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    • The Silver Lining of Thanksgiving Past
      I had originally intended to write a rather cynical Thanksgiving weekend post – pointing out that the Indian tribes who helped the pilgrims in that first Thanksgiving feast made a big mistake by helping Europeans figure out how to live and prosper in the new world. Their reward, ultimately, was slavery, scalp bounties, smallpox (sometimes […]
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Why fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous

I’m sure I’ve posted this before but the video below bears repeating:


What Crossan didn’t mention is that fundamentalist religious extremists, regardless of faith, hold God as their ultimate authority. They do not answer to a secular state. All that talk about respecting the law is just balderdash if they think they have to defy it in order to answer to a higher authority. That’s why at least one police officer in Colorado Springs is dead tonight.

They don’t care about anything but their own salvation. They might not decapitate but their victims are just as dead. And they have a lot of guns.

Better not rile them up, eh, Marco? What do you say, Ben? Ted?



RWNJ’s utterly stupid response to the Planned Parenthood hostage crisis and shooting

So, this is the best they can come up with. It’s not that there’s a shooting at Planned Parenthood. No, it’s a strip mall and the shooter was robbing a bank in the same building. So, see, you stupid libs? You are all wrong about this. It’s just another typical mass shooting in Colorado.

Um, Ok, then.

It’s my Birthday and I’ll Blog if I Want To

Tuesday: ExasperationThis has been a rough week. Don’t even ask. It’s like 2 steps forward and one yank back. I *hate* that. The good thing is I *finally* have a job making a decent wage and I have health insurance again. When I say decent, I don’t mean anywhere near what I was making before and I have to teach myself a whole new technology. Not to worry, I can do this. I like challenges. But I will always miss my old job, not that there’s anything for me to go back to. Oh, look, drug resistant bacteria dragging us back to the dark ages. Lovely. If only there were a pool of drug designers, chemists and biologists who had been diligently working on new antibiotics for the past four years…

What am I saying?? That’s crazy talk to a shareholder.

But anyway, it’s my birthday and I’m going to the Oakmont Bakery for a Doughsant with something really decadent in it. I might even buy a pepperoni bread. Oh, yeah, I’m wild. I can’t be stopped. Because this is what you do after you’ve been shut out of the job market for 4 years. You spend no money on anything. In fact, my first goal, now that I have a regular salary is… to save up for my next layoff! Welcome to America, Dr. Krugman!

From the looks of the last thread, there is still plenty to say about terrorism, strategy, ISIS and many other things. RU Reddy needs to cut back on the caffeine though. I approved the pending comments. Sorry about that. I don’t spend as much time on the blog as I want to. Too many other annoying and disturbing things are taking my attention. The saga continues. There’s a book in here somewhere. I have already written a Hollywood ending and want someone thinner to play me. Preferably, someone who doesn’t go to the Oakmont Bakery to fill up on pastry.

Today’s the day I say what I really think. Hence the title. So, at the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings, I don’t approve of any plan that excludes Syrian refugees from the US. By the way, I have actually met and talked to a genuine Syrian refugee. He was a building manager in Syria and his wife was a dentist. He had a sponsor bring him to Pittsburgh where his wife can’t practice and he is washing dishes in a restaurant. His son is autistic. He was frantic, overwhelmed, bereft, angry, frustrated and nearly hysterical. The fact that he would pour out his heart to the lady in the retail store (at my previous underpaid and stupid job) is indicative of his desperation. He told me about his culture, how it was being destroyed. It was making him crazy. He worried about his son. He tried to tell me about what it was like. He was so distraught. I couldn’t know what that was like because I had never lived in a war zone. But the fact that he spent 30 minutes talking to a perfect stranger about it gave me contact anguish.

Why would I want to exclude people like this from my country? I want them to feel safe and protected so they can regroup. I don’t care if he’s Muslim. He’s a human being. We don’t tag human beings, by the way. That’s a dangerous slippery slope.

As for ISIS, I would like to do a Dresden on them. And that’s why I’m not in charge. Because to do that could have downstream repercussions that I haven’t even thought of yet. So, strategy is key, as is timing. And maybe we don’t have to bomb them back into the stone age. But to do nothing or exclude the people who need our help the most only encourages IS to keep doing terrorism because they would know it works. So, we can’t be afraid and we can’t bomb the shit out of them. We have to be clever and deadly and brave.

We used to be good at that before we stupidly got into a land war in Asia. I guess if I had one birthday wish, I would rewind the clock back to 2003. I would destroy the super funded right wing scream machine that twisted consensus reality and made everyone think we needed to go to Iraq and I would invent a device that would deliver a dope slap to every ditzy American who thought we were going to go back to gas at 50 cents a gallon by kicking Saddam Hussein’s ass.

