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Internet Libertarians: “Now that gays can get married, let’s destroy marriage.”

29/06/2013
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Thoughts On Guns and Gun Regulations.

26/01/2013

I am a 29-year-old rural Iowan and I don’t own a gun, nor do I see a need too. I have friends that own guns, some friends that have permits to carry them in public, but I’ve never seen a reason why. There’s a pervasive idea in this country that gun ownership saves lives. They point to the occasional home invasion routed by a homeowner’s firearm. I don’t think that these instances, however much we are encouraged to notice them by pro-gun forces, justifies 30,000 gun deaths a year in the United States.
Think on that long and hard. Thirty. Thousand. Deaths. A death rate that is expected to rise and surpass deaths due to automobile accidents in a matter of a few years. That is unacceptable to me, just as much as the horrible events of the Sandy Hook shooting.
A week after Sandy Hook I invited my pro-gun friends over and we had some drinks and argued for about 3 hours about gun control. I was arguing for a reinstatement of an assault rifle ban, enhanced background checks, closing the gun show loophole and banning large-capacity magazines (I had no idea how large was “large” capacity at the time, the Senate bill bans mags over 10 rounds).
One by one they picked at my arguments. “Assault rifle bans are worthless; they’ll just use a bomb or a car to massacre people; there is no “gun show loophole”; background checks work fine the way they are.” It was maddening.
I was very angry and took out most of my frustration on Wayne LaPierre’s batshit insane “armed guards in schools” speech in Washington that had occurred that day. I didn’t really try to find common ground with my friends, I just railed against the absurd interpretation of the 2nd amendment by modern gun fetishists and the trade organizations that enable them.
After my friends left I wept for the children of Newtown and in fear for my own kids. The next day I wrote half of Iowa’s congressional delegation urging them to DO something. I couldn’t understand why anyone was idle on the issue. I gritted my teeth in boiling rage as pro-gun acquaintances on Facebook claimed persecution.
20 children were killed, and the pro-gun people feel like victims.
I get upset when people assert that nothing we can do legislatively will change the amount of people hurt or killed by firearms in America. This is inexcusable cowardice.
20 children were killed, and they’re content with a status quo that enabled their deaths.
We need to keep pressure up on our congresspeople, regardless of their party. My congressman is Steve King, I don’t care, I’m calling him. Al Franken is flaking on the assault weapon ban. He’s afraid of alienating hunters. Call him, help him understand your position. Chuck Grassley is an old-school NRA guy. Call him, make him understand we haven’t changed. The NRA changed into a lobbying and marketing wing of the gun makers.
Just make these people in Washington understand that you’re sick of the games, and it’s time for action. Push. Push farther to get more.
If a pundit says “the assault rifle ban is dead”, don’t stop pushing, it will give the other side breathing room to demand another conciliation. Fight for every inch. Lives are at stake.

Thanks for reading.

How I Became An Atheist

24/12/2012

My arrival as an atheist intersected my father’s journey into very conservative evangelical Christianity.  10 years ago I was treading water in a shitty job in the interstate offramp reaches of my hometown. A spread out Midwestern rail hub with about 2 dozen churches. I was lugging around books my dad bought in college on Eastern Orthodox mysticism and heychasm and the political writings of St. Francis of Assisi and a biography of St. Augustine, trying to find a toehold into the truth of Christianity, the religion of my family (most of my family was German Lutheran, some Roman Catholic, I attended many services of both creeds). I wasn’t confirmed or even baptized in any faith, so I didn’t belong to a church. I was fine with that, at 18 years old, and I felt like I could find the “right” one through curiosity and research.

So I had the books everywhere I went. I didn’t look for signs, I looked for proof. I tried “random divination”, an ancient practice of opening a bible or other text to a random page and then finding truth within. The church’s sanctioned tale of Augustine of Hippo says that he was converted with this method.

I talked to charismatic evangelicals, Lutherans, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, basically any deist I met. If I had known any Buddhists or Muslims I would have definitely talked to them as well.

I was not convinced of the existence of God through all this studying. The never-ending conflicts over dogmatic intricacies: the dual nature of Christ, the Filioque clause, papal schisms, the Catholic Church as a major secular power in Central Europe, the selling of benefices and indulgences,… it confused me greatly. If learned Christian scholars and Popes knew the will of God, why did they so often fight over it? Why was the Council Of Nicaea a council and not a stone carving borne from Heaven like the 10 commandments? Why was money and land and patronage such a large component of a movement that was supposed to be focused on attaining the afterlife through charity and good works? If a Pope excommunicated someone, how could they purchase a way back into the faith with something as eternally trivial as money?

My dad was just getting back into the church at this time. He and his older brother studied to be evangelical ministers for a short time after high school, so he had a background and a knowledge of the Bible that I accessed whenever I had a question. There was a church in my hometown that was growing very fast, a budding “megachurch” with a charismatic pastor who was very divisive to the traditionalist Lutheran community.

