Tag Archive | wingnuts

Why do American right-wingers hate trains?

“Mmmmmmmm... must build more cares. NEED MORE CARS.”

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I was reading a very interesting blog post elseweb (discussing yet another post somewhere else on another topic) where one of the regular commenters asked in response to some off-hand remarks in the other post and related comments, “What is it that American right-wingers have against trains?” And several other people (a few of whom I know aren’t from the U.S.) gave some answers that contain parts of the explanation. I typed a really long comment going into great detail based on debates I’ve been having with fellow Americans (of varying degrees of being more conservative than I) on the topic. I realized a really long comment doesn’t belong in someone else’s blog’s comments when I have my own place to publish it. So I copied the text out and posted a much shorter summary there. Now, with additional editing, it can be a posted here.

As I said, this comes from years of debating issues such as bus service, various ballot measures to build or extend light rail or commuter train service and related policies. It’s also grounded in my own experience growing up in rural and suburban U.S. communities.

For a bit of cultural context: to graduate from high school in this state back in the year I graduated one of the courses you had to complete was a Civics class. And there was an entire chapter in the state-approved textbook my high school was using at the time called “America’s Love Affair with the Automobile.” I very distinctly remember that there was an essay question on one of the tests in which we were to describe the procedure for changing a flat tire.

This knowledge was considered to be of the same level of importance as how to register to vote, read a voter’s pamphlet, and fill out a ballot.

So, to get back to the question about trains…

Cars represent self-determination and self-reliance. They are seen as being more flexible than trains, because they aren’t limited to running on a track. Cars are also perceived as being the responsibility of the individual owning it. You choose how often to buy a new car. You decide what kind of (and how costly a) car you want to own. You pay for your gas and maintenance. And so on.

On the other hand, all types of mass transit are perceived (at least by those of a more conservative bent) as being primarily for the use of people who are too poor to afford a car of their own. Transit is therefore perceived as being paid for primarily through taxes, and specifically the taxes of folks who are not so poor as to need public transit. Add in another myth popular with that crowd—that the vast majority of poor people are only poor because they are lazy, immoral, or both—therefore taxpayer-funded transit being used mostly by people who don’t deserve it.

Whenever I have tried to point out that virtually all roads which cars drive upon in this country are built and maintained entirely by the taxpayer, people are unpersuaded. Because of another myth—this one is believed by people of virtually every political stripe—which is the myth that roads are paid for by taxes on gasoline. Therefore, it is believed (incorrectly) that people who own gas-burning cars are paying for all of the roads all by themselves.

While it is true that most gas taxes are spent on highway projects and the like, what people fail to grasp (or fail to remember once it’s explained to them) is that gas tax revenue is not sufficient to pay for highways, and none of it (at least not in any state where I have lived) is ever used for surface streets within towns and cities. The portion of highway costs that aren’t covered by the gas tax comes from the general tax revenue, of course. And all other road construction, likewise, is paid for by all tax payers, not just the ones buying gasoline.

On the very rare occasion that I have convinced someone in one of these discussions on the latter point, we get to yet another myth that is widely held by conservatives in this country: poor people don’t pay taxes—at all. Again, while if one makes less than a certain amount of money, one does not pay federal income tax, that isn’t by any means the only taxes there are. If you are earning a paycheck so small that there is no federal income tax withheld at all, one still pays social security tax, medicare tax, and state unemployment tax

And that’s still not the entire tax picture. Most states have a sales tax. So everyone who buys things pays those taxes. Most states have property tax, and if you don’t own the property yourself, your landlord is charging you rent to cover those property taxes, it’s just indirect. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are many other taxes that folks who earn too little to owe federal income tax do, indeed, pay.

I’ve skipped over another bit of the issue, though it is implied in one of the earlier points. A lot of right-wingers (because they believe that the only reason one is poor is because one is lazy, immoral, or both) adhere to the firm conviction that any service which makes life less than completely miserable for poor people simply encourages them to continue being poor. Therefore, buses, light rail, commuter trains, and so forth are seen as things that encourage laziness and immorality.

There are a lot more aspects to all these misconceptions. The idea that cars are more flexible than trains overlooks the fact that roads are no easier to move than train tacks. And that most cars aren’t suitable for extended off-road use. Even for those care which are, most car owners would not be happy with what extended off-road use does to their paint job. And since 80% of the population lives in cities, the only way 80% can get more flexible than existing roads is to drive through other people’s yards. Not a good kind of flexibility!

The above misunderstanding about gas taxes also contributes to why so many right-wingers sneer at electric cars and hybrids, for another instance.

And so on.

But, really, most of it comes down to that dogma I talked about near the beginning: cars represent self-determination and self-reliance, while mass transit (especially trains) are perceived as a tax-payer giveaway to people too poor (read lazy/immoral) to afford a car.

And thats why right-wingers in America hate trains.

Thursday Tidbits: Reading about angry people while social distancing

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It’s nearly the end of my fourth week of working from home full-time because of the pandemic. The state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order hasn’t been in effect that long. I chose to work from home four Mondays ago on a day when I would normally go in because I had developed a cough1 over the weekend, just to be safe. I didn’t want to be the person who infected other people if I happened to have this thing, right? Later that week, my boss encouraged everyone to work from home… and then we had the first request (not an order) from the state to all the tech companies to let employees who could work from home do so, and so the executives sent out the message to that effect.

