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Equal Time

I rarely disagree with Neil deGrasse Tyson, but I watched a video he did about Evolution and there was one area where we disagreed.  What makes it even odder is that I agreed with the Creationists he opposed, and I almost never agree with them about anything.

Tyson’s point was that since there is so much more evidence for evolution, Creationists should not be given equal time.  I totally agree that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, but I would like to see the Creationists be given equal time.  I don’t think that Science teachers should be forced to present both sides, though.  The Science teacher should present the scientific evidence for evolution, and a Creationist should present whatever evidence they have for Creation.  Then each side should be given time to rebut the other’s argument.

I feel the same about other disputed issues, such as the Holocaust and the Holocaust deniers, even though I know for a fact that the Nazis ran concentration camps.  How do I know this?  My father, a tank commander in WWII, helped liberate the prisoners in one of the camps.  He, personally, shot the lock off the gate.

So, why do I think that the weak side of a disputed subject should be given equal time?  I have three reasons.  First of all, the side with the most supporters isn’t always right.  Gallileo Galilee was alone against the Inquisition when he spoke about the Earth revolving around the sun, instead of vice versa.  It turns out that he was absolutely right, but the lesser minds of his day condemned him for this thinking, because they had the power and greater numbers.  Today, I, too, am in a great minority.  Nine out of every ten people believe there is a Supreme Being who controls the universe.  I don’t.  If there was still an Inquisition, I would be declared a heretic.  But might doesn’t necessarily make right, and I feel that my minority opinion is well-worthy of equal time in a discussion.

Secondly, I think that the best way to shut up dissenters is to give them a chance to state their case and face rebuttal.  That is what science is really all about.  Scientists come up with theories to explain things and then other scientists try to confirm those theories or prove them wrong in a never-ending struggle to get closer and closer to the truth.  Nothing is automatically accepted as true just because somebody powerful says it.  Isaac Newton was a brilliant physicist, who developed the Law of Gravity that explained everything from apples falling from trees to correctly predicting the orbit of planets and their moons around the Sun.  Newton was a recognized genius in the field, but that didn’t stop Albert Einstein from announcing that there was really no such thing as a gravitational force.  Instead, he wrote, what we call gravity, is actually a force caused by acceleration and the warping of the space-time continuum.  Don’t ask me to explain that.  I’m no Einstein.  I’ll defer to a Neil deGrasse Tyson’s video on that subject.

It’s ironically funny that mostly everyone believes in gravity, which Einstein stated doesn’t actually exist, because there is a “Law of Gravity.”  That law is just a way of mathematically calculating and accurately predicting results, not a proof that those results are caused by a force of gravity.  Darwin’s evolution is challenged by Creationists and many others because it is a “theory” of evolution.  We think of a theory as a hypothesis, a guess, a feeling, a hunch.  For scientists, though, the word theory has a completely different meaning.  In science, a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world.  Darwin’s “theory” of evolution by natural selection has stood up to extensive scientific scrutiny for over 160 years, and, believe me, many people, especially Creationists, have tried desperately to prove it wrong and failed.

Many Holocaust deniers rest their claim on the fact that there is no lock on the gas chamber door at Dachau.  How could it be used to kill people if there was no lock on the door?  Creationists, attempt to deny evolution, based upon things written in the Bible, and they claim that they must be right simply because the Bible is infallible.

It turns out that the chamber door in Dachau today is not the same door that was there during the Holocaust.  That one did lock.  It also turns out that the Bible is not infallible.  It is loaded with inconsistencies and many outlandish claims that just don’t hold up to scrutiny.  Supposedly God created light on the first day.  We all know the words, “Let there be light.”  Then God created plants on the third day, but He didn’t make the Sun that generates the light that plants need for photosynthesis until the 4th day.  The Bible may be the greatest story every told, but it should be filed under fiction, not used as scientific proof of anything.

The third reason why I think that contrary opinions should be given equal time is because I believe that given enough rope and public exposure, Creationist, Holocaust deniers, and other conspiracy theorists will eventually hang themselves.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Religious Rights

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers must provide reasonable accommodations for workers who have sincerely held religious beliefs — unless doing so poses an undue hardship.

It’s been in the news a lot lately with anti-vaxxers hoping that they can use this religious loophole to avoid vaccine mandates and, thus, save their jobs.  Good luck, I say.  I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get a religious exemption for decades because I have long believed that my acceptance of marijuana as a Rastafarian sacrament should allow me to be able to get high legally and spiritually.

It turns out that I cannot get a religious exemption, and that’s not simply due to the fact that I am a professed Atheist, but because religious exemptions do not apply to substances that the Federal Government considers illegal.  So, knowing this section of the law, I never bothered to try and grow dreadlocks in case I might have to make a court appearance.

Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does allow medical marijuana, and my hip pain qualifies me for a medical exemption, so long as I scream bloody murder whenever a doctor touches my leg, and I tell them that on a scale of 1 to 10 my pain is at least an 11.

