Good news for people who like good news

Good news for people who like good news January 25, 2013

• “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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  •  The very poor. This is due largely to the fact most of them are farm workers. Children can be useful on the farm.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Precisely. Which is why, given a resource shortage, people tend to want more hands with which to produce or acquire resources, and consider the need to stretch over more people the resources the household thus acquires an acceptable tradeoff.

  • Isabel C.

    As far as a lack of compassion, your desire, or at least willingness, to see a bunch of people killed off because OMG FREE MARKETS speaks for itself. You’re a vile little excuse for a human being, aren’t you?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Since he started this thread by expressing the view that minimum wage is too high, that isn’t a surprise.

  • Cathy W

    Then how do you get from that to “In times of resource shortage, the poor will have fewer children?”

  • Cathy W

    I kind of came to that conclusion last night. I’m not sure why I’m still trying, except that I thought I’d made a dent when he agreed with me about Henry Ford doing himself a favor by paying his workers above-market wages.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, what he said is “perhaps” Ford was right, or “perhaps” Ford could have invested in more factory equipment to make cars cheaper such that they could be afforded on crap wages. You made a good point and he acknowledged it; I see nothing in his response that indicates he agrees.

  • Like the frothing over Rep. Keith  Ellison’s using a Qur’an for his photo-swearing-in, in 2010?  Yeah, I expect the brainless right would have complained — though, of course, they didn’t object when John Boehner swore in 438 Members of Congress with no scripture at all on January 3.

    I mentioned Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.  There was no serious fuss over her using the Bhagavad Gita to be sworn in this year.  Obama’s higher profile, and my invite more snarking, but there was no serious fuss over Rep. Ellison this year, and I couldn’t find any fuss over Rep. Gabbard at all.

    Progress comes in small steps some times.

    Do you think the Tea Party would complain if someone used the Constitution?  That would be rich.

  • “The bible is not a fictitious, mythical book.”

    Can we prove that everything the Bible claims happened actually happened? I doubt it. And if my doubt is correct, then it’s not at all wrong for someone to call it fiction.

    Grammar lesson time!
    The word “fictitious” is an adjective, and it modifies the meaning of the noun it’s attached to, in this case, the word “book”.

    The word “fictitious” means “being imaginary” or “of, relating to, or denoting the the imagined elements of fiction”.  A “fictitious person” would be a person who is imaginary, existing only in fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes. Narnia is a “fictitious land”, existing only in the writings of C.S. Lewis. And the Diary of Balin is a fictitious book, existing only as an element in “The Fellowship of the Ring”. 

    You can reasonably say that the Bible is a book of fiction, you can say that the Bible stories are fictional. But the actual book itself is quite real and most definitely exists. Check the nightstand of any hotel and you’ll find that this book exists outside of fiction and myth. 

    It’s not wrong to call the bible fiction. It’s wrong to say it is a fictitious or fictional book. You know, for all intensive purposes.

  •  I strongly doubt that labor-intensive agriculture or heavy industry would be thriving industries during a time of resource shortage.

  • People have to eat. One way or another they’ll have to get food, which of necessity means at least some revival of agriculture.

    You seem eager to simply toss off whatever you can come up with that justifies a world-view that is basically mean and cramped in outlook to anyone who isn’t you.

  • In which comment may that willingness be found? I have no doubt that cisterns and aqueducts will make drinking water shortages unlikely to be more common in the future. Besides, the melting ice caps will release water, thus increasing precipitation. Over-use of aquifers will, in any case, not make labor-intensive agriculture more profitable.

  •  Clearly I should think through some issues in more depth before I comment on them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    He sees the light!

  •  No, I see my inability to think clearly on the subject of how the world population is to decline during a resource crunch. I’m still right about the minimum wage, though.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You acknowledged the possibility that you’re talking out your ass. That’s a vast improvement.

  • Amaryllis

     My sediments exactly.

