Swordsman & Geek

A Midsummer Night’s Blog

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The Sleeping Giant Awakens…

The ground is shaking.

  • Confederate Flags being pulled down everywhere?
  • ObamaCare upheld 6-3
  • Same-sex marriage wins 5-4

What is going on?

This could have ended differently.

Back in 2008 I made the argument that the election was primarily about the Supreme Court. Barack Obama has done some things I didn’t like but there is no reasonable counterargument that a Republican president would have done better and Obama nominated two progressive justices to the highest court. If a Republican had won, we wouldn’t have healthcare reform and we certainly would have lost the same-sex marriage decision.

Sometimes change takes time and sometimes it happens quickly. This week seems like a seismic shift as shock-waves ripple outward. If you look at the balance of power in our heavily gerrymandered system you’ll find that we’re poised for rapid shifts as the people outpace the politics.

It may not look like it but the Millennials won big today because they put Obama in the white house over the objections of the older whiter voters. The Millennials are the largest generation in history and the most liberal in their politics. The oldest of these voters are in their mid-30s and the cohort won’t reach full fighting strength until 2018 when  the youngest will be eligible to vote.

Millennials are the largest generation numbering at  95 million, compared to 78 million for the Baby Boomers.

Millennials are the largest generation numbering at 95 million, compared to 78 million for the Baby Boomers.

2016 will be an election to watch but it will be nothing compared to 2020. After the 2020 census the United States will redraw the maps of political power. Look for more major quakes when the gerrymanders start collapsing.

That shaking that you feel in the ground is the stirring of a giant awakening to take the reins of power and her name is ‘Millennial’.

God Responds to Pat Robertson

God and Robertson

God and Robertson

Yesterday, Pat Robertson claimed that God was punishing the people of Haiti with a devastating earthquake.  In an attempt to be fair and balanced we contacted God and offered him a chance to respond.

Interviewer: I want to welcome you to the interview and give you a chance to address Mr. Robertson’s claims that you want to punish the people of Haiti.  Is this earthquake an expression of your displeasure?

God: First, I want to be very clear to everyone that earthquakes are a natural process of the planet’s normal tectonic motion.  When two large solid bodies slowly collide it creates a shearing and buckling effect which can occasionally result in a violent release of energy when two colliding bodies rapidly slip.

At this point in the interview God held his hands together and demonstrated a rapid sliding action by moving his hands in different directions.

When the pressure between two objects overcomes the friction a rapid slip can occur.

When the pressure between two objects overcomes the friction a rapid slipping motion can occur.

God: As shown this week, it can be quite a lot of energy and it can be very destructive.  On the other hand, tectonic motion is actually vital to all life on earth because it helps to maintain the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  I use the same process to create mountains and move continents around.  It is very handy.

Interviewer: What is your response to Mr. Robertson’s claims of divine vengeance?

God: I heard that yesterday Pat implied that I have some kind of grudge or vendetta against the people of Haiti and nothing could be further from the truth.  Making this kind of claim is on par with saying that I’m using gravity to punish plane crash victims or diseases to punish the sick.

I want to make it very clear that these are natural processes and not any sort of value judgment.  I’m afraid that some people feel like they have a unique provenance over morality and try to incorrectly assert ownership by interpreting a terrible natural tragedy as a directed act of malice to justify their own beliefs.

It is not my place to protect humanity from the world, but if you can help each other in times of need, showing compassion and respect for others, that is no small thing.  You will find a few notes about compassion and other useful advice in my books which are available in stores now.

Interviewer: I’ll look forward to reading them.

God: Thanks. Would someone mind passing this information on to Pat?  He doesn’t seem to be listening to me much anymore.

Interviewer: You can always try sending a letter to the Christian Broadcasting Network:

The Christian Broadcasting Network
977 Centerville Turnpike
Virginia Beach, VA 23463

God: I may have to give that a try.

Breaking News – ObamaCare Enacted by Executive Order


By embracing the Bush administrations precedent of Unitary Executive Theory, Obama has been able to utilize his role as commander in chief to create a national healthcare system.

