Having a Wonderful Adventure from Somewhere on the Road

September 7, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good morning:

Crane-Station and I were hacked rendering our computers inoperable. Our place was burglarized, our property vandalized and stolen. Our bank account was breached and money stolen.

Our lives were threatened.

We left Kentucky in a hurry to avoid a worse fate.

This problem began when someone burglarized our home and obtained the access code to our AT&T router, which wasn’t difficult to do since it was printed on the side.

Our apartment was trashed.

Then both of our computers were hacked. Our administrator privileges were usurped, our passwords were altered, and we could no longer log-in to our computers.

I was able to reset and restore my computer to the state it was in when I purchased it, but Crane ended up in the same place unable to log-in after she reset hers.

My computer now appears to be operating normally with assistance from HP Tech Support.

Looks like we offended some people.


Too bad so sad that the sky is falling for Christian hypocrites

June 30, 2015

Rod Dreher, a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative penned a piece in TIME titled, Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country. He’s upset by the SCOTUS decision in Obergefell. He said,

It is hard to overstate the significance of the Obergefell decision — and the seriousness of the challenges it presents to orthodox Christians and other social conservatives. Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now.

Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of conservatives a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.

He recommends,

It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”

Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.

I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.

I thought this was a piece by the Onion when I read it, but it isn’t.

The people he calls Orthodox Christians, I call Christian hypocrites.

Jesus preached equality. He ministered to the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized. He welcomed everyone, but warned that a rich man had about as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel getting through the eye of a needle. He would have had no patience for the Christian hypocrites.

I don’t either.


SCOTUS rules against Oklahoma inmates challenging executions with midazolam

June 29, 2015

The SCOTUS held today by a vote of 5-4 in Glossip v. Gross, that three Oklahoma inmates awaiting execution failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam as the first drug administered in a three-drug execution cocktail violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishmen because it “fails to render a person insensate to pain.”

Midazolam is a Schedule IV controlled substance, a benzodiazepine in the same class as diazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam and clonazepam. It has been approved for use in treating epileptic seizures, anxiety disorders and agitation. It is normally administered to patients to relax them before undergoing surgery or a medical procedure. It has never been approved by the manufacturer and the FDA for use in rendering people unconscious before administering a paralytic agent to inhibit all muscular-skeletal movements and potassium chloride to induce cardiac arrest.

Oklahoma and other states started using midazolam after the manufacturer of sodium thiopental, the barbiturate used to induce a state of unconsciousness before administering the other two drugs, objected to it being used to execute people and refused to sell it to any vendor who would sell or transfer it to states to use in executions.

The inmates based their argument on several botched executions where inmates appeared to be experiencing considerable distress before dying. They contended that midazolam failed to render those inmates unconscious while inducing a feeling described by one victim as burning up inside.

After a three-day evidentiary hearing, a United States District Court judge held that the inmates failed to identify an available alternative method that presented a substantially less severe risk of pain. The judge also held that the inmates failed to establish a likelihood that the use of midazolam created a risk of severe pain. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the decision.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito affirmed the district court decision holding that the inmates failed to establish a likelihood of success on their Eighth Amendment claim.

Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan. Condemning the execution with midazolam as the equivalent of burning someone to death on a stake, she said,

The Court’s determination that the use of midazolam poses no objectively intolerable risk of severe pain is fac­tually wrong. The Court’s conclusion that petitioners’ challenge also fails because they identified no available alternative means by which the State may kill them is legally indefensible.

/snip/

“By protecting even those convicted of heinous crimes,the Eighth Amendment reaffirms the duty of the govern­ment to respect the dignity of all persons.” Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551, 560 (2005). Today, however, the Court absolves the State of Oklahoma of this duty. It does so by misconstruing and ignoring the record evidence regarding the constitutional insufficiency of midazolam as a sedative in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail, and by imposing a wholly unprecedented obligation on the con­demned inmate to identify an available means for his orher own execution. The contortions necessary to save this particular lethal injection protocol are not worth the price.

I dissent.

Justice Breyer also wrote his own dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg. He wrote,

I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution….Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.

Breyer and Ginsburg with Sotomayor and Kagan close behind appear ready to stop tinkering with the machinery of death and decide that the death penalty violates the Eighth amendment, regardless of the underlying facts.

Read the slip opinion here: PDF


Bernie Sanders will benefit from Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change

June 28, 2015

The Republican Party and its clown car candidates are over the hill and irrelevant to most voters. With the exception of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party and its candidates are not much better. Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudate Si, has made it so. He reminds us that we are a part of the earth’s biosphere and our survival is inextricably intertwined with its survival. He teaches us that we are its caretaker. We have a moral and ethical duty to respect and preserve it for its own sake because it is inherently worthy and deserves our love, attention and care. As it goes, so too do we.

