Liberal/Conservative; Left/Right (again)

Left and right are about political power – where does civil authority come from? The words derive from the seating arrangement in France just before the revolution. The king sat in the middle, with the nobles and clergy to the right, while the ‘commoners’ were on the left. This is why ‘right’ means top-down authoritarianism, the ‘divine right of kings’, monarchy, theocracy. While ‘left’ means bottom-up democracy, the ‘consent of the governed, republic, separation of church and state.

All tyrants are right-wing tyrants – yes, even Castro and Stalin were right-wing tyrants – because they were authoritarians, and Joe Citizen had zero say, not even a vote. Any leader that is not both elected and term-limited is right-wing by definition. Any such leaders that may start as left-leaning, won’t be that way for long – Robespierre being the quintessential example of that.

The US Founders were clearly leftists – by rebelling against the God-Given-Authority of King George III, they were clearly rejecting the Scriptural Doctrine of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’, and replacing it with the Enlightenment doctrine of ‘consent of the governed’ as the wellspring from which civil authority flows.


Liberal and conservative are economic positions – who owns what, and how much exploitation of others is allowed – where are the regulatory lines to be drawn, and who is empowered to draw them. Conservatives tend to favor control of the economy by a small self-selected class of owners. Liberals tend to favor regulations that protect society in general, and laborers (aka ‘the masses’) in particular, from exploitation by owners – by things like OSHA and EPA and FLSA.

Conservatives tend to want to eliminate any sort of government restriction on the ability of owners to exploit and profit from their assets, and reduce the amounts that the wealthy are required to pay toward publicly-owned infrastructure like roads and schools and military equipment and so forth.

Someone who supports gay-marriage is still a conservative if they want to give taxpayer money to the brutal theocratic dictators in Saudi Arabia with which to purchase weapons of war from American manufacturers (aka ‘foreign aid’).

Someone who supports unrestricted second-trimester abortions is still a conservative if they want to allow bankers to profit from investing other people’s FDIC-insured savings deposits without oversight.

Someone who supports the separation of church and state is still a conservative if they also support using the US Military to further the fiscal interests of US Corporations abroad – such as when US Fruit Company pressured the government to get rid of Arévalo and Árbenz in Guatemala, which the CIA did through Operation PBFortune and Operation PBSuccess.

The culture-war ‘wedge issues’ like gay marriage and abortion are carefully cultivated by the wealthy elite to use to distract and divert the energy of the impoverished masses. They well know that their only hope for survival is to keep the rest of us identifying each-other as ‘the enemy’ instead of correctly identifying the selfish greed of wealthy elite themselves as the root cause of economic inequality.

Adverse effects of cannabis

This is a topic I used to argue about a lot.  Lately there hasn’t been much need, as the forces of cannabis prohibition have been in retreat for some years now.  But someone made some comment about cannabis causing ‘brain damage’, so I pulled up my trusty quote from The Lancet Editorial board: “on the medical evidence available, moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill-effect on health, and that decisions to ban or to legalise cannabis should be based on other considerations.”  (

So then this guy responded and here is my response to his response:

“^I know the opinion paper “Dangerous Habits” by the editorial board. It was debunked a few issues later.^
Got a link? Can you specify exactly which assertions in that editorial were ‘debunked’? That editorial was a summary of what had been reported in that same issue – a report written by this same Professor Wayne Hall of your Wiley link. Hall has been around for quite some time! Here’s Hall’s report from back then:… Hall published that more-current review in The Lancet too – but it’s also still pay-walled.…

Since you have access to both, what are the differences between Hall’s two reports over fifteen years of additional research?

Here’s how our society currently addresses the dangerous and addictive intoxicant ethanol:
* We punish those whose irresponsible use harms or endangers others
* We assist those who seek help moderating or abstaining from problematic use
* We protect consumers and neighborhoods with manufacturing, labeling, quality-control, and point-of-sale regulations (e.g. no selling to minors, truth in weights/measures/concentration labels, no unapproved adulterants/cuts/flavors/preservatives etc) .

I have yet to have anyone explain to me why this paradigm would not be at least as effective with respect to the less-intoxicating, less-judgement-impairing, less harmful, and less addictive intoxicant cannabis. Nor has anyone been able to successfully argue that the historical origin of anti-drug legislation in this country has ever had the least bit to do with the Public Health, and in fact was all intended to target selected ethno/cultural groups for harassment. The ‘chink’ with his opium. The ‘cocainized Negro’. The Chicano with his ‘Mariujana’. Have you read about how Anslinger intentionally hounded and killed Billie Holiday to retaliate against ‘Strange Fruit’? Or about how Ehrlichman admitted that Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ was all about targeting civil rights and anti-war activists?

