Friday, January 09, 2009

Perception affects outcomes

If you were to ask any autistic person - or indeed, any person at all who is different enough that they cannot entirely conform to what passes in their socioeconomic context for "normalcy" - the response to this would work out to "duh." And yet, somehow, and obviously, it needs to be said and it needs to be said until it's broadly understood that "normalcy" is at best a useful social construct and at worst, and all too often, a pretext for the systematic abuse of social, physical and mental outliers.

sp!ked review of books | ‘Autistic children are now seen as a burden’: "‘Autistic children are now seen as a burden’

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, author of Defeating Autism, talks to Helene Guldberg about how raising a child with autism can be made infinitely harder – emotionally, financially and practically – by the charlatanic ‘war on autism’.
by Helene Guldberg"
Amen. I commend this book to you, in hopes that it may be a useful tool to get through to those who are - with the best intentions and the worst possible advice - are being abused.

I use the term "abuse" with a very narrow intent. I speak only of outcomes. I'm not speaking of intent; I presume that for the most part, parents of "different" children honestly think that their lives would be better if they could be less different. But this presupposes that the parents themselves have a valid perception of what normal is, and furthermore, that it's better for a child to learn to emulate normal behavior rather than to learn how to best express and express who and what they actually are. And that is my critical point here; which is not about panicked parents dealing with the "burden" of an autistic child, or indeed, any child. Furthermore, we must be careful to ensure that what we are "fixing" is an actual problem and not a social construct that may be irrelevant to the persons involved, if not utterly false.

So, this is not even about parenting, per se. What I'm trying to address is a problem that the autism issue has made visible, and which has been made visible in several other contexts, the inability of our society to come to terms with the idea that it's fundamental assumptions about who people are, what they do and how they should behave are incorrect; not just slightly incorrect, but dangerously so.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but in every serious matter facing the world today, we are in tension between evidence and people who are in absolute denial of the evidence because the actual, measurable testable evidence would conflict with their fundamental assumptions about reality.

You might be tempted to think that at this point I'd be asserting a tension between faith and science. I'm not. Faith applies when evidence does not exist. When evidence is in conflict with faith, when evidence promises an outcome and actions validate that reality, it's not a matter of faith to act against evidence in expectation of a different outcome. It's insane.

I don't think it particularly controversial to suggest that it's unwise to act as if the viewpoints of delusional people are as valid as people who do their best to disabuse themselves of delusion are equally valid, much less that people have an inherent right to act upon these ideas when those ideas must inevitably cause harm. The delusional segments of our society claim that this harm is not real. But then, they would, because they are insane. That is how we know they are insane. They do things that are predicted to cause harm to others, do them anyway, and then blame the harm on either the actions or inherent nature of the victims.

And since this is a general social phenomenon that seems to transcend borders and cultures, I want to emphasize that I'm pointing to autism and the behavior of the people involved for one reason, and one reason alone; it is an accessible topic that most people are not directly impacted by to the extent that it's more than usually difficult, in an emotional sense, to evaluate it objectively. That, and I know it well enough myself to find sources and talk about it intelligently.

I could just as easily have picked energy policy, prison policy, drug wars, various manifestations of religion and cultural warfare, or climate change, but most of these have far greater general emotional investment or far higher barriers toward evaluating the quality of the arguments on either side.

All these disputations, wars and disagreements arise from one common root - the formation of various systems of thought and human belief structures that permit us to absolve ourselves from the consequences of our own choices and actions.

If you have the interest and capacity, you can look at any such seemingly intractable situation, and you can see that at the root that it came about due to someone or some group decided that their problems could and should be solved at someone else's expense. Since this is obviously wrong, you have to develop an ideological, religious or institutional excuse to allow people to square it with their consciences.

And in doing so, you have created a self-perpetuating institution that exists and feeds upon gaining a benefit, while dumping the costs on someone else, and it's such a seemingly wonderful idea, it spreads widely, perverting everything it touches. Sometimes it's effect is so profound it's almost impossible to discern. But that's why I chose the title: in very important ways, our our perceptions of what someone can do affects what they will be able to do, even when we are honestly trying to act in their best interests according to the best information we have available. Nowhere is this phenomenon clearer or the consequences more evident than in the literature and the blogs of the Autism dispute.

Inarguable disabilities and meaningful distinctions aside, the perceptions of what autism is, what autistics can and cannot do, and what goes on in autistic minds are often carried on without any evident fact checking, or even the simplest and most obvious step of fact-checking with an autistic.

This very curious situation is typical when a group wishes to insulate itself from people or ideas that might call their fundimental assumptions into question. It's of course, unethical and corrupt, but the problem is actually far more fundimental. It makes it impossible for a group (Autism Speaks) to gain any practical insight into autistic persons if they create an institutional culture that precludes even speaking to the primary data source. This makes the entire excercise self defeating, even calling into quesion the validity of research they might actually do, and further, lends fuel to the broadening perception that they exist mainly to extract money from the gullible in order to do very little at a very high price.

I state these things as things that are being said, and being responded to in ways that seem unconvincing at best. It's not really important to me at this moment what is true here, again, we are speaking to a larger point. These perceptions directly interfere with even the illegitimate goal of sucking money out of the autism community. It would certainly be easy enough to scrounge up a credible enough aspie and contrive circumstances that would cause them to speak and act in ways placiate criticsm even if there was no better motive than to placiate critics.

We must reluctantly conclude the possiblity that we are dealing with delusional behaviors and that autistics and aspies are being seen as some sort of visceral threat. To what, one wonders?

I'm afraid I can't tell you. I am on the spectrum and I've been faced with this my entire life, yet I still do not understand. And as I've passed the half century mark, I'm coming to doubt that there is a rational explaination. That's why I've started to look past the immediate consequences to me of particular manifestations and look for something that I can actually hang a useful thought on. And, again, over the years I've come to realize that I was dealing with exactly the same sort of people in many different sorts of circumstances and every time the point where communication ceases is when it becomes obvious that their fundimental belief structures are being called into question by facts and circumstances.

It can be called denialism, and it leads to many very bad things and manifestly stupid and deadly courses of action. Nor, I am deeply relieved to find, am I alone in seeing this phenomonon, seeing it as a unifying thread beween many seemingly separate, but critical issues. Hence, I'm linking to the Denialism Blog, here and in the sidebar. This is an excerpt from a very cogent explaination of what the blog and the phenomonon are.

