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.

(1) http://time.com/3716980/obama-is-right-not-to-talk-about-islamic-terrorism/

SOTU — An updated drinking game for 2015

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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.

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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.

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

We stand in solidarity with the staff of Charlie Hebdo, their friends and family; all the writers, cartoonists, artists; in defiance of attacks on free speech and expression; we post the cartoon some major and smaller presses will not out of a fear that we don’t share.

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Freedom Cocktail – Our annual report for 2014

Take a moment to see how many people the writer’s here at Freedom Cocktail were able to reach in 2014. Even the smallest voice can change the course of the future. We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced. Keep the conversation going and do no give in to politically correct social pressure. Truth should never be kept at bay in favor of keeping people in the darkness of ignorance.

To all of our readers, those who retweeted, those who shared and those who liked and commented on our posts, thank you!

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2015!

(The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.)

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Believing lies and helping spread them; or, What it means to be liberal

liberalpillarsLiberals love being lied to. They enjoy being manipulated and played like puppets by the mainstream media, race-baiters and the leadership in the Democrat party. Liberals will not look beyond the surface so long as the talking points are coming from sources they admire and, if they happen to come across conflicting information, it is in their prerogative to dismiss such things in order to pledge blind allegiance to their masters and continue to regurgitate the original narrative force-fed to them from on high.

That’s a powerful accusation to level on a segment of the population. But where is the proof? How can I make such a claim? Where is my justification?

I could run through a litany of events that have occurred within the last six years of Democrat reign (having had a super majority in the Senate for the first two years of the inaugural term of President Obama, a simple majority in the Senate the following four and a majority in the House from 2006 until the 2010 midterms), but that may cause such a partisan turning up of the nose that anyone who proudly wears the label, or lives in suspicion they do, of liberal, may not bother to continue reading.

To illustrate my point, I will turn to an item that occurred just a few months ago during the run-up to the 2014 midterms. A group called the New Georgia Project worked with the NAACP to register “voters of color” and other minorities in and around the city of Atlanta. This included Democrat strongholds of Fulton, Dekalb and Clayton counties. They helped collect 80,000 new voter registrations in a state that many hoped would turn blue, thanks to Michelle Nunn (running on her Daddy’s name and reputation) and Jason Carter (running on his granddaddy’s name and, well…his name) running to take a seat in the US Senate and the Georgia Governorship, respectively.

A couple weeks before the elections, the group brought a lawsuit on the Secretary of State’s office and the state of Georgia, decrying that more than half of the registrations were not being processed or were being held up by election officials with a political agenda. “We are concerned, given the speed of the election, that if we don’t resolve this quickly and through legal means, that these will be 40,000-plus disenfranchised voters in the state of Georgia,” said State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), who heads the New Georgia Project.

Without waiting for the investigation to conclude (or stopping to look for facts), the willing accomplices of misinformation and propaganda splashed their headlines all over social media and print news, stating that Georgia was refusing to process between 40,000 and 50,000 new voter applications. The Huffington Post, The Daily Kos, ThinkProgress.org, NPR, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times were some of the biggest hitters and their headlines were shared across the whole of social media.

Look! They cried. See how Republicans are cheating the voters? They refuse to process over 40,000 brand new voters because that’s the only way they know how to win. This is a clear case of voter disenfranchisement.

It didn’t matter if there was any validity to the claims. Most low-information voters don’t bother to look past the headline or the 10 second sound bite. All that mattered was the sources for liberal ideology had used the appropriate key words and phrases. Conclusions were reached and there was never a moment’s pause to question further. And the mindless Leninites went about their merry way, parroting the message over and over like the useful idiots the purveyors of propaganda rely on them to do. “Georgia won’t process over 40,000 new voter applications! Voter disenfranchisement in areas made up predominantly of people of color.”

And so the lie was already halfway around the world before the truth had time to get out of bed.

