Working Hard for a Vaction

Unhappy VacationWell isn’t this nice! Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog wrote, Gone for a While. He then proceeded to take the next week off. He had his blogger friends cross post things to his blog so it wasn’t dead for the week. And here I am (it is 14 August as I write this), having spent the last two weeks writing more and more ahead just so that I could keep this blog going. But the big boys, well, they are just “gone for a while.” It must be nice. I wish I had such a cushy unpaid job!

The problem seems to be that I don’t play well with others. I know other bloggers. But I’ve come to the conclusion that if I get too close to them, they will find (Just like my wives!) that they don’t like me that much. I do tend to have a bit on the difficult side. Of course, I think the problem is mutual. Blogging is not something you are good at if you are calm and steady. It selects for the volatile and opinionated. But clearly, other people manage to get along better than I do.

I’m well aware that I can front load articles. Steve M is a news cycle blogger. He stays up to date on what’s going on in a way that is remarkable. It is one of the reasons that I keep him in my RSS feed. Just the same, there is a reason that I am not a news cycle blogger. I’m not that interested. Both No More Mister Nice Blog and P M Carpenter’s Commentary — two blogs that I’ve greatly admired for years — have been so filled with Donald Trump news the last month that it makes me want to scream!

But even for me, writing a week in advance has been hard. Normally, I try to arrange things — slot topical articles in early and move more evergreen articles later. But I haven’t been doing that recently. I think this is the 44th scheduled article. It’s far too complicated right now. I don’t even know what I’ve written at this point. But most of it is pretty general, because I’m not that interested in election news. The truth is that I’m one of those killjoys who likes to remind everyone that the presidential election is all about the economy anyway.

Still, it would be nice to get away from all of this. I’d love to have some blogging chums who would step up and pinch hit for me. Then again, maybe the real reason I don’t do that is because I fear if I stop grinding out content, I will never return to it. I am a man of habits. But I even wonder now, will there be new material up on Sunday?! As it is, I’m so exhausted, I can’t even remember the theme I was going to use for the week’s Morning Music — and I had about ten ideas. God, I need a vacation just from preparing for this vacation! I wish I were Steve M…

Lost Word Author Bio Using Lost Words

Poplollies & Bellibones: A Celebration of Lost WordsSusan Kelz Sperling received her liripoops from Barnard College and Boston College Graduate School and put in her darg as a high-school English teacher in Connecticut. The author and her aimcrier husband live in a pleasantly purfled, many eyethurled home (a bit larger than a cosh) in the iqueme city of Rye, New York, free from fearbabes, killcows, and ug, where they rixle with storge over their three poplollies — two boys and a girl. Having always found great adlubescence in playing reaks with words, Ms Sperling expects to snirtle and keak over the woodness of words, either in hudder-mudder or with fellowfeeling boonfellows, right on into her chair day.

—Susan Kelz Sperling
Poplollies & Bellibones: A Celebration of Lost Words

Iran Nuclear Deal Will Bring End Times

Michele BachmannLast week, Right Wing Watch reported, Michele Bachmann: Obama Fulfilled End Times Prophecy With Iran Deal, So Celebrate! She is apparently happy about the Iranian nuclear deal because she thinks it will bring on the end times. I have to admit to being a little impressed. With conservative Christians, there is this general dissonance: on the one hand being thrilled about the apocalypse (Coming any day now!) and on the other hand freaking out about how liberals are making God mad. Why do they care? When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he made sure to save Lot because he was a good man.

The reason, of course, is that the conservative Christians just want something to bitch about. So it is good that Bachmann is standing up for things going to hell — at least as she sees it. She thinks this is all about Zechariah 12:3. But there is major question begging here. She takes it as given that the Iran nuclear deal means that Iran is going to attack Israel. The logic is, shall we say, weak: the deal will lead to Iran having a nuclear weapon; they will use it against poor defenseless Israel; but God will stop it.

How clueless do you have to be to think that Iran would use any nuclear weapon against Israel? Israel has between 75 and 400 nuclear weapons. To be honest, of all the nations in the world, the one we should be most worried about is Israel because they are (understandably, but frighteningly) paranoid. So if Iran attacked Israel, Israel would retaliate against it with overwhelming force — just like it does against the Palestinians. And that’s saying nothing about what the US would do. Israel is ranked 11th most powerful military in the world. It isn’t some weak country that anyone needs to worry about. Yet for conservatives, the idea that Israel might be able to get a nuke in the next decade is far more worrying than Israel having hundreds of uninspected nuclear weapons.

