The Watering Hole, Monday, November 2, 2015: Reflections On The Alternate Universe Of David Brooks

David Brooks has been e-mailing his columns in the New York Times from an alternate universe, based on his recent profession of his love for Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) and his wonkiness.

Ryan is the new House speaker and right now Rubio is the most likely presidential nominee. The shape of the presidential campaign is coming into focus. It’s still wise to expect (pray) that the celebrity candidates will fade as the shopping phase ends and the buying phase begins.

[Ed Note: As of this writing, according to RealClearPolitics, Rubio is third with 9.6%, and the election is still one year away. That’s for those who think nothing will change between now and the day we actually cast our votes for whomever we choose.] With more than a dozen candidates still vying for the nomination, I’m not sure how he could see anything on which to focus in this race. We are still in the “shopping phase,” and there is an awful lot we don’t know about the candidates themselves including, in some cases, what their actual policies will be. The candidates like Trump, Carson, and Fiorina from his universe stand some chance of winning the nomination (“It’s still wise to expect” is hedging your bets, Dave. And saying it’s wise to “pray” is just plain giving up. Which are you doing?) Their counterpart candidates in this universe stand no chance at all of actually winning the nomination of the Republican Party. None whatsoever. I wouldn’t lose a nanosecond’s sleep over ever having to hear the word “President” (with or without the word “Vice” in front of it) followed by any of the names Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina. Nor Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, or John Ellis Bush, for that matter. Not in this universe. But back to David’s.

Voters don’t have to know the details of their nominee’s agenda, but they have to know that the candidate is capable of having an agenda. Donald Trump and Ben Carson go invisible when the subject of actual governance comes up.

They’re not the only ones, but back to that first point you made. The one about voters not having to know the details of their nominee’s agenda. Really, Dave? A blissfully ignorant and uninformed electorate is considered normal in your universe? It is the goal of the Republican Party in this universe, that’s true, but our universe also has people capable of critical thinking, and we like to know exactly what the people we put in power have in mind, just in case they want to bring about the Biblical End of the World so Jesus Christ will come back and spit on all us Liberals who followed his teachings better than you guys ever did, even if we didn’t believe in him. We’re funny that way. After focusing on one of Rubio’s policy papers, David again brings up caution about what the candidates actually propose.

At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable.

They are only “wildly unaffordable” if you never consider the simple idea of raising taxes back to the rates they were before President Reagan, on the ill-conceived and childish advice of people like Grover Norquist, who at the ripe old age of twelve came up with his idea for a pledge to voters from candidates that they’ll never raise taxes, and who admit to a starve-the-beast strategy that would inevitably cripple, if not destroy, the framework of our society. The demented theory that supply-side economics would raise revenue to the government was ludicrous. Supply-side economics believes that supply drives demand (Say), not the other way around, that demand drives supply (Keynes). In Reality (i.e., this universe), it is consumer demand that drives an economy. The theory was that giving tax cuts to businesses (and people) would enable them to make more goods for people to buy. It was apparently assumed that everyone would buy whatever was being offered, and THIS would create the jobs. You can make all the widgets you want, but if nobody wants to buy them, you have no reason to have so many employees, and jobs are lost. If demand were high, you would need more and more people to keep up with the timely shipment of customer orders. It is consumer demand that drives the economy. And not the consumer demand of the rich, but of the middle class, along with what the people with even less disposable income can contribute. But they have to have the money to spend in the first place. The rich and super-rich already have enough money to live on day-to-day, so cutting their taxes is nothing but a free gift to them. They don’t struggle to find food to eat, clothes to wear, or shelter from the elements every day. They aren’t going to take their tax cuts and go buy that Gulfstream V they’ve had their eye on. They already had enough money to do that before the tax cuts, and they didn’t do it. And for the ones whose brains weren’t corroded by Ayn Randian self interests and aversion to paying taxes, it had nothing to do with the taxes they’d have to pay because they could easily afford those, too. So it was nothing but a gift, pure and simple. And they didn’t spend it. And it didn’t “trickle down” to the rest of us (though that wasn’t technically part of the theory) as was promised. And the rich just started getting much, much richer (meaning they were accumulating more and more of the limited money supply) and the rest of us were getting less than before. So we weren’t spending as much as before, and the rich weren’t spending what we would have spent if we had it (because we needed to, not because it would be nice to have another jet plane), so local governments weren’t collecting sales taxes to cover their expenses. So instead of residents getting their garbage picked up twice a week, it’s cut back to once a week. And instead of recyclables getting picked up once a week, it’s reduced to twice a month. And instead of their local police force patrolling 24 hours a day, they would take midnight to six AM off. And with the rich and the large corporations getting their taxes cut, there’s less money to the federal government for things like road and bridge repair, or education scholarships, or scientific exploration, or programs that assist local governments by giving them extra money to hire more police officers. But you’re not one who believes in government as being The People, and that what The People want is to provide a safety net for those down on their luck, to provide mom and dad with a retirement check so they can live in dignity, to provide healthcare to our seniors so they don’t die of the first thing they catch. But if there’s no money coming into the government, and if nobody wants to borrow it, those things can’t be done. Lastly,

