Friday, December 30, 2011

Gay Marriage: overrated threat to the ancient tradition of marriage

Who is it that "owns" marriage?
Many Christian opponents of gay marriage insist that marriage was something that either did not exist prior to God's instituting it presumably to the mortal Adam and Eve.

Marriage as a somewhat formalized relationship agreement, a coupling or pairing up, if you will, does seem to have ancient roots that go back in time as far as the literalist mortal beginnings as described in Genesis.

The argument - if an argument exists - is about the rhetoric of who owns marriage. Who has the say so as to what marriage is, who and how many are the partners in marriage, and whether the partnership should be societally endorsed and recognized as an element of human life.

A monopoly or ownership of the patent and copyright of any marriage or marriage contract is not something over which we usefully get our undergarments in a bunch and something that has very little to do with making life worthwhile, making a living and making our own contentment.

That monopoly does however seem to have much to do with politics and elections in that there seem to be sufficient numbers of religious folks who believe in the  monopoly to justify campaign rhetoric that appeals to and glorifies one noisy segment of society at the expense of another. We all then suffer the sober silliness of say-anything and sing-any-song to a self righteous choir assumed to hold the reins of electoral power.

But I digress and am not interested in spending too much time on the soberly silly.

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan - who is also gay - may perhaps be the best known representative of what outwardly might seem two contrary public perspectives. The two perspectives are only contrary if one insists on the absolute and judgmental moral perspective that God Hates Fags.

But if God is not in the condemning business, but the saving business, as my Mormon bishop tells me, then that judgmental moral perspective is less meaningful than the more mature idea expressed by Sullivan and others:  gay marriage will not, as social conservatives fear, cause us to lose our moral bearings, so much as it will bring gays into the fold of a single gay-straight community of shared moral values.

Let me go back to the monopoly-on-marriage idea.

It seems that the family as portrayed by all those focusers on families is not in fact an ancient tradition invented at the earliest times of human tribal life. I'm speaking of the idea of a man-father, woman-mother and their pro-created and privately-owned children who dwell alone and separated from extended blood relatives and tribal family in community.

The notion of heterosexually-founded family as one of many fundamental units of society is - even as you read the descriptive words - more a creation of commerce and society that was born out of the development of industry and commerce. Perhaps in fact as preached, such a notion of marriage as a basic economic unit has greater relationship with capitalism and an organized free market society toward whom concepts of marketing and conformity are targeted.

Philosophy Justin E.H. Smith says it this way:
Indeed, the expectation that everyone should find a place in such an arrangement appears to be Fordist in origin: the same vision of the future that caused us to believe that everyone might have a place in a system of production, might commute to it in an automobile, and might return home at the end of the day to a freestanding domicile with a family inside. 
Smith further makes the point that historically, the contemporary evangelistic political notion of marriage does not actually describe the nuclear notion so adamantly proclaimed by activists and politicians.
In this respect, relative to the great majority of marriages throughout human history, gay marriage is not really marriage, but then neither is first-world, individualistic, freely chosen heterosexual marriage. Marriage was for most of human history a variety of exchange, one that consolidated social ties between families or clans. When a young man of the Nuer tribe is initiated, he receives cattle that he will care for his entire life and will trade for certain goods, including a wife. When the men give the cattle, it is understood that they are giving a part of themselves, and their newly-swapped spouse becomes an essential part of their lives and their lineage. 
Then of course in the scriptures when Christ talks about marriage and giving in marriage He is not necessarily referring to the 19th, 20th, and now 21st-century fundamentalist notions of nuclear families that are formed when a man and woman meet, fall in love, and marry of their own free will and choice.

Marriages of convenience, political alliance and more commonly, arranged by parents, other relatives or even outsiders were quite common back when some would have us believe that marriage was a product of total freedom of choice and the pure chaste love of godly devotion and holy lust.

Many of those early marriages were in fact physical and human agreements that established relationships "of mutual credit and debit with their neighbors as they exchanged their nubile women ... who were transformed into wives."

Wives first and then children of marriages became not part of the basic nuclear unit of man/woman/child family, but rather human basic units of social exchange.

Feminists studies scholars take this as far as suggesting that accepting the notion of historical man/woman/child nuclear unit is in fact accepting a masculine appropriation of the reproductive capacities of women


But whether or not early human societies were really so misogynistic as to see their daughters as mere commodities, it is difficult to deny the basic insight that, historically, marriage has mostly had to do with the maintenance of society through the consolidation of interfamilial bonds.
Thus it seems that historically the notion of nuclear marriages created as a result of free-will courting and mating based on romantic love and passion disciplined by religiosity is a myth; a  myth promoted despite the early religious thinking of founding fathers like St. Jerome:
“Men should appear before their wives not as lovers but as husbands.”
This is hardly the fundamental behind the constructing of the nuclear family pedestal but is highly useful in the contemporariness of our industrial and corporate capitalistic age in which economics, politics, religion and consumption are all melded into a dynamic that allows some sort of assumption of family orthodoxy that is in fact an insistence on a social conformity intended to keep dissent and free-thinking definitions at a minimum.