But that’s just me. What about you?

For the rest of my day, I am going to binge watch The Man in the High Castle. Number one child called to say Happy Birthday. That made my morning. Now, if I can only hear from the other kid, that would make my day.



French Grey

At this point, I don’t think there is anything I can add that hasn’t already been said by people who are more closely connected to the tragedy.

Some of you may know that I once worked for a French company. I loved it. It was the best job I ever had. I had many French colleagues and visited France several times on business. Brook went to France with me one time. One of my best memories of France was ditching our luggage at the hotel and running off to the Eiffel Tower because she was so excited to climb to the top. She was only 8. Silly girl. We got to the fourth level and took the elevator the rest of the way.

It was a cloudy day at the top overlooking the Seine. Some irritable toddler was crying incessantly. But Brook and I took in the view of Paris while she struggled to keep her heavy lids open. I was wide awake, glad to have such a “rash and inexperienced traveller” as my companion. Once she got on the Metro without me and I had just seconds to pull her off before the doors closed. There might have been a good children’s story about Brook’s adventure in Paris, lost on the Metro, but I nearly had a heart attack, She crushed a waiter’s heart when she turned up her nose at a hot dog on a baguette with a delicious gratin on top and ate nothing but crepes and nutella from street vendors for more than a week. In the Louvre, she used her innate radar to tear through the galleries and stand transfixed in front of the Mona Lisa. Six years later, she returned to France for a two week company sponsored exchange program. When I picked her and our French student up at the airport, she told me, “Mom, learning French in France is much harder than it is in school.” Then she turned back to our French student and spoke to her in what sounded to me like near fluent French.

Someday, I hope to go to France with the other child, the one who lives to eat. Ahhh, I can almost taste the fois gras.

My French colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic were accommodating of our American inability to learn their language. One in the Paris facility told me that he went home with a headache on the days we came to the site. I liked them. They weren’t afraid of arguing, that’s for sure. American companies don’t like it when coworkers argue. They would prefer to hire people who have all the social skills of a kindergarten teacher and who swallow their anger rather than confronting a problem and trying to solve it by strenuous debate and a lot of “Non!, Non!, Non!”

They also aren’t afraid of enjoying their lives, taking vacations, spending time with their families and drinking wine at lunch.

When I think of Paris, I think of the light. There are certain places on the earth where land, sea and sky converge to change the light and in Paris, the light seems slightly grey to me. Sometimes, a little silvery grey. It’s like very old light or memory of light. Maybe that comes from the stone facades of the buildings or the clouds. It softens and ages the city. It has seen a lot of things, some of them beautiful and some harsh and devastating.

One of my French colleagues told me that Americans are too optimistic. We have an unreasonable expectation that things will work out in the end. We smile too much. I think she is right. The Great Recession has been incredibly hard on some of us and there is a lot of cruelty in the good ol’ US of A. When I was laid off in 2011, many readers tried to make it sound like a new opportunity. They told me another job would come, don’t you worry, and it would use talents I never knew I had. And I know they meant well, but, I’m here to tell you that bad stuff does happen. It’s the way you respond to it that makes the difference. I just kept on keeping on and had to block out every other distraction to get through the many hundreds of days in order to get a new job that gave me a modest return to the satisfaction I had before I was laid off. But I have learned that economic security in America is pretty much a fiction compared to what the French have.

And we were taken completely by surprise when 9/11 happened. We had this incredibly naive notion that terrorism would never happen here. We are separated from the rest of the world by two oceans. So when it did happen here, it tore a hole in the fabric of that optimistic identity we had and we overreacted to patch it up. And we opened ourselves up to very opportunistic and malicious people who would use psychological manipulation of our fear to lock us in to bad economics, meanness and callousness towards one another.

France, on the other hand, has always been vulnerable. It sits in the middle of Europe and has been used as a highway for the English, Germans, Spanish, Moors. Vikings, princes and their armies have tramped their muddy boots through its fertile plains for millennia, raping and pillaging. It fought the Romans for a couple of centuries and drove off the early Muslim invasion in the 8th century. The 14th century was pretty awful for France, as told by Barbara Tuchman in her book A Distant Mirror. Nothing but disease famine and war for almost 100 years. Then there were the religious wars, St. Bartholemew’s Massacre, and the Revolution, followed by two world wars and a humiliating occupation. The French have survived it, probably because they understand better than we do that bad stuff happens. They survive it, remember their friends, learn to enjoy their lives again and get on with it.

With World War II fading as a distant memory, the French are well fed and healthy, and the survival instinct may be more tested this time. I can almost hear the meetings that Rupert Murdoch’s empire is having, trying to figure out a way to get inside the minds of the terrified Parisians and give the right wing more of a foothold in a country that has stubbornly refused to eat its poisoned economically conservative mushrooms.