My Pain Level when asked

Religious exemptions work differently from Medical Exemptions, though.  You cannot just get a note from your, priest, rabbi, iman, minister, Pope, ayatollah, witch doctor, or shaman.  This wouldn’t work, anyway since all major religions have recently encouraged their flocks to get vaccinated.  No Church wants to lose parishioners, especially not the parishioners who put paper money in the collection plate.  Pope Francis even says that getting vaccinated is a sign of love.  Christian Scientists, who notoriously believe in the power of prayer over medicine and medical care, do not ban vaccinations. 

God works in mysterious ways, though.  There are new religions springing up, that will give anti-vaxxers a letter promoting a religious exemption, as long as you demonstrate your devotion to the religion by making a good-faith contribution to their church. 

Even this doesn’t always work, though.  Before granting an exemption, employers may probe whether an employee’s religious belief is in fact sincere. They may ask questions about your vaccination history or church attendance.  Those Christians, who only see the inside of a church on Easter and Christmas, don’t qualify.  If the employer determines that your belief is not sincere, it may deny the exemption request.  Getting a Religious exemption now is harder that getting a Conscientious Objector deferment from the Army during the Vietnam era.

Even if an employee’s religious belief is determined to be sincere, it’s still the employer who decides what the reasonable accommodation will be. It does not have to be the accommodation you want.  It could be that they will allow you to remain employed by the company, but you will be put on unpaid leave until either the mandate is changed, or you get vaccinated.

There is another way, though, to get a “reach-around” Religious exemption.  You can claim on high moral ground that you do not put anything in your body that used fetal cells in the research, testing, or production of the product.  The current vaccines all used fetal cells in the research, even though they did not actually use fetal cells in the production of the vaccine.  So, easy peasy, right?  Not so fast.

There’s a big gotcha in this approach to a Religious exemption.  Your employer can force you to sign a sworn statement attesting to the consistent strength of your conviction.  You must state that you do not use ANY products that used fetal cells in the research, testing, or production of the product.  No big deal, you might think, but fetal cells have been around for decades, and they were used in the research or testing of acetaminophen, albuterol, aspirin, Benadryl, Claritin, Ex-Lax, ibuprofen, Lipitor, Motrin, Maalox, Pepto Bismol, Preparation H, Prilosec, Sudafed, Senokot, Tums, Tylenol, Zoloft, and maybe even Flintstone vitamins.  I’m still “researching” that one on my own.  Before you sign that sworn statement, are you sure that none of these items ever appeared on your credit card statement?  Remember that CVS or Walgreens might even have you in their database with a list of every drug they ever sold you.

Think about it.  It reminds me of that car rental scene with all the “F-Bombs” in Airplanes, Trains, and Automobiles?

If you’ve ever taken a Tums for the tummy, you’re f**ked.   Your employer can deny your Religious exemption on the grounds that your objection to fetal cell research is bulls**t. 

Okay, let’s say that your employer believes that you should be granted a religious exemption, they can still deny your case if it causes them undue hardship, and thanks to the tireless work of the Republican party, anything that costs a corporation money is considered an undue hardship.  So, in that case, take another look at the above graphic.  You’re still f**ked.

So, anti-vaxxers, who refuse to wear masks, I leave you with the immortal words of Harrison Ford in the movie Air Force One, “Get off my plane.”

Peace and Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Is God Stupid?

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” 

-Carl Sagan

One thing I’ve learned in the past year is that it is next to impossible to change somebody’s beliefs with facts.  Whatever we believe is locked into our minds and no mountain of facts to the contrary will change our mind.  The reason is because of something known as Cognitive Bias.  Our brains will only accept “facts” that confirm our belief.  We dismiss as false, those that are counter to our way of thinking.

So, a discussion of our beliefs, will often only lead to an argument, which nobody wins.  We do this all the time on social media.  The key to a good discussion, I’m told, is to listen to the other person.  First try to find common ground and work from there.

How do you find common ground?  Practice.

I decided to begin small, with something I believe 100% that only a tiny percentage of others do not believe.  According to the Scientific American Magazine, more than 1% of Americans believe that the Earth is flat.  I, like more than 98% of Americans, believe that the Earth is round, not perfectly round like a ball, but certainly not flat.

Before I got involved in a live discussion of my own, I decided to watch one on YouTube and practice listening to someone with an opposite viewpoint on something.  It was a half-hour program where three scientists discussed the shape of the Earth with three “Flat Earthers.”  My own cognitive bias kicked in automatically, and I immediately assumed that the scientists would be smart and the Flat Earthers would be stupid, if not outright morons.  So, I paused the program, trying to get that thought out of my head.

I couldn’t.  That’s the power of cognitive bias.  I was already prejudiced in favor of the side that held my beliefs.  Finally, though, I convinced myself to try to withhold my opinions until I had, at least, heard everyone speak.  That lasted only a few seconds, as the moderator began the show by asking them if they believed that God created the universe.  As an Atheist, I was pleased than none of the scientist professed to believe in an Almighty Creator.  I was kind of shocked, though, that only two of the Flat Earthers, Wendell and Shelley, did believe that God created the Universe.  Ed didn’t, and I found myself unable to keep from thinking of him as the “smart” Flat Earther. 

