The Watering Hole, Monday, October 20th, 2014: Goodbye, Indian Summer

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river through The Great Swamp

river through The Great Swamp


On Friday, I wore shorts to work and went in with my hair still wet. The day was sunny and hit the low 70s. Today, I’m going into work wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a lightweight fleece jacket, as the weather is finally remembering that it’s fall.

(sigh)

Goodbye, Indian Summer – you’re welcome to visit any time…

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss whatever you want.

Sunday Roast: Relax, people

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find that, lately, I need to find a way to unclench my jaw.  It just seems to keep getting worse.  I dunno why…

Maybe it’s because we live in a world full of fuckwits.

The music of Azam Ali helps.

This is our daily open thread — At least try to relax

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 18, 2014: Is Stupidity Worth the Price of Religious Freedom?

In an impassioned (if somewhat inaccurate) defense of “speaking the truth,” Senator Ted Cruz (Regressive, NeverNeverLand) completely mischaracterized and fabricated a rationale for a subpoena brought about in a legal dispute over the validity of petition signatures to overturn a Houston, TX, ordinance that hasn’t yet gone into effect, and which could not have been used in the manner he feared even if it did. He’s not the only one doing it. TV personality on his own network and malignant boil on the skin of religious liberty, Pat Robertson, is also making up his own reasons for the subpoenas. The subpoenas in question were intended to find out what instructions were given to signature gatherers organized by five local pastors. Mayoral Spokesperson Janice Evans said, “Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until Tuesday. Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Attorney Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process.” They sought

“all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

Yes. If all they were after were the instructions given to people gathering signatures, then this subpoena was unquestionably too broad. And so the city has refiled the subpoenas with the focus solely on the petition process instructions. And that’s as it should be.

But what about all the diaper-filling crying by the religious right about what these subpoenas were really about? These are allegedly educated men. Did they not understand the issues involved? Does Cruz really believe this issue had anything to do with pastors being “hauled off to jail for a hate crime because they are speaking for traditional marriage”? Does Robertson really believe that Mayor Parker’s “predilections” were exposed by this incident (the filing of the subpoenas), and that it’s the worst demand by a mayor in modern times? (Robertson must have slept through the Civil Rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s.) According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) (emphasis mine)

…bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

So even if the law were in effect and the sermons sought by the original subpoenas were legally obtained, they still could not be used to prosecute the pastors under the HERO because they’re exempt. It’s hard to believe Cruz and Robertson don’t understand this. But sadly, it’s easy to believe their target audience doesn’t. They’re counting on their target audience not bothering to take the time to learn the facts about the subpoenas, and so they’re describing them in ways that have nothing to do with reality. (But then, when have Marion “Ted” Cruz or Rafael “Pat” Robertson ever been known to have anything to do with reality? No, seriously. When?) And what are they saying? Some of the stupidest stuff being said today as part of the anti-LGBT movement. They’re claiming that suppression of this nonsensical hate mongering (if that were, in fact, the intent of the subpoenas) is a violation of their religious freedom! And therein lies the problem.

No one will dispute there are limits to the rights expressed in the Bill of Rights, including the freedoms of speech and religion. There are certain things you are not allowed to say (whether you mean them or not), and there are certain religious practices in which you cannot always engage any time you wish. Because of the danger to lives that panic can cause, you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater, nor can you do it in a church for the same reason. Which leads to the logical conclusion that there are things you can’t say even in a church. Which leads to the question of the dividing line between speech and religion. When does religious freedom cross into the areas of speech where you are not free to roam? And even if it doesn’t cross the line of constitutional protection, how much stupidity are we expected to withstand in the name of religious freedom? And what about the people too stupid to understand the issue? What if the religious message being given is not an accurate reflection of the official religious doctrine? Is it still protected? What religious conservatives think is “pro-traditional marriage” language is often “anti-homosexuality” language, so is it still protected? More distinctly, is it protected speech or protected religious practice? If your religious beliefs lead you to believe stupid and wildly inaccurate things about your fellow human beings, which in turn cause you to say stupid, harmful things to another person, are you still freely exercising your religion? What if the foundation of one your religious beliefs is provably wrong? Are you still free to claim it’s true and that you are justified in your hatred? Are we so caught up in the idea of religious freedom that we’ll allow stupidity to become the prevailing wisdom?

