American Taliban

31 05 2009

The stupid among us have resorted to violent acts in defense of their irrationality for decades. In the name of their nonexistent god, they have set off bombs among innocents; set fire to homes, businesses, and other property; assaulted people at work, home, and church; and have even killed.

They have killed again.

George Tiller, a doctor in Wichita, Kansas, was shot to death this morning while he was serving as an usher at his church. Doctor Tiller has been attacked- both verbally and physically- several times in the past by religious fundamentalists and right-wing pundits because he performs abortions. His home and church are frequent targets of religious protests, and his business has been repeatedly vandalized, the latest iteration of which occurred last week.

True to form, his murderer failed to live up to the precepts of his religious views and fled the scene. He was arrested a few hours later. Like most US religious zealots, he doesn’t really believe his actions were justified. He ran away, where a true believer would have turned himself in or at least have waited for the police. This sort of internal denial of faith is very common among the religiously stupid in this country. Their religious views are so out of touch with reality and even their own chosen religious text that they lash out at “unbelievers” whenever they get forced to confront their misconceptions and poor reasoning.

Doctor Tiller was one of the few physicians who would perform so-called “late-term” abortions. The right-wing and religious screeds to the contrary notwithstanding, these operations are not available on demand. These procedures are only permitted after two separate physicians have deemed that the pregnancy or birth cause a significant risk to the mother’s life, or that the fetus would not likely survive birth due to some defect. One of the few doctors willing to keep young women from being killed in childbirth was murdered for doing so.

Worse still, he is not the first doctor murdered for performing abortions.

Almost as bad as the murder of Doctor Tiller are the comments among the religious zealots online. Far too many of them applaud the murder, or use flimsy rationalizations to indicate approval thereof. Here is a sample:

badhatharry: It is not murder to protect the life of another.

badhatharry: Sometimes you have to kill one guilty person to save hundreds of innocent people.

lawrnk: Religion aside, This made my farking day! HAHAHAHAHAHAH BASTARD! Murdering fetuses transcends most religions

McManus_brothers: I think it would’ve been more appropriate if the killer had sucked his brains out with a giant needle.

bookman: i really don’t see a problem here.

BrassArt: But whackos get all up in arms about an old guy being offed.

cabbyman: Don’t worry, it’s still like 1,000,000:1 ratio of babies to abortionists so you guys are still winning!

cabbyman: HA HA!!! One of your guys died!

DempseySR26: This is just a late term abortion

Those were actual comments from a message forum I frequent, not from some right-wing source. In response, I have a couple of much better quotes from people with more integrity and intellect than those shown by the religious nutbars in response to this murder.

Pro-life… these people aren’t pro-life, they’re killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? They’ll do anything they can to save a fetus, but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it? They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman — they don’t like them. They don’t like women. They believe a woman’s primary role is to function as a broodmare for the state. Pro-life… you don’t see many of these anti-abortion women volunteering to have any black fetuses transplanted into their uteruses, do you? No, you don’t see them adopting a whole lot of crack babies, do you? No, that might be something Christ would do!“- George Carlin

Pro-lifers…killing people? It’s irony on a base level, but you can get a hoot.” – Bill Hicks

I am not even close to being in the same league as George Carlin or Bill Hicks, so I won’t bother trying to come up with better comments on the subject. I do, however, have a questions for the religious twatwaffles out there: If you believe abortion should be a crime, what should the punishment be for women who get abortions?

If you happen to know some zealous god-botherer, ask him/her this question. Sadly, their heads will not explode, depriving everyone else of a good laugh and the gene pool of some needed cleansing. You could probably harness the energy from their spinning to light up a small city, however.

As Carlin said in his rant I quoted above, the real impetus behind the anti-abortion movement is a twisted need among the god-deluded to keep women subservient to men. Why this is necessary for these religious fuckwits is beyond me. I am not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. Worse still, these bastards want to force everyone else to comply with their delusions. Right-wing religious fuckwits have publicly stated their policy of making the bible the supreme law of the United States. Check out the statements of George Grant, of the Coral Ridge Ministries and Gary North, a “Christian reconstruction strategist” for the Chalcedon Foundation. Watch the movie, Jesus Camp. Read the words of Randall Terry:

“The Bible is the supreme law that all governments must obey.” – Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue

“Our goal is a Christian Nation…. We have a Biblical duty; we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I’ve got a hot flash. God rules.” – Randall Terry, April 15, 1993

Mr. Terry, you might notice, was the founder of “Operation Rescue”- one of the largest anti-abortion organizations in the US.

