Jul 2, 2014

Another Case Where Religion Poisons Everything. Plus, Supreme Calculatons are in Order

So, let's be clear: The conservatives, guided by religion, do not like birth control, at least not through a medical plan for women. Men, oh sure, they can have their pills for erections and whatever. The SCOTUS just decided (5-4 conservative majority) that a "close-held" company (most Americans work for those) can discriminate on the bass of their religious idiocy. In other words, imposing their religious views [primitive, non-scientific or reality-based] on the rest of us. 

Hobby Lobby's owners are part of the conservatives who want to chip away at the ACA ("Obamacare") and claim that birth control for women violates their religious belief. This may be the case, but there are all sorts of protections and laws regarding employment, workers' rights, public health, etc. Once a business owner decides to hire a worker, the latter has (should have) unalienable rights. Oh, by the way, Hobby Lobby does business in China, abiding by Chinese law. Hey, profits may take precedent in an officially godless-atheist country.

There are lots of crazy beliefs in religion. Customs, edicts, and made-up stories that govern people's lives, but this should be in the private domain. There's that separation clause in the US constitution about church-state relationship. The Bible has bans on pork, working on Sabbath, "unnatural" fibers for clothes, crustaceans, and what have you. The Mormons ban coffee and alcohol and I hear regular underwear. Scientologists believe the only way to be purified is to be hooked up to a machine and go through church cleansing, because, heck, all your problems are from the evil spirits occupying your body. Others don't accept modern medicine, etc. Obviously, we can't have public health policy and health care based on these religious beliefs. 

Yes, it matters that we have a science-based approach to public health! Oh, those pesky ascertainable facts that shoot holes into religious doctrine. An advanced, dare say, an enlightened society should allow for individual choice, including practicing willful ignorance, but there should be a religious grounds for public policy. You don't believe in vaccinations, blood transfusions, or that homosexuals shouldn't have any rights? Go back to your cave and practice those beliefs on yourself.

Let me repeat something else for the millionth time: Elections have consequences. Presidents choose all the federal judges, including the Supremes, and the Senate confirms them. Global warming? Half of the Republican governors--the state executives--are climate change deniers! The Republican party in Congress is mainly anti-science. You think this has nothing to do with public policy?

Supreme Calculations

Right to the point: Justices Ginsberg and Breyer should retire as soon as possible. We progressives really appreciate their tenure at the Supreme Court. But, they're old and we cannot afford to have them replaced by a Republican president. Ginsberg is 81 and Breyer 75. Most Supremes hate the label "judicial activists" but they all are! Both sides have advanced particular ideologies and priorities via the bench. The constitution, the laws, actions by government and individuals are up to interpretation. It's not black & white. They all read the same texts, hear the same arguments in court, yet they often reach different conclusions, because of their different judicial philosophies. 

The Senate has become crazier, more conservative (usually it's the same thing). The Republicans have managed to put the most road blocks to presidential initiative in modern times.  GOP Senate leader M. McConnell once declared that his utmost priority was to make Obama one-term president, to make him fail at everything he tried to get through Congress. There are many scenarios that show the GOP winning the US Senate in this mid-term election. Do you think, McConnell will be more or less likely to accept a liberal nominee to the SCOTUS?

The Republicans are more disciplined and will be more arrogant if they fare well in this election. In 2010, before the GOP won the House, Elena Kagan who enjoyed "bipartisan support" (we kept hearing), got only 5 Republican votes! Three of those senators (Lugar, Snowe, Gregg) are gone now. The establishment (old wing) of the party is under attack from the tea party and even arch-conservatives, including McConnell, have been challenged from the right! Who in the Senate, or the House would commit treason by dealing with the Dems or a Muslim black socialist in the White House?

Perhaps we could reverse the conservative majority in the SCOTUS. After we strengthen the liberal side by getting the replacements for Ginsburg and Breyer, we could await the retirement of Scalia and Kennedy, both at 78.