  • Tricksterson

    More likely something from the days of Jim Crow

  • JustoneK

    Tho I think most people took this conversation on semantics for granite.

  • Tricksterson

    Thomas Jefferson had a Koran?  Cool

  • Tricksterson

    “the Boston phone book (see William F. Buckley)”

    This is one of the many reasons why Chairman Bill was possibly the coolest conservative ever.

  • aunursa

    Why do you care? And why does this make you want peoples’ opinions? You act like it’s something controversial or bad.

    The writer argues against the president swearing his oath on a Bible.  Regardless of one’s opinion, it’s obviously a controversial issue.

    Why do I care?  Why do I seek opinions?  I suspected that the letter would be self-defeating, that the writer would damage his own case, and that he would turn off even those who would be sympathetic to his case.  I was curious as to the opinions of atheist:, whether they think that this type of letter advances the cause or harms it.  The only way I can satisfy my curiosity is to ask atheists for their opinions.  And many people here, both atheists and theists, were kind enough to do so.

    As I noted previously, this writer has written many letters in which he has taken various angles to attack religion in general.  He has held meetings for his atheist group at the local library.  And he has written a 200-page book including essays and poems by other atheists, and reprinting some 70 of his letters — in his words — “exposing my anger.” It’s almost certain that he is entirely sincere.  And the responses to my question answer my curiosity and support my belief that his anger causes his efforts to be self-defeating.

  • Kiba

    Yes, and some people take their French benefits for granite as well.

  • I’d like to note that the President-elect is not required to swear the Oath of Office. Just like with testifying in court, they can choose to make an affirmation instead.

    This is so as not to infringe on the religious liberties of people with a religious aversion to swearing oaths, such as Quakers.

    (Nixon was a Quaker who nonetheless swore the Oath of Office on two Bibles, but that’s pretty minor on the list of reasons Nixon was the Worst Quaker Ever.)

  • Water_Bear

    Isn’t it great that we can all come together in the spirit of loving harmony and spend six pages expounding on how atheists are so mean and arrogant and OMG, like, so bad at writing? Such a bunch of whiners, why, I bet they’re all upper-middle class straight white boys too, they’ve probably never even really suffered anyway! 

    I mean, seriously, WTF? 

    Atheists are a tiny powerless minority, the least trusted single group in America. It’s not like Comrade-Leader Dawkins is going to come in and steal your Bible, anything an atheist says against religion has about as much political weight as a vegan complaining about MacDonalds. And what, exactly, are these “Anti-Theists” or “Internet Atheists” saying that is so much worse than the constant (and much louder!) stream of religious extremists promoting violence from every corner of the world in service to every deity ever devised?

    If we spent one tenth the amount of time we complain about rude atheists here talking about the active cover-up of thousands of child rapes by the Roman Catholic Church, or the ongoing Muslim practice of female genital mutilation, or the surge of attacks of LGBT* people in Russia back by the Russian Orthodox Church  or any of a thousand other topics like them, this weird obsession with “Internet Atheists” might not seem like naked bigotry. But no, why talk about people actually hurting each other when we can all have a good laugh about those stuck-up no-Godnicks.


  • AnonymousSam

    That poor army of strawmen, what did they ever do to you?

    (Protip: “Atheists suck” is a sentiment not expressed even once in these six pages. In fact, you’re accusing several atheists of bitterly complaining about atheists instead of complaining about the things they frequently complain about. This seems like it would cause something in the fabric of space and time to break. Have you divided by zero recently?)

  • P J Evans

     Somebody did.

