While channel surfing, I saw that the Biden administration is trying to get Iran back to the table to re-re-negotiate their weapons development. It put me in mind of the hostage situation and their ultimate release some forty years ago. You know, the American hostages that they waited until the day Ronald Reagan was being inaugurated to release. For those of you not aware of that time in history, or how no matter what happens in the world, America somehow has its finger in it, let me elaborate.
Jimmy Carter was President. The world had survived an artificial oil shortage a few years before, and President Carter was very public about wanting to move America to energy independence. President Carter went on TV in a sweater, which he was ridiculed by some for. He pointed out that we Americans could actually help ourselves by conserving more. Carter promoted the development of solar technology on a wide scale and even had panels added to the roof of the White House. Carter implored us to manipulate our thermostats a couple of degrees in the Summer, and a couple of degrees in the Winter, to conserve electricity. He set new, very tough mileage standards for auto makers and reintroduced us to Daylight Savings Time.
Most of his conservation proposals were unpopular with the American people. We had always been told to extravagantly burn through any resource we had. Carter was a President who tried to tell us to do with less. Everything in our existence was predicated on using more and more fossil fuels. Obviously, the oil companies had absolutely no interest in twenty percent of the electricity in the U.S. coming from solar, as President Carter proposed. The proposals failed publicly, but played perfectly into the plans of the oil producing countries and their owners.
It is a classic Republican manipulation to foment dissent by making a Democrat President look weak. To that end, the U.S. Embassy in Iran was attacked and sixty Americans were taken hostage. The date was November 4, 1979, and the “crisis” lasted until Ronald Reagan’s inauguration on January 20, 1981. What a co-inky-dink.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Iranians had plenty to be mad at us about. The CIA overturning a democratically elected leader to put the Shah in power, resulted in thousands of deaths and a huge loss of freedom for the Iranian people. Every Iranian knew who was responsible for their discomfort, the white devil. That said, taking an Embassy was a bold move without assurances that our military wouldn’t turn the desert to glass. Who gave those assurances? I’m guessing the same folks that timed the release of the hostages to Reagan’s first day on the job. It was a message written on stone tablets for all future tree hugging Presidents. “Thou shalt not mess with the oil bidness”.
So now, forty years later, we’re trying to undo what a Republican did to a Democrat’s solution to one of the most burning (pun intended) issues of the Middle East. How do we keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and then sharing them with every jihadist that can afford them? I’m hopeful that the Biden administration can “trump” the Trump solution.
It’s a shame the Hostage Crisis happened. Thank the Lord, it looks like we’re on a path of sanity now in our relations with Iran. The Hostage Crisis was a dark time for a very good President, who will always be remembered well for what he tried to do, not what was “done unto him”.
Yesterday I started, and wound up finishing, a book by a fellow I had seen on “The Daily Show”. The name of the book is “Between The World And Me”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I will give you a head’s up, the book is not for everybody. First off, the book is written as a letter to his teenage son. Unlike most letters to our children, giving and asking for updates since our last conversation, this book is a soliloquy. Like a soliloquy in a play, the wording flows like a poem. While beautifully written, I can see where some people might not feel comfortable with the style. Even if you’re ok with the style of writing, there’s probably plenty in the message than will arouse a lot of folks.
Coates is writing a letter to his son to impress upon his son, that no matter how comfortable the son may feel in his world, that the son’s body is not his own. In the very first chapter, Coates states his premise that his son, a natural born American citizen, does not control the destiny of his own body. I admit, it takes a little while to come around to Coates point of view. Coates takes us through the horror of the black experience of being brought to America as slaves, and I get his point. The more disturbing point is that no matter what level of achievement a black person attains in America, his life can be snuffed out in an instant.
I was already implicitly aware of this reality. That is one of the reasons that I rant about “Toms” like Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson. I acknowledge their accomplishments, but I marvel at their lack of clarity about the danger they could face in the right situation. Thomas and Carson lead very insulated lives, but if they were placed in the wrong situation in the right area, they would be treated like any other “second class citizen”. Thomas and Carson would not have control over their own bodies, solely because they’re black. As Coates points out, and as we see nearly everyday on TV, black lives don’t matter. Black lives particularly do not matter to folks that know they can “stand their ground” without fear of repercussions.
Coates does not go into his call for reparations in this book, but he has in others. I bring it up because some folks might already be “prejudiced” against reading Coates because of his stand on reparations. I think I’m ambivalent about reparations, but I know one “good ole boy” who is not.