The Hoofnagle brothers (those handsome lads pictured at the left) started the denialism blog quite a while ago because they saw a pattern. Certain issues in science and the news seemed to attract a certain type of wacko. For example, there is a large and somewhat influential community that denies that HIV causes AIDS. This pissed them off. What the Hoofnagles recognized is that this "denialism" may infect many issues (AIDS, global warming, the Holocaust, evolution, to name a few), but the tactics, the logical errors, remain the same. People who deny the Holocaust happened use the same tactics as those who claim AIDS is something other than HIV infection. Those of us who follow these (very harmful and often hateful) movements have noticed how the people involved use certain tactics over and over to try to show the public how "reasonable" they are.

The study of denialism roots out these tactics, reveals these patterns, and shows these folks to be what they really are---charlatans, hate-mongers, corporate shills, and sometimes just poor, deluded souls.

Of course, if the manifest insanity of Denialism is is so pervasive, how can we rid ourselves of it? What can we do?

Three of the simplest things imaginable. First, do not delude yourself that you have the right to displace your costs onto other people. Second, dissocciate yourself, mentally and financially from institutions that are based on on denialistic thought Third do not accept even trivial costs imposed upon you that exist only to empower the agendas and validate the ideals of others.

You see, for the vast majority of human beings, there is no way that this can be an effective power exchange - because if it were to work out equitably in theory, we would not have extreme concentrations of power with equally extreme pockets of consequence - like, prisons, leaky toxic waste dumps, Africa and the US Congress. There are two things you can take for granted; anyone who tells you that you are entitled to a free lunch is lying, and that the free lunch itself will cost you at least twice what you'd have been willing to pay in an honest transaction.

While it's never possible to ensure that a particular action has no consequential negative effects to others, we can and should start by at least asking ourselves if we do this thing, then what consequences to others may be predicted according to what we do know. And if we all do that, consciously and conscientiously, to the best of our imperfect ability, we will absolutely make this world suck far less for far more people than we could possibly imagine, and it will impact us and improve our own lives a great deal more than most people would consider possible.

Moreover, it's something you become better at with practice - once you perceive that such choices are both possible and ultimately rewarding.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The mind of a Prude: "A sewer runs through it."

I found out about a story about Seattle queer bars being threatened with ricin attacks via Shakesville.

There was some discussion about the choice of language used.

When Shaker BGK sent me this article about the letters sent to 11 gay bars, I was struck by the first paragraph, and the last (seems to be a thing for me lately):

The article starts out:
"Eleven gay bars in Seattle were sent letters Tuesday threatening ricin attacks — in what some are describing as a hate crime." (emp mine)
and it ends:
"Stranger editorial director Dan Savage said he didn't take the threat too seriously: "I get a death threat a day with Savage Love," he said, referring to a sex column he writes.

Savage said the letters didn't contain any religious references, making him wonder whether the author was an embittered gay person. He said that if the threat were designed to ruin business for gay bars, it may backfire. Staffers from The Stranger made a point of visiting gay bars Tuesday night to show their support, he said, and others may be inspired to do the same."
WTF? "What some are calling a hate crime"?!?!?!?
What some? "Allegedly lazy and stupid writers." They are probably trying to avoid prejudging motive, which is good, but the construction manages to prejudge the crime itself. It's also pointless; the act itself trumps motive. Since it's terrorism, we don't really care (or should not care) who's targeted or why. Not when we are talking about a threatened mass attack. You really cannot discriminate in a mass attack, so who the hell cares who you THINK you are targeting?

But that's really not the story for me. Worth note in passing, but it's the reaction to the story that shows what is going on. I went to the source, the Seattle Times. Seattle is a relatively civilized city, compared to other US cities of it's size, so the usual suspects were thin on the ground. But they make up for it by being especially perverse and virulant.

I quote Artie Shaw of Seattle, WA
Queers (nothing "gay" about them) need to take a close look at what they've been doing and reconsider if they want to continue forcing their perversions on people with garbage like "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Daddy's Roommate". Nobody cares what you do with consenting adults behind closed doors, as long as you just shut up about it. But when you insist on show-casing your filth in public parades, rape and murder our children, (are you listening, NAMBLA?) you can't then play the victim and complain that you're being "picked on" when you start getting some backlash.
With that said, threats of violence against the so-called "gay" bars is counter-productive. Let them self-segregate themselves with their bars, it keeps them away from decent people, schools, and kids.

Interesting definition of "decent people," isn't it? And "filth?" My, that t-shirt is particularly apt under these circumstances.

You know what gay people talk about in gay bars?

Pretty much what straight people do. Baseball, computers and lousy bosses. They talk about the stuff that concerns them, and oddly enough, that's not usually about "fudgepacking." That's just in YOUR head. Don't blame other people if "a sewer runs through it."

Artie's reaction reminded me that there was another thing in the news that I was trying to get an angle on; the Facebook flap over breastfeeding images. There seems to be some overlap.

One of many examples, on a convenient comment page from The Star.

There are several parts of the human anatomy that should not be exposed to the public eye, and women's breasts fall into that category. It has been proven on countless occasions that some males cannot handle the sight. And that unfortunate truism is not altered by the fact that a baby is suckling on one of the breasts.
Ron Ross, Brampton
Others reveal they find breastfeeding a child "nauseating," that they compare it to urination or defecation. But one of the most disturbing aspect this controversy is that there seems to be a broad, general idea among those who oppose breast feeding - and the nonsexual use of breasts to feed children, I should add - that it's somehow the fault of the person with the breasts feeding the child for the possible thought-crimes of those who might see them.

This type of thing drives me crazy. Why would any women/mother have to put pictures of herself feeding her baby on the Internet? Facebook or not, the Internet is the Internet and everyone knows the problems of all those sickos out there getting turned on by this sort of thing. Facebook is just covering their butts for what might be another tool for perverts to get their kicks. I agree with Facebook's decision.
Trish Titcombe, Toronto

The sickest and most disturbing thing about this matter is that it's considered reasonable that limits be imposed on mothers, and all the negative consequences associated with truncated breast feeding, or feeding in private, but unsanitary conditions. And these real world consequences are justified in order to preserve the personal and general prejudices of prudish people, beliefs that are false to fact and any sense of unbiased decency.

