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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Farewell - Great Trip

This Sunday in Chicago, the Grateful Dead or at least the surviving members who are on a fiftieth anniversary "Fare Thee Well" tour will culminate that tour with three shows at Soldiers Field ending on Sunday. For Dead Heads it amounts to one last farewell concert and they are descending on the Windy City.
There is a story that went around awhile back. It went like this. Walter Cronkite’s daughter took him to see the Grateful Dead. This is undisputed and has been affirmed by Walter Cronkite on many occasions. The unconfirmed part is that at the end of the concert Walter’s daughter turned to him and asked if he had enjoyed the experience to which he said he had. Then she asked would you go see them again. Again, the answer was yes, at which point she allegedly turn to her famous father and said “Cool, Dad’s a Dead Head”.
For me it was at what turned out to be a three-day party. It was a big old house and everyone who lived there had a stereo system for their rooms. For the party they wired them all together, put the speakers in the windows and cranked Europe ’72 at full volume. The speakers each put out 100 watts per channel, there was a bunch of them and they turned the house into one big speaker box. Add to that Quaaludes, weed & cocaine, and it was a great intro.
The first time I saw the Dead live was a hoot. I was chef at a restaurant very near the venue, the Baltimore Civic Center. As we attempted to pull onto the restaurant parking lot we were – delayed. There was a girl on her knees going down on her boyfriend and had no intention of stopping until the deed was done.
We walked into the restaurant and the boss was more than a little upset. All those Dead Heads were parking on his lot. He looks at us and asks why we’re here on my day off. We sheepishly admitted we were headed to the Dead concert.
Our seats were in the very last row of the Civic Center. We didn’t care we were seeing the Dead. Now by this point we were pretty loaded. We were "don’t go near a car" loaded. We look around and I turned to Carol and said, “I can’t believe I’m about to say this but I don’t think we’re high enough for this show.” At that the girl who is nearly half our age as we are in our early thirties, turns to us and says, “want a bite of my cookie.” Oh yea we are definitely not high enough for this. That’s okay, there was time to kill before the band kicks off; we can catch up while we wait.
We thought the sound would suck, worried about bounce back. What we found out was the bounce back went buy so fast we never heard it so the sound was great. Being at the top of the arena had other benefits too. For one, for those who were tripping there was plenty of room to trippy dance up there on the third concourse. This also meant the bathrooms never had a line, so adding it up, great sound, room to dance, and no lines at the bathroom, overall a great concert.
The next time we saw the Dead was one of Jerry’s last shows. It was June 25, 1995 at RFK Stadium in DC. Bob Dylan opened the show. Momentarily, we worried that RFK would be shaken down to the ground. We were near the railing in what would be box seats for a baseball game and even that concrete was shaking under our feet. Even after the stage was rushed and people went out onto the field that stands were full.
From “Working Man’s Dead” thru “Europe ’72” until “In The Dark” with “Touch of Grey” & “Hell in a Bucket” I may not be a true head but I’m definitely a fan. However, when Jerry Garcia passed away a little more than six weeks after I saw the Dead at RFK a wake was in order.
Following a couple of shots after leaving work early, it was off to the races. Ordered pizza for dinner and broke out the tequila. We kept the volume in check. I can’t say the same for my mouth. I was already on poor terms with the President of the Board of Directors of our Homeowner’s Association so it was probably not good to call out to him to ask if he had any Dead CD’s we could borrow.
We really did keep the volume in check, we know because people came over to our yard because we wouldn’t crank the volume. It was cool in our yard without blasting the whole court away. Which is why we were so shocked when, we got “the letter.”
The letter accused us behaving so badly the police were called, Shouting profanities across the street and fighting in the streets. Plus one more that I’ll deal with separately. First, there were no fights involving me. The couple across the street whose wife had an epileptic fit and didn’t want to go to the hospital had an argument, as she was loaded into the ambulance. The police accompanied the ambulance. Therefore, that dismisses one of the accusations.
As for the last accusation, “a loud party, reportedly drinking and dancing in the front yard.” This goes hand and hand with the “shouting of profanities” across the street. Of the profanity, guilty, I would shout, “Did you hear Jerry died?” and they would shout back, “Yea fucking bummer.” I’d say something like, “fucking A right, come on over and toast Jerry with us.” The complete extent of this garbage mouth was that conversation about twice. As for the party, there were no more than eight people dancing on my front lawn. Wow what a blow out!
I got so pissed I sent a copy of the letter to the ACLU. They responded, not their type of case at this time but advised obtaining council because our rights were being threatened. I sent a copy of that letter to the HOA. It was one of many battles I had with the busybody, battle-axes that ran the HOA and tried to run our lives. We even had one Board member that thought garden statues looked trashy and wanted them ban. But, of all the battles with the HOA, the Jerry Garcia Wake battle was the most monumental. So was the hangover.

The trip may have been strange at times but still a great trip. As for the Grateful Dead what can be said that hasn’t already been said before. I’m not enough of a Dead Head or music critic to try. Believe this though every time, “Sugar Magnolia” Or “Tennessee Jed” or “Uncle John’s Band” comes on the radio the volume will approach or reach max level.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

WTF PPS

I’ve had enough alcohol & Valium I should be as asleep as a bear in hibernation. Yet I’m not, I am out on the deck in the predawn light writing. How does this happen? With Post-Polio Syndrome when you over do your fatigue is so bad when your head hits a pillow even if it’s just to rest – bam you’re asleep. Then there are times like tonight when you have over done so much when you lie down to go to bed your muscles vibrate like you’re hooked up to a low electrical charge. Your mind tries to sleep but it never gets past REM.

I recently read the tale of a young woman who suddenly was having severe mobility issues but no diagnosis as to what was causing her weakness. Abbreviating this story as much as possible, they wanted to do two things before beginning their family. One was a trip to Europe and the other a trip to the Big Apple. Naturally, the young lady thought none of this was possible anymore. The husband to his credit said bullsh*t we can do both of those things and I’ll prove it to you – we’re going to New York first.