Why do I say it was a lie? In less than 10 minutes, I was able to pull up the findings of an internal investigation that had begun the moment the lawsuit had been filed and the allegations made. Of the “over 40,000 registrations” that the New Georgia Project and the NAACP said were not being processed, a little more than 39,000 were already on the voter roles; 513 were found to be dead; over 1,600 had felony arrest records, which made them ineligible to vote; almost 2,200 had an invalid or out-of-state zip code; and, over 2,100 had no valid birth year listed. And, the cherry on top of this investigation? 9,900 applications were in a pending status because the applications were incomplete and each of those 9,900 had been notified by letter to finish their forms through their county election office.

To summarize:

  • 39,276 are active voters
  • 513 are deceased
  • 1,637 have felony record, so they can’t vote
  • 2,195 had an invalid or out-of-state zip code
  • 2,124 had no valid year of birth
  • 9,900 pending due to incomplete form

Total = 55,645

Within days, a judge, who looked at the same information I’ve just presented to you, threw out the case without batting an eye. All of the other new voter applications were processed through each county’s elections office. There was no disenfranchisement. There was no attempt to prevent newly registered voters from getting to the polls. There was no story.

But, it didn’t matter. The lie had ginned up the emotions of the faithful and the headlines were written and shared and tweeted and liked all around the country. Was there ever a retraction from any of the entities that were quick to post their false and misleading stories? Did anyone make a point of fixing their egregious mistake on social media? Was there any attempt to right the wrong?

No.

The vast majority of liberals who had read the headlines had already made up their minds and regardless of the facts, were set to run with it, content to let their strings be pulled like good marionettes. The wording of those headlines met the liberal narrative: Republicans cheat, Republicans don’t like anyone “of color,” Republicans only want rich, white people in charge. And even after all of the facts were placed in front of them, it didn’t matter. They were content to dismiss anything that ran contrary to the narrative.

It is a willful act of choosing to ignore the truth (or the parts they don’t like) and knowingly repeat the lie for as long as it takes. It is an exercise in wanton ignorance. It is what defines the low-information voter and is what Ministers of Propaganda in every oppressive regime throughout history rely upon to suppress freedom and subjugate the masses.

And, because it is a conscious, willful act, one must conclude that liberals love being lied to. They love to be manipulated by half-truths and outright fabrications. They like to be misled. They yearn to be used, spreading those very same lies themselves. It is an active display of groupthink, where the capacity for self-thought and cognitive discernment by the individual is lost, supplanting the desire to question and discover facts for themselves. It’s how the ruling class can get away with flouting the Constitution. It’s how facts can be ignored, hidden, Photoshopped or edited and it is accepted without hesitation. It’s how mobs form. It’s how looting takes place. It’s how the destruction of lives and property becomes justifiable.

It’s how a lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth even gets out of bed.

This is how something like the Fast and Furious scandal can go under the radar for years. Or the IRS targeting scandal can hide behind the help of the mainstream media. Or how President Obama can ignore the Constitution with his many executive orders and it’s sold to Americans as commonplace. Or how tapping phones and hacking the computers of reporters who are reporting on the activities within the Administration is allowed to take place. Or how a dozen other scandals have been allowed to occur in rampant fashion.

And it’s how something like Ferguson can happen.

 

 

The Abandoned Brain

After forty-eight-hours, this is what I’ve learned about humans from the immense number of postings in social media:

They have the ability to lose their fucking marbles even if they have no evidence as to why.

The damage done has nothing to do with all the facts of the case. The loss of property and harm to people was the direct result of actions on less than all the evidence. The rampaging outcome of white cop kills black youth in Ferguson, Missouri that’s been, pun intended, all the rage, is what you get when you don’t fact check, when you think you know what happened and don’t. It’s the very reason why I am so adamant in defending the notion that all the evidence matters – in every area of life and inquiry.

