Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Giving Us The Business

You know the last eight years, they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet, we picked up 5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value. So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it. And we’re very, very happy with what’s happening on Wall Street.
- President Donald J. Trump, Hannity, Oct 12, 2017

This is how billionaires think.


A surging stock market is great for billionaires, sure it is. You’ll get no argument from me on that.


A rising stock market sure is good for Donald Trump.

And what’s good for Trump is good for business, because Trump is business, isn’t he?, I mean that’s why he was elected. Business. He’s a businessman. Americans were tired of business as usual. Trump was going to run America like a business. And so he is. And so he is. Really giving us the business. 

And what’s good for business must be good for you, good for jobs, good for the national debt, good for the world.


I mean, right?

What’s good for business is good for you.

Isn’t it?

Well? Isn’t it?


It’s not just Trump.

That’s what conservatives have been telling us for decades. That’s essentially the foundation of the Republican platform. If we create a country that’s good for business, well, it’ll automatically be good for all the rest of us. This is the fundamental message of the GOP. What’s good for business is good for you. This is modern conservatism. This is, at least in part, libertarianism, sure it is. Government is bad. Get government out of the way, kill government, drown it in a bathtub, and that’s good for freedom, good for America, good for business. And what's good for business is good for you.

Trickle-down economics, the same warm piss disguised as lemonade Republicans have been peddling since before Reagan.

And how’s that worked out for you?

What's good for business is good for you.

Seems intuitive, doesn't it? Seems logical. Seems to follow. Good for business, good for me.

Well, mostly…

[Pregnancy is] a wonderful thing for the woman, it's a wonderful thing for the husband, it's certainly an inconvenience for a business. And whether people want to say that or not, the fact is, it is an inconvenience for a person that is running a business.
Donald J. Trump

Sure, a rising stock market is better than a falling one (Caveat: unless you’re attempting to short your stock, but just go with me for a minute), but is that really good for the average American? 

Is it?


Or maybe not. Or maybe both.

See, the things that are good for business aren't necessarily good for people. Sometimes they are, yes, but not always.

Take John Thain, for example.

John Thain was the last CEO of Merrill Lynch. He made billions upon billions for the stock market. Literally.

Now what’s good for the stock market must be good for you, right?That’s Trump’s whole message this morning.

And John Thain was great for business, great for the stock market.

Oh yes. Yes, he was.

Until he destroyed everything.

Until that ballooning stock market he helped create imploded and precipitated a global financial collapse that vaporized literally trillions of dollars, destroyed century-old too-big-to-fail companies and brand new mom & pop businesses alike, zeroed millions of retirement accounts, destroyed the life savings of millions, and left hundreds of thousands jobless, hungry, and out on the street all over the globe.

How was that?

Was that good for you?

Max Belfort: What kind of a hooker takes credit cards?
Donnie Azoff: A rich one!
-- The Wolf of Wall Street,


It was pretty fucking great for John Thain though. He made millions, literally. The company he destroyed paid him more than $80,000,000. Then Bank of America hired him for millions more to preside over the carcass of the company he destroyed (BOA acquired the wreckage of Merril-Lynch after it collapsed).

That's good work if you can get it.

After that, Thain headed up Citigroup, making millions more. Then he retired. With his fortune intact.

And how'd that work out for you? How's your retirement account? Recovered from Thain’s recession?


Oh well.

Martin Shkreli made millions for the stock market by driving up the prices of certain critical drugs.

That was really great for investors.

And in fact, that was the whole point. Shkreli wasn’t a pharmacist, he was a hedge fund manager. The entire reason he got into the drug business was to make money. Which was a pretty sweet gig while it lasted. Great for stocks.

Kinda sucked if you were dying from AIDS and needed a Daraprim prescription though.

Was that good for you?

Mylan raised the price of the EpiPen to levels that literally killed people with allergies.

Mylan made billions. The company’s CEO became a millionaire. And the stockholders were overjoyed.

Was that good for you?

