Monday salmagundi

• Wikipedia says that with 424 members, the New Hampshire General Court is “the largest state legislature in the United States and the fourth-largest English-speaking legislative body in the world.” I think it’s too big — and the evidence continues to pile up that it’s just way too large to maintain a quorum of the competent.

• A delirious fever-dream of a frightening alternate reality. Otherwise known as the past 16 months of National Rifle Association magazine covers.

The remarkable thing is the perpetual warning of imminent catastrophe: “If X happens, then all is lost,” the headlines warn. Then X happens, after which the next month’s issue says, “If Y happens, then all is lost.”

These stories can only appeal to people who are: A) very, very easily frightened; and B) unable to recall last month.

• Poor people must prove that they are innocent of the vices of the powerful:

Georgia state House Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Amrbose) was arrested last week and charged with Driving Under the Influence, his second such arrest in the last three years.

… Sims was arrested for DUI in 2010 by Atlanta police. He is among the state lawmakers who voted in favor of House Bill 861, which mandated drug testing for all Georgians seeking public assistance funding.

Rush Limbaugh does not like the Christian principle of subsidiarity: “This is Marx, Mengele, communist manifesto, the nuclear family has always been under attack by communists, leftists.”

• Seriously, if the New Hampshire General Court were smaller, maybe it wouldn’t include quite so many embarrassing legislators.

Christianity Today: “Margaret Thatcher Obits Overlook Her ‘Devout Christian Faith’

Maybe that’s because her politics and her contemptuous disdain for the poor and the working class also overlooked her devout “Christian faith.”

Or were Isaiah, Jesus, James and John all just kidding?

• For 10 years I worked at a daily newspaper using the AP Stylebook, and for most of that time I had a long-running argument with my boss’s boss about the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

Now, almost two years after I got laid off, the Associated Press has announced that it will no longer use the term. I’d call the newsroom to gloat, but my boss’s boss got laid off too and I don’t think either of the people left in that newsroom has the time to answer a phone.

• Opt out. Always opt out: “Last year consumers paid a whopping $32 billion in overdraft fees, a $400 million jump from 2011.”

Never give your bank permission to reach into your account and take your money. If you do, they will help themselves every chance they get. They took $32 billion from their depositors last year, and then had the chutzpah to call it a “service” and a form of “protection.”

Explain to me how a decent person can steal $32 billion a year and then maybe I’ll be persuaded that they might be decent people.

• I really, really, really hate the phrase “living in sin.”

It’s evangelical-speak for POSSLQ and few phrases reveal more about the stunted, unbiblical, sex-obsessed understanding of “sin” in American Christianity. Jamie Dimon is never described as “living in sin.” Wayne LaPierre is never described as “living in sin.” Unless and until that phrase comes to be employed to refer to people like that, it will always ring hollow — a meaningless phrase that signifies only the meaninglessness and hypocrisy of the subculture that produced it.

Nothing says “pro-life” quite like sending death threats.

• Al Mohler laments “The Marginalization of Moral Argument in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate,” because Al Mohler does not listen.

If he listened, he would understand that a demand for equality is a moral demand. If he listened, he would understand that moral argument hasn’t been marginalized, it has been marshaled against him. There is a moral argument being made, forcefully and repeatedly, and it is an argument that demonstrates the immorality of Al Mohler and other defenders of inequality.

• “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

• They are coming for your birth control.

• I’m really quite serious about the New Hampshire General Court. It ought to be somewhere around half its current size. That would save the state money, and it might help to weed out some of the most delusional whackjobs.

 

 

  • Dave Lartigue

    I’ve noticed that whenever a Republican wants to shrink the size of government, the area to be shrunk never includes where he happens to be standing. I wonder how many Republican NH state legislators have suggested cutting the number down to a more sensible size.

  • Dave Lartigue

    Also, Fred, you have got to give me an address where I can send you a gift. Email me please!