They spent several days doing New York with her devoted husband pushing her around in a wheelchair so she could see all the sights she’d longed to see. In a moment of despair, after seeing just how hard it is to push a grown adult around a major city in a wheelchair she expressed her biggest fear. Her fear being that, yea while this is working for now, she worried that one day he will tire of caring for her and leave.

I love this part of the story. His response was to tell her they were going to renew their vows so she knew that when he said, in sickness and in health… they weren’t just words to be said at a wedding. He really means it. I teared up.

I know just how she feels. Polio was a disease that I was sure I had beaten like a red headed stepchild. From twenty months until age ten, I was in braces twice. I got rid of both them with hard work at physical therapy. I went on to play little league baseball where at first I had to wear my leg brace to and from the field. When I got there, I could take my brace off, put on my tennis shoes and play baseball. Luckily, that routine only lasted one season.

The years that followed were full of baseball, gymnastics, even sandlot tackle football which meant full contact football without the equipment. I played in our CYO’s soccer league. However, what I loved the most was dancing. We had Teen Center dances on Friday nights and CYO dances on Saturday night. I was no Fred Astaire or Tony Manero but I danced well enough to always to have a partner to get out on the dance floor with. I loved going to dances, dancing for three hours and coming home with my ears ringing from the loud rock & roll blasted out by some of the best bands around.

Tonight after dinner, my wife & I were reminiscing about going dancing when we first met. Sometimes there wasn’t even a dance floor we didn’t care. If someone was picking a guitar and played a song we loved, we got up and danced. I still remember the last time we danced together.

We were at this great dockside bar/restaurant where friends were playing all the oldies we grew up to, JT, CSN&Y, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and of course songs by Lennon & McCartney. When they played our song, “Old Time Rock & Roll, by Bob Seger, despite being on forearm crutches, I got up and did something that resembled dancing. When the crowd around saw what was happening they began to applaud my effort, it was the last time I set foot on a dance floor.

I’m telling these stories for only one reason. I want people with new disabilities to understand something. Your life has changed and right now, you feel it has changed for the worse not the better. It doesn’t have to be that way. It can simply be that your life has changed. If you are lucky enough to have the love of a good person like myself and the young woman above, know that you are not going to go through this alone. This is a huge advantage. Even if you are alone right now, that’s not permanent. Plenty of disabled people find love and marry.

What is most important to your physical and mental well-being is finding something that excites you that you can still do. For me, one of those things is writing. I’m one of those truly rare writers that the first time I sent out a query letter about a story I had written the magazine bought it. I was hooked.

The second thing was sailing. That’s right sailing. At first, I still was strong enough, especially my upper body to sail my own boat single-handed. My wife worried every minute I was out there on Chesapeake Bay alone but I always made back to harbor safe and sound. I no longer risk that as I have weakened even more over the years.

When my own boat was damaged in a storm beyond what I could afford to repair, I called on someone who knew all too well the struggles I was dealing with, Don Backe. He had been an avid sailor before an automobile accident left him a T-4 paraplegic. That means that everything below his diaphragm was paralyzed. Not wanting to give up sailing he learned about the National Ocean Access Project (NOAP).

NOAP eventually morphed into Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB). When Casey’s Dream, my boat was damaged I knew the club wouldn’t want a boat that needed so much expensive work but they would be interested in my Nissan 9.9 HP outboard motor. I donated the motor to CRAB for which I was given three years of Admiral level membership. Though the club doesn’t do memberships any longer at the time it meant for the next three years I could use any boat in the fleet pretty much anytime I wanted. The only exception was if CRAB needed the boat for use by another group.

What a CRAB sailor learns and tells about with pride, is that when we are in the helmsman position on our boats, no matter how many people it took to put us there, no matter how many straps are needed to keep them safely in that helmsman seat, others out on the water don’t know we are physically challenged. All they see is another sailor doing just what they are doing, watching tell-tails, feeling the wind on their face and adjusting their course or their sails to get the most out of their boat. We even have a race team. Heck I even won one of those races. There’s no need to go into how many races that took here.

It is for people like the young lady in this story and all of the others with challenges that I do what I call citizen lobbying. I’m affiliated with on organizations. I have been in the past but now that I know what I’m doing (or at least I think I do), now I do the lobbying on my own.

Wheelchair dependent people face one more challenge that they don’t need added to their burden, paying to adapt vehicles for use with their chairs. This is why Casey’s Dream, http://caseysdream.blogspot.com/ and Help Keep Me Rolling, http://www.gofundme.com/b9khek exists. It is also, why I have begun a lobbying effort to change the health insurance laws or regulations to force insurance companies to pay for vehicle adaptations for wheelchair dependent people.
To this end, I have spoken to or met with state and federal lawmakers or their advisors. Once again, I’m not revealing their names at this time. I am holding off on that until I get firm commitments to sponsor the legislation required to make this happen.

To insure success in this endeavor I need to upgrade my wheelchair – not a problem the health insurance company will pay at least 90% of that cost. They’ll pay all of it if I first reach my max out-of-pocket for this year. We exceed that amount most years.

When I get that new wheelchair my old derrick style lift will no longer work with the new style chair. I have previously posted a video showing my derrick lift is breaking down. The new chair is my responsibility. However, insurance companies NOT considering the adaptations that allow a physically challenged person to use their chair outside of their home as Durable Medical Equipment, is unconscionable. When I asked my old insurance company about adapting my van the person on the phone said, “Oh sir, that’s a luxury. You have to pay for that yourself.”