I was talking to our HVAC guy, Andy, about this and that, and he brought up the topic of reparations. I think it was back when somebody was trying to push a bill through Congress. I expressed my ambivalence about it, whereupon Andy got bright red in the face and declared he was “damn sure” for reparations.
Andy proceeded to give me a history lesson from his point of view. His great great grandma had owned about a hundred slaves in South Carolina at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation. Andy thought the Federal government owed his family reparations for the property that had been taken from them. I’m telling you, he was as serious as a heart attack, and I was at a loss for words. I was aware that all of the South’s “wealth” at the time of the Civil War was tied up in the slave market, but none of my kin have ever been that wealthy. There are no former slave owners in my family. Unfortunately, there are those who walk among us that feel a loss at not being able to benefit from owning other people.
Ironically I found through a little reading that Britain had compensated their slave holders when they abolished slavery. Took some of the sting out of it, I guess.
So, now we circle back around to Coates’ letter to his son, and the message of his book. “No matter where life carries you, what heights you attain, it has been preordained that you do not own your body.”
Powerful stuff, give it a read.
All too often we witness “what is possible” and not “what is best” in American politics. Kevin McCarthy’s fifteen attempts at scoring from the free throw line last week were an absolutely amazing example of the nihilistic tendencies of the Republican party. The fact that two dozen or so self-serving toddlers would engage in a food fight in front of the three hundred thirty million people that they are supposedly governing was astounding. Each of the “Never Keviners” got their fifteen minutes of fame and McCarthy was exposed as the craven power-seeking shill that he is. Was it ever thus?
According to historians, no. McCarthy’s lack of a coalition goes all the way back to our last insurrection. Prior to the Civil War, in 1859, it took 44 ballots to secure the speaker-ship for William Pennington a Republican. Pennington, like McCarthy, lacked the ability to pull enough votes together from his peers and it took forty-four votes to get him the prize. One year into his leadership the South decided they would form their own government in spite of his introduction of the Corwin Amendment. The amendment would have given the states freedom from interference from the federal government regarding slavery. Slavery and its tentacles bring us to our discussion of a man that was the antithesis of Kevin McCarthy.
I’m talking about former Georgia Congressman, John Lewis. Lewis was one of ten children born to sharecropper parents in Troy, Alabama. Poverty and segregation were built in excuses for not succeeding, but John Lewis was determined to be a minister to the people. His “calling” led him to be deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement at an incredibly young age. When he was denied admission to Troy University, he wrote Martin Luther King to see if they could sue the local university for discrimination. Dr. King advised that suing the university could have physical implications for his family and that John should attend a university where he would be racially accepted. Lewis graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained a Baptist minister. His work was just beginning.
Through the sixties and seventies Lewis was involved in countless demonstration and marches. He preached non-violence and tolerance as the methodology for correcting America’s societal disparities. He was arrested forty times between 1960 and 1966 and hospitalized near death for the beating he took on the March to Selma in 1965. “Bloody Sunday” nearly extinguished the light that would brighten up the Congress for thirty-three years. A lesser man might have backed off and given up his philosophy of ‘Get in good trouble, necessary trouble,’ but not John Lewis. At age 74 he had the courage to do the right thing for the innocent lives taken in the Orlando shooting. He called for a sit in in Congress, exposing the Republicans for the puppets of the gun industry that they are.
Is the term “puppets” too harsh? I don’t think so, not when ninety percent of the American public wants stronger gun laws.
What are the first offerings of a McCarthy led Congress? Behind door number one we’ve got the defanging of the Congressional Ethics Office. Abolish the ethics oversight of congress critters, sure, why would a congress person need ethics? Behind door two, defund the IRS. Making sure that the aristocracy pays their share of the cost of providing a government for all is a burden on the Republican’s donors. Why should they help pay for the armed forces that defend us all? Behind door number three, investigate the investigators. There has to be some reason all of these Republican insurrectionists are getting incarcerated. Inquiring minds like pedophile enabler Jim Jordan want to know why Democrats aren’t getting locked up in equal numbers. There may be some sort of cause/effect issue here that the Republicans just don’t get.
In short, though the beloved John Lewis is gone, there are others out there like him that are willing to serve all of the American public with dignity. It is our duty to find them, promote them, and vote for them. Otherwise, we’ll continue to see the likes of Kevin McCarthy throwing up air balls and thinking he’s scoring for the American people.