  • http://twitter.com/seanthesean Sean H

    “Mengele” should, I assume, be “Engels”…

  • Carstonio

    Not only is Fred right that marriage inequality is immoral, there’s also no valid moral argument against homosexuality itself. Mohler argues that everyone has a moral obligation to create and raise children, apparently believing that a worldwide apocalypse of infertility is imminent, yet he doesn’t condemn folks who choose not to become parents.

    With the prominent exception of official Catholic doctrine, just about every argument against homosexuality that I’ve heard either states or implies that orientation is a choice. While the cause of orientation shouldn’t even be on the table regarding the morality of homosexuality, I’m confused as to why the assumption of choice is so pervasive. Any ideas?

  • GeniusLemur

    Because if it isn’t a choice, it’s not your fault, and they wouldn’t be as comfortable hating you for it. When they hate, they want to go all the way.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Where did Isaiah, James, Jesus or John demand Caesar or Tiglath-Pileser III redistribute taxpayer money to the poor?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Explain to me how a decent person can steal $32 billion a year and then maybe I’ll be persuaded that they might be decent people.

    -Fees aren’t theft.

  • Carstonio

    Poor people might not pay taxes in the mythical kingdoms imagined by demagogues like Limbaugh, but here they face payroll and sales taxes just like anyone else. All taxation is a form of redistribution – the problem is that our current system redistributes it upward, a big reason why wages for folks in the middle and at the bottom continue to fall in real dollars.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    You’re right (there are few non-net-taxpayers in the U.S.). That’s why I support cutting spending and focusing on repaying the national debt. Real wages have risen since 2010, though I think it’ll be a long time before they’ll come back to their early 1970s heights.

  • Carstonio

    Austerity is an artificial reduction in the mobility of money, and this benefits no one but a relative handful of very wealthy people. No accident that, at least in the US, the proponents of austerity also advocate other measures that perpetuate inequality of opportunity.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/opinion/krugman-the-story-of-our-time.html?gwh=B213951F557F66BB4CD55FC2F6854504&_r=0

  • P J Evans

    The problem is that cutting spending isn’t going to create jobs. And the spending that gets cut always seems to be what helps people eat and have roofs over their heads, not the spending that ends up feeding corporate executives.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I support cutting military spending, too. ‘Creating jobs’ is not a goal in itself; satisfying people’s demand is. There is no point in creating demand just to divert resources to some government-fabricated purpose.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Remove the ?gwhyadayada from your link!

  • Carstonio

    Fixed. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Or Rush just like throwing scary names around, facts be damned.

  • LouisDoench

    That depends on how they are levied. The contention being made is that by styling these fees as “protection” the banks are actively defrauding their customers through deception. That’s fraud at worst, usury at best.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Bank “fees” are legalised extortion, not fees in the true sense of the word. They are out of any sense of proportion for what they do.

  • P J Evans

    ‘Creating jobs’ is certainly a goal when too many people don’t have jobs. What you’re arguing for is to extend the recession, because profits are more important that people.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Yes, why would Jesus want us to use the most efficient and reliable method of getting support to those who need it? Why, you might not even get to suitably punish those poor people for having the temerity to be BE POOR!

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Regarding those NRA magazine covers: You’ve got to give them points for being open about their real aim. I don’t think many of the “Christian” direct-mail fundraisers would actually put a picture of someone signing a cheque to them on the front of THEIR newsletters…

  • Lori

    ‘Creating jobs’ is not a goal in itself; satisfying people’s demand is.

    Spoken like a person who has a job.

    Also, the hell? If people don’t have jobs they don’t generate demand. Or are you openly espousing the view that the only demand that matters is that created by the rich?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Fees, like charging interest on a loan, may or may not constitute theft. A reasonable fee, proportionate to the costs and risks, is not theft when presented with transparency and full disclosure. On the other hand, usury laws exist because it is immoral to charge unreasonable costs far beyond the scope and scale of the transaction.

