November 19

Year and a Day

It’s been a year and a day since my ex-wife Cynthia Lee passed away from colon cancer.

It has been an eventful year. Our child is now fifteen. The situation with them is complex and I won’t go deeply into details here.
I spent just over three months in rehab after we found out I had cracked my tibia and lost a lot of the cartilage in my left knee. Went from being stuck in my recliner to being able to transfer to my wheelchair and get out of our apartment.

An apartment, by the way, that is not the one I left from when I went to rehab. While I was there, my lovely wife moved us, lock, stock, and barrel to a nice new place. I can get into the kitchen more easily, and even leave the building when I need to!

It’s been a bit more than a week after the election. Being on Medicare, being disabled, and having a non-binary teen made the results not just disappointing, but frightening to our family. The eldest wants to leave the country, and I don’t blame them as I have watched the train wreck that is the Trump administration take shape.

I shouldn’t get to deep on an update post, so I won’t.

Our bunny is happy and healthy, our vehicle is functional, my wife will celebrate her eleventh year at her work soon. Things are okay for the most part. Will post something more detailed soon.

February 21

On the passing of Umberto Eco

Author Umberto Eco passed away two days ago at the age of 84. Although not an author I read on a regular basis, he was an amazing writer, whose work was rich, like Godiva chocolate or hundred year old balsamic vinegar, the kind one can sip like wine. I can read most books in a week or two, but Foucault’s Pendulum took me well over a month, and I would be able to glean more upon a second or third reading.

Death is a sad affair, with the world losing a person whose influence could mean a lot to it. In Mr. Eco’s case, his work had wide reaching appeal, and powerful impact, and it will endure for a long time, though his name may not be as recognized by as wide an audience as some. He has well earned the peace he is now at.

I hope some day to write half as well as he.

September 20

Why Donald Trump is Not Adolph Hitler

After listening to the Republican debates, watching some of the speeches given by Donald Trump, and reading a bit about his platform and position, I began to worry about the direction his campaign was going. It seemed very familiar. It was a page out of Germany of the 1930s, or so I at first thought. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the comparison was unfair and inaccurate. Here are some of the things I realized that made things now different from Hitler’s rise to power.

  1. First, Hitler did not come from wealth. His father tried his hand at farming, and, failing that, started a career in the customs bureau. Trump’s father was financial success, a real estate developer. Where Hitler had to deal with the death of his siblings at a young age, Trump’s siblings are also all successful. One is even a federal judge. Although both seemed to clash with their fathers, young Adolph rebelled and when his father died, it steeled his resolve. Trump, on the other hand, bent to the will of his father, who sent him to a military school.
    Adolph grew up on orphan benefits, where Trump was smack in the crotch of luxury. Latching on to German Nationalism to help form his identity and ingratiate him with his peers, Adolph grew to love his adopted country of Germany (He was Austrian, originally), even serving in the German military in World War I. Trump avoided the draft in a variety of ways, and never served.
    In other words, their backgrounds were stunningly different. Adolph, who wanted to be an artist, didn’t have the talent for it and failed. If Trump had any creative desires, they were buried under his desire for money, and he made his first million before he even left college. Of course, the half million dollar investment from his parents helped. Adolph’s parents were dead by the time he was 18.
  2. The environment of post-World War I Germany and the present day United States could not be more different. Germany was in an economic free-fall, brought on by a devastated economy due to war reparations and horribly managed, well, everything by the German government. Hitler joined a small political party, and energized its young members to grow to eventually take over the government, blaming much of the ills of Germany on the Jews.
    Trump, on the other hand, has latched on to the Republican party, literally called the “Grand Old Party”, and allied himself with the racist base of the party, blaming non-whites for the ills facing the country. The problem is that the United States isn’t a country in economic free-fall, not really. We’re solidly on the road to recovery from the mismanagement at the hands of the last GOP president. So, instead of a single propaganda front (It’s the Jews fault our economy is broken!), Trump has to make up his propaganda from whole cloth (Our economy is bad, really it is! And it’s the immigrants fault! And the Muslims!). In addition, in Germany, the real problem was multifaceted, from harsh war reparations to poor economic management by the Weimar Republic. In the US, the problem was lack of regulation of the banking industry which led to risky and ultimately disastrous  investment strategies.
  3. Germany was a country that had lost its core identity. They had lost a war, they had lost their government (It was less than a decade and a half since their government had fallen to revolution), their economy was in the toilet, and they needed direction. Hitler arrived with a fiery energy and revitalized the nation. Of course, he also had a scapegoat to blame, and the country set off on one of the most recognized genocides in world history.
    America, on the other hand, is sharply divided, but the core identity remains intact. Yes, there are issues which polarize our people, from marriage equality to abortion, but we can go out to the market and buy a loaf of bread without needing a wheelbarrow of cash, the rich are still rich, the trains are still running, and we don’t have any black eyes from lost wars any time in the recent past. We are still Americans.

