No, Liberals Don’t ‘Need To Find Religion’

When I saw this Washington Post article yesterday, it wasn’t the overly long headline that caught my attention. It was the preachy subhead: “Liberals need to find religion again.” Undoubtedly, it’s because I came across the story on Facebook, where the subhead was shifted up to the top.

Though I had an immediate reaction to the phrase — it always bugs me when someone tells me what I need or have to do — I read the story anyway to see if possibly the subhead was in error.

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Why, Indeed, Do We Want Them?

I cannot resist one more response to the president’s remarks.


Tire Fire
Many third-world nations lack basic infrastructure such as paved roads, and environmental/safety regulations to prevent disastrous fires and/or pollution. But this photo was made in Oklahoma, near the center of the United States.
(Copyright © 2005 by Wil C. Fry.)

I already wrote about how “shithole” wasn’t the worst thing he said — that the real stain here is the racist desire to import more white Nordic folk while keeping out as many black/brown people as possible.

What he said, one more time (sources: CNN and The Washington Post):

“Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here? … Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? … Why do we need more Haitians? … We should have more people from Norway.”

Why indeed?

Yes, empathy is part of it — we can see their plight and help. Bringing in refugees from war-torn nations or hurricane-ravaged islands can go a long way toward making the U.S. great “again”. Surely, those from the most broken regimes on the planet are the ones who most need a hand up — a safe, clean, healthy place to live; a solid public education with a more-than-even chance of college afterward; health care; the chance to succeed in the world.

(Norway, Trump’s suggested source of immigrants, ranks among the world’s happiest countries year after year. Last year, it was number one. Norwegians — as a group — answered Trump with a resounding “no way”. “We are not coming. Cheers from Norway,” one woman wrote. “We respectfully decline the opportunity,” one government official said when contacted by Reuters. Some of them outright called the U.S. a “shithole”: “Of course people from Norway would love to move to a country where people are far more likely to be shot, live in poverty, get no healthcare because they’re poor, get no paid parental leave or subsidized daycare and see fewer women in political power. #Shithole.”)

But empathy isn’t the only thing. And our government can’t be expected to have it.

Let me tell you a story.

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Does Anybody Actually Want Oprah For President?

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: 2018.01.12

Derpity Derp
Found on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday.

I’ve seen a few posts and memes from conservatives, poking fun at liberals for wanting Oprah Winfrey to be president. And I’ve seen plenty of posts from liberals and moderates clearly saying they DON’T want Winfrey to be president. What I haven’t actually seen is any rank-and-file liberal saying she should run for president.

The closest I’ve seen are posts in the vein of my own: “I don’t want Winfrey to run for president, but if she does, and if it comes down to Winfrey versus Trump, then I would vote for Winfrey.”

The meme screenshot posted here is just an example, from someone who might be related to an in-law of mine.

The same peope (sic) whining about a billionaire reality TV star in the White House… want a billionaire reality TV star in the White House.”

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Once Again, Almost Everyone Is Missing The Point

It’s not surprising that Donald Trump is once again in the news for being a racist. What IS surprising, at least to me, is how often the news media — and the public — seems to be missing the point.

When Trump used the phrase “shithole countries” to describe (apparently) Haiti, El Salvador, and several African nations, he was rightly called out by decent people everywhere. But he was called out for using the term “shithole” in reference to these countries, instead for the worst thing he actually said.

What Trump actually said:

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This Draft-Dodger Meme Dodges Truth And Common Sense

(I know it isn’t Saturday, but I don’t feel like changing the name of this series: “Silly Meme Saturday” for one entry.)


Today’s Silly Meme
I found this meme on Facebook, where the person who posted it was making fun of a Trump voter in her family. “You Elected A Draft Dodger!” is apparently meant as a criticism.

First, the text: “You elected a draft dodger”. In this case, it was posted by a distant relative of mine (a second cousin), directed at someone she knows who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Multiple factors are at play with this meme.

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Judicial Nominee Stirs Ire

Though I follow political news fairly closely these days, even I haven’t heard of every low-level judicial nominee that President Donald Trump has put forth. One that I hadn’t heard of before is Howard C. Nielson Jr. — Trump nominated Nielson in September but the appointment hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate.

Nielson, the son of former Utah politician of the same name, isn’t like a few of Trump’s other judicial nominees. Remember Matthew Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who couldn’t answer basic question? (Several of Trump’s nominees have been “unqualified”.)

