Wednesday, November 9, 2016

America, we hardly knew ye

Today we mourn for the country we thought we were. Our illusions about the basic goodness of America have been shattered by the reality that Americans have elected a demagogue and a dictator as our president. Trump has made it quite clear that he will use the awesome powers of the presidency to silence his critics, bully our allies and abandon international agreements. 

Americans have also returned to power a Republican Congress that has done everything it could to damage America so that they could blame it all on Democrats. After eight years of craven racism and obstruction, Republicans will now insist that “for the good of America” we should all come together and help them pursue their agenda of tax cuts for the rich, “law and order” in the inner cities and dismantling the safety net. 

And when Americans finally realize that they made a mistake; that Trump isn’t a champion of the “common man” so much as a con man, will they learn from the experience? Recent history indicates that they will not. Republicans brought the country to the brink of economic disaster just eight years ago and then when Obama couldn’t fix it fast enough — mainly because Republicans obstructed everything he tried to do — Republicans were returned to power in Congress.

How did this happen? The balkanization of media has made it possible for a majority of Americans to live in a bubble where all of their prejudices are reinforced daily and none of their beliefs are ever challenged. No matter how bad things get in the next four years, no one is going to take responsibility for it and no one will be held accountable for making bad choices. They’ll just move on to the next candidate who can stimulate their reptilian brains.

I weep for the future of America and I will never forgive those who put us into this situation. After all, Trump's true nature has been on display since day one of the campaign. It doesn't matter any more what you thought you were doing by voting for Trump, you need to own it now. Stop blaming others for what's wrong with America and take responsibility for your own mistakes.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How I Survived the Great Flood After Hurricane Camille

Hurricane Camille road marker

The flood of August 1969 was one of the most disastrous in Virginia history.

Making landfall in the Bay Saint Louis area of Mississippi on August 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille had wind speeds of up to 170 miles per hour and the surge was twenty-five feet high. Moving up the mouth of the Mississippi, Camille killed 143 people in the Gulf Coast region before heading North. Two days later, the storm had significantly diminished in strength, becoming a much weaker tropical depression. On August 19, Camille made a sharp turn to the east, leaving Kentucky and heading over the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where during the night the rain intensified dramatically. When she slowed over Virginia, her thunderstorms "trained" (one followed the other) for 12 hours. Nearly 31 inches of rain fell with devastating results. The ensuing flash floods and mudslides killed 153 people. Damage was estimated at $113 million.

Track of Hurricane Camille in August 1968

I was 16 years old in August 1969, when three friends and I went on a trip to southern VA to see how the other half lived. One of my friends had family there who were tobacco farmers. The trip lasted four days and was relatively uneventful until it came time to leave and return to Washington DC.

It was raining heavily and we had heard something about a hurricane, but we didn’t pay much attention. We left around 6PM and drove through the rain. We were going pretty fast because there wasn’t much traffic. After a while we noticed that water was collecting in the dips of the road and as we passed through those dips the water would splash. On one of the deeper dips, the water splashed the engine and it just stopped.

We got out of the car and pushed it across the highway to a gas station that was closed. Then we got back in the car and waited for the engine to dry out — or for someone to come by and help us.

As we waited, the water began rising. First it was an inch at the bottom of the wheels. Then it was at the bottom of the hubcaps. We decided that before the water got to the bottom of the doors we would have to push the car up the hill we had just come down before hitting the puddle.

Sure enough, the time to move came rather quickly. Before we got out of the car I decided to remove my shoes and my shirt, and leave my wallet in the car so those things wouldn’t get wet. We struggled to push the car but we couldn’t move it far because there was so much water, soil and debris coming down that hill.

As we stood there wondering what to do next, we spotted a farm house about half-way up the hill and we could see the farmer loading his wife and a few things into his pickup truck. We ran up the hill and asked him for a ride. He said sure. We asked him if he would wait while we went back to the car to get our things and he said OK, but to hurry up because he wanted to leave immediately.

As we were walking back down the hill, I heard the roaring sound of rushing water. I thought it was coming from a culvert in the middle of the road and I was about to say something when we all saw a giant wave of water, mud and trees crest over a hillside to our left. The amount of water and debris was incredible and we immediately realized that we were in great danger. We turned and ran as fast as we could as the water began filling up the valley and our car was swept away. The water was actually lapping at our feet as we jumped into the bed of the pickup truck and banged on the roof while yelling for the farmer to get going. We watched in horror as the entire valley filled with water as far as the eye could see.