See, business raises its stock by becoming more profitable, i.e. by creating a monopoly like Shkreli, by creating a market and limiting availability like Mylan, by tricking people into investing by creating buzz for products that don't actually exist (see Silicon Valley et al), by risking other people’s money like Thain, by offshoring their manufacturing, by outsourcing, by rightsizing, by downsizing, by hiring cheap foreign labor on temp visas like, oh, let's say Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago for example.

That’s good for business.

That’s good for the stock market.

But is that good for you?


If you're invested in those companies.

Not so great if you're poor and your kid is allergic to bees though.

If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth and turn on the water. It is ridiculous to call this an industry. This is not. This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I'll kill 'em, and I'm going to kill 'em before they kill me. You're talking about the American way – of survival of the fittest.
-- Ray Kroc, American businessman, founder of McDonalds

You know what's good for business? Strip mining. Polluting. High oil prices. Shady deals. The 2006-07 US Housing Bubble was great for the stock market, really really great. Right up until it destroyed all your jobs, your retirement, and left you homeless.

You know what's good for business? Cancer.

You know what's good for business? War.

A surging stock market always benefits the wealthy. Always.

But it's the middle class and the poor who always pay the price when it fails. Always. Every time.

And the wealthy are fine with this.

Of course they are.

This was their idea.

This is how billionaires like Trump go bankrupt over and over without losing a penny of their wealth.

Sure, every once in a while the good guys win one and people like Martin Shkreli and Bernie Madoff go to jail…

..but, Donald Trump didn't lose his home when the bubble burst last time.

And John Thain made millions destroying your life.

And Martin Shkreli still has $70 million waiting for him when he gets out.

These people, their business model is simple: rape and pillage, rape and pillage, squeeze the suckers for all the market can bear plus ten percent. Then, when it all falls apart, demand those very same victims – the poor and middle-class – bail them out or suffer even worse. And if called on it, deny all responsibility and place the blame on the very same victims with a smug Martin Shkreli sneer and a supercilious caveat emptor.

And yesterday Republicans voted to make it illegal to sue these people when they blow up the economy and steal your money.

Which they most certainly will do again.

Using the stock market as the sole measure of economic "greatness" is disingenuous at best – and dangerously fatal at worst. Fatal for you.

If you elect wealthy business people to run the country, well, then you're going to get the business.

That's the one thing you can count on.

Every. Single. Time.

I love money more than the things it can buy. But what I love more than money is other people's money.
-- Lawrence Garfield, Other People’s Money, 1991

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Myth of Judeo-Christian Values

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.
-- Aristotle

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”

That was President Donald Trump addressing the Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C. last Friday.

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.

That’s what he said.



On Judeo-Christian values.

What does that mean?

No, stop. Think about it. What does that mean? How do you attack a value?

Seriously. How do you attack a value?

Look here: Values are defined as those principles we hold important in life.

How do you attack that?

Values are personal. We each determine for ourselves what is important. Values are your personal ethics, morals, your standards of behavior. Values are often, but not always, the ideals imposed on us by our environment, ways of thinking learned from various examples: our parents when we are young, leaders, public figures, community, law, teachers, friends, societal groups, and so on. Because everyone’s experience is different, our values are often different in varying degrees.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.
Muhammad Ali

Our values tend to change over time as our relationships and community and experience change and indeed if your worldview is the same at fifty as it was at twenty, well, like the man said, you might have wasted much of your life. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we get wiser. There’s nothing more enlightening than listening to a fifty-year-old conservative moral absolutist describe how he was once a liberal but his values changed when he [found Jesus, joined the NRA, became a Republican, etc] and that’s why moral relativism is evil.

But ask that same moral absolutist to provide a list of universal values, see what you get.

No, better yet, ask a room full of moral absolutists to provide a single list of human values, ordered by importance.

Then time how long it takes for the angry shouting to start.

Is there an agreed upon list of human values? Not Judeo-Christian values (we’ll get to that in a minute), just plain old ordinary every day human values?

