Good news for people who like good news

• “One million workers get pay boost as 10 states adjust minimum wage”

• The Washington National Cathedral will host weddings for same-sex couples:

The cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, told the AP, “I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do. And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it’s being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be.”

(Note: The cathedral is the seat of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and its Washington diocese. Despite the “National” moniker, it does not have any official “national” status. This is America, a nation, not a church. We don’t have official government cathedrals.)

• “Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. agreed to spend as much as $2.5 billion to build two solar projects in California that are set to be the world’s largest photovoltaic development.”

• “The ‘million-a-year’ death toll from malaria has been whacked to fewer than 700,000, the lowest level in recorded human history.”

• “Is there anything more Canadian than a line of customers who kept paying forward an act of goodwill for three hours at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg? Probably not.” (via Charles Kuffner)

• The new Congress does not include Allen West, Joe Walsh, Dan Burton, Roscoe Bartlett, Mean Jean Schmidt, Cliff Stearnes, Jim DeMint, Joe Lieberman, Ron Paul or Todd Akin.

• “In just over a month the Rolling Jubilee has raised almost half a million dollars, which has been used to erase more than $9 million of debt.”

• Milford, Del., has removed the racist playground signs with the alternative Spanish message threatening arrest and/or deportation.

• Vicco, Kentucky, is a town in Kentucky.

• An interesting experiment at Chicago’s Park Community Church:

At Park Community Church’s 11 a.m. service on the Near North Side, ushers doled out envelopes filled varying amounts of cash with church members instructed to put the nearly $12,000 to work in what the Tribune called “the corners of the community where they think it will do the most good.”

Most of the envelopes had a few dollars inside, while others had more than $100, according to Fox Chicago.

• “Nearly everything I have stood for these past 35 years went down to defeat,” …  said James Dobson. (This would be even better news if not for that “nearly.”)

• And this may seem like it’s not earth-shattering news, but Noah’s moms’ CRV passed the 100,000-mileage mark, and that made me happier than almost any other recent news.


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  • Andrea

    It would be even more fantastic if Dan Burton’s brother Woody would stop allegedly representing me in the Indiana House.

    Can someone explain the last link for those of us who can’t access YouTube?

  • LL

    RE  “The new Congress does not include Allen West, Joe Walsh, Dan Burton, Roscoe Bartlett, Mean Jean Schmidt, Cliff Stearnes, Jim DeMint, Joe Lieberman, Ron Paul or Todd Akin.”

    This is indeed good news. 

  • Carstonio

    I was hoping that Joe Walsh would be succeeded by Joe Walsh.

  • AnonaMiss

    SPOILER ALERT, answering Andrea’s question about the YouTube video

    Teenager recounts an incident when one of his moms asked him and his other mom to come for a car ride. He is sure they’re going to announce that they’re getting divorced but it turns out the car is approaching 100k miles and the mom who asked wanted to share the rollover moment with her family.

  • aunursa

    I’m curious how people here view this letter to the editor.  It was published in today’s local newspaper…


    The president of the United States swore on two Bibles to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

    I am leader of the Fremont Atheist Forum. A Bible is a ficticious mythical book. To acknowledge it as something authoritarian and honorable is ludicrous and unwise. I hope in the future this archaic ritual will be abolished.

  • Morilore

    I found the comment in this other* Maddowblog story on Vicco strangely touching:

    FWIW, I would say that in addition to shrinking the bill to a readable size, the folks working to pass it in Vicco and other places are calling it a “fairness” ordinance. We treasure “equality” in this country, but we live day-to-day with the hope of neighborly “fairness.”


  • christopher_y

    What is going on in the head of a guy who accepts somebody else paying for four coffees for him but refuses to pay for three for somebody else? Even if he’s the Grinch in person he’d still have been ahead.