I regularly worked from home at least two days a week for quite some time before then, so I didn’t expect it would be much of an adjustment3. And I’m an introvert, who while I like spending time with my friends, need to spend quite a bit of time alone in order to not be mega-cranky.

My husband, in the meantime, was still having to go into work five days a week4, which of course had me fretting. I’ve been fretting about all my friends and loved ones throughout this mess. Earlier this week, he and most of his co-workers were furloughed, so he’s going to be home with me all the time for the foreseeable future. Which means slightly less fretting, right? Of course it also means we need to figure out some new routines.

On the one hand, it helps that he’s also an introvert, and we already have a habit of spending most of our time at home ignoring each other. He usually sits at his computer and I sit at mine. If I’m watching TV he’s usually playing games on his computer, or designing 3D figures to print on his 3D printer, or sitting at the table painting said figures. So we’ve got that part sorted, for now.

But worrying about everyone else does wear on you. And even though I have been a news junkie5 since I was a kid, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to avoid some of my usual news sources during my daily reading. But even though I’m trying to avoid some of those external sources of anxiety, stuff still comes across my stream that just demands a comment.

For instance, White nationalist planned to bomb a Missouri hospital as revolt against coronavirus lockdowns. Seriously? Geeze. If you don’t want to click through, the guy was under surveillance by the FBI for some time because he was active on some of the same neo-Nazi message boards as several other people arrested over the last few months for similar plans. He had been in communication with someone he thought was building a bomb that could be installed in his car, and he showed up to pick up the bomb, not realizing it was an FBI sting. He resisted arrest, and got shot and killed in the process.

Bombing a hospital? Really?

I really don’t understand some people.

Meanwhile, there is a slightly positive development in another news story about an angry white nationalist: Christchurch shootings: Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to 51 murders – A man accused of deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch a year ago has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder. At least the families of the victims won’t have to watch a long jury trial uncertain of the outcome.

Speaking of angry white men who may finally be held accountable for some bad stuff they’ve done: Alex Jones Loses Sandy Hook Court Appeal, Must Now Pay Nearly $150,000 In Legal Fees. I hope he keeps losing lawsuits from the families of those murdered children until he’s homeless8.

Another feature of angry white men we don’t spend enough time talking about is just how stupid they are. And it’s the kind of stupid that causes real harm to others. So I’m going to close with this video, where Rachel Maddow talks about one such stupid angry white guy. Take it away, Rachel!

Rachel Maddow blasts Mississippi governor for banning cities from coronavirus business closures:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)


Footnotes:

1. A couple days before that tree pollen count went into the deep red, and what few other symptoms I had were consistent with a severe hay fever attack, so I was fairly certain I didn’t have the coronavirus2. But, better safe than sorry, right?

2. I have been following the advice from the World Health Organization of checking my temperature several times a day ever since. I have had no fever in that time. The cough went away for a while, then came back, and then went away. No other symptoms have shown up, so knock wood!

3. And when some people on some of the podcasts I regularly listen to were talking about how difficult it was coming up with things to do to amuse themselves while avoiding going out, I admit I chuckled. I have so many books in my to-read pile, for instance! And there are all those shows I have been trying to get to on the various streaming services! The problem isn’t finding things to do, the problem is still not having enough time for the things I want to watch, read, or listen to!

4. Riding the bus back and forth twice a day. At least he doesn’t work directly with the public like he used to. He even pointed out that because his workbench in in a cage (because he works on hard disk and other highly valuable things that are easy to pocket), most of the time all of his co-workers are far enough from him to prevent casual infection.

5. I sometimes blame Weekly Reader6, which was this sort of mini newspaper that we used to get in some of the elementary schools I attended. The idea of Weekly Reader was to provide age-appropriate versions of the big news stories kids might be hearing their parents talking about or whatever. It was an interesting publication.

6. Though my paternal grandfather was a big fan of reading the newspaper, as well as the nightly news. And most of the radio stations in most of the places we lived during my childhood had an hourly news break provided by one of the major networks. And there always seemed to be a station that carried the Paul Harvey show at noon7.

7. Which I now realize had a quite skewed viewpoint and was as likely to report urban legends as it was real news, but there was something entertaining about it.

8. He deserves much worse, of course.

Late Tuesday Tidbit: For some, freedom’s just a code word for lawlessness

“The favorite Republican word is 'freedom,' but they're not referring to YOUR freedom. They mean the freedom of corporations to do what they want to do: pay lo wages, bust unions, spy on employees, pollute the atmosphere, collude with one another, and monopolize markets.” — Economist Rober Reich

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A few quickies to wind up this interesting Tuesday

The Iowa caucuses have always been bad. Now we know just how bad they are – With its error-prone process in a disproportionately white state, Iowa doesn’t deserve to be the state to have the first say in who the Democrats should nominate. Despite this, the problem isn’t about corruption, nor do the slow release of results prove any kind of conspiracy. Caucuses are in theory run by the state parties, who rely heavily on volunteers. These are not trained professionals. The volunteers seldom get much in the way of training beforehand. And volunteers at these things tend to skew older, exactly the demographic that you don’t want carrying out important tasks with a smart phone app. To be fair, primaries have a lot of the same problems—poll workers again are not paid professionals, they are volunteers who often are not well trained. And with either system, election night results are always, at best, estimates. The real results aren’t known until all the paperwork from the precincts are processed, sometimes weeks later. And yes, there were all the usual paper documents signed with the entire precinct witnessing and so forth. The app wasn’t meant to be the official results, but rather to facilitate announcing estimates sooner.