What can you do with all this info? First, of course I would greatly appreciate any and all donations to Help Keep Me Rolling, http://www.gofundme.com/b9khek. Secondly, you can join me in writing to your lawmakers and let them know about the plight of wheelchair dependent people. Personally, I would love it if one of my lawmakers wrote and sponsored the bill that fixed this problem. If on the other hand someone else’s legislator did it, I would lobby for that bill. What matters is that we help wheelchair dependent people eliminate the financial hardship of retrofitting a van or car to haul around 200lb wheelchairs that are necessary to live a full and productive life.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Education In America

I may only be a man in his sixties with a computer but I have learned at least this. If we want our state or nation to be this powerful economic engine, we need an educated work force. I was lucky enough to go through an inventive feeder school system. I experienced having teachers that really tried to reach their students. I was one of those students. While I have to admit I was sweating some generous grading to graduate with my class, it was my class. They were the same students I started school with in first grade.
States shouldn’t be raiding pension funds to fund education. However, we should be funding schools in a way to turn our schools into the schools every other city wants their schools to be like. In a city like Baltimore, schools should be something every Marylander points to with the same pride, they do Mt. Vernon, Ft. McHenry, Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, and The Inner Harbor.
We’ve seen what education does. We watched as guys with slide rules sent men to the moon and back with less computing power than my mobile phone. In my lifetime, I’ve gone from only black & white TV to watching YouTube videos on my iPhone. Heck, who am I kidding the video phone that was going to be this unit built into the walls that we were promised as students, that’s now an app on our mobile phones.
Every state has a big city with big city problems. Education that is well rounded is the solution to those problems. Yes, we need to concentrate on English, Math & Science but our kids also need Art, Social Studies, Phys. Ed. and foreign languages taught. Most important in inner city schools we need real sex ed. not this abstinence only BS. We need honest and factual drug education and not the lies told by D.A.R.E. Inner city kids know more about crack and heroin than the cops that conduct these programs.
On the subject of Social Studies, we need to teach about government. We need to teach about people who saw an injustice and gathered people together to fix the problem. Teachers should be molding good citizens who will grow up and participate in their own governing in Social Studies.
Don’t get me started on Science. I was never that great in science though certain sciences certainly sparked my interest. What cannot be allowed to happen is to replace Darwin with Adam & Eve. If you want to believe, every word in the bible is fact that was covered under freedom of religion and was taught in Social Studies class. However, if you want a high school diploma than you had better understand evolution and know the true age of the planet you live on and not some bullshit calculation by a theologian. If I were a congressional representative or senator, I’d vote to break up the Marines and turn ‘em all back into sailors before I’d vote to do away with the Dept. of Education.
We have a government, of, by & for the people, all the people. We can no longer sit back and accept the education inequality of this nation. Just because of gerrymandering, we now have a government that thinks Koch Industries should all the same rights as me an individual citizen. Citizens United is the worst ruling from SCOTUS since Dred Scott. It will be overturned by a new SCOTUS and sooner than the Guardians of Privilege think. The Koch brothers and their Christian Right cronies are dumbing down the South & Midwest while the states on either coast that have the most citizens are fighting to improve education for everyone.
It’s been strange to watch how the Guardians have convinced poor white people in rural areas that their employers, who have minimized their wages, done away with benefits, stole their pension funds have their best interests at heart. Fuck that they have their bottom lines at heart. So by waging this war on democracy by telling people to follow only the bible they are taking away centuries of intellectual advances. Hell before you know, it they’ll be telling them to outlaw the four-cylinder engine because they go to slow and use too little gasoline.

When it comes to education, as often is the case on the issues affecting our nation JFK may have put it best. Speaking at Vanderbilt in 1963 Pres. Kennedy said, “Liberty without learning is always in peril; and learning without liberty is always in vain. Any educated citizen who seeks to subvert the law, to suppress freedom, or to subject other human beings to acts that are less than human, degrades his heritage, ignores his learning and betrays his obligations."  In my opinion, the RNC’s plans for educating America puts us at more peril than 100 Osama bin Ladens. An educated population would recognize that the GOP is dead set on embroiling us into this religious war between Judaism, Sunni & Shia. Instead of teaching intellectual subjects, they prefer to spread the falsehood that we are a Christian Nation and they can only accomplish that long term by turning public schools into parochial schools. This must be stopped.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pushing the Envelope

This is what political activists do we push the envelope. We see an injustice, roll up our sleeves, warm up our computers and begin to find support to right a wrong. Buying groceries is not a luxury. However, that is exactly what your healthcare company considers it. You're asking WTF is he talking about. I’ll explain.
Health insurance companies divide services they provide into categories. One of those categories is called Durable Medical Goods (DMG).  DMG covers things like canes, crutches, braces and wheelchairs. How they are covered varies by company and policy provisions. There may be a deductible, or a co-pay or co-insurance payment. Either way these costs are usually, far less than the equipment they cover. My brand of wheelchair can cost between $3,000.00 - $6,000.00. What they do not consider DMG is adaptations of vehicles to haul these behemoths. A quick look at some of the popular brands of power wheelchairs these chairs can run between 250 - 400 pounds.
We've all seen people in wheelchairs using a variety of adaptaions to carry their wheelchairs and scooters. What most people don’t know is that those people paid for those adaptations out of their own pockets or were lucky enough to find a charity to help. This is wrong. These adaptations are durable medical goods. They are as important to the patient’s health as the wheelchair. Without vehicle adaptations, wheelchair dependent people become shut-ins.
That’s the history. This is the future. I plan to change that law. To that end I have begun meeting with lawmakers on the both the state and federal level.
This Wednesday I traveled to Washington to meet with aides for Sen. Cardin & Rep. Sarbanes. Like when I go to Annapolis I didn’t stop at those meetings. I went sort of door to door to pitch the idea. Here’s a quick rundown of those interactions.
First up was Sen. Mark Kirk (R) IL., who is a stoke survivor. He now uses a wheelchair though I believe he does retain some ability to walk or at least to transfer on his own. I spoke to Andrew Vogt the senator’s legislative aide. I would describe his reaction as intrigued. He promised to raise the issue with the senator.
Secondly, I met with Matthew Spikes, Esq. who is the Legislative Correspondent to Sen. Ben Cardin (D) Md. Matt was the first to commit to a meeting so he gets extra kudos for that. I would travel to DC for this one meeting alone but was lucky enough to score another confirmed meeting. Matt was extremely interested in my ideas. His plan is to write a position paper to present to the Sen. Cardin and is Chief-of-Staff.
While still in the Hart Office Building, I stopped by my other senator’s office, the senior senator from Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D). For some reason I am having trouble arranging a meeting with her staff. While there is story there, it is a story for another day. I didn’t get past the receptionist. I did leave my business card.
Next, it was over to the house offices. I had a little extra time and as the Cannon House Office Building was first in line from the direction I was travelling, I stopped by the office of another Illinois politician that should have empathy for our cause, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) IL. Since the House was not in session, there was no one around to speak to except her receptionist. I explained the issue to her and she told me to contact Anthony DeMarino, Special Assistant who advices Rep. Duckworth on disability issues. I will reach out to him next week.
Lastly, I met with Peter Gelman, Legislative Correspondent to Rep. John Sarbanes (D) Md. 3rd Dist. This meeting that took some doing. Not because no one was willing to meet with me but because every meeting time offered was taken on my end. Like Matt Spikes in Sen. Cardin’s office Peter was very interested in the idea. He said he’d speak with the congressman about it and advised that I also contact Rep. Sarbanes’ Chief-of-Staff, Dvora Lovinger. That too is on next week’s calendar.
Next week besides contacting Ms. Lovinger and Mr. DeMarino, I have a meeting with Del. Terri Hill. There are a few other suggested contacts but let’s see where these meetings go first.
It is not easy changing a law but here is what people are agreeing with. Insurance companies make the rules but congress and state legislatures can change those rules. It is all about being the squeaky wheel. When men bitched about the cost of their Viagra, insurance companies changed the rules. However, women are still fighting over coverage for birth control. The system is broken when men get a pill paid for so their dick will stay erect while they court the trophy wife they’re about to leave the mother of his children to be with.
The student with menstrual problems that stands up and demands her birth control pill that will treat her condition be covered is called a slut on national radio but a fat drug addict.
Couples who had tried everything to have a child were told being a parent is a luxury. They were told if God wanted you to have a baby, he’d give you one. When those parents banded together regulations covering the coverage of in vitro fertilization were passed.

