Secular Religion. WTF?

The United States’ rogue Attorney General, Bill Barr, gave an interview to right wing dick bag, Mark Levin, the other day and I came across this tweet and response that highlights what I think is a deeply troubling reality about religion in today’s United States.

Putting aside Barr’s constant projection, what Soap And Science, PhD says about how much of the religious world views science seems on point. Science is based, above all else, on provable facts and reproducible evidence. Conclusions may be reduced by some to dogma, but they will not be able to withstand the scrutiny of others who can show reality is otherwise. We’re constantly updating our scientific knowledge as we learn more.

Not so with religion. Most all religions, certainly the major religions of the world, are built on dogma. For Judaism it’s the Torah, the Old Testament. For Christians it’s the New Testament with a nod to the Old Testament. For Islam, it’s the Koran with a nod to both the New and the Old Testaments. For Hinduism, it’s the Bhagavad-gita, and for Buddhism it’s the Sutras of Buddha, as well as others. I certainly don’t hold myself out as a religious scholar, so please don’t hold me too strictly to my list. I’ve likely missed quite a few and, perhaps, mis-characterized one or more of the others. All these books might as well have been written in stone, as they are accepted (mostly) as the word of the Almighty. (NB – I don’t think the Buddha was seen as a God, per se, but I think the basic theme here is correct.)

What concerns me most about the point Soap And Science is getting at is the concept that religious nutbags like Barr are, indeed, jealous of how well science works and, in fact, that it serves to explain the world far better than any religion has or is capable of doing.

While it pains me to do so, I don’t see any other conclusion than that the right—representing, in part, fundamental Christianity—will not hesitate to use violence when they realize they’re not getting their way. They are more than capable of perpetrating every vile thing they accuse the left of currently doing. In fact, that it’s in the very nature is proved by their accusations when there’s no evidence to substantiate them. They are hateful and violent; ergo so is everyone else, especially those they fear the most.

As Rachel Maddow is fond of saying, “watch this space.”


Trump Kills Seniors

If you’ve not read anything I’ve written before, you likely don’t know much about me, especially that I’m 73-years-old and, therefore, am most decidedly a senior. When this pandemic first came to our attention, I realized that I was not only well into the age bracket this virus creates the most havoc with, but I also have mild versions of just about all the comorbidities that were listed as problematic. Needless to say, I was (and still am) quite cautious about going out. For the most part, I only go out to grocery shop and for gas, though I occasionally have to take my youngest to school to return or pick things up. I always wear a mask in public and when I get gas, I thoroughly wipe my hands with sanitizer after handling the pump. This is a pretty good ad, among many (all of which I may end up sharing) that are being produced by The Lincoln Project, Don Winslow, and The Meidas Touch.


Why Stuart Stevens Wants to Defeat Donald Trump | The New Yorker

This is a fascinating interview with one of the players in The Lincoln Project. It is satisfying to hear the words of a conservative, a Republican, who at least respects some of the most basic norms of our government and society. I have no doubt I will have numerous differences with these folks in the future, but I welcome them as useful allies in the effort to deny Trump a second term, which would clearly be disastrous for us and the world. It’s not a quick read (not too long, either) but it’s well worth your while to read.

The longtime Republican strategist discusses his opposition to Donald Trump, his involvement in the Lincoln Project ad campaign, and why he thinks Mitt Romney would have made a great President.

Source: Why Stuart Stevens Wants to Defeat Donald Trump | The New Yorker


The Dumbest Man In America

I just had to share what may be one of the finest videos created in the battle to NOT re-elect Donald Trump. It came to my attention via The Lincoln Project who, to their credit, posted a link to the original and asked people to like it and subscribe to the author’s YouTube account. The author is not affiliated with the Lincoln Project and I don’t think he even expected his work to reach the number of folks it’s reached. It’s pure genius.

If you don’t recognize where this is from, it was put together from the interview Jonathan Swan did for Axios, which was a mind-blower. For the record, Trump truly is a fucking moron . . . and an idiot . . . and a fool . . . and a dangerously sociopathic criminal. Vote him out!

PS – The author’s name is Justin T. Brown.


Thread Embed (Test)

WordPress just added some new functionality to their platform, which is where you’re reading this right now. Now I can insert one tweet from a thread and there’s a command to “unroll,” which imports the remainder of the thread. With this test I uploaded the first of five and all were imported easily with the “unroll” button. I’ll have to try one where I first upload a tweet from the middle (or the end; maybe and the end) and see how well it works from there.