Gay marriage will not impact socially our economy or our  morality except in the positive and common sense ways of ethics and goodness; ways that far surpass the rhetoric and continuing impact of either/or thinking that aggrandizes us-but- not-you and that insists our godly civic bathwater is the only drinkable potion in our tumultuous wilderness of thirst.

I recommend Working Arrangement, an article in a quarterly periodical about history. The author is Justin E.H. Smith, an associate professor of philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal.
Also recommend a perusal of the works of Claude Levi-Straussa French anthropologist and ethnologist, who has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology".

“All I know now is war”, the nineteen-year-old continued. “Everything else seems like a dream.”

More than you ever wanted to know about Ernest Hemingway, who shot himself in Ketchum, Idaho some 100+ miles from my hometown when I was 15 and fascinated by a "local" story about someone famous in Idaho. It's a lengthy and detailed read that starts with the story of Hemingway's war injury where he was wounded (not as a soldier) but as a medical volunteer. He had been in Italy and war only two weeks.
“All I know now is war”, the nineteen-year-old continued. “Everything else seems like a dream.” 

 Hemingway died fifty years ago, shooting himself in the head in the early morning of July 2, 1961, at the house he shared with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, in Ketchum, Idaho. The last ten years of the marriage, which began in 1946, had been marked by insult, paranoia and violence. “It is more than a year since he actually hit me”, Mary told her husband’s publisher, Charles Scribner, in 1950. An entry in her journal for October 1951 says: “E. followed me to my bathroom and spit in my face”. The information that follows is almost as startling: “Next day he gave me $200”.
Between the youthful war hero and his bullying reflection you can fit three failed marriages, two messed-up children, five car accidents, two plane crashes (on succeeding days), one self-shooting (beside the fatal one), murderous safaris, vertiginous celebrity, precarious wealth, and a peculiar type of literary success that seemed, in his eyes, to spell “failure”. 

How hungry are you to know stuff?

Something for nothing?

Too good to be true?

Want the learning more than you want the degree?

It's available to everybody but at least for us older folks, this is a challenge to see just how curious we are and what are we willing to do about it now that we have the time and a reason not to be too too lazy.

Yes, this is something for nothing - the nothing is tuition and expenses while attending college - and it apparently isn't too good to be true.

From FORBES magazine: a totally free college education regardless of your academic performance or background.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) will announce on Monday that they intend to launch an online learning initiative called M.I.T.x,which will offer the online teaching of M.I.T. coursesfree of charge to anyone in the world. 
The program will not allow students to earn an M.I.T. degree. Instead, those who are able to exhibit a mastery of the subjects taught on the platform will receive an official certificate of completion. The certificate will obviously not carry the weight of a traditional M.I.T. diploma, but it will provide an incentive to finish the online material. According to the New York Times, in order to prevent confusion, the certificate will be a credential bearing the distinct name of a new not-for-profit body that will be created within M.I.T.

Go ahead! I dare you

... while you're at it, check out this one:

 Academic Earth
(picked by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2009) has cornered the market on free online education by making a smorgasbord of online course content – from prestigious universities such as Stanford and Princeton – accessible and free to anyone in the world. 
No more of this "I've got the time if you've got the money" stuff.

Ya think?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"It’s also dangerous for America. We need two political parties solidly grounded in the realities of governing. Our democracy can’t work any other way. "

I like Robert Reich, who recently suggested in Business that the no-brainer choice for the Democratic Party is Obama-Clinton, with Joe Biden becoming Secretary of State.

Last week Reich wrote a piece that lays out a summary of the deterioration of the Republican party as a party for the entire country and all the citizens: Why the Republican Crackup is Bad For America.

Some describe the underlying conflict as Tea Partiers versus the Republican establishment. But this just begs the question of who the Tea Partiers really are and where they came from.
The underlying conflict lies deep into the nature and structure of the Republican Party. And its roots are very old.
As Michael Lind has noted, today’s Tea Party is less an ideological movement than the latest incarnation of an angry white minority – predominantly Southern, and mainly rural – that has repeatedly attacked American democracy in order to get its way.
... This isn’t to say all Tea Partiers are white, Southern or rural Republicans – only that these characteristics define the epicenter of Tea Party Land.
The Tea Party that public parades its values and priorities reflects in a contemporary extreme the Southern states' rights priorities that were more powerfully reinvigorated with the civil rights legislation of the 1960's.