Diagram of a mud slide
A diagram showing what we saw coming down the hill towards us

The farmer drove for a while to get to higher ground. He stopped in an area where there were very large state highway maintenance trucks and told us we should ask the state workers for help. They let us sleep in one of the trucks overnight and then in the morning we were told that we were on our own. It had stopped raining by then but they just left us in the middle of the road with nothing and drove off — no water, no food, and no idea what to do.

We decided to walk back to where we left the car to see if we could find it and recover our belongings. I still didn't have a shirt or shoes, and being out in the hot sun and walking barefoot over all sorts of terrain was quickly taking a toll on me. I spotted a sportcoat by the side of the road that, while soaking wet, was still on a hanger in a dry cleaning bag. So I picked it up and put it on, but there was nothing I could do for my feet.

As we crested the hill before the valley where we lost our car we were greeted with a breathtaking sight. The entire valley was still full of water. We could see the tops of some houses and trees, but otherwise it was now a giant lake. We couldn’t see any way to get around the lake, so we had to go back the way we came.

We walked and walked and walked. As we walked, we had to cross many washed-out sections of road. Sometimes there would be an entire house in the middle of the road. I was walking over broken glass, stones and other sharp objects with my bare feet and it wasn’t long before they were swollen and bleeding.

We didn’t want to start looting but at the same time we didn’t have any food or water, and after a few hours of walking we were in pretty bad shape. Eventually we came across a Coke machine by the side of the road. It was one of the old styles, where after paying, you would open the door and pull a bottle out of one of the slots. We found a piece of metal to use as a crow bar and broke the mechanisms that held the bottles in place. Then we filled up on soda and took a few bottles along with us.

We continued going North till we got to the Appomattox River, just outside of Petersburg, but the bridges were out and there was no way to get across the river. We stupidly thought we could wade across, so we went down to the river bank and held hands as we inched our way across in single file. I was the one furthest out in the water and I didn’t get far before my feet were swept out from under me. I would have been washed away and drowned if the other guys hadn’t pulled me out. After that we decided our only option was to go back the way we came.

We walked for many more hours. By this time my feet were swelled up like footballs and I was leaving a trail of blood behind me as I hobbled along. Eventually we got out of the flood area and were able to hitch a couple of rides from guys in pickup trucks. No one else would pick us up because we were covered with mud. We got back to the town and the farm where we had visited and were able to call family and friends to let them know we were OK. We then bought bus tickets and went on a 15-hour circuitous route to avoid the flooded areas on the way back to Washington DC. We had survived hell and high water. 

Another Blog post by Ken Padgett

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Once again, "anonymous sources" "close to the "investigation" say a Hillary indictment is "imminent"

Judge Napolitano predicts Hillary indictment -- again

"Judge" Napolitano is a Fox News flack who has been predicting Hillary's downfall since day one. This latest salvo is based on a lie (as usual) that Hillary aids knew her server had been hacked, when in fact the emails reviewed by The Associated Press, show that State Department technical staff disabled software intended to block phishing emails. So there's no proof the server was hacked and not blocking phishing emails, while ill-advised at best, is not tantamount to leaving the server wide open. 

The Right Wing Propaganda machine creates the lie and then goes nuts over it. Along comes "hired gun" Napolitano to claim, once again that this is all that is needed for an indictment, or a Watergate-level scandal if Hillary is not indicted. Gotta keep the "base" stirred up!

Judge Napolitano predicts Hillary indictment -- again

The Right Wing has been claiming that "anonymous sources" "close to the investigation" have told them that an Hillary indictment is "imminent" for what, two years now? "Oh yes, it's going to happen any minute now. You just wait." This is all part of the same tired smear campaign that will finally reach a crescendo by election day. Then it will limp on for years afterwards, while Hillary serves as president.

Not that I'm thrilled at that prospect, but this endless smear campaign of lies and half-truths about Hillary by the Right Wing Outrage Machine is really tiresome. 

