Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Please sir, may I have some more?

By Capt. Fogg

Pecunia non olet said Vaspasian, or so they say. Money doesn't stink, or so you'd think when looking at the way Florida governor Rick Scott laps it up like a cat with spilt milk. Showing up Monday at a  Boca Raton, Florida home of GEO Group CEO George Zoley for his $10,000 a plate fundraiser ( another $3K if you want to come to the reception) would suggest that Scott can't  smell dirty money, as Zoley's company is in the business of running private prisons -- some say the worst in the country -- that squeeze the life and health out of prisoners as well as exposing the guards to unnecessary danger.

Of course it may be that Scott smells it all too well and, like a culture, is attracted to the smell of graft and corruption and human suffering. You'll recall his involvement with the largest Medicare fraud ever exposed. You may not recall that Zoley gave Mr. Scott $20,000 to add to the $800,000 of taxpayer money to pimp up the governor's mansion. Yes, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the great flood of lobbyist money soaked up by the Governor, but Scott is not one to forget his obligations to contributors.

No money doesn't care who owns it and it doesn't stink even though the people and deeds connected to it may reek. The dollars saved by understaffing prisons and serving substandard, sometimes maggot infested food to prisoners adult and juvenile affirm his credentials with his party and particularly because so many of the inmates rotting and starving and being beaten in GEO prisons are immigrants. Last year a group of protesters  chained themselves to the doors of the GEO Group corporate headquarters in Palm Beach in protest over  GEO's "pivotal role in promoting discriminatory laws that target people of color,

immigrants, youth, transgender individuals, and the poor."   There have been hunger strikes.  There have been investigations looking into accusations that inmates were being served rotten food and suffering from food poisoning at the Broward  County, Florida facility. There were also allegations of sexual assault among detainees and reports of several suicide attempts says the Broward/Palm Beach NewTimes blog.  Did I mention that Scott is a Republican?

But we can't accuse old snake eyes of total blindness to appearances.  After all Zoley was a second choice after it became known that the original host, real estate mogul James Batmasian, was convicted of tax evasion in 2008. Batmasian, who spent eight months in federal prison and completed a two-year supervised release program, also had his legal license suspended in Florida. That stinks, even if his money doesn't.   It stinks almost as much as his rather dishonest and scurrilous accusations made against his likely opponent, Charley Crist, but to his supporters it doesn't matter any more than facts do. Rick Scott saved us money by abusing prisoners and a penny saved is a penny you can spend on yourself.  And besides, prisoners can't vote.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

What a piece of work is Man

By Capt. Fogg

Lovely meal, nice restaurant, best company, but the people at the next table were telling each other just what the Universe thought about this or that and how the Universe had solved some problem one of them had had. You don't get this at the Taco truck or the Wendy's drive through.

Perhaps they were Northerners.  The locals would simply have substituted the word God with no embarrassment, or perhaps they were the last holdouts of Deism, the folks who seek God in nature and not in churches or scriptures.  Who knows? But I hear this a lot.  I'm even wondering whether our practically  infinite universe is large enough to contain an ego of the size required to believe it had such significance in comparison to all there is or was or ever will be.  I'm guessing none of them were astronomers or astrophysicists or even of sufficient awareness to question the idea that something of the nature of nature itself was sentient or of  good intentions toward men -- men of good will or otherwise.

But say for the purposes of cynical condemnation, that the universe was a brain that somehow coalesced from a primal particle of infinite energy and infinitesimal size.  What can be a brain like that be composed of? Given the speed of light, and make no mistake, the universe does give us the speed of light -- given an all-there-is, the extremities of which can never, ever be reached in an infinite amount of time,  the allegedly sentient universe isn't old enough to have noticed us yet and never could be, even if somehow it were interested in our dining pleasure or our marital problems.  That which we can see of the universe is 30 billion light years across, a combination of  absolutely nothing and absolutely everything: violent on an unimaginable scale, both random and predictable and driven by principles we don't fully understand - but it can suggest to Shirley that she break up with Dylan or Cody or that I buy a new car. A sentient universe must need be speechless.

What a piece of work is man -- what quasi-demonic deity could match us for arrogance, for self-importance? 


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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

More deep tweets

Slowly emerging from my hiatus, I see Obama was in Texas today. Governor Good Hair doesn't look like he's enjoying the meeting. But hey, photo op. This shot is going to make a great image for his presidential campaign.

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Deep tweets - updated

No idea what's happening here but pretty sure crushing a car with a fleeing suspect in it never happened when I was a young lass. Not even in the movies.

Update: It appears the suspect in question is a crazed mass murderer. Still, crushing him in his car without due process feels a bit barbaric. Hard to believe it's legal.