Then, each side was asked to present the reasons for their belief.  Wendell went first.  He was a Bible scholar and a Creationist, who believed that every word in the Bible was literally true.  He presented several of the hundreds of Bible passages he found that implied that the Earth is flat.  He knew his Old Testament and his “facts” very well, and I no longer thought of him as stupid, but rather just misguided.  My cognitive bias had budged a tiny little bit, but not much, and I couldn’t find any common ground with him.  What proof did he have, outside of Bible verses?  Well, he had a landscape picture that he took in California, and the area looked very flat.  I found that less convincing than his Bible verses.

Then Shelley presented her case.  She had formerly believed, as she was taught in grammar school, that the Earth was round, but her study of many ancient religions showed her that they all believed in a flat earth, and she therefore changed her belief.  Her entire argument consisted of “facts” from ancient religions, and I couldn’t help but think, she’s the stupid one.  Then she mentioned that she had graduated from West Point.  I don’t think that a college degree necessarily proves you are smart, but I do believe that it means you are not stupid, unless your family donated millions to the school just to get you in, or if you were a star athlete who the faculty was warned not to fail, if they ever wanted to get tenure.  So, I changed my mind about her.  She wasn’t stupid, and she had studied the subject extensively.  She just hadn’t studied both sides of the issue.  She didn’t study modern scientists, because she felt they were all paid to go along with whatever story the government was trying to sell.  She got all her information from ancient peoples who didn’t know any better, people who had never looked through a telescope.  We had no common ground that I could find.

Then Ed went.  I had pre-determined that he was the smart one.  So, I listened carefully.  He was a skeptic.  Good.  I’m a skeptic, too.  We had common ground.  He knew the arguments on both sides but had decided to do his own research.  Wasn’t that what I was doing, sort of?  So, we had even more common ground.  Then, our connection was broken.  His research consisted entirely of studying conspiracy theories on the Internet.  He hadn’t bothered checking with NASA or other scientific organizations because, as far as he was concerned, they were all involved in a government plot to keep people from knowing the truth about the faked moon landing.  He was just using one conspiracy theory to try to prove another.

Damn, I had really been hoping for him to be the smart one, the guy who would present some fact that would at least make me stop and think.  It was not meant to be.  I failed.  I was unable to find any common ground with any of the Flat Earthers.

The three scientists presented the usual facts that scientists present in such debates.  When ships sail out to sea, we see less and less of them, until all we can see is the top of their masts, because of the curvature of the earth.  When we witness the shadow of the Earth on the moon during an eclipse, it’s always round, which is only possible if the Earth itself is actually round, and if you went to the top of the Empire State building you would not be able to see the light from the city of Chicago a thousand miles away, because of the curvature of the earth.

The three Flat Earthers made the weak argument that if the air wasn’t so polluted you would be able to see the lights of L.A. from N.Y.   They insisted that a ship sailing to sea would not appear to dip below the horizon.  The entire ship, not just the mast, would just appear smaller.  Then the debate was over.  Nobody changed their mind, especially not me.  I never expected to change my mind though.  I just wanted to listen to somebody with a completely different opinion.

I did try to keep an open mind throughout the discussion, but in the end, of course, I believed the scientific evidence over the supposed evidence contained in the Bible, the “Word of God.”  I couldn’t believe that any of the hundreds of references in the Bible to a flat Earth that Wendell had amassed would be deemed as actual facts by anyone.  The flat shape of the Earth and its supposed position in the center of our universe with the sun revolving around it were just the ignorant thoughts of ancient people who had never peeked through a telescope.  They certainly had never seen the edge of this supposedly flat Earth.  My conclusion was that using the Bible as a source of scientific facts was even more useless than using Playboy as a textbook on human anatomy.  Either the Bible was written by ancient people who knew absolutely nothing about science, or it was the divinely inspired Word of a God who was very stupid.

So, I failed to find any common ground with this particular group of conspiracy theorists, but I’ll keep looking.  Maybe I’ll find it elsewhere.  The world is small, and it goes around.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

2084

In his dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell wrote that “Big Brother is watching.”  Will Big Brother still be watching us in 2084?  Currently, the United States has terabytes of the written and oral conversations of its citizens.  Homeland Security scours phone calls, e-mails, and social media searching for threats against the country.  Computer programs scan for words like nuclear war or shoe bomb.  Of course, government agencies don’t usually put the pieces together until after the horse leaves the stable.  Then they find evidence that warned about everything in complete detail.  They always have enough information after the fact to know who did it, but, in the end, the dastardly deeds still got done.  By the time they can act, the damage is already done.

Our government has the capability to digitize everyone’s telephone calls, but they don’t have the ability to process this incredibly vast amount of data.  Technology will give the government the tools to know everything, but man’s bumbling, the government’s well-known inefficiency, and just the vast quantity of the collected data will ultimately save us from the threat of Big Brother.