===================

I joined Twitter in March of 2008. Back then I was studying social media as a method for my organization (the Space Shuttle Main Engine team at Rocketdyne) to communicate more effectively. NASA was already using it for the teams that were preparing the orbiter for its . . . /1

next flight, and it was def saving them money and time. I never tried to get followers; they just followed naturally, esp since there were so few users at the time. When I retired in May of 2010, my use of Twitter changed and for a while I didn’t use it at all. Cue . . . /2

the election of the dipshit-in-chief. Everything changed for me. I wouldn’t say all my posts were political, but surely a majority. I’d like to see for myself, but a week ago—after 12 years—my account was suspended. My ~2700 followers gone. Everything . . . gone. I . . . /3

wasn’t even told what I did or said to have received such a harsh punishment, with absolutely no recourse other than a chance to send a short note defending I don’t know what. Perfectly legal, yet anathema to our way of life in the U.S. So . . . this is my feeble return . . . /4

to #Resist here on Twitter. I could use some followers (God! It pains me to even ask) and I will follow back if you’re not a Trump supporter. TIA! /fin

Originally tweeted by Izzy Wladovsky (@retreado) on 23 June 2020.


“Corona Virus Blues” | Don McAlister’s Blogsite

Written by my former (and last) manager at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, these are contemporary blues lyrics. The tune is up to you. If you know 12 bar blues, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to gin something up.

Written by Don McAlister, 6/28/20 as a standard 12 bar blues song.

When this all got started
We didn’t have a clue
‘Bout how crazy things would get
And change everything we knew.

At first it didn’t seem that bad
The danger wasn’t clear
Then cases started popping up
West and East, and then right here.

And now it was a crisis
Affecting me and you
We got it bad
Corona Virus Blues!

CHORUS: We got a virus out to kill us
And it don’t care ‘bout who
And the only way to slow it down
Is to change the things we do.

We gotta stay six feet apart
And cover up our faces
Stay away from bars
Only eat at takeout places.

We’ve been hunkered down for months now
Watchin’ movies and the news
Yeah we got it bad
Corona Virus Blues!

Some folks got tired of hearing
What they should and shouldn’t do
And they protested and said
It was time to loosen rules.

Gov’nors felt the pressure
And opened up some places
But still asked us to distance
And cover up our faces

But it got out of hand again
Careless gatherings and booze
Infections started spiking up and
And now we’ve still got Corona Virus Blues!

(Repeat CHORUS and end)

Source: “Corona Virus Blues” | Don McAlister’s Blogsite


U.S. or Him?

The Little Boy Pouts

Yesterday, an article in PoliticusUSA was published under the headline, “Trump Wasted An Entire White House Meeting Trying To Convince His Aides That He’s Mentally Fit.” I’m of the opinion anyone who studies Trump carefully will have no problem seeing this as a predominant feature of his personality. After all, he really is a malignant narcissist, a sociopath, a man with a complete and total lack of humility, humanity, and empathy . . . among other things. I shared the article on Facebook with the following comments:

This serves to highlight the main problem I have (and most of us have) with him as President. How can he serve the interests of the nation when he’s far more interested in how he looks, the optics, than he is on any accomplishment that benefits the American people . . . and I don’t mean corporate America? Kinda reminds me of the concept I’ve held dear since I first became politically active in the sixties: some people are more interested in “being” right, than in “doing” right. These people, who are intent on winning regardless of the cost, need to be avoided.

This also reminds me of something one of my first year law professors said to me. I’m working on a blog post about it and, recently, I hunted him down. His name is Kenneth Cloke and he’s still living and working in Santa Monica, where he’s a mediator and conflicts resolution systems designer. Lately, I’ve tried to articulate the saying and I have yet to convince myself I’m getting it right. There seems to be some nuance missing that I can’t put my finger on, but I’m going to attempt it here.

During a conversation we were having about leftist politics, Ken said “If I had to choose between someone who had the right politics, but was lacking in humanity, and someone who had the wrong politics, but was a humane person, I would choose the latter.” I suppose this is why, despite my being a Marxist, I am always looking for ways to work with people who don’t share my political philosophy. It’s how I’m able to vote as a Democrat. Everything about the Democratic Party, in my estimation, is far more humane than anything about the Republican Party. Also, I think it’s much easier to find compromise with someone who respects your humanity and hard-ass ideologues generally aren’t inhabiting that space.