We really have to get over the cultural idea that we have a right to be offended at things that do not harm or even affect us. And if your mind goes to a bad place, or if you are disturbed to the point of nausea due to your own bad upbringing at the sight of a breast, you need to excuse yourself from the situation - and seek help.

This is even more true if you "can't handle" the sight of a bare breast. That, sirrah, is YOUR problem. Fix it, or be sent to a place where you will be spared the possible sight of breasts by the simplest and most direct means possible.

Your pornographic assumptions about the meaning of the actions of other people, and what their parts "should" mean, in the face of common sense and, far more importantly, in the face of "the best interests of the child."

Yes, the price is that you may be exposed to random boob flapping that is clearly not designed to entice and titillate you. You may find it disturbingly un-erotic. Tough shit, grow the hell up and admit that it's your issue, and you need to deal with it, instead of blaming the filth in your head on other people.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

From His Lips to Conservative Ears

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (January 06, 2009) - Gender Difference And Marriage:
"One day, conservatives will see the tragedy of their attack on one of the most conservative and humane reforms of our time. The reason I believe this is because I think reality and time will prove it. That is why I am unafraid of the attacks and the backlash. In the end, reason will conquer fear. And reality will out-live panic."
It's an important and thoughtful post. Please take a moment and see how he drew that conclusion. It's both fact based and fully Conservative, in the truest sense of the word. Oh, and one hundred percent hysteria free. That's GOT to be a nice change.

Oh, Dana. Honey. Let me expain the facts of life.

There are certain standards of credibility for your office, Dana. Indeed, minimal though they are, the standards are significant enough that it could be argued that the standards for holding the office are, in fact, incompatible with "serving at the pleasure of the President."

This is what you get under a Bushite view of Affirmative Action.

"Government Won't Save You" is of course a neoconservative mantra. And lo, people such as you are the means by which that assertion is made true. But in fact, government is like anything else; you can do it honestly, competently and well, or you can be George Bush and govern like the life-long fuckup and remittance man that he is.

A spokesperson who is not clinically insane really must, in order to speak on behalf of someone, have some idea of who they are and what they mean; so I suppose you ARE speaking with some accuracy when you said the following:

The Hill's Blog Briefing Room » White House: Reid 'Isn't Really Taken Seriously': "White House: Reid 'Isn't Really Taken Seriously'
@ 4:14 pm by Hill Staff

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino issued a terse response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) suggestion that President Bush is the 'worst president we've ever had.'

'The Senate Majority Leader isn't really taken seriously,' Perino said.

Reid, on 'Meet the Press' on Sunday, defended his past remarks that Bush was the worst president and the the Iraq war had been lost.

'I think you just have to call things the way you see them,' Reid said. 'I really do believe President Bush is the worst president we've ever had.'"
Dana, your response causes me to simply dismiss anything you may say from this point on as irrelevant nonsense. To call George Bush "the worst president ever" is charitable, it's a standard that could be met without actively subverting the rule of law, abusing the constitution and killing thousands upon thousands of people for no good reason. Harry is stopping well short of the the sort of bitchslapping this administration deserves.

I'm quite certain that George Bush in particular and the White House in general does not take the Senate Majority Leader seriously. That is in no sense a virtue. Good government absolutely depends upon criticism. But then, since the Bushite view of criticism is indistinguishable from lies and slander, I suppose they must presume this is true of their critics.

This obviously applies to all critics. Not only do they not take the criticism seriously, it's my observation that the typical Bushite can't even comprehend the arguments that make much of the criticism accurate and compelling - even when "criticism" amounts to documented violations of domestic and international law.

Sane people would be concerned about criticism that amounts to accusations that for normal people would have to be proved or disproved in a court, with orange jumpsuits the penalty for poor performance in that arena. "Na Na, Boo Boo, I can't HEAR you" is not an appropriate response to situations of this gravity. It's delusional.

I say this in a fine, bi-partisan way. I'm not all that impressed by Harry myself. He's not the leader I would have hoped for in these times. He and Nancy Pelosi have been as guilty as have the Republicans of seeing this crisis in terms of purely political advantage and disadvantage. But even in those terms, neither is an inconsiderable force and only a fool dismisses them causally.

When you deliberately insult the Senate Majority leader, you insult ordinary Democrats and many independents for good reason. When you manage to craft that insult in a way that also insults the intelligence of voters actually connected to the issues at hand, you do so at your peril.

Let me be blunt. Not only has this President committed impeachable acts, he's actually bragged of doing so in terms clear enough to make a trial a pure formality, were it possible to have that trial in an objective court. There is simply no question about the facts. The only question is, WILL there be such a trial?

There is a book that makes a persuasive case that he is guilty of murder. It's a good enough case that anyone else would be under indictment. Dana, you aren't helping on that front, either.

And then there ARE the war crimes. Torture is a war crime and the fact is, the Bush Administration is not just guilty of it, they are proud of the policy. They have celebrated and institutionalized it, they brag of it; they champion it in the face of the fact that it has unarguably magnified our casualties and made the war even more un-winnable in practice than it was on paper. A conviction in any honest court would be a formality. Regardless of the politics of the judges or the the nature of the venue.

Now, war crimes are a matter of international law. The ONLY way that persons guilty of war crimes may escape prosecution is if they can be sure that subsequent administrations will have no compelling reason to turn them over for trial. Your boss presumes that it would be too politically costly to do that.

But that would require not pissing away political capital on stupid insults. Again, Dana; Heckuva job.

I've criticized Harry for not pressing for action on these fronts, for thinking that these things might be mistaken as being "purely political." No. They are crimes, war crimes, and impeachable acts; things that if allowed to go unaddressed will surely bring the legitimacy of the US Government - which is now widely doubted - into certain, manifest contempt. That will apply to all aspects of government, every treaty, every interaction between citizen and authority, it will play out between cops and criminals, bankers and billionaires and it will all boil down to whether the United States can be trusted to deal justly with it's own mistakes. I assure you, the US cannot survive being found wanting by the rest of the world in this matter.

But the very mildest of such criticisms are not "taken seriously." Well, I'll tell you what happens to people who dismiss such "criticisms" in the real world. If they are fortunate, they end up serving a long stretch in a crowbar motel.

And yet you are foolish enough to give Harry and Nancy political cover and emotional motivation to slam your boss in jail? Not exactly a brilliant move, Dana.