Christopher Hitchens said, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” And that’s where it should be left, to piddle away on the floor of lost causes. Or, at best, continue to do some research and see if you can support your claim. Instead, in Ferguson, we’re being treated to another episode of As the World Burns.

Here are some things I’ve seen in the past couple of days on social media:

Cops lie just as much as ‘witnesses’. Why did they dismiss witnesses that conflicted with Officer Darren Wilson’s side of the story?”

Imagine being in a town of people without power.”

Imagine a Grand Jury not made of your peers determining if it should even go to trial.”

The police officer’s job is harder now because of Darren Wilson’s actions.”

The cops are the ones with the guns.”

You can’t understand because of your White Privilege.”

If it were my child, I’d wanna burn the world down too.”

And on and on. These examples are enough to make my case without addressing every bit of nonsense running a muck. These seven examples are examples of not knowing all the evidence yet taking a side, drawing a conclusion. And the conclusions are causing unnecessary losses.

First, do some research on how badly our five senses are in relaying accurate information. People see (and don’t see) things all the time. Take a look at the Monkey Business Illusion.

Take a look at every magic trick. Magicians have spent a lot of time taking advantage of our poor attention and sight abilities. On the subject of attention, note that in stressful situations, even as a spectator, the senses are jarred even more than in a normal, restive state. Those who claimed Michael Brown had his hands up and was surrendering may be mistaken. Yet when you’re not a spectator but the target of the threat, your focus is entirely on that threat. You tune out almost everything except for that rushing train (metaphor). When Darren Wilson claimed Mr. Brown had a hand in his pocket and the other made into a fist, and to have never raised them indicating a wish to give up, it’s more believable. It’s more believable because of the tunnel vision one goes into when your direct focus is on the threat. Note I said more believable. I admit, I don’t know what actually happened. You don’t either.

Incidentally, have you noticed how many innocent people are getting released from years of prison because of DNA testing and it was eye-witnesses testimony that put them there? Yay science!

Secondly, asking your audience to imagine being in a position of no power is rather silly. The people in Ferguson are not in a concentration camp or prison. No one is stopping any of them from taking advantage of free education into the twelfth grade and applying for student loans to get into college or a trade school. No one is stopping any residents from doing none of the above, but trying a new business model and being creative. No one is stopping teenagers from actively entering the work force at minimum wage and working their way up to a better position. Last I checked, Ferguson is not run by a Feudal Government.

You’re assuming everyone in the town has no power. How do you know? And aren’t you stereotyping everyone in the town, patronizing them? Shameful. You’re assisting in the reinforcing of the victim mentality. I admit, I don’t know the exact demographics or specifics of all the people there. You don’t either. You could easily find a bit out. In fact, here’s the Wikipedia article. Take a look at the list of the educational institutions that are available, see the notable people?

Thirdly, asking your audience to imagine a Grand Jury not of your peers. Again, how do you know who was on the Grand Jury? You’re making things up. I haven’t seen their names, ages, origins or anything at all published on them. Stop muddying the waters by insinuating. Read the Sixth Amendment. It says you have the right to an “Impartial Jury”. This means someone who is not involved in the alleged charge, someone who doesn’t know the defendant and victim, someone who has no investment at all. So even if the Grand Jury came from outside of the jurisdiction, who gives a shit? Did they meet the definition? I don’t know. You don’t know. I’m the only one willing to admit I don’t know.

Fourth, insinuating it’s only the police who have the guns is just stupid. You have no idea how many Ferguson citizens are armed, legally or not. And since you’re making the generalization that it’s only the police everywhere who have guns, you don’t understand the millions of private gun owners in America. I invite you to come to the Detroit area where I live and work if you want to dispel that. We have a huge gun in front of a high school! See!