Racism and Bigotry

I still believe we are misusing the words “racism” and “racist.”

Racism is institutional, systemic, and structural. It’s insidious and buried deep in every aspect of our society and economy. Bigotry is right out in the open.

And this isn’t whitesplaining on my part. This is what I was taught by members of the Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets in 1973. I was, along with 49 of my closest friends, required to go through about 20 hours of cultural and racial sensitivity training before being allowed to travel to Cuba with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade.

I keep bringing this up because the public now conflates racism with bigotry and, by doing so, gives people an excuse for not looking closer at how they’ve unknowingly embraced or benefited from racism, by merely pointing out their lack of anger or visible anger/hatred toward people of color. “I don’t see color,” or “I have black friends/relatives.” All that means, at the most, is you’re not a bigot. It doesn’t change the centuries of economic and social injustice deeply baked into every aspect of our society.

We need to understand the differences if we’re going to erase racism and its insidious effects.

One other thing I learned from that education, and that has been reinforced in the intervening years, is that white people need to shut the fuck up and listen to people of color when it comes to understanding their lived reality. Because of racism, you don’t know squat about their experiences. Try it. You might be surprised.


Things Are Not Always as They Seem

One of the arguments I hear frequently regarding the demand to “defund the police,” is that we’ll all be sorry when there are no police around to protect us. Ignoring, for the moment, the reality that nobody is seriously calling for the complete elimination of police, I’d like to share a story I think illustrates how incomplete this narrative is.

This story took place a little over 40.5 years ago and I remember some of it as clearly as if it happened yesterday. It was, in fact, on my half birthday – December 4, 1979. At the time I was living with my girlfriend, later to be my wife, in a small two-bedroom apartment above a garage at the East end of Carroll Canal in Venice, California. The place was probably no more than 600 sq. ft. It was behind a house that faced Ocean Avenue and there were stairs leading up to our front door from both Eastern Court, which was essentially an alley, and from behind the house in front of us.

At the time I was working with my father and my brother in our small, family-owned wholesale food delivery business. My girlfriend was a waitress at Gulliver’s. On that night, I was working on some bills for our business and she was at work.

For some time, kids in the neighborhood would run up the stairs from one side and down on the other. It was a bit annoying as they were pretty noisy about it. While I was working I heard a noise and thought the kids were getting ready to make a ruckus. I grabbed my six battery Kel-light (a very heavy flashlight, suitable for cracking heads) and jumped out onto the porch.

I had no intention of hurting anyone. I just wanted to scare these kids in the forlorn hope they would find someone else to torment. I was surprised to find a young man, perhaps a bit older than me, who I had frightened and who appeared to be lost. In fact, he asked me for directions to a place I can’t remember. What happened next, though, I remember clear as a bell.

He looked around for a moment. I was really feeling bad that I had scared him and was totally taken by surprise when he produced a handgun and held it to my head.

“Let’s go inside,” he said to me. I was in no position to argue. Now, this isn’t really the important part of the story; not for my purposes today, so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, I was held at gunpoint and asked questions about money and women in the area. Knowing my girlfriend would be coming home soon lent a certain air of urgency to the situation, but he was the guy with the gun.

In fact, since he asked me to tell him where all my weapons were, he had replaced his handgun with my Ruger Blackhawk, a .357 Magnum piece which, at one point, he pointed at my head while I was lying spread-eagle on the floor and said, “I’m going to blow your fucking brains out.” I asked him “why,” and he said, “because you’re a honky.” “Is that all?” I asked. He had no answer.

Then he told me to put my hands behind my back and went out to the living room (there was no hallway, just a door that was open so he could see me.) While he had been talking to and threatening me, I had managed to get my foot behind that door and, as soon as he looked away for a second, I managed to do a prone spin kick and slammed the door.

Adrenaline was pumping and I practically levitated myself off the floor with one arm, and quickly reached into the closet where I had hidden my Ithaca Riot Pump Shotgun. I quickly chambered a round (it was double ought buck) and yelled at the door, “Get the fuck out of my house or I’ll kill you.” I don’t think he heard a word I said, as he hightailed it out of there. Before continuing, here’s a link to an appellate court decision regarding one of this guy’s three murder convictions, which describes the evens in more detail.