Notice also that they are all male. Note that I did not say men. By brief visual examination of their photos, they have all the typical outwardly masculine characteristics and appear to be mature males, but they do not qualify as men. Men are not afraid of women. Men are not frightened of the possibility of change, equality, or differences of opinion.

These feral and superstitious morons are bent on attacking the very foundations of our Republic. If they want to change the way this country is run, there are avenues available to them. They can rant and rave to their heart’s content. They can petition the Government for redress of grievances. They are free- even encouraged to use the first three of the Four Boxes- just like everybody else. But once they open that Fourth Box, they will have openly rejected participation in our society. They will be our enemies at least as much as the Taliban.

These creatures are my enemy. They are the enemies of liberty, equality, freedom, and everything else that makes this country such a great place to live. They, and their deluded followers, feel free to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in order to bring about their dream of a theocratic United States. How, exactly, are these monsters different from the Taliban?

Current status: Enraged

Current music: The Story in Your Eyes by the Moody Blues

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Odds and Ends

26 05 2009

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Barefoot Bum brings up an interesting argument regarding capital punishment. Please go to his site and read it. I rarely agree with him on many issues, but he always makes me think.

NUKES FOR NORKS

From the articles I’ve read, and conversations with people reportedly knowledgeable on the subject, it looks like the World’s Biggest Ego has been attention-whoring again. For those of you not sure what I’m talking about, North Korea has supposedly tested a small nuclear device in an underground test. This was followed by launching several short-range missiles at nothing in particular. Baby is throwing a tantrum, and the usual suspects are making the usual statements. South Korea is understandably upset-especially the citizens of Seoul (all of whom live within artillery range of their northern neighbor with the monumentally unstable Leader), and demanding action. Japan is well within missile range of North Korea and- as the only country to have suffered nuclear bombardment- is also understandably miffed. The US is annoyed, has called for sanctions (again), and reiterated our pledge of defense for Japan and South Korea. China says they are peeved with the Norks and their Dear Leader, but refuses to allow anyone to do anything about it. Et cetera ad nauseum.

There are a couple of related problems in dealing with North Korea. Problem one: North Korea is blatantly holding the citizens of Seoul hostage against any retaliation for its actions. If the balloon goes up in Korea, tens of thousands of artillery shells will cascade across Seoul, killing hundreds of thousands- even without nukes. The North Korean government has made no secret of the fact that any shooting war on the Korean peninsula will result in the destruction of Seoul- regardless of the outcome for the North. Not exactly Mutually-Assured Destruction, but definitely mad.

Problem two: If the Norks keep acting up in this manner, Japan will be forced to start re-arming. They have the money and the technology to field a serious military force, and nobody on the Pacific Rim wants that (especially the countries victimized by Nippon’s last military adventures). Hopefully, the US government can quietly pass the word to our Chinese friends that the continuation of North Korea’s antics will result in a resurgent Rising Sun. If anyone can rein in the Dear Leader without military force, it would be China. Let’s hope they get onboard with this.

GREENNESS

The Irish Kid (President O’Bama) has signed new fuel-efficiency standards into law. It’s been a while since the last time standards were created, so it was probably due. There shouldn’t be a need to reduce safety while increasing fuel efficiency.

I’m hoping the surviving automakers in this country take a cue from their European rivals and start producing high-efficiency diesel engines, but I won’t hold my breath. The most likely result (IMO) would be the demise of at least one of the so-called “Big Three” automakers- merely because they’ve shown a remarkable inability to innovate.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

A few credit-security tips for the five or six people reading this rag. Tip #1- when you stay at a hotel and the place uses those swipe cards in lieu of keys, make damned sure the cards get erased when you turn them in. Most of the larger hotels encrypt their cards and erase ’em immediately, but you can’t be sure of that. If unencrypted and un-erased, all sorts of interesting personal information can be easily extracted by anyone with the technical savvy of your average twelve-year-old. Important stuff like your credit card number, name, address, date of birth ,etc. Tell the clerk to delete the card when you check out and watch them do it. Every time.

Tip #2- check your statements religiously. For the non-religious among you, check them at least monthly. My wife spotted a strange charge on our card recently. It turns out to be from a hotel/resort in Hong Kong. Since I have never been to Hong Kong in my life, we were reasonably certain this was a fraudulent charge. I immediately called the credit card company and let their fraud people know about it, cancelled that account number, and ordered a new credit card. It could have been a mistake from a fat-fingered clerk punching in the numbers, but better safe than sorry.