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What If The GOP Was Great Again?

It was an interesting exercise for me this morning to compare the official party platforms of two very different parties. Those parties are:

* Today’s Republican Party
* 1956’s Republican Party

I know, I know, it’s just embarrassing to compare, say, Dwight D. Eisenhower to Donald J. Trump. That wouldn’t be fair. But those are two individual people, either of which could more or less represent the party’s ideals as a whole. Perhaps party platforms also aren’t the best representation of the party as a whole, but they have to be more representative than a single person. (And it’s much easier to read a party platform document than to search out thousands of policy positions of thousands of elected Republicans all over the country in 1956 and 2018.)

The 1956 Republican Party platform is here.

The 2016 Republican Party platform isn’t posted on their website. Instead, they link to this .pdf file (2.7 MB).

First, note a very important distinction. In 1956, the GOP was the incumbent party — Eisenhower was concluding four years that saw economic prosperity and the end of the Korean War. He was about to win a second term by a 15-percent margin in the popular vote and the electoral votes of 41 states — over an opponent he had already defeated in 1952. In 2016, the GOP was looking for a way to get back in the White House after eight years of economic recovery under a Democrat incumbent who couldn’t run again. This means the tones will be different. The former can say: “look at all we’re doing right now”, while the latter has to point at “failures” of the “current administration”.

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Response To ‘Clinton And Trump Were Equally Bad’

Categories: Elections, Politics
Tags: No Tags
Comments: 9 Comments
Published on: 2018.01.03

Comment on my Facebook last night, after I asked Trump voters to apologize:

“Why would we apologies (sic) when we had to choose either Trump or Clinton? Can you image what it would be like if Hillary was now our President? Well, at least she probably would not tweet so much.

The Dotard’s Tweet
This is the screenshot I posted on Facebook, along with a personal message saying I was still waiting on Trump voters to apologize for him. It’s of a tweet our Buffoon In Chief posted Tuesday evening.

My response:

When someone says Clinton and Trump were equally bad, this is what I hear:

Boss: “I need to let someone go, but I can’t decide.”

Employee 1: “I drink on the weekends, and sometimes get drunk.”

Employee 2: “I’m drunk right now. Look, I puked on your carpet.”

Boss: “I still can’t decide.”

E1: “I didn’t finish that project you assigned me last week. Here’s what I’ve done so far.”

E2: “I set fire to my office.”

Boss: “You seem equally bad to me.”

E1: “I’m pretty bad, that’s true. Remember when I called in sick two weeks ago? I really just went shopping.”

E2: “I didn’t show up the whole month of July. I spent that time robbing liquor stores in three states.”

Boss: “But I need more criteria. There’s really nothing to differentiate between you.”

E1: “I’m no fun at parties, if that helps.”

E2: “I’m the reason people call the cops on parties.”

Boss: “Okay, maybe I should look for a third employee, so I can find someone to fire.”

E1: “There are plenty of other employees, but you should probably fire me. I’ve worked here the longest.”

E2: “I’ve sexually harassed everyone who works here.”

Boss: “Okay, maybe I won’t fire anyone.”

No one would trust that boss to run a company. But at the voting booth, we let him fire E1 and keep E2.

***

If you couldn’t tell during the 2016 campaigns that Trump was the greater of two evils, you probably shouldn’t have voted. If, after a year of Trump’s presidency, you still think Clinton would have been “just as bad”, you need to avoid voting booths in the future too.

Being Better

Categories: Personal
Comments: 5 Comments
Published on: 2017.12.31

For at least three years, my personal motto has been “I Can Do Better”, which I decided on after writing a poem of the same name.


Be Better
This image is a smaller version of the 1920×1080 image that has served as my PC’s wallpaper (desktop background) for most of 2017. The larger words — “Be Better” — remind me of my personal motto and what looks like a gray-pattern background is made up of smaller words — “Be Kind. Be Informed. Train…” These are tenets of my personal code, recently trimmed to three items.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

I have made personal progress in the past three years, and especially in 2017. I am becoming better. And I will continue to do so.

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How 2017 Politics Changed Me

It began in 2015. The earliest Republican primary debates embarrassed the U.S. in front of the entire world. At that time, I simply couldn’t fathom a large chunk of American voters being swayed by any of these people.