Many of the good changes we've seen in our country have come from the legislative and the judicial routes. We have to keep this in mind, thus we should never forget to vote or be political activists. Elections have consequences! (I think I've said this before).   And, yes, there are calculations.

Speaking of calculations, I want to see a Democrat win the next presidential election even if she's a centrist corporatist, because at least there will be improvement at the margins. Otherwise, it'll be steam ahead.... er, back to the dark ages.  Look, I agree with what Bill Maher said recently, that "Hillary should go away." The fact is that she won't. There was no doubt that she'd run. I don't know of anyone who'd be told that polls show a great chance of becoming president of the US and they don't run. I hope Mrs. Clinton has a primary challenger, like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) or Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 

I also don't think that Hillary wants to promote a particular agenda. She wants to appear presidential, win favors from all over the political spectrum. Since she was the NY Senator, Mrs. Clinton has not been ahead of any important issue, like gays in the military, same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, and many other issues progressives like. She has led from the rear! Hopefully, she won't appoint conservatives to the supreme court.

In my state of NY, I'm excited to see that Gov. Cuomo will most likely be challenged for the Democratic nomination in September. He's been a corporatist centrist. One of his recent choices was to pick a very conservative as his running mate. So, yeah, let's support Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu--who were robbed of the nomination of the Working Families party recently.

PS>Some polls show that men are split on whether there should be a religious exception on birth control, but among women, there's a clear majority against restrictions. This can be a mobilizing factor in the midterm elections--which are decided by who shows up to vote. 

Jun 19, 2014

Informed Opinions are Based on an Understanding of the Facts But Only if You Want So!

 
Update, 6/23/14:
John Oliver has a great take on Dr. Oz selling magical cures, people's priorities, and corrupt politics. 

.........

It's still amazing--perhaps it shouldn't be give the conservative (primitive) ideology that has influenced our education--that so many Americans don't believe in science, you know, ascertainable facts! Just recently there was another poll that close to a majority of our brethren in the US believe that God designed humans in their present form, which of course means they don't believe in evolution.

I understand that many perceptions, beliefs, and even actions are not reality-based. Perhaps we should stop pretending that most people can be convinced by reason and evidence. They are not--at least not right away if at all. Otherwise, lots of our contemporary debates should have been settled long time ago.

But, people like wishful thinking. They are, at best, misinformed, or, at worst, they practice willful ignorance. Even some of my educated friends are victims to scams and faulty logic. But, there are personal needs that cannot be satisfied by reality, so the alternative is to seek remedies in an alternative universe. I do understand this human need, but I really despise the con artists, most of which are ruthless exploiters and profiteers, like the mediums, faith/crystal healers, voodoo peddlers, religious quacks (any other type, really?), and tellers of secrets, "they (special interests, government, etc) don't want you to know."


Popoff For Jesus

Although some victims do see the light, many don't, even when the scammers are exposed, on national tv nevertheless. Case in point: Peter Popoff, Benny Hinn, Kevin Troudeau, Silvia Browne, James Van Praagh, and many others.

Oprah has had her share of promoting pseudo-science. I think she probably means well but she has a responsibility since she has convincing power. She should not mix entertainment with public health issues. Remember Dr. Oz? Well she made him famous, and now this guy has been making tons of money peddling bullshit. He was admonished during his Congressional testimony a few days ago--where he admitted that his claims (for all sorts of products) had no scientific proof. In other words, they did not work!.

It's very wrong to give bad advice to patients. It's unethical to to create or support anyone's delusions. As it is wrong to tell someone that their schizophrenia is due to demonic possession. It is wrong to tell cancer patients that standard medicine is toxic and there's an easier "natural treatment" that's miraculous! I once had a close friend who went through this, and it was (still is) very painful.

There's no "alternative medicine." What works is medicine, which includes standards of measuring the effectiveness of a remedy/procedure. The so-called "alternative medicine" has no such standards, and it's mostly make-believe and anecdotal. It actually can be very dangerous. I abhor those who sell such bullshit to sick people who are desperate for a cure. 