Is there?

Quick, what are they? List them in order. What’s the most important value to you? Truth? Compassion? Strength? Altruism? Selflessness? Courage? Wait. Are those even recognized values?

Are they?

Are you sure?

Funny, isn’t it? Certain words we use. Words describe concepts. And we all think we know the definition of those concepts. Moreover, we assume that everybody else’s understanding of that concept is the same as ours.

But ask a hundred people to list the most important human values, and you’ll get a hundred different answers.

Because values are relative. Values are subjective.

I’m not the first person to notice this. Obviously. There are entire fields of study going all the way back to the great philosophers of Ancient Greece.

A lot of very smart people have devoted lifetimes of research into this very subject. One of those people, a social-psychologist named Shalom H. Schwartz, came up something called the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. You can find a current and reasonably readable overview of Schwartz’s theory here, published by the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Schwartz’s Theory of Basic Values has been around for a while and it’s commonly used by psychologists and sociologists and those who study ethics and human interaction as a starting point.  Schwartz said that values are “beliefs linked inextricably to affect.” And what he meant was that values are tied to emotion and goals. For example, “People for whom independence is an important value become aroused if their independence is threatened, despair when they are helpless to protect it, and are happy when they can enjoy it.” This applies to nearly any value you can name – again in varying degrees depending individual circumstance. But it’s not something you can measure quantitatively.

Basically the theory says:

  • Values are beliefs.
  • Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action.
  • Values transcend specific actions and situations.
  • Values serve as standards or criteria.
  • Values are ordered by importance.
  • The relative values of multiple values guides action.

And I think that works as a general description of what a value is. But what are actual human values?

What would you list as human values?

Schwartz defines ten basic human values based on the criteria above:

  • Self-Direction: independent thought and action--choosing, creating, exploring.
  • Stimulation: excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.
  • Hedonism: pleasure or sensuous gratification for oneself.
  • Achievement: personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards.
  • Power: social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources.
  • Security: safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self.
  • Conformity: restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.
  • Tradition: respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one's culture or religion provides.
  • Benevolence: preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’).
  • Universalism: understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.

Hedonism. Stimulation. Power. Conformity. When you were trying to think up a list of human values, unless you are a sociologist, you probably weren’t thinking in those terms, were you? But nearly any value you can name falls into one of those categories as described by Schwartz’s theory. 

It matters.

Precision of language matters.

Because that language, the words we use, defines how we see the world around us. How we relate to each other. Words can build a society, or tear a civilization apart. Language is information. And information used as a weapon can bring a dictator to power, topple governments, start wars (or end them), or shape the worldview of a nation.

And I want you to remember that.

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”

That’s what the most powerful man in the world said last Friday.

He was speaking to an audience made up largely of hardline conservative Evangelical Christians.

What does that audience think Trump meant by that statement? To them, to those particular people, what are Judeo-Christian Values?

Remember: Values are beliefs linked to emotion, values are ordered by importance, values motivate action towards particular goals.

Remember: Values tend to be personal, and thus relative.

Remember: Language defines concept. Terms matter.

Thus: for values to be shared, they have to be defined and we all must agree to the definition and its emotional importance. And ultimately, we must agree with the goals inherent to each value.

Also please note that when Trump said, “We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” he didn’t bother to define … anything.

He didn’t define “attack.”

He didn’t define who was doing the attacking.

And most importantly he didn’t define “Judeo-Christian values.”

And Donald Trump is not the only one.

Breitbart led off their article on the subject with,

President Donald Trump vowed to end leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States.

President Trump vowed to end Leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States?

Christian Values. That threatened the United States.

Wait a minute here.

Words matter. Let’s read that again.

… on Christian values that threatened the United States…

Yep, still says, Christian values have threatened the United States.

