28 November 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: J is for Justice Part II

The most obvious “J” word would have been, of course, “Jesus,” but I’m saving Him for another letter of the alphabet. So I’ll talk briefly about my views on three issues where I will generate disagreement with some of my conservative brethren. For brevity of posting, I’ll divide this into three separate posts.


Jeff Merkley is a Demostablishment puppet. He parrots the party line and does little to distinguish himself or Oregon. Ron Wyden at least bucked the party on Rand Paul’s filibuster.  But Merkley has found his bill and it fits enough of his constituents to (probably) make him reelectable, which is all I think any of them on either side of the aisle truly care about. As to the merits of the bill, I think a person has the right to decide for themselves who they want to be. I think “discrimination” is wrong, but good judgment and respect for the beliefs of others isn’t. The bill makes exceptions for religious beliefs, although it’s still too ambiguous for my tastes, and it fails to address “bonafide occupational requirements,” which every other federal non-discrimination statute except race does.  Fix those two issues, and I'll support your bill.

Public Prayer

I recently saw a sign in a photo of a protest outside the Supreme Court while they were debating Greece v. Galloway, the most recent suit dealing with the issue of prayer at public meetings. It said “Keep your theocracy off my democracy.” Ironic that the sign holder doesn’t acknowledge that a democracy means that people that disagree with her get to vote, too. Fortunately, we don’t live in a democracy. We live in a constitutional republic, meaning the majority doesn’t always rule and the minority doesn’t always get to stop the majority. I think it works pretty good most of the time.
What doesn’t work is everyone getting offended so easily. In the case in question, I have no problem with a public entity opening its proceedings with an invocation. As a believer, I welcome it! But I also realize not everyone believes like I do, and I fully expect people that DON’T agree with me to get to participate in a public forum in the manner of their choosing. That means we might have a Hindu prayer, or a (gasp) Muslim prayer, or an atheist politely addressing the participants directly and asking them to do their jobs faithfully, wisely, and well. What will I do if someone is voicing a prayer I disagree with? I’ll do what I expect them to do when I’m the one praying: stand there quietly and respectfully, silently voice my own prayer if I feel it necessary, but to show common courtesy for the rights and opinions of others. Allowing others to participate in public proceedings doesn’t force me to do so. I don’t get my feelings hurt if someone says something I don’t like or I disagree with. It is, after all, a “free” country. It just seems we’re a lot more free to prevent other people from doing things we don’t like than we are free to do as we please.

25 November 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: J is for #Justice

The most obvious “J” word would have been, of course, “Jesus,” but I’m saving Him for another letter of the alphabet. So I’ll talk briefly about my views on three issues where I will generate disagreement with some of my conservative brethren. For brevity of posting, I’ll divide this into three separate posts.
Let me say at the outset, I don’t have a wide enough readership to be “controversial,” but if you disagree with me, don’t get personal. I’m more interested in finding what I believe to be the “right” position than a popular or unpopular one. But we should be able to disagree agreeably. In the end, I don’t censor comments on my blog except for spam. If you are spiteful, belittling, vindictive, and hateful, your words say more about you than they do about me.


In general, I support the so-called “Gangof Eight” Immigration reform act. Liberals hate it because it places what they consider unreasonable requirements on people who traditionally vote with them. The irony of catering to an electorate that’s not supposed to exist is amusing. Conservatives call it “amnesty,” a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for illegals, almost none of which vote with them.

One of the main conservative sticking points is the “path to citizenship.” America has a reasonable process for LEGAL immigration, albeit one that would be backlogged to the merry old land of Oz if it had to deal with the influx that’s actually coming in. But they (the illegals) are here now, it’s a moot point to say what they should have done, and telling 20 million people to “get out and come back in the right way” is not a workable solution. And getting me to vote for something with Chuck Schumer, with whom I disagree about everything but the spelling of his name, ought to count for something.

06 November 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: I is for #IndoorPlumbing

No, seriously. Have you any idea how much for granted we take this most basic of “modern” conveniences? As recently as the early 20th century, pit toilets (a hole in the ground) located away from the living quarters due to their foul odor, were still the most common form of waste management in large rural swathes of the United States, and are still the most common form of self-contained toilets at campgrounds. The “indoor” toilet, however, is not a modern invention at all.

The most common form of waste removal in the modern American home is the flush toilet. This involves a gravity tank storing a measured amount of water from a household water supply in a tank above the business end of the (usually) porcelain receptacle. Water is released on command, either manually or automatically, to flow over the waste to be removed, pushing it by force of gravity down a pipe that removes it from the dwelling, either into a system of drainage pipes or into a “septic tank.” In America, these contraptions are filled from the same water supply you drink from. That’s right, if not for the germs associated with the bowl itself, the water in your toilet is just as potable as the water that comes out of your kitchen faucet. The World Health Organization estimates three quarters of a billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, while we in America have so much we… er… “do our business” in it.

Incidentally, ever wonder what that little “squiggle” behind the bowl is there for? It’s to cause water to collect in the bottom of the “s” shape, preventing sewage gases (most notably flammable methane, but also foul smelling hydrogen sulphide and ammonia) from backing up into the bathroom.

But “indoor” plumbing is much, much older than the modern flush toilet. The Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished in what is now northern Pakistan, India and Afghanistan around 3,000 BC, shows evidence of the systematic distribution of water, including sewage removal. Medieval castles had rooms called “garderobes,” essentially a toilet seat built out over the edge of a wall where waste dropped into a cesspit or the castle moat, or directly into a river or stream running beside or beneath the castle.

Improved sanitation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation is a major factor in the average life span in America rising from 31 in the early 20th century to 78 in 2011. In areas without access to clean water and good sanitation, such as central Africa, life expectance plummets to the upper 40s. One of the most notorious (but certainly not the only, north or south) examples of the devastating effect of poor sanitation during the Civil War is Andersonville prison, the site of a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp, which relied on a pitiful little stream to supply both drinking water and hygiene to an estimated 45,000 Union prisoners, of which almost a third would die, mainly due to disease and starvation. In places, the mud and raw sewage was said to run knee deep.

So thank God for modern plumbing, still a luxury for over half the world’s population. Think about that next time you have to get up and 3 AM, and imagine what it would be like to have to traipse a hundred yards or so in the dark to an outhouse, which would still put you in the “upper crust” in many parts of the world