Muslims using violence to make everyone convert to Islam. And they are honoring their rule book as close to what is written in it as possible. By not naming the problem, all the wrong reasons for why someone would join the Islamic State or shoot up editors over cartoons is missed. Instead of just saying what the problem is, in order not to offend the majority of Muslim people, we act like it’s bad economics or adventure seeking or anything but Islam.

We must say that yes, the world, not just the United States, is at war with Islamism. We are at war with people who wish to force Islam onto the world. Any part of the world that wishes to live free must start calling it like it is. Any part of the world that wishes to not be held hostage to the rules held in an old book, written by a not so humble merchant thirteen-hundred-years ago.

According to the Wikipedia article on the Smiths’ album, “The World Won’t Listen”, the reason Morrissey named it such was out of his frustration with radio and record buyers ignoring his band. I couldn’t help but title this essay the same, feeling like an outsider, an atheist but raised as a Catholic, trying to make the world listen.

I’m afraid we’ll end up with more cartoonists dying over this ideology or men and women joining groups like the Islamic State, until Islam has its reformation. Until we stop thinking these men and women are joining these groups because they don’t have a good education or jobs or enough likes on Facebook, we’ll never solve this.

The first step is getting Muslim organizations and governments to admit the Islamic State is practicing according to the orders laid out in their holy books. Second is to admit that today (never mind back then) living under such orders is not reasonable. Third, calling for a complete separation of mosque and state.

Then…the President of the United States can say it.

Then…other world leaders can say it.

Then…everyone can say it.

Then…the world will listen.


SOTU — An updated drinking game for 2015


The State of the Union tradition arises from the following line in Article II, Section 3 of the US Constitution, “He shall, from time-to-time, give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” While not required to deliver a formal speech, every president since Woodrow Wilson has made at least one State of the Union report as a speech delivered before a joint session of Congress. Before that time, most presidents delivered the State of the Union as a written report. Since the advent of radio, and then television, the speech has been broadcast live on most networks.

George Washington delivered the first regular annual message before a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1790. However, in 1801, Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice of delivering the address in person, regarding it as too monarchical (how prophetic, given our current ruler). Instead, the address was written and then sent to Congress to be read by a clerk and this practice was followed until the early 20th century.

How I wish that were still the case. Even better, in our age of technology, just post the text version of the #SOTU online so we can read it in our Facebook news feeds or from a link on Twitter. Instead, we are going to be made to sit through a cacophony of over-the-top applause from the sycophants, arms-folded scowls from the obstinate and circus-like chicanery from the leads of both the House and Senate. We might as well queue up our favorite calliope music to play in the background the entire time the speech is going.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in WashingtonWe are going to be treated to well over an hour of promises, edicts, vehement calls for change and a showcase of biological props in the gallery to illustrate all of the points being sold by the President of the United States of America. We then have to sit through the minority response, the alternative response, the off-the-beaten path response and the ever elusive who-gives-a-damn response. THEN we get to sit through hour after hour of political analysis. We’ll have the propagandist wing of the Democrat party, aka the Mainstream Media, telling us how brilliant and amazing the speech was. Turn a channel or two either way and you’ll have the opposite view doing their best to convince the audience that the president has sealed his fate as a lame-duck and has dug a near insurmountable hole for any potential Democrat presidential candidates.

tumblr_lybfd7jwJC1qzx3jto1_1280Which brings me around to the point of today’s blog. If we must be forced to deal with this travesty of what our Founding Father’s envisioned, many have devised coping mechanisms to get us through tonight’s ridiculous display. Let’s all play the #SOTUdrinkinggame! Take a moment before tonight’s speech and come up with a list of terms/phrases/words that you believe will be used over and over again. Anytime you hear the #POTUS (President of the United States) utter anything on your list, take a drink. Here’s a partial list of what I plan to use tonight:

Words/phrases that result in taking a shot

  • Any use of: fair, fair share, equal or leveling the playing field
  • It’s time to help the middle class
  • Need to reduce income inequality
  • Declares victory on the state of the economy thanks to my policies
  • Under my policies, unemployment continues to drop
  • It’s time to Increase the minimum wage
  • Global warming remains our top concern (or, 2014 was the hottest year ever)
  • ISIL (pronounced – Eye-sill)
  • Islam is a peaceful religion
  • The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam
  • Charlie Hebdo (this may actually be worth two shots)
  • Affordable Care Act is working
  • Immigration reform/Dream Act
  • Free college
  • Any mention of someone who wrote him a letter or sent him an email
  • For each guest invited by the administration who is called out in the gallery

Items that require a shot:

  • For every 10 uses of the word, “I”
  • For every 10 uses of the word, “Me”
  • For every 10 uses of the word, “My”
  • For every 10 uses of the workd, “Mine”

There was a time when the State of the Union had it’s purpose, but that has long since been forgotten under the heavily crafted showmanship it has become. Under our current administration, it might as well be named the State of the Fundamental Transformation of America, since this president has no problem enforcing parts of laws he likes, changing parts he doesn’t and ignoring others as he deigns unnecessary. It’s like the worries of Thomas Jefferson have come to life with this Administration when they made it clear they came to rule and not to govern.