(On a side note, odd that Breitbart mysteriously dropped the Judeo part. It’s almost like their old Anti-Semite CEO is back. But again, I digress)

If Christian values threatened the United States, why would the President vow to end attacks on them? Shouldn’t all Americans attack these Christian values that threaten America? I mean…



Right. Okay. Sure. But again, precision of language matters. Particularly when we’re talking about somebody attacking the United States.  As such, somebody needs to let Steven Bannon know his editors don’t understand basic sentence structure at even the sixth grade level. I’m just saying. For clarity’s sake. Given that it’s the lede and all. Right up front and ....


Fine. Fine. Moving on.

So, if I’m reading confused Breitbart grammar correctly, the basic idea here is that certain undefined “leftists” are somehow in some manner “attacking” “Christian values.” And, given the context, an attack on Christian values is an attack on America.

But see, the problem here is that the article again doesn’t define (other than in vague terms) who is doing the attacking, why they are attacking, how they are attacking, and most importantly of all: exactly what Judeo-Christian values are. Nor does the article explain how Donald Trump might end these attacks.

We are all just supposed to know what those things are.

Values change.

Morality changes.

This is the nature of civilization.

Once upon a time in America, it was moral to own other people. The measure of a decent man was once determined by how he treated his property, his slaves.

Is that a value we respect nowadays?

Is that an American value we want to bring back?

Is that a Judeo-Christian value? After all, slavery and how you treat it is integral to both the Jewish and Christian holy books.


No, I suppose not.

But how do you know? How do you know if the terms are never defined? Given recent violent demonstrations in places like Charlottesville by hardcore Christian conservative Trump supporters marching under the Swastika and the flag of the Confederacy, how can I know that slavery isn’t a Judeo-Christian value?

How do I know?

I mean, I assume that’s not what these conservatives mean, but how do I know?

If the terms are not defined?

Let me show you. Fox News, in a Special Report last Friday entitled: Eagle Scout: RIP Boy Scouts of America. You were great for 100 years, laments the destruction of the once venerable organization.

We all knew this was coming. The Boy Scouts of America stood for over a century on its strong foundation of Judeo-Christian values, growing boys into young men, and young men into leaders.  However, in recent years the BSA has allowed cracks to form in that foundation.

There is it, Judeo-Christian values.




Nowhere in that article does the author list those supposed values. Don’t take my word for it, click on the link and go look for yourself.  The article doesn’t describe in any way whatsoever the specific Judeo-Christian values that Lord Baden-Powell supposedly based the Boy Scouts on, nor does the author tell you which values they’ve supposedly discarded.

The author just assumes we all know what he means.

Because, of course, we are all Judeo-Christian in America, are we not?

And all Jews and Christians are the same, with the same worldview and outlook and values. Same as the author. Right?


With much handwringing and teeth-gnashing, the article goes on to bemoan the “incredibly disappointing news” that girls – girls – will not only be allowed to enter into Cub Scouts, but the BSA organization will soon create a scouting program for older girls – girls – to advance and earn Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle Scout. The author is outraged at the idea of stinky girls – girls – being allowed anywhere near Scouting. He rages against “inclusion” and the end of “manhood” and points out how “[i]t is important for boys and young men to grow together free from the distraction of girls.”

It is important for boys and men to grow together free from the distraction of girls.

It’s important.

For boys and men.

To grow together.

Free from the distraction of girls.

The article doesn’t bother to explain why it’s important for boys and men to grow together. In the woods. Alone. Though he does point out the danger of putting girls – girls – into the same situation:

I have to wonder why any parent would want their young teenage girls camping in the woods with young teenage boys?

(this is where I politely don’t provide links to literally thousands of Christian and Jewish church youth programs across America where boys and girls do exactly that)

The article ends with this:

This is what the Left does best:  target and destroy everything good in America.  They cannot compete with us on ideas, so they have to eliminate everything that makes us who we are.  If they were truly motivated to provide girls, homosexuals, and “transgenders,” with the same experiences Boy Scouts provides, then they would form their own youth organization.  But it isn’t really about that, is it? [sic]

So, is that it?