    “Overdraft Protection” allows the banks to charge fees that are nearly as large as the transactions the “protection” is allowing to go through. The typical overdrafted transaction is around $40; the average ‘overdraft protection fee’ is $30. (source) The “fee” (which the bank is promoting as “protection”) is almost as large as the triggering transaction itself. Meanwhile, going to a payday-advance service (the very model of predatory lending) would incur a $16 fee for a 2-week advance on $100, which would prevent two typical overdrafts. Let all of that sink in a moment.

    The banks promote overdraft protection as “you wouldn’t want your car payment or your mortgage payment to bounce!” but in reality, those aren’t the transactions affected; that’s what the study shows. What’s more, the bank knows this! Banks have access to information about all their customers, and have well developed profiles based on a large amount of information. Individual consumers don’t have the same access to information when dealing with the bank.

    So we’ve got a market transaction where one side has considerably more information than the other, where the price being charged is grossly disproportionate to the costs, and where the actual service is deceptively named. The closest analogy I can think of is an “alternative medicine” practitioner selling you “medicine” that actually makes you sicker, but labeling it as “pure panacea”.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Fees, like charging interest on a loan, may or may not constitute theft. A reasonable fee, proportionate to the costs and risks, is not theft when presented with transparency and full disclosure. On the other hand, usury laws exist because it is immoral to charge unreasonable costs far beyond the scope and scale of the transaction.

    “Overdraft Protection” allows the banks to charge fees that are nearly as large as the transactions the “protection” is allowing to go through. The typical overdrafted transaction is around $40; the average ‘overdraft protection fee’ is $30. (source) The “fee” (which the bank is promoting as “protection”) is almost as large as the triggering transaction itself. Meanwhile, going to a payday-advance service (the very model of predatory lending) would incur a $16 fee for a 2-week advance on $100, which would prevent two typical overdrafts. Let all of that sink in a moment.

    The banks promote overdraft protection as “you wouldn’t want your car payment or your mortgage payment to bounce!” but in reality, those aren’t the transactions affected; that’s what the study shows. What’s more, the bank knows this! Banks have access to information about all their customers, and have well developed profiles based on a large amount of information. Individual consumers don’t have the same access to information when dealing with the bank.

    So we’ve got a market transaction where one side has considerably more information than the other, where the price being charged is grossly disproportionate to the costs, and where the actual service is deceptively named. The closest analogy I can think of is an “alternative medicine” practitioner selling you “medicine” that actually makes you sicker, but labeling it as “pure panacea”.

  • Lori

    Rather a big deal today—basketball player Jason Collins came out. That makes him the first active roster player in a US major professional sports to come out.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#ixzz2RriiXqcg

    Good for him. I have zero interest in the NBA, but I wish him the best.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    *Raises hand* For the privilege of being allowed to go six entire cents into the red, I was fined no less than $75 despite arranging for a money transfer into the account less than an hour later.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    And the banks somehow manage to lose even more of my respect

  • AnonaMiss

    Eh, I’m with EH on this one, in the narrow case of overdraft protection, and only since it’s now legally required to be opt-in only.

    People are swayed by advertisements to make choices against their best interests all the time, and we don’t consider that theft or fraud. People opting in to overdraft protection are buying an overpriced convenience service which isn’t in their best interests, but which does do what it says it does. If that counts as fraud/theft, then we’re going to have to lock up everyone in the fast food industry.

  • Panda Rosa

    I always joke to my older daughter that I would quite happy if she lived in sin with her significant other; as they’ve been seeing each other for years. She’s sworn she never wants to marry or have children and I’m okay with that (long story), but she does seem a better person when he’s around. And just for the record, second daughter and her SO are also Living In Sin, which is easier to pronounce than “POSSLQ” Oh well.

  • AnonaMiss

    Isn’t that implied when Jesus tells the rich man to redistribute his money to the poor? I don’t think he’d say, “Hey, rich dude, sell everything you own and give it to the poor; but this doesn’t apply to rich dudes who are also in positions of political power and happen to have gotten their money from taxes.”