Let The Sun Shine In
An unedited self-portrait made with my phone’s camera.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

It continued through 2016, with GOP candidates competing to see who could be the worst. By February 2016, it was clear that Republican voters favored the worst of their possible candidates (Trump), and I suspected that moderates would stay home — giving Trump the victory.

By early October, I began cutting people out of my life. The national political debate was no longer about intangible policies but about basic human decency and the inalienable human rights upon which our Republic was founded. Racists, sexists, homophobes, theocrats, and fascists in my circles became emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric — just as media pundits had predicted they would — and I refused to ignore it. Most of them doubled down in November and proved wrong one of the most basic assumptions I’ve always held about human nature — that most people are basically good.

This had lasting implications through 2017.

Strained relationships with close family members. Losing new friends I’d just re-gained. An overwhelming sense of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness. Like all emotions, these are physical in nature and have physical effects — fatigue, loss of energy and focus, sleep issues, etc. Unlike most emotions, these lasted throughout the year for me.

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Dear Alabama: You Have A White People Problem

Just look at the statistics from last night’s election in Alabama:


Election Results By Race/Sex
In Alabama last night, black people — especially black women — made the right choice. White people? Not so much. Especially white men.

As I’ve mentioned before, Alabama gun-toter Roy Moore wasn’t the worst candidate purely because of accusations of diddling teens half a century ago. Even without that, he would have been by far the worst candidate. He was a twice-failed judge, removed from an elected judicial position for orneriness — disobeying federal court orders (“failure to comply with the law and avoid impropriety”). He openly flouted the Constitution when he attempted to install Christianity as the official religion of Alabama. His open bigotry — toward LGBTQ people, Muslims, non-white people, non-Christians, and women — has never been in question. He even went on record saying America would be better off without all Constitutional amendments after the 10th and that the U.S. was at its “greatest” prior to the abolition of slavery.

This is the worst possible candidate.

But white people — especially white men — voted for him in droves yesterday. Herds of white men rushed to vote for this theocratic bigot and flocks of white women followed after — apparently in jest, because Moore favors only men being able to vote.

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So, The Rapture Happened. What Next?

Someone posted the following question in an atheist group I follow on Facebook:

“If Jesus returned and took all his people with him to worship and praise him for all of eternity… What’s your first action?”

What To Do?
Screenshot of the image file to which I refer in the text.

For the reader who’s not familiar, this question refers to the “Rapture”, an alleged future event in which the resurrected Jesus of the New Testament appears in the sky to trumpet fanfare and all Christians zoom up into the sky — including those long dead and buried.

So what would you do?

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Chuck The Nut vs. Bruce The Atheist

It’s been a while since I posted an installment of “Silly Meme Saturday”, mostly because I quit following people on social media who did nothing but post silly memes. But internet image files with pointless text typed on them are ubiquitous. It was certain that I would run across one eventually worth my effort.


Chuck vs. Bruce
This is the meme in question today

Today’s meme was posted by an atheist Facebook acquaintance.

Chuck Norris: “If I were elected president, I would tattoo an American flag with the words ‘in God we trust’ on the forehead of every atheist.”

Bruce Lee: “Bitch, please.”

The points I got from this: (1) Chuck Norris is a wannabe Christian theocrat who proposes torture, and (2) Bruce Lee won’t let Chuck do it. Or something like that.

My first question, upon seeing this, was: is Chuck Norris really a religious nutjob? I suppose I haven’t been paying attention to all the religious nutjobs in the country. The last time I heard of Chuck Norris on the internet was back when “Chuck Norris Facts” were making the rounds. Remember those?

* Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice.
* Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.
* Death once had a near-Chuck-Norris experience.

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What If The Moore-Jones Election Was Reversed?

NPR’s story about the special election in Alabama got me to wondering:

“What if the roles were reversed? What if it was the Democrat who was accused of philandering with teen girls, who had been removed from high government offices twice for violating court orders, who had a history of horrible policy and behavior? Would Democrat voters stick with him out of ‘principle’ or because of one issue?”

The NPR story points out that abortion is likely the lone issue that’s keeping regressive voters on Roy Moore’s side in spite of everything. “For some Alabama voters, supporting abortion rights may be a sin worse than some of the sexual misdeeds Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore has been accused of…” It indicates GOP voters are willing to compromise on taxes, on civil rights, on any number of issues — just not on abortion. They’re willing to overlook the credible accusations against Roy Moore, and willing to overlook the facts that he violated federal court orders and was removed from the bench twice, as long as it means restricting women’s rights.