Are those Judeo-Christian values? Exclusion? Bigotry? Segregation of the sexes? So that boys and men might grow together, free from the “distraction” of stinky girls? Alone. In the woods.

Well, is it?

But why then call it Judeo-Christian? Why not call it Islamic-Judeo-Christian values, given that devout Muslim fundamentalists forbid mixing of the sexes.

Separation of the sexes isn’t a Judeo-Christian value you say?

Well then what is?

A guy named Michael Imhof wrote a letter to the editor of Madison Country Herald Bulletin, in Anderson City, Illinois.

It’s time to eliminate the Democratic Party. This is no longer the Democratic Party of the John F. Kennedy era. The Democratic Party has transitioned into the Marxist and Socialist Party of America.

Because apparently in this American’s mind, freedom is when the government dictates what political parties you can have. Because that’s totally not Marxist at all.

But here I am, digressing. Again.

Mr. Imhof spends a couple of paragraphs describing how everybody who isn’t just like him must certainly be an un-American commie socialist and then he gets to this:

The Democratic Party doesn’t care about the Judeo-Christian values of America, nor the Constitution. They’re the party of globalism, and they’re anti-American, anti-sovereignty. They use people and causes to promote the godless agenda of the global elitists.

There it is again. Judeo-Christian values of America.

Judeo-Christian values.



The author just assumes we all know what he means.

Because, of course, we are all Judeo-Christians in America, are we not?

Imhof spends another paragraph describing how all liberals obviously must love Lenin, and then fetches up here:

Vote the Democrats and Republican In Name Only (RINO) Republicans out of office. Vote for candidates with tea party and Judeo-Christian values.

Tea Party and Judeo-Christian values.

Which would seem to indicate that in Imhof’s mind, those values are the same.


The Tea Party. Taxed enough already. I’ll keep my freedom, my money, and my guns, and you can keep the change. That Tea Party?

Is that it? Are those Judeo-Christian values? Isolationism? America first? Sovereignty? Teabagging for Jesus? Money and guns?


Are you sure?

A few weeks ago, former White House hobo Steve Bannon went to Alabama to speak at a rally for Roy Moore – Alabama’s openly racist, homophobic, Christian-nationalist former Chief Justice. Moore was running for the Senate against Donald Trump favorite Luther Strange.

Moore has somewhat interesting interpretation of the First Amendment.

You have to understand it was the duty of the government under the First Amendment…to foster religion and foster Christianity

That’s what Moore told Vox reporter Jeff Stein in August of last year.

The First Amendment makes it the duty of the government to foster religion and specifically Christianity.

Got that?

I know. I know. You thought the First Amendment meant pretty much exactly the opposite. That’s why you’re not a judge in Alabama.

There’s more.

There’s so much more.

Roy Moore: There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities; I don’t know if they may be Muslim communities. But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts.

Jeff Stein: Which American communities are under Sharia law? When did they fall under Sharia law?

Moore: Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don't know.

Stein: That seems like an amazing claim for a Senate candidate to make.

Moore: Well, let me just put it this way — if they are, they are; if they’re not, they’re not. That doesn’t matter. Oklahoma tried passing a law restricting Sharia law, and it failed. Do you know about that?

No. No. Don’t roll your eyes, that’s not even close to the best part of Moore’s interview. Not even close. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. You can read the whole thing here – and remember, this guy was Alabama’s chief justice and he’s probably going to be one of the state’s senators when Alabamians go to the polls this December.

Moore was the leading voice of birtherism, he is rabidly homophobic and anti-Muslim, and he spends a lot of his time hanging out with neo-Confederates – you know, people who actually and openly hate America and parade about under the flag of America’s enemies.  Moore’s fanatical religious ideology has prompted his critics to nickname him the “Ayatollah of Alabama.” And despite the fact that Moore’s repeated claim of communities living under Islamic Law in the United States has been repeatedly and soundly debunked (and Moore himself can produce no evidence whatsoever and essentially admits he doesn’t really know or care), he continues to push this falsehood.