Judge Napolitano predicts Hillary indictment -- again

But I have to give credit where credit is due as well. They have set this up beautifully. The talking point -- "There is more than enough evidence to indict Hillary Clinton, so if she isn't indicted we should definitely have another investigation to find out why." Later: "Hillary should be impeached!" <sigh>

Monday, June 13, 2016

Disaster Porn from terrorist attacks gives aid and comfort to our enemies

disaster porn -- cable tv

The images are terrible.

Blood spattered locations. Families, friends and bystanders overcome with grief.  Seriously injured and dying victims being carried to waiting ambulances and other vehicles by first responders and citizen volunteers. Pictures of the perpetrator(s) smirking at us from social media.

disaster porn -- glorifying the terrorist

These videos are on a loop, playing over and over again while talking heads use the tragedy for political gain. On the Right, it's all Obama's fault for refusing to destroy ISIS and for refusing to use the term "Radical Islam". On the Left, it's more calls for gun control and lamenting the influence of the NRA.

Cable News Networks have become our YouPorn for disaster porn, delivering stimulation for our reptilian brains 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. There is no greater money maker for cable news than tragedy. And cable news exploits tragedy for all it is worth.

Eric C. Wilson, a Wake Forest University English Professor and author of Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away, writes, “we never feel more alive than in times of distress, danger, and calamity”.  The German word schadenfreude describes the pleasure that often comes from another's misfortune. Viewers who obsess on disaster porn don't necessarily feel good at the expense of those who are suffering. But as long as we can watch from a safe vantage point, according to Wilson we can “undergo a sublime experience” while observing the suffering of others. 

People have always flocked to places that have seen horrific events, such as wars, floods, and destruction. We now have the technology to view and record any event that is happening – in real time, and this has allowed us to watch disasters as they are occurring and feel the tension and grief among the survivors. But it doesn't end when the incident is over. It continues on for weeks and months afterwards. As a result, our nation’s obsession with accidents and destruction has only grown and “disaster porn” -- the media's cashing-in on tragedy has grown with it.

disaster porn -- exploiting the grief

We are horrified by images of tragedies but we are also mesmerized by them. We’ll tune in and tweet on and endlessly add to the demand for more more more, all while claiming how terrible it all is and that we are horrified by it. 

Meanwhile, all of the media coverage and pearl-clutching gives the perpetrators of terrorist acts and those who inspire them exactly what they are trying to achieve. Those who have perverted Islam want us to believe we are at war with all Muslims. If we let our fears cause us to turn against and marginalize all Muslims, more marginalized and disaffected youth will be inspired to join them or engage in "lone wolf" acts of terror.

This is certainly not entirely the media's fault, because they are simply giving us what we demand. We are feeding the terror machine by wallowing in the tragedy that results from terrorist acts. However, there are some things the media should stop doing; they should stop rewarding terrorism by looping the video along with the suspect's picture over and over again.


If we don't stop obsessing on disaster porn, the legacy of terrorism in America will be a chronic, irrational fear that will continue to result in wasteful spending, more futile military adventures and ever greater compromises of our civil liberties. 

Another blog post by Ken Padgett
Ken Padgett on Facebook 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's not our fight

There is a titanic struggle between Shia and Sunni Muslims for control of religious belief and political power. It's a holy war between sects of the same religion for supremacy. Why on Earth are we in the middle of that? We upset the balance of power in the region with our invasion of Iraq and have been reaping what we sowed ever since.

Saudi oil money finances much of the terrorism against Israel and her allies, including the US, and also their Shia enemies in Iraq and Syria. Iran finances the Shias who oppose them, while also financing terrorist acts against Israel and the US. 
At least 80 per cent of Muslims worldwide are Sunnis. Sunni dominated countries include Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan Egypt, Turkey Pakistan and Syria. Shia Muslims are the majority in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. 
The Saudis are supposed to be our friends but we're bombing their ISIS pals and debating how many ground troops we should send in to oppose them. Meanwhile, our supposed mortal enemy, Iran, is our ally against ISIS. It's lunacy!
The combined military power in the region is enough to crush ISIS quickly but those countries sit on their hands and do nothing. Why? Because it's a proxy war that serves their interests. We are not going to solve anything by bombing or sending more American troops. 
If the US and Israel will only drop the saber rattling and stay out of it, the interested parties can sort out their own issues in due time. It's a tragedy that is both ugly and appalling, but we can't stop it, it's not our fight, and we can't referee it either. 
We have nothing to gain in the Middle East. Europe won't take on ISIS, even though they are being overrun by refugees from war-torn areas. The more we attempt to control events in the Middle East, the more they spiral out of control. We are spending lots of money we don't have, making lots more enemies and wasting precious American lives. And for what? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beck's Beer Settlement

Free Money!