George clearly believes he is somehow immune to consequences. This delusion seems to have permeated his entire gang. My best advice to US Citizens is this: get as far away as you can from any place, any institution, any location that is controlled by Bushites. If your job depends upon their largess, it's time to cut your losses. Remember how suddenly there were no Nazis after the fall of Berlin?

Which brings us back to Dana. Dana is a poster child for the rat who will go down with the ship, because there's still a little cheese aboard. And here's the question Dana should have asked herself before going to the podium (or indeed, taking the job.)

"Who will take Dana Perino seriously after this?"

I assure you Bushies, at all levels; the veil of the temple has been torn across; everything that you have done is becoming known. Enough IS known and IS on the public record to put many of you at direct personal risk of personal, if not serious legal consequence. You have a little time left. Perhaps you might consider a new life in Paraguay, or Dubai.

We assume that you can afford it. I mean, that WAS what it was all about. Your greed. Your lust for power, and your willingness to do "whatever it takes" to steal as much money and power away from those who had it, and had a better grasp of how to not fuck up.

People in general are no longer depending on the media you control to find out what's going on. The marks are getting wise. The internet is, for the first time, the place where more people go to fact-find than newspapers. Among young people, television and internet are tied, and the trend lines suggest that TV will cease to be the overall leader in two to three years. This is the passive component. Activists and responsible citizens are already heavily invested in the Internet and using it as the amazing intelligence-gathering and co-ordination tool that it is.

That can't end well, can it? Well, not for you. But for the rest of us, being rid of the likes of you can only be a good thing.

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's a Good News slash Bad News Graphictruth.

Study Sheds Light on Link Between Religion, Self-Control| "religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.

'By thinking of religion as a social force that provides people with resources for controlling their impulses (including the impulse for self-preservation, in some cases) in the service of higher goals, religion can motivate people to do just about anything,' McCullough says."
Emphasis Mine.

Yep, that's your problem right there. Religion can be a positive force in people's lives. That is, pointedly, the point to it, and if that were not adequately nailed down for you already; how about "The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath."

I'm pretty sure Lau Tsu and The Buddha had some things to say on the subject as well, and no doubt it has been repeated many time and in many ways.

Because, you see, religion CAN motivate people to do just about anything, and because of that, positions of religious leadership command vast, personal power that tends to vastly corrupt the religion itself, assuming of course that it wasn't designed to fleece the marks in the first place.

Ironically enough, Christ Himself spoke a great deal about the corruption of religion - and due to the accreted revisions of Paul, Constantine, Augustine and our current crop of authoritarian scum, one could now manage to go through life thinking that Christ Himself was a life-long Pharasee who had somehow conspired to sacrifice himself for purely magical reasons.

Nope. They knocked him off because he threatened the existing racket. An astonishingly lucrative racket.

But since the teachings persisted anyway, Constantine co-opted the religion and in doing so, institutionalized many of the very things that made JC go ballistic. By this point in time, any correspondence between the teachings of Christ and the doctrines and teachings of any established and well-funded religion that refers to itself as "Christian" is spotty at best, and the more wealth and power a denomination has, the more strained the comparison becomes.

And yet, apparently, even a bad religion is better for many people than none at all. Our spiritual communities are that important to us, and we will tolerate far more than we should in order to preserve them. Hell, ask any Catholic.

Or, "See Illustration Above." Unfortunately, the human need for a spiritual context is great enough that you don't have to work particularly hard to get very, very rich, very powerful or both. And, as the Aztec empire illustrates, there's always some sonofabitch who seems perfectly sincere in preaching that it's ok to sacrifice someone else for "the greater good," as God Demands. Why, there's hardly been a social ill in the last two thousand years that someone didn't try to address with a cheerful auto-de-fe.

I could point fingers at various contemporary religious groups. Indeed, I started to. But I'd really have to list them all, and even sticking with those in the purely Christian tradition, that could take a while.

What I wish to point out instead is that people really need to expect more of their religious leadership. If the book of Leviticus is about anything relevant today, it is that those who are called or destined for a life of religious leadership MUST be held to a higher standard. After all, they are being paid to be experts in the matter, and like anything else worth doing, you have to actually do it well in order to have any understanding worth communicating.

At the VERY least, your actions must not be stark contradictions of the expectations of the membership the church actually DOES hold. There should certainly be greater consequences for those in positions of religious authority over others than there would be for ordinary members of the flock.

You would think. But as endless scandal within the Catholic Church and increasing cataclysms arising from the Evangelical types should prove, that proposition would be wrong, and that the leadership of the various churches have less accurate moral compasses than a teen-age convert dragooned into teaching Sunday school lessons to five year olds. I consciously refrain again from pointing fingers, but a few minutes with a search engine will definitely illustrate that it's not for lack of relevant citations.

There's a reason why many religious traditions refer to it as "the work," or "the craft." It's both. It's a life-long study, and there are objective, pragmatic standards that can be tested; scripture among them, but also the practical rewards of belonging to this church instead of that one, ascribing to this religious tradition instead of that one. In an ideal universe, there would be some visible correspondence between the quality of the product and the reward for providing it.

But then, that's really not up to me, OR the universe. It is, most pointedly, up to you. "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out."

When people who claim to be your spiritual eyes prove to be visually challenged, you'd be better off being blind and knowing it than being deceived into thinking your worldview was accurate.

But what of your community of faith? For that, I refer you to a precept from the 12 step movement, as to what it takes to start a new 12 step group.

"Resentment and a pot of coffee."

I couldn't quite fit this into the above, but it's closely related to my point. Of late the Southern Baptists are deeply concerned that they are starting to LOSE membership - and more importantly to them, their conversion rates are dropping. It is a statistic that gives me some hope that the weekly Hour of Hate has begun to lose it's appeal.

At a news conference, Hunt said radical change and leadership was needed to "turn the tide in our denomination." After five decades of declining growth, the SBC reported an actual drop in membership — a decrease of about 40,000 people from 2006 to 2007. Seven out of the last eight years, baptisms have decreased, a more important statistic to many Southern Baptists than membership.

Hunt said he would try to unite Baptist around common causes and use his experience mentoring younger pastors to reach out to a younger generation.

"We come across almost only for what we're against when there's so many wonderful things we're for," Hunt said.

The context? The larger story concerns the debate over the necessity for and the implementation of a sex-offender database. So MANY wonderful things!

Including the wonderfully oblivious inattention to the fact that creating the database does not deal with the fact that it's church structure, customs and teachings about family and church authority that make abuse and sexual exploitation so gosh-darn easy to get away with.