The difference between Big Brother in 1984 and now, was that in the book the government was constantly informing the citizens that Big Brother was watching.  Today, they are constantly denying that they are spying on their own citizens.  They only record your conversations, they say.  They don’t actually listen in on them, they say.  Become a political activist, though, and you can be sure that they’ll call-up every conversation, e-mail, and posting you’ve ever made looking for ways to discredit or imprison you.  Hit the gas when the traffic light turns yellow, and if you don’t make it across the intersection before the light turns red, you just might find a traffic ticket in your mailbox a few days later.  Big Brother may be a bureaucratic stumblebum, but he is indeed watching.

By 2084 we’ll have bigger problems than Big Brother, though.  I’m not just talking about Global Climate Change, either.  Hopefully, the brightest and the best will figure out ways to solve that problem, once we pull our heads out of our asses and realize that it is a real problem.  The big problem in 2084 is going to be jobs.  There aren’t going to be many.  There is going to be a severe job shortage, when artificially-intelligent robots are doing most of the work.

In the old days, we thought that having machines do all the work would lead to a utopia.  That was back when we all got long better.  Now, though, I think it will lead to dystopia, because we will not want to pay people for doing nothing, even when there is nothing to do.

Years ago, when you went to the supermarket, a clerk would have to check each item for a price and total them up on a cash register.  Then bar codes came in.  Now, cashiers can scan each item as quickly as the conveyor belt can move.  You can even do it yourself, and cashiers are no longer necessary.

The problem with labor-saving devices is that employees don’t share in the benefits.  Instead, the stores make more profit as employees are laid off. The quixotic will tilt at windmills and refuse to use the cashier-less checkout.  They will wind up on long lines as only one window will be open to the anti-self-scanners.  Their pleas to open up more windows will fall upon deaf ears, and their screaming children will eventually make them give up the battle.

Several hamburger restaurants opened recently with robot short-order cooks flipping burgers.  They even have built in sensors that detect the temperature of the burger and remove it from the heat when it is cooked to the exact perfect temperature.

Robot drivers will revolutionize the trucking industry, the taxi industry, and the automatic drivers will probably even have sidekick robots or drones to help them make deliveries.  Millions will be out of work, but the people who own the robots will be rich, very, very rich.  They’ll still hire a few live servants, just for the thrill of it, but robots will do all the major work.  There will be a few jobs for programmers in the robotics industry, but eventually AI will write better programs than the human programmers.

Robots will pick up the garbage, sweep the streets, work with hazardous material, and they do not need vacations or down time.  They might even recharge themselves automatically with solar power while they work. 

Rock N Roll will never die.  People will always want to hear live bands.  Some robot bands might form, but they’ll never be as good as live bands, even if they sound better.

Probably there will still be human dentists, but they might have robot hygienists and robot receptionists helping them out.  Robots will make your clothes and clean them.  There won’t even be jobs for shoeshine boys, because robots will do that too.

Baseball players, football players, and race-car drivers will probably still be in demand, because there would be little thrill in watching a robot crash or take a vicious hit.  Artists will be popular, because the rich will still like to collect art.  Poets might still be around too, and novelists and screenwriters.  Nobody wants computer-generated poetry or movie scripts.  Computer-generated actors will replace humans, though.  They are already here.  Plus, they have the advantage that Clint Eastwood can be a young Dirty Harry, or a cantankerous old man depending upon which one the director wants to use, and Clint Eastwood doesn’t even have to be on set.

When computers came in and you were able to do the work of 10 people, did your salary increase tenfold?  No, you might have gotten a small raise, while 9 of your co-workers reported to Unemployment.  As technology advances, there will be less and less work for humans to do, but laborers will not benefit from labor-saving devices.  Unemployment may reach 80-90%.

Will the ultra-wealthy pay a guaranteed minimum salary to everyone who is out of work?  Not willingly.  They are already fostering the idea that people who don’t work shouldn’t even get unemployment benefits.  What will happen in 2084 when there is little work?  Who will provide the unemployed with food, clothing, shelter, and a little entertainment, so that everyone can live in peace in a little utopia?  The government?  Not likely, since the governments will be broke, because corporations don’t pay taxes, and corporations will have all the money. 

Whoever owns the robots will get rich, and the rich will just get richer.  The poor will scratch out a living or die.

What can we do to prevent this?  We’re going to need a method of sharing the wealth.  We need more employee-owned businesses, and we need the rich to take a smaller piece of the pie.  Today, the ultra-rich who own sports teams, insure that they will make a healthy profit by instituting salary caps on the players.  Perhaps we will have to apply salary caps on the ultra-rich.  Let’s just say that we put an earnings cap at $1 billion a year.  Everything that is earn over that will go to provide for the have nots.  We have the numbers.  There are more non-billionaires than billionaires.  We can change the laws and “make America great again” for everyone.  The ultra-rich can feed the poor instead of feeding off them, and if they don’t like it, they can just get in their rocket ships and go to Mars.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Deny and Die

May be a cartoon of text that says 'RME COUNTERPOINT.COM caglecartoons.com After Michelangelo D aua 10 COVID ANTI- VAXXER'

I don’t need your stinkin’ vaccine,

I’ve got a tube of Hydroxychloroquine.

