Friday, April 13, 2012

The May-Apple

This is a group of May-apples, also known as the American mandrake.

You can see one tiny flower over to the right. It's quite a beautiful flower, really, though each plant produces only one.

The leaf is one broad radial shape. Most are nine-pointed, though there is some variance.

The plant produces a lemon-flavored fruit about mid-summer.

We'll check in on the May-apples from time to time to see how they're doing.

More on the May-apple to be found here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

From a Skeptic’s View: The Media and the Right

This item is cross-posted at Publius’ Forum.

I’m something of a skeptic, and especially so where politics is concerned. I’m aware that both the Left and the Right misrepresent themselves to some degree, and political advertisements are exactly that— advertisements with political content— and their objective is the same as any other advertisement— they’re trying to get something out of you.

So, I really didn’t take it seriously when I heard complaints about how the mainstream media (MSM) is biased against Republicans.

I’m no partisan, and I’ve always been a split-ticket voter. I consider the person to be of greater importance than their party affiliation. Locally, the big election is for County Coroner, and I don’t see it as particularly important if a Democrat or a Republican does that job.

Historically, I was a lifelong Democrat, up until about 2007 or so. A lot of that had to do with my concern with local politics rather than at the national level; and frankly, I didn’t pay attention all that much. I was a fairly typical blue dog Democrat, and I fit the profile.

My first big break with the Democratic Party was when I was in a forum with a group of “progressives,” and they were advocating an end to equitable representation of racial minorities. This might sound odd to some of you, but they wanted to push their agenda on abortion, and racial minorities tend to be a bit more socially conservative. I found that to be nothing short of monstrous. But the experience clued me in that the Left means what they say only long enough to argue for a specific policy position, after which no one knows what position they may take. And my skepticism was on red alert.

Later, I came to the understanding that the Left’s use of the word “Tolerance” entailed believing whole-heartedly and without question each and every policy position as they themselves did. The moment I exercised any manner of independent thought on any subject, I could no longer be “tolerant.”

As noted previously, I’m a fairly typical blue dog. I’m a blue collar worker, and a journeyman in a trade union. I supported Gov. John Kasich’s (Ohio) position against public employee unions more than that of Gov. Scott Walker (Wisconsin), because Kasich included police officers and firefighters as well as public employees and teachers. Anyone with a passing knowledge of labor history will understand this as the old split in the AFL and the CIO from 1935 - 1955. Unions have been a part of America since 1609, but they really picked up steam during the years of the industrial revolution; and not only the counter the excesses of the robber barons, but those of the government as well. I see it as extremely distasteful that public employees (including teachers, police, firefighters, and postal employees), the ground troops of Team Gov, should be unionized. It’s nothing short of subversive to both our government and our unions.

I don’t care for FOX news. I find Hannity to be nothing other than a party tool, and a grasping one at that; contrived. I find Glenn Beck to be nothing other than a clown. But I like Bill O’Reilly. I had a very good friend that encouraged me to watch his show, because she said that we were a lot alike. I didn’t believe it, because I had already bought into the hype about him. But I watched his show, and I do like him. I don’t watch anymore, because I don’t own a TV. But O’Reilly and I tend to view things in much the same way. A notable instance is the recent Rush/Fluke hubbub, where I referred to Fluke as a “stooge.” In talking with my friend, I found that O’Reilly had much the same thoughts, but referred to Fluke as a “pawn.” So, even without watching his show, I still come to pretty much the same conclusions independently.

I feel fairly confident in stating that I don’t believe that Mr. O’Reilly would consider me to be “intolerant” due to the fact that I considered the facts independently and came to my own conclusions.

As I said, I never did believe this whole thing about Left-wing bias in the mainstream media. I get a lot of my news from NPR and the BBC, and from the internet (Yahoo news) and various newspapers. As stated by commenter kenB at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen:
FWIW, speaking as an avid NPR listener, I can hear the liberalness in almost every program, including ATC and Morning Edition. I trust NPR to be careful with the facts, but the reporters’ background assumptions leak into the interviews, the way that they present the R vs D points and rebuttals, the story selection etc. And obviously many of the non-news programs are unapologetic about their politics.

I didn’t always notice this — it was only once I started regularly visiting non-liberal blogs/sites and questioning many of my own prior political beliefs that I recognized those same beliefs at play elsewhere.
This is very much in keeping with my own experience. I would note that the selection of topics often displays a bias as well.

