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    • The Right Thing to Do
      What makes me saddest of all things in the world is this: In the vast majority of situations, the right thing to do morally is the right thing to do in terms of broad self-interest, and yet we don’t believe that and we do the wrong thing, thinking we must, or thinking that we’re making […]
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Bernie Sanders’ Good Points

Here’s an interview from Greg Sargent at WaPo’s Plum Line with Bernie. He makes some good points. Noted are his comments about Hillary’s ties to Wall Street firms. Very true. But if her ties were that strong and she was so willing to do what they wanted, why did they put their money behind Obama in 2008? He couldn’t have gotten the nomination without their help. So, if Hillary was so pliable and beholden to them, why didn’t they back her to the hilt instead of trying so hard to defeat her in the primaries? I’ve asked this question repeatedly since 2008 and the left has not given me a satisfactory answer. It’s like they’ve got their hands over their ears singling “La-la-la! I can’t HEAR you!”

(It’s called denial)

But point taken, Bernie. I would just ask everyone to read his answers very, very carefully because he’s not ruling out taking money from Wall Street either. He’s very good at avoiding the question but realistically, he can’t completely rule Wall Street money out. One of those firms might just wake up in time to see it’s in its best interests to, you know, not be so insanely, obscenely greedy because it’s a short term strategy that can’t last.

It could happen.

That being said, there’s a lot of good stuff in this interview that I like. Take this exchange:

PLUM LINE: Should the Democratic nominee offer a platform that goes considerably farther than what the president has done?

SANDERS: Yes.

PLUM LINE: What would that look like?

SANDERS: It would look like a tax on carbon; a massive investment in solar, wind, geothermal; it would be making sure that every home and building in this country is properly winterized; it would be putting substantial money into rail, both passenger and cargo, so we can move towards breaking our dependency on automobiles. And it would be leading other countries around the world.

PLUM LINE: You think the Democratic nominee should campaign on a platform like that?

SANDERS: Yes.

I couldn’t agree more. I would love to see more mass transit and broadband. I would include nuclear as well because I’m realistic. So, let’s hear a lot more about that from all the candidates.

Ok, I’m going out to cut the grass.

Later, taters.

The Hawk Debate

Back in 2008, I took the step to ban certain words here. For example, if you used the word “racist” in a comment, your comment was auto-moderated. The reason was that whoever was operating the Obama campaign had gone on the offensive and insulted and humiliated innocent bloggers and commenters in order to shut them up. They did this by calling the dissenters racists. It didn’t matter whether we had legitimate reasons for refusing to jump on the Obama bandwagon that had nothing to do with race. An accusation of racism is extremely powerful and they knew what they were doing.

There are a few other trigger words that will get you auto-moderated. I leave discovery as an exercise for the reader. Banning the words doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the issue here. It’s just that taking specific words out of the comments section meant that no one can take the easy way out. You can’t just come here, poop in the punchbowl, and leave thinking you’ve done your job putting the old, uneducated working class Roseanne Barrs who flock here (your perception, not mine) in their place. You know, drop the late consensus reality shaping meme, use the buzzword du jour, put mean spirited peer pressure on these people and watch as they all come groveling back to your side. Nah-gah-happen. We didn’t get to 52,000+ page hits per day during the height of the nauseatingly brutal 2008 campaign season because we took the easy way out and ate our poisoned mushrooms so we would fall into line like TalkLeft and Taylor Marsh and The Left Coaster and Digby’s Hullabaloo. No, we watched what was happening, were thoroughly horrified and took it without flinching. 

As time went on, and the insults and aggression piled on, I became even less likely to vote for Obama. So, there, guys (and you were almost all guys). Good job. You pointed out to me that there was almost no level of offense or character assassination that Obama would not sanction. It spoke volumes about who was supporting him and what he was prepared to overlook in the future.

So, now we come to the topic of the day. This is a debate I have been having with Monster of the Id, who I dearly love and have no intention of banning. It’s about the word “hawk” and why it is always applied to Hillary Clinton.

It has become another one of those words. I am getting ready to auto-moderate comments featuring the word. As stated before, you can argue all you want that Hillary is the biggest supporter of the military industrial complex on the planet. But you’re going to have to show your work. You will not be able to just fling that word around willy nilly because that’s what everyone is saying about her.