Northwestern High

Fifth, the job of the police didn’t change much after the Rodney King riots. Hasn’t changed much after anything. Sure, there has been a tendency to somewhat militarize the police. But this doesn’t mean they’re hanging outside of society and at the ready (and willing) to play with their new toys. Their training and action is based on best practices. Do you think police officers get into the job because they want to shoot people? Do you really believe that? Do you think they go around hoping some punk lets them sling some bullets in their direction? Ask any one of them and they’ll tell you they hope to never have to draw their firearm over the course of their career. (And I’m not going to entertain the notion that yes, there are some cowboys. However, their career doesn’t last long, they get weeded out or they shape up. Fellow officers, peer pressure at least, is there because at the end of their shift, an officer simply wishes to get back to her family and if another officer is putting her in danger of doing that, they’ll act).

Sixth, you told me I have White Privilege. Just as stupid as assuming everyone in Ferguson is incapable of being self-sufficient. But more importantly, the same people using such remarks are the same ones telling me I need to take the time to do some reading, listening and be more understanding. Well which is it? If I can’t understand because of a birth right privilege, why should I try? You’re asking me not to when you use language like that.

Seventh, and the greatest deadly sin, you admit that you’d too burn property to the ground. You admit, if someone killed your kid, you’d riot and burn and shoot too. Amazing. Absolutely amazing that you foresee having the capability of being so angry you’ll destroy the property and possible lives of impartial parties. I’d respect you greater if, at the very most, you admitted you’d go all vigilante and assault the person who killed your kid. That, at least, I can understand. And only if it was clear murder and not out of self-defense. In this Ferguson case, since we don’t know all the evidence, any attacks on Officer Darren Wilson would be unjustified.

Which leads me to the reason I write this…

I don’t pound out these words in an attempt to demonstrate Officer Wilson’s story is perfect and accurate. I don’t offer my thoughts and rebuttals in an attempt to justify the failed indictment. I say these things because there are things to consider, like all the evidence, before you make a decision, any decision about anything at all in life.

What I have yet to see (other than the few times I bothered to get into the mix of it and say it) was someone saying, “Well, we weren’t there. We didn’t get to see all the evidence. We didn’t see the medical reports, or witness reports, or photos of the crime scene, or everything in the case.” In other words, everyone had made up their minds before their failed wish for an indictment. At best, all of us were able to see and read news reports or Tweets or social media comments. And most of us made up our mind (indictment or not) based on slim evidence.

You were not there, you were not a witness, you are not an invested member that was on the scene. You did not see any detailed medical reports, all the pictures, the entire crime scene, the entire body of evidence. The Grand Jury did. If scientists worked like this, we wouldn’t know anything at all about the world and make zero progress. We’d be guessing our way through medical treatments, possibly still bloodletting. The lack of all the information is why some people fear vaccinations. And now we have measles outbreaks.

We’d be building cars that might not be safe in an accident. We’d be teaching children subject matter that might be right. We’d never know anything. You know what we’d be living like? We’d be living like two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s best for dinner. Someone is going to die.

So next time, and with every issue that comes before you, do some homework. Do all the homework, the best you can. Evaluate every claim before judgement. And in every case, if all you can get are scarce pieces, admit that you don’t know. Admit you can’t draw a conclusion. Continue to investigate but admit what you don’t know. Science works like this and it’s why we’re living in the best of times – really.

Admit you don’t know when you don’t, and leave your anger at the door. Because all I’ve seen the past few days are folks, many who should know better, abandoning the power of three billion years of evolution. Use some brains.

A Response to an Old Friend

Back in the late 1990s, I joined the Libertarian Party. I became a Big “L”, putting my money and time where my political stance lay. And I was so happy to have found a political home I wanted to share it. When I got my card in the mail, I shared the news with a good friend in a glowing email. We have since parted ways for other reasons, (not politics) but we used to engage in debate, he on offense with Libertarian philosophy and I took up the defense. Back then, these conversations were conducted via email or face-to-face conversation. There was no Twitter or Facebook or Ello.