The church had a band and 3 hour services and tongue-talking sessions that would go on for as much as 90 minutes. The pastor and co-pastors promised “blessings” in the form of riches and material things (houses, cars, boats, etc) in return for a tithe of 10% or more of a churchgoer’s monthly income. In a church with a fair amount of lower income people and people recovering from family tragedies and substance abuse, I immediately thought this was a ruthless scam. My dad bought it though and put his faith in God, and in the pastor, to deliver on the promise.

The tithing began in earnest. My dad was making money hand over fist in the stock market at this time (the tail-end of the tech stocks bubble) and as he and the congregation gave, new vehicles began to show up at the church in the pastor’s parking spot. A new Harley-Davidson, a new SUV. It was so plain to me, I was shocked at the fact that the congregation didn’t see what was happening. They were ensnared in the idea that the Pastor was a man blessed by an infallible God, and that if they gave to the church, God would shower them with good fortune. I went to services with dad regularly during this time, but after it was made clear that this whole thing was a sham, and that after dad lost his money (in a divorce and when the bubble burst in late 2000) he was shunned. He was a winner and blessed in the eyes of God when he was contributing to the largesse of the pastors, but when he fell, they didn’t have time for him.

I looked in the texts of a wide array of church founders for proof of God, proof without faith, and I didn’t find it. I looked in a community abundant with faith, and the faith was just a thin veil over a shocking fabrication. It sickened me, and so I gave up the search.

I am not a gnostic atheist, I don’t claim to have proof of the absence of a deity, but the game that deists, especially Christians, play with followers who are vulnerable and in need of guidance, sickens me to the core. The game that pretends prayer and ritual and donation to the church are the keys to salvation, and anything outside of the realm of the church is evil and wicked and unclean is a sickness in our society. I don’t believe in a Judeo-Christian God solely because it’s impossible to prove his existence (which is, of course, also true), but because I think more ill is done in the name of that God than good.

A Bit On Modern American Libertarianism

15/11/2012

I’m what you would call a pragmatic liberal, in today’s parlance, I come from a family of Evangelical conservatives, and that mindset fascinates me. They call themselves libertarian, as most conservatives do these days, but they take special care to only object to government interference that they deem liberal or anti-Christian.

I’d agree with libertarians that bureaucracy isn’t perfectly efficient when dealing with welfare benefits, tax money, etc. I do have a major beef, though, with the modern libertarian notion that your neighbor will always help you out if you’re in need, and that alone is somehow enough to make up for a massive welfare system that services millions.

An historical exercise will illustrate my point. In the beginning of the 14th century in Europe there began a climatic era called the “little ice age”. Entire towns were displaced from Northern Europe, arable lands were frozen solid, millions died of starvation. This all happened over the course of several years, but the point is the free market didn’t convey them to safety, their neighbors weren’t able to keep them fed or sheltered. The truth is, they had overhedged their positions, and unbeknownst to them, had built communities and farms in areas that were not going to provide them a living.

The same goes for a present-day family that moves into the city and loses out on jobs or housing, a laid-off factory worker, an under-employed single mother, or whatever. There’s a tendency for societies and economies and businesses to grow wildly until they, inevitably, contract and people get left out in the open. People often can’t count on a business to provide severance, or for their neighbors to pull together and dredge up funds to keep them under a roof, the Church is usually disorganized and unreliable when it comes to this kind of thing (Jesus would be disappointed), so people inevitably look to the State for help.

I appreciate how libertarians try to personalize that topic by confronting and shaming the “neighbor that won’t help”, but neighborhoods aren’t often built like that. A thought experiment: If there’s two neighborhoods side to side, one in abject poverty, the other comfortably middle class, do they naturally all see themselves as part of the same city or residential area and work to better the other’s living conditions? I think that is the exception, not the rule.

Libertarians assert that it is not in Government’s interest to see big problems solved (although it always irks me when libertarians refer to “the Government” as if it’s some giant unchanging monolith that we never have the opportunity to alter or manipulate as we the people see fit. We do.) A self-described libertarian friend once told me that “the problem of poverty was already solved in the years running up to Johnson’s Great Society” (WTF). Kindly tell that to half the U.S. South and about a quarter of the urban population nationwide in the mid-sixties.

Libertarians decry the different departments of the cabinet and the amount of managers and directors needed to oversee government services. Certainly, every Federal cabinet office is a bureaucracy and a large, interconnected government in and of itself. Sometimes they propose dissolving these cabinet departments and replacing them with “voluntary systems”. Quite literally this means outsourcing them to the private sector. This seems like a liberating idea (“we’re gonna stop govt./corporate collision!”) I know that, in the case of replacing the Department of Agriculture with a voluntary system, Monsanto will “volunteer” to take it over and dominate it faster than you can say “roundup ready”.