And I’m not scared of any infection,

‘Cause I’ve been chewing Ivermectin.

Don’t think that I’m a conspiracy nut,

just because I shine a light up my butt.

Go to a doctor? That’s a reach.

I’ll listen to Trump and drink my bleach.

Dr. Fauci can kiss my rump,

I take the same meds as Donald Trump.

It’ll all go away by Easter he cried.

So, there’s no way that over 600,000 died.

I get my news from watching Fox,

And a friend of my cousin who really rocks.

I won’t get vaccinated, so stop your yellin’

I don’t want balls the size of a melon.

I want you all to read my lips.

I won’t be injected with microchips.

I don’t want a vaccine reaction,

That turns me into a magnetic attraction.

So, keep your vaccine, because I won’t take it.

I’ve read your news and I know you fake it.

So, by the time, this poem you’ve read,

….

(unfinished because he turned up dead.)

Don’t be dead wrong. Get vaccinated.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Perspective

Insurrection: How Tump prepped his far-right army for years to invade the  Capitol - World News - Haaretz.com
Washington D.C. January 6, 2021

As I get older, I realize that I don’t have the physical or mental powers I had when I was young.  My health isn’t as good as it was.  My left hip is certainly weaker than it was in my youth.  Age does have one thing going for it, though, perspective.  I didn’t just read about history in books.  For the past 73 years, I lived it.  I’ve seen things.

After World War II, Russia annexed a bunch of countries as satellite countries.  The satellite nations of the Soviet Union were Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and East Germany, which all became communist and members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.

Was it was wrong for the Soviets to forcibly control their “satellite nations,” and to refuse to let them be independent from Russia?  Did we feel that the Soviet Union was right in holding onto these countries?  Hell No.  We protested and wound up in a cold war with the Soviet Union.  President Reagan, echoed our feelings about the iron curtain at the Berlin Wall when he famously appealed to the Soviet Premier, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

By this same logic, though, it was wrong for the U.S. to use force to prevent the Southern States from seceding from the Union in 1860.  President Buchanan, a Constitutional lawyer, knew this and he let them go.  When Lincoln became President, though, the old wrestler chose rather to fight.  He wanted war, because he thought it would be won easily.

It’s also funny how he felt that the South had no right to secede from the Union, but West Virginia had every right to secede from Virginia?

Do you want to claim that the South took a vow to stay in the union when they ratified the Constitution?  Let me remind you that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, even though both parties take a sacred vow before God, Family, and Country to remain together in sickness or health, richer, poorer, etc. until death do they part.

Break-ups happen.  When Great Britain announced that it was leaving the European Union, did the European Union send troops into Britain to change their mind.  No, but Lincoln sent troops into the South to change their mind.  This presence of troops did force border states to remain in the union even though they had slaves and probably sided with the Confederacy.

There are those who scream that secession was not about State’s Rights.  It was about Slavery.  They say that the South seceded so that they could have slavery.  This is just a big lie.  The South already had slavery, and not only did they have it, but that “peculiar institution” was protected by the Constitution of the United States and the decision of the Supreme Court ( i.e. the Dred Scott decision).  Remaining in the Union would have protected the institution of slavery for decades, because to amend the Constitution requires the approval of ¾ of the States.  Before the South seceded, there were 33 states, 18 free and 15 slave states.  So, that means that 25 states would have to vote for any amendment to the Constitution.  The abolitionists were 7 states short.  The Institution of Slavery was, therefore, protected by the U.S. Constitution.  If Lincoln had allowed the 11 Confederate States to leave the Union, there would only have been 22 states in the Union, and they would only need 17 of those states to pass an amendment against slavery.  They had 18 states ready to pass such an Amendment.  The Civil War was not about ending slavery.  It was about punishing the slave holders.

If Lincoln’s chief goal was to end slavery, they could have ended it quickly with the approval of Congress and 17 states.  Instead, it was four years before the 13th Amendment was finally passed. 650,000 Americans were killed in the Civil War, and a century and a half later, resentment still exists between the two areas of the country.  Just look at all the Trumpees waving Confederate flags.

The Civil War was not fought to end slavery.  It was fought to preserve the Union.  Lincoln himself said, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”  So, ending slavery was not The Great Emancipator’s main goal.  Preventing the South from leaving the Union was his primary goal.  Dominion by force over a weaker opponent was his goal.

Slavery was illegal in Mexico at the time.  If slavery was also made illegal in the Union States, the newly-formed Southern Confederacy would have instantly been between a rock and a hard place.  As long as the South stayed in the Union, though, the slaves couldn’t even run away.  The Fugitive Slave Law required that escaped slaves must be returned to their “masters.”  If the 13th Amendment had been pursued instead of Civil War, the Fugitive Slave Act would be revoked and slaves could have escaped to Mexico or the Union, without any risk of being returned to their “masters.”