But what if the script was reversed?

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Financing Is Cheaper! (Said Someone Who Was Mistaken)

We as a society might be in much worse shape than I thought. While I’m not a financial wizard, I do understand simple mathematical concepts like interest rates. Perhaps I shouldn’t have assumed that everyone understands this.


2016 Kia Soul
Pictured here is the vehicle in question.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

The following is a conversation I had a few months ago, which I will relate as accurately as possible. This was just after someone learned my wife and I bought a new car (2016 Kia Soul). I will use fake initials (“GA”) because this isn’t about one person. “GA” represents many Americans.

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How Many Ways Can You Spell ‘Nox’?

Categories: Fixing English
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: 2017.11.29

Two hundred twenty is the answer I came up with. “Nox”, of course, is the Roman goddess of the night. But more than that, it’s a sound — and the simplest way to spell that sound in English.


220 Variations
These are the 220 variations of “nox” I came up with.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

I thought of this when my daughter was reading a book and stumbled on the name of a character. I heard my wife correct her: “Mrs. Knox”. My brain heard “knocks”, but I quickly used context to switch it. I got to thinking that there are four ways to make the N sound to begin a word, and several ways to make the “aw” sound in the middle of that word, and quite a few ways to make the KS sound at the end of the word.

The image above is what I came up with: 220 variations of the exact same sound. N, KN, GN, and PN all four make the same sound to begin a word. Not, Knot, Gnome, Pneumonia. And we make the short-O sound in a variety of ways in English: O, AU (“faun”), AW (“fawn”), AUGH (“naughty”), OUGH (“bought”). And we can make the KS sound with an X, KS, KX, CS, CKS, CKX, QS (“tranqs”), QUES (“antiques”), QX, or even CQS. Some of those aren’t found in English usage, but we know that’s what sound they’d made.

In all, I had four ways to make the beginning sound, five ways to make the middle sound, and eleven ways to make the ending sound. So I knew right away I’d have 220 spelling variations.

(And I didn’t think until later to use A as in “ball” or “walk”, which would give us 264 total variations.)

In other words, English is phuqd. It is beyond absurd that this is how we constructed a language, and that we’re content with it. Consider that the real words above — Nox, Knox, Knocks, and Nocks — each mean entirely different things.

MRS. KNOX THINKS OF NOX AS SHE KNOCKS AND NOCKS.

Imagine if some of the other variations were also words. Some are silly of course (“gnauqhques”), but others seem reasonable enough, given our language. Noqs, gnox, pnocs… (Edit: Oops. Its seems gnox IS a word, at least in slang.)

I imagined aliens finding the 220 words above carved into a titanium plate and trying to translate the language. Then a human they’ve enslaved walks up and laughs. “They’re all pronounced the same”, he would tell them. And they would eat him for supper for his impertinence.

Why Is Trump So Obsessed With Elizabeth Warren?

He can’t stop talking about her, even when he refuses to say her name. Like a jilted lover or bitter divorcee who works “my ex” into every conversation, Donald Trump can’t stop talking about Senator Elizabeth Warren.


Trump v. Warren
At left, President Donald Trump. At right, Senator Elizabeth Warren

Yesterday, at a White House event honoring World War 2’s Navajo Code Talkers, the severely unpopular president uttered an odd series of words:

“I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people… You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas’.”

— 45th President Of The United States

(Perhaps with intentional extra offense, he was standing under a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who is most infamous for his enthusiastic support of racism.)

Every person who heard or read these remarks — with the possible exception of Sean Hannity fans, who aren’t known to be aware of facts — recognized immediately that not only was it a sideways slur at the Native Americans standing all around him, but that he was yet again slamming political foe Warren — at an event entirely unrelated to her.

Always one to ask “why?”, I very quickly asked “why?”

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Another ‘What I’m Thankful For’ Entry

Categories: Personal
Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: 2017.11.23

Like you, I sometimes tire of the clichéd Thanksgiving statements. Family, job, home. I assume you’re thankful for those. Here are some other things I’m thankful for.

* Investigative journalism and the relatively free press in the United States.

* That historians continue to root out old myths and correct them.