  • Lori

    When they demanded that the poor be cared for. Once the majority of humans stopped living in fairly small family or tribal groups and developed large, complex societies private charity became wholly inadequate to the task. All the Right/Libertarian talk about private charity and the evils of taxation conveniently ignores this, but ignoring something doesn’t make it go away.

    So unless you want to try to claim that Jesus, et al taught that the poor should be cared for only until doing so requires using a mechanism that Enopoletus Harding doesn’t like, this line of argument isn’t going to get you anywhere.

    I will say that redistribution of taxpayer money to the poor isn’t the only thing the government should be doing, and arguable isn’t the first. The government could do a great deal for the poor by stopping all the ways that it facilitates transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top. I’ve never met any Right/Libertarian tax haters who cared a fraction as much about government money transfers to the rich as they do about the idea that the undeserving poor might be allowed to eat or have roofs over their heads.

  • Wednesday

    (1) As GeniusLemur says, if it weren’t a choice, then anti-gay bigotry would be uncomfortably close to the socially-unacceptable forms of racism and disableism — hating people for something they can’t help. Some people are anti-gay because they haven’t had a chance to learn better — these are the people who would start questioning anti-gay bigotry if they recognized orientation as something that’s not a choice. The idea of free will is important for many non-Calvinist Christians.

    (2) If it’s not a choice, then it’s natural. But it’s important to them that it’s unnatural, because in many cases natural = God-created = morally acceptable.
    Eg, miscarriage is okay because it’s natural and therefore part of God’s Plan, induced abortion is not because humans do it, even though both result in a dead embryo/fetus. (Exceptions exist, of course — dying of cancer is natural but most people don’t want it to happen.) Natural disasters that hurt humans are intended to do so by God. Natural disasters that spare Christians do so because God had a hand in it.

    God controls nature. And if something is natural, then it might be part of God’s plan. And if gayness is part of God’s plan…

    (3) People who recognize orientation as something that is _not_ a choice don’t tend to stay anti-gay-rights for very long. (I know it’s problematic for bisexuals to over- emphasize “being gay is not a choice”, but one reason it does get emphasized so much is that it’s effective.)

    (4) Anti-gay individuals tend to be fixated on gay sex. (Seriously, sometimes I felt like Rick “GSA = mandatory gay sex in schools” Santorum got his talking points from bad yaoi fanfiction.) For them, being gay = having gay sex. So they don’t understand/pretend not to understand that when we say “being gay is not a choice”, we mean the orientation, not just sex.

  • Cathy W

    In theory the perfect free market will respond to reduced demand by reducing prices until demand picks up. What happens in the non-spherical-cow zone is that the means by which prices are reduced in the American economy(offshoring, outsourcing, layoffs) end up reducing demand further, because if you don’t have an income, the only price at which you demand any goods and services at all is zero.
    I know I’ve said this in a thread on a similar vein: If you take someone whose income does not meet their basic daily needs, and you give them more money, they will spend it almost immediately. (All kinds of data back this up. So does basic logic: if you have holes in your shoes and someone hands you $100, you are not going to continue wearing the worn-out shoes and put the money in a coffee can for a rainy day.) By the time it’s filtered through a few cycles of “my spending is that other guy’s paycheck”, that $100 you handed the guy with bad shoes will have grown the economy by maybe $120-$125… food stamps have an even bigger multiplier than that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Engels would make sense, given the context. So he almost definetly did mean Mengele -.-

  • Carstonio

    Seems logical if one shares the core assumptions. Overall the worldview seems very alien. I often say that belonging to a religion is a choice as well, but these folks are likely to label that as immoral as well if it’s a religion other than their own. You’re right about the effectiveness of recognizing that orientation is not a choice. I’m trying to show them that there would be nothing immoral in making such a choice – one’s sexuality and one’s religion are private matters by default. But they seem to view morality as, at best, not about the relationship between the individual and the society but about one between the society and their god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.k.hetrick Dan Hetrick

    They are when the banks process debits on in account not in the order that they came in, but in an order that is far more likely to trigger an overdraft or multiple overdrafts.