Modern libertarians and most liberals recoiled at the thought of having had to bail out AIG, but they guaranteed so much of the world’s debt to let them fail would’ve been …. I don’t want to employ the word “catastrophic”, because it’s overused,… but it would’ve been another destructive blow to our financial system at a time when it was already reeling. Let a couple of investment banks fail, fine. Let an auto-maker or two go under, no worldwide crisis, but AIG was the guarantor of pensions for millions of government and private employees, they bankrolled construction projects all over the world, they had around a trillion dollars in retirement accounts, they anchored (through ass-backwards credit default swaps) a substantial amount of the investment banks in the western world. We were in a recession in 2008. If AIG had failed, we’d be in the throes of a much more severe depression. The real problem, in my view, was for the last 20 years we as a society seem to have overvalued everything (I don’t mean that as a generalization. We literally overvalued everything). The “American Dream” as we saw it during the aughts turned out to be a bubble.

Beating Cheeks To 2014

12/11/2012

Republicans tested the overwhelming demographics against them in 2012 and were routed nationwide. Will they need to fundamentally change their message to gain in the midterms of 2014? I don’t think so, because remember 2010, the people who vote in midterms are older, whiter, and more conservative than in presidential contest years.

The giant tactical advantage the dems used in 2012 must be utilized again in the midterm to make sure we don’t have a repeat of 2010.

All that said, are there 20-25 GOP House members Dems can squeeze to vote with their 195 (give or take) congresspeople to get some decent bills through? Is it literally “all or nothing” with the GOP House?

Certainly there’s a few of them we may be able to work with. Their districts may be conservative, but all but the most radical Tea Partiers won’t forever be satisfied with no legislation at all coming out of the House.

I know a guy like Steve King isn’t going to willingly cooperate with the Democrats or the President on anything, but that doesn’t mean I and my liberal pals in town can’t pepper his office with phone calls, demanding room for a voice inside whatever the hell he calls a legislative portfolio.

Steve King’s 4th District

09/11/2012

I tweeted something incorrect on election night (big surprise). I said something to the effect of “Branstead signed off on gerrymandering, which is why Steve King won the new district.”

I was implying that Iowa was using the same partisan redistricting process that some other states use. It’s actually uniquely bipartisan . After the 2010 census, Iowa lost a congressional district, leaving us with only 4. Steve King, his 5th district eliminated, ran for the seat in the new 4th, open after Congressman Tom Latham retired (Latham, a moderate Republican, served 5 terms). Here’s what Iowa’s district map looks like now.

I grew up in North-Central Iowa. Interstate 35 runs through the middle of the state, and we very much thought of ourselves on a Minneapolis-Des Moines axis. The old 4th district was pretty much all of central Iowa. It was reliably Republican, but nowhere near as conservative as Western Iowa. Steve King was the epitome of Western Iowan conservatism. Slavishly Luddite, pro-big farming in every conceivable way, and what you might call a values voter’s dream candidate. He was one of the only GOP candidates in the 2012 election to get away with controversial rape comments this cycle.

Anyways they tacked the larger counties of Cerro Gordo and Story onto the top half of King’s old Western Iowa district and carpet bombed our tiny media market with pro-farming ads. That’s how he won, with money and with a shitload of Western Iowa conservatives.

A Monologue From An Angry Conservative

08/11/2012

“I can’t believe we lost, I just can’t. We had it in our hands and it slipped through our fingers. Sure, the Libs will try to boss us into a more “moderate” position, but I really think we need to become the party of Reagan again!

You know why? Because Reagan was as far right as any politician of his day. He was an impenetrable sarcophagus of stone cold conservatism. He never once listened to any human being ever. Sure, he worked with a Democratic congress, but he never signed any legislation that he hadn’t wiped his balls on, so joke’s on them!

In Reagan’s time, we all made money, by God did everyone get filthy fucking rich in the 1980’s. All because we had a president that was 14 feet tall and ate spent nuclear fuel rods raw. Salt? No, no salt on my highly radioactive fucking fuel rods because I’m Ronald Reagan.

How did Reagan win in 1980? Was it because his opponent was a terrible politician, doomed by a weak economy and a foreign policy crisis? Of course not! Jimmy Carter was both a weakling and an incredibly strong campaigner! The dual nature of any liberal president is both an evil socialist mastermind and an effete, limp-wristed sycophant, duh! Unfortunately for him Reagan only had one nature: rugged individualism. No time to think, no time to weigh options. That’s the type of attitude we need more of in today’s Republican Party. No more of this “We need to consult advisors before doing anything.” Bullshit! Reagan nuked the Russians 37 fucking times. On a whim. You didn’t hear about it? Maybe you need to stop listening to the lamestream media! Every time Reagan felt so much as a calm breeze from the East he pushed the button. Millions killed. Read up, Libs!

There’s this idea that Reagan was different, put forward in the mamby-pamby, elitist, fact-driven media. They say he had to cut deals, make conciliations, occasionally use his words… I call bullshit. We don’t need that Reagan. We don’t need the Reagan on paper, we need the Reagan in our guts!

In 2016, I think we finally need to give 1980 a chance.”