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Voting for President: All About Limiting the Damage?

Since Peregrin Wood explained this Spring why he would no longer support a run by Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in 2016, I’ve been thinking about whether I agree and why. Peregrin felt that Sanders went one step too far by voting to confirm David Barron to a prominent position in the federal judiciary. Barron, you see, wrote the legal opinion asserting that the U.S. government can kill its citizens without proof, without trial, indeed even without arrest.

I agree wholeheartedly with Peregrin that this move by Barron makes the relationship between the U.S. Government and its citizens tyrannical. I agree wholeheartedly that Senator Sanders’ vote to confirm Barron is worthy of condemnation. However, I just haven’t been able to take that last step with Peregrin and condemn a Sanders for President candidacy on that basis.

My thoughts on the subject are not settled, but I find myself gravitating toward the following points:

1. The presidency does not attract saints. Rather, it attracts people who have a desire for power. To run for the White House, you’ve got to be egotistical enough to think either that you really are the best choice to wield the power of that office, or unethical enough not to care that someone else could wield power more responsibly than you. In short, anyone who runs for President is likely a major-league asshole, and anyone who takes hold of the presidency is likely to take actions reflecting that fact.

2. The way that the political system is currently set up, power-mad assholes who make promises to other power-mad assholes with money are most likely to make it through the presidential election process, simply because running for president has become an big-budget industrialized business and those who attract the most money tend to win.

3. Given this, the ideal course of action for citizens as a group would be to change the system so that presidential power is more effectively distributed to other offices (dissuading the most power-hungry of aspirants) and so that elections are not so dependent on fundraising.

4. Until that ideal is achieved, voting for the least assholic of the assholes is a reasonable course of action for an individual citizen.

5. Bernie Sanders is a possible presidential aspirant, so we can presumptively classify him as an egotistical ass, but look at his record and it’s hard for a liberal to deny that he’s the least assholic of the assholes. Given the alternatives — staying home and voting for a bigger jerk — it’s reasonable to vote for Sanders.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?

Plant It Forward

There are many things going wrong in the world, and we write about a good deal of them here at Irregular Times. However, it’s important from time to time to give simple recognition to some of the positive efforts that people are making things a bit better in the world.

plant it forwardAmong these is the Plant It Forward campaign by Trees For The Future. The Plant It Forward program seeks to address environmental degradation and rural poverty by helping communities to plant small forest gardens. These gardens increase environmental sustainability in small-scale agriculture, and provide economic income to the people who serve as their stewards. Trees For The Future explains in its 2014 Plan Of Action, “planting trees lessens pressure on forests by enabling families to become self-sufficient in producing what they need from trees.” The organization is working with people in 16 countries to plant four and a half million seedlings this year alone.

Earth Conscious Optics is providing matching funds to donations made to the Plant It Forward campaign. Charity Navigator notes that 58.1 percent of donations go into the Trees For The Future programs themselves. So, with matching funds available, all of your donation to the group will go to help people transition to from eco-degrading monocultures to forest gardens in economically struggling communities.

Human Trafficking On Twitter

I’m not an expert on social media marketing – and few of those who say they are actually are. Still, I feel confident in declaring that the technique that I witnessed this morning is about 180 degrees in reverse of what effective social media marketing would look like.

An account called WebTraffickers promised to provide me with “human traffic”.

Human trafficking on Twitter? I don’t think that means what you think it means, WebTraffickers.

human traffic on twitter

September Is National Hold On I’ll Get Ready In A Minute Month

Did you know that this month is National Preparedness Month? September has been National Preparedness Month for 11 years now, and still, every year, the United States has been caught unprepared to actually celebrate National Preparedness Month on time, year after year.

national not ready yet month

We’ve noted, in years past, that National Preparedness Month, hosted by Ready.gov, is largely ignored, even by the federal government itself. Year after year, Congress passes a resolution urging Americans to get ready for National Preparedness Month, but pass that resolution only when September is more than halfway over, giving American no time to get prepared to observe the occasion.