The problem is not the lack of a database. The problem is that your denomination is seen as a happy hunting ground for perps. And who are perps attracted too? Children who come from abused, dysfunctional families, children who are perhaps already sexualized by abuse within the family.

That's what studies tell us. That's what the survivors tell us. But oddly, few if any churches tell us. One has to wonder aloud why that is.

The Sin of Sodomy: AFA Morals v.s. Biblical Ethics

Bump and Update:

Google has been referring people to this post in response to questions about "sodomy," and re-reading it, it's also the perfect answer to the various trolls who seem to have no better use of their time than to further offend the sensiblities of honorable people and real Christians by defending the abominable abuse of process and principle that is California's Proposition 8.

As it happens, I'd been casting around for a good response to link to in comments myself; I'd forgotten that I'd already written one.

The key point here is that over the years, people just like "The American Family Association," the Mormon Heirarchy and the Catholic Church have all carefully steered us away from a proper understanding of the term "sodomy" - one that originally had nothing whatsoever to do with "unnatural sex" and everything to do with "thinking as did the people of Sodom."

The original (3/31/06) starts here.

It's instructive to look at what "Pro-family" folks like the American Family Association say about the "decline" of moral values, and the moral force of their arguments.

I believe a brisk Fisking is in order.

American Family Association - AgapePress news
Let us suppose for a moment that homosexual marriage does become legal. It is closer to becoming a reality than many believe. The world is changing around us, and we go merrily on our way pretending that such a change will not affect us or our children.

I don't know about others; but I'm doing it FOR the children. And affecting your children as early as possible by exposing them to healthy, ethical families of choice is one of the best ways to go about it. In this way, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who advised folks to preach first by example.

"Doesn't affect me. I don't want to marry someone of my sex, but I don't care if someone else wants to marry a person of the same sex. If two people are in love, they should be allowed to marry." So goes the thinking. The problem is that this thinking doesn't go far enough. If two people of the same sex can marry, then why can't three people of the same sex be legally married?

Indeed: why not? EXPLAIN to me in simple words why what was commonplace in the Bible would now suddenly be wrong? Or are only certain moral truths immutable and unchanging?

"Marriage" is a legal construct with the primary intention of codifying certain rules of inheritance and responsibility. Is there some reason why my preferences in this regard are any of your business?

Or four? Or two men and three women? Or any combination you desire to choose?

Well, I can give you all sorts of "why nots" based on practical experience, but mileage varies, people differ and culture matters. Marriage - as a legal institution - should ideally make it possible for the majority of people to determine matters of vital importance to them personally and not place restrictions upon them that arise from the superstitions of people they may radically disagree with.

Marriage - as a religious institution - is a matter for each religion to determine, and those unaffiliated with any particular religious group to determine for themselves, without let or hindrance.

Why can't a man who loves his daughter marry her?

Ah, I discern your point. Well, Sir, when all Dominionist daddies can assure me that they have never fiddled with their sons and daughters, your tender concern about legitimizing incestuous relationships might have more force. However, were you really sincere about the ethics underling this question, perhaps there would be fewer efforts from social conservatives to discredit the testimonials of women who grew up in the sorts of families you advocate while being sexually exploited.

Perhaps more evidence of personal responsibility in this regard might go towards credibility.

However, in a legal sense, a marriage contract is not required to define the family in this case, so from the viewpoint of the law, the idea is moot.

Indeed, so long as no-one brings forward complaint and birth control works, sexual behavior is legally, if not morally moot.

Our system of justice depends on being able to prove a harm.

Aside from that, daughters and sons, are family and need no particular additional legal recognition. Being family, they are also forbidden under existing law from engaging in either sex or marriage with their daddies and mummies. Or more to the Point, given how the law exists and how it is applied - they are forbidden to speak of it.

So this prong of your argument is - what's the word I'm looking for? Stupid? A straw man? Dishonest?

Yes, I believe all of those apply.

If you allow two men to be married, then you have no reason to forbid any couples or groups from being married.

I - and many other libertarians - would point to the fact that the very concept of Marriage licenses is an insult perpetuated by racists who instituted it in order to prevent racially mixed marriages. The idea that the state had a right, or indeed, any interest at all in the matter was entirely novel and is still, IMHO, decidedly dubious from a constitutional perspective.

Hence the push for an Amendment to the Constitution, in order to prevent the terrible consequences of Gay People having their illicit sexual practices legitimized. There never was any concern about white folks screwing black folks, or males screwing males - so long as they knew that they were being Disapproved Of and could be lynched if the local bigots weren't too drunk.

All of this, of course, goes back to the standard on which a person (or a nation) chooses to base the concept of good and evil, right and wrong.
It actually goes to the question of who should be able to impose their standard of "good and evil" and "right and wrong" on others, without any demonstration of "compelling state interest" or regard to the natural, individual liberties of persons.

If we have the right to free association - which we do - this very idea of there being conditions on the nature of that association is a violation of that most fundamental right.

There is truth, and there is relativism. Truth is constant. Relativism is something subject to change as the latest fad comes along.

No, sir. There are ethics, - laws, in the same sense as Ohm's Law, or the Law of Thermodynamics - which are expressions of the immutable laws of Reality. They are universally recognized and variously expressed in every single religion, philosophy and creed, worldwide. Even Satanists honor them in the breech. Secular Humanists have codified them as well - with no reference to Divine Authority.

One may or may not accept the existence of God, for instance, but the cause and effect reality of violating the principles set down in the Ten Commandments will occur nonetheless.

They are not "laws" in the human sense of simply pulling a "thou shalt not" out of nowhere; they are direct statements of things that will consistently and predictably result in Bad Things Happening.

They are immutable, but society is not. And therefore, we have evolved morals, which vary from place to place and time to time, in order for most of us to know, most of the time, the right course of action.

Morality has to be grounded in these ethical principles.

When your moral code can be used to justify doing direct and significant harm on others then it is wrong. Your beliefs, your faith, superstitions, bigotries or claimed affiliations with Divine Pesonages will not change that in violating these laws, you WILL pay.

You know, I bet you guys say that sort of thing a lot. How's it look from the other end?

Judge not, lest ye be judged also! It's not a law, it's a proverb and an observation. When you get up on your high horse, it's a lot easier to notice if you've waded through the mud to get there. If you make judgments about others that are based in your moral code and your reading of scripture, then responsible people must judge whether your codes and your understanding of scripture qualify you to make such a judgment.