SPEAKING OF SAFETY

Safety people get a lot of grief, and a lot of that is well-deserved. If the safety rules make it impossible to get anything done, the safety professional has not done his or her job properly. Read some of the “nanny state” headlines coming out of the UK for some good examples of over-zealous safety people in action.

As a safety professional, I know that I cannot protect the workers or the general public. I am not Superman (although we’ve never been seen together, and the resemblance is uncanny). The role of the safety professional is to help make sure his clients (workers and/or general public) have enough information to make the right decisions when managing risks. That’s the key term: managing risk. It is almost impossible to eliminate risk, but managing risks is easy. If you drive a car, you do this automatically (pun intended), and often unconsciously. Managing risks means reducing the probability of an “accident” or reducing the possible severity of an accident when they occur. It does not mean trying to bubble-wrap or whiffle-ize anything hazardous. Managing risk means making the right decisions to minimize the probability of injury or damage. That puts the responsibility for safety squarely where it belongs- on the individual.

Current status: Busy

Current music: Shakin’ the Tree by Peter Gabriel





Prayer is not a substitute for ability

17 05 2009

Some time back, I wrote an extended rant about a girl who was allowed to die of diabetes. Her parents believed that she was under some sort of “spiritual attack”, and therefore decided to cure her with prayer. I asked then why we allow such pernicious superstition to exist, especially given the general antipathy of religious fundamentalists toward the science and technology which makes our civilization possible. I’m still waiting for an answer.

The parents are now on trial for the murder of their daughter, which gives me a few shreds of hope for rational thought in this country.

American citizens are awash in a sea of information, all readily available through a variety of channels. Internet, television, radio, free public libraries, newspapers, and even word-of-mouth can (and do) convey enormous amounts of data on demand. With so much knowledge readily available, there is no excuse for allowing a child to die from an easily-preventable illness. Worse still, when told specifically that treatment is available for their daughter’s illness, the parents instead chose prayer. This sort of willful disregard of reality can have lethal consequences. In this case, a thirteen year old girl died from it.

If an adult chooses to believe that prayer is the only acceptable answer to illness, that’s his or her choice (so long as the illness would not endanger others). Children are a different story. We- as a society- have deemed children to be incapable of making informed decisions on such matters. We permit the parents great latitude in making choices on their children’s behalf, under the assumption that the parents will make such decisions with the child’s best interests in mind. Somebody please tell me how it could be in Madeline Neumann’s best interest to die at age thirteen?

Such willful stupdity in the face of objective reality is dangerous to everyone. What if one of these god-deluded ass-hats contracted TB? Would they go about their regular daily lives, exposing averyone with whom they come in contact in the smug belief that their imaginary friend will make it all better?

I believe in live and let live. You can believe in whatever you want, so long as your beliefs do not affect those around you. You can believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn, God, Allah, Kali, Amaterasu, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Odin, Hercules, Perkunas, Quetzalcoatl, or the Giant Space Goat to your heart’s content … as long as you don’t try to make me believe the same thing. Believe what you want- even if you want to believe I am a heathen- so long as you grant everyone else the same privilege and do no harm.

That do no harm bit is most important. To the religious fundamentalist, what happens here on Earth is secondary to what happens after death. Any atrocity committed here can be forgiven if it was inspired by their imaginary friend. The Neumanns allowed their child to die because they believed their Angry Invisible Skyman and his Zombie Offspring would take care of her illness. Far too many religious apologists have said, “Madeline is in a better place, now.” Really? This stupid platitude is part of the wider problem- essentially buying into the delusions of the fundamentalists by rationalizing their murderous beliefs. She’s in a “better place”? I’m reasonably certain it would be better for Madeline Neumann if she were still alive.

history of religionFar too many atrocities and tragedies are allowed to occur as a result of pandering to the deluded religionists among us. Too many children are allowed to die from treatable illnesses because their parents buy into the idea that prayer can cure all ills.

Prayer is not an acceptable substitute for ability … or reality.

Current status: Peeved

Current music: Cygnus X1, Book II by Rush





Ass in nine

4 05 2009

PLEASE make the stupid stop!

the-stupid-it-burns

The latest iteration of Willful Public Stupidity comes to us courtesy of Pennsyltucky. A 59-year-old woman took some film to the local Wallyworld for developing. Among the photos on the roll of film were a couple of cute shots of her three-year-old granddaughter in the bath. The Wal-Mart employee seeing the pics immediately called the cops. The police promptly arrested the child’s grandmother. The District Attorney instantly fired up his high horse and charged grandma with producing child pornography. Rather than conducting a modest investigation and letting the latter drop, the DA kept pushing this issue for fifteen fucking months before a special prosecutor dismissed the case.