The great thing about living in the “information age” is that we are afforded so many opportunities to learn new things. Today I learned that the word affluenza was not just a made up term by a really smart defense attorney. Turns out the term started being used back as far as 1954, but really got validation with a PBS documentary called “Affluenza”. The documentary was so successful that it even spawned a sequel called “Escape from Affluenza” .
Who knew? The folks at PBS define affluenza thusly:
Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.
Obviously, the 4th definition is a joke, but the other three describe a condition that could be used by a psychologist, or a really smart defense lawyer, to give credence to a mental condition that could effect one’s behavior. Now, I’m perfectly happy with the first definition. Every husband on the planet knows the pressure of trying to keep up with the Joneses. The pressure comes from family and friends, mostly in subtle ways, but the pressure to provide yours with everything their little hearts desire, is always there.
Based off of the PBS defintion, everybody in America that is out there working their butts off trying to provide the American Dream for their family, has affluenza. Imagine my surprise when I heard that a lawyer used affluenza to defend his sixteen year old client. The defendant, who looks like he never hit a lick at a snake, is a mismatch of DNA that clearly has never worked a day in his life.
Now, I’m all for smart lawyers, I wish I could afford them. I don’t know what Ethan Couch’s attorney charges, but I’m guessing upwards of five hundred dollars per hour. My guess is that the retainer to take the case was $50,000 or more. Clearly this little inbred cretin’s parents could afford to get the best for him. In some sort of Bizarro World court proceeding, Ethan Couch’s lawyer used the fact that the twerp’s parents could afford a really high priced lawyer, as a defense for the little snot killing four people.
If you’re not familiar with the case, Ethan Couch was driving drunk when he hit multiple cars and killed four people. Friends of Couch’s that were riding in Couch’s truck were thrown out of the truck. One of them will never be able to move or talk again because of brain injuries. How drunk was Couch, you ask? Because, in his defense, we all know sometimes accidents are just accidents, right? The prosecutors related that three hours after the crash, Couch’s blood alcohol level was 0.24, which is over three times the legal limit in Texas.
Due to the fact that Couch had always been given everything on a silver spoon all of his life, and his parents could afford a really good attorney, Couch received ten years probation. NO JAIL TIME, NO JUVIE TIME, just go on home and chill.
It appears that “chilling” happens to be Couch’s one life skill. Couch was filmed “chilling” with his homies playing beer pong, and when the video went viral, Couch and his Momma fled to Mexico. Strangely, the court previously persuaded by an “affluenza” defense, did see leaving the court’s jurisdiction as a parole violation. Couch and his Momma were drug back to Texas, kicking and screaming I’m sure. “Oh, the indignity and unfairness of it all.”
This case is a very fine example of how broken our justice system is. A wealthy white boy kills four people with his car and receives probation. Probation, not even house arrest or wearing a monitor. Free to walk about. As an opponent of the death penalty, I can’t call for Couch’s head, but, I do pray to God he is not allowed to procreate.
Are there other examples of rich white boys that are never held to task for their aberrant behavior? I’m sure we can all think of several examples, without thinking too hard.
I think there is a fitting cure for affluenza, though, and you can find it in the movie “Cool Hand Luke”. Maybe what we have here, is a “failure to communicate”. I’m thinking a little “road work” might help little rich white boys get over their bouts of privilege disease.
There are many things in life that should bear close scrutiny. Religion is one of them. I took a look inside of the belly of the beast of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the other day. It was not a pretty sight. The pictures of men with their families, where you couldn’t tell his children from his wives, was very disturbing. I will never get those images out of mind.
Another fringe group are the Scientologists. They tend to setup where there’s a preponderance of rich folks, and, who can blame them? The original premise for their religion came from a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. L. Ron posited that if a fellow really wanted to get rich in life, he’d start a religion. He wrote a book called, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” in 1952, that detailed his thinking about how people should live their lives.
The book went into great detail about how people could psychoanalyze themselves and be able to cure themselves without the aid of doctors trained in the field. Mood altering drugs were not allowed, but it appears that mind altering drugs were. There were also people trained as “auditors”, who could help guide people in gaining “clarity”. The auditors would use something called an electropsychometer, or E-meter for short. The auditor would strap you into the E-meter and give you a reading about traumas you’ve experienced in this life, and previous ones, to help get you “clear”.
Obviously, the AMA was not happy about the Scientologists practicing medicine without a license, and they went after L. Ron and his followers. After Dianetics went into bankruptcy, L. Ron reformulated it as a religion called the Church of Scientology. With tax exempt status, and free from the attacks from the medical community, L.Ron was on his way to stardom. All he needed was a population looking for something other than a “traditional” religious experience, and he would have the road to riches paved for him. Turns out the road was paved in gold.