Climate change and global warming are a reality caused by human activity. No amount of denial and wishing it were not so will change that reality. Pope Francis calls on us to accept it and stop exploiting the earth, its biosystems, the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized for financial gain. Heather Taylor-Miesle, Director of the NRDC Action Fund writes,

Pope Francis stands above this scrum of climate denial and obstruction. He embodies a spirit of hope, humility and service that many are hungry for. A full 70 percent of all Americans — including 68 percent of the nonreligious — view the pope favorably, and 90 percent of American Catholics do, according to the Pew Research Center.

A person who is this admired, who is calling on our better angels and emphasizing our duty to protect creation and the poor who will be most adversely affected by climate change impacts, has the power to shake things up . . .

She reminds us that “Mitt Romney lost young voters by 26 percentage points in the last race, and in the 2014 midterms, voters under 30 favored Democrats by a 13-point margin. Young Catholics who have rallied around conservative social issues may now be throwing their energy behind climate justice and carbon limits. GOP candidates who refute the very existence of global warming will look like dinosaurs to them.”

Pope Francis is coming to visit us this fall and will be addressing both houses of Congress.

Dare we hope Bernie Sanders emerges as the people’s choice?

The stars appear to be aligning.

Let’s do everything we can to make it so.

No one ever knows what they can accomplish until they try.


President Obama eulogized Reverend Clementa Pinckney today

June 26, 2015

President Obama eulogized Reverend Clementa Carlos Pinckney, 41. He was an extraordinary human being, loved, respected and admired by everyone who knew him. Dylann Storm Roof ended his life prematurely nine days ago with a bullet to the head as Reverend Pinckney presided over a Bible study and prayer meeting at his church, the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof also shot to death eight others who attended the meeting. Roof later told police that he did it because he wanted to start a race war. That gives him something in common with Charles Manson.

From Wikipedia,

Pinckney was first elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 1996 at the age of 23, becoming the youngest African American elected as a South Carolina state legislator. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives until being elected to the South Carolina Senate in 2000.

As a state senator, Pinckney pushed for laws to require police and other law enforcement officials to wear body cameras after Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot eight times in the back by a police officer in North Charleston.

President Obama delivered a eulogy at his funeral this afternoon. He said, “Clem came from a family of preachers . . . He was in the pulpit by 13, a pastor by 18, and a representative in the state legislature by 23. What a life he lived. What an example he set. What a good man he was.”

“God works in mysterious ways,” he said about the accused killer. “He didn’t realize . . . the grace it would bring.”

The president also spoke about the confederate flag and what it represents; namely, the cause for which so many confederate soldiers died. Slavery.

“Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.”

He ended by leading 5,000 voices singing Amazing Grace and reminding everyone that the nine shooting victims found that grace, naming each one. Then he challenged each of us to find that Grace and become whole.


SCOTUS rules that the right to same-sex marriage is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment

June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held today by a vote of 5-4 that same sex couples have the same right to get married as opposite sex couples. Their right to do so is protected by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion joined by Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan. Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissented.

On this same date in 2003, the SCOTUS struck down a Texas law criminalizing sex between two people belonging to the same sex and also on this same date in 2013, the SCOTUS dismissed an appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds clearing the way for same-sex marriages in California to resume.

The decision can be read here: PDF.

Hallelujah!


SCOTUS rejects statutory challenge to Affordable Care Act

June 25, 2015

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today rejected by a vote of 6-3 a statutory challenge to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Chief Justice Roberts, who previously cast the deciding vote upholding the constitutionality of the ACA, wrote today’s opinion rejecting the statutory challenge. He was joined by Kennedy, Kagan, Breyer, Sotomayor and Ginsberg. Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissented.

The statutory challenge was based on the following four words buried on page 95 of a 960 page statute that authorized federal subsidies to pay for insurance plans: “established by state exchanges.” 34 states opted out of establishing state exchanges. In King v. Burwell, opponents to Obamacare argued that federal subsidies were not available to defray the cost of insurance in those 34 states, given those four unambiguous words.

Chief Justice Roberts reasoned that a literal interpretation of those four words would emasculate the ACA because it would result in 6.8 million people losing their health insurance because they could not afford it without the subsidies. Since the purpose of the ACA was to provide insurance, rather than to deny it, he decided the four words were ambiguous and upheld the statute.

Justice Roberts’s decision makes perfect sense.