This is our daily open thread. Talk about whatever you wish. Within reason, of course.

The Watering Hole; Friday October 17 2014; Wisdom Over Fear! Yes!

With all the talk these days about Ebola, about ISIL, about economic collapse, sky-high jobless rates, socialized health care, minimum wage hikes for the lazy, gay marriage, abortion clinics, each and all of those horrible things that demand so much FEAR from We The People — well, you know, SOMETHING needs to be done! But what?

I’ve noticed how sometimes it’s just so satisfying, so relaxing, to flash back in time to one of those days of yore — days when we had a real Amurkan as president, a man who was never fearful of going after all those evils that we KNOW are out to destroy our way of life and make us slaves to things like “Marksist/Facist” ideologies or “terrism” (to name but three of all those uncountable horrors).

SO — here’s my well-thought solution: a flashback to a far happier time, back to when we had no reason to fear so many things because our president was one of those We The People dudes with whom we’d like to have a cold beer. So go ahead — sit back, relax, release your fears, and listen to true words of WISDOM! YES!

“Because the — all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those — changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be — or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled. Look, there’s a series of things that cause the — like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate — the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those — if that growth is affected, it will help on the red. OK, better? I’ll keep working on it. 

“‘Benefit cuts’ is an interesting word. Benefits are scheduled to grow at a certain rate, and one of the, one of the suggestions, for example — was they grow at a, they grow, but not at a rate as fast as projected. You can call it anything you want. I would call it an ‘adjustment to reality.'” ~George W. Bush; February, 2005

There. Bet you feel better already. The virtues of clarity are so obvious because, as President Bush pointed out to the people of Townsend, Tennessee on February 21, 2001, if “You teach a child to read, he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.” And then all will be well and Amurka will remain free and strong forever. Or something like that.

So that’s it then. Fears banished. Bliss personified. There is no charge.

OPEN THREAD

 

Watering Hole: Thursday, October 16, 2014 – Managing Fear

There are a lot things to be afraid of lately, at least that is what the media keeps telling us.

Here’s some ways to conquer fear.

  • Keep an eye out for iceberg beliefs,
  • Sit still,
  • Reach out

Explanation for these can be found here as I will not be providing more details.  I feel confident that you will be finding all kinds of information to share.

This is our Open Thread.  You know what to do.  Speak Up!  Have a field day.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, October 15, 2014: Supreme Court Rules Bipartisanship Unconstitutional

In a case that was given scant attention by court watchers, the Supreme Court issued a ruling today finding that bipartisanship violates the United States Constitution. The opinion, authored by Justice Thomas, noted that the two houses of Congress are, in fact, mentioned in the United States Constitution, but that political parties are not. Thus, while the legislative branch, and the respective houses therein, are free to set their own rules, a strict interpretation of the Constitution does not allow for the existence of political parties, and, by extension, bipartisanship.

This judicial bombshell, coming as it is on the eve of the 2014 mid term elections, left Constitutional law scholars dumbfounded. Ballots will have to be rewritten, eliminating the distinction of political parties. “Who will know who to vote for, once we eliminate the (D) and ( R)?” one staffer lamented. John Boehner, Mitch McConnel and Tom DeLay were seen together in a bar. Tears were streaming down Boehners cheeks as he cried, “All that work on redistricting — gone.”

Only Mike Huckabee appeared pleased with today’s ruling. “With the elimination of political distinctions, people will have to rely on the only distinction that truly matters…God. Now is the time for men, and to a lesser degree, women, of faith, to step forward and run for political office from God’s platform. Now, I am mindful of the First Amendment, and it says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So the founding fathers clearly intended that Christians should freely exercise their religion when elected to Congress, and when my Christrian bretheren are made Senators and Representatives, then we shall finally see God’s Kingdom here on earth.”