In a poll of Republicans conducted for CNN last September, nearly six in ten who identified themselves with the Tea Party say global warming isn’t a proven fact; most other Republicans say it is. 
Six in ten Tea Partiers say evolution is wrong; other Republicans are split on the issue. 
Tea Party Republicans are twice as likely as other Republicans to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, and half as likely to support gay marriage. 
Tea Partiers are more vehement advocates of states’ rights than other Republicans. Six in ten Tea Partiers want to abolish the Department of Education; only one in five other Republicans do. 
And Tea Party Republicans worry more about the federal deficit than jobs, while other Republicans say reducing unemployment is more important than reducing the deficit. 
In other words, the radical right wing of today’s GOP isn’t that much different from the social conservatives who began asserting themselves in the Party during the 1990s, and, before them, the “Willie Horton” conservatives of the 1980s, and, before them, Richard Nixon’s “silent majority.”
The political darlings of this angry and outspoken "old white men" minority in this country reflect the degradation of statesmanship and compromise that served the country well as underpinning of civic discourse and negotiation. A cadre of Republican statesmen that included Eisenhower, Bob Dole, even Barry Goldwater has been replaced by self-interested and shallow political hacks who only have one hymn to sing to that angry old choir.

But after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as the South began its long shift toward the Republican Party and New York and the East became ever more solidly Democratic, it was only a matter of time. The GOP’s dominant coalition of big business, Wall Street, and Midwest and Western libertarians was losing its grip.
The watershed event was Newt Gingrich’s takeover of the House, in 1995. Suddenly, it seemed, the GOP had a personality transplant. The gentlemanly conservatism of House Minority Leader Bob Michel was replaced by the bomb-throwing antics of Gingrich, Dick Armey, and Tom DeLay.

Reich summarizes his thoughts and I agree with him whole-heartedly:
 It’s also dangerous for America. We need two political parties solidly grounded in the realities of governing. Our democracy can’t work any other way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What would Jesus do with leftovers? ... and other small talk

What would Jesus do with leftovers?This year, our holiday fight was over a Whole Foods pumpkin pie we weren’t going to eat. (Our dinner guests had brought a chocolate cheesecake for dessert.) I said I’d donate the pie to a local women’s shelter. My brother wanted to take the pie to his church potluck the next day. 
I got self-righteous, and my brother got defensive: I said the most clear message of the gospels is that Jesus calls his followers to share what they have with the poor—in fact, he commanded his disciples to sell all their possessions and give the money away.
My brother said that was for a particular people at a particular time. And there are people in his church who struggle to put food on the table, and he was worried there wouldn’t be enough for lunch tomorrow.

When glaciers begin to shrink in size, they generate "a transitory increase in runoff as they lose mass," the study notes.
However, Baraer explained, the water flowing from a glacier eventually hits a plateau and from this point onwards there is a decrease in the discharge of melt water. "The decline is permanent. There is no going back."
         In a related story  
         NASA: Climate Change May Flip 40% of Earth’s Major Ecosystems This Century

On debunking myths ... The Familiarity Backfire Effect 
To debunk a myth, you often have to mention it — otherwise, how will people know what you’re talking about? However, this makes people more familiar with the myth and hence more likely to accept it as true. Does this mean debunking a myth might actually reinforce it in people’s minds?
The Dishwasher Wars

When phosphates were banned, the detergent category got vicious.

Chaplain Mike on David Lose's The Absurdity of Christmas 
There is something so winsome and utterly human in David Lose’s words. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to be afraid of doubting. I don’t need to fear when things don’t make complete sense, when I can’t explain everything. “I believe; help my unbelief” has always been the most honest prayer, I think.

 Republicans keep shooting themselves - and us - in the foot with their doofus voter ID legislation the party still doing its part to make us the land of the free and the home of the stoopid.

A 93-year-old Tennessee woman who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor’s office, says she won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades after being told this week that her old state ID failed to meet new voter ID regulations. 
Thelma Mitchell was even accused of being an undocumented immigrant because she couldn’t produce a birth certificate:Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers’ license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.
On Nietzsche: Stranger in a Strange Land
As a teenager, Friedrich Nietzsche was fascinated by America. 
"The American way of laughing does me good," he wrote after reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "especially this sort of sturdy seaman like Mark Twain." 
In the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson he discovered a "brother-soul" who kindled his lifelong passion for truth-seeking. Despite making his name as the greatest anti-democratic thinker of his age, Nietzsche believed that America was a land of free spirits, unburdened by the weight of the European past. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

... and Christmas is still here and in no need of protecting.

I remember hearing "Happy Holidays" from folks when I was a child in the 50's.

There was no Blowhard O'Reilly and a self-appointed konservative news network sputtering and fuming about protecting Christmas back then. That was sixty years ago

... and Christmas is still here and in no need of protecting.

