Slow change may pull us apart

“I’ve taken the red pill and Sunday sermons don’t do it for me anymore.”

“Really? That’s it? That’s the best you got?

“The people who read the Bible without the constraint of a dogma about inerrancy are reading the actual Bible, while those who subscribe to inerrancy are reading an imaginary one that is filtered through a distorting lens.”

If they ever extend their concept of freedom and liberty to considering the rights of people not to have sights or sounds or bullets or pollutants placed on their property without their say-so, I might reconsider.”

“We’ve lived with the 60-vote Senate for four years — it’s time for it to end.”

“Americans simply don’t know one another very well, but that has never stopped us from making judgments about how one another should live.”

‘One-anothers’ in the New Testament

“You think it’s the kind of place that respects freedom, because it allows you to build your own hamburger from an ample condiment bar? Nothing could more untrue.”

“Death denial is an omnipresent feature of Western consumer capitalism.”

“Even if you hate — hate — the Yankees with every fiber of your being, as many baseball fans no doubt do, you have to respect Rivera for his extraordinary success in the ninth inning and the exemplary way he has carried himself on and off the field lo these many years.”

George Jones was my all time favorite singer and one of my favorite people in the world.”

Jesus in Outer Space

Church Sign Epic Fails: ‘In-Your-End-O'”


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  • If they ever extend their concept of freedom and liberty to considering the rights of people not to have sights or sounds or bullets or pollutants placed on their property without their say-so, I might reconsider.

    -Plenty of libertarians do.

  • P J Evans

    Unfortunately, they don’t extend it to society as a whole.

  • I think that if you could know that the Bible is inerrant, you would be God.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Yes, but in typical libertarian fashion, they A) present arguments most easily applied to some hypothetical alternate reality that bears little resemblance to the world in which actual decisions get made and policy is enacted, and therefore B) end up voting with/for what they deem to be the lesser of two evils (almost always the GOP) creating a worst-of-both-worlds situation. This refusal to deal with a problem with the tools at hand has the double impact of exacerbating the problem and giving libertarians cover to crow over the shortcomings of the government intervention that they watered down and/or undermined.

  • That’s a problem with democracy, not with libertarianism.

  • As “society” is composed of individuals, and all libertarians believe in individual rights, I don’t see your point.

  • Foelhe

    Damn near one in four kids in the US are living in poverty? One in four? Seriously?

    The next time one of my relatives starts whining about the poor helping themselves and BOOTSTRAPS! I’m gonna be hard-pressed not to throw something.

  • Carstonio

    Government functions in part like a compulsory membership corporation, so that societies can obtain things that individuals cannot obtain on their own. As far as the individual is concerned, one receives protection of rights from the government in exchange for having some rights ameliorated. No rights are absolute.

    One particular function of government is to restrict the ability of individuals or organizations with power to interfere with the rights of other individuals or organizations. Libertarianism either doesn’t recognize or doesn’t care that money is a form of power. When nongovernmental entities acquire too much financial power, these can and do game the system and the market in their favor. And left unchecked, these become the true or unelected governing authority, with the official government as an impotent figurehead. A sensibly regulated market is actually freer than an unregulated one, because it allows for true competition.

  • Carstonio

    Rising unemployment? No problem, let’s just define unemployment out of existence…

  • JustoneK

    oh what the hell. they have to be pushing this and knowing full well it won’t go for something else they want to go through. right?

  • Hexep

    I want to talk about the death cafes for a moment, but before I do that, I want to talk about perennial trees. Don’t worry, they will come together.