By embracing the Bush administration's precedent of Unitary Executive Theory, President Obama has been able to utilize his role as Commander in Chief to create a national health care system.

Last night, President Barack Obama announced that what many refer to as a socialized medical program would be created through an executive order as authorized by his role as Commander in Chief.  The executive order uses the Unitary Executive Theory which is a legal precedent set by the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), pioneered in the Bybee Memo by attorney John Yoo. It will be paid for by levying a new targeted tax on the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. In addition, the specialized tax will apply to certain regions of Nebraska.

The National Review has issued an editorial stating that this tax is unfairly targeted at states that voted primarily for John McCain. When confronted with this correlation during a press conference White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs slapped his forehead and stated, “That is an amazing coincidence!” Several reporters noted that Mr. Gibbs smirked and drew out the word ‘amazing’ in what might be perceived as a sarcastic manner.

In other news, C.L. “Butch” Otter, Governor of Idaho is calling a special session of the state legislature to investigate the legality of shifting the state’s 2008 electoral votes from losing candidate John McCain to President Barack Obama.

The state of Texas has again threatened to secede from the United States at which point the state of California immediately called a press conference offering to assist the Texas legislature with “any paperwork and tricky bits they might need help with to ease the transition.”

The Public Defenders Will Execute People!!


I thought it might be fun to spread my own wild and unsupported accusations in the Health Care debate.  In order to get us there, we need to look a bit at the public defenders first.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights?


This quote above is a typical script used when arresting someone in the United States.  To understand this script we need to understand two landmark cases from the 1960s.

Gideon versus Wainwright (1963)

This ruling guarantees the right of a public defender and here are two key portions of the ruling:

Not only these precedents, but also reason and reflection, require us to recognize that, in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.

“The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.

Miranda versus Arizona (1963)

Here is a key piece of this ruling:

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

The Safety Net

The key idea here is that the poor had no legal safety net and our government provided for their protection in the courts.  What the poor have in legal representation many of us lack with regard to health care.

There is no basic health safety net and we instead practice a draconian form of Social Darwinism that affirms that the poor deserve no protection because of their own lack of ability to produce enough income to pay for it.

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer

The poverty of the incapable, the distresses that come upon the imprudent, the starvation of the idle, and those shouldering aside of the weak by the strong, which leave so many “in shallows and in miseries,” are the decrees of a large, far-seeing benevolence. It seems hard that an unskilfulness which with all his efforts he cannot overcome should entail hunger upon the artisan. It seems hard that a laborer incapacitated by sickness from competing with his stronger fellows,  should have to bear the resulting privations. It seems hard that widows and orphans should be left to struggle for life or death. Nevertheless, when regarded not separately, but in connection with the interests of universal humanity, these harsh fatalities are seen to be full of the highest beneficence—the same beneficence which brings to early graves the children of diseased parents, and singles out the low-spirited, the intemperate, and the debilitated as the victims of an epidemic.”   ~Herbert Spencer (1851)

Boiled down to the core idea, wealth = merit.  There is no need to feel any concern over the suffering of others because it is actually good that these weaker people (widows, orphans, etc.) die.

There has been plenty of frothing hysteria and misinformation from the right wing about what a public health care option would bring to the country.  If we compare a public health care option to the public defender system we might get a better understanding of how it might work.


Socialized Medicine – This is a big deal for the right wing and the insurance companies actively try to play up the idea of a completely nationalized medical system like China’s.   This isn’t remotely what is being proposed and to suggest otherwise is lying.  What is being suggested is an optional government sponsored insurance program that scales the fees to meet the individual’s needs.  People who don’t make enough money to pay the premium receive the coverage at no charge and it functions as a safety net.  People who want to continue their current coverage aren’t directly affected (although it may lower their premiums as insurance companies try to compete against the public plan).  Nothing about offering public health insurance implies a government seizure of the medical system.

Socialized Public Defenders – All lawyers work for the government and lawyers are assigned to cases by the government.