Becks Beer Settlement

Beck's was found to have misrepresented the beer as being "German" when it is actually brewed in St Louis. You can get up to $12 without receipts, $50 with. To get the max, you claim you purchased the equivalent of 12, 12 packs or 24, six packs during the period in question. Make 'em pay! One claim per household. Just fill out the form online and wait for the check:

There's no limit on this so feel free to pass it around!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Freedom FROM Religion

America is a Christian Nation - Said No Founding Father Ever

Christian values are not American values. The belief that America is a 'Christian nation' is a very dangerous one because it's wrong and it justifies intolerance against other religions as well as those who have no religion.

The First Amendment begins, “…no law respecting the establishment of religion" then it says "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The wording was arranged that way for a reason. Clearly, freedom FROM religion comes before freedom of religion.

The Pilgrims came to America to get away from religious intolerance, but as soon as they got here they started doing the same things to others who were not of their faith. At the time the Constitution was written, there were areas in America that were run by different theocracies.  In Massachusetts, the Congregationalist establishment enforced taxation for its benefit on all believers and expelled or even put to death those who would not accede to its beliefs. The founding fathers saw religious intolerance as a mortal threat to the representative democracy they envisioned, so they specifically excluded religion from government. 

America was not founded as a Christian nation

Since the 1950s, and initially in response to the perceived threat from communism, Christians have been on a crusade to rewrite history in order to make America a Christian nation. 

The "american taliban" claim that the U.S. was founded as “One Nation under [their] God” and one nation under their religion. However, the historic truth is that few early Americans were members of a Christian church. In the 1933 Yearbook of American Churches, it says that just 6.9% of U.S. citizens belonged to a church in 1800. By 1850, religious membership had risen to 15.5%. By 1900, Christians had doubled their percentage to 37%. However, not until 1942 did Christian affiliation exceed 50% of the U.S. population.

Christian activists rail against a non-existent "war on Christianity" and push their faithful to attack any appearance of religious neutrality. Over the past sixty years they have been quite successful in forcing their theological beliefs on all Americans. 

In 1954, the U.S. Congress, in direct violation of the First Amendment, began to secure the presence of Christianity’s monotheistic God in government. Pressured by McCarthy-era hysteria and Christian groups such as the Knights of Columbus, the Pledge of Allegiance went from a patriotic oath declaring liberty and justice for all, to a religious invocation through the insertion of the words “under God.” 

This made the Pledge of Allegiance into a Judeo-Christian prayer advocating, as the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruled in 2002, “an impermissible government endorsement of religion [that] sends a message to unbelievers that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.” What was America’s response to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court? Condemn those liberal judges!

Then Christian activists removed the original national motto, E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one,” which was coined by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, from U.S. currency and public places. Then "In God We Trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956 and on paper currency only since 1957.

Recent court decisions have upheld the right of employers to use their religious beliefs to deny birth control to women and domestic partner benefits to gays. Every year we are treated to a chorus of whining from the religious right about a "war on Christmas." State legislators insist on putting the 10 Commandments and other Christian religious symbols on public property, but refuse to allow symbols of other religions. Laws have been passed in many states and localities that mandate that creationism be taught as if it were scientific fact, on par with evolution.

Quotes from our founding fathers:

"Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1808

Common law “is that system of law, which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England . . . about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century. . . We may safely affirm that Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1814

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.
-- James Madison, 1774 

The civil rights of none, shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.
-- James Madison, 1774

The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.
-- 1797 the treaty of Tripoli, signed by President Washington 

When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it's a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1780 

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.
-- Benjamin Franklin

God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there will never be any liberal science in the world.
-- John Adams

This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.
-- John Adams

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.
-- Thomas Paine 

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
-- Thomas Paine

These are not the words of men who thought that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible. On the contrary, the great majority of America's Founding Fathers believed strongly in separation of church and state. This country has survived for over two centuries as a secular state and it is only now when conservatives are attempting to destroy the cornerstone on which American freedom and liberty was built that we find American civil discourse becoming more divided and politically charged than ever before.