Democratic Tampa Mayor Uses Security Overkill to Make a Point About the Dangers of Electing Republicans

by Don on September 9th, 2012
in General Wellness, Politics

I think Tina Dupuy, a syndicated columnist for LA Progressive, best captured the lasting impression Americans and others got watching the Republican National Convention. Observing that the downtown area of Tampa was in a literal state of lockdown, she wrote, the convention was a post-Apocalyptic dystopia of what the world could be if Republicans were completely in charge: Scared (mostly) white people in a militarized labyrinth of blockades in strategic dead ends ? all for your protection.

PoliceIt was also like that around Tropicana Field (aka the Dome). The stadium, used for professional baseball, was the site of a pre-convention party for RNC delegates and their friends. Many blocks around the field were ringed with high fences; police seemingly armed for war lent an air of a military takeover. For what? To keep protesters away from Republicans.

It?s unlikely that security was this tight in Berlin in the mid-1930?s. The effect was grotesque, as well as sickeningly expensive. It was America looking to be under martial law.

A few features of the security gone wild included:

  • Security checks inside secured perimeters within partitioned areas. Was this third layer designed just in case a Houdini-worthy mischief maker tried to sneak in?
  • Heavily armed police brigades moving around in roving gangs.
  • More than 400 buses with police escorts shuttlling official visitors to and from convention sites.
  • A ratio of protesters to security forces of what seemed 500 police for every protester. Two arrests were made all week.

Many officials no doubt had a role in turning Tampa?s downtown into what looked like a war zone. However, nobody was more consequential to the creation of the ?post-Apocalyptic dystopia? than Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.

I know Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. I ran against him for mayor of Tampa in 2003. We participated in over forty debates during six months of the campaign. Neither one of us won - another candidate entered late in the race and prevailed. Unlike Mr. Buckhorn and three other candidates, I did not even want to be mayor. I cared more for the forum that my candidacy enabled. I ran on a REAL wellness agenda. I called for a city that would be Four F - fun, fit, free and functional. My 50-plus position papers described this agenda.

I billed myself as the oldest, fittest, fastest and prettiest of all the candidates. Most of that boast was true.

Anyway, in the course of many breakfast, lunch and dinner gatherings, debates and other forums, I got to know the candidates, and Bob Buckhorn was one of my favorites. I did not agree with his platform or his past role as a city council member, but we got along well and I liked him personally. I still do.

At first, I was disappointed that Bob created and defended a police state atmosphere for the RNC. I think it would have been better if there had been disorder in a free society that peace in a totalitarian environment. After all, there?s order in the streets of Saudi Arabia, but I wouldn?t want to live there.

But, as days passed and the memory of the RNC convention faded, a revelation came to mind. It hit me like a thunderbolt: my friend Buckhorn deliberately wrecked the RNC. The reason he created the over-the-top security fiasco was to show undecided voters the kind of country we could expect if Republicans take the White House.

Since he is a Democrat, you might think the Republicans would have been wary. But, for some reason, they did not suspect that Buckhorn would pull a fast one. And yet, in a masterstroke which Cicero, Rasputin or Rove would envy, he put in motion the kind of over-the-top security overkill that offered an accurate image of what a Romney/Ryan takeover would look like in the streets of America. He gave us a taste of a police state. It was costly, unnecessary, ugly and undemocratic.

If the convention were indeed a model, as Buckhorn claimed, it was a model - a showcase. Anyone who got close to the Dome in St. Petersburg or downtown Tampa now understands what a totalitarian America would look like.

Nice work, Bob.

Welcome, Republicans, to My Hometown Tampa Bay Area: Now Please Stop Hallucinating

by Don on August 22nd, 2012
in General Wellness, Politics

A Thai mother has been accused of killing, cooking and eating her sons because she thought they were pigs, the Bangkok Post reports. Hallucinations may have played a role in the tragic crime.

No, Borowitz did not write the above quotation ? it?s word for word from the Huffington Post of August 22, 2012. There?s more to the story but I don?t think you?d want more details. The mother?s behavior was such that you would surely agree that hallucinations had to have played a role.