"Both Sides?"

Finally, open-minded people may have big holes in their heads that their brains fall out. Of course, there has to be debate and examination of the evidence. Any better argument and evidence must be accepted--always, with the door open for amendment. This is the scientific method. 

However, when it comes to education, to a professional opinion, a best-judgment call, it can't be "everything goes!" Not everything has equal value. As a teacher I would be failing my professional duty to say, some people believe the earth is round, some people are flat-earthers!  Likewise for a doctor to say, this medicine is effective x% but there are those who think a voodoo doll is just as effective. Rubbish.

The willfully ignorant or those who a conservative agenda say,  "we should teach the controversy"! OK, I don't expect much more from them. Seriously though? Taught in school as what exactly? Alchemy with chemistry? Voodoo with medicine? Astrology with astronomy? This bullshit isn't appropriate, not in an advanced country that values education and science. We shouldn't be teaching ignorance! This can be a deal breaker. There's only one science: It's a tool for understanding. It employs, reason, inquiry, theory that can be amended, predicts, explains; it deals with facts as best we can ascertain them. Science is NOT dogmatic, doesn't have to satisfy gods, kings, or personal wishes..

Jun 10, 2014

In Politics, Non-Optimal Choices Can be Acceptable. After All, Democracy Depends on Consensus

I had an interesting conversation with colleagues during lunch today and at least one said that they won't vote for Hillary Clinton should she run for president. Some of the reasons cited was that she's openly for big business, that she didn't do anything while at the State Department, and that it's not appropriate to have an oligarchy of the Bushes and Clinton.

Well, I get all that, but in a democracy--as many times in life--we, personally, don't have the ideal choice. We may not have great choices either. We often take the "lesser of the two evils" and it makes sense, especially when one is truly evil, as I believe any serious Republican contender has been in my lifetime and will be in 2016.

Plus, elections have consequences as they can steer the country in a certain direction, elevate certain priorities, and articulate ideas. Successful policies, despite their flaws, convince people about their merits. Let's not forget, many people are conservative--can't imagine in the abstract or analyze ideology. There are many narratives out there. Sure, leadership matters, and that's why we have so many people choosing the ridiculous and want a society more fit for the Dark Ages. However, once they see that, say, Obamacare is generally good, that same-sex marriage doesn't destroy a state, etc, they accept it.

In the same light, I don't think most people readily accepted the ideas of the Enlightenment, of liberalism, or of civil rights for everyone. But, once those took hold (often imposed by elites like Jefferson, Madison, et al), people accepted them. We can see this today in our own country, from state to state--different sub-cultures with very opposing views on, say, gun control, religion, sex, political parties choice, etc. This also shows that most issues aren't decided on their merits, on evaluating the facts, because otherwise we wouldn't still be debating whether humans are responsible for global warming, evolution (and science in general), and the age of the Earth!

In yesterday's NYT, C. Blow's oped titled, "Religious Constriction," makes a similar point about the religiosity of our citizens--highest among affluent countries. You have to look to Greece, Italy, and the oil-rich Gulf countries to find higher religiosity. I maintain that--for most domains, issues, ideas, morality--if religion informs opinion then, most certainly, it's wrong, and imprudent. It is precisely because such opinions are held by so many of our citizens that we don't see the progress we could get nor do we solve many of our own problems.

***


I have to give another shout to a favorite, Paul Krugman, who he recently wrote [link] along the same lines of my argument:

"The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed."
 

Mar 26, 2014

The Supreme Court to Decide Whether Birth Control Can Be a Religious Exception. In Other Words, Conservatives Still Have a Problem With Sex.

Conservatives are challenging "Obamacare," again, arguing for religious freedom, so an employer whose religion is anti-birth control should not have to provide such as part of health care coverage. The Supreme Court will decide whether there should be an exception. Conservatives on the SCOTUS and around the country hope to shoot another hole into "Obamacare." I'll refrain from evaluating how "religion poisons everything" as the late Christopher Hitchens used to say, but apparently this lunacy has no end. It's such a distraction, and a waste of resources.