Let me point out one of those ten Commandments that apples here with painful appropriateness.

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

This isn't saying "don't lie" - but it does say do not lie about your neighbor in order to influence others against him. Not in court, not under oath, not in a back ally, not in confidence with their friends, not to his wife, his cook or his colleagues.

It is a completely unambiguous statement. You do not say, upon your honor, that someone is doing something they are not doing, believing something they do not believe or saying things they have not and never would. Any time you say something about someone else that is false, and knowably so that could harm their credibility, reputation, their relationships; even their legitimate ambitions, you are bearing false witness.

Believe it or not, there are actually high-level officials in many denominations who are supporting the change to allow two men or two women to be married. Have they not read the Bible? Of course they have read it. They simply don't believe it.

This is verifiably false to fact. There are many, hundreds, if not thousands of powerfully grounded, well cited and biblically sound arguments that disagree with AFA theology on this point. It's been a hotly contended, divisive issue and as such has had people agonizing over it and digging deeply into scripture to see what it actually says.

Accessing other biblical passages to understand Genesis 19:

The interpretation of Genesis 19 as referring to a homosexual sin appears to have been created in the 11th century by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian. 7 Christian theologians generally accepted this explanation until recently. In fact, the English word sodomy, which popularly means either homosexual or heterosexual anal intercourse, was derived from the name of the city. The term "sodomy" is also used in some ancient laws to refer to a variety of sexual behaviors in addition to heterosexual intercourse. Some of these laws are still on the books although the U.S. Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 2003-JUN. Opinion among most liberal and mainline Christian and Jewish theologians has now reverted to the original Christian belief that Genesis 19 refers to a lack of charity and to ill treatment of strangers. Consider:

bulletIn ancient Jewish literature, such as the Ethics of the Fathers and the Talmud, there are many references to Sodom. The phrase "middat Sdom" was used. It may be translated as "the way the people of Sodom thought". It meant a lack of charity and hospitality towards others; ignoring the needs of the poor, etc. In the Middle East, a person's survival could depend upon the charity of strangers. To help strangers was a solemn religious duty of paramount importance. See Leviticus 19:33-34 and Matthew 25:35, 38 and 43.
bulletIsaiah 1; The entire first chapter is an utter condemnation of Judah. They are repeatedly compared with Sodom and Gomorra in their evildoing and depravity. Throughout the chapter, the Prophet lists many sins of the people: rebelling against God, lacking in knowledge, deserting the Lord, idolatry, engaging in meaningless religious ritual, being unjust and oppressive to others, being insensitive to the needs of widows and orphans, committing murder, accepting bribes, etc. There is no reference to homosexuality or to any other sexual activities at all.
bulletJeremiah 23:14:"...among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah." Jeremiah compares the actions of the prophets with the adultery, lying and evil of the people of Sodom. Homosexual activity is not mentioned.
bulletEzekeiel 16:49-50:"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." God states clearly that he destroyed Sodom's sins because of their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered; sexual activity is not even mentioned.
bulletMatthew 10:14-15: Jesus implied that the sin of the people of Sodom was to be inhospitable to strangers.
bulletLuke 10:7-16: This is parallel passage to the verses from Matthew.
bullet2 Peter 6-8: Peter mentions that God destroyed the adults and children of Sodom because the former were ungodly, unprincipled and lawless.
bulletJude, Verse 7: Jude disagreed with Jesus and Ezekeiel; he wrote that Sodom's sins were sexual in nature. Various biblical translations of this passage in Jude describe the sin as: fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust. It looks as if the translators were unclear of the meaning of the verse in its original Greek, and simply selected their favorite sin to attack. The original Greek is transliterated as: "sarkos heteras." This can be translated as "other flesh". Ironically, our English word "heterosexual" comes from "heteras."

A likely interpretation is that the author of Jude 8 criticized the men of Sodom for wanting to engage in sexual activities with angels. Angels are considered to be a species of created beings who were different from homo sapiens. The sin of the people of Sodom would be that of bestiality. Another possibility is that the "other flesh" refers to cannibalism, which was a practice associated with early Canaanite culture.

AFA theologians - and indeed, the writer of this article - cannot honestly be unaware of those arguments. Therefore, the above statement is a conscious lie, intended to influence readers against those who can, have, and do find different truths in the Bible.

In my studies of these matters, it's more difficult to justify your interpretation than those who disagree. Moreover, in insisting that the sin IS homosexual behavior, you are insisting that the sin IS NOT "inhospitality to strangers." It is interesting to note how little Right-Wing Christians are concerned about the needs of anyone who is not a member of their own church.

This paragraph is saying that "anyone who has read the Bible" must be willfully rejecting "the truth" if they disagree. No, sir, they are not. They are honestly and reasonably rejecting your interpretations of the Bible. Tortured as they are, it is unsurprising that they do.

You are bearing false witness against your neighbor - and the consequences that come from this will affect you, and yours, "unto the seventh generation."

That's not a promise of divine retribution - that's a biblical observation of how these things work. Teaching your children to hate will bring bitter fruit to harvest - as a matter of fact. The consequences of their hatreds will affect their children, and their children's children in ways that cannot be predicted, but will be predictably harmful. So long as that hatred continues to be taught, so will that fallout continue - and indeed, for longer than that.

Our society has a new definition of God and love. In the past we saw truth in the definition that God is love. For centuries we have operated on that basis. But now, not satisfied with the restrictions that old definition imposes on us, we have turned the wording around. No longer is God love, but now love is god.

The final paragraph is really definitive about your understanding of "love."

It means sex. Who is permitted to have publicly sanctioned sex. For you guys, it's all about sex, all the time. Lord, you are a shallow people. There are many reasons for family and many sorts of bonds that may exist. Sex is one way to forge such bonds, but there are others - and sex itself is no guarantee that bonds will be forged well enough. Choice, also, is needed; a conscious choice to accept such bonds.

I've found that the more moralistic people are, the deeper their minds dive into the gutter in their assumptions about the motives of other folks. But then we always tend to project the worst in ourselves onto others.

The only way this moral position makes sense - and I'm open to argument on the topic - is if the word "love" is understood to be "Eros."