Let’s move on to a differnt topic: Republicans scrap child marriage ban because they’re worried about a pro-LGBTQ proposal — Indiana could have stopped adult men from marrying 15-year-old girls, but Republicans wanted to be sure their marriage equality ban stayed on the books. Because nothing says freedom more than forcing teens to marry whom their parents chose. And heaven forfend that consenting adults are allowed to tie the knot…

‘Shocking Disrespect’ As Trump Acts Up During The National Anthem – Video of Trump behaving erratically while the Star Spangled Banner were played at his Super Bowl party have surfaced. This from the alleged president who called on people to be fired (and worse) for kneeling during the national anthem. And let me point out: kneeling is not disrespect! That’s the part that really gets me. Kneeling has always been a form of respect and deference. Whereas gyrating around, moving a chair, waving your arms in mockery of a choral conductor? That’s definitely not showing respect.

It’s No Exaggeration: Sweeping South Dakota Bill Aims to Eliminate All LGBTQ Rights. Again, because nothing says freedom like imposing your religious beliefs on others…

I am not going to watch the State of the Union. I don’t need to watch that buffoon lie while mangling the language for hours. If you do want to watch a good speech under 8 minutes, you might enjoy this:

LGBTQ State of the Union w/ Billy Porter | Logo TV:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Confessions of a former self-loathing closet case

“Homophobia Kills. Homophobia can lead to a slow and painful death. Homophobia seriously harms people around you. Homophobia in the familiy can lead to teen suicides.”

Quit being a homophobe (click to embiggen)

There are people who firmly believe that because of the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” that the only aspects of homophobia that cause harm are actual physical assaults, targeted arson, and the like—and that any of us who push back on anything less than a physical attack are overreacting. Not just overreacting, they say that us calling out the homophobes is worse than the original homophobia. And that’s just bull. Pointing out that a person is acting or saying bigoted things is not worse or somehow less civil than the original bigoted actions, comments, or policies. Facing blowback for things you do and say, especially in the public square, does not make you a victim. And while it is possible for a reaction to be disproportionate, there isn’t a simple, objective way to measure that disproportionality. But what I can say with certainty is, if you’re one of those people who have ever used that “sticks and stones” philosophy to excuse someone being a bigot, you have no right to criticize any words that are sent back to the bigot as being out of line.

All of this is true even if the bigot in question happens to also be a member of the community the bigot is expressing bigotry toward.

I’ve started a blog post with this title several times over the last two years, and then trashed most of it—usually extracting a small part out to use as the basis of a slightly less provocative blog post. A pair of news stories crossed my stream within the last week that got me thinking about this again, and once again I pulled this out of the drafts and tried to start writing it. I am not going to link to the news stories in question for reasons I hope become clear. The reason I have toned down previous blog posts on this topic can be summed up by something I saw this morning on twitter from Alexandra Erin, a writer and satirist I follow, in reference to a completely unrelated topic: “…when you put something out in the world, you are responsible for how it lands.”

Erin is talking about satire and how easily it can be misunderstood, but the principle applies to all writing. It doesn’t matter whether I intend something to hurt someone else, if it hurts them, it is still my fault. That doesn’t mean the intention doesn’t matter, it means that intentions don’t negate the fallout. Here’s a simple example (which I think I first read in a blog post on tumblr, but I don’t remember for certain): say you’re an adult tasked with watching some small children playing on a playground. One kid, in their excitement, inadvertently bumps into another kid, who falls off the jungle gym and skins their knee. Do you run up to the crying kid with the skinned knee and lecture them that they shouldn’t cry because the other kid didn’t mean it? No. You clean up and bandage the skinned knee, you comfort the hurt child, you caution the other kid to be more mindful of what they’re doing, and you have them apologize for their carelessness.

I’ve written more than once about self-hating closet cases who cause harm to our community and whether they deserve our sympathy. The whole reason they are self-hating is because of the homophobia they faced growing up. Our society is steeped in toxic notions about what is and isn’t acceptable for one to be interested in depending on one’s gender. And also steeped in just as toxic notions about mannerisms—including how one talks and walks—that are acceptable depending on your gender. Not all queer people are obviously gender non-conforming (and not all gender non-conforming people are gay), but gender non-conforming kids are bullied and harassed. Even the gender conforming queer kids are hurt by that, because they know that if anyone finds out about their same-sex crushes or whatever, that they will be subjected to the same kind of hatred from some classmates, some teachers, and some family members.

We are taught from a very early age to loath ourselves and to expect loathing from others. For many of us, the need to deflect at least some of that loathing causes us to denounce and participate in the shunning and bullying of others. Because if we denounce the faggots loudly, no one could possibly believe we’re queer ourselves, right?

Which means that I feel a lot of guilt for some of the things I said and positions I endorsed in my early teens.

So yes, I feel a lot of sympathy for kids who are living in terror inside those closets. The sympathy starts to go away when those kids grow up, are exposed to examples of how life can be better out of the closet, but they continue to attack other queer people even while cowering inside their own closet. There is a bit of pity, sometimes, but the longer they are exposed to better information (sexual orientation isn’t a choice, all those stories about health issues for queers are myths, queer people can live healthy and happy and long lives, et cetera), they less they deserve our consideration.

And that doesn’t change if they happen to come out of the closet but still insist on vilifying and otherwise attacking their fellow queers. A young man who comes out of the closet but lends his voice and face to campaigns to deny civil rights to his fellow queers—who goes on national news shows and records political ads saying, “I’m a gay man, and I agree with these people that think gay people don’t deserve equal rights” isn’t simply expressing an opinion. He is contributing to the hostile environment that sometimes literally kills other queer people.