  • Carstonio

    I would only object to that use of the Bible if it were a legal requirement, because that would constitute government endorsement of a particular religion, or if it were a social norm. There should be no default here – it should be up to the individual officeholder to decide whether or not to use a holy book and, if so, which one to use.

    It’s tempting to suspect that letter of being a fundamentalist fraud.

  • aunursa

    Milford, Del., has removed the racist playground signs with the alternative Spanish message threatening arrest and/or deportation.

    I’m confused.   The website photo shows a sign with the overtly racist messsage: “These public premises and the amenities thereof have been reserved for the exclusive use of white persons.”

    A different website shows a different sign: Outrage in Milford (Update: the Signs are coming down)  According to this website, the sign warns parents that use of the playground equipment is “at your own risk.”  But the signs in Spanish claim: “You have to have a permit to play here or you will be arrested.”

    Did our host intend to link to the other site?

  • aunursa

    The writer has sent over a hundred letters to local newspapers.  In every single case he has commented on a current story in order to link it to something religious so that he can express his contempt for religion.

    While I personally have no problem with the president taking the oath on a Bible (or Koran, or Book of Mormon), I recognize that there are valid arguments for not doing so.  I just question whether this hostile attitude is the best approach, so I’m particularly interested in how other atheists* view his tone. 

    * Other atheists besides the letter writer. I don’t intend to imply that I myself am an atheist.

  • Jeff_weskamp

    [Obama’s policies include the belief that]   “… Abortion should be legalized through nine months of pregnancy.

    Imagine full-term, healthy babies across the nation being poisoned or dismembered a few days before normal delivery. What a tragedy!”  —  James Dobson
    Apparently “bearing false witness” is one sin that Dobson is happy to commit.

  • Lori

    I dislike the fact that swearing on a “holy” book of some kind is a de facto requirement. I dislike that it would have been a Scandal with a capital S if Obama had chosen some other book or no book at all.

    At the same time, I don’t think this is  a hill I’m willing to die on. If we changed things such that people truly had the freedom to take the oath on any book of their choosing the majority would still pick the Bible because it’s meaningful to them (or at least they want people to think that it is). I understand why it bothers people because it’s so obvious and prominent, but energy and political capital are limited and personally I’d rather focus them on other issues.

  • LouisDoench

    Glad to see that point of view given some exposure for sure. 

  • Kadh2000

    I will grant Mr. Dobson one thing.  If he voted in the election, he has the right to complain about the government.  Of course, it would be nice if he spoke the truth in his complaints.

  • LouisDoench

    Should have read farther before replying.  I would rather my side not come off as cranks, so spamming the letters to the editor with hostile tone like that is imho counterproductive.   

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think that author’s being harsher than I would be, but fundamentally correct. Not that I’d write a letter of that sort in the first place. If Obama wants to swear by what he holds holy that he’ll do his job, that’s his business. If that Fremont atheist, should ze become president, wants to swear on zir own honor and nothing more that ze’ll do zir job, or for that matter if Obama wants to do the same, that’s their business.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The first sign is ‘shopped, I’m sure.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Minimum wage increase, woot!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, no, that’s a different sign entirely. Probably real, but much much older, not also in Spanish–actually that looks like German. I bet it’s a Nazi sign.

  • Carstonio

    I’m a secularist but not an atheist. The stance in the letter is objectionable, but not on tone grounds. He might sound like a secularist but he really opposes religion, and the two ideas are not the same. One can be a secularist and still be a devout member of a religion.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That is the other thing that was bugging me about the letter. I knew there was something.

  • P J Evans

     It isn’t even required, at least not by the Constitution.

  • Morilore

    As a rule I don’t think examining someone’s tone per se is constructive, but his actual argument is worth examining.

    On the one hand, “religion is ridiculous,” even if you believe that, is actually not the most important reason that religion and government shouldn’t mix – the biggest reason IMO is that mixing religion and government gives coercive hegemonic power to some people over others for no reason.  “Shoe on the other foot” and all that.
    On the other hand, all of his latter four sentences can be read to say simply, “I am an American atheist.”  That’s not a bad point to make where American civic life and Christianity become intertwined.

  • Carstonio

    I understand why it bothers people because it’s so obvious and

    I suspect most of them confuse prominent and normative. The letter-writer is saying that religion should be neither because it’s bad. I would say that no specific stance on religion should be normative because that discourages people from following whatever religion they wish, even when they’re legally free to do so.

  • Cathy W

    I think I would tell the writer “Cut it out, you’re making my side look bad”.

    Since there’s no legal requirement, I don’t care what anyone swears on. Swear on what’s meaningful to you, be it a Bible or your grandmother’s rubber ducky or nothing at all. Simultaneously, I would ask that people in general view what’s under any elected official’s hand as they take the oath as a personal choice made by that person and not get bent out of shape about it.

  • aunursa

    As a rule I don’t think examining someone’s tone per se is constructive, but his actual argument is worth examining.

    That’s a fair point.  If his goal is eliminating the Bible from the inauguration ceremony, he might be better served by explaining how its use may alienate atheists like himself, or that using a religious scripture is symbolically troubling.  By simply declaring his contempt for the Bible and those who revere it as foolish, he risks estranging many of the very people who might otherwise be sympathetic to his argument.

  • Lori

    That’s why I said “de facto” requited. It’s not a law, but as a practical matter people feel that they have to do it. For Obama in particular  choosing not to take the oath on a Bible would have been the same thing as saying that he didn’t want to get anything done during his 2nd term.

  • The oath of office of the President of the United States is not, in the original version, required to be sworn on any religious book.

    I agree that the implicit assumption that Christianity is the default and that the President should swear on a Bible is irksome.

  • The yellowed sign? That’s in English and Afrikaans.

  • The letter aunursa posted is a little odd. Not necessarily fake, just odd. 

    A “forum” usually has moderators or organizers, not “leaders”, so it’s an odd way to identify one’s self.The bible is not a fictitious, mythical book.  The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter is a fictitious book; it does not actually exist. I believe the author meant to say that the bible is a work of fiction and myth. The Bible should be acknowledged as “something authoritarian”, because that word means “favoring absolute obedience to authority”, a viewpoint the Bible most definitely promotes with regards to divine authority.  Perhaps the word the author meant to use is authoritative (meaning accurate or true) but the construction of the sentence doesn’t work then, because the phrase “acknowledge the bible as authoritative” is question-begging. That phrase implies that the bible is accurate and true, that the subject is already decided, and the only question is whether or not we as persons choose to accept or “acknowledge” that truth. So I’m going to presume that the intended sentiment is something like “to present the Bible as authoritative is unwise”.These are “Sarah Palin/ G.W. Bush” type errors of language, using uncommon words or phrases incorrectly because they sound like other uncommon words or phrases with the intended meaning. (fictitious versus fictional, authoritarian instead of authoritative) That doesn’t mean the letter is fake; the urge to want to sound intelligent coupled with the laziness to not make sure you’re using the right words is a property shared across the political and religious spectrum. (see also: irregardless, tow the line, for all intensive purposes, etc. etc. etc.) How do I view that letter? Badly written, and poorly expressed.How do I view the sentiment of that letter? As an atheist, I would prefer that the president swear his oath without a religious text, that he honors his oath on his own terms, from his own convictions, and not from fear of Divine Retribution and/or Eternal Damnation, and that the first act as leader of a secular government is not to publicly display his religious affiliation. But that isn’t going to happen. The presence of a Bible at a swearing-in ceremony is a historical tradition, with the history of the book being a factor. Is it pandering to tie oneself to George Washington or MLK because you’re using a bible they once owned? Yes. Is it pandering to publicly display your Christian affiliation before taking office? Yes. But the truth is, folks like being pandered to every now and then; it makes them feel special and important, and politicians love to pander from time to time, so the bible-thing is not going away any time soon.