Rubio would reform the earned-income tax credit and extend it to cover childless workers. He would also convert most federal welfare spending into a “flex fund” that would go straight to the states. Rules for these programs would no longer be written in Washington. The state agencies that implement welfare policies would have more freedom to design them. He’d maintain overall welfare spending, adjusting it for inflation and poverty levels, but he’d allow more room for experimentation.

This makes the totally unwarranted assumption that states now receiving that money want to spend it on those programs, but the ones controlled by Republicans do not, and they have made that abundantly clear. So if you do away with the federal mandate that the states spend this money on the programs, and in the amounts, for which they were intended, does anyone really believe they’ll all spend that money more efficiently and help even more people than they do now? In what universe are you living? Wait, don’t tell me. I bet David Brooks is standing right next to you. Tell him I said, “Keep dreaming, Pal.”

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of David Brooks or Marco Rubio or me, Brian Williams, if you like.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 31: Speaker of the Tea House

If anything unfortunate (as in “fatal”) were to happen to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the man who would become the 45th President of the United States is a man beholden to some of the most extreme conservative radicals in recent American history. This past Thursday, Republicans in the United States House of Representatives chose as its 54th Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for Vice President in the 2012 elections. The American people rejected both him and his running mate, Willard “The Mitt” Romney, a venture capitalist who made millions by buying corporations, restructuring or selling off their parts, then extorting the banks who lent them money into refinancing their debts under threat of taking all the company’s cash and paying it out as bonuses to his investment partners. You know, the rags-to-riches American dream. (Actually, his father was already a millionaire, and Romney never wanted for anything growing up.) Speaker Ryan should best be remembered (if he’s to be remembered at all) as a hard-line devotee of Ayn Rand, a hypocritical selfish woman who championed an unworkable philosophy of “Objectivism” which wrongly divided the world into “takers and makers” and which proposed the incredibly simplistic and fantastical idea that all government programs are evil, that altruism was a terrible concept, and that rich people should be left alone by the government because they are the true job creators without whom civilization would perish. Thanks to our altruism, she was able to collect Social Security from an evil government, apparently because, like Paul Ryan, his mother, and millions of other Americans, she didn’t make enough money to not need it to survive. But I digress.

Paul Ryan is provably a humongous hypocrite. He rails against “big government” (a phrase that only has meaning to people who can’t explain what it really means), yet his family has been dependent on government for his entire life. Their construction business has relied on government contracts. He has spent his entire career as a government employee of one kind or another. He favors cutting or eliminating programs that help the poor, but he married a woman who inherited millions. He thinks his mother was solely responsible for her own success after his father died (Paul was able to go to college only because of the Social Security benefits his family received upon his death), yet she had to take a government-run bus, driving on government-built roads, to attend a government-run institution of higher learning. This is the aspect of our partly-Socialist society that Conservative Libertarians (such as Ryan and Senator Rand Paul) refuse to see when they talk about getting government out of our lives. People who talk about our government not following the Constitution should remember that it specifically tasks Congress with maintaining postal roads (which are just about all of them), so they should be 100% behind spending on infrastructure. But they aren’t.

Remember how we all thought Ryan was too conservative to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency? What makes Ryan a dangerous choice to be Speaker is that despite his extreme conservatism, the people responsible for his being Speaker think he’s too liberal. The House Freedom Caucus (as they call themselves) believe that this country can only be saved from the horrible rightward direction it has been turning by becoming even more conservative. That’s right. They actually think the United States is not conservative enough. And who are these people in the House Freedom Caucus? There’s about 40 of them, but no one is absolutely sure because some Members of Congress refuse to admit their own membership in the caucus. They’re dangerous because they aren’t just the type who say if they can’t get their way, they’ll take their ball and go home. They’re the type who say if they don’t get their own way, they’ll buy the stadium, bulldoze it to the ground, and replace it with a nuclear waste dump site. And they want Speaker Ryan to stake out a conservative position on every issue and then unflinchingly stick to it. But they won’t compromise.

And that is why they are such a danger to the American People. They refuse to compromise, and governing is all about compromise. Neither ideological side is going to get everything they want, but these people refuse to accept that fact. Personally, I feel the worst thing a country could do to its citizens would be to govern from a Conservative perspective, and I know that’s not just me and the vast majority of people reading these words. They seem to think that Conservatism is all about “freedom”. It’s nothing of the sort. Conservatism, at its root, is about Selfishness. If Conservatism were truly about freedom, then why aren’t Conservatives in the vanguard fighting for the right of women to make their own reproductive choices? Why aren’t Conservatives standing up for black citizens who routinely get harassed and sometimes killed by the police for no other reason than the color of their skin? Why aren’t conservatives fighting to expand government assistance programs that help people enjoy more of what this great country has to offer? Because they don’t believe in “freedom” for everyone at all. They only believe in freedom for people who think like they do. But I state the obvious.

Finally, on an unrelated topic, watch the student in the red and yellow hat visible just over Bernie Sanders’ left shoulder. He seems totally disinterested in what Bernie is saying right up until he hears Bernie mention ending the federal ban on weed.

“Oh, shit” indeed. I had the same reaction when I heard we now have Speaker Paul Ryan. :)

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Speaker Ryan’s future disastrous turn as Speaker, Bernie’s great plan to end the federal ban on weed (or his not-so-great idea that the states should decide the issue), funny hats or anything else you wish to discuss. I won’t bother you. And Happy Halloween.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 26, 2015: Why Is Ben Carson Still Running For POTUS?

He is Dr. Ben Carson. He is running for President of the United States of America. He doesn’t believe in Evolution.

Listening to him talk about it it’s clear he doesn’t understand how Evolution works, which might contribute to why he doesn’t believe in it. I guess to be more accurate, I should have said that Ben Carson doesn’t believe in Evolution as he understands it. He might be pleased to know that most scientists don’t believe in Evolution as Ben Carson understands it, either. Carson thinks that species changed into other species, which then changed into other species, and so on. Of course that’s not how it works. They didn’t “change into” other species, they were born of other species but with slight genetic variations that gave them advantages over others of their kind born without it. I’m not going to waste good intelligent people’s time with a defense and explanation of how Evolution works and why the vast majority of scientists still recognized as scientists by their peers believe that Evolution is how we came to be the creatures you see standing before you in the mirror each day. And I’ll never convince those who argue that because we can’t as yet explain how it all works right down to the tiniest detail that it can’t possibly be true and so we must have been created just as we are just like the Bible says. Those people do not wish to engage their critical thinking skills and, you know, think critically about something. I believe Ben Carson to be one of those people. We’ll see why later.

About a week ago, Carson suggested that we could have caught bin Laden sooner if we had declared that we would be energy independent. Not, as our good Friends at Raw Story put it, if we had been energy independent, but simply if we declared we would be energy independent within five-ten years. And I know this because he said the Arab countries would be come so concerned they would have…I won’t spoil it. Read what he said:

“Declare that within five to 10 years, we will become petroleum independent. The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks.”

Pressed on how that would work in real life, Carson added:

“Well, I think they would have been extremely concerned if we had declared — and we were serious about it — that we were going to become petroleum independent, because it would have had a major impact on their finances,” Carson offered. “And I think that probably would have trumped any loyalty that they had to — to people like Osama bin Laden.”

