Pick Wayne's Brain

May 29, 2014

How Fine Is The Line Between OK To Kill And Not OK To Kill?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 10:14 PM

When the Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) that it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute the insane, it was because it was felt a person who does not understand right from wrong, and would not understand their punishment or the purpose of it, should be exempt from execution. In the case of Atkins v. Virginia (2001) the SCOTUS ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person. From the link, “Moreover, the Court concluded that there was serious concern whether either justification underpinning the death penalty – retribution and deterrence of capital crimes – applies to mentally retarded offenders, due to their lessened culpability.”

I am an avowed (more…)

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May 24, 2014

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself Does Not Mean Love Your Neighbor Like Yourself

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 8:23 AM

As a Liberal Atheist (no, that’s not redundant) who believes in treating others as I would like them to treat me (also known as the ethic of reciprocity; it’s a good philosophy, one that came from Plato, not Jesus), it surprises me when elected public officials who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ’s philosophies fail to interpret them correctly. One of the laws Jesus followed was Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Yet the Chesterfield County, VA, Board of Supervisors seems to believe the word “as” is the same as the word “like”.

Not content to be allowed to open their public meetings with a prayer (because nobody really means it, according to the Conservatives on the Supreme Court), the board “limited opening prayers to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions.” The county maintains an official list of local clergy from which the invitee to give the prayer is chosen, but not all religions are welcome. A local Wiccan was denied a spot on the list because it was felt that “neo-pagan” faiths do not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and that they invoke “polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” And the official county list (isn’t it a little creepy to hear of a local government keeping an “official list” of local clergy?) excludes a local Sikh organization, even though they practice “strict mono-theism.” Then there’s the problem that the list only includes ordained clergy. As the ACLU of VA and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say in their letter to the board, “The requirement that prayer-givers be ‘ordained’ is similarly problematic, as some religions do not require their clergy to be ordained, and others do not have clergy at all.” Out of curiosity, I wonder if any Muslims will be invited to say a prayer? After all, they worship the same God as the Christians and Jews. Actually, I would be surprised if there were anyone the list, because it would mean there are practicing Muslims in Conservative Virginia.

Why do Conservative Christians continue to blatantly act as though Freedom of Religion only applies to some denomination of Christianity? Why, when given an opportunity to impose their fantastic beliefs on others do they deny others the opportunity to impose their own fantastic beliefs right back to them? Why do they act as if Christianity is “under attack”? Why do they think Christians are being persecuted? Are they trying to assert that Christians aren’t being allowed into public office? Do they think that no Christian can ever get elected President of the United States, except for every single President we’ve elected, and even the one we didn’t? (No, I’m referring to Gerald R. Ford, not George W. Bush. Bush was declared the winner of an actual election thanks to voter fraud by the SCOTUS, who weren’t required to show a photo ID at the time.)

Look, I’m all for protecting your right to practice the Religion of your choice, even if that means believing in magical sky beings who don’t seem to care about human suffering. But it doesn’t mean that I have to practice it along with you. And it doesn’t mean you have a right to shove it down my throat, to borrow a common Conservative term applied to things that frighten them, or sexually arouses them, I’m not sure which. Probably both. It means you get to practice your Religion in the privacy of your own life. If you and others who believe as you do wish to gather in a privately-owned facility (such as a church, a temple, or a bar) to practice your Religion, go for it. But don’t believe for a second that the Public Square is the proper venue for Christian Evangelism (or any other kind, though few practitioners of other kinds, if any, seem to be doing it.) It’s funny to me how the Supremes said religious phrases are okay to be used by elected public servants because, in essence, nobody really means it, so nobody is trying to force their religious beliefs on you. But that’s not the point. Part of being a human is sharing experiences, and when non-Christians are being asked to publicly assert their devotion to Christ, our natural human desire to belong is challenged. Would you want to be a Christian standing in a street of Muslims all bowing down and facing Mecca to pray? Would that make you comfortable? Wouldn’t you think that, at the very least, you ought to get down on the ground, too, even if you’re just faking saying something? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be made to feel that way by others, so why do you insist on being the one doing it to others?