  • christopher_y

    As Invisible Neutrino says. It’s from South Africa during apartheid. 

  • Andrea

    Thank you, I appreciate it.

  • I watched the video about Noah’s mom’s like three times, because people kept linking to it, and kept closing it after the first few minutes because it was making me unhappy.

    It was only recently that someone I trusted encouraged me to watch the whole thing all the way through. It made me happier then.

  • Jenny Islander

    While I am a Christian, I don’t favor swearing the Oath of Office on a Bible.  We aren’t supposed to have a state religion.  However, I think that having some symbol  at hand on which the President symbolically rests some weight is important.  I think it conveys the message, “I am not up here doing my own wild-goose ideas; I am here to do my duty as defined by people wiser than I who have worked out their ideas through long experience.”

    Hey, how about a copy of the Constitution?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh. Apartheid, then. Still not the Milford sign.

    Afrikaans is related to Dutch? And Dutch to German, so I was close, right?

  • I can respect a choice of holy books. (fake)

  • • ”The ‘million-a-year’ death toll from malaria has been whacked to fewer than 700,000, the lowest level in recorded human history.”

    Woohoo, go  Gates Foundation, kick that disease’s ass!  (Or whatever passes for an ass in a disease like that.)

  • What is important in the oath of the President — the only oath spelled out in the Constitution (where “so help me God” is not a part of it) — is that the President pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution.   Whether the oath is sworn on a Bible, on nothing (see John Adams and Richard Nixon, Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt), on the Koran (see Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota ), on a Torah (lots of Jews to look for; none for president, yet), on the Bhagavad Gita (see Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii), on Action Comics, Huckleberry Finn (no one yet, but I have hopes of being elected one day), the Boston phone book (see William F. Buckley), or the Constitution (see Adams again), the important part is the oath and the pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution.

    Some people take comfort in an appeal to a higher authority, imagined or real.  We have too many real issues to deal with to worry about the title on the book used (but see “Fried Green Tomatoes” for a slightly alternative view, if you must).

  • EllieMurasaki

    It’s not the title that concerns us. It is to some degree the content, though if that were the only concern, I at least would be saying nothing. The greater problem here is the expectation that people being sworn into office swear on the Bible. There are two ways to read that expectation. One is that everyone being sworn in is Christian. The other is that those Christians being sworn in are expected to swear on their own sacred text and those non-Christians being sworn in are expected to swear on someone else’s sacred text and not their own (should they have one). Neither is acceptable.

  • I think that the presence of it is mostly a symbolic thing.  The president (whichever president) is swearing an oath, and there should be symbolically something there which the president holds up as authoritative to them, at least as far as upholding oaths are concerned.  

    So for example, if there was an atheist president who did not regard the Bible as something worth swearing on, they should be allowed to swear on something else.  Their heart, or maybe a copy of the constitution, or something else.  The importance of the symbol is that it is meaningful to the person swearing the oath.  

  •  What valid reason is there for insisting a president not put a hand on a book while taking an oath?

  • ReverendRef

    but Noah’s moms’ CRV passed the 100,000-mileage mark,

    And that’s the real gay agenda.

  • An artificially high price of labor only encourages unemployment. Low-wage jobs are better than non-jobs.

  • aunursa

    I meant that there are valid arguments for the president not to take the oath of office with his hand on a Bible.  I don’t agree with them, and I think that those here who are more sympathetic to them are in a better position to express them.  Generally I prefer to play devil’s advocate only when there is no one in the room who is a bona fide supporter of the other side.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Spoken like someone who’s never had a low-wage job on which one was relying for their entire support.

    If I had no debt, I would be earning enough to live on my own in this town. Just barely. I could stretch the money by living with a second person in an apartment priced for single occupancy, but that’s a bad idea on several levels. I do have debt, so the only way I can survive on what I earn is by living with my parents, who are not charging me market value for my room and board. And if I didn’t have debt, I would never have a prayer of getting a better job, probably would never have gotten a job this good, since that debt is largely money that went to pay my college tuition and the college was key to my getting this job.