When the South seceded from the Union, they did not attack it, nor declare war against it.  They didn’t storm Washington, D.C.  They resigned their positions in Government, left the North, and went home to form their own country.  The Northern armies chased after them.  South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860.  The Union soldiers, however refused to leave Fort Sumpter, South Carolina.  That made them trespassers in the eyes of the Confederacy. Lincoln refused to pull the troops out and in early April actually attempted to reinforce the troops.  Shots were then fired on Fort Sumter on April 12th.  Nobody was killed.  (One horse died.)  When the union soldiers surrendered the fort, they were not taken as prisoners of war.  The South had not declared war on the U.S.  They sent the troops back North.  Then Lincoln declared war against the South, because he felt that with his superior army and factories he could whip the South in just a few short months.  The people of Washington even brought picnic lunches to watch the first battles.  Like we learned in Vietnam and the Middle East, though, it is not so easy to defeat a people who are defending their homeland.

Was slavery wrong?  Looking at it with modern eyes, of course it was.  Even back then, country after country was realizing that it was wrong and they were outlawing it (Haiti, 1793; Spain, 1811; Canada, 1819; Mexico, 1829; U.K., 1823; Sweden, 1847; Denmark, 1848; France, 1848; and Portugal, 1858).  But the south wasn’t fighting for slavery.  They already had that, and, like I said, it was protected by the Constitution of the United States.  They were fighting for freedom from the Union., freedom from a President that they felt was a tyrant, which may be why John Wilkes Booth yelled the motto of the State of Virginia, “Sic semper tyrannis,” when he shot Lincoln.  Thus, always to tyrants.

By the way, slaves were considered property back then.  So, when Great Britain outlawed slavery, they compensated the slave owners for their loss of property.  It cost England 20 million pounds sterling, but they bought every slave on British soil, and freed them instantly.  One of the big reasons that the South seceded from the Union was economics. Lincoln and the Abolitionists wanted to free all 4 million slaves in the South without giving slave owners a dime in compensation.  In 1862, Lincoln did, however, pay off slave owners $300 for every slave they had in Washington, D.C. only because he was embarrassed that there were slave auctions in the nation’s capital.

To put this in terms everyone will understand.  Imagine, that instead of buying a slave you just bought a brand new automobile and then the government overnight passed environmental legislation that outlawed gas-powered vehicles and they confiscated your car without giving you any compensation.  That’s what Lincoln was planning for the slave owners.

Similarly, if the government passed anti-gun legislation and confiscated all the guns, I’m sure there would be serious trouble, even if they compensated the gun owners.

So, in my many years on this planet, I have learned that history is simply his story, the story written by the winners.  If you read the writings on the left, the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th were guilty of violent sedition against the United States. If you read the writings on the right, they were patriotic tourists.  The history will be written by the ultimate winners.  I’m glad that I have the perspective to take all my American history with a large grain of salt.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Friendship First

I still have friends, who went to school with me.  We hung out together and had fun for more than 60 years.  We don’t see each other very often anymore, but some of us stay in touch.

I still have friends who I was stationed with in Alaska or Germany.  We still see each other or stay in contact occasionally via e-mail.  We’ve all been friends for more than 50 years.

I still have friends from jobs I’ve held.  Some of those friendships go back to the Telephone Company 40 years ago.

What do they all these friends have in common?  They’re on the Internet.  It’s a great way to stay in touch with those who may be far away.  It does have its pitfalls, though.  One of them is “social media.”

Many of my friends helped me get home when I was drunk.  That’s only fair since many of them helped me get drunk in the first place.  My life has been a long party, and I have thousands of great memories of good times with all my friends.  I’ve actually had millions of good times, but my memory isn’t so good anymore.  The point is that my friends mean a lot to me, and I appreciate what their friendship has meant to me over many decades.

So why is it that my immediate reaction is “What an asshole…” when I read something they posted on Facebook that differs from my own political opinion?  For decades I never knew or cared what political party they belonged to.  We just enjoyed each other’s company.  For year’s my parents would cancel out each other’s vote in the Presidential election, as one was a Republican and the other a Democrat.  They finally agreed on a Conservative Goldwater, of all people.  They never fought about their political differences, though.  They never even argued about it.  Everyone was entitled to their own opinion.

But not anymore.  Politics has become a great divider.  It’s ironic when you think about it.  About 150,000,000 votes were cast in the last Presidential election.  So, everyone’s vote actually represented 0.00000067% of the final decision.  Therefore, looking at it in that mathematical perspective, who you voted for, made practically no difference in the final outcome of the election.  Why is it such a major determinant of who we choose as friends?

The folks at Psychology Today came up with a list of 13 qualities essential to friendship.