Speaking of which, it occurs to me that hallucinations might explain some American politics. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hallucinations as ?something (such as an image, a sound, or a smell) that seems real but does not really exist and that is usually caused by mental illness or the effect of a drug.?

I think mental illness might be rampant in the GOP (God?s Own Party). The positions of Republican Presidential, Senatorial and House candidates seem real to them but are not supported by reality. They are having hallucinations.

Consider just a few examples:

  • The Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, Todd Akin, believes in legitimate rape. He believes the female body can, in some mysterious manner, repel the seed of a rapist. It?s unlikely any medical doctor (except John Willke) would support this belief. Mr. Akin has two related hallucinations, including the impression that abortion raises the risk of breast cancer and is linked to mental health problems. (Paradoxically, his rape idea suggests there may be a link between fanatical opposition to abortion and such problems.)
  • Most Republicans publicly profess belief in ?Intelligent Design? and a 6,000 year-old universe, which has no scientific basis, and reject the theory of evolution and a 15 billion year-old universe, which does.
  • Just as Republicans are starting to arrive in Florida, the National Weather Service has forecast Tropical Depression Nine could strengthen into a hurricane and smite Tampa. What will Republicans say about that? After all, prominent Party members have been known to hallucinate about specific causes of hurricanes and other disasters, always with reference to divine displeasure. For instance, during her recent run for president, Minnesota Republican Representative Michele Bachmann said an East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene were attempts by God to get the attention of the politicians. This was part of a Republican tendency to see the work of an angry Deity inflicting woe on those who support policies or lifestyles they oppose. Other Republican hallucinators of record are broadcaster Glenn Beck (the Japanese earthquake and tsunami), Pat Robertson (the Haitian earthquake), ?End Times? televangelist John Hagee (Katrina) and of course the late Jerry Falwell (Sept. 11 being God?s wrath on feminists and the ACLU).
  • Finally, there?s the alcohol-induced frolic involving 30 Republican lawmakers in the Sea of Galilee while in Israel on a fact-finding mission. One of the celebrants, Kansas Representative Kevin Yoder, hallucinated that he could go bare naked in a sea of holy water without media types taking note. Now that?s really crazy.

Personally, I have no problem with swimming in the buff. I do it every chance I get, which regrettably is not often. However, I would not do so after consuming alcohol (let alone if inebriated). Nor would I swim naked in a body of water that locals and Republicans believe Jesus walked on (while calming a hurricane, converting water into wine and performing that business with loaves and fishes). In deference to my hosts, I?d wear a Speedo.

If I were asked a (ridiculous) hypothetical question to identify who among the above noted hallucinators I would vote for if I absolutely had to vote for one of them, I?d go for the Thai mother who murdered, cooked and ate her children. Why? Because some hallucinations are sad and tragic, and others are grotesque and reprehensible. I have sympathy and compassion for the former but only contempt for the latter.

What Would Persuade Me to Vote Republican in November

by Don on August 14th, 2012
in General Wellness, Politics

We are deep into the political season. What political party best represents your value system? How about taking a pop quiz? See if you can identify the spokesperson for the Republican Party who spoke these words in support of his candidates:

I am going to give you a few reasons for voting the Republican ticket. The Republican party depends upon reason, upon argument, upon education, upon intelligence and upon patriotism. The Republican party makes no appeal to ignorance and prejudice. It wishes to destroy both.

It is the party of humanity, the party that hates caste, that honors labor, that rewards toil, that believes in justice. It appeals to all that is elevated and noble in man, to the higher instincts, to the nobler aspirations. It has accomplished grand things?

The present question is, whom shall we trust? To whom shall we give the reins of power? What party will best preserve the rights of the people? What party is most deserving of our confidence?

Well, who was it? Newt Gingrich? Sarah Palin? Rick Santorum? Michele Bachmann? One of the former Bush presidents? If none of the above, who then?

Of course the answer is none of the above. What?s more, no person affiliated with the Republican Party today would make such a speech. Contemporary Republicans do not emphasize personal freedoms or champion reason. The Party does, however, appeal to prejudice and ignorance, the opposite of what the spokesperson cited claimed. These words were spoken by a different kind of Republican on behalf of a very different kind of Republican Party. The words are those of Robert Green Ingersoll, speaking in Maine in 1876 on for the state Republican Senator than running for president, James G. Blaine.