So, I suppose it was unsurprising when Steve Bannon showed up in Alabama to stump for Roy Moore. 

Judge Moore knows the Ten Commandments is the basis for the Judeo-Christian West. Judge Moore is a good man, he’s a courageous man, and more importantly he’s a righteous man.

And there it is again.

The Judeo-Christian West.

Judeo-Christian. Undefined. Unexplained. Except for some vague reference to the Christian’s Ten Commandments (which are apparently the solution to pretty much everything).  

Steve Bannon just assumes everybody in the crowd knew what he meant.

And from the cheering, everybody in the crowd assumed that they did know what he meant and their definition and list of Judeo-Christian values was exactly the same as Roy Moore’s, Steve Bannon’s, and everybody else in the crowd. But, well, look at who was up on that stage. Are those Judeo-Christian values? Knowingly pushing falsehoods and conspiracy theories? Bigotry? Intolerance? Xenophobia? I mean, don’t take my word for it, look up Roy Moore for yourself (and Steve Bannon while you’re at it) and tell me which part of his career embodies Judeo-Christian values. Tell me what those are. Hell, it’s Alabama, maybe everybody in the crowd was on the same sheet of music. Maybe those are the values of Judeo-Christianity.


But are you sure?

How do you know and can you prove it?


Well, what then?

What are Judeo-Christian values?

Donald Trump seems to know:

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values. They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct. We're saying Merry Christmas again.

Is that it? Is that one of them? A Judeo-Christian value is saying Merry Christmas?

Jews for Christmas?

Really? I admit to being a little fuzzy on the finer points of Judaism, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.

But, there it is. Judeo-Christian values again. That’s what the president said.



And the crowd once again cheered.

I mean, we’re just supposed to know. Right?

That is the inherent assumption whenever this term appears. Otherwise, they’d explain what they meant. Trump was speaking to the Value Voters Summit, a convention of hardcore religious nuts hosted by the Family Research Council. They define all kinds of things from traditional marriage to what constitutes “life” to what makes a real American. But they don’t bother to define Judeo-Christian values before people like Trump take the stage. And they don’t ask people like Trump to define it either.

And that – that right there – tells you something important.

We’re all supposed to know.

How about this?

Dr. Richard Lee, who according to his bio, is the Founding Pastor of the Atlanta, Georgia, First Redeemer Church. He is also the Editor of The American Patriot’s Bible:

THE ONE BIBLE THAT SHOWS HOW ‘A LIGHT FROM ABOVE’ SHAPED OUR NATION. Never has a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country more than The American Patriot’s Bible. This extremely unique Bible shows how the history of the United States connects the people and events of the Bible to our lives in a modern world. The story of the United States is wonderfully woven into the teachings of the Bible and includes a beautiful full-color family record section, memorable images from our nation’s history and hundreds of enlightening articles which complement the historic King James Version Bible text. 

Lee also authored God’s Promise to the American Patriot and The Coming Revolution, among other works.

So you figure, if anybody can describe Judeo-Christian values in detail, it’s got to be the guy who edited the Bible and slapped an American flag on it.



Lee says there are in fact seven Judeo-Christian values, or principles. To wit:

Principle #1: The Dignity Of Human Life

Lee cites Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder” and Matthew 22:39 "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Oddly, he doesn’t reference Jewish text anywhere – and looking back I likewise see only a reference to the King James Bible in his book blurb. That seems an odd omission right out of the gate, Judeo-Christian values wise, I mean. But hey, I’m sure he’ll get to it. Eventually.

So, dignity of human life. No murder. Love your neighbor. Sounds reasonable. I mean it does, doesn’t it? Respect human life. Not really exclusive to just Jews and Christians though, is it? And I bet you can guess where he goes with it, can’t you?

Can’t you?

See, that bit about “murder,” that’s the kicker. That’s the weasel word. Thou shalt not murder, not kill, murder. Words matter. Language matters.

Abortion, of course, that’s what we’re talking about here. Murder, you know, that’s what guys like Lee call abortion. Murder. We’re good with other kinds of killing, war, the death penalty, letting people starve to death, so long as there’s no abortion.

And respect for the dignity of human life? The dignity of human life forsooth, well, that only goes so far.

As you will see.

Principle #2 - The Traditional Family

Again, a Christian reference: Genesis 2:21-24 "And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.  Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.  And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

Lee says “The biblical view of marriage and family is the basis of our society and serves as the backbone of a healthy social order.”

So, the biblical view of marriage as defined by Genesis 2:21. Got it.

  • God creates Adam artificially from non-living ingredients, i.e. mud. Essentially life in a lab.
  • Then God makes Eve by taking a biological sample from Adam and genetically engineering it to produce a cross-sex clone (see the reference: bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, taken out of a male, transformed into female. God could have created a completely new person from scratch, but he didn’t. Pretty clear what we’re talking about here).
  • Adam then marries what is for all practical purposes his fraternal twin.
  • Adam and Eve then proceed to break the law, become felons, and are exiled from civilization for their crimes.
  • While on the run, they produce two sons – presumably without the assistance of artificial laboratory aids.
  • At which point one of the sons murders the other – which may or may not have something to do with the fact that their parents were, genetically speaking, brother and sister.
  • A few generations later, the world is populated with Adam and Eve’s descendants, which God wipes out because they are all insane murderers, rapists, drunkards, and deviants. And you’d think God would have seen this coming given the limited gene pool.

I gotta be honest with you, maybe this isn’t the best example.

Lee goes on to say, “Since the joining together of Adam and Eve, marriage has been defined as a holy union between one man and one woman.” Except, the very reference Lee uses, i.e. the Christian Bible, provides numerous examples of marriages that are not just one man and one woman.


Principle #3 - A National Work Ethic

Another reference to the Christian bible: 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat."

We didn’t even make it two values past “Dignity for Human Life” before we got to the part about why poor people should starve.

Also, how is a national ethic a personal Judeo-Christian value?

I’m going to speed this up and give you the last four without commentary.

Principle #4 - The Right To A God-Centered Education

Principle # 5- The Abrahamic Covenant

Principle #6 - Common Decency

Principle #7- Our Personal Accountability To God

You can read the whole thing for yourself here at Sermon Central. Again, note that Jewish text isn’t referenced – though I suppose Lee would weasel out by suggesting his Old Testament references apply. Still, seems that if you’re going to use the term Judeo-Christian, Jews should maybe get equal time. Just saying.


What do you think. Are those Judeo-Christian values?

Are those the Judeo-Christian values?

I suspect many people in Trump’s audience last Friday would agree that they are – even if they couldn’t name them off the cuff.

But … they can’t be.

Words matter. Language matters. Context matters.

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”

Which of those values are under attack?

For those to be the values Trump was talking about, they’d have to be under attack. By definition. That’s what the man said. That’s what they all said.

So, show me a single Jew or Christian in America who was prevented from respecting the dignity of human life.

Go on. Do it. I’ll wait.

Show me any Jew or any Christian who was denied a traditional marriage license.

Show me any Jew, any Christian, who was prevented from working hard or was prevented from attending the religious school of their choice.

Show me a single Jew, a single Christian, who was prevented in any way from adhering to some supposed contract with their deity – a covenant, I note, that was specifically between the Jews and their God and nobody else, an agreement that Christians are apparently attempting to horn in on.

Show me a single Jew, a single Christian, who was attacked for Common Decency, right after you explain why one group of Christians gets to define what “common decency” means for all of us.

As to that last one, your personal accountability to your god, I would love to see Donald Trump explain how exactly anybody would go about waging an attack on that.

None of these values apply to the other examples either – though I admit to a chuckle at the thought of Lee attempting to explain to my Boy Scout troop how Adam married his Sister (I learned to drink and swear in the Boy Scouts, skills that served me well in the Navy. We would have gotten a good laugh at Adam’s expense. Alone. In the woods. Far from the distraction of girls). 