Because we’ve long had proof—from medical studies first conducted by a Republican administration—that contrary to that sticks-and-stones saying, words do hurt. All that anti-gay rhetoric leads to the death of hundreds of queer and gender non-conforming kids every year, among other very real harms.

So-called homocons who assist anti-gay organizations in oppressing other queer people should not be surprised when they face blowback. Queers and allies standing up for themselves in the face of that oppression are not bullying. It isn’t a both sides thing, it’s self-defense. Particularly in a case where, say, the adult homocon who has already appeared on TV more than once to denounce gay rights campaigns, then leads a bunch of haters in a loud protest angrily chanting anti-gay slogans at a children’s event. That isn’t a “morally ambiguous transgression” it’s despicable—plain and simple. Especially when you go on TV again to defend your actions.

When other people call out the bigotry, that’s not mob violence, that’s consequences. Maybe you should have thought about that before agreeing to go on TV. Again.

Yes, when we say things we are responsible for how they land, regardless of our intentions. But that’s a two-way street. And when a self-loathing queer who assists bigots has been given a number of chances over a few years to reconsider his hateful words and deeds, there comes a point when there is no one to blame for any of the consequences except himself.

Weekend Update 1/11/2020: Bitter lies, obscured truths, and the failure of “fairness”

“Firing a $70,000 missile from a $28,000,000 drone flying at a cost of $3,624 per hour to kill people in the Middle East living on less than $1 per day.”  “We live in a country where if you want to bomb somebody, there's remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost. But then you have a discussion abut whether or not we can assisst people who are suffering, and suddenly we become very cost-conscious.” —Prof. Andrew Bacevich

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“Firing a $70,000 missile from a $28,000,000 drone flying at a cost of $3,624 per hour to kill people in the Middle East living on less than $1 per day.”

“We live in a country where if you want to bomb somebody, there’s remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost. But then you have a discussion abut whether or not we can assisst people who are suffering, and suddenly we become very cost-conscious.” —Prof. Andrew Bacevich

Time for another of my Saturday posts where I talk about stories that either broke after I finished this week’s Friday Five or have had new information come forward after being linked and/or commented on in any of my previous posts. Let’s go!

We’ve reached a new high in journalists bending over backwards not to report that water is wet: Amash accuses Trump of selling military support to Saudi Arabia. The problem with this headline is that word accuses, because inside the story, Trump himself is quoted as saying in an interview on Fox. “We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.” So no one needs to accuse the alleged president of selling troops, the guy is bragging about it!

Warren: Reasonable to Ask if Trump’s Iran Strike Is a Distraction From Impeachment. Reasonable is an understatement, especially when we learn that TRUMP ARGUED SOLEIMANI STRIKE WOULD BE POPULAR POLITICALLY, SAID IRAN WOULDN’T ‘DO ANYTHING TOO STUPID’.

Is there anyone on the planet less qualified to speculate about other people doing stupid things? This is the guy who, when warned not to look directly at a solar eclipse because it could burn the retinas in his eyes, went out of the balcony of the White House with a zillion cameras and reporters watching, and turned his head up to look directly at the eclipse! This is the man that we have seen doesn’t know how to fold up an umbrella! This is the man who went on a rambling rant proving that he doesn’t know how basic plumbing works, when discussing a drought. We can keep going… but there are other things to report.

Picture of a homeless man sleeping on a park bench, using newspapers for blankets. Headlines about soaring corporate profits and a surging stock market are visible. “We need to stop measuing 'the economy' by how well rich people are doing.”

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Here’s why the stock market is surging to records after an Iranian missile strike threatened to erupt into war. Yes, the Dow is surging to record highs… and I’m trying not to be superstitious here, but we’re entering the 2020s, right? And during the 1920s the stock market just surged and surged and surged and anyone who could afford to invest seemed to be making a killing and everything looked wonderful (at least if you believe the popular media at the time), until the market literally crashed and then we had the Great Depression.

And things aren’t looking good for much of the workforce as it is now: Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay. “In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on.” The New York Times: After a Decade of Hiring, Plenty of Jobs but Raises Are Tiny. Again, I realize that most of you don’t need me or these stories to tell you that wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. I think it’s useful, though, to have these facts to share when necessary.

“I'm sick of seeing 'are [we] ready for a woman president.' I'm sick of seeing 'are we ready for a gay president.' Don't remember being asked if we were ready for an incompetent, racist, homophobic, traitorous, cheating bastard, reality TV president, yet one is currently in the [White House].”

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Many Iowa Democrats are paralyzed by fear of choosing the wrong candidate to take on Trump. On any day I could find dozens of headlines talking about which Democratic candidate is in the lead in the early state polling or the national polls, and everyone of them included comments about how whoever has the lead is going to face trouble with this or that constituency. And I’m frankly more than a little tired of them.

In part because they’re stuck in the same kind of horse race mentality that threw the election to the guy who lost the popular vote by a couple of million last time. Somehow we have got to get the not-Fox press to stop falling into the trap of essentially shilling for the Republicans and White Nationalists under the guise of applying one standard of coverage to the Democrats, and frankly ignoring the problems of Trump and his ilk.

But we have one more topic to cover before I draw a conclusion:

“I believe Donald J. Trump was sent by god.” “Why? Did you run out of locusts?”