  • AnonaMiss

    OK it looks like I missed most of this argument and as resident (Left) Libertarian Who I Don’t Think? Most Of You Hate, want to weigh in a little bit on the minimum wage. Mostly because it sounds like Enopoletus is misapplying

    A legislated minimum wage is necessary in the real world at this point in time. (Libertarian Utopia would of course be populated by Homo Economicus operating on the Ford business model, just like how global warming would be Solved! by the Free Press exposing environmentally unsafe practices so that if the damage was severe enough for consumers to care, the companies who damaged the environment would have to either shape up or go out of business.) Because I am still a libertarian, I do hold on to the idea that at some time in the future, after globalization has finished its awkward teenage years, a minimum wage may become irrelevant – but that would be effectively a post-scarcity world, and is science fiction, not grounds for ideologuing-up today’s economic policy.

    However, large increases in minimum wage can increase local unemployment in 1 of 3 ways: outsourcing, automation, and driving struggling companies out of business. In addition, conditional minimum wage increases like the ACA can raise underemployment, as employers cut back on hours to squeeze as many employees as possible into those loopholes. Simply raising the minimum wage without also taking action to smooth out the bumps could be a problem.

    Biggest bump to smooth is the loopholes. Wait staff, part time employees, minimum wage needs to be minimum fucking wage.

    The “struggling company” situation – yes, this situation still exists. Not everyone works for a massive supercorp which pays its CEOs and stockholders the money they could be spending on keeping their employees off of welfare. This would be mostly a short-term employment problem, and could be minimized or eliminated entirely (well, except for the companies that would be going under anyway ofc – hard to say what’s the dying blow) by minimum wage increases being small, predictable, and frequent, instead of these gigantic jumps.

    Automation is a tricky one because in the long run, it works out well for the society as a whole: it’s a mass loss of employment in shitty jobs in favor of a smaller gain of employment in less shitty jobs and an increase in the quantity and quality of production over the long term, as it’s much easier to upgrade your automation equipment than it is to make the leap from humans doing the work to automation. It just really sucks to be one of the people who get screwed by it in the short term and may not survive to see the long-term benefits. I’m going to take a pass on this one since the USA has already gone through this transition, but we may see this sort of upheaval if China ever institutes a minimum wage (hey, it could happen…). I think it’s worth noting though that a minimum wage hike would have to be pretty damn high in order to provide the activation energy for the human workers to automated system transition. Meaning that, again, it could be reduced by making minimum wage increases small, predictable, and frequent.

    Outsourcing is the big one. I don’t know what to do about this one. Obviously there are a lot of businesses that can’t outsource – Wal-Mart can’t send its greeter jobs to China – but there are still a lot that can. Again we get this activation energy situation: it’s already cheaper to operate overseas, but they need a strong, sudden incentive to get them to actually move their operations, because the act of moving the operations is costly in itself. If it weren’t for the foreign policy implications and our spoiled-rotten consumer market the whole outsourcing problem could be solved with tarriffs designed to “make up” the difference in cost of goods made overseas – if you don’t pay your employees American minimum wage, we’ll charge you at the port! – but, yeah, China would skin us alive. So again I guess our best solution would be to keep minimum wage increases – say it with me! – small, predictable, and frequent.

    But it’s not true that raising the minimum wage has no effect on employment.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Dude, what the hell blog are you reading? Decrying Christians who are full of shit is a full-time occupation around here.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Left Libertarian?

    I think you and I have radically different ideas about what left wing ideology is.

  • AnonaMiss

    Since IIRC you live in Australia, what constitutes left wing in our respective countries is also radically different.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Yeah, but I still think you’re equating left with progressive. People do it in Australia, too. It might seem like I’m playing semantics, but it’s an important distinction.

  • The equivalent would be something like “anarcho-syndicalist” – basically in the vein of writers like Proudhon, et al.

  • AnonaMiss

     Mm. That’s probably true. One thing it’s hard to keep a hold of in this country is the meaning of political terms, heh.

    Honestly, I grabbed the “Left” label as a way of distinguishing myself from the flood of social conservative Republicans who were burned by GWB’s reckless spending and started labeling themselves “libertarians” instead, occasionally with a grudging nod to “Yeah we could legalize marijuana I guess.” When Ron Paul is unironically described as a “libertarian” while simultaneously saying that individual states should have the right to determine whether or not gay marriage is legal? Time to find me a new label, I’m not using the one he’s claimed anymore.