Apparently, conservatives believe they have a shot at the Supreme Court. Why? Because this court is rather conservative. Why? Because elections have consequences. Elect Republican presidents and senators and that's what you have. You get judges like Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts, who make important decisions about our lives. Yes, if you live in this society, what happens at the Supreme Court, the executive and legislative branches does matter!

Side note: in this midterm election year, it'll pivot around turnout, more specifically what groups show up to vote. I'll have another post on this later.

Justice Elena Kagan, you've got to love her. She stuck it to Scalia. If he's to be consistent with his own previous statements, he should vote against the motion for the religious exception on birth control case. During oral arguments, she said that religious-based exceptions to neutral laws could lead to anarchy!

 "Your understanding of this law, your interpretation of it, would essentially subject the entire U.S. Code to the highest test in constitutional law, to a compelling interest standard," she told Paul Clement, the lawyer arguing against the mandate for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. "So another employer comes in and that employer says, I have a religious objection to sex discrimination laws; and then another employer comes in, I have a religious objection to minimum wage laws; and then another, family leave; and then another, child labor laws. And all of that is subject to the exact same test which you say is this unbelievably high test, the compelling interest standard with the least restrictive alternative."


Of course it's Scalia who has argued that our entire civil code, judicial and political, indeed our entire civilization is based on the Judeo-Christian moral code--as, of course, is clearly laid out in the Bible.  On another side note: Did you hear about the Xtian church in NYC that advocates applying this law, stoning homosexuals to death? And, did you hear that a lesbian knocked on the church's door and asked them to stone her to death? Apparently the person who answered the door said they were out of stones so she should come back another day!

To be fair to this church, the Bible indeed prescribes death by stoning for a variety of moral trespasses. Ah, the "good 'ol days" when the Lord ordered genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, subjugation of women, pestilence, floods, etc.  

Did you hear that many Xtians are upset about the movie Noah? They said that Hollywood's fiction is not what happened. Bill Maher has a response:

 

Mar 12, 2014

Popular Science Shows Up Big with Cosmos 2014--A Much Anticipated and Needed Story of Our Existence!

I watched Cosmos when I was very young and loved it to the point that I used a tape recorder to capture the audio so I could listen to the fascinating information again and again. There was so much information that I needed more time to comprehend. This was some 30 years ago, beyond the lifespan of my cheap tapes, which I've long lost. It's amazing how much more we have learned since then or in the last 50 years.


Carl Sagan popularized science, because he knew how to explain it. The current host of the 2014 series, Neil deGrasse Tyson, was inspired by Cosmos and Sagan to become an astronomer, and he's great at explaining and inspiring. Of course, it's by purpose they chose to host this new Cosmos series on the Fox network, because they're trying to reach the scientifically illiterate or those on the fence. I can see that happening with a few people who aren't willfully ignorant, because the latter have already made an emotional choice to be blind to science and evidence-based world.

Dr. Tyson, who's an agnostic, tries hard to reach the Bible readers without dismissing their unscientific views. Listen to this interview on WNYC; 
this interview  aired after the premier of Cosmos. He says it's OK to have faith and read the Bible but not as textbook. Well, good luck with that. I won't ask, if the Bible is full of contradictions, ignorance, and dead wrong about the cosmos, then how could it be God's word? Never mind...

I think it's good to introduce some scale of the cosmos, time & space, because, perhaps, people could wonder whether the creator of the universe cares about what clothes we wear, whether we perform circumcisions, what we eat on what days, etc. The universe was not made for us nor are in the center of it all. 

Amazing facts


The universe is about 13.8 billion years old. Let's compress this time into 1 year.