While a Gallic shrug is not the right response to current events, it might be the ability of the French to see the grey that will save them.

That and a vigorous and deadly hit back at ISIS.

Democratic Debate 1: Let’s Do This Thing

Hey, does anyone remember that Berlin Wall thing? Whatever happened to that anyway?

Tonight’s the night we hear the other side, after months and months of silly twits pissing on double layer fences to keep the Mexicans out and generally trying to out mean each other. By the way, did anyone but me wonder why Republicans are comfortable with a double layer fence that not only keeps the illegal immigrants out but also keeps all the ‘Muricans in? Anyone remember the Berlin Wall? Anyone? Bueller?

Anyway, I got a message today from the Clinton campaign. Oh, heck, let’s be honest, I get about 20 emails a day from Hillary. Look, it’s not that I don’t care. I just don’t care yet.  I get it, Iowa (who the hell cares about Iowa??) is only a couple months away but you know, I’m just not as engaged as I was in 2008. The financial collapse, years of lost income and ongoing income instability can just make a person go “meh”. You know that sound, “meh”. Sounds a bit like a soft quack dosed with ennui. Meh.

So, Hillary wanted to know what question I would like the moderators to ask. And you know, I actually have one. It’s been on my mind for some time now. It has nothing to do with Benghazi or abortion or gun control or illegal immigrants. No, my only question for these two candidates who are so damn determined to save America is:

Where the hell were you in 2012?

That’s it. Because I don’t remember hearing much from either of them. Well, I take that back. There was the Filibernie. But neither of these two challenged Obama or the people who swept him into office and then concretized long term unemployment, poor educational reforms, an ongoing student debt crisis, the attacks on women’s agency, and the disintegration of labor standards.

It was like they weren’t even there. OooooOOOOoooooooo! Cue the scary Halloween music.

So, let’s just say that in my humble opinion, these two have some work cut out for them because I might still think that Friends don’t let friends vote Republican but I have yet to hear why we had to wait four loooonnnggg years for these two to challenge what the nasties have been doing to undermine the middle class.

Go on, let’s hear it. Convince me.

Live blog, if you feel up to it. Here’s the link to CNN’s Debate Central Hub Nexus Headquarters

There’s a Bathroom on the Right

We’re on the eve of destruction according to Mormon author Julie Rowe. According to The Guardian:

Well, while we wait, let’s all sing-a-long to CCR’s prophetic words:

Reasons etc

It’s after Labor Day and we all know that new stuff gets rolled out after Labor Day. It’s time for some freshening up around here. I’ve been thinking about that for some time now, what with the Presidential Election *finally* really getting under way at the end of this year. Wait, when is Iowa? And why is it so important? Don’t we ask ourselves this question every four years? Anyway, I am still seeing a lack of something for people such as myself. You know, the tail-end baby boomers who aren’t anywhere near retirement age but are expected to make our way in the world like Millenials. You know, incredible job uncertainty, vastly reduced wages, the expense of everything just dropped like a steaming pile on top of our heads, Here ya’ go, you pay for your retirement, medical care, education. You know the spiel.

But I’ve got to think about restructuring a little more. On to what I did during my summer vacation.

The bright spots are that someone finally took out the Duggars. So, there’s that. It was one of the highlights of the summer. Maybe Josh Duggar will be the one to write the tell-all book. Or maybe it will be Anna Duggar. They’ve got to make money somehow. The show has been cancelled. It’s too late for Jill and Jessa. They done got married and knocked up. But their sisters might still have a fighting chance. In any case, the Duggars are toast. Oh sure, there will always be people like them and their fan base might not be ready to ditch them yet. But their golden halo is gone and now there is space to ask ourselves what the hell THAT was all about?? That whole “no kissing before the wedding” thing backfired spectacularly. So, maybe the rest of their schtick isn’t so wholesome either, eh?

In fact, it seems like the grip of authoritarian religions and cults is starting to weaken all over the place all at once. It’s like a tipping point. The Jehovah’s Witnesses also seem to be becoming unhinged in a relatively short period of time. Does it mean my relatives will start coming to family holidays? I doubt it. But with the BBC documentaries on them and the number of associations of the JWs to Scientology in culture and indoctrination, the Royal Commission in Australia looking into child abuse and the incredible increase in the number of YouTubers who are creating their own “How I got out” channels (Reaching Out, JW Survey and Katja Christian to name a few), it looks like there may be some kind of “Hey, we’ve been eating grass!” movement afoot.

(It’s ok, guys, Jehovah will not strike you dead if you start enjoying the rest of your family at birthday parties. For one thing, we’re not certain that that’s his real name anyway.)