Some final thoughts before tonight

There are some subjects the President will not touch. He will not acknowledge the Republican tidal wave during this past mid-term election (I’d be shocked if he does). He will not mention the continued success of Governor Scott Walker’s conservative policies in Wisconsin. He will not mention that, despite his policies, the success of frakking on private lands is what has led OPEC to drop the price of a barrel of oil by such a degree that many states are seeing gasoline prices below $2.00 a gallon. He cannot afford to shed any light on policies that succeeded to which he is diametrically opposed. He will not waste a single breath on reducing the size of government. He may say he has a plan to reduce the debt, but when you go through the litany of new programs he plans to offer, it won’t take a mathematician to realize it’s just another lie meant to placate the low-information voter. He will play to emotions, but will not once employ logic. He will pull at the heartstrings, but he will not apply reason. In short, he will pander to his followers like the Pied Piper, playing a mesmerizing message to those who want nothing more than to be lied to and told, “Everything will be all right as long as you believe in the power of government.”

And for that reason, I’ll be playing the #SOTUdrinkinggame with much gusto. It’s about the only way I’ll be able to make it to the end.


The Risk of Offending: It’s Necessary

If you’ve been standing on the sidelines wondering when to get into the game, now would be a good time. I mean, if you thought a few deviations from business as usual would play themselves out and no longer be relevant, the assassinations in Paris on January 7, 2015 might have changed your mind.

I’ve had my share of being told to stop mocking religion. I’ve been told to shut up quite a few times. I’ve been told by liberals, “we’re not all like that”. Liberals come short of yelling “Allahu Obama” before they come after me when I criticize them. I refuse to get bogged down in the tit for tat spats that play out in social media. I’ll go two or three volleys in the comments but if a solution hasn’t presented itself by then, it’s best to let it be. It’s why I choose the art of the essay. It gives me my breathing room, my time for research, more time to edit and think on a subject before speaking and, admittedly, even sometimes that isn’t enough. To err is human.

Religion and Politics. What great targets. I think it was comedian Chris Rock who said that one man will describe the great sex he’s had with his wife with his buddies but ask him who he’ll vote for and, well, hey, that’s going too far. The same applies to religion. There’s this old cliché that nothing destroys polite conversation like a good injection of politics or religion. But these are the two very subjects that have the most effect on how a society is raised and what it is allowed to do or not do. It also justifies or prohibits certain actions or behaviors. And this is why I spend so much time on both of these taboo subjects.

On February 14, 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini gave a Valentine’s Day kiss of death to author, Salman Rushdie. In 1988, Mr. Rushdie had his novel, the Satanic Verses, published. Within, some mockery was given to Islam and for that, the Ayatollah issued a fatwa against Mr. Rushdie. For years Mr. Rushdie lived in protective custody. And although he has yet to be injured for his writing, others have. In 1991 both his Japanese and Italian translators were stabbed. Others associated with the book were shot at and/or threatened. As recently as 2006, it was reported that the fatwa remained in place because only the one issuing it could rescind it. And the Khomeini died only a few months after issuing it. So, in effect, it still remains that Mr. Rushdie and everyone associated with The Satanic Verses remains a target.

In 2013, the United States Internal Revenue Service was found to be targeting conservative groups more than others who were seeking tax-exempt status. Choices were made based on the groups’ mission statements, certain words in their name, their writings and sayings on what their intentions were, etc. And although a high number of liberal groups were also targeted based on naming and statements, it appears the more conservative leaning groups took the brunt of the scrutiny. The only way to avoid this, I suppose, is to get out of the game of speaking up for what you believe in, stay out of the fight on how you think society should be organized and run. The only way to avoid it is to take the middle of the channel and never rock the boat. Be boring and die quietly with your hand in a half eaten bag of chips while the game plays on the ole’ telly.