The Republican Party is not one that Ingersoll, or Lincoln or any of the Party?s leading 19th century lights would recognize or respect. Today?s Republican Party is hostile to the values of the Republican Party of Ingersoll?s era. The head of the Center for Inquiry CFI), Ronald Lindsay, writes that Americans today have to decide basic questions about their country, owing to the agenda of the extreme Right-Wing theocratic rich people who control the 21st century. Republican Party. The questions are:

  • Whose understanding of religious liberty will prevail? The one set forth in our Constitution?or the Orwellian redefinition of religious liberty currently being promoted by the Catholic Church?
  • Whose view of the separation of church and state will triumph? The one held by the Founders?or the one pushed by many religious organizations that are continually seeking new ways to circumvent the First Amendment?
  • Whose conception of human rights will win out? That of humanism, which respects individual autonomy and fundamental freedoms?or that championed by religious dogmatists who would suppress speech critical of religion and deny same-sex couples the right to express their love through marriage?
  • Whose view of science will influence public policy? The one supported by those who value evidence-based reasoning?or the one accepted by those who disdain science in favor of pseudoscience with respect to climate change, alternative medicine and many other issues?

CFI is asking its supporters to do all they can to work for the advance of science, reason and secular values. CFI does not take endorse candidates. However, it can and does ask such questions as this: ?Given some of the positions of the Republican Party on social issues, is it inconsistent to be both a Republican and a humanist?? Lindsay asks because he believes that being a humanist implies not only rejection of deities and spirits but also acceptance of certain fundamental principles, including ?critical thinking, respect for individual autonomy, an ethics that is broadly consequentialist in nature? and other positions supported by evidence-based reasoning.

Ingersoll strongly promoted a strict separation of church and state. If this Republican ?Great Agnostic? were making speeches for candidates today, you can be sure they would not be on behalf of any candidate whose policies would restrict a woman?s ability to make her own decisions about children and marriage or who would impose religious dogma on the entire populace. Ingersoll would not suffer theocrats in American bedrooms. I?m confident that he would lend his oratorical gifts to the Party that promoted women?s choices (e.g., access to contraception), to same-sex marriage, to cohabitation without marriage, to laws and regulations that protect and promote racial and gender equality, to freedom of expression and to universal suffrage ? as he did in his own time on such matters. (See Lindsay?s editorial on humanism and politics in the current edition of Free Inquiry, August / September 2012, Volume 32, Number 5, the source of much of this material.)

Maybe someday the Republican Party will transform itself and once again become a force for decency and humanist values. I hope I live to see it, but to improve my chances, I?m not going to hold my breath. For now, I?m stuck with the Democrats and, by comparison with the non-Ingersollian Republican Party of yesteryear, that?s a dramatically clear choice for the better.

Why I, An Infidel Atheist Secularist and Pro-Gay Freethinker, Support the President of Chick-fil-A

by Don on August 6th, 2012
in General Wellness, Religion

I assume you know the story about the current chicken war. If not, here is a very brief overview - there?s more to it than this but basically what happened was that a fervently religious business leader (Dan Cathy), the owner of a fast-food chicken empire, made a statement on Christian radio to the effect that America?s troubles are due to the fact that God is smiting us because of a drift toward gay marriage. He really said that. I?ll give the exact quote later in the essay.

Most gays, Democrats and others not given to the Republican mindset considered this remark a form of hate speech. Calls went out for action against Chick-fil-A. Naturally, Republicans were quick to seize the day. Led by evangelist politicians, particularly such media stars of that ilk like Mike Huckabee, a call went out for all good Christians to come to the aid of the company. This meant patronizing Chick-fil-A, showing support for God, traditional marriage and the Republican Party by eating chicken at Chick-fil-A on an appointed day. This was a big success for the Right and the company made a small fortune in one day.

My first tendency was to support action against Chick-fil-A. Given the company president?s extreme religiosity, I would probably not eat there anyway, even if the urge to eat fast food chicken struck me. However, I?m a newly anointed vegan, a convert into a veggie-based diet pattern. Therefore, I would not eat fowl food at Chick-fil-A or at any other establishment, even if the company president came out in support of gay marriage, and not even if he wedded a male lover in one of his restaurants open for business on Sundays.