In 2004, a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month was introduced on September 23, but was never passed at all.
In 2005, to make up for the previous year’s failure of Congress to recognize National Preparedness Month, Congress passed a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month ahead of time, in July. PREPARED!
In 2006, Congress sank back into unpreparedness, failing to introduce any legislation to recognize National Preparedness Month.
In 2007, Congress introduced a resolution to recognize September as National Preparedness Month, on September 24, but failed even to bring the resolution up to a vote. The resolution was directed to the House Committee on Homeland Security, which wasn’t prepared to deal with it, and so allowed the resolution to die, unattended to.
In 2008, a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month was passed on September 27.
In 2009, a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month was passed on October 1.
In 2010, Congress passed a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month on September 15.
In 2011, Congress forgot to introduce any resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month.
In 2012, a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month was passed on September 22.
In 2013, Congress forgot to introduce a resolution recognizing September as National Preparedness Month.

So there you have it: So far, Congress has introduced a resolution for National Preparedness Month in time for people to prepare only once. All the other years, Congress was unready. As of today, September 7, no congressional resolution for 2014 recognizing September as National Preparedness Month has yet been introduced at all.

What are the consequences for the serial unpreparedness? In 2008, American soldiers had been occupying Iraq for years and years, but still, we were told, Iraq was unready to take care of itself and have true sovereignty. Now, in 2014, American soldiers are going back to Iraq to fight in a new war there, because, it seems, all those years of Americans fighting and dying in Iraq failed to prepare Iraq to be a free and independent country.

So, if American soldiers fighting in Iraq didn’t enable Iraq to be prepared to live in peace and freedom before, how will American soldiers fighting in Iraq prepare Iraq to live in peace and freedom this time? The Obama Administration isn’t prepared to say, but it is prepared to drag the United States to the gates of Hell.

Barack Obama and Joseph Biden have brushed off an old foreign policy, and have it ready to go. It’s called: Yeehaw!

The Spiny Sac Cucumber

This summer, I have watched a vine grow up and over a holly bush outside my office window. At first, it was a small presence in the canopy, but within two weeks after I first noticed it, the vine had nearly covered the entire top of the bush. A few days afterwards, I cut the vine at the base, and pulled it out of the holly so that it would not kill the bush by cutting off its access to sunlight.

Along the vine, I found fruits like the one you see below, between one and three inches long, covered with long spines.

wild cucumber echinocystis lobata

This is Echinocystis lobata, a member of the spiny sac genus of the cucumber family. It is commonly known as wild cucumber, but it is not the same species as the domesticated, garden variety cucumber. In fact, its fruits are not edible at all, although the tender leaves and shoots are. It is said by many that the flowers of Echinocystis lobata have a lovely fragrance, though I never smelled anything coming from the plant, even when walking just a few feet from it.

According to Plants For A Future asserts that the root of this species of wild cucumber can be made into a bitter tea that treats headache, along with a variety of other ailments, and has aphrodisiac qualities. Of course, the site also offers a disclaimer that it doesn’t intend to offer any medical advice, so a substantial dose of skepticism is called for.

Prairie Moon sells seeds for Echinocystis lobata, but if you know other gardeners, ask them if they have some growing in their gardens or yards already. Wildlife often spread the seeds naturally, and seeds gathered from a few plants in the wild are likely to possess more genetic diversity than those sold by a nursery.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service states that Echinocystis lobata can be “invasive”, but it’s a native plant across almost the entire United States, so that’s a rather subjective judgment. When farmers plant vast fields of soybeans and corn, and some vines of wild cucumber pop up in the fields, which plant is really the invader?

As it Becomes Clear Nobody Wants Smith, We Need Smith Quietly Removes Follower Count

“We Need Smith is a movement to support new leaders and new ideas from outside the broken Washington system.”

A movement? From outside the broken Washington system? So says the the Facebook page for the political corporation called We Need Smith.

Anyone who bothers to look a little behind the scenes will quickly figure out that the “outside the broken Washington system” part is baloney. We Need Smith is the construction of three insiders from the conservative political marketing circuit.

As for the “movement” part, well, a movement needs to move. Since I last checked 16 days ago, We Need Smith’s Facebook account has not gained a single new “like.” Over on Twitter over the same period, We Need Smith’s followership has fallen by 42 people.