But Bachmann is even wrong on the Bible. Zechariah 12:3 is translated in many ways. But in no way does it say that the United States will be leading the fight against Israel — as Bachmann claims. And then, the actual text is much more vague. If we look at the New American Standard Bible — generally considered the closest to the original text — it says:

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

It doesn’t sound like destroying Israel; it sounds like occupying it. And there have been so many times over the centuries that Israel was occupied by others, are we really to think that Zechariah 12:3 wasn’t referring to all thos other times? Of course not. This is just another case of every generation of Christians thinking that they are the last. When finally there is a last generation of Christians, it won’t be because Jesus comes back. It will be because they finally realize that their beliefs are silly, and get onto to thinking something more reasonable.

Donald Trump Is the Best Republican Candidate

Donald TrumpEzra Klein noted last weekend, Donald Trump Is the Perfect “Moderate.” But you need to know what he means by “moderate.” He’s talking about how moderates are very often extremists on individual issues, which just cancel out to create a “moderate” voter. So let’s suppose that you are in favor of a $15 minimum wage and for ending all immigration. Well, the first belief would be marked as extremely liberal and the second belief would be marked as extremely conservative. Thus, such a person would be considered a “moderate.”

Klein noted that Trump has these exact same jumble of views, which make him a moderate. He might sound very conservative on immigration and foreign affairs. But there is another side to him:

Trump opposes cuts to Social Security and Medicare, hasn’t signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, believes single-payer health care works well in other countries, and is skeptical of free trade.

This is all pretty standard stuff, and this is why I’ve been saying for a while that I would prefer to see Trump nominated. It isn’t, like with many liberals, that I think Trump would lose in the general election (although I think he would). It is rather that his opinions are far better than the rest of the Republican field. His conservative opinions are no worse than those of Jeb Bush or Scott Walker.

But I’m afraid that Klein is falling into the same trap that he is writing about. You can’t just throw all political beliefs into a single bucket. As I write about a lot, a populist in this country is an economic liberal and a social conservative. So it is ironic that the two major political parties are more conservative on economic issues than the vast majority of the voters.

So what can we say about Donald Trump? By the standard of American politics, he seems to be an economic liberal. And I would say that being anti-immigrant is part of that. It also goes along with his skepticism regarding free trade. The only place that he is clearly conservative is on foreign affairs. On social issues, he is kind of a mixture.

To a large extent, what liberals and conservatives get from their candidates is not policy. There are a few things they care about, but what they most care about is an attitude. For conservatives, that attitude is “strength.” And that is certainly what Trump appeals to.

What the other Republican presidential candidates have to offer are consistently repugnant ideas. All they offer that makes them more acceptable is that they aren’t willing to say things like, “Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers.” But the immigration policies that they favor are the same as those Trump favors. So just how are they more acceptable? It’s all about what can and cannot be said in polite company. And that’s meaningless. If Trump is unacceptable (and I think he is), then all the Republicans are unacceptable. But given that they say and do what all the other Republicans presidential candidates say, the mainstream press treats them like they are acceptable. It’s sad.

Morning Music: Lean on Me

Lean on Me - Bill WithersI was freaking out as this week came to a conclusion, “I need another godless spiritual song?!” And then I found myself over at Target shopping for coffee and over the store speakers came, “Sometimes in our lives we all have pain…” Who better to be my savior than Bill Withers? But how could I have overlooked this song?! It is absolutely the perfect representation of the spirituality that I am thinking of.

According to Wikipedia, Withers wrote the song while in Los Angeles because he “found himself missing the strong community ethic of his hometown.” This song fits in rather well with the Sermon on the Mount. I think this is why most Christians don’t make a big deal out of the Sermon. They’ve been trained to think that Christianity is just a special pass into the joyous afterlife rather than the key to a joyous this life. I’m not saying that I’m right and they’re wrong. I don’t speak for their religion. But if that is all that Christianity is, it’s a pathetic religion.

Of course, the brilliance of the song is that it is ultimately practical. He explicitly says, “Lean on me because I know that someday I will need to lean on you.” It is also another part of spiritualism in that it is egalitarian and totally lacking in hubris. We are all together in this. Call me.

Anniversary Post: Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness MonsterI’m not sure about the date on this, but it may have been on this day back in 565 that Saint Columba made the first eye-witness siting of the Loch Ness Monster. I didn’t realize that the whole thing goes back to a clearly apocryphal Christian story.

It goes more or less like this. Columba heard about a man who had been pulled down and killed by some monster living in the loch. So Columba went there the following day and had one of his subordinates swim across the loch. Sure enough, the monster pursued the hapless follower. But then, “Columba made the sign of the Cross and commanded: ‘Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.'” And the monster stopped in its tracks.

If that weren’t enough Christian apocrypha for you, the story wasn’t written down for over a century afterward. I think we all know that the Loch Ness Monster is just a myth. But this story is entirely typical of all the stories that all the Abrahamic religions are based upon. Really think that Jesus was born of a virgin? Or that he walked on water? Died on the cross and was reborn? Just remember the story of Nessie. And ask yourself, “Is there any more reason to believe one story than the other?”