Vehicle adaptations should be a right. It is a right not to be a shut-in. It is a right to go to church. It is a right to go to the grocery store. With that, I have to sign off - so I can go to the grocery store. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Enlightenment Did Not End

Three hundred sixty five years ago, the world began The Enlightenment. It was never meant to stop. For most of the world, this has been true. We have made great strides having faith and science coexist in society. It’s time to lay down our weapons, go home and make peace. Practice your faith the way you believe you should but leave your neighbor free to practice his beliefs in his home and with his neighbors.
America has fought wars over a great many things in its history but not once have we fought with each other over religion. I am not a church going Christian but I am a follower of Christ.  I know this; the God in the Bible is the same God as in the Quran, as in the Torah. If any of our religions are true than this is a fact. So why the hell, are we fighting each other. Our God surely does not want this.
We have the governments of predominately-Christian nations from Europe to the Americas fighting with a small fraction of radicals out of more than a billion Muslims. Why are they fighting? They apparently are fighting over Holy Land. The most radical in these religions believe the Jews must be returned to Jerusalem. Okay, fine let’s make a treaty to make that happen but oh, wait they want this to happen so God will end the world and all the truly holy people will ascend to have heaven like Jesus Christ and Mohamed did. What, why do we want the world to end?
Again not a theologian but I thought God put us on Earth to live in peace with each other. That when God sees all of us living in peace, He will return to take us all to heaven. Maybe I missed something in CCD classes.
Why are there so many sects of Christianity? The last time Christianity was this fractured Constantine had to convene the Council of Nicaea. However while it was supposed to be a religious conference to reconcile the factions of Christianity it was really a political convention to concentrate Constantine’s power.
Why, if you believe in Christ are you choosing war as the solution to our problem? I have more questions than I have answers. The logic of our wars escapes me. The conflict between Sunnis & Shiites goes back to 632AD and we’re allowing ourselves to be dragged into this fight. Why? The only answer I hear is because (and we’re back to it) America is the Christian nation in this dogfight.
No, America should be the peacemaker in this fight. America should be telling the combatants to lay down their weapons and go home. We should be encouraging courts based on justice not scripture. We should be encouraging loudly that everyone go home and give religious freedom a chance. (I can’t believe I just wrote that). Religious freedom should be everyone’s right no matter where they live. Being the beacon of religious freedom is supposed to be our great gift to humankind.
Instead, we have a wing of the Republican Party that would love to enact laws based on their interpretation of an interpretation of the Bible. Which I thought teaches faith. And we’re back again to, whose faith. In America this is supposed to be everyone’s faith including those with no faith at all. We’re supposed to be supporting religious freedom around the world. This means we support ending belief in religion as a requirement of citizenship. It means Muslims need to begin to get along with each other by ending Sunni – Shiite hostilities. The leaders of Islam need to preach acceptance within their own faith and with other faith’s around the world.
Israel needs to stop thinking it’s entitled to certain lands on Earth based on stories in the Bible. The world did what it could to right the wrong done you by giving you a homeland. While the world was still trying to pacify Muslims who were rightfully upset about their land being given to someone else Israel grabs even a little more land via war. Now it is run with a “papers please” policy to make sure they know where those Muslins are and what they are doing. Wasn’t this how Germans treated Jews in the Ghettos?
No large surprise it was Europeans and Americans telling one nation we are given some of their country to someone else. It wasn’t Europe or America’s land to give to anyone. It was America all over again. It sucks, but is the answer, constant war. War that now includes as a tactic, attacks on innocent civilians by people who believe this is a biblically justified tactic. What will happen when America says enough is enough and stops worrying about civilian casualties? Do we want that kind of carnage with our names signed to it? I don’t.
Some of these Christian Church leaders are scary with their pronouncements. They are scary for the very reason they are popular. They are scary because when we we’re afraid their donations go up. These “ministries” that are run in the name of religion are cash cows for the guy whose face is on their movement, Billy Graham, Joel Olsteen, Rick Warren, and Pat Robertson.
Pastor John Hagee just recently pronounced that the recent “Blood Moon” signals the end of times is coming. And I’m a Leo who likes long walks on the beach… I’m sorry but when the preacher is preaching nonsense than it is time we call them out on it. The problem is for the rest of us to call them out then they yell we’re interfering with the free practice of their religion. They are trying to turn faith into a test of patriotism. Their faith and their patriotism which if they were honest they’d admit is faith in capitalism and the superiority it brings.
Why else would Ted Cruz choose Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University? Why was his rhetoric more of this “take back our country” for those who believe in Christ. Take it back for good Christian Americans so long as they are white Christian Americans, which includes Latinos but only if your family came here centuries ago instead of decades ago. Oh, wait 1957 is okay but no later than that.
