Category Archives: idiots among us

to my friend’s friend on Facebook, who thinks Donald Trump is morally superior to Hillary Clinton

I don’t know you, and it’s probably not worth engaging, but I would say you clearly need more information.

I recommend today’s Washington Post editorial, but it’s very long with words of more than two syllables, and would take a lot of concentration.  It’s boldly called, “Donald Trump is a Unique Threat to American Democracy.” But the currently available piece on the New Yorker Radio Hour by the fellow who ghost-wrote The Art of the Deal is also available, and you can just listen. (When you hear the two different voices, that is the female interviewer and the male writer, so don’t be confused about that.)

While you’re thinking about this, when you aim to disqualify Hillary Clinton because she is allegedly married to an adulterer, does the known adultery of candidate Trump trouble you? If not, how do you hold both of those ideas in your head at one time?

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Exelon ok if you like teeing up; for the environment, not so much

 

I’m a greenie (to candidates, “an environmental voter”).  I wondered who would be in favor of the pending sale of Pepco, the power distribution company that sends bills to homes and businesses in the mid-Atlantic, including my house in Washington, DC, to Exelon, a bigger Chicago-based power producer, and significantly, owner of a bunch of shop-worn nuclear reactors.  Pepco no longer owns power generators, but instead purchases power from suppliers — coal-, wind-, and solar-generated — and resells it.  (How power gets into those little wires on the poles I leave to others to explain.)  This is about the only good thing about Pepco — because it no longer operates those messy power plants, it has come around, gradually, to liking the cute solar panels on the roofs of local customers, and is OK with just charging for the wires.  We have solar panels on our roof, much diminishing our electrical draw, so I refer to the Pepco bills as just their little charge for staying friends.

So I attended two of the local Public Service Commission hearings about the looming sale to see who would find the behemoth remote company with 20th century holdings superior to one that is smaller, local, and has at least a kite in the renewal-energy wind.

Here’s who likes Exelon:  a suspiciously large number of testifiers for the merger essentially admitted to some level of being bought off.  They were contractors of one kind or another, beneficiaries of some charitable contribution, or organizations who thought they put on good conferences.  Here’s where I squirmed in my chair (and perhaps, maybe, let out an audible noise):  golf tournaments.  That’s right.  At least three proponents — and I did not by a long shot hear all of the testimony — really, really think Exelon is an awesome corporate citizen because of the golf tournaments it has sponsored.

That’s like choosing a dentist who doesn’t fix your teeth but who gives out nice calendars. You can pick another dentist, but it’s still hard for most households to go off-grid, so it’s important to worry more about the product you are actually paying for, and stop ignoring the significant damage done to the environment.

As one testifier said, “We need better than Pepco, but Exelon’s not it.” I recommend the full story about aging nuclear plants seeking bailouts, from which this came, in Daily Kos today.

“To improve its overall balance sheet, Exelon is also trying to take over the mid-Atlantic electricity distribution utility Pepco, a proposal that has engendered substantial opposition in Washington, DC, Maryland and Delaware. DC, for example, has a stated policy of becoming the greenest city in the country with the goal of being 50% renewable powered by 2030–a goal Pepco’s pro-renewable policies support. For its part, Exelon owns the dubious distinction of being the only utility ever thrown out of the American Wind Energy Association for its vociferous anti-renewable policies. A new analysis of the proposed deal by the independent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis recommended that the Washington PSC reject the merger.”

The Washington, DC, Public Service Commission has bean-counters, I hope, who are logging the relatively bogus examples of corporate citizenship against matters of true value.

living in a crafty world — glue-sticking together for reproductive rights

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Today at the Supreme Court the ruckus was all about whether that nasty Obamacare tromps on the rights of corporations (non-humans) to deny preventive health-care, specifically in the form of drugs and devices that prevent pregnancy, to employees (humans) who happen to work there. A better solution would be to uncouple health insurance completely from employment and move to universal health-care coverage as many other countries have, and as the Affordable Care Act begins to do. Until then, here we are, where under the cover of religion, a “boss” can play doctor.

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I happened to be with a “faith-based” group, singing liberation- and spiritual-type songs, and bearing signs suggesting that people — and corporations! — just mind their own business regarding the reproductive organs of others. We feel this way quite strongly, as a matter of intellectual conscience, which the Hobby Lobby craft store people must understand is at least as valid as strong feelings that come from the Bible, which does not mention IUDs at all, not even once.  As I walked past the long line of folks hoping to get inside to hear the opinion, two called out trying to shame me, but mostly the crowd gave the thumbs up and much more audible forms of support.

Here’s hope that Antonin Scalia will reread that thing he wrote about how it was ok to disallow use of peyote, because not every silly thing that people do can fall under the umbrella of protected religious behavior. People just gotta go with the program sometimes! Hunt down this story by searching with the words “Scalia” and “peyote,” and you will find many sources.

Links about today’s cases: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/03/19/3416214/religious-groups-birth-control-coverage/

It’s voting time again in the District — in Gray and green(back)

Although Tony Benn, the British politician who died earlier today, said a lot of things worth remembering, my personal favorite is his list of questions we should ask anyone in authority: “What power do you have?; Where did you get it?; In whose interests do you exercise it?; To whom are you accountable; and, How can we get rid of you?”

— D.D. Guttenplan in The Nation http://www.thenation.com/blog/178863/tony-benn-best-prime-minister-britain-never-had

If the quote above betrays me as a little down on this little civitas we’re operating here, it’s because where I live, here in Washington, DC, it’s time to vote, and it’s just not pretty.