And from a strictly public health perspective, you must agree that ethanol is FAR MORE harmful than raw cannabis could ever hope to be – that ethanol is more toxic, has more severe health consequences associated with chronic use, and causes far more social ills and is responsible for far more crime and violence than cannabis. I live in a college town – we have about one /death/ from alcohol poisoning every two years – and that’s just the ones that make it to the media. Compare that to ZERO overdose deaths from cannabis smoking – ever. There is a reason why everyone knows what a ‘bar fight’ is, but nobody’s ever heard of a ‘bong fight’. To the extent that recreational cannabis use could replace recreational ethanol use, society, including the public health, would be far better off.

For sure, excessive amounts of any indulgence are ill-advised. That’s practically a tautology! Sure, some people shouldn’t be using cannabis at all, just like some people shouldn’t be using ethanol at all, and for similar classes of reasons. There’s a wide variance in reaction to, and subjective experience of, cannabis exposure, and we’re only just learning about how the ratios between the several hundred different cannabinoids in raw cannabis contributes to that variance.

The sudden massive proliferation of ‘cbd’ (cannabidiol) as a carrier of ‘herbal woo’ is far more disturbing to me than society making the political decision to not to throw some peaceful tax-paying dude into jail for planting a politically incorrect seed in his own garden on his own property for his own consumption.


(I personally think it’s disgusting that the results of research being performed either either public tax-dollars directly or utilizing tax–exempt university laboratories should be denied to the tax-paying-public without horribly inflated payments to publishers like Wiley. But that’s a whole ‘nuther subject!)

More on our right to be free from Government Religion

[This was primarily written with respect to the Judge who gave a Bible to the cop who killed the dude who was sitting in his living room watching TV because, she says, she thought she was in her own apartment, and the dude was an intruder.]

“No, a public official cannot ‘share their faith’ while on the job. Do you really want the clerk at the DMV wasting your time trying to convert you to Scientology when you’re just trying to renew your license? Do you want public schoolteachers indoctrinating your children with beliefs that contradict your family’s beliefs? Do you want the deputy who pulled you over for speeding to determine whether to give you a ticket or a warning on the basis of your reaction to a religious sermon he pontificates at roadside? Of course not.

While in the course of carrying out their official duties, public officials ARE the government. (This is why prosecutors are immune from the bribery statutes when they offer something of value (a reduced sentence) in exchange for sworn testimony at trial.)

Thus, during the course of carrying out their official duties, public officials are forbidden from doing anything that government is forbidden from doing. Since the Establishment Clause forbids the government from promoting religion, it also forbids government officials from promoting religion while they’re ‘on the clock’. The only acceptable stance of government toward religion, the only stance which respects everyone’s religious liberty, is a stance of strict neutrality. Government can neither promote nor prohibit religion. Government can neither endorse nor enjoin any particular religious practice qua religious practice, nor promulgate nor persecute any religious tenet or belief as either ‘officially correct’ or ‘officially blasphemous’. Any of those things would violate our right to Religious Liberty – a right which includes freedom from ‘Government Religion’ in any way, shape, or form. Since government cannot do those things, then government officials cannot do those things during the course of carrying out the official duties of their office. (yes, yes, I know – the government has been violating our rights in this respect from the time of very first Congress. But ‘tradition’ does not trump our rights. Slavery was ‘traditional’ too.)

As the Justice Black of the Supreme Court wrote: “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa.” (330 US 1)

Further, as James Madison wrote:
“The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers. or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.” (Detached Memoranda – circa 1817)”

Back to ‘religious liberty’ as an excuse for discrimination

We’re still hearing about folks trying to use their ‘religious liberty’ as an excuse to engage in commercial discrimination against LGBTQ people.  This is my current response:

“There is no ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate in public accommodations.

The bigots tried that excuse already when they didn’t want to treat black people as human beings. It was not successful. Neither should attempts to refuse to serve gay people on the basis of ‘religious liberty’.

As the district court ruled in Newman v Piggy Park: “Undoubtedly defendant Bessinger has a constitutional right to espouse the religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens. This court refuses to lend credence or support to his position that he has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of the Negro race in his business establishments upon the ground that to do so would violate his sacred religious beliefs.” (

Everyone has an equal right to participate in the economy, which is why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was created in the first place.

Refusing to serve Jews or Irishmen is no different from refusing to serve gay people. Refusing to serve Blacks or Asians is no different from refusing to serve gay people. Refusing to serve Christians is no different from refusing to serve Muslims, which is also no different from refusing to serve gay people. (add ‘or hire, or rent apartments to’ to each instance of the word ‘serve’ above)

There is no ‘right’ to a religious exception to generally applicable laws in the first place. As the Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v US:

Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship; would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband; would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?

So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief?

To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.” (emphasis added)

Religious liberty only means that we are free to believe what we wish, and to practice our faith INSOFAR AS such practice does not infringe on anyone else’s rights.