The Real War on Christmas ... by Fox News | Jim Wallis | God's Politics Blog | Sojourners

Each Advent in recent years, around the time when those prefab, do-it-yourself gingerbread house kits appear on supermarket shelves, Fox News launches its (allegedly) defensive campaign commonly known as the “War on Christmas.”
Fox News’ “war” is designed to criticize the “secularization” of our culture wrought by atheists, agnostics, liberals, leftists, progressives, and separation of church and state zealots— i.e. Democrats. This irreligious coalition force is allegedly waging a strategic offensive on Christmas, trying to banish the sacred symbols of the season, denying our religious heritage, and even undermining the spiritual rubrics upon which our great nation is built.
Fox News positions itself as the defender of the faith and all things sacred. And Bill O’Reilly fancies himself the “watchdog” of Christmas.
Fox News’ usual targets include shopping malls and stores that replace their “Merry Christmas” greetings with “Happy Holidays,” and state governments that no longer call their official "Christmas" trees by their rightful name, or municipalities that ban any depictions of, or references to, the Christmas season in public places. Those who are attacked defend themselves, often claim that they are really religious too, and the perennial war is on.
But what we actually have here is a theological problem, where cultural and commercial symbols are confused with truly Christian ones, and the meaning of the holy season is missed all together.
The war on Christmas is really about what brand of “civil religion” America should have. The particular (read: biblical) meaning of Christmas, for Christians, has almost nothing to do with the media war.
 It was the Puritans (extremely devout and fanatic Christians) who launched the first War on Christmas in America by outlawing it.

And yes, Virginia, there is a popular Christmas song that has been around forever entitled "Happy Holidays."

So when will Mr. Belch-in-the-Wind O'Reilly starting hammering that ungodly Xmas music?

And when will I stop receiving childish chain letters whining about straw-man (fictional or pretend) villains forbidding us from saying "Merry Christmas?"

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh please please please ... nominate Newt:

10 of The Craziest Things Newt Gingrich Has Ever Said
Among other things, Newt worries that the country will become both atheistic and Muslim.
 ‎1. No Free Speech for You
2. Muslims don't count
3. Yay for child labor
4. Gays are the cause of our economic problems
5. Life as a white man is so unfair
6. Obama the Secret Kenyan
7. Religious Radical Atheists
8. So what if women get paid less?
9. Guilty until proven innocent
10. Torture is not torture

And Santorum:

Discussing controversial classroom subjects such as evolution and global warming, Santorum said he has suggested that “science should get out of politics”

Rick Santorum Declares Himself a Solid Block of Cheese

“I’m confident that when they do, they’ll find one person who — maybe I’m not the flashiest person, I may be a little boring when it comes to, because I’m consistent,” he said. “My record isn’t swiss cheese. I mean it’s solid, it’s a solid block of cheese.”
Santorum insisted he’s just the kind of boring Iowa likes.

Senator Sanders has never been more right the money.

Saving our Democracy
At a time when corporations have more than $2 trillion in cash in their bank accounts and are making record-breaking profits, the American people should be concerned when the Supreme Court says that these corporations have a constitutionally-protected right to spend shareholders' money to dominate an election as if they were real, live persons. If we do not reverse this decision, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests can have on our campaigns and our democracy.
A corporation with extraordinary amounts of available cash for lobbying - amounts ordinary citizens would not even earn over a lifetime - should not be a "person".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This intriguing Christmas present to Americans not courtesy of Health Insurers who don't believe in spending premium dollars on patient medical expenses.

Bomb Buried in Obamacare Explodes - Hallelujah!
‎'If you thought that the Obama Administration chickened out on pushing the nation in the direction of universal health care for everyone, today is the day you begin to understand that the reality is quite the contrary.' Rick Ungar, Forbes
 Worth the read also for born-again free-market corporate-welfare capitalists.

Would be interesting to see how much lobby money has been paid by Health Insurers to the congressional opponents of Obamacare since the law's passage.

Definitely would not be proof of any kind of insurer's claim of how insurance works to protect the individual ... you know, combined assets to deal specifically with emergent need.

As a former life, health and casualty insurance agent, I know the idealist training given to new agents regarding the benefits of shared combined risks of individuals who are told to trust the altruistic attitudes of health insurers.

Health insurance authored and priced by profit-motive has become one of the ultimate hypocrisies in this country.

Just from the opinions expressed among some of my FB friends, I conclude that only the Kindergarten Konservatives and Flee-Market Kapitalists believe the tripe. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seattle Times writes about Willapa Bay

Published today

Willapa Bay offers fresh oysters, prime paddling

Are oysters on your holiday menu? Take a road trip to Southwest Washington's pristine Willapa Bay to get them fresh from the saltwater, and soak up some history and scenery along the way.

Doofusness; The incumbent sitting Lame Duck American President

It's a vanity issue. For Mr. Trump that means he must satisfy Mr. Hannity, Ms. Coulter and these kind folks: On Networks and ...

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