But, the charges by the two sides against each other were of interest to me. The Far Right point of view painted the anti-Chick-fil-A campaign in Rapture-like terms. Varied spokespersons on the Right described the offenses committed by critics of the chicken king?s remarks. Here are a few of the interpretations:

▪    It is an attack on religious freedom more worrisome than the Affordable Care Act mandates for contraception.

▪    It is an attack on religious speech itself.

▪    It?s an attempt to intimidate other businesspeople into thinking twice before exercising their freedom of speech by seeming to be critical of gays or being anti-gay in any way.

▪    It?s an attack on all who would attempt to run a business on "biblical principles."

▪    It?s anti-family.

In addition, Democratic politicians who spoke critically about the chicken company president (such as Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn) were said to be part of a crusade against Christians. (See Jay Richards and James Robison, ?The Chicken Inquisition,? Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2012, p. A11.)

I don?t think any of the above statements has any merit, but I still want to offer a modicum of support or at least sympathy for Dan Cathy, the besieged or heroic (depending on your view) Chick-fil-A president. Why? Well, have a close look at exactly what Mr. Cathy said that caused so much controversy: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is about."

Sorry, but in my opinion that remark suggests the man is not of sound mind. What kind of god would render such weird judgment - and on an entire nation or generation, given this alleged offense? What kind of rules does he/she/it play by? Who has done any ?shaking of fists? and why would anyone do that? Where did Cathy get that quote? When did any god say such a thing? Is there evidence for any of this? How do we know this god is such a marriage freak or what he/she/it really thinks of the institution, if at all? What does it mean to ?pray God's mercy? on a generation? Does that work? Who decided anyone was or is ?prideful or arrogant?? Why does it take audacity to ?redefine? something that some, using critical faculties, believe is culture-bound and fair game to fine-tune as civilization moves along?

I dunno - do most mental health experts think the commentary by Cathy is sensible? Think of all the innocents that would be caught up in collective punishments if there were a deity so easily sent into a murderous rage. Besides, why punish an entire generation - I suspect there's diversity in the views within any generation on all topics, including gay marriage. What generation could ever escape being "wrathed upon" by one or more indignant gods?

In other words, how could a sane person believe such lunacy? We should be urging counseling for Mr. Cathy, not calling for retribution against him or his business. The latter also seems to have the unfortunate effect of setting off tens of thousands of other Christian extremists similarly bereft of their senses.

It is untreated madness such exhibited by Mr. Cathy that leads Americans to reject the science of evolution, to believe in something as laughable as scriptural inerrancy, to think there really are angels and demons out there that meddle in human affairs, to fear eternal hell-fires and so on. We need new health care legislation - an Affordable Mental Health Care Act for Christians who believe the kind of things the chicken guy said about gay marriage. Such talk seems proof positive of a serious mental condition.

It?s vital that the Cathys of America get help, and not just for their sake. The toxic delusions they reinforce among themselves and promote to others have already sent one of our two main political parties off the rails. If they gain even greater control of the government, then watch out. Such concerns we have now about faith-based funding, school prayer, the god-talk Pledge of Allegiance and other violations of church-state separation will be the least of the worries for secular Americans. We will have to give all our attention to devising ways to obtain visas or otherwise escape the pogroms, inquisitions, witch trials, blasphemy courts and the rest that will surely follow the madness of fundamentalist thinking as they go merrily about placating their sky god.

Don Proposes to Repeal the 2nd Amendment

by admin on July 26th, 2012
in General Wellness, Politics

When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion. Richard Dawkins

INTRODUCTION: AMERICAN DELUSIONS

In the non-stop media coverage of the Aurora theater gun massacre, two commentaries made a special impression on me: one by John Cassidy, the other by Michael Moore.

Cassidy listed ten illusions most Americans embrace, suggesting that Americans are insane - at least about certain topics or convictions. The ten delusions:

1. Gun laws and gun deaths are unconnected.

2. Private enterprise is good; public enterprise is bad.

3. God created America and gave it a special purpose.

4. Our health-care system is the best there is.

5. The Founding Fathers were saintly figures who established liberty and democracy for

everyone.