The same phenomenon is happening to Mormonism. John Dehlin did not die after his excommunication. Nope, he’s alive and kicking and doing well in Cash Valley, Utah with his MormonStories Podcast. He just got his PhD in psychology and he and his family are thriving and forming a new community of ex-mormons who’ve had it up to here with prematurely decomposing old men posing as prophets and imposing 19th century rules of behavior on their wives, children and gay brothers in law.

By the way, if you want to know how I spent my summer vacation, check out Lindsay Hanson Park’s Year of Polygamy Podcast. Oh. My. She had no idea what she was getting herself into when she started it. Sweet Mormon housewife takes it upon herself to casually explain this quaint Mormon legacy to the rest of the world and a year later, she’s ditching her garments and wearing halter tops in church. One of her best episodes was on Mountain Meadows, aka, the original September 11 terrorist attack and massacre by a fanatic bunch of violent religious extremists.  Highly recommended.  Start from the beginning of a Year of Polygamy and listen as Lindsay’s realization and horror grows week by week. She deserves an award for this series. THAT, my friends, is the way everybody should research their religion. If your religion can withstand a Lindsay Hanson Park treatment, it’s a keeper.

But the authoritarians are not done yet, folks. Nope, there’s a new Mormon extremist group out there started by Julie Rowe who claims to have seen visions of the end of the world during a near death experience. Right now, there are tens of thousands of her followers who are leaving their jobs, cashing in their savings and becoming preppers in the desert for the great tribulations that are about to descend on us at the end of September 2015. Or over the next year. She can’t be specific. Visions rarely have a time stamp on them, you know.

The most troubling aspect of the Julie Rowe following is that in some respects, it shares a lot of similarities to what lead to the Mountain Meadows massacre. There’s a lot of anti-government rhetoric, fueled by the media, a paranoia that the government is going to crack down, a lot of extremely twitchy second amendment types, doomsday prepping on a massive scale, some tacit approval from the church authorities and many religious zealots who fear they’re going to be under attack soon. Not a good combination. Somebody’s going to get hurt. In this respect, the more legitimate media outlets are not doing their duties, obsessed as they are with trying to knock Hillary Clinton out of the presidential race. The next Great Disappointment and the accompanying fallout isn’t even on their radar yet but the west is full of some very deluded people and some of them have guns.

The general sense I’m getting is that the Witnesses and the Mormons are starting to panic. It’s making them more authoritarian, they’re excommunicating and disfellowshipping left and right and demanding complete obedience to the authorized earthly authorities while at the same time, broadcasting about their even more urgent needs for money. As John Dehlin has observed from his interviews with academics who follow trends in religion, people are leaving these religions in droves.

I blame the internet.

They probably do too, which is why the faithful are told to avoid it.

Catholicism on the other hand seems to be having a bit of a moment due to the new pope. It’s still a patriarchal religion that is *trying* to be authoritarian but can’t quite pull it off anymore. Catholics are on to the church. For many Catholics, it’s a cultural affiliation, not a religious one. Catholicism is comfortable with evolution, the Old Testament as mythology and many other modernities. They’re not cracking down on your conscience for trusting Darwin or reading real history. Plus, Catholics aren’t into shunning like real authoritarian churches are. They do have an indoctrination regime but it’s not significantly worse than Presbyterians at this point.And yeah, you can read the bible on your own. At some point since the birth of the printing press, Catholics stopped fighting that losing battle.

That doesn’t mean it’s still not run by a insular band of red beanie boys in Rome for whom sticking to the script is part of some political pissing contest that has nothing to do with their worldwide constituency. But Pope Francis seems to be successfully changing the focus of the church from an obsession with sexual morality to global economic inequality. I’m sure his upcoming visit is going to get a lot of attention and make many people uncomfortable. Maybe the next Pope will see the light on women. This one seems to be channeling Occupy Wall Street. Pass the popcorn.

Finally, the 2016 Reason Rally has found a venue at the Lincoln Memorial. I went to the last one with my then resident atheist who surprised me with her Beatlemania reaction to the prospect of seeing Richard Dawkins in person. I had NO idea. So, I took her. It rained like crazy but there was a substantial mass of thousands of people. I expect that the one next year will be even more crowded.

You don’t have to be an atheist to go. I’m not. I’m more of a panentheist who doesn’t believe god is a supernatural being but I digress. All that is needed is that you believe that the people screaming about being oppressed over their “religious liberties” have been getting far too much attention and it’s time for them to grow up and realize they’re not the only people in this country who count.

I’m going to start saving my pennies for that one. It’s reasonable.

Finally, Happiness is former Jehovah’s Witnesses waking up and dancing for joy. Cue the music John Cedars:


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