So, even if he thinks he is using Adolph’s playbook, the board is not set for the same type of game, so I do not think Trump will get the same kind of result.

March 30

Saving Pence

019Indiana Governor Mike Pence has really done it this time.

The IRFRA was a bill intended to please his base constituency, the religious right, a powerful force in the state of Indiana. Recently, the state had been told that denying marriage rights to homosexual couples was unconstitutional, and Indiana joined the growing number of states in which marriage equality became the law of the land.

For many Christians (I will be the first to say, not all), this was a slap in the face. A small subset of these upset Christians decided to make sure that the slap to the cheek they received would not go unanswered.

Let’s talk about, for example, Curt Smith. He is in the picture of Pence signing SB101 into law, standing in the far back. In one photo, he is looking over the heads of the two men in front of him.

He’s the president of the Indiana Family Institute. He equates homosexuality with bestiality and adultery:

The Judeo-Christian worldview at the heart of Western culture and so our legal and governmental systems (Ten Commandments, an “eye for an eye,” the very concepts of mercy, justice and rehabilitation) promotes marriage and family while decrying other modes of sexuality — homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, etc.

He helped write the bill. This is the kind of person Pence was working with to pass the bill. Here’s a closer look.

The point is that Pence was working with and for these supporters, and believed he was working in the interest of the religious of the state of Indiana. It is clear he was not expecting the backlash he has received, nor did he foresee the financial implications of the decision to pass the bill into law.

What’s a governor to do?

Well, he cannot just let it ride, that’s for sure. Indiana has worked hard to not be the butt of jokes like the ones made in the era of Cheers. Thankfully, the work we have done has not been completely destroyed by this. Many of the jokes have been made about Pence and discriminatory businesses (Kudos to Saturday Night Live for not attacking the entire state!). The financial damage could range up into the billions, unless quick and effective damage control is done.

I’m sure he would like to stick by his guns, believing himself to be a martyr for the fight against homosexuality; he will find himself very quickly abandoned by everyone but the hardliners when businesses begin to suffer from bad press and boycotts. When the power of civil rights law stood behind gay couples, discrimination was rare. Now that Indiana businesses think they have a license to discriminate, a lot more people are going to come out of the woodwork on both sides.

So, what are his options?

  • Try to “fix” the law. Do a good job, one that actually does protect everyone, and piss off those select few who wrote the bill, but calm the people down. Do a bad job, and end up no better than having done nothing.
  • Work to repeal the law. Probably the best solution, and the one he is least likely to choose. It would take admitting he was wrong, which would be throwing himself under the bus. It might even save his political career. Heck, he could even move further ahead. Is it likely? Probably not. His current power brokers would abandon him. But the people might rally behind him.
  • Punt to the next governor. He might be run out of the state on a rail, with some of the residents of Indiana chasing behind with a bucket of tar and a bag of feathers, but it would be one for the history books.
  • Do nothing. Possible be recalled, possibly lose the next election, who knows what else could happen? This could be the start of a very dark chapter in Indiana history. This is most likely what he will do. He strikes me as coming from the George W. Bush School of Not Changing Horses.