  1. I am trustworthy.
  2. I am honest with others.
  3. I am generally very dependable.
  4. I am loyal to the people I care about.
  5. I am easily able to trust others.
  6. I experience and express empathy for others.
  7. I am able to be non-judgmental.
  8. I am a good listener.
  9. I am supportive of others in their good times
  10. I am supportive of others in their bad times.
  11. I am self-confident.
  12. I am usually able to see the humor in life.
  13. I am fun to be around.

We each have an area where we can improve as friends.  I’m gonna start with trait #7, and see if I can get through a few more political posts on Facebook without cringing.  Decades of friendship must be remembered and taken into consideration, before I scream “What an Asshole” at the screen.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Make Me Proud

Some of the things I’ve written lately have offended a few people.  They didn’t like things I said about Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular.  This issue will be different.  It will probably piss off everyone.

The Fourth of July is coming up and Americans will be celebrating their Independence from Great Britain.  I’m sure that I will hear plenty of patriotic songs that week.  I might even play a few myself on my “Jedi” Saxophone.  Many of the songs will be about the pride people have in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States, but, even though I served 4 years in the military, I am not proud of this country.  The United States is a land of violent hypocrites, and it goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers (and actually even further back).

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which contained the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 human beings throughout the course of his life.

George Washington led the American army that won the War of Independence, and he became our first President.  He was uneasy with the institution of slavery and spoke frequently of his desire to end the practice.  However, at the time of George Washington’s death, he owned 317 slaves.

Seventeen of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention owned a total of about 1,400 slaves. Of the first 12 U.S. presidents, eight were slave owners.

Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) formally declared independence from France in 1804 and became the first sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere to unconditionally abolish slavery.  Slavery was not abolished in the United States until more than 60 years later, January 31, 1865.  Even then, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which aimed to abolish slavery, had a loophole that allowed slavery to remain legal.

Section I of the amendment reads:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This “Exception Clause”, also known as the Punishment Clause, made it possible for slavery to be used as a method of punishment, allowing the government to legally subject people incarcerated all across the United States, from sea to shining sea, to be subject to forced labor.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization, estimated in 2016 that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 324.2 million. This means that 0.7% of the population was imprisoned.  This is not quite the land of the free.

In 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population.  More than 150 years after slavery was supposed to be abolished, orange is the new slavery.

Forced labor in prisons is often built into “rehabilitation” or “educational” programs. Many who are incarcerated report being threatened with solitary confinement or longer sentences if they refuse to work. On top of this, incarcerated people are often paid little or nothing for their work, leaving them with almost no savings to help them re-enter society upon release, almost guaranteeing their return to prison.

Remember the almost two and a half million incarcerated Americans when you sing “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Lee Greenwood might not be singing that song if he wasn’t a white guy.

Besides America’s history of slavery, we also have a long history of being war mongers.  We love our wars and revere our warriors.  Twelve Presidents were Generals.

Listing our numerous wars, I won’t even count the Revolutionary War.  So, we’ll start with the War of 1812 (1812-1815).  I won’t count the many wars with Native Americans before the Revolution, but we do have to count the numerous Indian Wars between 1817 and 1898.  Then there’s the Mexican War (1846-1848).  Then, running out of other people to fight, we fought each other in the worst war in our history, the Civil War (1861-1865).  We went back to fighting the rest of the world with the Spanish-American War (1898-1902).  Then we graduated to World War I (1917-1918) and World War II (1941-1945).

World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war.   We did have the Korean War (1950-1953), but since 1945, the conflicts we’ve called “wars” have actually been congressional “authorizations of military force.”  John and Yoko Lennon said “War is over, if you want it.”  The United States says, War is over if we just rename it.

In 2013, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had special operations forces (SOFs) in 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign forces.  Since Geography is no longer taught in American schools, I bet that most Americans can’t even name 134 countries.

Anyhow, we had Vietnam (1964-1975), that Invasion of Grenada (1983), Desert Shield, Desert Storm (1990-1991), and now the granddaddies of them all the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2001-probably forever).

We’ve even had a war against stupidity.  In 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v Bell came to an 8-1 decision that okayed the forced sterilization of stupid people, and other undesirables.  70,000 Americans were sterilized in the name of Eugenics, but, obviously, that didn’t end stupidity in this country.  Our little experiment in Eugenics may even have inspired Hitler.  Maybe that’s why his little plan to wipe out the Jews, didn’t instantly bring out our usual desire to get into another war.  We didn’t spring into action until an enemy with yellow skin showed up.  Then we showed them the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air, two great big nuclear ones.

You’d think that all those wars would be enough bloodshed to satisfy even the most blood-thirsty people around, but no, when we Americans can’t find somebody else to kill, we just kill each other.

Mass shootings are incidents in which a shooter kills at least four victims. Using this definition, one study found that nearly one-third of the world’s public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States.  Using a similar definition, The Washington Post reported 163 mass shootings in the United States between 1967 and June 2019.  If you ask someone if they heard about the latest mass shooting, they’ll probably ask you which one you’re talking about.  Lately, it seems that there have been a few every week, and you can’t tell your mass shootings without a scorecard.