When it was pointed out that the Saudis had no loyalty to bin Laden and had kicked him out of their country, Carson countered with that standard Conservative tactic of denying Reality:

“Uh, well, you may not think that they had any loyalty to him, but I believe otherwise,” Carson said without further explanation.

I know Carson doesn’t like those who think critically because a couple of days ago he told Glenn Beck he would use the Department of Education to “monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.” You can listen to him give rapid fire yes or no answers that prove he’s on the wrong side of most issues.

He explained to talk show radio host Dana Loesch (who has joined Chuck Todd, Erick Erickson, Eric Bolling, Liz Cheney, Dana Perino, and Sean Hannity as Famous Conservatives Who Have Blocked Me On Twitter) that he would only block Liberal speech on campuses because he believes only Liberals engage in “extreme” speech. (If that doesn’t tell you how extreme his conservatism is, what will?) He says, “And it’s not appropriate for public funding to be used to indoctrinate students in one direction.” First of all, education is not “indoctrination.” Any candidate for POTUS who refers to education this way is unfit to be POTUS, for they are saying they wish the American people to remain ignorant and not learn new things. Second, Liberalism is not “one direction,” but rather the expansion of the mind to look in many outward directions where things don’t have the sameness that looking inwardly only shows. It’s called being “open-minded” and it is the very definition of being Liberal. You don’t go to college to be told what you already knew. You go to college to expand your mind and learn things you never knew before. For example, I went to college to learn why one plus one equals two. Not to learn that one plus one equals two. I mastered that the year before. But why does it equal two? Why doesn’t it equal three or four or some other number? I’ll save you several thousand dollars in education costs and reveal the answer: One plus one equals two because “two” is what we call the number you get when you start with one and add one to it. And “three” is what we call the number you get when you start with “two” and add one to it. And “four” is what we call the successor of “three.” And so on. Rather anticlimactic, I suppose. I bet you were wishing it was some really cool story about word origins or something but, no, it’s simply a matter of definitions. We had to call these numbers something, so we called them what we did. One was going to be the first number after Nothing. And Two was whatever came after One. And Three whatever came after Two. That’s also why they’re in the order they are. Two follows One because Two is what we call whatever follows One. I won’t get into how we’re actually referring to symbols, because that would only confuse the matter. The point is I never would have learned that had I not gone to an institution dedicated to opening my mind and teaching me things I didn’t already know. And to hooking me up with people who could get me LSD.

And if religious extremism, foreign policy naivete, and a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of an education don’t convince you he’s unfit for any public office, perhaps his paranoia will. Buzzfeed is reporting that Carson has been told (and therefore believes) that he is “in great danger” because, and pardon me if I am unable to get through this because it’s so absurd, he challenges “the secular progressive movement to the very core.” How is? What is? Where the? Why would he think he is “in great danger” from the “secular progressive movement”? I can’t speak to whether or not there are threats that pose a great danger to him, but I hardly think any such threats would come from the “secular progressive movement” (whatever that is.) I’m atheist (secular) and a Liberal Libertarian (sort of progressive), but no form of opposition to his political views I take would involve physical harm to his person or family. Whoever told him that was projecting his own framework of the world onto the suggestion. He told Carson this because he believed that’s what he would do if he were on the other side. But he has no idea how the other side would think or else he would be ON the other side. They simply don’t get this. I can’t speak for any racist or white supremacist groups, but I won’t dispute he may be in danger. But let the experts in law enforcement who know more about what’s going on than we’ll ever know pinpoint the source of the dangerous threats. I’m sure it will surprise you, Ben.