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Some quickies to establish the Plague of Destruction:

Gay Trump supporter trying to gaslight the LGBTQ community into supporting our own destruction.

Conspiracy Theorist: If Trump Isn’t Re-elected, Christians Will Go To Jail.

This Brilliant New Ad Highlights the Hypocrisy of Trump-Loving Evangelicals.

The Trump economy is hurting most Americans.

I’ve already spent so many pixels lamenting that fact that the people who most fervently defend Trump are the ones who are either getting most hurt by his policies, or are failing to recognize the hypocrisy inherent in that support. He’s the most anti-Christian president ever. He lies. He cheats. He steals. For his entire career! He has actually gotten out of one lawsuit from investors that he bilked out of tens of millions of dollars by arguing that they were are fault for not researching him enough to realize that he is a fraud. I’m not making that up!

And news outlets trot out those very people, sometimes literally the same dozen white trump-voting angry white people who claim to be “independent voters” and get them to parrot trump’s talking points even when they contradict the truth those people are living in.

We’re stuck in this asymmetrical situation where one side does outrageous criminal or immoral or unethical things—blatantly and sometimes bragging about it—and it is only the other side that is admonished for not being civil, for not being fair, for not compromising. And it is literally killing us! We have come to expect this from Fox News and Breitbart—they have made their pro-White Nationalist, pro-Dominionist, pro-Wealth agenda clear. It’s the remaining news outlets who think they are being fair who keep giving in to all these false equivalences in the interest of fairness.

  • You don’t need to quote formerly Republican Amash as say he accused Trump of selling the troops: come out and say in the headline that Trump admitted he did (or even better, that he bragged about it).
  • You don’t need to quote billionaires and their lapdogs when they spout lies about how the economy works: come out and say that the ultra-rich are hoarding wealth and wrecking the economy; report about the fact that the only thing that creates jobs is when ordinary people have enough money to spend on things other than minimal basic survival.
  • You don’t need to try to claim that minor quibbles on one side of the political spectrum are the equivalent of the racist, homophobic, genocidal and corrupt policies of the other side: come out and say that the Republicans promote the exploitation and even death of middle-to-low-income people in order to move more wealth to their billionaire buddies.
  • You don’t need to repeat Trump’s side’s blatant lies as if they are just one side of an opinion, while calling basic fact-checking an accusation: come out and say that Trump’s policies are hurting workers, killing people by taking away their health care, killing children by locking them up in cages, taking rights away from many Americans.

Start reporting the truth. Truth isn’t a bitter drink, it is a delicious tea!

They aren’t even going to let us cook the turkey before they trot out more War on Christmas nonsense

I wasn’t going to write about the so-called War on Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But some people just cannot let a day go by without claiming that they are the victims of wholly fictitious campaigns. I actually entertained the notion that these stories might go away. I mean, Trump said in more than one of his speeches that he, personally, had brought “Merry Christmas” back—I don’t know where he thought it was, but then his sentences are so often just word salad that you start giving up trying to decode him.

But he proclaimed that the War on Christmas was over because he won it! And his supporters, which include the same idiots who scream about the War on Christmas every year usually believe every word he says. Despite overwhelming evidence about each lie he tells. So I thought maybe they’ve give it up.

Nope. If you want a summary of at least a couple of the blow-ups (along with a lot of snarky commentary), check this out: Seems Like The War On Christmas Starts Earlier Every Year!

Of the three incidents they talk about in that story, the one that really pisses me off is scamvangelist Jim Bakker going on his show and talking about that time, just a few years ago, when it was actually illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” Until, he said, his viewers called people and got the law repealed.

At no point during Jim Bakker’s lifetime has it been illegal anywhere in the United States for a person to say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just a fact.

There have been moments in history when celebrating Christmas was against the law—but it was over 300 years ago. The Puritans were quite opposed to Christmas and well, pretty much any fun at all. In Boston, for instance, Christmas was banned from 1659 to 1681.

Celebrations of Christmas had been banned in England for a while, before that, also because of Puritan influence. In 1644 the British Parliament banned seasonal plays, traditional Christmas games, the singing of carols, the hanging of holly, and so forth. Businesses were required by law to be open on December 25. Other forms of merry-making and partying were also legally discouraged year-round, but Christmas seemed to really annoy them. It was not a time when the phrase “Merry Olde England” had much meaning. Those laws were repealed in the year 1660, but that was only in England. Various U.S. colonies kept the laws on the books.

The Puritans were not atheists. They considered themselves very devout Christians. Christmas, they said, was not a religious holiday. In fact, the Puritans objected to the notion of all religious holidays:

“THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.”
—the Westminster Directory of Public Worship

Christians (well, Protestants, anyway) of that time would be horrified to find out that modern day Christians consider the Christmas tree a religious symbol, let alone that Christian leaders would get outraged in a governor referred to such a decoration as anything other than a Christmas tree.

So it was Christians who banned Christmas back in the day, not atheists or pagans or Jews or Muslims. And even the modern so-called War on Christmas was initiated by Christians, not non-Christians.

I’m not old enough to have been around when Christmas was banned in Boston, but I am old enough to remember the campaigns by fundamentalist Christians in the 1960s asking businesses to stop using the word “Christmas” in their advertising and marketing materials. They thought it demeaned the story of Christ to have the “Christmas” applied to things as sordid and mundane as store wide discounts.