  • Jan 1:big bang. It takes about 200 million years to "cool down" so stars and galaxies can form.
  • Jan 10. New stars; Jan 13 small galaxies; March 15-our own Milky way. Star stuff recycled. 
  • Plus, 6 "months later" (6 billion yrs) on Aug 31-our own sun is born. Same month the Earth is formed
  •  Sept 21st, life (not human) appears in earth.  
  •   Nov 9th life was breathing, moving, eating, responding to environment. Microbes. Sex.  Tiktaalic [see link] moves from see to land (transitional fossil). 
  • Dec 28th:  Flowers 
  •  Dec 30th Dinos extinction, rise of mammals. 
  • Dec 31st, 9:45 new year’s eve…. Africa. Bipedalism. 

        Last hour, last day: humans appear at 11.59, 46’’  

    • 11:59 30,000 years, first cave paintings!  Read the stars, seasons.
    • 10,000 years ago. Agriculture. Middle East. First stable societies.
    • 14 seconds to midnight: humans;  
      6,000years ago: writing! Save our thoughts. 5’’ ago Jesus, 3’’ Mohammed, 1’’ ago science!!!
     
  • In the last 14’’ seconds –all we know about humanity.
  • Last second= recorded history! All the civilizations, all the ideas, art, science, wars, tribes, leaders, religions, technology, you and I, etc…


Mar 8, 2014

What do US Conservatives Want? Regression Bathed in Trickle Down Piss and Freedom to be Poor, Ignorant & God-fearing!

I watched snippets of the CPAC--the largest annual gathering of conservatives--and I kept wondering how in the hell so many people fall for this bullshit. Most of it was trite exhortations about freedom, God, patriotism; labels, simplicity, and rightwingnuttery in ample supply. These people are fit for the Dark Ages. Any politician associated with this circus isn't appropriate to lead the country forward. But, that's the point: they don't want to go forward, but backward to the "good ol' days".... making a brief stop to Reagan's 1980s, and then a fast rewind to the days when unbridled capitalism ruled, when most people who got sick died, when religious morality & freedom meant discrimination, segregation, and bigotry. Yeah, that's the kind of America the conservatives want.


More often than not, the conservative disposition can be explained by a sense of a personal loss or a price to pay if the "unworthy others" receive anything from the social safety net. They don't understand that in a proper civic society everybody receives benefits. Everybody! From the very top to the bottom. More so, for those ontop, even though they don't see it that way, as if they operate in the vacuum of space--where they make their money of course. 

The following statement is, sadly, typical not only of a conservative mind but also of a college student. Most--and I include both sides of the political divide--don't know how to write a proper sentence or explain simple ideas, let alone the fundamental beliefs they hold. 

In my personal opinion, our democratic system has so many holes in it, which is leaking, causing chaos in peoples minds. With the recent reelection of Obama, there was clearly havoc that rose among people who are against him; and in good reason. Obama wants to redistribute the wealth of others to people who did not necessarily own it and he wants the government to pay for expenses for people that cannot afford it by taxing the wealthier class.  The government is basically making people rely on others to provide for them without really trying themselves, thus making this one of the laziest generations. 

I can't count the times I hear this theme from conservatives; it's part of their narrative along with misguided patriotism and inability to imagine reality. Yes, conservatives can't think in the abstract very well. That's why they may change their minds only if they experience something themselves. Have a gay son, oh, maybe it's OK. Hurricane Sandy destroys your home, oh, where's the government to bail you out? Have a retarded baby, oh, yes, how come we don't spend more to find a cure and support such. 

The conservatives have opposed the abolition of slavery, desegregation, equal rights for women, civil rights, personal reproductive choice, science, access to voting, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, clean air, consumer protection, science (yes, even science irks them!), etc, etc, oh, and electrification!  All those things that make our lives better and are the norm in every advanced liberal-social-democracy!  But, listen to the CPAC speakers and it's clear what horrible society we'd have if they got their way. Of course you have to part the smoke & mirrors of misguided patriotism, and the empty slogans about freedom. On your knees, you pitiful, wretched creature.  