As for your run-of-the-mill shootings, a total of 39,740 people were killed by firearms in 2018.  Some were suicides.  So, we don’t even stop with killing others.

All in all, it’s not really a history to instill pride.  If you want me to be proud of America, make me.  End discrimination.  Stop killing people.  Pass tough gun control laws.  Stop being the world’s #1 arms merchants, and work for peace.

Then maybe I’ll be able to sing along with you.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Humpty Trumpty

Humpty Trumpty promised a wall.

But Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.

He broke down completely and refused to admit,

That Biden won the election and Trumpty should quit.

Then while he was down and locked out of Twitter.

Cops seized what Rudy couldn’t flush down the shitter.

So, now we just wait as Grand Juries convene,

And we hope that Trumpty’s taxes will also be seen.

And Trumpty’s ties with Russia concern us, they do.

Will Putin put cameras in Joe’s bedroom, too?

Trump beat two impeachments, but he still wound up scarred.

Now, he hides out in Mar-A-Lago, the only place he’s not barred.

And, all the king’s horses and sycophantic friends.

Can’t put Humpty Trumpty together again.

They put back the hair, that was easy to do.

And only required a few tubes of glue.

The tiny hands were stapled to the end of his shirt,

And The Frankenstein they built, looked almost unhurt,

But the pressure of anatomy, pretty soon got ‘em,

And his Don’t Trust-Science friends F%^ked up his bottom.

They put his front, where his ass should be,

(An easy mistake, because he’s all ass to me.)

But, I still can’t figure out how the Trumpty fans missed it.

Surely, they knew his butt from all the times that they kissed it.

They painted him gold and gave him a wand.

A monument to all who had been by him conned.

Humpty’s brain was scrambled, but he still got down,

Before he left office and snuck out of town.

He gave Presidential pardons to all of his friends.

So, they could visit him in jail, when all of this ends.

Americans Pass Time

“The sun came out today.  We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.”

I got back from a trip to New York in March of 2020, and I went into self-quarantine, as soon as I got back to Lancaster.  During this year, I only left my apartment when it was absolutely necessary, like when I ran out of liquor.  Even then, I always masked up and wore disposable gloves.  Shortly, after I got my second shot of the Covid vaccine, many of the government restrictions on masks and social distancing were lifted.  But, after a year of rarely ranging further than my front door, where the packages were dropped off by various delivery persons, I found myself not wanting to leave the house.

I went to the supermarket, for the first time in a year, last month.  Everyone was wearing a mask, and I was glad to comply with that minor inconvenience, to be able to pick up steaks, chickens, cheese, and other perishable things that online supermarkets don’t regularly deliver, things I haven’t had in a long time.  However, I haven’t been back to the supermarket since.  I make a shopping list now, but I just order what I can get online, instead of going.  It must have something to do with inertia.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion, while and object at rest tends to stay at rest, and I’ve been resting for over a year.  Like Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, in The Shawshank Redemption, I have become “institutionalized.”  I’ve been living in self-quarantine so long, that I’m used to it.  We feared social contact for so long that a mild form of Agoraphobia set in, not an extreme fear of the outside, just less interest in it.  All this was despite the months of yammering on about all the things I would do when restrictions were lifted.  Now that I could do what I wanted, I just didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere.

Most of the people I met in the past year were online.  All the courses I took this year were online.  I learned to play the e-sax and a few guitar chords from watching online videos.  No place to go, only meant no traffic to deal with, no buses to take, no rushing around.  Bars were closed, but liquor stores were open.  Medical Marijuana appeared on the scene, to ease my aching hip, even though I wasn’t walking anywhere.  The year 2020 could have inspired another Tale of Two Cities story from Charles Dickens.  I was the worst of times, but it had its moments.

But now, I’ve had both shots.  It’s time to shake off complacency, and get back to normal, normal.  To go outside.  To talk Face-to-face with people.  To be part of a cheering crowd.  …and The Lancaster Barnstormers came to the rescue.

Last week, the Barnstormers played their arch rival, the York Revolution, in a spring training game.  Admission was free, people, who had their shots, didn’t have to wear masks, and hot dogs were only a buck.  There was no excuse to sit around the house, any longer.  So, I finally got out of the house and spent 3 gloriously social hours at the ballpark.

It wasn’t very crowded, so social distancing wouldn’t have been a problem, but it wasn’t required.  The only change I noticed was that cash was no longer accepted.  Purchases had to be made using plastic.  It felt weird buying a $1 hot dog with a credit card.  So, I added some beers, every time, just so that some bank manager wouldn’t flag my purchase as unusual.

The score was 4-2 in favor of York, as they headed into the bottom of the 9th.  The Stormers put the tying runs on with only one out and the Blake Gailen came to the plate, representing the winning run.  He’s been on the club for ages, and he is the club’s all-time leading homerun hitter.  We held our collective breath as he swung.  A ground ball up the middle resulted in a double play.  Game over.  NB.  It still felt great just to get “out with the crowd.”

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl