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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are You Better Off? Well Are Ya, Punk?

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!
                - President John F. Kennedy
                   Inaugural Address, 20 January, 1961

 

Are you better off than you were four years ago?

That's the question, isn't it?

That’s the question both sides are asking.

Are you better off today than you were when President Obama took office four years ago.

Are you better off?

Depending on your political affiliation, it’s pretty obvious what the correct answer is.

If you’re a Democrat and you want President Obama to have another four years, the answer is, yes, of course I’m better off. Look, here’s a list of all the things Obama has done in the last four years.  See? Totally better off.

And if you’re a Republican and you really, really hate the idea of Obama stinking up the White House for another four years, the answer is, hell no, I’m not better off. Here’s a list of all the things that suck giant donkey balls about my life right now. See? Worse off.  Also, Nazis.

People don’t use that question to determine who to vote for. They already know who they’re going to vote for - and that determines how they answer the question, that determines whether or not they think they’re better off.

If they’re liberals, they’re better off.  If they’re conservatives, they’re worse off. Quod Erat Demonstrandum

But, you know, it’s the question itself that bugs me.

I think the question says more about the questioner than the answer does about Obama. 

Are you better off?

To which you’re supposed to ask yourself reflectively, “Well? Am I better off? Am I?”

Not, are we better off?

Not, is the country better off?

Not, is the world better off?

Not even, is business better off? Or Is the economy better off? Both of which would be more useful questions in an election year.

No the question is, are you better off?  Am I better off?

Am I better off?

What better question than “Am I better off?” to summarize an intellectual and morally bankrupt worldview?

It amuses me that people who claim to embrace a religion of selflessness, who loudly and persistently claim that the United States itself is a county based on that same religion of supposed love and shared sacrifice, who profess to follow in the footsteps of a prophet who supposedly preached selflessness above all else, would use “Am I better off” as their political compass.

“Am I better off?” so perfectly describes the self-centered, win at all costs and damn the consequences tactics of political parties and their PACS and their legions of bitterly blind followers. 

“Am I better off?” is the secret fear of the TV Preachers, the pundits and their flacks, the politicians and most especially their hidden (and not so hidden) masters.

“Am I better off?” is the justification used by the manipulators and the schemers, the immature and the insecure, and by every bigot and supremacist and hater.

“Am I better off? is the operating philosophy of Wall Street, of the rich and the powerful and the greedy who, no matter how much better off they are than everybody else, are somehow never better off enough. What if people think I’m not better off than everybody else? That’s the fear that gnaws at their guts every single day.

“Am I better off?” is the root cause of everything that’s wrong in Congress and our dysfunctional government as a whole. Am I better off? Am I better off in votes? Am I better off in fund raising? Am I better off than other guy, the other district, the other state, the other party?

“Am I better off?” is a pissing contest, a measure of who has the biggest willie.

“Am I better off?” is so very, very Ayn Rand.

“Am I better off?” is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. A bunch of folks got themselves loans and mortgages they couldn’t afford because our society told them they could be better off without having to pay for it. The banks offered up those loans because their CEOs and investors and managing directors were more interested in making themselves better off than they were in the inevitable consequences.

Meanwhile, we have a fifteen trillion dollar national debt because we thought we’d be better off with a couple of wars bought on credit. Remind me again, are we better off?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Without some degree of “Am I better off?” we’d all just sit on the couch eating Pop Tarts and watching Life’s a Tripp until our legs fell off from lack of circulation. “Am I better off?” drives us to do better, to learn, to dream, to create, to build, to strive and design and desire. But the mindset behind “Am I better off?” when taken to the extreme, when it is allowed to become all consuming, when it becomes your only guide-star, is the root cause behind damned near all of our woes as a country, as a people, as individuals.

When you Super-Size “Am I better off” sooner or later there’s going to be consequences.

Are you, personally, better off than you were four years ago?

Is John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, better off? He destroyed an entire company. He put tens of thousands of people out on the street. His actions contributed directly to the global financial crisis and Great Recession. He sold the wreckage of his company to Bank of America, pissed all over his shareholders and employees, and walked away with his hundred million dollar salary intact. Is John Thane better off today than he was four years ago? He sure isn’t any worse off.  Does he resent the thought of ending the Bush Era tax cuts? Does he resent his tax dollars going to help out the people he and his pals left destitute and ruined? Beats me. He doesn’t answer my email.

Is Grover Norquist better off today than he was four years ago?  Are the Koch brothers? Is Donald Trump and Sheldon Adelson?  Of course they are, along with the rest of their Wall Street cronies. The stock market is higher now than at any time in history. If you’re rich, it’s been a damned good four years.  Is Mitt Romney better off today than he was four years ago?  Yes, he most certainly is – that’s one of the reasons he’d prefer you not see his tax returns.  Is Paul Ryan better off?   Do these millionaires and billionaires resent paying taxes and helping out the less fortunate? You don’t have to ask them, their opinions are a matter of public record.

Is Chuck Norris better off today than he was four years ago?  He’s in one of the biggest movies of the summer, one of the biggest movies he’s ever starred in, for one of the biggest paychecks. I’d say he’s doing OK.  How about Clint Eastwood? Is Clint better off now than he was four years ago? He’s got a brand new movie too. Is John Cusack better off despite his vitriolic hatred of Barack Obama? Is Jon Voight better off? Is Ted Nugent? Hank Williams Jr? Yes, they all are. Though to be truthful, none of these celebrities were doing particularly badly four years ago either. They’ve also made their opinions well known. They love to make movies about the working man, they love to sing the songs about the poor and unfortunate and the downtrodden, and they don’t mind taking your money - but they’re not real happy about giving any of it back to help the people they portray (with maybe the exception of Cusack, he’s mostly pissed that Obama isn’t liberal enough).

How about Rush Limbaugh?  Is Rush Limbaugh better off today than he was four years ago? Barack Obama is the best damned thing that ever happened to Rush Limbaugh.  Obama made Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck millionaires many times over. If the two of them had any sense, they’d invest in their future by sending the Obama Reelection Campaign a cool million each. Is Anne Coulter better off now than she was four years ago? Hell that cadaverous bitch can’t sell her bilious books fast enough. Is Michael Savage better off? Do me a favor, point to one, one, conservative pundit screaming about doom and gloom and socialism (also, Nazis) that isn’t better off today than they were four years ago.

How about the Professional Christians? Are they better off? Billy Graham? Pat Robertson? Rick Warren? James Dobson? Business is booming at Evangelical Inc. Couldn’t be better. Frankly I’m trying to figure what all the complaining is about.

Is Sarah Palin better off than she was four years ago?  She was a nobody, a hick chick from the sticks of nowhere Wasilla (trust me on this, I live here). The unknown big haired governor of a remote bumfuck state (trust me on this, I live here). Four years ago, nobody, including about three quarters of Alaskans, had ever even heard of Sarah Palin. In the last four years she quit her job – she had the actual luxury of quitting her job – at the apex of the financial crisis, she went from being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to being an unemployed multi-millionaire.  She’s got hundreds of thousands of enraptured fans hanging glassy-eyed on her every word. When she’s not touring the country in her Juggernaut Of Patriotic American Freedom, she flies from show to show on a chartered jet and has a nanny to wipe the drool off little Trig’s chin.  She lives a charmed life, everything she touches turns to gold, she could sell jars of her own feces on eBay for piles of cash. Hell even her Wasilla Valley Trash hairdresser got a TV show out of it.  Her kid came home from Afghanistan with nary a scratch or bad dreams and married the prom queen.  She’s a celebrity wherever she goes. She never has to work again, ever, if she doesn’t want to.  Seriously, what in the pluperfect hell does this woman have to complain about? But complain she does, endlessly, snidely, bitterly. She never stops harping about how goddamned bad she’s got it and how it’s all Obama’s fault.

Ironic isn’t it?

The folks who cry the loudest, the ones that complain most bitterly, are the very people who – if they were honest – would have to answer the question “are you better off than you were four years ago?” with a resounding “Yes! Hell, yes!

The problem is, for them, they’re just not better off enough.

How about you? Are you better off?

Am I better off? Me personally? Two years ago my wife lost her high paying job. She was laid off due in some small regard to the crappy economy, but mostly because shady business decisions by her global employer led to a legal and financial catastrophe. The folks who made those decisions, a small cadre of directors far up in the company hierarchy, did so because they kept asking themselves “Am I better off” instead of “Is the company better off?” or “Are my employees better off?” or “Are the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on us better off?” Sound familiar? My wife, despite being highly recommended and highly skilled and holding a Masters Degree in her field, was unemployed for a bit more than a year. Fortunately we own more of our house than the bank does, all of our vehicles are paid off, we don’t carry much debt, and we plan for disaster – those things saved us. But we have a teenager and many pets and a big house and let me tell you something, my electronic friends, Alaska is an expensive place to live.  Despite significantly cutting back in every area, we burned through our savings and college money and various other resources and things began to look fairly grim. My wife worked at finding work every single day, every single day, fourteen to eighteen hours a day, for more than a year. She approached finding a job as a job. And eventually she found a new employer, one that pays significantly more than she made before, one that’s significantly closer to home, and one provides an actual path to promotion and advancement and growth – unlike the old job. I, on the other hand, while still getting used to being a civilian, went from being a government civilian employee to being a contract consultant and I took a significant pay cut doing it. It wasn’t by choice, but I was grateful to have the work. And damned grateful to have my military retirement and especially my medical benefits – because if not for that, my family would have been without healthcare or dental. Got kids? That’s a goddamned scary fucking thing, the prospect of going without healthcare coverage.

So, am I better off now?

I know I am, and I think I’ll get better.

It’s going to be a while before we can fully recover the assets we burned through in the last year. But my wife and I are doing well enough that we don’t resent paying our taxes and helping others who are less fortunate.  We don’t resent it because we’re Americans, because we’re citizens of the world, and we think it’s the right thing to do. We don’t resent it because we got help from the government when we needed it. So did  our families, once upon a time. So did a hell of a lot of people, who seem to have conveniently forgotten it.

That’s what civilization is for.

Are we better off? As a people, as a nation, as the world?  In a word, yes.  Not great, not where we’d all like to be, but better. 

There’s still war, and violence, and terrorism.  Are we better off in that regard? I think that question is best answered with the question asked by Senator John Kerry at the recent Democratic National Convention, “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off than he was four years ago.”  Are we there yet? No, not if the recent events in Libya and Egypt and Yemen are any indicator. Will we ever be there? Probably not. Are we better off than we were four years ago? Yes we are. Ask all the troops that aren’t dying in Iraq right now.

There’s still poverty and hunger. There’s still too few jobs and the economy is still not strong enough. But it’s getting better. It’s getting better every day.  Is it better for everybody? No. Certainly not. And it would be foolish and crass to say otherwise. It’s still damned hard for a lot of folks. And there is still a long, hard way to go.

But it isn’t going to get better if everybody keeps focusing only on themselves.

And it for damned sure won’t ever get better for you, personally, if your answer to the question depends on your political party.

Now, more than ever, we need to remember the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

We need to stop asking if you’re better off, am I better off, and start asking what we can do to make things better.

For all of us.

Together.

64 comments:

  1. Two post in two days, I'm definitely better off with you writing at this pace!

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  2. Keep up the good work - your writings are an island of reason in a sea of insanity.

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  3. I dream of a country where my children will be judged not by the fullness of their wallets but by the contents of their characters.

    When I go into the voting booth that dream, and which way of thinking is more likely to get us closer to it, is the only litmus I need.

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  4. Rew as in How do you do, my name is Rew and I come from "The SaultSeptember 14, 2012 at 2:56 AM

    OMG! yes....ditto from all the above comments! Can't thank you enough for being the voice of reason.

    ...and this from an Northerner! (jest kiddin' from the YankCanuck) :D

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  5. Ah, Jim.

    This might be your best yet. I bow to you.

    Am I better off? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. Except for the 'age' thing, of course, and that probably is beyond the control of most...four years doesn't seem like much when you are 20, it is lot more telling when the first number is a 6.

    You are really 'in the zone'. Keep it coming.

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  6. I, for one, am WAY better off; my income has quadrupled in the last four years.

    And my kids are even better off than that! They'll both be able to get their federal student loans without having to go through a bank/middle man, which will save them a fortune when they are my age.

    And my five year old, who was just diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, won't have to worry about her financial future being ruined due to health care, since the Affordable Care Act makes it illegal to discriminate against her for having a pre-existing condition.

    We're a LOT better off, Mr. Romney, thanks for asking

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  7. And Jim,

    You are 100% correct. The question should be are WE better off, not whether I am better off. Since I am part of us, what makes all of us better makes me better, too.

    Love seeing two in two days, by the way.

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  8. Wow I am so glad i discovered your blog. You make total sense and speak for the so called silent majority. The ones who go to work every day, really want to do the right thing for themselves, the country and the world, but are too damn tired at the end of a workday to put a lot of thought into what the hell the right thing looks like politically.

    We are the ones that are fed sound bites in the hope that some primitive part of our brain will light up and lock onto something that "resonates" and that's the end of any critical thinking process...whammo we've found our candidate based on some simple hammering home of a message.

    I hope blogs like yours make us all a bit better in the critical thinking department.

    JW in Canada

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  9. Shit.
    Just when I think I have it all figured out, you go and make me look at an inane but seemingly innocuous question in a new light. I like that about you.

    Arctic Buddha strikes again ...

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  10. Am I better off financially? Not by a long shot. My income is 1/6 what it was 4 years ago. Am I better off in life? Immeasurably. I retired early and am taking care of my mother in our home. She has advanced Alzheimers Disease. It's without a doubt the hardest job I've ever had and I'm so lucky to have it. I've learned more about love, balance, generosity, humor and stamina than in the first 60 years all together. My wife and I are a team like never before. My siblings are on board as solid back-up. And I've been able to realize one of my own dreams, of writing and publishing novels.

    "Better off" is a slippery concept. Too many times, for too many people, it seems to mean nothing but dollars and cents. But other measures are so much more important.

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    Replies
    1. Very well said. We're going through much the same thing ourselves.

      Delete
  11. I am a Brit who waits impatiently for each new post and is always amazed at the wit and wisdom contained in each - probably because I concur with your conclusions. I must admit,though, that I am anxious, no - fearful, if I am honest - about the outcome of your looming General election; I feel I have a stake in the outcome of this election and the subsequent actions of the only super power in the world and I wish all of us a dose of good luck.
    My first ever comment anywhere so go easy on a novice.

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  12. I got retired four years ago yesterday. It has taken some getting used to, but I certainly wouldn't have retired early (my earlier planned retirement was June 1, 2014, the later was Oct. 2, 2017). So am I better off? Define better.

    Is the country better off? We were headed to Great Depression II, and the administration was looking to break Hoover's records.

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  13. Definitively we are better off, considering the alternative (shudder). Four years ago "We" had to fire an inept, attitudinous twit, reject another twit "hero", and gamble that an articulate, thinking, young man, would take us in the right direction. Could we be better off today? Certainly, if those who couldn't get past their xenophobic bigotry had taken their jobs seriously and actually fulfill their duties representing us, instead of using every opportunity to stall our march out of the hole they created. By the way, if it isn't clear: our gamble paid off. I know who to vote for come November 6. Certainly not Mitt the Twit. And not for the troopers of the Whig Party.

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  14. Great Post, Jim.

    I was thinking about parts of my history. I was Primitive Baptist Lay minister from '67-'69. During that time, I was present and actively engaged in the Christian Music of the time, both old and new. The "new" music of the time emphasized love, acceptance, tolerance and bringing people to Jesus.

    I recently (2 years ago) had an opportunity to go to a Christian music concert featuring 6 different groups. The music was shocking. Nearly all the new music (written within the last 10 years) was about ME, MY relationship with Jesus and how sorry I am going to be when I'm in Heaven and others aren't.

    The groups sounded the same (although I must admit the new ones were musically better), the people looked the same and the venue was the same type.

    Boy was the message different.

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    1. Heh. I have a friend who was in the industry in Nashville some years back. She refers to this as "Jesus is my boyfriend" music. I've been disappointed in most Christian pop since Rich Mullins passed and now listen to very little of it, and very select tunes.

      And yeah, the Jesus is my boyfriend folks don't seem to get that he would "totally" break up with them if they held on to that kind of I, me, mine attitude. Sigh...

      Delete
  15. "Better off" is a question I hate to answer. I've been on the bottom rung of the economic scale all my life. I'm a college-educated man with multiple disabilities, who buried his mom 16 years ago.

    Don't feel sorry for me though. I'm a Masshole and my former governor did one shining good thing by accident and devised Romneycare, which a lot of people in my state think is awesome. It's just too bad Mitt is a sociopath who surrounded himself with some real mean, nasty, cold, Alpha Hotel staff people and cronies.

    We've seen the middle class be destroyed over 40 years. The South, and Southerners at heart (yes, even here in Mass.!) have fought a cold Civil War for that long and want to make it a hot war with a desperation that matches bin Laden's, as we have seen in OKC, 1995 or Tucson last year.

    But the country is better off with Obama at our head. No. Doubt. About It.

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  16. This was an absolutely brilliant entry, IMO.

    Especially the "But my wife and I are doing well enough that we don’t resent paying our taxes and helping others who are less fortunate. We don’t resent it because some holy man told us not to resent it, rather we don’t resent it because we’re Americans, because we’re citizens of the world, and we think it’s the right thing to do." section.

    except that I think you meant that it is not due to being told not to resent it... maybe?

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  17. "but they’d not BE real happy about giving any of it back to help the people they portray (with maybe the exception of Cusack, he’s mostly pissed that Obama isn’t liberal enough)."

    Thanks Jim, this ended my week on a good note. I too was recently unemployed for over a year, never pays to be on the bad side of an acquisition. I don't have a spouse, and I don't have a retirement, but thank god for unemployment which at least stemmed some of my losses. I am grateful to find myself in a new and better job, ha, at the same company that laid me off. I have hope for the first time in a long time.

    Thanks for this take-away:

    "We need to stop asking if you’re better off, am I better off, and start asking what we can do to make things better."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was really, really late.

      It's fixed

      Delete
  18. YEAH, I couldn't have said it bettermyself; no really I could't have. Thanks for articulating what so many of us feel so eloquently. I keep posting on my Facebook page hoping some of my conservative family will accidentally read one of your blogs. As for me you are an oasis of sanity in a bastion of craziness.

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  19. Brilliant!

    New Rule: All future Stonekettle posts must include "Also, Nazis." regardless of the subject. That's funny stuff right there.

    Yes, this comment rips off both Guinness and Bill Maher, thanks for noticing.

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  20. Brilliant! And it reinforces something else I was thinking this morning. The campaign slogan was Yes WE can, not Yes HE can. An awful lot of us didn't do our part in that. --Halla,who doesn't have any of those comment profiles. :(

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  21. Excellent. DITTO!!! Once again, you say it just the way I've been thinking it..only much more eloquently.

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  22. Jim, sorry to hear about the trials You and your family have been going through the past couple of years. Your experience has been mirrored by a lot of Americans, myself included. I went through a protracted unemployment that culminated ultimately in me finding a great job that I love doing, these days, but for 25% less income than I was earning previously. I am going to struggle for a while to climb out of the hole that I got into during Obama's first term, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to climb right now.

    But, here's what really pisses me off about the particular question you talk about in your essay: Am I better off than I was four years ago?

    Oh hell no. Not by a long shot. The devil in the details that really pisses me off is when I get down to asking why am I not better off than I was four years ago. Let's examine that. Could it be I'm not better off because of an irresponsible rabble of House Republicans who looked around this nation, in the midst of the greatest financial crisis this Country has experienced in the last century, and decided that making Obama a one-term President was their greatest priority? Could it be that grand-standing over the debt ceiling & getting America's debt downgraded - thank you, Boehner, for that, by the way - has anything to do with me being worse-off than I was four years ago?

    Could it be that my Country now has healthcare reform in place that lacks the one thing, the single most-important feature that it needed to control costs - a public option - got stripped out of it prior to passage? It sure as hell wasn't Obama's idea to do that. Oh hell no. It was the dipwads who keep telling us we should look at basic healthcare as a privilege...kind of like it is over in Somalia.

    Could it be due to the trillions in debt that have been piled onto my son's head on two misguided wars that have near-brilliantly succeeded in uniting the entirety of the Middle East behind Iran? And while they fret that Obama isn't busy drawing lines in the sand with Ahmadinejad, the biggest Taliban stronghold on the planet has become a country that was allied with us when shrub sent the cavalry charging in to the country next-door. We had not the political will, the money nor the coalition we needed to engage in outreach or nation-building after Bush declared 'mission accomplished' and they think the only thing wrong with this picture is that we need to spend another decade or so shooting at these people before they'll learn to love us. The Republicans lie awake nights worrying about the prospect of Iran getting nukes while they've magically transformed Pakistan into a terrorist hotbed. And Pakistan has already had nukes for decades. Am I safer than I was on September 11, 2001? Seriously?

    Hell no, I'm not better off than I was four years ago, and it's got not one damned thing to do with the Democrat in the White House. It's got everything to do with me having a government that remains controlled wholesale by Republicans. Barack Obama's 'plan' for this country has failed...bullshit. Barack Obama's plans remain untried. Screw Mitt Romney, screw Paul Ryan, and screw the goddamned elephant they rode in on, every time they ask that smarmy question. No, fuckers, I'm not better off, thanks for asking. I'm not better off because I've got you Republicans around.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, yes, and YES! Tell it, bro!!!

      Delete
    2. "Barack Obama's 'plan' for this country has failed...bullshit. Barack Obama's plans remain untried."
      Absolutely. I keep hearing, from who I thought were sensible people on the left, saying things like: I guess I will hold my nose and vote for Obama.
      I don't need to hold my nose.
      It is amazing that he was able to do anything at all with the mega tonnage of ballast tied to him in the form of obstruction at every turn. It doesn't take an "O-bot" or an ultra partisan to see where the problem lies with this country:
      The R.E.P.U.B.L.I.C.A.N. Party...or whatever the hell it has morphed in to....
      Anyone who watched the manufactured "debt ceiling" crisis, and didn't finally realize that they were willing to burn this country to the ground, to get the black man out of the white house, just doesn't get it...If they would ruin us, for power over us, they are never to be trusted again.

      Delete
  23. Really, given the quality of your work you'd think I'd put the effort in to find a new and creative way to praise this latest bit of brilliance. But, honestly, they are coming so thick and fast that it's becoming a full-time job. So I'll just say, "Well done. Again."

    One small nit, I'm afraid. You say, "We don’t resent it because some holy man told us not to resent it, rather we don’t resent it because we’re Americans..." As best as I can tell, you mean something like "We don't resent it, *not* because some holy man..., but rather because..."

    But still, you are a ship of reason in a sea of insanity. Sail on!

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    1. I have made the appropriate adjustment

      Delete
    2. Hate to be mulish, but I think you still need a "not" between "We don't resent it" and "because some holy man".

      Oh, and I am a mule.

      Delete
  24. The aggrandizement of selfishness. Should be in the Republican platform.

    You are definitely on a roll this month. But there's just so much material out there to choose from, huh?

    "Am I better off?" - another straw man, silly question, as you point out.

    I just happened to start my own business at the end of 2006. Mostly because the current job I held couldn't give me any benefits, living remote doesn't give you much of a job choice, and it was time I put my skills to the test. What I've noticed mostly since 2008 is that my family has more of a breathing room with our healthcare, 1/3 of our combined salaries were going to pay premiums on a healthy family of 3. I'm paying 10 - 15% less in self-employment and related taxes than I did in 2006. And while the economy is tighter, it seems that this year in particular, there are more opportunities for clients.

    That said, it feels like the nation is holding its collective breath at the moment waiting to see what Nov will bring. We definitely are standing on a precipice.

    Keep 'em coming Jim. "Raising my mug of tea in your general direction."

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  25. Jim -

    I followed Tux over here, and am now reading your posts in reverse chronological order.

    At this point, I'll just say I'm impressed as all hell.

    The late Molly Ivens (who, BTW, coined the term "Shrub" for our most recent past president) admonished us to "rattle the posts and pans." I try to do that on my blog.

    In all honest humility - you are my new role model.

    Keep it up man. This is really important.

    Cheers!

    JzB

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  26. 1. Greywinters is correct. That construction still needs some work. I really don't think you mean what it says right now.

    2. To the question: I'm in a season of life now where any day I wake up still sucking air is a day when "I'm better off now than I was..." Cos I don't think "better off" has a hell of a lot to do with how much money's in the bank (THAT aspect of things is pretty damned scary, thank you very much).
    But every day that I'm still in this world, there's an opportunity for me to see something, or taste something; learn something or teach something; lift somebody up or allow someone the chance to be of service to me. At 62, with a list of health challenges so long it bores ME, I am more engaged with my life now than I can recall ever being. And believe me, I got the chance to be at the party for some pretty cool stuff.
    I'm gonna vote for the guy I'm voting for because, as near as I can tell from this distance, he's the one who seems to be engaged, have at least some grasp of what life is like for people who live where I do, and is intentional enough to think through what the effects of his decisions might be.
    The other folks just seem congenitally mean-spirited. Plus, as somebody said, Nazis.

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    Replies
    1. I have now applied what will be the final fix.

      Delete
  27. Kudos to badtux for linking your blog your comment section is a breath of fresh air how do you keep the trolls at bay they seem to infest other blogs like fleas on a cat. Yes we are all better off simply because our current president doesn't butcher the English language, does not engage in cowboy diplomacy and is generally a better human being at every quantifiable level.

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  28. I had to check I hate you so much. Because I almost wet myself you are always a breath of fresh air in a time of small minded inflammatory comments. Thanks for laying it on the line and staying true to who you are. Kudos

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  29. As my grandma calls it best "The ME generation".

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  31. Goddamnit, you've GOT to stop channelling my night soliloquies.

    Seriously, when I was much younger, I thought the things you're saying now were what liberals said. Wait, I said that wrong. Back then, I was told that the things you're saying now were considered conservative. Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool, card (and handgun permit)-carrying, kumbaya-singing, unrepentant hippy liberal, we are saying the exact same things. It's enough to make my head hurt.

    Carry on, Jim. And thanks for speaking so clearly.

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  32. Jim, I was somewhat surprised to see you mention John Cusack in the same breath as Jon Voight, et al, as I was unaware of Cusack's views re Obama, and more specifically that he had gone Glenn Beck.

    A google search "John Cusack Obama" turned up this page: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/11264-john-cusack-and-jonathan-turley-on-obamas-constitution

    I gotta say Jim, that what I read is NOT the same anti-Obama diatribe one might hear from a Limbaugh aficionado. Further, Cusack expresses concerns MANY people on the left have about Obama. Specifically the expanded use of extra-judicial assassination by drone.

    Now I am fully cognizant of the differences between the Republicans and Democrats at this time in history, and I would tell anyone who intends to vote, to vote Obama, but I believe being honest in our criticism about "our guy" is as important, if not more so than our criticism of their guy.

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  33. I agree with a previous comment that this may be your best ever! So many excellent truths. And as Jack would tell Mitt, " You can't handle the truth"

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  34. Hi Jim,

    Bravo Zulu on an exceptionally fine piece of writing. This is precisely spot on the problem I have felt about "that question" since the first time I heard it several years back. Whether the individual is better off is nowhere near as important is whether the community as a whole is better off....still important, mind, especially to the Individual, just not as important. I hear echoes of Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" as I read what you have written and find myself nodding in agreement that it is the well being of our society as a whole that should be guiding our actions.

    Also, I was surprised to still find a typo so late as I am coming to the comments. In what I think is paragraph 22 (not counting the opening quote from JFK as a paragraph), the one beginning "It amuses me..." you have mistakenly identified the United States as a county rather than a country. Darned spellcheck never works for me either on such...nothing like the eye of someone else to help catch them and I am glad to be of service.

    Thanks, Jim. You say what needs saying and you say it exceedingly well, shipmate!

    Fair winds and following seas to us all,

    Old Navy Comm O

    PS Is there a way for me to use my sign off as a login instead of always using the anonymous and then signing? If there is a trick to it, I haven't yet figured it out. Anyang advice appreciated.

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  35. Jim,

    I had asked to paste your post to my home page however my facebook connection wouldn't allow it. So I just linked and hope they might accidently click it. On facebook I am SheilaRivera. I just wanted to say thanks anyway I know you put a lot of thought, time and effort into your blog and I really appreciate you sharing with the rest of us. It really does brighten my day and make me feel so not alone.

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  36. Aaagh! Oh, all right, croak!

    Climate change not even engaged. US civilian police forces militarizing. Israel creeping up on a war with Iran and trying to drag the USA along. ("Nice Presidency you have there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.") The covert operations that lead up to assassination of Osama bin Laden may lead to the survival of polio in Pakistan. (Yes, really. Follow the the link.) A major US political party turning racist, sexist, anti-Islamic. The banksters still running riot.

    No, the world is not better off than it was four years ago. Some things--you listed some of them--are getting better. But the world? Where are we going and what are we doing in this handbasket?

    Croak!

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  37. Thank you Jim. Yes, I'm an American, what more can I ask for? Especially with Americans like you. Well said.

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  38. Dayum. Seriously, DAYUM!

    When I travel back up north I'm definitely buying you a beer mate. Don't worry, it won't be Fosters!

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  39. Very well said. I've been reading your posts and it's amazing how well you articulate what I've been thinking for the last several years. Thank you.

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  40. Am I better off than I was four years ago? Let's see...
    -I still cannot marry the person I love, and want to spend the rest of my life with.
    -Because of that, my partner is stuck with employer provided health insurance with a huge deductible. So huge, in fact, that we end up paying for all of her medical expenses out of pocket almost every year. She has Geo Metro health insurance.
    -I, on the other hand, have Bentley Continental health insurance provided by my employer. I used to have Maybach health insurance, but, you know...budget cuts and all. Since my partner isn't my SPOUSE, and my employer doesn't offer domestic partner benefits, she can't be on my health insurance.
    -I'm stuck in a job I hate, because I haven't been able to find another one that would provide health insurance that's even close to what I have now.

    Is the country better off? Hmmm...
    -Osama bin laden is dead.
    -DADT has been repealed.
    -The Iraq conflict is pretty much done.
    -The war in Afghanistan is winding down. Maybe.
    -The economy is still struggling, but there are glimmers of hope.
    -Much of the country is experiencing weather extremes that appear to be caused by global warming.
    -Multimillion dollar corporations make six or seven figure donations to SuperPACS run by right wingnuts hell-bent on turning our republic into a plutocracy, and they are allowed to remain anonymous. On the other hand, the poor Catholic priest who went out on a limb and made a $1000 "anonymous" donation to the organization opposing the Minnesota marriage amendment gets outed, and will likely be fired.
    -Voter restrictions are passing in more and more states.
    -As a result of the previous two items, the U.N.'s Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, headed by Kofi Annan, has singled out the U.S. for criticism, saying that the rise of SuperPACs and voter restrictions is undermining the U.S. system of government, as well as our international credibility as a defender of democracy and fair elections.
    -Women in many states do not have access to birth control or abortion. In fact, in a few states, women are required to submit to an unnecessary, invasive medical procedure in order to have an abortion.

    Is the world better off?
    -Global warming continues to affect the planet (see above), and yet many people living in the country that is the biggest contributor to same insist that any proof that humans are one of the primary causes is "junk science."
    -Wingnuts in the U.S. do stupid things, like posting videos to YouTube that offer egregious offense to one of the world's major religions, because they are determined to provoke conflict with the Arab world. Which leads to a terrorist act against U.S. citizens. Which leads the U.S. wingnuts, including the leading wingnut presidential nominee, to react with outrage. Yes, outrage. Exactly the kind of reaction that's will help bring a lasting peace in the Arab world, don't you think?

    The overall answer leans toward no. That doesn't mean I'm not required to examine my thinking, and encourage others to do the same. Kudos to you for challenging readers to do so.

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  41. If I was asked "Am I better off?", I would have to say "kinda". Financially, I'm better off because I (yes, I, not someone else), when faced with a pay cut because sales at the company I work for were in the crapper, I decided to start my own business. Nobody on the left, the right, the center, or from Mars helped me design it, develop it, build it, and run it in a profitable way. If they had, I'd have appreciated knowing that before working 9 hours every day at my normal job, then another 9 every night and 16 each weekend day building this business. Maybe I could have actually seen my family instead of trying to provide for them.

    *I* am as healthy, not really more or less than before. A by-product of The Health Care Reform Act now requires me to get a physical every year to maintain my insurance program at it's current rate, which is pretty high, but not unbearable. I guess that is good, if my Dr. would actually figure out how to work with the system instead of screwing up billing and charging me for a bunch of "required" tests. I assume that will get better though as the system gets older and the wrinkles ironed out.

    Are *We* better off? I don't particularly think so. Our debt is 15,000,0000,000,000 and our deficit is 9,000,000,000. That is not sustainable, even with "new" math. The rest of the world hates us, arguably more now than ever before. The country is divided and it seems like at the brink of civil war. Neither side (and yes, that DOES include you) is able or willing to have an actual discussion without it turning into "You are a RACIST!" and "Yeah, well you are a MARXIST".

    So what's the answer? I haven't a clue. But I know that it won't be found in Washington D.C. People need to stop looking for the government to fix things and provide everything for them. Even with the problems we have, we still live in the greatest country on Earth, with the greatest possibilities for success. You just need to get off your ass and go after it.

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    1. You know, I admire that you were able to accomplish what you have without any help from anybody. I, myself, built a business that has clients, however I did need a little help from someone. Yes, I moved to a state and city knowing no one so that made it that much more difficult. I got off my ass and sent out letters and got one lead out of 30 that got me started. It was help from someone else and I bless that person every day. You misunderstand Jim's message and I won't try and explain it further.

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    2. Sorry, Anonymous, but are you listening to yourself? You have 3 complaints in the "Are *We* better off?" category, government debt, government deficit, and the country being divided. Then you give the GOP mantra that the solution will not be found in Washington DC. Politicians created the problems, so we have to elect politicians to pass laws and budgets to fix it, because legally no one else can do so. (You followed up with the obligatory "greatest country, greatest possibilities, etc." patriotic sounding jingo right after you run down the government. Why you do not see these are self-contradictory comments is beyond me. Yes, it is possible to be a patriot and call out the cowards who hide behind the flag to get their way.)

      The government is spending money it does not have, because lying politicians have promised you "homeland security", "patriot" acts, 2 overseas wars, drugs (Medicare Part D, full price drugs with no negotiation with the drug companies), and Social Security with "tax cuts because it's your money" instead of tax increases. Those same lying politicians are using divide and conquer tactics, social unrest that they foment, and lying news organizations (Fox News) to get elected. Please notice these big spenders are the GOP. They tax CUT and spend, which is far worse than the Democratic tax and spend, because at least the Democrats are being responsible and paying for the policies.

      The Congressional Research Office just put out a report showing there is no connection between tax cuts and increasing the economy. In fact, the only thing correlated with tax cuts is an increase in income inequality. As other economists have been saying for many years, these are "tax cuts for the rich".

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  42. (Stands up and applauds after reading this.)

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  43. Jim, what were you thinking? You didn't digress even once!

    But seriously, this! Very much this! Thank you.

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  44. Amen. My husband and I face a similar situation to yours (minus the teenager, add more cats). But dammit, it's not just about us. My former boss said that Republicans' attitude could be summed up as "I've got mine, screw you." (How very Christian of them.) The selfishness abounds and astounds. Then they have the gall to bitch about taxes, because of course they have in no way benefited from schools, roads, public safety, clean water, clean air....aaaarrrrgggh. I don't know if my liver can manage until Election Day. And it's possible it could get worse after that. Yikes.

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  45. Am I better off now than I was 4 years ago? Better question might be "am I better off now than I would have been had not X happened?" My business is less, but from more factors than the ecomony, so, no, I am not better there than I was 4 years ago. If the economy had fallen off into the abyss that would have happened without President Obama's interventions, then would be way worse than 4 years ago.
    the point that it's not just about me, but about the country and the world is well spoken. So, yes, we are heading in a better direction than we were 4 years ago. Good Old Joe Biden, "GM is Alive and OBL is dead." Are we were we'd like to be, no, but at least, we're heading there.

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  46. I appreciate that you take the piss out of a wide swath of puffed-up hypocritical religious folks (hmm, kind of like Someone Else I've read about somewhere...) At times you go a little wide in your characterizations, notably when you lump a handful of partisan racist-assholes with some others who are clearly not in that category, eg. Billy Graham, not someone with whom I am personally taken, but who served as a kind of "personal chaplain" to a string of presidents regardless of their political affiliation. Also, he's dead, and you imply that he's alive, by asking the question: is he better off now than he was four years ago? I should think that Graham would undoubtedly reply in the affirmative (although that reveals my own personal agreement with him about Life/The Afterlife, or what Paul calls: "the hope of glory", meaning a Life that is emphatically absent of earthly political/scientific wrangling (full disclosure, I'm politically hung are a little to the left, I believe that the universe is billions of years old, that humans and dinosaurs never existed together, and that there is good evidence that we share a common ancestor with primates, and of course I believe in an afterlife which is full of bunnies that fart rainbows (or, as the character Katie in the recent movie version of "Horton Hears a Who" maintains, "In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies.")

    In any case, please don't judge all Christians, even all evangelical Christians, as unthinking Republican automatons. Such a characterization, it seems to me, is an uninformed oversimplification designed more to protect one's intellect from the "taint" of belief, rather than an attempt to evaluate the claims of the Bible with any degree of honesty. Sadly, many of my brothers and sisters have made it very difficult for anyone to take Christianity seriously, but to anyone who wishes to investigate it, four books spring to mind that are written from disparate backgrounds and for a variety of purposes:

    -C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity"

    -Tim Keller's "The Reason for God"

    -Eric Metaxas' excellent (and very recent) biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: a German intellectual, theologian and pacifist who publicly identified the Nazi threat in 1933 and but managed to stay alive until 1945, when he was finally (and accurately) linked with the Stauffenberg plot and, in Hitler's last executive order, was executed along with Admiral Canaris and Johann von Dohnanyi (the head of the Abwehr and one of his assistants, respectively--The Abwehr was the German version of the CIA)

    -Frances Collins' "The Language of God" (Collins is the former head of the Human Genome Project, a highly regarded scientist and both an Evangelical Christian and a believer in evolution.

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  47. I appreciate that you take the piss out of a wide swath of puffed-up hypocritical religious folks (hmm, kind of like Someone Else I've read about somewhere...) At times you go a little wide in your characterizations, notably when you lump a handful of partisan racist-assholes with some others who are clearly not in that category, eg. Billy Graham, not someone with whom I am personally taken, but who served as a kind of "personal chaplain" to a string of presidents regardless of their political affiliation. Also, he's dead, and you imply that he's alive, by asking the question: is he better off now than he was four years ago? I should think that Graham would undoubtedly reply in the affirmative (although that reveals my own personal agreement with him about Life/The Afterlife, or what Paul calls: "the hope of glory", meaning a Life that is emphatically absent of earthly political/scientific wrangling (full disclosure, I'm politically hung are a little to the left, I believe that the universe is billions of years old, that humans and dinosaurs never existed together, and that there is good evidence that we share a common ancestor with primates, and of course I believe in an afterlife which is full of bunnies that fart rainbows (or, as the character Katie in the recent movie version of "Horton Hears a Who" maintains, "In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies.")

    In any case, please don't judge all Christians, even all evangelical Christians, as unthinking Republican automatons. Such a characterization, it seems to me, is an uninformed oversimplification designed more to protect one's intellect from the "taint" of belief, rather than an attempt to evaluate the claims of the Bible with any degree of honesty. Sadly, many of my brothers and sisters have made it very difficult for anyone to take Christianity seriously, but to anyone who wishes to investigate it, four books spring to mind that are written from disparate backgrounds and for a variety of purposes:

    -C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity"

    -Tim Keller's "The Reason for God"

    -Eric Metaxas' excellent (and very recent) biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: a German intellectual, theologian and pacifist who publicly identified the Nazi threat in 1933 and but managed to stay alive until 1945, when he was finally (and accurately) linked with the Stauffenberg plot and, in Hitler's last executive order, was executed along with Admiral Canaris and Johann von Dohnanyi (the head of the Abwehr and one of his assistants, respectively--The Abwehr was the German version of the CIA)

    -Frances Collins' "The Language of God" (Collins is the former head of the Human Genome Project, a highly regarded scientist and both an Evangelical Christian and a believer in evolution.

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  48. I appreciate that you take the piss out of a wide swath of puffed-up hypocritical religious folks (hmm, kind of like Someone Else I've read about somewhere...) At times you go a little wide in your characterizations, notably when you lump a handful of partisan racist-assholes with some others who are clearly not in that category, eg. Billy Graham, not someone with whom I am personally taken, but who served as a kind of "personal chaplain" to a string of presidents regardless of their political affiliation. Also, he's dead, and you imply that he's alive, by asking the question: is he better off now than he was four years ago? I should think that Graham would undoubtedly reply in the affirmative (although that reveals my own personal agreement with him about Life/The Afterlife, or what Paul calls: "the hope of glory", meaning a Life that is emphatically absent of earthly political/scientific wrangling (full disclosure, I'm politically hung are a little to the left, I believe that the universe is billions of years old, that humans and dinosaurs never existed together, and that there is good evidence that we share a common ancestor with primates, and of course I believe in an afterlife which is full of bunnies that fart rainbows (or, as the character Katie in the recent movie version of "Horton Hears a Who" maintains, "In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies.")

    In any case, please don't judge all Christians, even all evangelical Christians, as unthinking Republican automatons. Such a characterization, it seems to me, is an uninformed oversimplification designed more to protect one's intellect from the "taint" of belief, rather than an attempt to evaluate the claims of the Bible with any degree of honesty. Sadly, many of my brothers and sisters have made it very difficult for anyone to take Christianity seriously, but to anyone who wishes to investigate it, four books spring to mind that are written from disparate backgrounds and for a variety of purposes:

    -C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity"

    -Tim Keller's "The Reason for God"

    -Eric Metaxas' excellent (and very recent) biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: a German intellectual, theologian and pacifist who publicly identified the Nazi threat in 1933 and but managed to stay alive until 1945, when he was finally (and accurately) linked with the Stauffenberg plot and, in Hitler's last executive order, was executed along with Admiral Canaris and Johann von Dohnanyi (the head of the Abwehr and one of his assistants, respectively--The Abwehr was the German version of the CIA)

    -Frances Collins' "The Language of God" (Collins is the former head of the Human Genome Project, a highly regarded scientist and both an Evangelical Christian and a believer in evolution.

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  49. Sorry for the unintentional multiple postings. (Oops.)

    A friend pointed out that Billy Graham is, in fact, alive and kicking. My bad. I mistook Billy for his wife, Ruth. I believe he is no longer in active ministry. To my knowledge he was never involved in partisan politics and I am quite sure that as he approaches the other side of this "valley of tears" he is feeling increasingly that "the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us...for the creation was subjected to futility...in hope that the creation itself would delivered from its bondage to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Romans 8:17-21ish (This is one of my favourite descriptions of entropy and of the redemption not only of individuals but of the entire universe in the Bible!)

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  50. Yuri Hooker, you made me laugh with your offerings of materials to read. I'm glad that those books made you happy and are allowing you to march to the end of your life in a state of bliss... once you die, you won't have any chance to complain about the non-existence of a Heaven or even an afterlife. You will be dead and the atoms that made you in life will be going merrily into the recycling process that this Universe maintains.
    And that will be that. Meanwhile, those of us who don't spend time worrying about gods or afterlives will be working to make this life better for our fellows, something that usually pays dividends by making our lives better. That's a hard concept to master. It requires a positive world view in which any effort applied to making our lives better isn't futile, but the best strategy for the survival of our descendants.
    Back to those funny books, I read the four of them and some others that probably you should have but haven't. Anyway, this isn't the place to educate you. Have a joyous day and wish you that the Universe would give you his most benevolent smile.
    Remember, don't drink and drive.

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  51. You are a funny guy! Where have you been all my life? I gotta say, you make me and my cat proud to be Alaskan!

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  52. Thank you so much for your blog! I'm grateful to read well-reasoned, articulate political commentary, and the sense of humor is a definite plus.
    With Yuri, I would ask that you not lump all Christians together as hypocritical bigots, any more than you would say that all Moslems are terrorists. As someone who tries to live by the teachings of Jeshua ben Joseph, not someone who follows the teaching of a particular church, I would say that ANY spirituality that makes one more open to the oneness of all life, including humanity, and more desirous of seeking the rewards of feeding the hungry and visiting those in prison, is a good thing, and that all true spirituality leads to this end. People who use Christianity to excuse their bigotry, ignorance, or pride, have no real spirituality, and are living from their egos... but that's not the fault of Christ, and it happens in all churches, temples, mosques, and Freedom from Religion society meetings alike.

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