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Ramadan Kareem

By Capt. Fogg

"I didn't want to wish you Ramadan Kareem on the air. . ." said Jake Tapper just now on CNN, thinking his mike was off.  He had just interviewed some lawyers irate at being under surveillance without any reason save for their being Muslim.

His mike was on and I wonder -- just why was he unwilling?  Is there a war on Ramadan?
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The Robot who loved me

By Capt. Fogg

It's about 2 O'Clock in the afternoon as I write.  That's a bit late for Carmen's first call of the day. But I know she's faithful and that she will always call.  After all I provide her a phone number to call at any time without asking. Once she called at 2:30 AM.

 Carmen from Cardholder Services calls me on average twice a day, seven days a week. Sometimes it's once sometimes three times, but she has rarely missed  a day in these last two years.  It's no secret I'm avoiding her but as a robot she never seems to catch on, to tire, to take the hint.  She's a robot after all.  Until this year I would, if my speaking caller ID announced her, I would simply ignore the call, because pressing 3 as she sweetly but falsely told me I could do if I wished to be removed from the victim list, proved to be useless.  After a fruitless, frustrating year of this, I began to lose hope. Carmen has a false heart.

But more recently, as the ability of  the government to monitor every call everywhere has grown beyond our old fears, the ability of the government to care has languished.  The ability of  felons, scammers, con artists and flim flam  fraudsters to hide behind fake caller ID data has increased dramatically despite the "tough" laws against it. Equally "tough" are the laws against robot calling, calling people on the Federal and State do-not-call lists, against fraudulent caller IDs and refusing to remove or stop calling one's number upon request. I suspect that when "tough" laws are promised or called for, there is no intention of doing anything or at least no consideration of the possibility much less any thought put into the specifics.  Tough is the most we're going to get and as far as I know, those complaint forms I've filled out and sent to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission have evaporated.  Even Big Brother has no intention of interfering with the "right" of people to ring bells in my house 24/7 and attempt to get my credit card and social security numbers for unlawful purposes.

 I frequently find Carmen disguising herself as a local caller.  Last night she came to me as DirecTV, a company I do subscribe to, and only now she was Consumer SVCS calling from an unlisted number in Orlando. Call me sentimental, but I called back and for the first time, didn't get the not-a-working-number message, but one politely offering to remove me within 48 hours. I've got a hundred bucks with a snarky expression on its face saying they won't. Sorry Carmen, but this isn't my first affair.

The funny thing, of course, is that I have no credit card debt nor any reason to. I really don't care about rates on loans I don't have or intend to have.  Some people certainly do and some people do offer to intercede on your behalf, but they can't do anything you can't do by yourself with no cost.  But ask yourself if  anyone who thinks you're stupid enough to give out sensitive information to not only a stranger; but a stranger breaking a number of laws and operating under disguise can be anything but a crook.

Gone are the days when I can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without being interrupted. These are times when every drowsy afternoon reverie or nap, every favorite tune on my iPod, program on my TV -- every intimate moment, any dip in the pool or walk in the garden can and will be interrupted by crooks and liars as well as ordinary salesmen and politicians and questionable charities and all at intervals close enough to random to drive you insane and rob you of all the gold in your golden years.

Now if someone came to my door 6 times a day and rang the bell and despite my rejection came back again and again wearing different disguises, you could call the police, you could get a restraining order.  Hell, in Florida you stand a chance of shooting him and getting away with it, but Carmen is a fixture in my life I can't get protection from. Her right to attempt to defraud me, to get me out of the shower, off a ladder, from under the car or down from a tree to make me run inside to pick up the phone may not be infringed and the government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations shall not be bothered to care. the phone service I pay for gives me no exclusivity as to using it and no choice but to put up with it.

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Move toward the light

By Capt. Fogg

Yes, it's easy to look on the dark side of the recent Supreme Court decisions allowing corporations to claim religious convictions and attendant relief from legal obligations. One can suspect that it's part of a progression toward full citizenship and voting rights for paper entities and perhaps even a superior status to the individual. If Subaru can claim that it builds cars with love, and a retail store chain to have religious scruples, then of course a corporation must be not only fully human in its own right, but an American citizen. More than an American citizen: a citizen not bound by the results of free elections to which we living breathing citizens are obliged to acquiesce.

Can't we see a bright side?  Perhaps now that a paper and ink 'person' can avoid obligations for religious reasons, a flesh and blood person can be forgiven for not reciting what constitutes a religious oath every morning and some evenings.  If a corporate store owner can refuse to provide insurance to pay for blood transfusions or vaccinations or indeed medical care of any kind if it files an affidavit stating such things to be a grave moral wrong, how then do I not have the right to a line item veto over my tax obligation?  There's a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel and it's the light of anarchy. Libertarians rejoice, we don't have to do anything we don't want to do.