His arguments were more along the lines of the current Democratic Party platform but felt much closer to the old Soviet Union. My friend avoided the term “communist” when I finally outed him based on his opinions on what made good government. But he despised the term. He preferred “communitarian”. To date, I don’t see the difference. Yet he preferred it so I let him have it. It’s a strange thing, the way people wish to avoid the stigmatization of failed systems yet want to continue to believe the dream. Relabelling doesn’t solve the problem, but I guess it keeps hope alive.

The core of our debates went something like this: He calling the Constitution an outdated document that needed to be replaced and/or fixed. And I saying that other than slavery (that had been done away with already) and other than the failed ten year plus lifespan of the Eighteenth Amendment, the Constitution still remains the best document ever crafted on governance. And round and round we’d go.

When you read the Constitution, even if you knew nothing about the history of governments (say you’re that hypothetical alien visiting planet Earth), you would see that the writers had gone to great lengths to limit it’s ruling body. You would instantly know that the writers had prepared a document that prevented abuses. You would know immediately that it was created because prior governments had abused their people and this document was written to prevent those abuses from happening again. After all, why create a Bill of Rights if speech, religion, the press, etc. had not been abused before? Read the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. They put the big foot down in regards to limiting government.

My friend argued that the Constitution and my Libertarian arguments failed to recognize the “dynamics and sentiments of culture”. Or, to acknowledge the abuses the poor and working class suffered from land owners and barons. Yet…

The Constitution was created by considering and recognizing history. So it is, in fact, very historical and takes into account the many “dynamics and sentiments of culture”. It was put together by people who considered history and observed the many abuses of the power model of government. The writers of this Constitution went to great lengths to prevent the mistakes of history from happening here in America. The fact is, the Constitution is the ONLY document in history that was created to limit the power of government and respect the individual liberties of the people because no one else had done it before. This goes for the poor and working class as well. Opportunity is available for all. It’s up to each and every one of us, regardless of the deck we start with, to shuffle it up the best we can. Individual results may vary.

As he was proposing to do away with the Constitution and rewrite government, I could see where he was coming from. If he wanted a “communitarian” government, he’d have start from scratch. But until then, the Constitution must be accepted and government must be harnessed under its reigns. The Constitution is the supreme law of The United States of America and, until that is changed, it must be honored. If the ruling power can bypass it’s own laws and do whatever it wants, then what does that say about us as a society, especially if we accept it? Incidentally, since those 1990s conversations, our government has bypassed the Constitution on so many levels I’ve yet to find enough paper to catalog them all.

My friend continually brought out his favorite government program, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as proof that although not Constitutionally authorized, was extremely beneficial. He cited the great work of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” as a motivator to finally get some regulation so our food wouldn’t be tainted. And I’d respond with…

Today, the Federal Government consistently bypasses the Constitution and does whatever it feels like, for better or worse. You may enjoy the FDA but the Feds had no authority to create it just as they had no authority to create NASA, the CIA, FBI, DEA and other organizations of the government alphabet soup. The only way the powers of the American government can be changed is through amending the Constitution. Right now, our government does not do this. They brush the Constitution aside as if it were a burdensome article.

Think on this a minute…

If Consumer Reports began to forcefully take your money for its projects, would you accept this?

If Ford, GM and Chrysler forcefully took your money to fund research on the next addition of automobiles, would you accept this?

If the Salvation Army began to force you, through threats of jail and/or prison, to hand over part of your paycheck for a welfare system, even if it was shown to work perfectly, would you smile and accept this?

I suspect that you probably would not. Why? Because you know that GM, Consumer Reports and the Salvation Army have no authority to forcefully take your money regardless of the benefits. The same applies to government programs. Regardless of the benefit, if an organization has no authority to do something, then it is prohibited. However, if you wanted to voluntarily donate to their cause, then that is perfectly acceptable because it is voluntary.

