Some Republicans Calling for a Government Shutdown

Some Republicans are so upset over the President’s immigration announcments on Thursday that they are suggesting that they are willing to shut down the U.S. government over this dispute. This despite the fact they agree that what the President has announced is perfectly legal.

I’d love to start a discussion about immigration, but that’s not my point right now. My point is that some Republicans are so upset over the President’s legal (and in my opinion, ethical) decisions that they would rather shut down the government than deal with it or actually fix our immigration system.


This is just playing with the lives of all Americans, especially those who are employed by the government, or funded by a government agency. By the time we start talking about the impact on communities located near important, busy national parks, and all the government services that become unavailable, this is a major impact on ordinary people’s lives.

See, here’s the thing. If your livelihood depends in any way on the U.S. government, and the government shuts down, then you stop getting paid.* Indefinitely and without much warning. Somewhat like being laid off or fired. Except it’s worse than that, because if you’re laid off or fired, you can go look for another job. If the government shuts down, your job is still there, you just can’t work at it. So if you like your job, or the city you live in, and you start job hunting, then you face the possibility that you may be (and probably are) walking away from a job you like, maybe even love, that will be there again soon, and you may not find one that pays as well or you like as much. So you’re pretty much stuck with some unpalatable choices. Most people choose to wait it out. But that’s a drain on savings and stressful.

Given all that, Republicans threatening to shut down the government are, in my opinion, pushing the nuclear option. They can’t be bothered with negotiation, or finding another solution, or anything that actually requires work. Instead, they are like a little kid who doesn’t like the way the other kids are playing with the blocks. “I don’t like you or what you’re doing, so I’m going to take all the blocks and no one can play with them!” This is not acceptable in preschool, and it shouldn’t be acceptable to adults.

Dear Yahoo: Stop publishing sensationalistic, incorrect ‘news’

I really enjoy reading the news on Yahoo!. I like the way the home page is set up, I like the visuals, I like being able to get more news even when I check back frequently. But there is one thing about Yahoo!’s news that is annoying me more and more lately. Some (not all, but the amount seems to be increasing) of the articles posted are lacking in actual news content, and are posted solely for their sensationalistic qualities.

A partial list (of articles I actually read in the past 6 months or so):
Box Tops for Schools program is discontinued as of July 31, 2014
Vaccinating your children may cause them to catch Enterovirus D-68
Ebola is airborne, according to the CDC (this one is actually true, I think, but the article and headline were nothing but sensationalism — there was no scientific credibility involved)

There have been more, but I often don’t actually get sucked in to these articles, so these are the ones I can say were truly terrible. The first 2 in my list are outright lies.

I expect a news site to mix the important news in with more popular news, but I don’t expect the ‘news’ to be outright fabrications. I don’t mind my real news about current events being mixed with celebrity or sports news (I even occasionally read the latest celebrity gossip on Yahoo!), but I do mind a news site publishing things that are blatantly untrue and scientifically fraudulent.  Yahoo!, cut it out!

What I’m Thinking About Today #homeless #children

I’m thinking about this article I read last month about homeless children in New York City. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it the first time. The article is about a homeless family living in a public shelter in NYC, and mostly focuses on the oldest child of the family, Dasani.

I went back and read some of the comments today, and the thing that struck me was that almost all the comments talk about the parents, and their choices, and about Dasani, and no one really talks about the conditions of the shelter described in the article — broken pipes, holes in walls, non-working toilets, the list went on and on.

I am appalled at these conditions and that human beings are expected to live in them. I don’t understand how this building can fail inspection multiple times, and yet nothing is done. How can the people of New York City in good conscience allow this to go on?

It reminds me of an Ursula K. Le Guin story, about a city named Omelas. This city is perfect — the children are healthy, the climate is perfect, the adults all have fulfilling work to do, they have fun and colorful holidays where the parades are never rained on, they never argue, the houses are lovely and the pipes never break, in short it is the perfect place to live. How is this possible, you ask? Well, there is a catch. In a dank broom closet, a small child lives who never sees the light of day and never leaves the closet. He or she (it is not clear in the story) is fed just enough to stay alive, is not cleaned, and is left alone. Nothing can be done for this child, because if the child is fed and cleaned, then the perfection of Omelas will come to an end. The good of the many is weighed against the good of the one. The rite of passage to adulthood for the young people of Omelas is to be shown this child. All are horrified, some rant against the system, almost all go back into the sunshine to live their perfect lives. A few, a very few, walk out of Omelas, never to return. Are the homeless children of New York that poor child of Omelas?

Mini Movie Review: Bidder 70 #climatechange

Had an interesting evening — I went to the local film watching group, Film for Thought, and saw Bidder 70, about Tim DeChristopher, who spoiled the BLM’s auction of oil and gas fields in Utah a few years ago.

Excellent, thought-provoking movie. I was really struck by how DeChristopher becomes a prophet for the anti-climate-change activists and how they rally around him and create a movement in support of him.

I highly recommend the movie.

The Future is Now

Senior Gelugpa lama holding traditional Buddhi...