    And that’s without worries about how I’ll pay my medical bills, since my job has excellent benefits.

    I make thirteen dollars an hour. Federal minimum wage is $7.25.

  • Twig

    Why is the good news comment thread so sad?

  • Isabel C.

    Yeah, I was wondering that myself.

    On the good-news front: looks like I’ll have a little extra money at the end of this pay period. I was thinking of donating some to charity, and while my usual is either Planned Parenthood or something to do with Alzheimer’s, I remember reading an article linked from here that said something about how anti-malaria charities are actually the most worthwhile, and that kinda stuck with me.
    Anyone here have opinions about that, or suggestions? I’m still not sure what I think. 

  • Beroli

    An artificially high price of labor only encourages unemployment. 

    Neither more nor less true than, “Raising taxes on the wealthy will cause all the job creators to move to Somalia.”

    Which is to say, no more true than, “If you spill salt without throwing some over your shoulder the world will immediately be consumed in flames.”

    Your average wealthy “job creator” employs the minimum possible number of people to get the job done and pays them the minimum amount s/he (…usually he…) can get away with. If the law forces one of those numbers up, the other will not drop to compensate, because both of them are already as low as the employer can get them.

  •  I meant that there are valid arguments for the president not to take the
    oath of office with his hand on a Bible.*  I don’t agree with them, and
    I think that those here who are more sympathetic to them are in a
    better position to express them.  Generally I prefer to play devil’s
    advocate only when there is no one in the room who is a bona fide
    supporter of the other side.

    Wait.  Are you saying that you don’t think there exists a valid argument to take an oath of Presidential office without a hand on a Bible?  Because the single best argument there is that it isn’t in the Constitution.  Past Presidents have chosen not to swear on a Bible and didn’t get kicked out, specifically TR, LBJ, and JQ Adams.

    If you’re saying that there isn’t a valid argument to never allow a President to take an oath of office on a Bible that’s a different case.  I would tend to say that it’s in bad taste and gets right up to the edge of the establishment clause, but if it’s an issue of personal choice then there’s a case to be made that it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

    If you’re saying that the atheist editor letter writer wasn’t making valid arguments that you agree with, I’d go with that.  That person was basically just trolling with standard internet atheism.  There might be a good core of argument behind it, but the arguments themselves, such as they were, were just tired, annoying internet cliches.

    Also, I think it’s interesting to point out that the Bibles chosen and the specific reason for the choice got way more play than the fact that they were Bibles.  Obama used Lincoln’s Bible, MLK’s Bible, and some third Bible that escapes my memory for the legal ceremony on the 20th.  I think that set of choices says something about what the point is more than the fact that they’re Bibles and the fact that they were Bibles is more an artifact of American history and the religious bent of America than anything else.  Obama could have sworn on Lincoln’s stovepipe hat and a copy of the Letter from a Birmingham Jail and gotten the same basic effect as using the Bibles got.

  • Otrame

    We have hundreds of millions of square feet of space in this country that could be used for solar energy without damaging the environment, or displacing any endangered species. The space is not currently bein used for anything.

    Well, except keeping the rain out of your local Walmart or Home Depot or, indeed off of you.

    Putting solar collectors on such places will not harm that function at all. In fact, solar collectors will not only provide electricity, but will also provide insulation from the heat of the sun, lowering air conditioner bills.

    It is true that this would be expensive to an individual, probably too expensive in upfront costs. So, why don’t energy companies lease these spaces for a fee, say 10% of current value of the energy produced. The collectors remain their property, with updating and maintenance their responsibility. Or they could to a “use your share of the income to buy the collector if you want to” deal. What ever.

    Lately, every time I go past a large warehouse- like building, all I can think of is the amount of energy not being collected.