 A Typical Conservative Prescription Bad for Your Health

 Gail Collins in this NYT editorial shows how the conservatives think and operate. If you think it doesn't matter, think again. Elections have consequences, from the state and local to the national and the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Texas is moving on to Step 2. As of September, it will require the clinics, which perform only simple early-term abortions, to have all the equipment, space and special air and water filters necessary to do a surgical procedure like a hip transplant. Miller determined the cost of complying would be in the neighborhood of $3 million per clinic.
There’s been a vague attempt to cloak all these new laws as health care imperatives, but, really, the cover is pretty thin. During the debate on the Texas bill, State Senator Dan Patrick told his colleagues to ask themselves: “How would God vote tonight if he were here?
I am mentioning Patrick because this week he came in first for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, campaigning as “a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third.” He has also been desperately busy ginning up anti-immigration sentiment; this is the guy who claimed illegal immigrants were threatening Texas with “third world diseases” like leprosy. The lieutenant governor, by the way, is possibly the most powerful public official in the state.
Well, turnout for the primaries was very low. It was freezing down there on Tuesday. Once again, we leap at a chance to blame the weather.
The social right has been waving the banner of religious freedom lately. What that generally means is the right to impose one’s theology on other people. Particularly, it seems, when sex is involved.
For instance, the Supreme Court is scheduled to decide, in its next big Obamacare case, whether the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby can refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives on religious grounds. Hobby Lobby actually already covers its employees’ birth control pills. Its owners just object to a few things, like intrauterine devices, because they have religious convictions against preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Scientists disagree that’s what an IUD does, but what the heck? It’s their theology.

The Texas conservatives are not alone. Again, take a look at the CPAC conference [here's their official site so you can watch their videos]where all the major conservative and Republican leaders attend and make speeches about the kind of society they want. 

Feb 26, 2014

Lincoln's Decision to Use Silver to Kill Vampires & Warewolves Instead of Buying Slaves Cost the Nation Dearly! (Enjoy Your Black History Month)

We like to believe what makes us feel good; it's called confirmation bias. So, why look any further? Oh, I don't know, it might be OK to keep in touch with reality, because understanding reality may have something to do with the decisions we make in real life.

How about history, the past? Bygones let them be bygones. There's no harm in revising history to fit a narrative we promote in contemporary politics. Racism, bigotry? All in the past. No need to have legal protections for people who may have had problems in the past--as the conservatives on the Supreme Court now tell us when they rule that racism is practically over, and that uninhibited access to voting, especially in the South and in GOP-dominated areas is good and dandy.

Personally, I find willful ignorance annoying. Those who spread stupidity and lies--like almost everyone at Faux News--are doing a disservice to our country. If I were to use their rhetoric, they're like Hitler holocausting history, and committing treason for betraying our country's noble mission statement, all men are created equal, and of-by-for the people.


 Revisionist history of the worst kind. The bullcrap of Faux News


 Just before Black History month ends (February), the vile opinionators (like that ass judge Napolitano in this video) at Fox News attempt to distort reality again. Jon Stuart's show has the perfect comeback.

Feb 17, 2014

President(s)' Day Thoughts.

President(s)' Day today honoring... well, whatever states want, though the federal holiday is about George Washington who was born not today (2/17th but on the 22nd). Several states mark the occasion differently. Guess what? Lincoln's birthday (2/12) is included in this except in the South. I wonder why. So the third Monday in February is set for "president(s)" to sell all sorts of consumer stuff and some patriotic version of history.

The General with a maid in his headquarters, Newburgh, NY


I feel patriotic, so stop the caustic emails. But, this doesn't prevent me from trying to learn about the truth--as much as it can be ascertained--and examine causes and effects. Let's start by asking, what is patriotism? And, where, why did it start? The notion of patriotism begins with the notion of patris--country. So, how did the British citizens in the 13 colonies see themselves in the 1770s?