    I grew up in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, for the meterologically-uninclined, is straight on the tropics; it never snows, and it never gets cold. I was 18 years old when I had my first experience with what someone might actually call ‘cold.’ I was also 18 when I had my first experience with seasonal trees. I had seen plenty of trees in my life before, to be sure, but all the trees I’d ever known had been happy, tropical trees, the sort that never drop their leaves. Year-round, bright and green. When I was 18, I visited the United States to look at universities, and I went to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This was February. It wasn’t cold by any stretch of the imagination, but all the trees were of the ‘drop their leaves in winter’ variety. And I found it utterly bizarre. I could not stop staring at the ‘dead’ trees on display in every part of the city. (That part of Atlanta is particularly nice and wooded.) I even mentioned it to somebody I was touring with, I was like, ‘man, in Hong Kong we cut down dead trees and plant new ones in their place.’ And she was like, ‘no, they’re not dead, they’ve just dropped their leaves.’ It struck me all of a sudden – academically, I knew that some trees dropped their leaves, but this was something for which I had no visceral, personal understanding. In my life, in my actual sensory perceptions of the tactile world, a ‘tree’ was something made of wood, with leaves, that was just a permanent and immutable part of the world. They never changed from one day to the next, or from one week or one month to the next, unless they died. I am not making a judgement that I should have known more about their trees, or that they should have known that I wouldn’t, or that either frame of reference is necessarily ‘privileged’ over the other – I am simply beginning my tale by saying that like those trees, I am going to discuss something that, for whatever reason, has always occurred to me in the form of B, whereas it normally occurs to others in the form of A.

    So. Get together with other people for several hours, and talk about death. I would love to do that. I would love to meet with other people and share my thoughts in a space that was free of judgement – or, at least, free of expressed judgement. We take turns passing around a shell, as it were, and we talk about our experiences with this topic. You were near death and wanted to live? Fascinating! I’m well-alive and want to die. Let’s swap notes.

    But then I saw that little passage, I barely even noticed it at first.

    “At a typical death cafe, facilitators move about the room and monitor conversations, to identify anyone who might need counseling, pull them aside and tell them where to find help.”

    Uh-oh. That changes everything. Now there’s moderators? Now people are taking notes? Now they’re writing things down? Now they’re reporting you for counseling?

    You see, my whole life long, there has been one, continuous constant – it’s always better to deny that you have a problem than to seek help for it. If you seek help, you are not only admitting that something is wrong, but you are unable to handle it yourself – thereby marking yourself down permanently as someone who ‘doesn’t have control,’ which is the worst possible position to be in and one from which you can never, ever recover. You always want to hold out, because if you can hold out, then it isn’t really a problem, and it won’t count against you – you are still clean, you still ‘have control.’

    When I was in primary school, I wrote a little story about a Japanese kamikaze pilot. (I had seen the movie ‘tora tora tora’ a few days previous and had the IJN on my mind.) Because the story was essentially about suicide, the school recommended me for counseling. My father told me that I was just to tell her whatever she wanted to hear and get out of there as quickly as possible. But the counselor told me that everything we talked about would be in confidence,and that I should feel comfortable telling her anything I wanted. She did not work for the school; her salary came directly from my payment. She told me that I was safe with her.

    So I told her anything I wanted. I told her about my father, and about how I was picked on by all the other students, and how I told her that nothing in life really made me happy, and even when something did make me happy, I always felt worse afterwards, because I felt like I’d been bribed – like if my father let me down over something (which was constantly) and bought me a present and I liked it, it meant that I’d allowed him to bribe me rather than actually being better, and that my own heart had betrayed me. I told this counselor lady that my life was just gray, gray, gray, and I couldn’t ever see it being any different.

    Then she told the principal that I was deeply, deeply insane, and I was expelled from school.

    When they told my father why I had been expelled from school, he told me that I was never to do that ever again, because now he would have to find me a new school, and that he had been right all along, and why couldn’t I just tell her what she wanted to hear and be done with it? And I was such a trouble for him, and I just ate and ate and wasted money and never did anything to pull my weight, and now I was even going so far as to do this, and where did I think that I had the right to waste everyone’s time with this shit?

    First time he ever cursed at me. It was made worse by the fact that I absolutely had the physical upper hand over him, even at 13 – I was big, and he was decrepit. I could have put him in a shoulder-lock and made him sign a confession for anything I wanted. But I didn’t, because I was scared of him, and as the years went by and I got bigger and bigger and he got more and more decrepit, I hated myself more and more because I let him intimidate me, and never had the courage to intimidate him back.

    There have since been other, later events, but they all follow the same theme. If you don’t say anything, then that means you have it under control – but if you have to speak up and ask for help, that means that you don’t. That means you’re useless. That means you’re dangerous.