    My stripe is more “Make no regulation on people’s private activities that doesn’t harm other people (they can harm themselves though). Let people make bad decisions (but try not to let them die for it unless that was their intention), but come down hard as fuck on fraud. Also, if minarchy includes only the basic stuff required for the
    well-being of the society, guess what: the well-being of the society
    requires at a minimum not having people dying of starvation. What the minimum should be does not magically coincide with what helps you make money. Wrt regulation, government’s primary regulatory duty should be to break up the monopolies & oligopolies. If you can manage it, sunlight is the best disinfectant, as bad publicity can be a more potent regulatory force than any legal action & is also significantly less expensive for the regulator. Destruction or defacement of public property, like say the earth itself, is a crime and should be prosecutable on companies as well as persons. Also 100% estate tax past a low cap would be a great way to fund the government. Wealth people give to you is yours; but you were the one who made the better mousetrap, not your heirs. This ain’t an aristocracy.”

    If you know of a better way to boil that down, please do share.

  • Tricksterson

    They exist they’re just quite rare.  David Brin is one or claims to be.  The main difference is whether they emphasize social liberties (left) or economic ones (right).  Another way i’ve heard it put is the left believe humans cooperative drive is stronger than their competitive one and the right believes vice-versa.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The main difference is whether they emphasize social liberties (left) or economic ones (right).

    See, this is where I disagree. Emphasising “social liberties” doesn’t make you left wing, it makes you a social progressive. We have right wing social progressives. I respect their social positions, but I’m not voting for them because their economic views are bad for the people I’m most concerned about.

    The difference matters because there are plenty of social progressives who are all about equal rights for people of minority races, religions and sexual identities–which I support–but when it comes to economics they generally prefer the free market to do its thing rather than back government intervention. Except that the free market doing its thing without government intervention inevitably screws over the poor and working class. So these sort of progressives basically care about standing up for the marginalised, except for the people marginalised by poverty.

    It’s philosophically inconsistent but very common, in my experience. I’m involved in progressive politics, and one of the observations of the movement in my country over the past couple of generations is that it’s been increasingly dominated by the middle class and their concerns. The left is a minority faction within progressive politics which is very much of the middle class, by the middle class and for the middle class.

    Of course the social issues are important. Of course they are. They overlap with economic issues and besides, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. But I observe, in my extremely middle class society, the needs of the poor and working class sidelined even within progressive politics. They deserve a voice, but it too often gets drowned out.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    If you know of a better way to boil that down, please do share.

    Well, for a start I’d say that disagreeing with socially conservative Republicans doesn’t make you left wing any more than disagreeing with the Pope makes me Martin Luther. And if you believe that the role of government should be as small as possible without destroying society while Ron Paul believes that sometimes and not others, then you should grab the label “libertarian” and say that he’s the one who needs to move.

    You haven’t described anything that sounds remotely left wing to me. Just bog standard not-an-arsehole right wing.

  • AnonaMiss

    While I mostly agree with your assessment, I’m really surprised that you don’t consider “The government should confiscate inheritances and use them for the good of the people” left wing.

    Also, as a linguistic descriptivist, I would argue that the meaning of the word libertarian has changed. A word means only what it’s recognized by native speakers to mean. I can’t oust the assholes nesting in the American Libertarian party simply by virtue of prior claim to the word; especially since I’m heretically large-government for a libertarian, so didn’t quite fit into the previous definition anyway!