Medical Rationing – This is a convenient shell game in which the proposed free medical coverage is instead portrayed as a removal of existing medical care for everyone.  In this argument the government will ration all medical care.  (It neglects the current situation where 7 large corporations seeking a profit already ration your medical care and try to rescind existing policies that become too expensive.)

Public Defender Rationing – Only a certain number of cases will be granted a public defender.  The remainder of defendants will be required to defend themselves or will be found automatically guilty.


Bankrupting Insurance Companies – This myth promotes the idea that everyone will immediately turn to a public option and the insurance companies will go bankrupt.  As much as I might like this to be true, it is pretty unlikely.   We have had Public Defenders for over 40 years and private attorneys seem to be doing just fine.  Imagine Coca Cola, Microsoft, or Exxon using a public defender and you can see how laughable this really is.  I haven’t seen FedEx or UPS go out of business yet even as they compete with our socialized postal service.  This is capitalism at its finest.

Bankrupting Lawyers – Public Defenders are free and therefore all private attorneys will go out of business.


Government Mandated Medical Decisions – This is the classic “government bureaucrat between you and your doctor” argument created by the private insurance companies.  This is particularly heinous considering insurance companies have actually pulled patients off of operating tables mid-surgery to deny medical claims.  While the idea of a government bureaucrat sounds scary, what we have today is a corporate suit trying to make a profit and that is much worse.

Government Mandated Public Defense Decisions – A government bureaucrat decides what you will plead in each case and makes decisions about your legal strategy.

Loss of Benefits

Losing your existing Coverage – In this myth, the government removes your existing coverage and forces you into the public option using government doctors.  No one has suggested anything but adding an additional public insurance plan to cover those without insurance.

Losing your existing Lawyer – The government fires your existing lawyer and forces you to use a public defender.

Obama Wants to Kill Your Gramma!

Death Panels – This particular piece of hysteria has been Sarah Palin’s newest talking point.  In the Palin-Reality the government will create a panel concerning end-of-life decisions with the power to euthanize you or your children.  This seems to be inspired by an option in the current bill that permits doctors to receive Medicare compensation for voluntarily discussing living wills with patients.  Let’s just say that Sarah Palin’s reality is not to be confused with actual reality.

Public Defender Vigilantes! – Public Defenders chase down suspected criminals and execute them on sight.

This current discussion is a lot more about trying to bring Obama down than it is about the evils of socialism.  In any case providing a public insurance option is not socialism any more than the U. S. Postal Service, the Police, Firefighters, or the public defenders are socialism. What we have seen is that when the neoconservatives on the right-wing disagree with you they:

  • Lie
  • Shout down any debate
  • Bring assault rifles to political town hall meetings

Spain and the Ave


In Feburary, I arrived in Spain and then the next week hopped onto a train to head to a small conference for the Fulbrighters in the tiny mountain country of Andorra.

The Spanish have a high speed rail called the Ave which is fairly impressive.  First, you come into the Atocha station which has a small tropical rain forest inside it.

The Rainforest in Atocha Station

The Rainforest in Atocha Station

This is Mary having a good time taking pictures of Atocha Station.  (She just likes taking phots.)

This is Mary having a good time taking pictures of Atocha Station. (She just likes taking photos.)

Then you board a train like this one.

The Ave

The Ave

These trains go faster than 200 km/hour.  (That’s over 120 mph in American terms.)

In the United States, Obama’s Stimulus package has set aside $8 billion for implementing high-speed rail as shown in this video:

Here is a map of the proposed high-speed rail routes:

Proposed High Speed Rail Routes

Proposed High Speed Rail Routes

White House Blog with more details

Here is one view of the Spanish countryside North of Madrid as we headed to the Pyrenees.

The Plain in Spain

The Plain in Spain

To get a sense of Spain, you need to understand that in America, where we would have old crumbling barns Spain has castles and stone buildings.

Old Buildings in Spain

Old Buildings in Spain

And here is an old ruin on the hill side:

Spanish Ruins

Spanish Ruins