    Every day, I take the subway to work. But I have a new job, and I take a different route – a newer, glitzier route, and one that has, I dunno what you call ’em, anti-suicide gates. So you can’t just jump onto the track. My old line didn’t, and every day as I came home from work, I would think about it. Because if I don’t do it, and if I stay strong, then that’s another day down and we can do our best tomorrow. But if I said something, if I went to one of Shanghai’s many sleek and modern-looking psychiatric facilities… Maybe they are how they appear. Maybe the people inside want their patients to get better. Maybe they operate under the Hippocratic principle of ‘first, do no harm.’

    But everything I have ever done in my life has convinced me that if I go inside one of those buildings, I will never be allowed to safely leave. I will go in clean – creaky and rusty and a little bit lopsided, but clean – and I will come out dirty, and this dirt, this guilt-by-association, will never be washed off. Maybe it won’t be cage beds and lobotomies – though I very much think it will – but certainly, surely, what is said in secret will not remain secret, and nobody would hire or house or admit or associate with someone who did not have it under control.

    And to all of you who live in a country, or a community, or a family, or a fellowship of people who accept you for who you are, and love you for who you are, and who make you feel – not just feel, but know, based on experience and empiricial observation – that make you feel like you are safe and that who you are is something acceptable for a human being to be, and that how you are is an acceptable way for a human being to be…

    Just be grateful.

  • So it said in the article, by virtually every expert consulted.

    The general speculation as to their motives (since they have offered no explanation for why they want this) was that they wanted to showboat some guaranteed to-be-shot-down, anti-government bill that they could cite in future elections for Tea Party credibility.

  • flat

    wow, what you just wrote really moved me.

  • Carstonio

    That’s been described as post-policy nihilism. While the speculation sounds credible, another possibility is that the fundamentalists in the party have pseudo-biblical objections to the census.

  • The_L1985

    “There have since been other, later events, but they all follow the same
    theme. If you don’t say anything, then that means you have it under
    control – but if you have to speak up and ask for help, that means that
    you don’t. That means you’re useless. That means you’re dangerous.”

    I have had to fight against that idea, even here in the US. My father stressed the importance of being self-sufficient, to the point that, in my eyes, ever asking for any assistance with ANYTHING, instead of doing it all on my own, was a sign of major weakness. And I, as a gifted woman, was not allowed to be weak. Realizing, as an adult, that it’s OK to ask for help sometimes, was like seeing those deciduous trees for the first time.

  • Hexep

    Is it OK in that it doesn’t make you feel like you’re a bad person, or is it OK in the sense that it doesn’t make others feel like you’re a bad person? Because I’ve largely come to grips on who I am; it’s how others see me that I have to manage.

    I can realize that the people around me have a totally bullshit view of how life works and how to judge human beings without disparaging the fact that, however screwed up they may be, they still have my metaphorical fingers in a metaphorical vice, and making sure they don’t squeeze it is an absolutely higher priority than anything in the top half of Maslow’s pyramid.

  • Becca Stareyes

    I’m reminded of the Babylon 5 episode where the station gets a political officer, and she mentions Earth decided toredefine unemployment so it no longer exists. Of course, she at least tried to claim that EarthGov would give a job to anyone would ask (therefore the unemployed were lazy bums and malcontents), rather than some kind of ‘we do not need to know who is out of work’.

    Also, the reaction of the protagonists to this character is pretty damn negative and taken as a sign that Earth is continuing its slide into dictatorship.

  • Possible, there certainly are a few crazies who manage to creep past the election process which normally screens them out. However, I think it is more probable that it is the fundamentalist constituents who have pseudo-biblical objections to the census.

  • If unemployment disappears completely on Obama’s watch, that’ll be cause for us to elect him Emperor or something, right?

  • Carstonio

    Yes, that’s what I was getting at.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait. They’re not seriously proposing we all go LA LA LA NOT LISTENING re the economy?

  • Relative poverty (living in a household earning less than half the median income in a country), which I don’t care about at all. I do care about absolute poverty.

  • Lovely write-up. Thank you for sharing it. :)

    But the counselor told me that everything we talked about would be in
    confidence,and that I should feel comfortable telling her anything I
    wanted. She did not work for the school; her salary came directly from
    my payment. She told me that I was safe with her.

    She broke her word to you later on. I find that unconscionable and if the statute of limitations on this kind of thing hasn’t expired, you should totally see about raising an ethics complaint.

  • A sensibly regulated market is actually freer than an unregulated one, because it allows for true competition.