  • Carstonio

    Here’s my somewhat incoherent political philosophy applied to economics:

    Government exists not only to protect individual rights, but to enable communities to obtain things that individuals couldn’t obtain on their own. Left unchecked, a purely free-market economy turns into an oligopoly and from there into an oligarchy, where all the institutions of society become geared to propping up the small wealthy elite. One purpose of government is to counteract that tendency, to limit political, social and economic marginalization and achieve greater equality of opportunity. This means working toward making access to capital more democratic, and limiting the ability of people with economic power to misuse it to marginalize others. I favor membership corporations over investor-owned ones, and see a government role for promoting these in fields such as banking. Government operates more or less as a compulsory membership corporation anyway. Measures like minimum incomes and single-payer  health care not only help prevent suffering but also help equalize opportunity.

    Does all that fall more or less under liberalism or leftism or progressivism?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Fairly centrist, probably centre-right from the language, but moving from the abstract to the concrete may prove otherwise. But basically it sounds like you’d fit in the right wing faction of a mainstream social democratic party.

    Progressivism is a whole other thing. As I said, I don’t like to mix up the economic and social philosophies because they don’t necessarily go together. People tend to equate progressive with left and conservative with right, but I know plenty of right wing progressives and left wing social conservatives.

  • Carstonio

    I would have thought that my economic positions were more center-left, only because I don’t favor socialism. I’ve told opponents of health care reform that true socialist health care would involve government running all the hospitals and employing all the doctors. 

    If it helps, I want US taxation to be dramatically more progressive than it is now, with capital gains rates higher than ordinary income.

    Both my economic and social stances are based on a core philosophy of protecting the powerless from the powerful. Government is usually the benign factor in the economic realm and often the malign factor in the social realm, with the powerless side in the latter case being the individual. I don’t claim that all my positions are consistent with this philosophy. But I am confused as to a core philosophy for a right-wing progressive or a left-wing social conservative.

  • Carstonio

    Hypothetically, how would I change my economic positions to make these more lefty?

  • AnonaMiss, you are no Left-Libertarian, just like Rand Paul is no
    libertarian. You are a libertarian-leaning leftist. The key to libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. All libertarians support the rights of life, liberty, and property (though they may justify them in different ways; Mises, for example, was a staunch opponent of Natural Rights theory and justified his libertarianism based on utilitarianism). The Left Libertarians are a group of anarchists who love right-libertarian policies but think they’ll have different results from what the
    right-libertarians think they will. The Left-Libertarians are to be found at

  • EllieMurasaki

    The key to libertarianism is the non-aggression principle.

    PLEASE don’t make me laugh out loud at work.

  • I don’t see anything funny about the statement you quoted.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So it’s not an act of aggression against the poor to insist that no regulation is necessary on predatory lenders? So it’s not an act of aggression against anyone who eats to insist that no regulation is necessary for food safety reasons? Because libertarians do so insist.

  • It’s not an act of aggression; it’s non-aggression against high-interest lenders and those who do not want their food production facilities regulated.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What the fuck.

  • cyllan

    We have always been at war with eastasia…

  • AnonaMiss

    With respect, if “left-libertarian” is taken, I will take “left-leaning libertarian” rather than libertarian-leaning leftist. For example, the reason I prefer a 100% inheritance tax is because taxing the dead means taking money away from no one living, and also reduces the need for tax on the living.

    I consider that any informed political view will recognize that there need to be compromises and exceptions made in order to reasonably apply to the real world. From a libertarian perspective, the compromises and exceptions for the current state of the United States need to be towards regulating business. This is because right now, business is regulated much less strictly than labor, and because with the current state of the courts and the legislature, business is favored in the extreme. Once these facts are corrected – once regulation on unionization is relaxed, and laws are enforced on businesses the same way they are on private citizens – then we can look at relaxing regulation on businesses again. But it will do no one any good to free business further while labor remains in chains; and we must protect labor from business until it is able to protect itself.

    And of course, I think the most important thing is to take all moves with caution and after some consideration.

    …”Conservative left-leaning libertarian”. Heh.

    Also find it silly that you consider me “leftist with libertarian leanings” while Dave considers me “bog standard right wing”.