It’s easy to see how a science fiction writer could formulate a dialog of Creation that would blend in parts of science, and parts of fantasy, to make the Genesis appealing to people who were burned out on traditional religion. The story of Xenu, a tyrannical ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy”, who brought billions of people to Earth in spaceships 75 million years ago, is a pretty good start for a science fiction novel. Or a religion, apparently. It gets weirder from there, and I encourage further reading.
What is more interesting to me is that the Scientologists don’t seem to have a lot of moral scruples when confronted with opposition. “Do unto others as ye would have done unto you”, does not appear to be one of their tenets. There are a host of misdeeds and crimes listed on the internet for perusal. I think the attack on the IRS stands out the most to me. Maybe because it’s called the “Operation Snow White” affair, which conjures up Disney and Hollywood.
A religion infiltrating the government is kind of science fiction stuff, but I guess it’s just the Scientologists getting back to their roots. They’d probably get Tom Cruise to play the lead in the movie, that is if they ever wanted the rest of the world to know what’s going on behind their closed doors. Sounds like a real Mission Impossible to me.
I took the opportunity to watch a documentary last night. The Showtime Anytime Network has developed a new menu system that makes it much easier to read titles and descriptions of their offerings than before. I chose to stretch my comfort zone a bit by selecting “Prophet’s Prey“. I went into viewing the movie as a mildly interested party. Well, I can’t say I’m not interested now. In fact, I may have to figure out how to charge Showtime for the counseling I’m going to need after watching the show. “Disturbing” kind of scratches the surface of how to describe the movie.
The “Prophet” in question is Warren Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The “Prey“, were everybody Jeffs came in contact with, but most especially children. The financial/economic setup with these folks is so convoluted and entangled that it would take an army of accountants years to figure out their land holdings and internal structure, which is not to say somebody shouldn’t do it.
Jeffs put hundreds of people in slavery by confiscating all of their belongings and then taking their paychecks from them. Jeffs controlled every aspect of the followers daily lives. The initiates were powerless to move away from the church, emotionally and financially. Once Jeffs held all of the purse strings, he tightened down on the congregation until the aberration that resulted was way more cult than church.
I’m familiar with a wide range of religions, and I feel like I’m fairly tolerant of folk’s belief systems. I never suspected that anyone could go to the depths of perversion like Jeffs and his followers have. Especially those who claim they were doing the “Lord’s work”. We’ve all heard about the Mormons prolictivity for multiple marriage, there’s even a “T”ouching “L”ittle “C”hildren network show called “Sister Wives“.
While I’ve made fun of the idea of having more than one woman to “put up with”, Jeffs is recorded to have more than sixty wives. These are not wives in the traditional sense. Most of the “marriages” were not done in the church in front of the congregation, like we do. These “marriages” took place by bringing the bride to the husband’s room. Thereafter the bride was called upon when it was the husband’s desire.
As open minded as I am, I can’t see the pretense of a marriage to have sex with multiple partners as anything but hypocrisy. But it gets worse. Most of the “wives” were below the age of consent, some as young as twelve. Jeffs would reward a follower with a wife for the male’s undying devotion to the Jeffs’ program. Having a wife put the follower in line to have children of his own, who would then be used as chattel to improve the husband’s standing. This goes beyond the old “arranged marriage” concept of wedding families together for the benefit of both families. This is wholesale child sex slavery; carried out right here in the U.S.A., in multiple states, in full view of the law.
One of the saddest stories in the movie was from Jeffs’ wife number 66, I believe. She was fifteen when brought to Jeffs, and within a year had his baby. Her life was over at fifteen. She told the story about how the cult believed that wearing red was a sin because Jesus is supposed to be wearing a red robe when He comes back. She related that she would purposefully wear red to tempt God to destroy her for heresy. She was so miserable that she truly wanted an angel to strike her dead.
Finally, the state of Utah issued a warrant for Jeffs’ arrest on felony charges of accomplice rape of a teenage girl between 14 and 18 years old. He used his many compounds and followers to avoid arrest for quite a time. Jeffs even made the FBI’s ten most wanted list at one point. Jeffs was eventually arrested and convicted on two counts of sexual assault of a child. He was given life in prison.
Unfortunately his followers remain, and the patterns of child abuse still remain. Whether under Jeffs direction from jail, or vying for their own leadership, Jeffs’ brothers and sons continue the horror.
Please put me down as a secular humanist, albeit a fundamental secular humanist.