It's not that the courts haven't made exceptions for individual moral and religious convictions in our history. Churches and Synagogues were allowed to use sacramental wine during Prohibition and conscience was allowed as an exemption from the draft, so long as one could document membership in an appropriate group. We have long given preference to group-think over individual conviction and the sun shines on little that is new.

Cynicism aside, do not the three recent decisions suggest that the problem hinges on the fact that we expect employers to pay directly for benefits to employees rather than to do as we do with Medicare: take it out of their paychecks?  Were we to pay for health care out of general revenue dissidents would have to claim the right to set their own tax obligations outside of  Democratic processes, making the shortcomings of  radical Libertarianism somewhat more apparent.  A single payer system would not overly burden certain employers and would not punish those out of work.  It would make organized sexual perversion less able to persist by calling itself Christianity while stepping on our lives.  It's time.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

The Velocitarian Church

Some may see the Hobby Lobby decision as a mortal wound to separation of Church and State -- and rightly so in my opinion.  Others see it as an opportunity.  I notice that this morning's newspaper contains a full page spread by the Hobby guys insisting that Christianity is the only true teacher of morality and provider of law and that the founding fathers agreed.

But an opportunity for would be religious tyrants is an opportunity for all and I think it's time for me to assert my own religious freedom by filing suit with the country so that I don't have to pay that part of my taxes that supports math and science education and of course Sex education. As Justice Bader-Gisnberg suggested, every man is now his own religion. I don't want to pay taxes for schools that are integrated religiously and racially and the Bible certainly supports that vehemently. I won't pay part of my Sales taxes that support executions, of my Federal taxes that support invasions of other countries.  It's against my religion.

And what is my religion?  Well that's my business because the government doesn't get to say one is real and another isn't.  In fact as an ordained Bishop in the Universal Life Church, I can roll my own because to us, everything is sacred and holy.

Enter the Holy Assembly of Velocitarians. Our scriptures are short and simple:

Get your motor running
Head out on the highway.

We demand exemption from speed limits and most traffic laws. That's my religion - what's yours?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Say, how many worms are in that can?

By Capt. Fogg

Americans like words like Freedom and Liberty and perhaps because those ideas scare us so much. We are terrified of coercion by a government we all choose but we love to coerce those who disagree with us and deny them the right to choose.  We certainly are rarely in agreement as to what it means to be a free country and I might dare to say that question is still central to political argument today.  How do we define freedom?

  • " It's a free country and I can do what I want." 
  • " It's a free country and I don't have to do anything I don't want to do."

Some would equate those statements, others would point out that the first is true within limits and the second isnot, but the idea that freedom carries no obligation and indeed that in a free country it never should seems common amongst extremists.  Unfortunately extremists have a stranglehold on the Supreme Court and perhaps on Congress.  The recent decision regarding the ACA mandate that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception shows that the court sides with the second example and that when it comes to the concept of  freedom of religion and perhaps freedom of speech, personal beliefs convey personal privilege, but because this is such a limited ruling, the inherent hypocrisy becomes apparent.

If  I believe interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg is murder, it's because of a religious interpretation of murder other people do not share and an interpretation of humanity and human rights that borders on the ludicrous. Citing a definition of freedom I do not believe the Constitution shares, the God Squad on the court allows me to opt out of  having my corporation pay for insurance that might pay for a "morning after" medication and perhaps any form of contraception. That court and indeed all courts do not provide immunity for other religious or other personal opinions and specifically not to opt our of paying for wars and executions and that is proof that one specific belief is being given special rights and others are not.  This violates the constitutional prohibition against establishment.

How will we see yesterday's ruling when other religious groups decide they don't want indirect participation in executing prisoners, bombing foreign countries and a host of other activities?  Will the court have to say this opinion is privileged and that one is not?  Haven't they just done that?  Does an aversion to contraception become an excuse to opt out of  an obligation only if  it's tied to some organized faith or is a personal dislike sufficient?  That question was answered during the years we had the draft.  It was damned hard to establish personal aversion to war without showing long term affiliation with a pacifist religion and not just a pacifist philosophy.

There can be little doubt that our government is in the business of establishing religious belief and assigning special privileges, special rights to members thereof.  There isn't a damned thing we can do seeing that the independence we make a fuss about every July was so limited.  We severed ties with the United Kingdom but not with Christianity as a force that legitimizes government and those who demand and assert the "Christian Nation"  idea are no more patriots or advocates for freedom than the Hessian troops George II hired to kill our revolutionary patriots.

It will be very hard to cite this decision as limited to the case that prompted it, and there are so many worms in that can that everyone will be able to fish for whatever special dispensation from any obligation he dislikes and our reputation for sanity, if we ever had one, won't need any bit of lead to make it sink to the bottom.

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