Well, marriage is not a fucking license. Indeed, if anything the bible takes a rather lazez-faire view towards extramarital recreational sex. But it's deadly serious about committed relationships - one of the Big Ten is about that.

Unfortunately, it says nothing that would limit the commission of adultery to a sexual act, or to the "splitting apart" of a man and a woman who were legally recognized as married.

It applies as strongly to buddy relationships as to married couples, and a mother in law who interferes is as much of a sinner as "that hussy" across the courtyard.

It does not condemn any act, it condemns a specific intent - to split apart relationships. Why? Because we are human beings and our relationships are critically important to us. To harm our relationships IS to harm us.

A crusade against any form of human relationship is then inherently wrong. Evil, if you will.

My understanding of love is more inclusive - especially the love of God. Or Goddess, However you see Them, which is an intensely personal matter and not subject to outside criticism, unless requested.

My idea of love includes Eros - erotic love. It also includes agape - selfless love. But it's more even than that.

God is love. And They are not obsessed with who is screwing who and why, nor issuing arbitrary punishments beyond the consequences of harming others would ordinarily bring.

My concept of God and how I'm supposed to relate to others is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I cannot imagine how anyone can rectify that simple instruction with the idea of a wholesale reordering of society to make it "safe" for small minds and fearful hearts. I also point out that as you do hateful things - and this entire site is a hateful thing - people will come to hate you and all you stand for.

If there is a "threat" to the survival of good, Christian values, gentles - it is you.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Graphic Truths

A Clear Day in Greenwood.

The record-setting winter blessed us with beauty that persists even as the frostbite fades into memory. Yes, frostbite. It's not something I ever expected to be concerned about. My tiny little camera, a thirty-dollar bubble-pack special can't help but capture postcard images. It's an astonishingly beautiful place to live. Oddly, I never thought I'd ever feel at home away from the coastal rain-forests or a vibrant city such as Vancouver, and yet I miss neither. Our little apartment over the local pizza shop - humble accommodations by any standard - feels like a castle.

Oh, winter is not without it's downsides for my wife and I, as an autistic-spectrum person I find fitting into a new place and a new routine to be a prolonged and difficult thing. But here, I look forward to that, being outside and getting to know at least a few people; something I never could say about Reno. Reno has it's own beauties - but while I see them, they just don't speak to me.

Meanwhile, I am dealing with the dregs of the blahs - something that happens to me every year, from November to January. Oddly, as difficult as it has been due to tight finances and being trapped inside for the most part, it's been one of the least difficult in years. I'm used to feeling like I've lost my way; I feel that way right now. The difference is, somehow I know that I will find it again, and that when I do, I'll find more than what I seem to have misplaced for the moment.

Coming up, I expect to write more about Canada and Canadian affairs, climate change and green approaches to real problems. Call it a more immediate and practical approach to the craft of ethics.

I plan to take a lot more pictures, and do more artistic work based on them. The last eight years, from the viewpoint of my writing, has been a depressing litany of pointing out mistakes before they happen, and then watching as mistakes even more profound than I expected play out. What I must hope at this point is that enough people, worldwide, have had their noses rubbed in it long enough and hard enough that I don't feel the need to add more words to the pile of warnings.

I suppose I am fortunate in that; that this blog has never had great influence; locking me into a career as prophet of doom. It's been depressing enough to do it on a pro-am level and I'm blessed that I'm not obligated to a community or bound by economics to considering a course that has become increasingly depressing, as this Jerimiad will prove.

Nonetheless, I'm sure I'll continue to have occasional fits of the disease and, as usual, an "I told you so" post a year or two later. The use of torture comes to mind, as it becomes clear that the mad and evil decision to use torture may well have doubled US casualties, by motivating far more dedicated opposition, fueled by quite genuine and earned hatred of all that the US presence in Iraq represents.

All of this was quite predictable. I predicted it, as did many others, but we were shouted down. Well, one fruit of that is that I, and many others, no longer give much of a damn about what happens to people who are still so transfixed by fears and bamboozled by their willful prejudices that they can defend torture or rationalize the other evils so dear to the Religious and Political Right in the United States, and mirrored elsewhere.

There comes a time when it becomes clear that each of us have to be responsible for our own choices and allegiances; that we must and allow others to make choices that are incompatible with the choices we make. Both history and legend tell us that these cusps have a way of working out; that those who are fixated on evil and consumed by fear tend to destroy themselves. The trick, of course, is finding a way of not being nearby when they do, and muddling through while the mess and bloated corpses are cleared away.

And that is why I am here in Greenwood. It's a place where people do real things that matter directly to people they know. It's also a place that depends on tourism, so it's tolerant of difference and values creativity. And when the waters rise - as now seems the inevitable result of allowing willful foolishness and religiously-mandated stupidity to triumph over science, common sense and even the plain words of the Bible.

80 million US dollars were spent by the Mormon and Catholic churches to force Proposition Eight down the throats of Californians - a campaign that depended upon conscious lies about constitutional rights and Biblical truths. I'm not going to bother documenting them, others have done it better and Google is your friend.

No Fishy Whining button
The idea that any Christian - or indeed, any ethical being, any person with any spiritual component to their personality, any appreciation at all for the priorities laid out in all the great spiritual traditions, could choose to spend that money to oppress others, to take away basic human rights of association, to criminalize love and institutionalize their homophobic fears in the teeth of their clear duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and comfort the afflicted - these are persons who have nothing to to say worth hearing.

They have made themselves by their own actions irrelevant to people interested in becoming better people, unworthy of speaking for any God worth knowing. If they are sincere in their beliefs, that's even worst; a liar who KNOWS they are a liar can always choose to tell the truth.

These betrayals of faith are viscerally appalling, revolting; the exact opposite of the loving-kindness Christians are called toward. And it's so easy, so tempting and so dangerous to hate them for it. But, the fact of the matter is, hating them for the evil they have become harms only ourselves; further, it distracts us from doing anything useful. It traps those that hate them in the same place those worthy of that hatred have chosen to place themselves. So, let us not argue whether it's heaven or hell - let us simply choose better company.

Proposition 8 will be over set, or it will be ignored, and it will be linked in many minds with a great many other moralistic diktats about who and what free people may or may not do, under penalty of law, for such laws make the idea of law itself contestable. When the law is seen by lawmakers as a means to an end of imposing their own visions of a "proper social order" regardless of the interests and needs of actual people, when it becomes clear that it's simply a means of impoverishing these people and enriching those, than what virtue is there in abiding the law? People tend to try to do the right thing, more or less, and if the law ceases to be a reliable guide, they will seek out other guides that are more useful to them.