Let’s recognize this word for what it is. It’s a mental shortcut that bears little resemblance to actual reality. Here’s my latest comment to Monster after he tried, once again, to explain his ambivalence towards Clinton due to her perceived “hawkishness”:

You’re missing the point. You can vote for whoever you damn well please. For all we know, Arkansas will go D in 2016, or Green or Commie. You don’t know what will happen and I don’t either.

The point is, don’t make up your mind based on the consensus reality of your side. That’s what the left did in 2008 and look who got elected? Was Obama the liberal messiah the left wanted? It fell for the whisperings and mental maneuverings and dogwhistles of the Wormtongues.

Wormtongue says that Hillary is a “hawk”. Oh really? In what way is she a hawk? What does it mean to be a hawk? What are the qualities of a hawk? How many military engagements does a person have to vote for in order to get this designation? Why isn’t John Kerry also called a hawk? Is Hillary more or less of a hawk than John Kerry or John Edwards? To what degree? Is she more or less a hawk than Lindsay Graham?

I only ask.

That’s the problem. Too few people on the left ask. They just accept. Well, someone on the left must have studied the problem, some Juan Cole person must have dug up the records and figured it out. There is no doubt in their minds that Hillary is a hawk, based on some criteria, right? Some authority figure who the left trusts did the math.
But what if no one on the left actually did?

What if it’s just a clever earworm planted there by someone with less than honorable intentions? How would you know?

Consistency is key.

Don’t try to get out of the dilemma you’re in by claiming that your vote doesn’t count or making light of it. What counts is whether everyone has an honest, consistent, unobstructed, unfiltered view of the candidate without shortcuts that terminate the thought process with facile categorization.

If she ends up wanting after you have discarded the shortcuts, fine, at least you will have done your job. But don’t cop out and tell me you can’t trust yourself to make those calls on your own.

The left bungled it badly in 2008 because it didn’t bother to do its own thinking. It became as gullibly pliable as the stupid hicks on the right that it always insists are the authoritarian followers who will swallow any moronic, self-defeating message their right wing leaders throw out there. We Conflucians watched as previously smart people on the left fell for love bombing and conversion diaries, peer pressure and trigger words. They did not distinguish themselves.

Don’t let it happen again.

Like I said, you can vote for whoever fills out your dance card. Make a matrix, put the names of the candidates on the Y axis and the issues you care about on the X axis. Check off the boxes, based on what you hear directly from the candidates or have read about from the most neutral sources you can find. Then, vote for the person who gets the most checks on the grid.

One thing I will predict right now: you’re going to have to figure out what the definition of hawk really means before you check that box for Hillary.

Wormtongues

I read with dismay yet another stupid story in the NYTimes about Hillary Clinton this morning. It’s going to be a long 18 months.

This time, it was about how progressives are pressuring her to kiss their asses. I wonder why she is even bothering at this point to give them any attention at all. They’re never going to like her, trust her, believe her, even if she really is the best thing they’ve got right now. They can’t see her for what she is and can’t appreciate what she’s got to offer them. It’s almost as if they’re under some kind of spell:

If you ever wondered what happened to Wormtongue, he left Meduseld “to spend more time with his family” and went to work for the NYTimes after working for a marketing research firm on Wall Street in 2008.

This sentence cracks me up:

Mrs. Clinton cheerily welcomed Mr. Sanders into the race, even as she works to deny Mr. Sanders or any other liberal an issue on which to bloody her from the left.

Are you serious? Sanders entering the race is the best thing that could have happened to Clinton. Now, there is another credible person on the left. Sanders is passionate, he speaks well, he’s rational. He doesn’t have the air of dweeb about him like Kucinich and he doesn’t come off as being an unrealistic “knit your own sandals” type who is going to make us eat a raw vegan diet with a heavy emphasis on organic beets. His concern is primarily about the very real erosion of the standard of living of most working Americans today.

He adds weight to the left side of the field. The longer he stays in the race, the better for Clinton. That means it won’t be six silly nobodies trying to out-mean each other on the right sucking all of the air out of the room and one woman defending the left all by herself. It means that issues might actually get discussed that aren’t all on the ultra conservative right. It means she won’t have to be so defensive. It means there will be a clear difference between the two political sides.

Damn straight she’s cheery.

Duh.

But the left is convinced that she’s with the enemy. In a way, I kinda understand it. They were completely taken in by Wormtongue in 2008. That was a disaster.

Still, the real enemies have almost won. It’s bad out here. And here the left is, sitting in its golden hall, lapsing into a coma like some crusty old dude enchanted by some evil wizards. Utterly feckless and hostile to the people who are begging it to get its act together and fight back. It’s almost like someone doesn’t want people with a common cause to become allies…

Suit yourselves. I’m going with the white haired guy and the blonde lady.

Forth Eorlingas!

A call to action from John Dehlin: Are Sunday Assemblies enough?

Mormon Stories is a podcast and community created by John Dehlin who started  the podcast  when he began to wrestle with his faith in Mormonism almost ten years ago. Through the years, he has interviewed hundreds of Mormons, both faithful and apostate, and challenged the church to come to terms with gay Mormons and women who wanted equality in the church.

Recently, Dehlin was excommunicated and Mormon Stories has started to explore alternatives to religion. Or, is there an alternative to religion? This is the focus of his most recent podcast interview with Micah Nickolaison, former host of A Thoughtful Faith and also a former Mormon, now atheist. Together they discuss the recent trend in the New Atheism’s Sunday Assembly. They both like the initiative in the Sunday Assembly but feel something is missing. That missing thing is the glue that could bind a certain segment of Nones and former Mormons into a more cohesive unit and would provide them with an identification.

So, John’s latest podcast is a kind of call to action to anyone who is interested in taking it to the next level. He says, and I agree with him here, that the old bronze age religions are dying and this is reflected in the rise of the nones. But the psychologist in him recognizes that community is necessary for collective action and mental health. Also, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the other Four Horseman may be doing atheism a disservice by not recognizing this need in most people.

John says we are at an evolutionary point. How do we evolve away from these old religions while maintaining the ritual and ceremonial aspects that bind communities? It’s a fascinating podcast for those of us in-betweeners who pretty much find Abrahamic religions silly and anachronistic but can’t do the full Dawkins.

Whatever it is that comes out of this, let it be a potent antidote to fundamentalism, which is the real threat to all of us.

Here are Dehlin’s conversations with Micah Nickolaison of Strangers in Zion on his transition away from Mormonism and brainstorming the next evolutionary level. (If you want to skip all the background story, go directly to part 3. But if you want to hear a gifted interviewer do his thing, listen to John lead Micah through in parts 1 and 2)

Music to Clean By

Or with.

The Treniers sing Ragg Mopp:

Add your favorite music to clean by in the comments.

Never Surrender

Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist gave a presentation in Australia during the Unholy Trinity Tour about violence, the end of the world and not giving in to fear, uncertainty and dread. You don’t have to be an atheist to appreciate his point of view.

Disclaimer: I am not an atheist though my concept of God is pretty abstract and I don’t believe in 3000 year old texts. If you do, knock your socks off. It’s none of my business. However, I do consider myself an enemy of any form of fundamentalism and I’m not afraid to say it.

I hope someday Seth will give a presentation on what various religions think the after life is going to be like. If there was one thing I looked forward to less than Armageddon when I was growing up it was the prospect of spending eternity with a bunch of  Jehovah’s Witnesses. In that New World, there would be no war, no competition, the lambs would lie down with the lions, blah, blah, blah. And people who survived Armageddon as unmarried would remain sexless and unmarried forever and ever and ever.

I was surprised to find recently that Mormons also have a similar teaching. If you’re unmarried when you die, you become like an angel and servant to the married in the one of the heavens you get to go to.

And this is supposed to be some kind of feature. So, let me get this straight. Married sex is so good that only married people are supposed to get it- even in heaven. Or is it so bad and sinful that even after you die, you have to remain virginal? Which is it? I’m confused.

But what really turned me off to the New World type after life was not so much that it was going to resemble a young adult fiction dystopia but that it was going to be so borrrrrring.

“So, what do you want to do today?”

“I don’t know, what do you want to do today?”

“Wanna go pick some perfectly ripe fruit again?”

“We did that yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.”

“How about some kickball?”

“Not allowed. Too competitive.”

“Badminton?”

{{rolling eyes}}

“Hey, maybe we could go listen to Sister Edith play that hymn again on the piano.”

“You know, she’s had 3000 years to practice. How come she never gets any better?”

{{sigh}}

“Are we eating grass??”

And so on.

Here’s Seth from the Thinking Atheist talking about The Goodness.  Take it away Seth:

I don’t

Yard Work

IMG_2023The weather was awesome yesterday so I and one of my younger cousins spent the day outdoors cleaning up leaves and mowing and trimming hedges and all that fun stuff.

And then we went to the Oakmont Bakery to get a sugar rush from pistachio macarons and donuts.

On the job front, I have a temp position with regular hours but still no bennies. It’s great, except for the no bennies thing, and the fact that it’s going to end in about a month when the permanent employee returns. I like the floor I’m on. There are enough toys to assuage the gadget fiend in me. Plus, once I got behind the wheel again, the computer skills all came back within a couple of hours. The job is not in the computational chemistry field but I could live with it. It’s also on a collaboration floor. I do the team thing pretty well but the floor concept is new to me. BUT, it’s still just a temp job, which sucks. And the pay is just a little bit less than it would take to make me relatively stress free. So, there’s that. I’m still in job search mode. If you had told me two years ago that I would still be looking for a job like this, I would have called you crazy. It’s beyond exasperating.

As for Hilary’s announcement, you’ll find out more about my attitudes towards that pretty soon from a different source. Bottom line: her announcement video showed people in a more positive stage in their lives than me. I’m not feeling it yet, specifically because of the struggle I have faced to find a new job. Clinton may be leading us there but I’m not anywhere near being in the mood. The country has not come out of “tough economic times” yet.

Will I support her? Yes. And here is the reason: if I were a hiring manager and I got a dozen CV’s from people like Clinton, Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, even Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton would be far and away the leading finalist for the job. She’s got the most experience, in the most areas, she has a network of associates she can call on for assistance to push her agenda, she’s got a mentor and she’s passionate about policy. No other candidate in the field is going to come close. And what all those attributes give her is a measure of independence that the other candidates will not have. Think about that for awhile and it will make sense. It also means there will be a lot of people, in both parties, who will not like for her to get the nomination because she won’t be so easy to control.

Just because she’s the best the country has doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk.

Ok, there’s one other thing I want to talk about. It’s about the PUMAs. I see no reason to run away from the fact that we were PUMAs in 2008. That just stood for Party Unity My Ass and it was our way of protesting how the DNC took the money from Obama’s donors, rewrote the primary campaign rules, disenfranchised 18000000 of us and then told us to get behind the ruthlessly ambitious, inexperienced shmoozer who became the party’s nominee or risk being called an ignorant, uneducated, old, bitter racist. Oh, HELL no. I was not going along with that program and I’m shocked that any loyal Democrat would give up their vote just to protect themselves from vicious group peer pressure. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

But the PUMA groups went their separate ways after the election. If I were being honest, I would say we started going our separate ways in October of 2008 when I sensed that some PUMA groups were so angry that they were willing to go beyond a protest vote. In the aftermath of the election, the rift between us and the other PUMAs became more pronounced. We evolved but stuck pretty closely to our credo. They went the Tea Party route. It’s safe to say that we haven’t had any contact with other PUMAs since the early part of 2009. We aren’t BFFs, we don’t Facebook, we don’t belong to some super special sauce email group. If there is a widespread belief out there that that’s what’s going on with us and the PUMAs, let me dispel it now.

Nevertheless, that’s who we were and there’s no point in hiding it. It’s possible that the PUMAs on this blog had a different concept of what that term meant than other PUMA groups. It’s safe to say that some operatives on the right saw a certain segment of PUMAs as potential converts. That didn’t include US. As far as we were concerned, the concept had lost its usefulness and it was time to move beyond that. I only regret that I didn’t spend more time organizing some kind of umbrella group that would have been a more effective promoter of behaviors we would have liked to have seen in our elected officials. We should have had something to counteract the Tea Party. Instead, we left a vacuum. And that’s not good.

So, there you have it. There will probably be more to say later in the week. But right now, I am focussing on work. It’s the most important thing on my mind right now.

And mulch.

 

 

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