Religious liberty also necessarily includes freedom from Government Religion – which is why the ‘In God We Trust’ motto is as exactly inappropriate and unconstitutional as the motto ‘there are no gods we’re on our own’ would be, and for exactly the same reasons.

And is also why, as James Madison pointed out, paying clergy from the treasury to perform religious rituals (e.g. the House and Senate Chaplains) is a ‘palpable violation’ of Constitutional principles.


The Ukraine thing…

A little less philosophical/ephemeral than my typical discussions!

>Presidents always, and I mean always, “bribe” foreign nations. “We will give you X if you do Y. If you do Z, we take away Q.”<

While true, that’s not relevant to the current brew-ha-ha.

The POTUS telling some other country that if they get in bed with Iran, we won’t give them more military aid is one thing.  When Trump told Turkey that if they bought missiles from Russia, they wouldn’t be allowed to buy our F-35 fighters, that was no big deal – not a problem.  That’s normal, that’s natural, that’s the way the game is played.

Telling some other country that if they don’t cough up POLITICAL DIRT qua political dirt then we won’t subsidize their loan is another thing altogether.

For you to attempt to conflate these two entirely different things is either shockingly ignorant, or intentionally deceptive.

>So when Warren is elected, and she starts asking other countries to investigate Trump properties, this is also wrong.<

When?  Is?  Do you have trouble with the English language?  Trouble with tenses?

IF Warren is elected, and IF she starts browbeating other countries to come up with political dirt on the Trump Organization with no valid law-enforcement justification, then that action  WOULD BE wrong just as Trump’s browbeating of the Ukraine WAS wrong.

But that’s entirely hypothetical, and utterly irrelevant.

We don’t NEED other countries, we have PLENTY of evidence that Trump has been violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution from minute one, without ever leaving the borders of the United States.  The fact that Saudi Arabia owns the 45th floor of Trump Tower is sufficient.  The fact that the Secret Service pays taxpayer money to the Trump Organization to stay at Trump’s hotels is all the evidence we need of the corruption and perfidy of Donald Trump.  Nobody is supposed to PROFIT from being the president – but Trump has done just that.  And doesn’t even see the problem.


Refraining from the promotion of Pepsi is not a promotion of Coke

In response to:

^How is it possible to keep govt and atheism separate?^

By having government remain strictly NEUTRAL with respect to ALL theological worldviews and perspectives, promoting NONE, prohibiting NONE, endorsing NONE, and enjoining NONE.

Refraining from the promotion of theism is not a promotion of atheism, any more than refraining from the promotion of Pepsi is a promotion of Coke. Refraining from the promotion of RedBull is not equivalent to promoting Monster. See how that works?

Do you want the government to refrain from promoting the worship of Odin as the All-Father? Of course you do. Do you want the government to refrain from promoting Mohammed as the greatest Prophet of God? I’d bet you do. Is the government refraining from promoting those theological concepts as the ‘officially correct’ ones the same as the government promoting atheism? Of course not. See how that works?

People who actually understand these things, understand that ‘There are no gods we’re on our own’ would be exactly as inappropriate as the Official Motto of the US as ‘In God We Trust’ is, and for exactly the same reasons.

Lies, damned lies, and mistakes

Got some kudos for this one, so I must be doing something right.  Or maybe just riling up partisans.

This was in response to a MAGA type crowing about how Biden’s getting some details wrong on some ‘war stories’ are clear signs of dementia and how Biden should therefor step down.

I have no love for Biden, but his minor gaffs just point out how commonly Trump lies, and people like you are either too clueless or too blinded to care:

Trump lied about the election – no, there is no evidence of ‘millions’ of votes cast by undocumented immigrants.

Trump lied about the crowd-size at his inaugural – no, it was not larger than that of Obama’s.

Trump lied about mocking that disabled reporter – he did.  We all saw it.  It’s on video.

Trump lied about Veterans Choice – no, he didn’t get that through, Obama did, in 2014

Trump lied about windmills – no they do not cause cancer, no, they do not render adjacent properly worthless.  (he just hates windmills because he lost a battle over windmills near one of his golf-courses in Scotland)

See and (if you’re going to claim ‘fake news’ you’d better provide ACTUAL EVIDENCE that the claimed lie is not in fact a lie.  Something which I’m guessing you won’t do, because you know you can’t.

And while we’re at it – Mike Pence lies too:

“Vice President Mike Pence, however, has a very different version of this story. He’s spreading the lie that President Barack Obama ordered the Bible out of those displays at VA hospitals.”


Of course, it’s pretty damn low for conservatives to claim that a ‘gaffe’ is a ‘lie’.

Especially when your guy is chock full of real lies, real, intentional lies that cannot be explained as ‘gaffs’ or ‘mistakes’.

And now you’ll bring up Obama’s mistake about “57 States”, which will merely serve to prove my point.