Now these same zealots are trying to replace teaching evolution with Adam & Eve. What’s next? Do we go back to the churches original teaching that Earth is the center of the universe and the Sun revolves around it? Galileo will rise up out of his grave to shout, “Hey I didn’t endure years of persecution so you dolts can take the world back to the Dark Ages.” Galileo wasn’t the only one and Christianity wasn’t the only faith to persecute scientists.
Muhammad ibn Zakariyā Rāzī or Rhazes was a pioneer in medicine from Baghdad. Rhazes attempted to compile a volume of all known medical knowledge. Which since he lived from 865-925 CE wasn’t much. Never the mind when a Muslim priest learned of it he had Rhazes beaten over the head with his own manuscript until he went blind.
Michael Servetus was a Spaniard who discovered the pulmonary system. He penned a book explaining his discovery and the changes the Church should make to its doctrine in light of his discovery. After escaping the Spanish Inquisition, he fled to Switzerland where he came up against the Protestant Inquisition. In 1553, John Calvin burned him at the stake on the shores of Lake Geneva and for good measure used his writings as fuel for the fire.
Even Henry Oldenburg the founder of the Royal Society of London was thrown into the Tower of London for several months. His crime you ask, corresponding with other scientists around the world to compile scientific knowledge. His goal was to encourage the development and use of science. His charge was treason.
Last year we were told the story of Alan Turing and his incredible contribution to ending WWII. He was subsequently persecuted and chemical castrated (his choice over jail) for being a gay man. Hitler was kicking our collective asses and without the accomplishment of Turing’s team, we may very well have lost WWII.
Homosexuality persecution is a religious thing. There is no secular reason to object to homosexuality. Yet Alan was persecuted to the point that (spoiler alert) he committed suicide on June 7, 1955.
Think about it if Turing doesn’t beat Germany’s Enigma Machine, Einstein’s warning about Hitler’s nuclear ambitions would have been meaningless because they would have developed the A-bomb first. Without ethical scientists, what would the world look like? Could America have bounced back the way Japan did if Hitler had nuked America’s equivalents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Imagine Baltimore, a leading ship building city & Pittsburgh, a leading steel producing city in 1945 being nuked. Do you think Adolph would have had a German version of the Marshall Plan to rebuild these cities? I sure don’t.
All of that is history, or is it? We’re passing religious freedom laws. These laws which initially at the Federal level protected Native Americans and other fringe religions from prosecution for using cannabis or peyote in religious ceremonies.
Now they are being enacted to allow private business owners discriminate based on their religious beliefs claiming it’s the same principal. These were the same arguments private businesses wanted to use to discriminate against blacks in the South. The good news is this argument still doesn’t work.
Some want to end the Dept. of Education. Why, so there child isn’t exposed to evolution. They prefer to teach the bible story of Adam & Eve. These same parents don’t just want to ignore the science of evolution they question the actual age of the planet.
Scientists put the age of our planet at 4.5 billion years. Theologians (or at least some) put the age of earth at 6,000 years old. However, they say that comes from the bible. The bible says nothing about the age of the earth. The 6,000 years old figure comes from a 17th century Irish Bishop. Hardly the word of God even if you believe the Bible is the word of God.
 Thanks to scientists from every country on this planet, we learn more and more about our planet, our bodies and the universe we live in. However when I listen to the Right Wing Christian Nut Jobs speak about taking America back to when it was the “shining city on the hill” I cringe. However, the whole idea that America is a “city upon a hill” that the whole world is watching comes from a sermon by the Puritan Reverend John Winthrop while still off the coast of Massachusetts. What does it say to you that the Puritan colony of Massachusetts has become the poster child of liberal politics in the eyes of conservatives?
Face it all this talk about what the forefathers were all about is bogus. I had a Twitter troll tell me Islam wasn’t included in America. When I explained that Jefferson not only owned a copy of the Quran he studied it the only response was to point out a typo.
America in the beginning was segregated by faith. Don’t go running off the rails just yet. Think about our history. Puritans were in New England. Quakers had New York & Pennsylvania. Maryland was a Catholic Colony, Baptists and Anglicans populated the South. Each of these communities eventually came to the agreement that we should all be able to worship in our own way.
Now certain GOP leaders want to ignore this history and codify in the laws of this great nation their idea of religious rule. It appears to me that they have reached the conclusion that if Sunnis are going to fight Shiites and both are going to fight Jews than we must be the Christian dog in the fight. Their way to accomplish this is to interject their dogma into the laws of their states. This must stop.
America is a bright shining city on a hill but not a Puritan city, or a Jewish city or Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran or Baptist. We are not even a bright shining secular city on a hill. Our city shines from the hill because it is lit by the beacon of religious freedom. Don’t fall for their theological propaganda. Stand up for religious freedom including the right to be free from religion. America must never be allowed to devolve into one more theological government engaging in war with other theocracies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Crazy Christians & the GOP