On the home page of its website, We Need Smith used to feature a count of its “Smiths” — basically, people who had signed up for the website’s e-mail list:

We Need Smith home page screen capture with subscriber count

But over the last 16 days, only 4 people have added their names to the list of “Smiths.” These anemic responses come despite prominent coverage of the We Need Smith “movement” on TV, in newspapers and in the blogosphere. You can’t hide your follower counts on Facebook or Twitter, but you can make a change to your own website:

We Need Smith Hides the Pathetically Low Number of Actual People Who think We Need Smith is a Good Idea

No more embarrassing counts. All that’s left is the statement “you’re not alone.” That is true. There is that guy in Hoboken.

A Democrat Who Actually Speaks Up For Progressive Ideas

In Arizona, Republican politicians have been working overtime this year to provoke people into voting with their fears. They’ve been whipping up anti-immigrant mobs with wild accusations that foreign children are bringing Ebola across the border with Mexico. They’ve even chased down school buses, shouting at the children within, to find an example of an infected little miscreant.

One congressional candidate in Arizona isn’t willing to go along with this vile campaign of scapegoating. While the Republican Party of Arizona follows a policy of fury, James Woods, the Democratic candidate in Arizona’s 5th congressional district, unapologetically speaks out for a progressive vision in which the desire to live in the United States isn’t treated as a reprehensible thing.

“Immigration policy must reflect the reality that we live in a culture dependent on the work and worth of immigrants and their families. I support an immediate end to the criminalization of immigration. Deportations for minor crimes must be brought to a full stop,” Woods writes. “We need a restorative approach that reflects the tremendous value immigrants and their families bring to our communities. We need to stop tearing families apart with punitive deportations. If we wish to live in a free and open society, we must have immigration policies that are equally free and open. Without this, we cannot claim to be a beacon of liberty and we lose moral credibility with the world community.”

James Woods wants the government to help people – something the Republican Party regards as a shameful idea. “I have a vision for an America in which government is a Progressive instrument of the people used to empower all of us to live in safety and happiness, Woods says. “To succeed, we must ensure equality of opportunity for everyone. When anyone is denied full inclusion in social and civic life, it degrades our economy and takes a terrible toll on our communities. I support policies that safeguard equal treatment, protection and opportunity for everyone.”

If only more Democratic politicians would speak with this kind of clarity, progressives might actually come to trust the Democratic Party again.

Why Christian Groups Must Protest Against Gay Football Player Michael Sam

Down in Dallas, Texas, an organization called American Decency is planning to hold a political demonstration outside a sports stadium there, in protest of the decision by the Dallas Cowboys to hire Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL. “We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled. We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country,” explained a spokesman for the group.

Some people may question how protesting against the hiring of a football player supports family values. However, these people have obviously not read the gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus says, “Anyone who puts his love for father or mother above his love for me does not deserve to be mine, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” and “Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or land for my sake will receive it all back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.” You can’t get more family values than that!

American Decency is also following the ways of the earliest Christian leaders when they draw attention to the dangers brought about by sports that have fallen from the path of righteousness. 2nd Corinthians warns, for example, “This is a silly game.”

Jesus is himself known to have played football, as we see in the gospel of Luke, who wrote a firsthand account: “Then the men who held Jesus made a great game of knocking him about.” There’s also the story in the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus recruits some friends onto his football team: “While he was walking by the lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, casting their large net into the water. They were fishermen, so Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will teach you to catch men!'”

Of course, there has been some reinterpretation of this last passage by liberals, who point out that Jesus appears to have been leading his followers into a homosexual lifestyle, promising to give them dating tips that would enable the first Christians to “catch men”. These liberals point out that homosexual shenanigans appear to have been widespread between Jesus and his disciples, as shown in the gospel of John, which describes the revelation of a love triangle when, “the disciple that Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Hearing this, Peter slipped on his clothes, for he had been naked.”

Jesus even appears to have counseled his disciples about their problems with sexual dysfunction, saying to them, as they were out among the flowers that grew on the football “field”, “Can any of you, however much he worries, make himself an inch taller? And why do you worry about clothes?”

But when it comes to taking gay football players off the Dallas Cowboys roster, it’s important to keep in mind the parable of the good seed and the bad seed: ““The kingdom of Heaven,” he said, “is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the crop came up and ripened, the weeds appeared as well. Then the owner’s servants came up to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did all these weeds come from? ‘Some blackguard has done this to spite me.’ he replied. ‘Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?’ said the servants. ‘No,’ he returned, ‘if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them. Let them both grow together till the harvest. And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, ‘Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.’”