Michelle Bachman, outraged that the Supreme Court just declared political parties unconstitutinal, vowed to appeal the ruling to the highest court in the land. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, agreed with Mike Huckabee and hinted that he might become her running mate in 2016.

Fox News broke away from its live coverage of Justice Thomas reading his opinion to a rerun of Doctor Strangelove.

Ohhhpen Thread

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 13th, 2014: More Money than God

At billmoyers.com, I spotted an article by Sam Pizzigati, regarding the recent publication of the Forbes 2014 Billionaires list. An excerpt:

“…the richest of these 400 hold far more than that average. Take Larry Ellison, the third-ranking deep pocket on this year’s Forbes list. Ellison just stepped down as the CEO of the Oracle business software colossus. His net worth: $50 billion.

What does Ellison do with all those billions? He collects homes and estates, for starters, with 15 or so scattered all around the world. Ellison likes yachts, too. He currently has two extremely big ones, each over half as long as a football field.

Ellison also likes to play basketball, even on his yachts. If a ball bounces over the railing, no problem. Ellison has a powerboat following his yacht, the Wall Street Journal noted this past spring, “to retrieve balls that go overboard.”

Hiring that ball-retriever qualifies Ellison as a “job creator,” right? Maybe not. Ellison has regularly destroyed jobs on his way to grand fortune. He has become, over the years, a master of the merge-and-purge two-step: First you snatch your rival’s customers, then you fire its workers. In 2005, for instance, Ellison shelled out $10.6 billion to buy out PeopleSoft, an 11,000-employee competitor. He then proceeded to put the ax to 5,000 jobs.

Here’s the Forbes 2014 list. Note that the Koch Brothers are tied for 6th place – aww, they didn’t make #1? They must be spending too much money on Republican/Teabagger political candidates. And, of course, several members of the Walton family took 8th through 11th place. I have not perused much of the list, but I see that one of the other sugar daddies of the right, Sheldon Adelson is at #15, while evil left-winger George Soros is at #24. (In between is Wayne’s former ‘boss’ at Xerox, Carl Icahn, at #22.)

One of the “highlights” listed towards the bottom of one of the Forbes articles is this factoid that gave me pause:

“The oldest billionaire is David Rockefeller Sr. (# 190), age 99, with a net worth of $3 billion.”

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate - Hudson River in the background.  (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate – Hudson River in the background. (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Now, we grew up in an area where the Rockefeller estate is about half-an-hour away, near the legendary “Sleepy Hollow” area. I have cousins on my father’s side who lived near the estate, and when we used to visit them when I was young, the drive took us along, and through, parts of the estate (one could tell by the tall fencing that seemed to hold the estate’s huge old trees back from the road, often on both sides.) So we always considered the Rockefeller family as sort of ‘neighbors.’ Despite his obvious personal flaws, i.e., not making Happy Rockefeller happy, at least Nelson D. Rockefeller was a fairly moderate Republican in the days when there really were moderate Republicans, several of whom could be respected regardless of one’s political affiliation. Of course, these days, Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller would be considered RINOs.

Another excerpt from Pizzigati’s article:

“This year, for the first time ever, Forbes has assigned a “self-made score” to every one of America’s richest 400. More than two-thirds of this year’s 400, Forbes claims, rate as “self-made,” Ellison among them.
[emphasis mine]Forbes doesn’t bother asking how those rich went about self-making their fortunes. We should. Our top 400, after all, haven’t just made monstrously large fortunes. They’ve made a monstrously large mess. To unmake it, we need to unmake them.”.

Amen to THAT, folks.

Oh, yeah, one more thing about the Forbes list: if you’re worth a mere billion dollars, you’re still not rich enough to make the list, as the minimum to qualify this year was $1.55 billion.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss whatever you want.