Let me make it clear I am not claiming to be some theological scholar. Rather I will attempt to describe my opinion of how we’ve arrived at a place where “Christians” are trying to establish Christianity as the state religion in America, the land of religious freedom. No, they haven’t yet gone as far as actually proposing an amendment to the constitution. Rather they are trying to enact laws that are based solely in Christian doctrine as opposed to English Common Law, which is where our constitution derives.
Where do you begin? Like it or not, I believe you begin with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan following the Civil War. Listen to the rhetoric the Klan used in 1866 and then listen to the rhetoric of the modern Tea Party faction of the GOP. The Tea Party has taken the Klan’s fundamental belief that America is supposed to be the land of white Christians and changed it to America is founded on Christian beliefs.
Right now, the Right Wing of the Republican Party is holding up a human trafficking bill by inserting a poison pill. They are making a condition of the bill that if one these women or girls happen to have been impregnated by one of the “johns” they were forced to have sex with – well they still have to carry that child to term. I can hear them now screaming “Gift from God.” Bullshit! God gave us the ability and the compassion not to saddle a fourteen year old with the child of her rape!
For the last time, we are not a Christian nation; we are the land of religious freedom, which includes the right of a woman to do decide happens to her body. No man has the right to do that to a woman. These politicians are trying to force their conservative Christian value system on a whole nation. Their religious freedoms do not include the forcing of their theological doctrine on an entire nation.
If you look at maps showing, where the GOP is the strongest and where people’s religious views are most conservative it’s as Gomer used to say, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise. It’s the Deep South. It’s what we call the “Bible Belt.” Look at the laws being passed in the Deep South, anti-abortion laws, voter restrictions and now “religious freedom” laws. These are not the legislative measures of a freedom loving party. They are the laws of exclusion, of judging people’s religious convictions, and of laws designed to realize Karl Rove’s dream of a permanent conservative majority. They are Jim Crow on steroids.
Jim Crow laws affected African-Americans. The new legislative agenda of the Right goes much further. They want to deny equal rights to anyone they don’t like. GOP bigotry runs so deep it begs the question, how did this happen?
Any student of history knows that answer. It was called the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Back then, conservative, racist, and anti-sematic Democrats opposed it. The GOP supported it. LBJ had it right when he said signing the Voting Rights Act would cost the Democratic Party the South for a generation. I don’t think he thought they would actually leave the Democratic Party. Rather he believed they would remain Dems but continue to fight the Civil Rights Movement. They didn’t; they flocked to the GOP because they believed the libertarian views of the GOP would provide cover for their racism.
Guess what they still think that way. Problem is Americans (at least those who are actually involved) see right thru their bigotry. They understand that when you pass a law that says your religious freedom is paramount to others’ civil rights you are permitting discrimination.
Look I remember Gov. Ross Barnett ranting that he’d never let a black student enter the University of Mississippi. I remember Gov. George Wallace blocking the door to the University of Alabama to prevent desegregation of that university. I remember Wallace’s promise during his inaugural address, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Bigotry is the bastard son of slavery and it lives in the American Southland.
The only thing that has changed when it comes to bigotry in Southern politics is they stopped electing Democrats as governors in the South. Now when a Southern politician appears on the news or is mentioned in a newspaper instead of a (D) behind his name there’s a (R). Southern racist Democrats looked at the libertarian views of the old GOP and decided they could use this to their advantage. Sadly it’s working.
Today they are back to trying to use the bible to justify their positions. In the past, they said the bible called African-Americans “Mud People”. They believed the bible justified treating blacks as chattel. Now they say the bible says homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, if it is a sin to be gay, than you shouldn’t have any rights in America. Or at the least, they shouldn’t have to allow them in their businesses.
Today they pass voter laws to make sure that linemen playing for the Gators that were raised by liberal Northern hippie parents can’t vote in their state. Can’t have those educated young people screwing up their Southern Heritage of bigotry by electing Democrats again. After all, to many in the South it’s the Dems that sold them down the river of freedom and inclusion. It was Northern Democrats that saw the laws of the South were unconstitutional and set about to change them. “True” Southerners will never forget that.
Justifying an act of discrimination under the cover of religious freedom doesn’t just go against our Constitution – it goes against the teachings of their Lord & Savior. I decline to identify with one of man’s many churches even though I believe I have learned the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus I was taught about was caring, generous & kind to his fellow man.
The Jesus the GOP and the Crazy Christians of the Bible Belt worship is stingy, judgmental, and cruel. Doesn’t sound like a Savior to me, it sounds like money-grubbing capitalist. The poor and downtrodden that populates the bayous and backcountry of the South and the struggling farmers of the corn fields that cover our plains need to make sure their preacher is preaching the word of God. From where I sit, it seems like they’re preaching the Gospel of David – David Koch
Faith is a wonderful thing. It brings us closer to each other. It provides comfort when we face troubles. The problem with modern America is that there are millions of Crazy Christians who have been swindled into believing their government is against them. The problem is it isn’t the government doing the swindling it’s the preachers. It’s the preacher preaching humility and generosity and then refusing to help someone without a spec of food unless they join their church. Afterwards they go home to their mansion.
How can I claim to know this is wrong? Well I guess it’s because when I was told about the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand with but five loaves of bread and two fish, he never asked one of them if they had joined him. It made no matter to Jesus if they believed in him or not. Jesus knew they too were the children of God.
You know I wish these conservative Christians would remember that they once elected an honorable POTUS – his name was Jimmy Carter. Not only is President Carter an honorable man he lives his Christianity thru his many humanitarian projects.
The problem with Jimmy was simple – he wanted to enforce the environmental regulations of the new EPA created by President Nixon. He wanted people to slow down save some gas, put a sweater on to save heating oil and other means to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Guess what it worked. President Carter’s presidency was the only one to achieve a reduction in oil imports. Well, that is until President Obama.
In the South President Carter was vilified for these measures. Despite being from Georgia once he was elected he was suddenly one more Northerner tell them what they can and can’t do. Suddenly the same preachers who had told their congregations to vote for him were telling their flocks he was against them. He was killing jobs in the oil fields. He was killing jobs on the farms.  So when St. Ronnie comes along with his welfare mom lie and his government’s the problem rhetoric they ate it up. They’re still choking on that one.
Since the 1980 election, we have been debating this issue about the role of government in our everyday lives. Tea Party pols say they want to take back the country – from who, me, you, from whom for whom.
Last week Ted Cruz chose to announce his run for POTUS at the ultra-conservative Liberty University founded by Jerry Falwell. You remember Mr. Falwell (I refuse to use the title Rev.) he was the one who said AIDS was God’s wrath for the wickedness of homosexuality. So Sen. Cruz goes to Lynchburg (I’ll let the reader decide where that named comes from) to say, “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.” Again reinforcing the idea that Christians should be running America because the rest of us are sinners – even followers of Christ like me.
Let me make it clear I am not claiming to be some theological scholar. Rather I will attempt to describe my opinion of how we’ve arrived at a place where “Christians” are trying to establish Christianity as the state religion in America, the land of religious freedom. No, they haven’t yet gone as far as actually proposing an amendment to the constitution. Rather they are trying to enact laws that are based solely in Christian doctrine as opposed to English Common Law, which is where our constitution derives.