The implications for the current case of the gay football player in Dallas are clear. Local Christian groups like American Decency should let Michael Sam play the game in peace, but then take him out back of the stadium afterwards and burn him.

Thank goodness for the moral clarity of the Bible!

After the Sale of $400 Bulletproof Whiteboards to Schools … No One Has to Actually Use Them

In June of this year, I noted that military contractors like Hardwire Armor Systems LLC have decided that with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, they need a new market for their armor technology — and so they’ve been convincing school districts and universities that their teachers need bulletproof whiteboards.

Given that the actual observed risk of a murder in a U.S. public school is 1 in 4.5 million, and given that the pricetag of each bulletproof whiteboard is $400, do you think that this is a cost-effective way to spend school dollars? I don’t. I am so confident the numbers are on my side of the argument that I made a $1,000 bet: not one teacher in the United States in 2014 would actually be shot (outside a product demonstration) while holding a bulletproof whiteboard.

We’re into September now. There are three months left in the year. I invite you to scour news reports. There has not been a single report of a single teacher actually using a bulletproof whiteboard to resist a school shooter. Not one report. The $400 bulletproof whiteboards have been utterly useless.

Joe Biden’s Bring Them On

When George W. Bush responded to Iraqi rebel leaders who were attacking American soldiers by telling them to, “Bring ‘em on”, it was a sign that Bush’s war in Iraq had swerved into reckless aggression without a plan.

Today, the American have been given another ssign, this time that the Obama Administration is taking our nation back into the same dangerous territory. Vice President Joseph Biden has declared to ISIS, a relatively new group of rebels in Iraq, that, “we will follow you to the gates of Hell.

Will we follow ISIS to the gates of Hell? Why would we do such a thing? What good would it do?

Of course, Hell isn’t a real place. What Vice President Biden meant to communicate is that the United States will pursue ISIS, and punish them with violence, regardless of how much pain and suffering our nation endures in the process.

It’s the kind of line that sounds really cool coming from the lips of an action hero during a summertime matinee. In real life, it’s an idiotic threat to make.

No one who thinks it’s a good idea to drag the United States of America through hell in pursuit of a vendetta should have any position at all in the White House, much less the position of Vice President.

We dont need swaggering threats. We need leaders who are capable of self control and intelligent action. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the current Democratic occupants of the White House have been able to deliver on that need. Just last week, Barack Obama admitted that, in spite of the fact that he’s taking the American military back into Iraq, he doesn’t have any plan for what to do with them there, or how to get them back out.

Have we learned nothing from the disaster of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq?

The lesson we should have learned is this: Yeehaw is not a foreign policy, whether the cowboy who’s hooting and hollering is a Republican or a Democrat.

No military action should take place, and no American soldiers should be transported back into Iraq, until the Obama Administration can show that it has a comprehensive, rational plan of action. In order to be comprehensive and rational, such a plan needs to show how the United States can get back out of Iraq without leaving behind the same wreckage it did last time.

The last time the United States went to war in Iraq, we spent years trying to forge political alliances, and beat back extremist rebels. It didn’t work.

What would be different this time around?

Barack Obama and Joseph Biden don’t have an answer to that question. Even worse, they don’t appear to have even considered the question.

If Joseph Biden really wants to go to the gates of Hell, he should be prepared to go it alone.

Barack Obama’s Broken Promise on Edward Snowden Petition: 452 Days and Counting

On June 22 2013, the petition to pardon civil liberties whistleblower Edward Snowden surpassed a hundred thousand signatures, and has continued to gather signatures every day since, reaching 162,720 signatures today. The Obama administration promised to respond to any petition gaining more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days or less.  The petition to pardon Snowden passed the required threshold in just 14 days.

In contrast, the petition to release the White House’s home brew recipe for Honey Ale only attracted 12,240 signatures.

The White House promptly responded to the Honey Ale recipe petition with pages and pages of details and two special printable graphics to boot.

The White House has refused to respond to the petition to pardon Edward Snowden for 452 days.

Honey ale home brew and circuses.