The issue comes down to FORCE. Government forces you to participate regardless of your support. Private companies do not have that power and no one in their right mind would allow it. Why do you support forcing people to support programs they want no part of?

You say that you like the existence of the FDA. Well, that’s fine. But if the government gives you your program, then everyone else gets theirs. The biggest problem with our government is that special interest groups run it. Whether you smoke or not, the Feds give over your tax dollars to subsidize the tobacco companies. Whether or not you support an effort in a foreign land, your government sends your tax dollars to it. It doesn’t matter if you can’t feed your children or send them to an accredited university, government will go right on building that space station with your money it took by force.

Specifically in regards to the FDA, what makes you think that it is necessary or even the most benign? After all, Consumer Reports and other private watchdog groups already exist to check the product of corporations. It makes no sense to have an FDA, not to mention that it has no Constitutional authority to exist. You are not required to fund Consumer Reports but you are required to fund the FDA only because it is a government program, not because it is the best or most productive. If, just hypothetically, the FDA did not exist, would you voluntarily give over some of your money to Consumer Reports? Maybe you would. Maybe you would not. It depends on how important the issue is to you. I suspect you’d be getting your money’s worth mainly because if Consumer Reports does not give you quality results, they would cease to exist because people would stop funding them. The FDA keeps right on going regardless of their results.

On a final note, what makes you think those government programs are better than privately run ones? Our government can’t keep people from taking drugs, it can’t make people go from welfare to work, it can’t educate your child, it can’t make blacks and whites get along, it can’t stop abortions….etc…etc…etc. Given the results of these government efforts, what makes you think that a government program can make food and drugs safer?

Government doesn’t work. It never has. A government program is no more benign than a private one. In fact, history shows them to be less productive and mainly destructive because they operate on force and not results. You may feel safer by having these government programs but I hold reservations to giving government authority to do anything, regardless of the benefits. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

And that was that. We stopped discussing politics because we were getting no where. He was just fine using force to support his favorite programs, I was not. I wonder what he’s doing now? Last I heard, he was quitting his job to enter the priesthood. Oh the things we’d discuss now. Maybe some other time.

The difference between giving a fish and teaching to fish

IMGP0820A few years ago, my wife and I decided to try kayaking for the first time. We have always loved the water, but didn’t know if a day on the river would compare to being at the beach. Comparing the two is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorites? Being at the beach is different from being on the river, but we love them both equally.

Since our first excursion on the Etowah River, we have spent hundreds of hours exploring as much of it as we can within the county in which we live. We have put in as far back as the Allatoona Dam and have gone as far as Hwy. 411 and everywhere in between. Some days we will be on the river for four or five hours. Other times, we could be on the river as much as eight.

In my youth, some of my fondest memories were going fishing at my grandfather’s home on one of the many lakes in Michigan. Sometimes I would fish off the dock, my bright orange life jacket strapped firmly around my neck and waist. Other times we would go out in a small boat with an ancient Evinrude outboard for a ride around the lake, stopping to fish along the way. These are powerful memories filled with joy and nostalgia and always make me smile when I think back on those adventures.

When we decided to buy our own kayaks, I selected one with fishing pole mounts, a small bait well in the nose and a storage compartment in back. My wife has one that has storage in both the front and back, but fishing isn’t her thing. Instead, our smallest dog, Rudy, a Pug-Chihuahua mix, joins us and loves to ride on the fore of her kayak, basking in the sun. They glide along, looking at nature all around us while I troll a line behind me and am more than happy with the few fish I catch and immediately release. For me, being on the river brings back all of the best memories I have had on the water — with my dad, my grandfather and my brothers. And, with each new trip on the river, we create brand new ones. All of our four girls have joined us on the river and I can only hope they have the same feelings when looking back as when I do.

One of our favorite places to put in to the river is a place called Floyd’s Landing. The local farm supply company owns a field that runs along a stretch of the banks of the Etowah River. The elder statesman of the owning family wanted to do something for the people of our community and spent his own money building campsites, picnic tables, shelters and a boat ramp along the river. His business model — make it absolutely free.