Here’s the article in its entirety, courtesy of Reason Magazine.

Leaving aside for the moment the draconian abuse of power exhibited by the prosecutors in this case, can anybody read the DA’s explanation for his zealous persecution of this woman without getting creeped out? Methinks he doth protest too much- or at least is guilty of projection.

The special prosecutor made mention of the “reasonable man” test in his explanation. If there are any reasonable men anywhere in this story, I have yet to read about them. The two prosecuting attorneys (during the 15-month witch hunt, the original prosecutor went into private practice, leaving the Inquisition to be carried on by his successor) viciously destroyed a completely innocent person in the name of political grandstanding. In this case, in order to appear “tough on child porn”.

How, a “reasonable man” might inquire, do prosecutors around this country get the idea that appearing “tough on child porn” is a pathway to political success? Who could have convinced politically-ambitious attorneys in Public Service to adopt zero tolerance (which generally equates perfectly with zero intelligence) policies in the name of “the children”?

Look in the fucking mirror.

We, the People, have willfully and stupidly bought into the whole, “It’s for the chi-i-i-i-i-i-ldren” stupidity. It’s come to the point where we are deliberately destroying our own civil rights in the futile attempt to remove any shred of risk from the paths of the precious little snowflakes.

When I was a wee lad, I was constantly getting banged up by being a rambunctious little kid. My knees and elbows were constantly adorned with bandages or scabs. In every single picture of me as a kid, I have a black eye. Not from abuse, mind you. This was all from being a hellion in the days before kindergarten and pre-school. This used to be considered normal behavior for kids. Today, I’m reasonably certain my parents would get arrested based solely on those photos. Can’t have any possibility of child abuse, you know. This is for your own good. Papers, bitte.

The scariest part of the ordeal suffered by the grandmother in the story is the automatic presumption of guilt based upon the flimsiest of suspicions. All for the children, of course. Merely being accused of child abuse/child neglect/child pornography is enough to destroy one’s life. Actual guilt or innocence means nothing. If eventually exonerated, the victim of such an accusation might eventually get a retraction buried on page 13 of the local paper. Forget about the overzealous prosecutors or police ever admitting a mistake.

How many other victims of false accusations are we, the People, willing to permit? Why are we allowing these insane with hunts to baselessly destroy the lives of completely innocent people with no legal recourse?

Because we have to protect the children?

Let’s take a look at the price for this shortsighted devotion to protecting the children at all costs. How many male elementary school teachers are there in this country? The demographics for that sub-group of teachers is skewed sharply toward females. 98% of all pre-school and kindergarten teachers are women. Male teachers only make up 29% of all teachers, regardless of grade level. By contrast, secondary and post-secondary teaching has a more normal ratio of male to female instructors (roughly 50-50).

Why do you suppose that is? Why are males so scarce in the teaching profession in general and elementary school teaching in particular? Many teachers with whom I have corresponded say they are unable to get a teaching job at the K-6 grades. Others say they don’t even try, out of concern for false accusations of impropriety. How many of you folks with children look with guarded eyes at male teachers? This stupid double standard has the effect of cutting the pool of qualified teachers by approximately one third. How’s that for a societal price tag?

How much time and money is wasted prosecuting parents and grandparents for the heinous crime of taking pictures of their kids? I’m pretty sure the police have better things to do than respond to calls about a lone male escorting a child to the bathroom. Let us not forget the recent flap in the UK over families taking pictures of their own kids playing in the park. What is the cost to society of this level of senseless paranoia?

Here is the fucking cost, people. If I see a kid who is crying or hurt or seems to be lost, I will not go anywhere near the child out of sheer self-preservation. The personal and professional hazards are too great to be worth the risk of making any attempt to help a child. Society has deemed that this is the cost for protecting the children. I don’t like it, but this is the situation you people have created in your insane quest to bubble-wrap the dear children.

If this behavior bothers you, you have only yourselves to blame. I don’t have kids- by choice. If you want to spam the planet with rough copies of yourself, that’s your business. I refuse to have anything to do with the resulting progeny for fear of losing my liberty and livelihood. Don’t like my attitude? Tough shit. It’s going to take generations to rid our society of this paranoia. You caused this mess. You clean it up.

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: Hey, Johnnie Cope- Are Ye Walkin’ Yet? by Alistair MacDonald