On September 30, 2005, the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published a series of cartoons, one of which, had a picture of Muhammad with a bomb nestled in his turban. This led to some upset feelings and riots ensued, protests, attacks on Christians and churchs all of which pretty much reinforced the stereotypes Muslims were trying to extinguish. When they said, “we’re not like that”, well, the reaction of many said they were. The most striking upset was that other journals and news agencies chose not to reprint those cartoons for fear of being attacked themselves. Instead of what could have been civilizations punch back, all that was offered was a whimper. The only publication initially brave enough to republish the cartoon was Free Inquiry. And because of it, Borders and Waldenbooks bookstores chose to not carry it! The enemy was winning. That has since faded, the cartoons appear to be freely printed by other magazines and journals but the initial withdrawal into mumma’s comforting womb was nauseating. The free press indeed.

Sony Pictures was scheduled to release their latest film, The Interview, on Christmas Day 2014. The film depicts the assassination of North Korean Leader, Kim Jong Un. It’s a satire, a comedy. For Christ sake, it’s a Seth Rogen film. And the announcement of this back in the summer of June 2014 led sad panda Kim Jong Un to issue threats of retaliation. Well, in December 2014, Sony Pictures found their computer networks hacked with sensitive data released to the public. It appears, to date, that North Korea was behind the hack. Afterwards, further threats were made to Sony by an anonymous hacking group calling themselves the “Guardians of Peace”. They claimed there would be attacks at movie theaters showing the film. They called for blood if The Interview was ever shown. And what happened? Sony caved. They chose not to show the film. It wasn’t entirely their choice. Movie theater chains announced they’d not show the movie and kind of forced Sony to pull it. If no one was going to show it, what was the point? Yet Sony found alternative outlets by releasing it anyhow through YouTube and Google Play and some limited theaters. But wow, look at what a country half a world away did to Hollywood. Life imitated art as Hollywood hadn’t reacted this paranoid since that Japanese submarine off the coast of California in Steven Spielberg’s’, 1941. And just as the turmoil over The Interview was fading into the background…

On January 7, 2015, in Paris, the offices of satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, were attacked by three gunmen yelling “Allahu Akbar” and avenging their prophet. Twelve died and the gunmen got away. As I write this, only one turned himself in which caused me to consider how odd it was he could kill fellow human beings but couldn’t go out in a blaze of glory for Allah to receive his seventy-two-virgins. Goes to show the complete lack of consistency and logic in it. Anyhow, the “sin” of the victims was their magazine which lampooned religion and politics and whatever met their fancy. The offices of Charlie Hebdo had been attacked before, being firebombed in 2011. But that didn’t stop the staff from continuing in the name of a free press. Yet on January 7, 2015, three gunmen caused, to date, the largest disruption of that free press by forcing themselves into the offices and shooting several staff and guests. To the magazine staff’s credit, those who escaped the gunfire, those who lived, have declared they intend on carrying on and the next issue will go out as planned.

And again, like the cartoons in the Jyllands-Poste, several news, journals and magazines coward and chose not to show the offending cartoons from Charlie Hebdo. I am more hopeful this time as there are less cowards. It is possible that since the 2005 incident with the Jyllands-Posten, we have the rise of social media to thank for spreading the images far and wide. I am most impressed that whereas large corporate news agencies wouldn’t take the risk, there were small time bloggers and individuals with no help at all should something strike, posting the Charlie Hebdo images. And the mass, worldwide demonstrations in support of the staff of Charlie Hebdo is absolutely riveting. The phrase Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie) is everywhere. And I am convinced that while there are those out there who want to stifle free speech and a free press, those of us wanting an open society will be the victors.

So if you’ve been standing on the sidelines wondering when to get into the game, now would be a good time. Now is not the time to shut up. Now is not the time to be calm and quiet and let it pass. Doing so contributes to the fall of free speech and the free press. Appeasing the aggressor turns you into their puppet. If we all participate in sharing our honest opinions, ideas, research, stories and cartoons, we’ll engage in what Ayaan Hirsi ali calls, “Spreading the Risk”. If there’s so many of us, the target becomes so movable and vast, one quick to violence may subdue to the immensity of their problem.

And I’m not asking you to participate in any of the controversies I’ve listed above. No, I’m asking you to make new ones. I’m asking you to be the mouse that roared. And remember mockery is not always a form of flattery and shouldn’t be. Maybe, just maybe, it’s meant to take the object off its pedestal and show you it’s not really that great. It’s too bad three gunmen in Paris didn’t see that about Charlie Hebdo.


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