“But, Wayne, you incredibly handsome and intelligent guy,” you say, “Carson is a man of medical training who must surely understand the medical reasons why an abortion might be necessary. Might he be open-minded enough about that to see why a woman should ultimately be the one to decide if she will have an abortion?” Well, I’d say you were right about me but wrong about Carson. No, he opposes abortion and wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned (never going to happen.) As he said just this past Sunday, he doesn’t even think there should be an exception for cases of rape and incest. The problem is his internal framing of the issue. He likens the collection of cells that is on its way to probably being a human to being a slave, and equates the slave owner’s right to do whatever he wanted to with his property to a woman deciding to kill her own baby (which is not what it is at the point in the pregnancy of which we speak.) Remember the little talk before about Evolution? He doesn’t believe in that, so he doesn’t believe it’s possible that the pregnancy could produce the next species after Homo sapiens sapiens. Or it could produce a mutation that isn’t genetically beneficial to survival of the species, such as the inability to breathe oxygen into your bloodstream. If you believe in Evolution, it is arguable that we’re not necessarily talking about a “human” baby, since we’re talking about something that is only weeks along in its development. And if you believe Women are equal citizens under the law, and if you believe that Everyone should have the right to decide what to do with his or her own body, and if you believe that these choices are just that – choices – that you have the right to make, then you cannot believe Ben Carson would make a good President. Not for this country. Take it from a handsome, intelligent guy. So why is he still running for POTUS?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ben Carson, Ben Carson’s fitness or lack thereof to be POTUS, how much less handsome and intelligent Ben Carson is than me, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 24th, 2015: OTG (Oh Their God)

Having recently run across the Christian Post website (which came up when I was researching the Word of Life church killing), I went back to take a look at their political coverage.

While not as overtly crazy-sounding as most of the stories one finds on RightWingWatch, I’d say that there’s enough fundamentalist nonsense at CP to bear watching. Although the ‘news’ articles that I glanced at are written in a fairly straightforward manner, their content adds to the argument that organized religions need to stay out of politics or get taxed just like everyone else.

One of the first articles to catch my eye surprised the hell out of me: who knew that there’s such a thing as a “Christian Voting Guide”? Yup! And, of course, the sole Republican Presidential ‘contender’ who rated an ‘A’ rating just had to be Mike Huckabee:

The list, put together by Rev. Steven Andrew, pastor of USA Christian Church, claimed that only four of the candidates would be biblically qualified to serve as president.

Ranking the candidates on criteria such as truthfulness, hating covetousness, protecting “God-given rights,” fearing God and protecting Christian religious liberty, the guide gave Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Rand Paul B-grades, and only Huckabee scored an ‘A.’

“It is time to please God; we must repent of voting based on how much money one raises or popularity. Those things can’t make the USA great.

However, God will restore His blessings for choosing the strongest Christian after His own heart for president. Mike Huckabee is the closest to a King David running. David did God’s will for the nation and God blessed Israel greatly,” Andrew said.

This is the first thing you see on the Christian Voting Guide page:

Reverend Andrew’s USA Christian Church’s “Statement of Faith” simply makes me wonder yet again how any fundamentalist “Christians” can name themselves after Jesus Christ, when most of their beliefs and practices are solely based on Old Testament ravings writings:

“Statement of Faith

God eternally exists in three Persons as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. (John 10:30, John 14:26, Genesis 1:1, John 1:1)

The Holy Bible is the infallible Word of God and it is our final authority. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:160, John 15:7)

All have sinned, fallen short of the glory of God and face the judgment of God for their sin. Each person must call on Jesus Christ to be saved.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He lived a perfect sinless life, died and rose from the dead. The blood of Jesus shed on the cross cleanses from all sin. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Acts 4:12, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:29, 1 John 1:7)

The First Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. (Mark 12:30)

The Second Commandment to love one another; as Jesus loved us, that we also love one another. Jesus is our Lord. We are to follow Jesus and seek and do the Father’s will. (Mark 12:31, John 13:34, Luke 9:23, Matthew 7:21)

God gives us His Holy Spirit to live holy and abundant lives – glorifying God. (Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Peter 1:14-16, Romans 8:14, 1 Corinthians 12, 2 Corinthians 6:17, John 10:10)

The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation, together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Titus 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Romans 8:23).

The revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven and the Millennial reign of Christ on earth (2 Thessalonians 1:17; Revelation 19:11-14; Romans 11:26-27; Revelation 20:1-7).

The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and anyone not found written in the Book of Life, shall be punished everlastingly in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10-15).

“According to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21 – 22).”

Reverend Andrew is also touting his book “God’s Plan for the USA.” The ad blurb for the book could fit in with the Texas textbooks’ American History whitewash, albeit a trifle more extreme:

“Can the USA Survive?”

“There are seven remarkable Bible Keys our founders knew that God promises will bless you and save the USA. Do you know God’s answers to the uncertainty, economic problems, police state, degradation of families, terrorists, declining healthcare, darkness, and the persecution of Christians.