May 17, 2014

Fraud The Vote Story

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 9:04 AM

In our last episode, we talked about a group calling itself “True The Vote.” Their motto is “equipping citizens to take a stand for free and fair elections.” They also consider themselves “the nation’s leading voters’ rights and election integrity organization.” They are big on election monitoring, and they have this belief that there is a significant problem with voter fraud in this country. “We are helping stop corruption where it can start – at the polls.” Actually that’s where it ends. It usually begins much sooner than someone walking into the polling booth, and is often done to avoid having to do just that. So, believing that requiring every voter to have a photo ID would solve the problem, they support Voter ID laws. So I do not support them. Might as well get that cleared up from the start. I’m not a journalist, I’m just a blogger with a liberal stand.

Before continuing, let’s do something True The Vote doesn’t do, and that’s point out that (more…)

May 14, 2014

I Married a Bloke

This is a song parody I wrote in support of marriage equality. It is intended to be a male singing it. I hope you enjoy it. Complaints can be directed to:

Brian Williams
c/o NBC Nightly News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York City, NY 10112

I Married a Bloke
Original words and music “I Started a Joke” by Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb, and Maurice Gibb, 1968
Additional lyrics Wayne A. Schneider, 2014, All rights reserved

I married a bloke
Which started the Christians screaming
But they didn’t see (more…)

May 10, 2014

The Myth of the Voter Fraud Problem

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 1:41 PM

In recent years, Republican-controlled states across the nation have enacted stricter voting laws, sometimes requiring people to possess a document they can only get at great personal expense, if they can get it at all. The justification they use is to say the new laws are necessary to combat Voter Fraud. There is something very important you need to understand about this: They’re lying. There is no “massive” voter fraud problem in this country. Period. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen from time to time, but it does not happen on a scale anywhere close to “massive.” But try telling that to James Simpson of the misnamed group Accuracy in Media. Like many on the right who decry the non-existent massive voter fraud problem, Mr. Simpson appears not to even understand what voter fraud is. Calling it an “existential threat to America” (more on that later), he cites as a blatant example of “official voter fraud” a story of how the Illinois House Legislature improperly voted approval of something they weren’t supposed to approve or even vote on. Whether or not the story itself is true is irrelevant. It was not an example at all of the kind (more…)

May 3, 2014

Tea Party Nation of Ignorance

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 3:10 AM

One day a retired US Army Colonel and World War II Veteran named Harry Riley who, to the best of my knowledge, served our nation honorably, snapped. He somehow got the idea that the United States is a tyranny, and so he has begun Operation American Spring. Their mission:

Restoration of Constitutional government, rule of law, freedom, liberty “of the people, for the people, by the people” from despotic and tyrannical federal leadership.

That was my first hint that there might be something wrong with Harry. You see, in order to have a tyranny, you have to have a tyrant. And not only is a tyrant not a whole “federal leadership,” but if President Obama really was a tyrant, all these people crying about him being a tyrant would have been silenced a long, long time ago. That’s what tyrants do. That’s not what Obama has been doing. This distorted idea that we are living in a tyranny is utterly and completely ridiculous. People need to learn that words have meanings, and they should learn what those meanings are. We are not living in a dictatorship. Nor are we living under a Fascist/Socialist government, as if living in a government of complete opposites was even possible.

As further evidence of Harry’s detachment from reality, he lists certain assumptions upon which his little rally is predicated:

Millions of Americans will participate.
American veterans and patriots are energized to end the tyranny, lawlessness, and shredding of the US Constitution.
Government is not the target, it is sound; corrupt and criminal leadership must be replaced.
Those in power will not hesitate to use force against unarmed, peaceful patriots exercising their constitutional rights.
Patriots may be killed, wounded, incarcerated.
There is no hope given today’s technology of secrecy for the effort nor do we want it secret.

Ironically, many of the things for which Obama is accused of being a tyrant were started under the previous Republican administration. At least, that’s the impression I get. Look, I’m not totally happy about some of the things Obama has done, especially those in the name of “national security.” But as far as I know, the things most of us complain about were started before he took office, and our displeasure is over the fact that these programs have been continued or even expanded. But I can’t think of anything resembling tyranny that Obama started fresh. And if Harry’s delusions were confined to Harry, our nation wouldn’t be in as much trouble as it is. The cynical say that Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the rest. And the Tea Party is a good example of why this is so.

The Tea Party Nation, headed up by Judson Phillips, is promoting Harry’s War. He’s e-mailing a column from his group’s website written by Alan Caruba, a column containing many hilariously wrong ideas about American History.

His column begins with an ad hominem attack on people who use logic in their thinking (more…)

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