Now you have so-called Christian organizations like the Liberty Counsel complaining that that a clothing store chain that made their “nice list” only as some Christmas items in their inventory at Christmas time. Another chain is scolding for saying “Happy Holidays” in one part of its advertising mailer, despite having the “Merry Christmas” and “Christmas” plastered many more times on every single page.

When I was about 10 years old my mom told me that if I wasn’t sure what someone’s religion was, that I should say “Happy Holidays.” At the time she had said, “Because you never know if someone is Jewish.”

There is no law, nor any plot to pass such a law, forbidding people from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas.” We do have a tradition, going all the way back to the Founding Fathers, of a separation of Church and State, so sometimes when citizens sue, the courts have ruled that certain government agencies can’t do things that appear to favor one religion over others. That gets under some people’s skin. It doesn’t matter than every single person who has ever been elected President in this nation has been a person who proclaimed themself a Christian. It doesn’t matter that at least one Christian holiday is an official federal holiday. It doesn’t matter that in many states there are restrictions are what sorts of business activities can take place on Sunday, the Christian sabbath.

They still feel that any recognition of beliefs which differ from theirs is oppression. It’s irrational and paranoid. And I don’t know if any amount of reasoning is going to persuade them away from their delusion of persecution.

"Slow down!! Let's eat the damn turkey first!"

(MemeGenerator.Net Click to embiggen)

Tuesday Tidbits: Straight Pride sets new low attendance record and more…

DALLAS: Straight Pride Rally Draws Two Attendees. ““I knew that attendance would be low, but I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that it was just them,” activist Soraya Colli told the Advocate. But according to Colli, only two people showed up for much of the event. Both men were from Boston, the Dallas Voice reported; the local PONG member who organized the march was not present. “Much later, they were joined by a member of the Dallas Proud Boys and a woman named Princess Vanna,” Colli tweeted.”

Chick-fil-a is getting a lot of positive coverage by yet again claiming they will stop donating the anti-gay groups. The problem is, they’ve said it before, and then were proven to be lying afterward, so… GLAAD On New Chick-Fil-A Donations Policy: We’ll See. Since I highly doubt that is is a change in policy, I’m going to keep away from the restaurant. Although I have to admit that one thing about this makes me happy: Mike Huckebee Flips Out Over Chick-Fil-A Policy: They “Surrendered To Militant Anti-Christian Hate Groups”. Anything that pisses off bigots like Huckabee can’t be all bad.

Speaking of hateful people who also claim to be religious:

Please Don’t Support the Salvation Army – It’s an anti-LGBTQ Church.

Most Americans Want Religion Out of Politics; Democrats Should Run With That. For many of us, this is not a surprise…

Weekend Update 11/16/2019: Guess who is going to be a jailbird?

“Another Trump minion takes the fall for him. Roger Stone found guilty of seven counts including lying to Congress and Witness Tampering, related to the Trump 2016 campaign.”

Roger Stone found guilty of all seven counts.

It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, this time with a cartoon-worthy villain who has featured in previous posts.

Roger Stone Found Guilty on All Count – Longtime Trump adviser convicted of lying to Congress under oath about WikiLeaks. Who would have guessed that the man who got Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, and has for years lied about being a member of Nixon’s Presidential Campaign (last year the Nixon Foundation issues an offical refutation of the claim because all of the headlines that were referring to him as a campaign aide or a Nixon aide).

In case you don’t recall this criminal, Stone is a longtime Trump associate who, during the 2016 campaign, communicated (through intermediaries) with Wikileaks people to find out what was in those hacked Clinton campaign emails and similar bits of information. When we was subpoenaed by Congress a couple years ago, he denied all of it. He also communicated (often by text and email, the idiot) to others who had been subpoened and told them to lie, threatening them if they didn’t. This week, prosecutors laid that all out to a jury. Stone’s lawyers countered mostly by saying that laying under oath isn’t really a crime (which it is), and even if is it, so what? Fortunately, Assistant US Attorney Michael Marando had an answer:

“So what? So what?” Marando asked, with what seemed like real indignation. “If that’s the state of affairs that we’re in, I’m pretty shocked. Truth matters. Truth still matters, okay.” “…in our institutions of self governance, courts of law or committee hearings, where people have to testify under oath, truth still matters.”

“Mr. Stone came in and he lied to Congress,” Marando thundered at jurors. “He obstructed their investigation and he tampered with a witness, and that matters. And you don’t look at that and you don’t say: ‘So what?’ For those reasons we ask you to find him guilty of the charged offenses.”
—as quoted by Dan Friedman writing for Mother Jones, Prosecutors Just Rested Their Case Over Roger Stone’s Lies: “Truth Matters”.

Of course, this isn’t completely over:

Roger Stone was found guilty. Now all eyes turn to Trump – The president will face pressure to pardon Stone after the GOP operative was found guilty of charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. Donald took a few minutes out of his unhinged rage tweet-storm yesterday smearing and threatening the former Ambassador to Ukraine while she was testifying in the impeachment hearing, to tweet out typical what-about-ism nonsense. Basically, if Stone has to go to jail for lying, why aren’t other people who Trump claims have lied going to jail.

Stone got his pal, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to broadcast a plea to President Trump to pardon him. That fact came up in court on Friday, as prosecutors argued that it was a violation of the judge’s gag order on Stone about talking to the media. In a twist that I can’t say I complete disapprove of, the judge decided that Jones isn’t a journalist, merely a media figure. I’m glad that someone is starting to realize that just because someone posts video lies and distortions doesn’t mean they’re a journalist.