    -Define “true competition”. I suspect it barely has a resemblance to what we normally mean by the word. As Hayek said in 1948,

    There are signs of increasing awareness among economists that what they have been discussing in recent years under the name of “competition” is not the same thing as what is thus called in ordinary language.

  • The economy, demographics, EVERYTHING except for population. Even the private industry gets valuable access to some of this data. This is essential for international investment too.

    As to how “serious” they are, that remains to be seen. I am of the opinion that they just want to be seen as serious by anti-government nutcakes, while benefiting from actually being part of the government that they claim to oppose.

  • Nah. The Soviet Union, as you may remember, had full employment, and no one wants Communism to come to America (except at least four people who have visited this blog).

  • The unemployment rates that prevailed in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s constitute, for all intents and purposes, full employment. No communism necessary, so stop straw-personing.

  • Good comment.

  • That was partially due to the Korean War. Also, PepperjackCandy said “if unemployment disappears completely”, which does require Communism.

  • Good point. A fine example of religion poisoning political beliefs.

  • Foelhe

    Yeah, I don’t believe you. You care about yourself.

  • I do, and also about others.

  • Foelhe

    You can say that all you like, it doesn’t make it any more convincing.

  • Hexep

    It was… 15 years ago, or so. And she was pretty old, even then; wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if she’d just died naturally by now. I don’t even remember her name; it’s probably for the best.

    But more importantly, even if I found her, and even if I was legally capable of bringing a complaint against her (which I’m not sure I am), what of it? I’d be shouting to the world that I’d seen a psychotherapist, which is exactly the sort of thing I don’t want to do.

  • That was over by 1953. Plus, for all the faffing about the 1980s expansion supposedly being the “longest peacetime expansion” (actually it was the 1990s), since no formal declaration of war ever accompanied Vietnam’s conflict (and I have seen right-wingers employing this exact sophistry when it suits them)…

    The 1960s represents the longest peacetime expansion for which the lowest unemployment rate was ever recorded at 3.7% in 1969.

  • The Korean War ended just after the unemployment rate went down to 2.5% (the actual lowest unemployment rate ever recorded). Did you click on my link?

  • Really? Did you not read the comment that I was responding to, or the article that was linked?

    The issue is the removal of the arm of the Census Bureau that counts the unemployed. Therefore, unemployment would disappear. That does not mean full employment, just that there would be no data.

  • I did. Since conservatives are fond of dismissing such unemployment rates as due to “wartime expansions”, I purposely chose the 1960s one.

  • Unemployment wouldn’t “disappear”, it would just be unrecorded. I read the comment you were responding to and the article it was linked to.

  • There was a draft during the Vietnam War.

  • No formal declaration of war was ever passed. Believe me, this wonderfully amorphous state of war and not-war has been used for rhetorical sophistry by the likes of many a right-wing commentator as the need suits.

    And if you want to apply a strict metric on what constitutes peacetime, there’s the 1956-1957 trough of ~4%.

  • stardreamer42

    You haven’t yet said anything else which would convince me that this statement is more than a mouthing of the politically-correct words for personal benefit.

  • stardreamer42

    Hearing and witnessing. That is a very toxic culture, and I’m sorry that you’re trapped in it.

  • Lori

    Yes, clearly the people who down-voted your comment are just assholes and not, you know, responding to your down-voting behavior in past threads. Chutzpah, you haz it. (And no, none of those down votes are from me.)

  • JustoneK

    So…if living in a household earning less than half the median income is still going without food on a regular basis, you don’t have to care about it? Going without clean water? Clean bathroom facilities? Electricity?

  • That’s absolute poverty, not relative poverty. The vast majority of relatively poor people in these United States have clean water, electricity, and bathroom facilities.

  • JustoneK

    That is irrelevant to my point (and, from the numbers I last remember seeing, somewhat inaccurate). Two posts ago we saw reports of one in five merican children that are full on starving.

    Do you allow for the intersection of relative poverty with absolute?

  • Turcano

    I’ll let you in on a secret. Businesses don’t actually like competition. In fact, they strive to keep competition to the bare allowable minimum.

  • Obviously. Why did you assume this was secret to me? And it’s a heck of a lot easier to restrict competition with the power of the State on one’s side.