Purists might disagree, but the remedy for a contrary decision favored by the minority, would have required Congress to amend the statute so that the 6.8 million people who lost their insurance would be able to get it back. That was not going to happen with Republicans holding majorities in both houses of Congress

The SCOTUS also upheld the Fair Housing Act prohibiting “disguised animus” resulting in disparate impact discrimination practices, regardless whether they were intended.

Good and somewhat unexpected results today.


Tsarnaev admits guilt, apologizes and is sentenced to death UPDATED BELOW

June 24, 2015

Judge George O’Toole sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death today for his role in the Boston Marathon Bombing case. The sentence was not in doubt because he was obligated to formally sentence him to death, given the jury’s death verdict.

Victims who survived and family members of victims who died came to court today to speak at sentencing. Here is a sample of what they said,

Johanna Hantel:

“If have to crawl I am going to run every year. I will not let this sickening act take that away from me.”

Unknown Person:

“I came to the first two days of the trial…the defendant, he sat there blank. I realized, I’m alive, and he’s already dead.”

Krystle Campbell’s mother:

“The choices you made were despicable.”

Officer Sean Collier’s sister:

“I do not know the defendant, nor do I care to know him. He is a coward and a liar. He ran his own brother over with a car. He had no issues shooting mine in the head . . . he spit in the face of the American dream.”

Bill and Denise Richard:

“He chose hate. He chose destruction. He chose death . . . We choose love. We choose kindness. We choose peace. This is what makes us different than him. On the day he meets his maker, may he understand what he has done and may justice and peace be found.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spoke for the first time during the trial.*

“Thank you, your honor….I would like to begin in the name of Allah . . . This is the blessed month of Ramadan, the month of mercy . . . the month to ask forgiveness. I ask forgiveness of Allah & to his creation . . . In trial more of victims given names and faces. All those on witness stand, I was listening. I was listening, I heard strength, patience, dignity. Id like to thank the jury. I would like to apologize to the victims and the survivors. I am sorry for the lives I have taken and the suffering I caused and the damage I’ve done. I have done irreparable damage. I ask Allah for mercy for me and for my brother . . . I pray to Allah to bestow his mercy on you . . . I pray for your relief, for your healing. For your well-being, for your health. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the world. Thank you.”

*I composed his statement from reviewing hundreds of tweets from the courtroom as they were posted on twitter.

UPDATE: We now have a court transcript of his statement from the Boston Globe:

Thank you, your Honor, for giving me an opportunity to speak. I would like to begin in the name of Allah, the exalted and glorious, the most gracious, the most merciful, “Allah” among the most beautiful names. Any act that does not begin in the name of God is separate from goodness.

This is the blessed month of Ramadan, and it is the month of mercy from Allah to his creation, a month to ask forgiveness of Allah and of his creation, a month to express gratitude to Allah and to his creation. It’s the month of reconciliation, a month of patience, a month during which hearts change. Indeed, a month of many blessings.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said if you have not thanked the people, you have not thanked God. So I would like to first thank my attorneys, those who sit at this table, the table behind me, and many more behind the scenes. They have done much good for me, for my family. They made my life the last two years very easy. I cherish their company. They’re lovely companions. I thank you.

I would like to thank those who took time out of their daily lives to come and testify on my behalf despite the pressure. I’d like to thank the jury for their service, and the Court. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that if you do not — if you are not merciful to Allah’s creation, Allah will not be merciful to you, so I’d like to now apologize to the victims, to the survivors.

Immediately after the bombing, which I am guilty of — if there’s any lingering doubt about that, let there be no more. I did do it along with my brother — I learned of some of the victims. I learned their names, their faces, their age. And throughout this trial more of those victims were given names, more of those victims had faces, and they had burdened souls.

Now, all those who got up on that witness stand and that podium related to us — to me — I was listening — the suffering that was and the hardship that still is, with strength and with patience and with dignity. Now, Allah says in the Qur’an that no soul is burdened with more than it can bear, and you told us just how unbearable it was, how horrendous it was, this thing I put you through. And I know that you kept that much. I know that there isn’t enough time in the day for you to have related to us everything. I also wish that far more people had a chance to get up there, but I took them from you.

Now, I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done. Irreparable damage.

Now, I am a Muslim. My religion is Islam. The God I worship, besides whom there is no other God, is Allah. And I prayed for Allah to bestow his mercy upon the deceased, those affected in the bombing and their families. Allah says in the Qur’an that with every hardship there is relief. I pray for your relief, for your healing, for your well-being, for your strength.

I ask Allah to have mercy upon me and my brother and my family. I ask Allah to bestow his mercy upon those present here today. And Allah knows best those deserving of his mercy. And I ask Allah to have mercy upon the ummah of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Amin. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

Thank you.


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