Because, you know, the truth matters.

I know that we’re soon going to be flooded with stories trying to generate sympathy for Stone. After all, earlier this year Stone and his wife were forced to move out of the 9-bedroom mansion they had been renting for nearly $10,000 a month into a one bedroom apartment! Not only that, they had to do the move themselves! His poor wife had to actually rent a U-Haul truck!? On the indignity!

I mention that specifically because one of the claims Trump and his allies have made is that Stone wasn’t even working for Trump when he was talking with Wikileaks and asking for dirt on the Clinton campaign and giving that dirt to members of the Trump campaign. That’s a pretty hard notion to swallow just on it’s own. But Stone’s careers has consisted mostly of getting hired as a consultant or advisor by wealthy men with little or no political experience who are considering running for office, or at least like to threaten to run for office. He’s always made his money by working as a so-called political consultant, and it is well known that he never does anything that he isn’t getting paid for.

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Someone was paying him enough to continue to afford to rent that big mansion in Florida, to keep buying his ostentatious wardrobe, to keep wining and dining people and jetsetting around while he was spending all that time finding information that would benefit the Trump campaign. If it wasn’t some part of the Trump organization, who was it?

Of course, even if he wasn’t being paid by Trump to do it, it was still illegal. Just as lying under oath to a government entity investigating a possible crime later was illegal. And it doesn’t become legal just because you think some people who disagree with have said things you disagree with and have decided to label as “lies.”

I don’t know if Trump is going to pardon Roger. Roger is, afterall, the sixth person so far to get convicted for crimes on the Trump campaign’s behalf, and he hasn’t pardoned any of the previous five. In Trump’s mind, loyalty only goes one way. You must be loyal to him. He will never to loyal to you. So I don’t think he will.

And, hey, Stone doesn’t get sentenced until February. By then, maybe Trump won’t be the person holding the power of pardoning.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Weekend Update 11/2/2019: Seamy underbellies everywhere

(click to embiggen)

Normally, this would be another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t come to my attention until afterward, or that didn’t quite make the cut, or about a previously linked story which has new developments.

This week I’m starting with something else. A story I very emphatically did not bookmark last week after reading it, because I knew no matter how sparse my list of possible stories were by the end of the week, I didn’t want to link to it. It was yet another “Millenials Kill…” story, this one about so-called “power lunches” at swanky Manhattan eateries. I admit I only clicked on the headline when I saw because I thought that surely this was from the Onion, so I was expecting to read something funny.

No, it was dead serious. While the article did admit that part of the “problem” for these famous restaurants in downtown New York City aren’t raking in the weekday cash like they used to is because many corporations have moved large portions of their workforce to cheaper locations outside the city. But otherwise it was all about how office workers eat lunch at their desks instead of going out.

Now, to be clear, I classified as a Baby Boomer under the currently most prevalent definition of the generation. And this Baby Boomer eats lunch at his desk, it isn’t a Millenial thing. And the reason I do it is the same reason that hundreds of thousands of other office workers out there do it: our employers keep demanding more and more productivity from a smaller work force. That’s it. If I take the time to leave the office, walk to a nearby restaurant, order food, wait for my meal and eat it there before sauntering back to the office, that means I have to stay even later that I already do to meet my deadlines.

Also, like most Americans in the workforce for the past three decades, while I do occasionally get a raise, the raises don’t ever seem to get ahead of the increase in the cost of living. And because the length of time between raises keeps getting longer, well, I can make my own lunch a whole lot cheaper than it will cost me to got out at lunch.

The other issue is that these “traditional power lunches” were never attended by rank and file office workers. Older white male executives and younger ambitious white men who wanted to become executives were the vast majority of people at those three-martini lunches.

I’m just going to start ranting angrily if I keep going, so instead here are two stories (one from nearly a year ago that I’m pretty sure I included in one of the Friday Five posts then) which cover things quite well:

Millennials Didn’t Kill the Economy. The Economy Killed Millennials – The American system has thrown them into debt, depressed their wages, kept them from buying homes—and then blamed them for everything.

12 Industries Experts Say Millennials Are Killing — And Why They’re Wrong.


Usually I have a lot to say about the other stories I include in a Weekend Update, but I’m doing NaNoWriMo at the moment, so here are a few quickies:

Beto O’Rourke Packing Up His Air-Drumsticks And Your Diner’s Countertops And Going Home. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Beto as a Senate candidate. And clearly, after the mass shooting in his home district when he found his voice and demonstrated a lot of spine in the gun control topic, I became more fond of him in the Democratic debates. But I think the three-term Congressman could serve the country better as, say, a Senator from Texas (the climate is going to be more favorable to Blue candidates this next time against John Cornyn that it was last time against Ted Cruz). He’d probably make a decent cabinet secretary, and he’d look lovely standing beside President Warren or President Harris as veep. I’m just sayin’.

Conservative Supreme Court Justices Are Showing Their Biases On Twitter Now – If only the Supreme Court had ANY ETHICS RULES AT ALL. Since we can now prove that one of these guys committed purjury during his confirmation hearings, I really hope we can do something about him in the not too distant future.

Smugglers Easily Cut Through Trump’s New Border Wall. All you need is a $100 reciprocating saw. Like we said!

Inside The Seamy Underbelly Of Trump’s Twitter Feed – The New York Times has done a deep dive into Trump’s Twitter feed, examining how extremists and lunatics use his audience – and more importantly – his attention, to springboard their agendas of hate. I’m linking to this excerpt because the main story is behind a paywall.