Here was a die-hard capitalist, spending his own money to provide a campground for families, and he had no desire to make a penny on it. All he asked was for folks to clean up after themselves, be good to one another and to make room for others. Working with the local Department of Natural Resources rangers, they setup a life vest station where anyone could borrow one at no cost — so long as they promised to return it when they were done.

EtowahRiverTrash4Unfortunately, generosity received from others without having to invest of one’s own, never works. No matter how many times the wizards of smart in their Ivory Towers think utopia can be achieved by following the motto, “From each according to his abilities; to each according to their needs,” it always fails in practice.

EtowahRiverTrash2Over time, squatters began to take advantage of staying in the shelters for months at a time. Baser elements of society began to appear more and more frequently. Police were called to arrest drug addicts and to quell altercations at all hours of the day and night. Picnic tables were found turned over, swinging benches left dangling from a single chain, roofs of picnic shelters were ripped and torn and trash became commonplace all along the grounds.

In an attempt to reach out to these dregs, printed signs were posted all along the campsite asking visitors to please pickup after themselves and to not abuse the amenities being provided at no cost. But it didn’t matter. The signs were not only ignored, but also the recipients of even more vandalism. It took close to three years, but the owners of the land realized they would never be able to change the hearts and minds of those who believed they were entitled to whatever they wanted without worry over consequences or cost.

EtowahRiverTrash3A month ago, they were forced to close the grounds, and installed a locked gate across the entrance, saying they have had enough. The gift horse had been looked in the mouth far too many times and their generosity had run dry at the hands of selfish ingrates who were incapable of even a modicum of common sense and civility. After all, why should they have acted any differently? They had made no personal investment themselves, therefore they had nothing to lose.

My wife and I are no longer able access that boat ramp when we want to spend a few hours with each other, communing with nature. The old saying of, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime,” continues to run through my mind every time we drive by that locked gate. We had both known this was going to happen. We had seen these examples of human debris use and abuse what had been given to them at no cost, save for a request to be mindful of each other and clean up after themselves. We knew at some point, thanks to them, this was going to end.

Socialism, Marxism, communism…they do not work. They will never work. We all know this at our core. When we tell our children they do not appreciate what we have given them, the flaw in those philosophies is revealed. When we see how a young driver treats their first car based on whether or not they paid for it, we recognize the faults behind those philosophies. When we struggle and save and clip every coupon we can find to maximize our grocery shopping, only to find ourselves behind someone with a government provided EBT card buying better food than we can afford, we are irritated over the mandates of those philosophies. When we inherently know hard work and effort are the keys to success, yet we see case after case of others living off the taxpayers dime, we get angry about the tenants of those philosophies.

It is wrong! Our Founding Fathers talked about this and were very clear that equality for all meant equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

Yet, for some reason, too many of us are silent. We don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to be the upstarts. We believe in a sense of decorum and civility and we just shake our heads and keep going with our own lives. But socialism, Marxism and communism are cancers out to destroy capitalism. They begin as small spots, but when allowed to grow unchecked, will rapidly spread. It is only by remaining actively involved in the body politic will we be able to heal the body that is our country — at least the country as I know it under the Constitution.

The banks of the Etowah River is but one small example of why we cannot allow these deleterious philosophies to be sold to us under the guise of compassion or the label of fairness. These purveyors of anti-capitalism will smile and smile and yet they have daggers in their teeth. They play to the emotions of the useful idiots and the low-information voters and convince them the best solution is for everyone to be the same, that everyone deserves a fish.

The reality is, the best thing we can do is to not give it to them.

The best thing we can do is teach them how to do it for themselves.

 

I wrote this on the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attack

My feelings and my story have not changed, but I relive every year. And I live every year.