* All branches of science and the regular incredible discoveries being made. This year alone: used gene-editing tools to correct mutations in human embryos, discovered a new planet that can possibly sustain life, clinical trials already helping human patients via artificially generated human tissue, successfully reused an orbital rocket, advances in artificial wombs, artificial intelligence learns to play complex games, first detection of gravitational waves, discovery of new species, new male contraceptives, and more.

* Modern conveniences, including mobile phones, internet, digital music — and not-so-modern conveniences that continue to improve, including dishwashers, blow dryers, light bulbs, and so on all the way back to indoor plumbing. I personally lived life for decades without mobile phones and the internet, and don’t wish to go back. And I can’t even imagine living without the older inventions.

* Modern infrastructure. For all the legitimate complaints about city water, road design, city planning, electric power grids, and so on, it is all much better than it could be.

* Silence. I have always enjoyed a good dose of peace and quiet, but fatherhood has made me appreciate it that much more. If you were thinking of getting me something for Christmas, just send me a patch of silence and I will thank you.

The Gut Wants What It Wants

“Happiness is a choice” — I saw this on Twitter recently.

Is it? I was under the impression that happiness is a chemical.

Despite thousands of years of looking, no one has ever found a “soul” or “spirit” inside a human being. And we learned quite some time ago that the heart pumps blood rather than managing emotions. It turns out that what humans once thought of as the soul, spirit, heart, or bowels (at least in the King James Bible) all turned out to be just the human nervous system. Everything we once thought was caused by demon possession is really brain issues.

We learned that head injuries can cause personality changes and why certain foods affect our moods.

Thanks to science, we now know the causes of at least some mental illnesses, and how to mitigate the some of the effects. New studies regularly discover more.

But these tired tropes keep coming.

“Happiness is a choice.”

“The heart wants what it wants.”

And maybe the one that bugs me the most is when a TV or movie character points to his head and then his chest, saying something like: “Not just in here [head], but in here [chest].”

Ever since I realized how utterly stupid it is, I see it all the time.

Our language is littered with these notions, some ancient and some medieval. I’d wager that most of the time we use these words we’re not thinking of the actual meanings. When we say “my heart hurts” after some tragedy, we really mean “I’m overcome with grief”. The problem is that the words reinforce wrong thinking.

More than half the people in our country believe love is a mystical guiding force that brings soul mates together.

On the other hand, most of us might say, these phrases — and even the incorrect underlying beliefs — are harmless. Is anyone actually harmed by believing or saying any of these things? Perhaps not in a tangible way.

I suspect, however, that someone suffering from depression or anxiety could experience an extra bit of unnecessary pressure if they come across the “happiness is a choice” bit. “Oh really? If only I had chosen to be happy, then I would be. Darn it.”

On the third hand, some of these phrases can actually be at least partially true if looked at in a less than literal manner. While I can’t simply choose to get certain chemical combinations produced in my body — to feel happy — I can learn which behaviors and experiences lead to that production. And I can calculate the risk/reward ratio for each. For example, eating a pile of M&Ms makes me happy, but doing it often isn’t good for me. Writing and thinking about these topics makes me happy, and really has no downside, so I engage in it when given the opportunity.

Science continues to learn about the connection between the gut and the brain, and how selective dosing of bacteria can alter behavior and mood — at least in laboratory mice. It wouldn’t surprise me if 20 years from now, a whole host of mood and behavior disorders are regularly treated with bacteria cocktail injections.

‘The Soul Of The GOP’ Is… What Exactly?

This is bordering on ridiculous. Granted, the word “soul” doesn’t appear in the story’s body, but the headline of this Washington Post story proclaims: “Mitch McConnell vs. Roy Moore Is Now A Battle For The Soul Of The GOP”.


Battle For The Soul
Screenshot of Nov. 13 headline in The Washington Post

The story is framed as if Mitch McConnell is the good guy, defending the Republican National Committee against interloper Roy Moore.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) effectively called Roy Moore a child molester on Monday. McConnell said he believes Moore’s female accusers, apparently including the one who told The Washington Post that Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. McConnell added that Moore should step aside.”

Well, good for McConnell. Let’s give him a trophy. Or a cookie. No wait. A trophy and a cookie. Because he’s protecting the United States from an accused child diddler — who was once banned from an Alabama shopping mall for “repeatedly attempt[ing] to pick up teenage girls” — according to former mall employees and local police.

But back to that headline and the phrase “soul of the GOP”…

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