Weekend Update 10/26/2019: Cold hearts and webs of sin

It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t come to my attention until afterward, or that didn’t quite make the cut, or about a previously linked story which has new developments. As usual I have some opinions that I wish to expound upon regarding this stories.


First: New Poll Finds Voters Strongly Oppose Employer Insurance. This is something I was complaining about during the first couple of Democratic Presidential Candidate Debates: there is a myth perpetrated by conservatives and so-called moderates that the American people absolutely love their employer-provided insurance. And it’s not just the politicians: the moderators at the first couple of debates, for instance, kept framing questions with that assumption as if it were a fact. I was so happy when finally one of the candidates emphatically asserted that almost no voter they have talked to likes their insurance.

What is true is that fear-mongering paid for by the for-profit insurance & pharmaceutical industries (and amplified by the politicians in their pocket) has a lot of people fearing that universal health care will be even worse than what they have now. That’s not the same thing as being happy with their current plans.


Second, this should come as no surprise: New polling suggests that Trump’s evangelical base is totally unified behind the president, no matter what investigations might reveal. I continue to be irritated that people who want to take aqay my legal rights because of some badly translated and cherry-picked parts of the Bible also support a politician whose policies run explicitly counter to every single thing that Jesus is actually quoted as saying in that same holy book. Although it is worthwhile to look closely at the statistics, here. Some people having been crowing about how 99% of evangelical Christians support the president and oppose impeachment. Except that isn’t what these polls show. The 99% is only true of white people who also identify specifically as evangelical AND Republican. When you step out of that demographic and look at other evangelicals, well, the numbers change. And that 99% was from polls taken a few weeks ago. Other polling shows an across-the-board shift in all demographics of more support for impeachment as more information comes out.

I don’t expect the white evangelicals who were chanting “Build the wall” are ever going to abandon Trump, but they’ve also clearly shown that their bigotry drives their decisions more than the actual words in the Bible.

While we’re on the topic of people who quote the Bible but don’t actually follow it: Falwell preparing legal battle against reporter after “smear campaign”. I’ve written so many times about the real estate that he has purchased for the former pool boy who spent a lot of time under questionable conditions hanging out with Falwell and his wife. And about the real estate he ordered Liberty University to essentially give to another former pool boy and personal trainer, one who we know that Falwell was texting pictures of Mrs Falwell in kinky sex gear (we know this because he accidentally group-sent one of the sexts to nearly all of the employees of the non-for-profit ministry of which he is head). And about the blackmailer who had compromising photos of Mrs. Falwell (and perhaps others) who was paid off my Trump’s lawyer conveniently a few weeks before Falwell shocked everyone by endorsing Trump instead of fellow evangelical Ted Cruz. And so on and so on.

So Falwell tried to get the FBI to investigate some of the former employees who spilled the beans about this questionable behavior (which, remember, is being subsidized by tax-payer money because of the tax-exempt status of the ministry and the university and so on). Now he’s trying to scare some reporters and news outlets for reporting on his scandal parts of which may constitute financial crimes. So far, both reporters and the publications say they are standing by their reporting.


Next: Zuck Testified Before the House Financial Services Committee and It Did Not Go Well for Him . Facebook is a force for evil, and I more and more people are recognizing the problems it is enabling: Facebook Slammed for Including Breitbart Among Trusted News Publishers.

And I do think it’s true that part of the problem is that Zuck and his yes-men don’t understand significant parts of the problem Timothy Egan: Facebook’s Zuckerberg still doesn’t get the big picture. But I also think that Zuck and his yes-men are douche-bags who have an almost pathological lack of empathy and an inability to even recognize their own prejudices.


West Virginia shines a spotlight on absurdities of tariff bailout program. “…the real issue is not about farmers, it’s about a government $22 trillion in debt handing out six-figure checks as part of a carrot-and-stick game in which $28 billion in bailouts serve as a political Band-Aid for the injury caused by flawed trade policies.”

China isn’t paying the tariffs, American consumers are. China isn’t really being hurt by the trade war, American farmers and workers are. Paying out billions to try to offset some of the harm to U.S. industries just means that tax-payers are paying for the tariffs twice


Fox News analyst: Republicans are protesting their own impeachment inquiry rules. The republicans set up these rules as part of the Clinton impeachment, and the last time the rules were updated it was when the Republicans had a majority in the House and John Boehner was the Speaker. And here’s the thing: the impeachment inquiry isn’t a trial. The trial happens if the House votes in favor of impeachment, and then that happens in the Senate. So the people screaming about due process either don’t understand the situation or are lying to keep their base hyped up and ready to cause trouble.

While we are on the subject, the Democrats are not conduction impeachment inquiries, the U.S. House of Representatives is. There are Republicans on each of those committees. Those Republicans are at the closed-door sessions as well as the public hearings. Those Republicans get equal time to ask questions and so forth during the committee deliberations.

Both houses of Congress sometimes hold closed-door hearings. When Nixon was under the gun, committees in the House conducted some of their hearings behind closed doors. When Clinton was impeached, committees in the House conducted some of their hearings behind closed doors. One of the reasons you question witnesses behind closed doors during an investigation (which is what this is—it isn’t a trial yet) is so those witnesses can’t get their stories straight. You can catch some of the lies that witnesses tell if they don’t know what the other guys have said.


Samantha Bee Exposes Man Who Invented The Ukraine-Biden Conspiracy Theory:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

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