Where do you begin? Like it or not, I believe you begin with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan following the Civil War. Listen to the rhetoric the Klan used in 1866 and then listen to the rhetoric of the modern Tea Party faction of the GOP. The Tea Party has taken the Klan’s fundamental belief that America is supposed to be the land of white Christians and changed it to America is founded on Christian beliefs.
Right now, the Right Wing of the Republican Party is holding up a human trafficking bill by inserting a poison pill. They are making a condition of the bill that if one these women or girls happen to have been impregnated by one of the “johns” they were forced to have sex with – well they still have to carry that child to term. I can hear them now screaming “Gift from God.” Bullshit! God gave us the ability and the compassion not to saddle a fourteen year old with the child of her rape!
For the last time, we are not a Christian nation; we are the land of religious freedom, which includes the right of a woman to do decide happens to her body. No man has the right to do that to a woman. These politicians are trying to force their conservative Christian value system on a whole nation. Their religious freedoms do not include the forcing of their theological doctrine on an entire nation.
If you look at maps showing, where the GOP is the strongest and where people’s religious views are most conservative it’s as Gomer used to say, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise. It’s the Deep South. It’s what we call the “Bible Belt.” Look at the laws being passed in the Deep South, anti-abortion laws, voter restrictions and now “religious freedom” laws. These are not the legislative measures of a freedom loving party. They are the laws of exclusion, of judging people’s religious convictions, and of laws designed to realize Karl Rove’s dream of a permanent conservative majority. They are Jim Crow on steroids.
Jim Crow laws affected African-Americans. The new legislative agenda of the Right goes much further. They want to deny equal rights to anyone they don’t like. GOP bigotry runs so deep it begs the question, how did this happen?
Any student of history knows that answer. It was called the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Back then, conservative, racist, and anti-sematic Democrats opposed it. The GOP supported it. LBJ had it right when he said signing the Voting Rights Act would cost the Democratic Party the South for a generation. I don’t think he thought they would actually leave the Democratic Party. Rather he believed they would remain Dems but continue to fight the Civil Rights Movement. They didn’t; they flocked to the GOP because they believed the libertarian views of the GOP would provide cover for their racism.
Guess what they still think that way. Problem is Americans (at least those who are actually involved) see right thru their bigotry. They understand that when you pass a law that says your religious freedom is paramount to others’ civil rights you are permitting discrimination.
Look I remember Gov. Ross Barnett ranting that he’d never let a black student enter the University of Mississippi. I remember Gov. George Wallace blocking the door to the University of Alabama to prevent desegregation of that university. I remember Wallace’s promise during his inaugural address, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Bigotry is the bastard son of slavery and it lives in the American Southland.
The only thing that has changed when it comes to bigotry in Southern politics is they stopped electing Democrats as governors in the South. Now when a Southern politician appears on the news or is mentioned in a newspaper instead of a (D) behind his name there’s a (R). Southern racist Democrats looked at the libertarian views of the old GOP and decided they could use this to their advantage. Sadly it’s working.
Today they are back to trying to use the bible to justify their positions. In the past, they said the bible called African-Americans “Mud People”. They believed the bible justified treating blacks as chattel. Now they say the bible says homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, if it is a sin to be gay, than you shouldn’t have any rights in America. Or at the least, they shouldn’t have to allow them in their businesses.
Today they pass voter laws to make sure that linemen playing for the Gators that were raised by liberal Northern hippie parents can’t vote in their state. Can’t have those educated young people screwing up their Southern Heritage of bigotry by electing Democrats again. After all, to many in the South it’s the Dems that sold them down the river of freedom and inclusion. It was Northern Democrats that saw the laws of the South were unconstitutional and set about to change them. “True” Southerners will never forget that.
Justifying an act of discrimination under the cover of religious freedom doesn’t just go against our Constitution – it goes against the teachings of their Lord & Savior. I decline to identify with one of man’s many churches even though I believe I have learned the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus I was taught about was caring, generous & kind to his fellow man.
The Jesus the GOP and the Crazy Christians of the Bible Belt worship is stingy, judgmental, and cruel. Doesn’t sound like a Savior to me, it sounds like money-grubbing capitalist. The poor and downtrodden that populates the bayous and backcountry of the South and the struggling farmers of the corn fields that cover our plains need to make sure their preacher is preaching the word of God. From where I sit, it seems like they’re preaching the Gospel of David – David Koch
Faith is a wonderful thing. It brings us closer to each other. It provides comfort when we face troubles. The problem with modern America is that there are millions of Crazy Christians who have been swindled into believing their government is against them. The problem is it isn’t the government doing the swindling it’s the preachers. It’s the preacher preaching humility and generosity and then refusing to help someone without a spec of food unless they join their church. Afterwards they go home to their mansion.
How can I claim to know this is wrong? Well I guess it’s because when I was told about the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand with but five loaves of bread and two fish, he never asked one of them if they had joined him. It made no matter to Jesus if they believed in him or not. Jesus knew they too were the children of God.
You know I wish these conservative Christians would remember that they once elected an honorable POTUS – his name was Jimmy Carter. Not only is President Carter an honorable man he lives his Christianity thru his many humanitarian projects.
The problem with Jimmy was simple – he wanted to enforce the environmental regulations of the new EPA created by President Nixon. He wanted people to slow down save some gas, put a sweater on to save heating oil and other means to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Guess what it worked. President Carter’s presidency was the only one to achieve a reduction in oil imports. Well, that is until President Obama.
In the South President Carter was vilified for these measures. Despite being from Georgia once he was elected he was suddenly one more Northerner tell them what they can and can’t do. Suddenly the same preachers who had told their congregations to vote for him were telling their flocks he was against them. He was killing jobs in the oil fields. He was killing jobs on the farms.  So when St. Ronnie comes along with his welfare mom lie and his government’s the problem rhetoric they ate it up. They’re still choking on that one.
Since the 1980 election, we have been debating this issue about the role of government in our everyday lives. Tea Party pols say they want to take back the country – from who, me, you, from whom for whom.
Last week Ted Cruz chose to announce his run for POTUS at the ultra-conservative Liberty University founded by Jerry Falwell. You remember Mr. Falwell (I refuse to use the title Rev.) he was the one who said AIDS was God’s wrath for the wickedness of homosexuality. So Sen. Cruz goes to Lynchburg (I’ll let the reader decide where that named comes from) to say, “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.” Again reinforcing the idea that Christians should be running America because the rest of us are sinners – even followers of Christ like me.
There you have it. In this country, there is a group of Americans who believe their view of Christianity is the only valid one. They leave out Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Episcopalians, Lutherans and all the rest. If you haven’t bought into their Brother Love’s Travelling Salivation Show version of Christianity, than you cannot be a real Christian. And if you’re not a real Christian than you cannot possibly be a real American.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Selma, Race & Voting