Up for selection are the mayor, several council member seats and a couple of others that have no real value at all — “shadow” positions.*  The mayor we have is expected to be indicted any day now, following on that of the fellow who now says, why yes, he did in fact contribute illegal funds to his campaign in 2010, and to lots of others too. The mayor, named “Gray” (though we District residents would rather have this resolved in black and white, thanks) denies wrongdoing, and therefore, all knowledge of the daily machinations of his campaign.

We’re in a tough position here, where the crimes committed are the white-collar greenback money type.  You could argue that no one was materially hurt — no bridges were blocked (see Christie); no drugs ingested (see Barry); no citizens executed (see every elected official in Texas).

But our feelings and our sense of civic integrity have been hurt — again.

And despite the high dysfunctionality, a whole dais of contenders want the job for themselves.

Here’s another issue.  Because almost all the voters here are registered as Democrats, the primary is where all the action is, and this year — who decided this? — it falls on April 1. Between April and November, the Democratic victor would normally stand around waiting for the routine general election to become official-hyphen-elect, then primp for a January inauguration. This year, though, expect some busier times for the political writers.  There may be more accusations and indictments, candidates who get the silver or bronze (or don’t medal at all) in April may find spiffy new personalities to run as Independents in November, joined by a few fresh new/recycled faces for the general.

* If you live in DC, and are an established political philosopher who can explain to me a theoretical and rational reason for being bothered with this, bring it on.

Bill Nye takes on 4,500 years of crazy

ImageEnjoying a good debate, I confess that I was drawn to spend a couple hours listening to the back-and-forth on creationism vs. evolution between Bill Nye, a creditable scientist, and Ken Ham, who is decidedly not one, though he claims to know some and helpfully included all the ones he knows in his slideshow.

To sum it up, Ken Ham believes what the Bible says, hard-core and literally — like, all manner of stuff that we know of was created in a seven-day work week a few thousand years ago.  In fact, all life on earth actually dates back to the day after every single acre of Earth was inundated about 4,500 years ago. Those time periods were calculated by running the life spans of guys in the Bible — as reported in the Bible.  Evidence to anything contrary, from any other historical source or actual observation, he does not believe.  Tree rings showing individual trees over 6,000 years old? Fossils of creatures that no longer exist? The fact that all that flooding created one Grand Canyon? Ignored.

Alas, early on, there actually was a concession to evolution.  It was a little hard to follow exactly, because Ham had to use a concept new to me of “kinds,” stating that some “kinds” of animals were indeed on Noah’s boat, but not all that we know today.  So, for example a couple of dogs were on the ship, and after the flood, they then divided into the many species and breeds of dogs seen today.  But that does not mean that dogs evolved from wolves before that, oh, no.

I thought that acknowledgment of mutations into new life forms would end the show, but I was waaaay wrong.  While Bill Nye went a bit overboard for his audience talking about a range of scientific discoveries — from microscopic to infinite — that contradict the “young earth” notion, as it is called, Ham provided repeated bits from the Bible that prove that the Bible is true.

Troubling is the foundational notion that humans cannot believe in something that they did not witness, such as the beginning of the earth, I guess.  Yet, the story of creation, and one would suppose that hot story about the virgin who becomes pregnant, though that never seems to happen in modern times, are completely true, to Ham.

When Nye’s answer to a question was a truthful “we don’t know,” Ham’s answer was that a book has already been written about that – it’s called the Bible.

ImageI loved that Nye referred to the creationists’ source many times the “American-English translation of the Bible,” a subtle reinforcement of the provincialism and narrowness of the documents selected a few hundred years ago, translated well after that, as the primary Judeo-Christian authority.  (I know, I know – plenty of religious people use the Bible in more sensible ways.)

And by the way, the Bible also apparently frowns upon gay marriage, Ham finds, and a lot of other stuff that isn’t actually in my copy.  How about four wives per husband?  Ham explains this with a dismissive hand wave, saying that some parts of the Bible are merely poetry or stories about actual people, and some of them did bad things.  I’ve read the part he’s talking about, and that’s not what it says.  I like to ask adamant Bible-clutchers whether they eat the pork and lobster forbidden in Genesis, and that usually brings about the same kind of quivering and ‘splainin’ about how Jesus came along later and specifically said that bacon was cool.

I understand that there is real evidence that only about two-thirds of Americans believe in evolution (the believers skew toward the more educated). This may explain the disbelief in human-source global warming, or the holding that a fertilized cell is a full-faith-and-credit human being.

I would not want to chat it up with Ham or his likes – too frustrating for me. I might only envy the simplicity of his tasks on moving day, when instead of spending hours or days sorting through hundreds of beloved books, he would only have to tuck the one volume under his arm.

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It’s unanimous

Now it's unanimous

At the Oaxaca cathedral, 31 octubre 2013

Apparently even God wants you to shut up already on the cell phone: “God is calling you, but not on your cellular phone.”

 

sex discrimination: check the calendar

On the same day in CE 2013 that the retro-thinking Saudi Arabia was seeing the alarming action of women driving their own cars, this ad appears in a daily Oaxaca paper.  Top of the list of qualifications for a job is “sexo:” masculino.

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This enterprise is a fabric store.  I have been in this shop several times, and can tell you that the bulk of the customers are women, who I might guess constitute the bulk of home and commercial seamers. (Though men can and do sew too. I’ve seen it.)