Many see the crisis that threatens the USA’s survival, but few know the real problem or realize how severe the dangers are. Yet there is hope. God’s Word assures a miraculous turn-around of God’s favor to end His judgment. It hinges upon following Him completely, from the heart and soul.

Our founders faced a similar challenge. They bravely turned the tide using these Bible Keys. They made the LORD the God of the USA and they proclaimed Americans to be His people. This means that you have God’s amazing covenant guarantee to save America.”

For more on this ridiculous premise, see “10 Reasons God Wants the USA to be a Strong Christian Nation” Also, have fun with Reverend Andrew’s directives to “Pastors and Christian Leaders”, i.e.:

“As you know God wants to show mercy to the USA for our sins and bless Americans. That is why I am making this Pastors and Christian Leaders Guide to “Making A Strong Christian Nation” available for you to print and share.” ~~~ “Pastors will you preach these Biblical keys in sermons and help unite the USA in Christ? As Jesus Christ was our nation’s answer in 1776, Jesus Christ is the USA’s answer today.”

Okay, that’s enough BS to start off the weekend. But don’t worry, there’s plenty more to wade through at the linked sites.

This is our daily Open Thread–have at it!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 10th, 2015: Communication: Some Rambling Thoughts

Since Wayne is out and about working on clearing his mother’s apartment, I figured I would just throw up a few thoughts that recently came to mind regarding communication.

I think that all of us can agree, without false humility, that each of us in our little group here is well above average when it comes to communicating our thoughts and opinions on national, global, and universal topics. Whether we’re all highly educated or not (i.e., I only have one year of college, while many of you have actual degrees), we have one very basic thing in common: an understanding that each and every word we use has its own particular history and evolution, and therefore its own uniquely particular meaning. We revel in the ability to express ourselves as exactly as possible, and the fact that any one of us Zoosters is capable of writing something so eloquent that it pierces mind and heart is one of the many characteristics that brought us, and continues to keep us, all together.

Of course, searching one’s mind for that perfect word or phrase is not always easy, and I’m sure that, at times, each of us experiences the dissatisfaction of having to resign ourselves to the limitations of language.

This idea was brought home to me this morning, when I was reading an email from my sister. (Background note: none of my family has been very good about communicating with each other, and my sister and I have been the worst. In the olden days, she would talk to mum every weekend, and mum would pass the conversation along. Since our parents died [and the world became a darker and colder place – it was December of 2004, just after the Bush re-election] we’ve become even worse.) I had sent my sister, Anne, belated birthday wishes, and I had lamented that my upcoming birthday, when I will turn 60, was too depressing to think about. In part of Anne’s response to me, she wrote,

“… sixty is so far in my rearview mirror, I…admit thinking it’s right in your face that you aren’t young anymore…But it also made me think about what is important to me and how not to add to my list of regrets. Those sentences took me about ten minutes and still sound more philosophical than I intend. It was more like: YIKES! I could live to a hundred or I could be done and I better get on the case.”

Those few sentences alone told me so much more about my sister than most of our few face-to-face conversations. I realized a long time ago that we were very much alike in many ways, most particularly in our sarcastic/sardonic/sometimes waspish sense of humor, but it had never really occurred to me that we shared the same innate desire to express ourselves as precisely as possible. I won’t bore you more with personal baggage, but her phrase “how not to add to my list of regrets” truly struck home with me.

Moving on to another area of communication…

At work the other day, one of the women in Sales & Marketing was complaining about new requirements and restrictions that the chain drug stores (we deal with Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS, etc.) were demanding regarding the wording on our products’ packaging. As you know, the company for which Wayne and I work sell footcare products for various problems such as corns, calluses, bunions, heel pain, etc. Naturally, our packaging includes descriptions of the benefits that each product provides, along with instructions for use and care of the product. The chain stores, for some unknown reason, want us to eliminate much of this. Now, our customers range from medical professionals to dancers, athletes, everyday workers who stand all day, veterans, and so on, and they sometimes include some of the dumbest people on the face of the earth. I don’t know if the chain stores mistakenly believe that dumbing down the packaging information will broaden our products’ appeal, or what, but they pretty much want us to boil our wording down to “Use this, feet feel better” without saying how or why.