As I watched President Obama speaking at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, my emotions were raw.  I was remembering the night my child called to ask, “Is it true, is he really going to be our president?” With pride and tears in my eyes I said, “Yes, we did it.” At the same time memories of watching the evening news on Bloody Sunday and the violence that had rained down on people who only wanted their rights. Then yesterday morning I awoke to the news that fraternity brothers at the University of Oklahoma had been videotaped chanting to the tune “If You Are Happy and You Know It” “there will never be any n****** in SAE.” I got to thinking about how we got here.

Their names were Otha and Marshall. That’s it. Those are the only names of African-American’s with whom I went to school that I remember. I recall them over any others because I stood up for each of them at some point growing up.

Whether I was a line cook or even the chef, I was frequently the only white person working in the kitchen. We worked in heat that would drop weaker people. We were a part of a team. However, what I saw frustrated me. If someone from the front of the house had a party they would invite kitchen staff and we would all go. However, if a black from the kitchen held a party and invited everyone to attend I would once again find myself being the only white in attendance. Even when I, the white guy threw a party only my fellow kitchen workers would attend. It made me feel that I was viewed as barely white.

I try to say that I am not a racist. I do my best to treat all people with the respect that all human beings deserve. When I evaluate at how I’m doing I realize a few things. Yes, there are blacks in my neighborhood. Yes, I go out of my way to engage with them. No, I've have never invited them into my home. Not because I’m a closeted racist, it’s just that I really don’t know them. The only thing I know about them personally is that they’re friendly and they live down the block or in the building next door. When I think about this, I get pissed off – at me.

Growing up there were two things that we could count on, dinner would be served at 6:30 and Walter Cronkite would be on the television on its rolling stand in the corner. There at my family dinner table I learned about the world. What I learned was man is incredibly cruel to his fellow man. Beginning on November 22, 1963 I paid attention because I wanted to know what it was that could bring my father to tears.

By March 1965, I had already seen some pretty horrible things. On the Evening News with Walter Cronkite, I had seen the bodies of black men hanging from trees. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had been murdered in Mississippi. Bull Connor had already turned his fire hoses on blacks marching for their civil rights. I had borne witness to man’s inhumanity to his fellow man and I was in elementary school.

August of that summer, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even at twelve year old I understood that to whites in the Deep South the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wasn't enough. These goobers needed to have it spelled out for them. I mean if a person’s civil rights were now codified in law why did we have to come back, the next year with a Voting Rights Act saying that voting was a civil right.

In the spring of ’68, the riots that had hit Watts in the summer of 1965 were now in my hometown, of Baltimore Maryland. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dead and the city had exploded. I remember sitting on the stoop listening to the sound of the electricity running through the overhead power lines. I would not experience that kind of eerie quite again until September 11, 2001. During the riot, some of the men in our neighborhood had gone to the basement to retrieve the carbine they had brought home from WWII. Fear was everywhere and as kids we didn't know what was next.

No American should have had to endure what blacks in America had to just to vote. If I’m reading the numbers correctly, voter turnout by race closely mirrors the population. That is to say 74% of voters in 2008 were white and 13 % were black. According to the 2010 Census the breakdown of the population was 73% white (only) and 13% black (only). As someone who skipped Statistics 101. I read this as blacks voting at the same rate as whites. Here’s the fucking kicker – only 36.9 of the voting eligible population bother to go to the polls in 2014.

It’s rigged. You waste your time going to vote. Both parties are exactly the same they just say they’re different. I bet you've heard all of these statements before. Sometimes, it’s even your friends or co-workers that say it. I had one neighbor tell me in 2008 that he would vote for Barack Obama if he thought he could accomplish his goals. I asked him if he wanted those things accomplished and his answer was yes. Then came the kicker – he told me he wished Sarah Palin was on the top of the GOP ticket because she’s the smartest one running. I was fine with him skipping the election. Unfortunately too many FoxNoise viewers do vote.

Voter apathy is a disgrace. Uninformed voters are a danger. Tea Partiers that don’t realize that the Tea Party used to be known as the John Birch Society are a danger. Fred Koch called it the John Birch Society, his sons call it the Tea Party by either name they both attempt to do the same thing – impose biblical law over our constitution and convince their sheep it’s God’s will.

We must do better. People have fought for our right to vote. They died at Lexington & Concord, Ft. McHenry, Gettysburg, Pa. San Juan Hill, The Western Front, Iwo Jima, New York City, Shanksville, Pa. and they died in Birmingham, Al. & Memphis, Tn. They didn't give the last full measure so we could sit on our asses on Election Day and then bitch because they don’t like what THEIR government is doing. President Obama said it best, “The single most powerful word in our democracy is “We.”