    For example, let’s say that you have $100 in the back. You purchase a candy bar ($1), a couple of packs of cigarettes ($10), some groceries ($80), and a DVD ($20), in that order. Processed in that order, it would trigger ONE overdraft fee.

    Bank of America doesn’t process those charges in that order; they process orders from largest to smallest amounts. So, the $80 charge would be processed first, then the $20 charge, then the $10 charge, then the $1 charge, thus triggering TWO overdraft charges, rather than ONE.

    And that is why it’s theft, and why it’s not fair.

  • Mark Z.

    Which is why we need a national basic income.

  • Lunch Meat

    ‘Creating jobs’ is not a goal in itself; satisfying people’s demand is.

    So you would support just giving unemployed people the food, clothes, shelter, healthcare they need, instead of providing them an opportunity to work for it?

  • stardreamer42

    I’ve been known to respond to the “being gay is a choice, it’s not like being black” argument by noting that they’ve just approved of anti-Christian discrimination — because religion, ANY religion, is always a choice. Nobody is born Christian.

    This usually gets the “but-but-but that’s DIFFERENT!” reaction, but they can’t explain how.

  • stardreamer42

    I’ve never met any Right/Libertarian tax haters who cared a fraction as
    much about government money transfers to the rich as they do about the
    idea that the undeserving poor might be allowed to eat or have roofs
    over their heads.

    Bingo. Corporate welfare? No problem. Individual welfare? Anathema! But it’s all coming from the same source — THEIR pockets.

  • stardreamer42

    Usury has been considered a form of theft for a long time. That’s why there used to be laws against it, until the usurers bought themselves a raft of legislators and got those laws de-fanged.

  • Carstonio

    “Living in sin” – a wonderful way to reduce the lifetime commitment of marriage to a mere permission slip to have sex.

  • stardreamer42

    Not just that, but if in your example above you had made a $200 deposit at a bank branch in between buying the cigarettes and the groceries, that deposit gets processed LAST. So they’re charging you the overdraft fees even though you had enough money in your account to cover everything. How is that anything but theft?

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    It’s worth noting that, for the time of Jesus and his earliest disciples, Christians did not have the ear of Ceasar or any power over same in order to tell them to do, well, anything one way or the other (assuming that the actually existed and the New Testament is an accurate history). So, using that as a means to carve out an exception for government is no less accurate than using that as a means to carve out an exception for any individual alive today. “I wasn’t there, so Jesus didn’t command me, specifically.”

    It’s *also* worth noting that Judaism does have some rules on how Ceasar is to ensure that redistribution. Specifically, laws, by the Isrealite government, on how the rich are supposed to treat the poor, including leaving a portion of their fields unpicked so the poor can harvest for themselves.

    So, while Jesus did not explicitly command governing bodies to enforce a redistribution of wealth to the poor (lacking the ear of governing power to issue such advice or commands), he did come from a culture where such laws were already issued to God’s chosen governing body.

    What does all this mean, in the end? Well, EH, it means that reducing detailed questions to smug oversimplifications only winds up making you look self-centered and egotistically ignorant.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Spoken like a person who has a job.

    I was thinking “Spoken like a person who isn’t part of the working poor”.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    “POSSLQ” — wow, I haven’t heard that term in years. I think it was discarded because of wider recognition of same-sex couples.

  • Foelhe

    On point two, I’m actually not so sure there are exceptions. Sure, conservative Christians don’t want to get cancer themselves, but tell ‘em someone you love died of cancer and watch how fast the platitudes come out. “It’s all part of the plan,” “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle,” “They’re in a better place now,” etc. etc.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Being “out of any sense of proportion” does not constitute theft.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Interest is merely the cost of wanting money sooner than later.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I don’t see how processing debits in a certain manner is theft.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    “It” not being a choice has never really stopped them from hating The Other before, though. It’s not like significant numbers of people argue by implication that skin color, sex, or nation of origin are choices.


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