There have been a number of events over the past two months that have made me a believer in the concept of media bias on a large scale. From what I can tell, they have gotten away with it for so long that they really don’t see a need to pretend about it anymore. And it’s sort of tough to convince a skeptic like me.

I would like to look at those news items over the last two months that inclined me to alter my view, explain in brief my own positions in these matters, and then look at other egregious examples over the past ten years. I believe that anyone with any degree of objectivity would come to the same conclusion.

The Rush/Fluke thing was sort of obvious. It was very much contrived. Where the Clinton administration in 1997 was encouraging churches to extend their community outreach into other areas, a policy which continued under the following Bush administration, with the incoming Obama administration we saw the articles of faith of those churches violated in extraordinary ways, and for the sake of Leftist political agendas, again and again. The first item of note was the decision in Illinois that Catholic Charities must make referrals to same-sex couples in their adoption services— a decision that led to them suspending all adoption services. Forcing penalties for not providing contraceptive coverage in their health insurance was just another step in the government takeover of the churches. And I want to say: Thank God for Senator Roy Blunt for standing up to this sort of government over-reach. As noted in his speech before the vote on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, there was nothing in the bill that each and every member of the Senate, except for its newest members, hadn’t already voted in favor of before.

To recap, there were three primary principles at play here. One is the separation of church and state as guaranteed in the First Amendment. Where the doors of the church stand, the United States of America ends and the Kingdom of God begins. There is no overlap between those two jurisdictions. The second is that of positive liberties vs. negative liberties. Basically stated, negative liberty is the view that people (meaning government) need to leave me alone to do what I want to do, while positive liberties refer to the view that someone needs to bend over backwards to kiss my butt because the world is so unfair. The third is the wholesale destruction of all social institutions other than government, which is part and parcel with the Leftist agenda; that government should take over the role of the church, the role of the family, et al, until no other social institution would stand other than the government. They believe that this is the only means that “fairness” may be obtained. The conservative view is to be distrustful of the government; that these other social institutions are needed to provide a counter-balance to the power structures, and that these other social institutions produce desirable benefits in and of themselves.

So, granted, there is more to it that simply the issue of religious freedom. There was never anyone in favor of preventing people from purchasing contraceptives or obtaining a policy that would cover them— it was all about requiring that someone else should make that purchase.

Now, the great over-arching theme that Democrats have been spouting, and that the MSM has picked up, is the “Republican War on Women.” What a crock! Even when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus stated quite plainly that this was not the case, those words were turned against him by the typical Left-wing hacks in their contrived disregard for any element of the truth.

Before we go on here, let us look back in order to realize that, even though the contemporary “progressive” movement pretty much began with the Port Huron Statement and is not related to the progressive movement of the early 1900’s, abortion was high on the list of policy objectives for those early progressives, although in the form of eugenics (along with, as noted in the article linked, a graduated income tax, restrictions on immigration, prohibition, and women's suffrage).

But let us not forget that eugenics was always at the heart of the abortion movement in the US. It’s the very same movement as today; they’ve just changed their line of reasoning a little bit.

While former the governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was diligently ensuring that Kansas would elect a Republican as their next governor, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was quoted in the New York Times as stating that:
Republicans were attacking women’s health care as part of “a systematic war against women.”
Shortly thereafter, the ink began to fly concerning how Republicans have lost women voters, and the president played up to this by hosting a conference on women and employment.

But this didn’t occur in a vacuum. At the same time, ABC news was reporting that married women favored Republicans, while single women favored Democrats. There’s nothing unusual about that; it’s been that way for a long time. Also fairly standard is that men who identify as independent tend to vote Republican, while women that identify as independent tend to vote for the Democrat.

There’s a lot more material to cover here, but the post has run on too long. I will continue on in Part Two, which will be posted at Publius’ Forum tomorrow, and at this site a week from now.

In Part Two, we will look at some of the news items that led me to the conclusions stated here, and at their over-arching themes; including the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fl., Mike Daisey’s profile of Chinese manufacturers, Climategate, the inherent dishonesty of Paul Krugman and some basic economic fundamentals, social Darwinism, opposition to science (including pesticides, BPA, breast implants, and genetically-modified foods), the “precautionary principle”, Larry Summers and Newt Gingrich.

As I said, with the abundance of evidence at hand, I believe that anyone with even a passing interest in objectivity would come to the same conclusion.