It is unfortunate that we may have to wait until the next election cycle to fix this mess.


March 29

When is the RFRA not the RFRA?

Giving bigotry an RFRA paint job.
Giving bigotry an RFRA paint job. Image source: Morgefile

Answer: When it is the Indiana version of the RFRA.

I just finished watching our governor, Mike Pence, speaking with George Stephanopoulos.

To be honest, I am not sure if he was intentionally lying or just really didn’t know the truth. I will leave that determination up to people with more information on the issue than I have. However, I will dissect some of the misinformation he decided to state.

The Indiana RFRA is not the same law as the federal RFRA. As a matter of fact, even though, on the surface, they appear similar, the Indiana RFRA was carefully crafted to not only be different, but to be much easier to use as a bludgeon against those deemed to be undesirable. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Item Federal Law
(42 U.S.C. § 2000bb)
Indiana Law Difference
Section 5 the term “exercise of religion means the exercise of religion under the First Amendment to the Constitution. As used in this chapter, ‘exercise of religion’ includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief. The federal law is limited by the Constitution. In addition, the Indiana version uses the word “includes” instead of “means” which does not limit, but gives a single example. This is not a limit at all, but an example. Even if something is at the extreme edge of a religion, it will be protected by the Indiana law where it would not be by the federal version.
 Section 7 Person is not defined. The law was written before the SCOTUS ruled the term “person” could be applied to more than just a human being. As used in this chapter, “person” includes the following: (1) An individual. (2) An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes. (3) A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.  This puts into law that companies are people, and can have religious rights. No such protection was afforded at all under the federal law.Also, don’t forget Section 5, which means that “exercise of religion” can mean just about anything, whether or not it is protected (or limited) by the Constitution.
 Section 9  There is no Section 9 in the federal version; the closest to this passage is from Section 3: A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person’s invocation of this chapter.  As the intent of the original RFRA was to protect individuals from government intrusion on constitutional rights, this section would have made absolutely no sense in the original law. What this clause means, and this is the big problem with the IRFRA, is that religion is now a usable defense for discrimination in civil and criminal court cases. The case does not even have to involve the government. It can be between individuals (which, as you remember, this law also defines as companies)

So, no, Mr. Governor, this is NOT the same law. Claiming that it is, combined with your shameful acts leading up to and surrounding how you signed this, make it clear that the truth and the people of Indiana are two things you are not interested in.

February 28

In Memory

Leonary Nimoy. Source: ABC News
Leonary Nimoy. Source: ABC News

We have seen the passing of one of my personal heroes this week, Leonard Nimoy. To honor him, I watched the first five Star Trek movies. The funeral scene in Wrath of Khan made me cry, as did several of the other scenes related to death. I told my oldest that he was one of my heroes, and I realized he was. His views on life, both in and out of character, helped me through some dark times in my life. I mourn his passing.

I have already seen people speaking of him in Heaven, and some dismissing him as an atheist. From all of the information I can gather, he was a lifelong Jew. So, yes, he may be in Heaven, but he is not hanging out with Saint Peter. Sorry to dash your hopes of playing pinochle with him. To be honest, I don’t know if that was a game he liked or not. I could see him enjoying many different types of games. Maybe that is my own projection.

I’m sorry that it has been a long time since my last update. My heath has been an issue; I got a pretty severe head cold, and, with Multiple Sclerosis, it makes everything more complex. When the fever one is running makes it hard to move or think straight, blogging sometimes takes a hit. Thankfully, I survived it, although our finances have taken a hit, with my lovely wife having also been sick and having to take some time off. So, to cover some of my ongoing medical expenses, I have had to resort to a Gofundme fundraiser. Links are to the right.

Yesterday, I woke up and my right hand had gone all pins and needles. It is a new symptom, a departure from the slow decline of my left side, and something quite worrisome. It will probably take me some time to get used to the way my right hand feels now. My typing has slowed, and I am considering teaching myself touch typing with the new condition to improve my speed. Coding will be difficult, but I have too many projects to be slowed down by something silly like a disability.

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