Which brought me around to a topic that we’ve much discussed, the use of language by conservatives politicians and pundits. Let me just take two examples of conservatives who have used their understanding of language to make a living in politics, William Safire and Frank Luntz.

In the before-time when my parents got the Sunday New York Times, mum and I shared two favorites: the crossword puzzle, of course – we took turns working on it, and it always irritated me that mum would use a pen while I used a pencil – and Safire’s column “On Language.” His column helped fuel my already keen interest in words and their origins which has obviously stayed with me all of my life. So regardless of William Safire’s conservative faults, and they are many, I have to thank him for his influence on my life.

Not so Frank Luntz. Luntz has been a snake-oil salesman who has used his language skills on a national level, poisoning the political conversation in order to mislead the voting populace. Luntz has taken words, language, and twisted them into meanings that they were never meant to have, using his ‘force’ for evil instead of good. At least William Safire, in his column, wanted to educate people on the use of language; Frank Luntz has no such interest, rather, he uses his power to blur the lines between good and bad, one of the best examples of which is the title “The Clear Skies Initiative.” In my opinion, this type of wordsmithing (too grand a word for what Luntz does, but technically correct), has snowballed to the point that, now, conservatives’ speeches are a combination of big words that say nothing and stone-age grunts of “left – BAD.” I hold him personally responsible for much of destruction of our political discourse which has brought our country to its present state of Idiocracy.

Okay, enough of my words, let’s hear yours.

This is our daily Open Thread – communicate!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 3, 2015: Backward, Christian Soldiers

There is a belief among some people (and when I say “some people,” I mean Conservative Christian Americans) that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, on Judeo-Christian values, and for the benefit of Christians. They are wrong on all three counts. The only evidence I’ve seen that the USA was “founded” as a Christian nation come from David Barton, a well-known snake oil salesman who has been misleading people for decades, and all of it refers to the USA as it was founded under the Articles of Confederation. Barton and his ilk want the USA to be a Christian nation so badly that they promote a philosophy called Seven Mountains Dominionism, which is a plan to establish a virtual theocracy here. In their minds, the Bible takes precedent over the US Constitution. (I can promise you this atheist will oppose such a movement at every turn, but I seriously doubt any such thing will ever happen.) But I don’t believe that any of their thinking is correct regarding the secular United States of America formed under our present Constitution. The authors of the First Amendment saw what a government run according to someone’s idea of Religion, Christian or otherwise, could do and decided they wanted no part of that. Besides, when Conservatives speak of “Judeo-Christian values,” what they’re really talking about is Old Testament punishment for things they personally find offensive, especially gay people. (If someone could explain below why there are both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 in the O.T., I’d really like to know. Both list pretty much the same sins, but Lev 18 says the sinners should be banished, while Lev 20 says they should be put to death. Which one Conservative Christians quote can tell you a lot about them as human beings.) And just because it was Christians escaping persecution in Europe for their extreme conservative Christianity who landed here and took the land from the people living here at the time does not mean this nation (under our present Constitution) was founded just for Christians. Again, some people (see above) actually believe that. The only argument I can say against that belief is that nowhere in the body of the Constitution, or in its Amendments, are the words “God,” “Christ,” or “Christianity” to be found. If the USA was really “founded as a Christian nation,” wouldn’t you expect those three words to be all over the Constitution and its Amendments? Why would they not be? BTW, through his usual tactic of lies and deception, Barton is pushing a new movement to get Conservative Christians to vote for Christians candidates and principles. I have to wonder why this movement would be necessary if this were already a Christian nation, founded on Judeo-Christian values, for Christians. Logic means nothing to people like this.