6. America is the greatest country in the world.

7. Tax rates are too high.

8. America is a peace-loving nation: the reason it gets involved in so many wars is that foreigners keep attacking us.

9. Inexpensive energy, gasoline especially, is our birthright.

10. Everybody else wishes they were American.

(Source: John Cassidy, Rational Irrationality: Is America Crazy? Ten Reasons It Might Be, The New Yorker, July 24, 2012.)

I agree with Cassidy - I think most Americans believe, embrace and defend every one of these illusions. However, I don?t think Cassidy?s list identifies the top-of-the-line, absolutely most egregious examples of American looniness.

THE TWO GREATEST NATIONAL DELUSIONS

My vote for this distinction goes to twin beliefs widely held that are certifiably delusional and dangerous. One concerns an omnipotent all-knowing all involved and all-American-oriented god in general and the Christian religion in particular; the other is devotion to the Second Amendment of our Constitution.

Cassidy dances lightly around these two berserk national attachments. Yet, the pernicious nature of both warrants attention. Let me offer a few recommendations about our maniacal devotion to a professed semi-divine right to posses, carry and use all manner of weapons for hunting and defense up to and just shy of thermonuclear devices. The NRA, the Republican Party and gun-enthusiast Americans never hesitate to remind gun critics that gun rights, militias and such are protected by the 2nd Amendment.

God and Christianity, the other lunacy mentioned, must wait for explication until another day. (Besides, what chance does reason have against unquestioned, uncritical faith? This is a delusion inculcated by our culture into the norm of society. Only brainwash creep over time can account for such widespread attachment to the literal truth of talking snakes, virgin births, resurrections, a trinity, transubstantiation, an overcrowded and unsanitary ark and an afterlife lottery of heaven or hell and so many other equally delusional notions.)

THE GUN PROBLEM

We?re number one, at least among wealthy nations, in experiencing gun deaths. A Washington Post columnist noted that 80 percent of all firearms deaths in 23 industrialized countries occurred in the United States. For women, the figure rose to 86 percent; for children age 14 and under, to 87 percent and asked, Can anyone seriously claim that our comparatively lax gun laws had nothing to do with these blood-drenched data?? (Source: E.J. Dionne Jr.,

Rationalizing gutlessness on guns, Washington Post, July 25, 2012.)

After each slaughter, there are always calls from sensible quarters for a ban on automatic weapons (once in effect, but allowed to expire), oversize magazines and other tools of mass as well as personal destruction. But the NRA is politically powerful and the politicians, even good ones, back off, despite considerable support for curbs (a 2011 New York Times/CBS News poll found 63 percent of Americans favor controls). As a result, as Michael Moore pointed out, we experience the equivalent of two Auroras daily (i.e., 24 average gun death a day) and if you add suicides by gun), the annual total amounts to 25,000. Might there be some connection here between gun deaths and the fact that we have 300 million guns in our homes? I dunno. It?s just a thought. (Source: Michael Moore, It?s the Guns ? But Not Really the Guns, OB Rag - The Source, July 25, 2012.)

MY DELUSIONAL SOLUTION TO THE GUN DELUSION

I favor a Constitution Amendment to repeal the Second Amendment. By the year 2016 or sooner, there should be no private possession of guns, save for police, the military and extremely special cases of legitimate need, as set out in the new law. If someone must hunt, he/she can follow procedures for checking out an approved weapon under highly controlled conditions for a brief period of time - from a federally operated Regional Gun Lending Library (RGLL). RGLLs will be created and maintained throughout the nation using the weaponry obtained from citizens during a collection period to be established by the gun control amendment that repeals the 2nd amendment. (Maybe a provision can be added allowing for a well-regulated militia in certain states concerned that a force might have to be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc. Good idea, Michael Moore.)

There. That?s my delusion. I hope you like it. However, don?t write your Congressperson about it just yet. Let?s wait for four years or so for a hundred thousand or so additional gun deaths before going public with the gun control amendment. Timing is everything - at present, neither of the candidates for president nor any other federal, state or local public office would support repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

In time, however, this idea may seem less delusional to the majority of voters than the other delusions mentioned seem to me today.

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