And indeed, it's quite possible that events will overtake such abstract concerns; the Earth herself has a say in this; rising waters and whirlwinds trump law and culture every time. Volcanoes incinerate the just and the unjust. Rivers shift their courses whatever laws we make, and the sun shines on everyone, with or without the blessings or curses of those who think they have the right to decide who is good and who is bad based on their essential natures. And as for the economy - well, those who concentrate on real things - bread, cheese, grapes and jeans will fare better than those who concentrate on money in the belief that money is something more than a symbol for transactions of real value made by real people doing real things.

Your family is your concern, mine is mine, no amount of legislation can change that reality. We love and live as we do, irrespective of who others think we should, and almost all of human literature is concerned with conflicts between what others think what should be as opposed to what actually is. People who are capable of being distracted from the rising waters by such trivia will be swept away by the changes that will come despite their arguments, their faith, their denial and their prejudices. There are important things to be concerned with, little time and much to be done. There are those who will tell you that their doctrine demands that you sacrifice that time and attention to their aims. If you listen to such fools and parasites, the outcome will be as tragic as is as predictable.

Ethics and the morality that derives from it's study teach us how to co-operate without violence, without friction and oppression of one another; they teach us how to live without being seen as worthy targets for retribution or ill fortune. There IS no greater issue than that, even to those of us who believe in the precept of "as above, so below."

Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred; policies of violence and moralities that teach that other people should be hated because "God does" should be obviously oxyomoronic. Anyone who claims moral or religious authority, anyone in a position of power over you who seeks to "divide and conquer" by setting this group against that group - well, it's time to stop the madness.

When the people entrusted with the task of instructing us in issues of morality give us advice that MUST lead to suffering and pain for some for no greater benefit than allowing some others to feel smug and self-righteous, they deserve nothing from you; not even your opposition. Don't become their enemies, they thrive on hatred and opposition. Just ignore them. Shun them. Smile and walk away.

As they rail and froth about what hells await those of us that reject their council, I can think of nothing better to do,no more appropriate fate for them to be reduced to preaching to the choir.

They have made a corpse of New Orleans and scattered those who were it's life to the winds, forgetting who founded New Orleans and how it happened to become what it was. Now, it's simply an investment opportunity for those who see no sin in profiting on the shattered dreams of poorer and better people - who will be better people elsewhere, taking the essentials of that culture everywhere they are scattered.

Will those who stood aside and let New Oreleans drown, and then stood in the way of those who ran to help, are such people be wise enough to create a new city worth living in, or will their greed blind them, and cause them to lure more greedy fools to live in physical denial of reality? A foot or two added to the flood walls will be insufficient to a changing, less forgiving climate.

They have already removed those who are innocent; they have stolen and smashed that what was good. Those who remain, and who celebrate that they have banished the "evil" and "licentiousness" that was the heart of New Orleans will have their reward - for a time, putting their trust in FEMA and The Army Corps of Engineers.

Call it foreshadowing. Call it an object lesson. Call it a test of civic duty that deserves an F-minus. This is the result of people given power who did their duty as they saw it, to the best of their ability. The standards they hold as sacred cause them to claim it as a good outcome.

These are the omelette makers who claim the right to break YOUR eggs whenever they see fit. So you have to ask yourself - why do they deserve your attention, much less your loyalty and efforts on their behalf? They exist on your tithes and taxes, your donations and your hours of volunteerism that you give in the belief that this time, they will do better.

Why should they? They have gotten fat and lazy on doing exactly what they do. You have not held them accountable, so why should they do otherwise?

Me, I'm above sea level, living in a place with an old and rooted community. The rape of New Orleans made me realize that a place that has had it's social compact deliberately shredded and betrayed by those entrusted to preserve those relationships cannot prosper. It made me realize that there was no place within the borders of the United States safe from that fate. New Orleans was a bipartisan failure, a triumph of corruption the result of a culture that has come to tolerate bad rulers for the fear of worse ones. Even worse, they'd prefer to be ruled than to accept the responsibilities that citizenship in a Republic. "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Nothing remains for it to New Orleans to prosper with, for people foolish enough to have caused the problem in the first place surely cannot come up with solutions that starkly demonstrate their own foolishness. Oh, perhaps one or two, but we are speaking of thousands of very stupid people in very powerful positions who's positions and power depend on maintaining their various charades.

Therefore, New Orleans is no exception. It's what will happen to those who trust in those who have proven to be untrustworthy.

Ultimately, it's people that matter, not buildings, not cities, not nations nor monuments and certainly not churches nor their doctrines, save that these things exist in service of people and their relationships. My efforts and social participation go toward efforts that promise good outcomes.

Those who think that some of us matter less, that some people are expendable "for the greater good," that it's justifiable to kill and maim and torture in order to maintain a particular "life-style" when there are not merely alternatives, but far BETTER alternatives - we cannot afford to indulge such people. Never mind such abstracts as "good and evil." These are people who's decision making process is so impaired that they are starkly dangerous to be around.

You may ask, "what can I do."?

You can withdraw your support from anyone who supports or extols the moral values most starkly illustrated by the people who brought us all an economic collapse and to the brink of a world war induced for purely theocratic beliefs. Stop expecting them to do their jobs honestly or well; stop pretending that things will work out for the best without you. Stop buying the crap they tell you you absolutely must have, stop listening to their media and for heaven's sake, stop giving money to their prophets.

Concentrate on making things in your immediate area better. Put your money, your efforts and your attentions there; close to home. Stop trying to live up to the examples of fools; people who genuinely believe that appearances, perceptions and beliefs exist apart from their necessary foundations; that credit is the same as wealth and that a false promise is just as good as an honest handshake.

They believe that their visions will allow them to make choices on your behalf better than you could. That their morality is better than yours. That they are wiser, better equipped, better situated and more blessed by God than you. I suppose they have to believe that, just to get through the day. But there is nothing written by man or God that says that YOU have to, and much written says that only a damned fool would.

What do events tell you about that presumption? They have gained great power already. What does that tell you about how well they will manage even more? Have things gone as they promised in public? Have they gone as they seemed to expect? Have they told you the truth about what they did, and why they did it?

And on that rhetorical note, I'll count this as a week's worth well done - for what that's worth.
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