There is also a belief among some people (and when I say “some people,” I mean Conservative Christian Americans) that Christians in this country are being persecuted for their beliefs, with Rowan County, KY, Clerk Kim Davis being one of the latest examples. They believe that Christianity itself is under attack. They’re so insecure in themselves and in their Religion that they act as if the mention of any other religions will bring everything they believe crashing down. (In reality, the Truth is enough to do that.) It has gotten so bad that a conservative Christian organization in Georgia is freaking out because students are being taught the basics of the three Abrahamic religions (the ones who all worship the same God under different names) in their studies of the Middle East. [Never mind the school district being targeted has been teaching the same class for nine years without prior complaints.] Now face it, you can’t begin to comprehend the cultures and events in the Middle East without first understanding the role Religion plays in the region. For one thing, it is the birthplace of all three Abrahamic Religions. On that topic there’s something I have to say. For the life of me, I don’t understand how we can get three major Religions who all worship the very same God (on this, there is no dispute, even though some people in the story expressed disbelief of this, which is proof that this particular education is needed there) but who all say that worship must take place in different forms, under penalty of death (all three, not just one), yet all claim to be the “One True Religion”? And how can there be hundreds and thousands of variations of these Major Religions who also claim to be the one correct way to worship God? (They must be different or else they would all be the same one.) Anyway, perhaps that’s something the curriculum might have explained, but I’d have to move down to Georgia to hear it, and I have spent enough time in Georgia, thank you. (Military training. Can’t say more.) But why do Conservative Christians see teaching someone the basics (some call them “tenets”) of other religions as a threat to the free exercise of their own? Learning about them is not converting them to that religion. Besides, it’s what you actually do, not what you tell others you do, that defines which religion you practice. You can learn everything you want about Islam, but if you still pray to Jehovah, and you still attend church services each week, and you still wear a cross around your neck, you’re still a Christian, so stop worrying about it. There’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim anymore than there is with being a Jew or a Christian. You can pick apart any Religion based on a belief in a supernatural being who secretly tells only three people what he wants, and then expects everyone to believe that person (again, under penalty of death in all three cases), and find all kinds of things that make that religion look bad. If you want to save time, I’m sure you can find things in all three that make them look good. But there’s no reason for American Christians to fear persecution just because other Americans are exempt from Christianity’s rules. That hasn’t stopped our installing 44 consecutive Christians as President (one of them twice.) Get over it, Conservative Christians. No one is coming for your cross.

There is yet another belief of at least one person (and when I say “one person,” I mean the conservative Tennessee Lt Governor Ron Ramsey, a gun nut who believes the NRA’s crap about the purpose and scope of the Second Amendment) that because this latest mass shooting specifically targeted Christians because of their faith, those “who are serious about their faith” should “think about getting a handgun carry permit.” He goes on to say, “I have always believed that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” That’s funny, I have always believed it is better to resolve a situation without someone dying than it is to kill someone to bring it to an end. What I don’t understand is this belief that a gun is the only option for self-defense. It is because of this cavalier attitude toward guns that so many children have died from being shot by other children. I understand why Conservatives feel this way. (It has to do with the way their brains perceive danger more than a Liberal’s brain might.) But what I can’t understand is why a Christian would believe this, too, especially one who was “serious” about his faith. Jesus never carried a gun nor did he preach violence. The Lt Gov concluded his post with, “Our enemies are armed. We must do likewise.” Really? I’m no ally of any organized religion, and I may even go so far as to call myself an enemy of them, but I also believe in non-violence and I would never carry a gun around with me (absent the collapse of civilization) to make my enmity toward religion known. Like Jesus, I would use words to persuade my fellow Americans that more guns and religions are not the answer to America’s problems, one of which is the presence of too many guns and religions.

If nothing else, Conservative Christians want to take this country backwards, not forwards. They are likely the very people to whom then-Senator Barack Obama referred on the campaign trail as those who “cling to guns and religion” during frustrations with economic conditions. [BTW, I learned something in looking up that remark. I always heard that Mid-West Christian gun owners were offended by that remark, but they weren’t the only ones he mentioned. The entire sentence was, “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”] I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Jesus wasn’t a Conservative. And he wasn’t a gun nut, either. And he wasn’t afraid of other people. You’re the ones who are supposed to be like him, not me.

Give us this day our daily open thread, and forgive us our late posting, as we have forgiven those who have failed to timely post before.

Sunday Roast: Democrats do it, too. Neener, neener!!!


As if the GOP “debates” aren’t enough of a clusterfuck, the DNC has decided to put their own brand of screws to the democratic process.  Because Hillary Clinton.  And big money in politics, of course.

*head banging on desk*

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