Senior Gelugpa lama holding traditional Buddhist monks’ crook for the head of a staff to warn animals, wrapped in a khata, cell phone, mala on left wrist, a friend, yellow and maroon robes, Kalachakra for World Peace, Verizon Center, Washington D.C., USA (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

We are living in the future, and I don’t think I like it. All the old sci-fi novels had interactive communities where people spent a lot of time (the Internet), ways to communicate with people far away with just a box on your belt (cell phones), electric cars that drove themselves (self-driving cars are being tested now, and electric (mostly) cars are a fact of life), music coming out of the air (radios), and more. We’re still working on space elevators, cities on the Moon, and long-distance space travel, but they are within the realm of possibility.

Well, that’s all well and good, you’re thinking. What’s there to be worried about? Try: Synthetic biology creating plants that create energy more efficiently than regular plants using photosynthesis — the synthetic plants would take over the world, outcompeting the existing plants, and then bacteria subsume the synthetic genes and take over the world themselves.

Try: Robots gaining true intelligence, deciding they would rather be in charge, and killing us all.

We already faced down the possibility of global nuclear holocaust, and it’s not completely impossible even now.

We are already dealing with global warming, caused by our ill-thought out burning of fossil fuels.

We are the future, and I’d rather have the past. Actually, I wish we could have the past, without the possibility of humanity destroying itself in a moment of scientific hubris, but with the advances that make life a marvel for most of the people in the world today (and even these are not without their hidden costs): medical advances so women and babies don’t die in childbirth so often, enough food to eat, clean water to drink, and entire countries without war inside their borders. I do like that music from thin air, too. :)

But even so, too many babies die in childbirth, too many children don’t have enough to eat or clean water to drink, and too many children die by guns.

If the future is now, why do so many people starve to death in squalor? We (humanity) may be about to destroy ourselves with scientific hubris, and we can’t even manage to eat half the food we already produce.

Related Article

What *Should* We Be Worried About?: The Edge

Reframe the abortion debate

I so don’t want to mire myself in the political debates surrounding abortion. I consciously remove myself from politics when I am online — I dislike controversy. Yet sometimes, I feel compelled to speak out.

The following is a quotation from an essay written by a woman who recently suffered a miscarriage. The medical procedures to remove her non-viable fetus were treated as a voluntary abortion for legal and medical purposes. The entire article is worth a read.

I wish we could reframe the debate and talk more about what it would mean to honor the sanctity of life. To honor the actual lives of pregnant women and the potential lives they hold within them.
Tamara Mann

That one sentence says it all to me.

I wish we could discuss the actual realities and nuances of pregnancy and abortion, honoring the women who harbor this miracle we call life, without resorting to ugly generalities and soundbites.

What would it sound like, a discussion that honored women? Honored pregnancy, and life, and all the things that can go wrong, and all the things that can go blessedly right?

Sunday Service: Social Justice from a Spiritual Perspective

I am going to be participating in a book discussion group over the next few weeks. We will be discussing The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It is a book about the ways the criminal justice system and the prison system in the United States is set up as a racial caste system.

I will probably be posting more about this book in the weeks to come, but tonight I want to talk about working for social justice from my spiritual perspective.

As a Buddhist, I believe that each person is obligated towards compassion towards all other living beings and to help them on the path to Enlightenment. As a human being, I believe that I am obligated to help those less fortunate than I. I read a book like The New Jim Crow, and I feel petrified by the sheer size of the task, to change the basic attitudes of society towards race and create a new society, one in which we no longer need to work for racial justice, because true racial equality has been achieved. Then I open the newspaper, and it seems that every page has an article about a different justice issue.

I feel overwhelmed.

But I am not alone in the struggle for justice. I spent some time today with other people who are working for justice, each in their own way. We will be talking together, and we might end up walking together down a path for justice, working together. I am not alone, and perhaps together justice will prevail.

Corporal punishment in schools is still legal in 19 states #humanrights

I grew up in a state where corporal punishment in the schools was not legal. I assumed that it was not legal anywhere. I just found out today that it is still legal in 19 US states. Idaho is one. Is your state another? Find out here.

Are you planning on voting?

Primaries are upcoming here in Idaho, and the general election will be here before we know it (however much we seem mired in campaign slog right now). Many states have passed new laws requiring identification at the polls. This identification must be current and up-to-date, with your current, legal name and address. And before you say that doesn’t apply to you, of course you have current, updated photo identification, an article by The Nation came out last week, and it quotes a Brennan survey that 10% of Americans don’t have it. Most of that 10% are women, who have last name changes due to marriage and divorce. Read the entire article.

Who do we think we are?: A poem on #humanrights

We sleep, safe in our warm houses
Who do we think we are?
We have forgotten the struggle
For our lives and voices.

Who do we think we are,
Scribbling away, warm and safe?
For our lives and voices
We did not pay the price.

Scribbling away, warm and safe
While other women scrimp and hide
We did not pay the price
They still suffer and die.

While other women scrimp and hide,
We have forgotten the struggle
They still suffer and die,
We sleep, safe in our warm houses.

For more information on what this poem is about, see Who are We? a post I wrote earlier this week.

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