9/11 +10

It has been ten years, three children, and a marriage since terror, grief, anger, fear, and an overwhelming helplessness filled me all at once, for the first and only time in my life. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands or more, posts about September 11, 2001, being written and posted right now. I would be willing to lay a heavy bet that many of them are being written through a blur of tears. This one is.

I searched for awhile for an image or two to insert into this post, and realized that I don’t want any images here except for the one that is in my heart tonight. I avoided all pictures, posts, and media coverage of the memorials today. My memorial is in ten years of September 11ths that have seen my children grow and my life go on, while so many others did not. It is a guilt that I think many of us never admit to when we relive this day every year. I have talked to enough people, been to enough events, and read enough to know that we DO relive it. Sharing the “where were you” stories is our own form of apology to those who did not get to go on, to see their children grow up, to those who did not get to have children, or see grandchildren. We share, and no matter how many years pass, that sharing and reliving will never ease that unspoken guilt that is there. In sharing, though, we also come together again as we did in those days following the attack on us all.

Like everyone reading this, my life changed forever on that morning. I was a workaholic then, already addicted to my life on the web. I happened to be home that morning because my, then, only child had just had his tonsils removed. He was sleeping, I was online chatting with a friend via ICQ and getting together a list of things that had to be done that day during my time away from the office, and planning a party. September 11th is my ex-husband’s birthday. We weren’t married then, and I was excited to be finalizing the first surprise party of my planning for him. It was really a great morning, and a lifetime ago.

During my back and forth on ICQ, I got a message that plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The person I was talking to worked at a bank in Manhattan. He sent that message and then another right after. I will never get the sight of those words on my screen out of my head. The second message said “Oh God. Do you know how many people are in that building?”. I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything, except that I should go turn on the television.

I surfed news channels until something came up live and began to watch the speculation about the plane, the cause, the possible damage and loss of life. I watched and speculated myself. I got a few more messages from my friend who said he was going to the break room to catch the news and he would keep me posted. The next thirty minutes where the most vivid of my life. They stand out more than my wedding, than giving birth four times. This is no special story, everyone reading this has one, but I have to relive it, too.

I called my father and then I walked into my sunny kitchen, still speculating along with the newscasters, and filled my coffee cup. I was halfway across my living room, eyes on the television, when the second plane came into view. I saw it hit the second tower, live, while I was on the phone. I dropped my coffee cup, hit my knees and said into the phone, “Daddy, what is happening?”. I had not called my father “Daddy” in probably twenty years before that moment, and I have not since. I remember him very slowly saying ” I don’t know.”. Then there was a small hand on my shoulder and a raspy voice in my ear asking me if he could have a popsicle, because his throat hurt very much. He was four then. I hung up the phone and one look at my son told me the truth of what I had not grasped while seeing it happen live. I may have hurt him a little by scooping him up and holding him so tightly while I dissolved into sobs. I know I terrified him. He must have asked if I was okay twenty times before I loosened my grip on him and got a little bit of one on myself. I stood up, my knees soaked in coffee, and took him into the kitchen and away from the television. I remember purposely not looking back then. I had someone to take care of, someone who would ask a million impossible to answer questions about what had happened and why it scared me so much. It happened that way, of course. The rest of the day was spent like many of yours: unending news coverage, a roller coaster of emotions, conversations with friends and relatives and co-workers. We cancelled the party. It was a long time before we had another on his birthday.

As I write, it is already September 11th in New York. My new online friends have been sharing all day. I read their tweets, but didn’t respond to any of them. I read the memorials go by in my timeline and read every word of every one. Each was a reminder that there are children who are now ten or eleven or twelve who do not remember their parent or parents. That there are people who are ten years older and wonder if they might have had a grandchild in the last ten years if not for the day that changed every single life in this country. We all think these things, we all relive. I watched you all do it all day on Twitter and Facebook today.

Try to remember to not only relive, but to live. Really live.

originally posted at Conservative Daily News.

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