Musket warfare
Under the mercantile economic system, there was a zero-sum game: for every winner it had to have a loser. The colonies were a source of wealth for the then empires, and under imperial policy, the colonies were there to exploit the local resources and populations for the benefit of the mother country. It was forbidden for the colonies to trade with anyone else. But, that didn't prevent the American colonists from breaking the law to enrich themselves. When Britain turned the screws, they rebelled. Yes, the economic elites in the colonies had an economic reason for self-governance and thus a revolution.

The Tea Party rebellion? Well, it was triggered by Britain's decision to give the East India Co. the monopoly of the tea trade, thus crippling American economic interests, not withstanding that the EIC tea was cheaper and of better quality. The colonies had enjoyed a relative independence to conduct their own "internal" affairs and the New World had unique conditions, like the reality of the expanding frontier. All these factors made for a different breed of a citizen. 
 
Harbrouck House, New Paltz, NY.

Yet, even at the break of the revolution, most Americans in the colonies [let's not forget they were other "Americans" in the continent too] were British citizens. Even the Declaration of Independence demonstrates that the colonists believed they were denied their British rights of life, liberty and property, and, therefore, had a right, indeed a duty, to replace a government after a "long train of abuses."

The ideology of liberalism with its "natural rights for every man" that came out of the Enlightenment was used as the foundation of the regime of the new country to be. But, it would take a long time to turn those Americans into patriotic United States of America citizens. Patriotism primarily evolved along with the formation of the modern state in the last 2-3 centuries. Allegiance was to one's own tribe, ethnic or religious group, and later to a city-state or a larger state, like New York. Most Americans then identified their loyalties to their particular states, not the US. Fully 1/3 of the colonists remained loyal to Britain; most were expelled, many were killed, a few remained.


Class System, Order of the Universe

The belief that the universe had an ordained, divine order was widespread. A rigid class system prevailed too. Yes, it was possible for merchants to elbow their way into the upper caste--like the despised nouveau riche by the "old money" aristocracy--but everybody "knew their place." Old Europe operated on this scheme, so it's amazing that the ideas of liberalism sprouted and even used as ideals for a new state/country. Of course, anyone who has watched docudramas of the last 200 years or has visited the mansions of the rich knows how society worked those days.

The elites often went to war against each other for power and wealth, but they had their code of honor which meant that death would be visiting primarily the lower-class soldiers and civilians. It was against military honor to shoot at officers of the opposing army! George Washington could have been killed by British snipers on a couple occasions but he was spared because he was an officer. The Americans didn't shoot at British officers either...  Well, some American riflemen, often despised by both sides, broke this code by indiscriminately killing British infantry and officers. Nowadays, taking out the enemy command is standard military strategy; not back then, which is incredible if you think about it. The thinking, I'm going to let the enemy generals be so their army can be more effective against me and my side, is totally crazy unless....

At first, it seems natural that the French would side and aid the American colonists in their war of independence. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say. But, it was a troubling decision since rebelling against the crown was a no-no among all royal houses of Europe. Yes, royal factions could engage each other, even in civil war, but challenging the notion of monarchy was evil. 

George Washington could have been king after the revolution, though to his credit he did not wish it and admonished those who proposed a monarchy for the new country. While in Newburgh, NY, he communicated with many domestic leaders and urged for a constitutional republic. The constitution of 1787 provided a blueprint for a federal country, which is still evolving today. Many of the good changes and ideas come from the top, the educated elites, but also as the result of bloody conflicts.

The country the presidents we're celebrating today knew is much different today, and I think for the better. It's OK to appreciate the effort and the good ideas of past leaders, but I don't think we need to idealize-idolize them. Some were very progressive while most were trapped in their time & culture. There's no divine order in human society; it's what we make of ourselves, our understanding of the important issues, and the policies we can muster for a good life for every citizen, indeed a human being.
Fictional rendition of the Delaware river crossing (note the "U.S. flag")