Now, here’s the part of the story I believe is relevant to the issue of how valuable the police are in deterring and dealing with crime. After I had gone through the second bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen to ensure he was gone, I called the LAPD. I had seen them patrolling and knew this was their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the dispatcher told me I should call the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (we were a little over a block or two from Marina del Rey, which was county property.)

Although still certain it was LAPD jurisdiction, I called the Sheriff’s office only to be told “Nope. That’s LAPD. Call them.” I called LAPD again and was told it must be the Santa Monica PD who have jurisdiction there. I called SMPD and was told, “Nope. LAPD has jurisdiction.” I called LAPD once more and, finally, they somehow realized they did, indeed, have jurisdiction of my neighborhood. They said they would send a car.

When the officer arrived, he was by himself, he had his cover (his hat) off, and his sidearm was holstered with the hammer guard fastened. When I told him what had happened—which I had also told the dispatcher—he was both shocked and surprised. He said he would never have approached to door like that if he knew it was an armed robbery he was responding to.

After he took my information, I asked him if they were going to dust for fingerprints or anything. He told me I didn’t want them to do that, as it was messy and I’d be left to clean it up. I reluctantly accepted that. He left. By now my girlfriend had come home and I had to recount the episode to her. A couple hours later, we were asleep when the phone rang. It was the police. A man had been murdered near my place and they found a set of keys that I had reported as stolen. They wanted to talk to me now.

I ended up going to the station and working with an artist on a description. I have a really good memory and, over forty years ago, it was even sharper. When the guy was finally apprehended (because he went on a rampage, killing one more man and raping a couple of women) I was pleased to see the drawing we had worked on looked very much like the man I remembered. I can almost still see his face today.

So . . . my point here is that the police are seldom available to intervene and stop crimes in progress. They’re not magicians or fortune tellers. They can’t foresee when crimes will happen. We depend on their investigative powers and the depth of their ability to mine data and information (clues) to find perpetrators and flesh out a case for prosecutors to use in court.

I know not everyone could have done what I did. My years of training in Hapkido and my familiarity with weapons, as well as my preparation in creating a hiding spot he could not find, gave me the ability to get away from him. Unfortunately, though, the reality is we’re essentially on our own in day-to-day living. It’s unrealistic to expect the police to be there for us at all times and in all places.

This, to me, is the crux of the issue when it comes to transforming policing. We expect far too much from our police forces. We need to rethink how we deploy every kind of social resource to ensure the safety and health of everyone in our communities. Done right, there is generally no need for someone with a weapon to respond to a domestic disturbance. The same should probably be true of traffic violations. Why on earth do we have to face a person who is armed (regardless of how infrequently that sidearm is used) after making an illegal u-turn or going five miles an hour over the speed limit.

I don’t have all the answers. Not by a longshot . . . and certainly not in this post. However, I have a good idea what many of the questions are that need to be answered, and one of the most important is: How can we transform policing to better protect both the public and the men and women who choose to serve us in that capacity?


Working Remotely? Here’s Some Help

The need to address the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic may have done more to accelerate the digital transformation many have been working towards for years, than all of the bitching, moaning, hand-wringing, and pearl clutching heretofore expended on cajoling knowledge workers to adopt and adapt these technologies.

Five years ago I served as the developmental editor on the 2nd edition of “The New Social Learning.” I had the pleasure of working with the co-author of the 1st edition, who was the principal author of the 2nd, Marcia Conner. Marcia is one of a handful of people who recognized the need for, and the power of, such a transition . . . and this book was an attempt to help leaders and organizations move forward to adopt these new ways of working, and working together.

I recommend this book highly for everyone who is now finding themselves either working at home or dealing with today’s need to be more “distanced” from our colleagues. There’s a wealth of good info here. I urge you to check it out. It’s about far more than just learning.

“The Workplace Has Changed. At this moment, your people are already learning through social media. They’re reaching out and connecting in powerful ways. The question is, can you recognize, appreciate, and take advantage of the power inherent in this new level of communication? Do you want to facilitate or debilitate? Do you want to play a part in what and how people learn? Or do you want to try to stop them? Will you restrict them? Or will you free them to do the work they were hired to do—and will you do it with them?”


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