I’m afraid I don’t buy it, even if Dr Lee did write his own bible.

No. After weeks of research, I don’t have any idea what those values are.

And I bet you don’t either.

So, I asked.

A quarter of a million people follow me every day across various social media platforms. Jews. Christians in various and assorted flavors. Muslims. Non-believers. Sort of believers. Atheists. Some that don’t fit well into any category. So, I asked. What are Judeo-Christian Values? What are they? Give me a list. It doesn’t even have to be exhaustive, just give me the top three.

Now, you’d think that a quarter of a million people could come up with something.

Three Judeo-Christian values. That’s all I’m asking.

Far and away the most common answer was: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I got hundreds, thousands, of responses that said that. That’s THE Judeo-Christian value.

That one, right there.

The Golden Rule.

Apologies, but I can’t accept that.

Treating people decently is hardly a uniquely Judeo-Christian value and …

You again? What is it this time?

Oh, I see, you’re upset by the qualifier “unique.”

You feel that’s unfair. You think I should have specified that up front.

I did.

And I mentioned it up above, you should have seen it coming.

Language matters. Precision of language matters. Context matters. Judeo-Christian values. It’s right there in the label. And that specific label matters.

See, if we were just talking about values, human values, universal values, those values defined and enumerated by Schwartz up above, well, then you would have no need for the qualifier. Would you?

But there it is: Judeo-Christian values.

That’s what those examples up above were talking about.

President Donald Trump vowed to end leftist attacks on Christian values that threatened the United States

The Boy Scouts of America stood for over a century on its strong foundation of Judeo-Christian values […] This is what the Left does best:  target and destroy everything good in America […] they have to eliminate everything that makes us who we are.

The Democratic Party doesn’t care about the Judeo-Christian values of America, nor the Constitution. They’re the party of globalism, and they’re anti-American, anti-sovereignty. They use people and causes to promote the godless agenda of the global elitists.

…The Ten Commandments [are] the basis for the Judeo-Christian West.

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values. They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct. We're saying Merry Christmas again.

Seven Principles of the Judeo-Christian Ethic

They were quite specific about it. Go back and look, follow the links, read those words in context. Look for your own examples. The people who use that term, Judeo-Christian, use it to highlight that those values are special, unique, and specifically foundational to the United States itself. This is clear from the context.

Just as those same people and media outlets define “American values” as uniquely American and by definition not something you’d find in any other country.

That’s what “exceptional” means.

And we are exceptional, America, are we not?

If these were universal values, human values, we wouldn’t have to caveat it.

This term, Judeo-Christian values is used purposely by conservatives to identify values specific to their religious and their political ideology.

But more importantly the term Judeo-Christian directly and deliberately excludes all other political and religious beliefs – and this is the point where I remind you that the people who use this term are also the people who daily denounce multiculturalism and diversity, racial mixing, cultural dilution, and often going so far as to insist that everybody speak the same language. So, by definition, by context, by omission, when these people say Judeo-Christian values, they mean values that are exclusive to their ideology and that specifically exclude all others – which is why you don’t see these values labelled Judeo-Christian-Islamic values, or even just referred as American values, or human values.

The exclusion is on purpose.

So, when I asked the question, I set specific limits on the answers. Because when you say that your values are unique – and moreover, that uniqueness specifically makes you better, exceptional, correct, righteous – but when asked to describe that uniqueness, you proceed instead to describe the same values that can be found universally and that are not in any way exclusive to your political party or religion or nation, well, then you’re full of shit.

So if you insist on using the term “Judeo-Christian” to identify your values as superior to others, then I will require you to show your work.

And so I set limits on the question.

  • The value must be uniquely Judeo-Christian, it cannot be common to any other value system, secular or non-secular
  • The value, whatever it is, must be common to both Jewish and Christian belief systems, i.e. it must be Judeo-Christian.
  • Be specific. Show your work. Don't make vague hand-waving pronouncements.

And out of a thousand answers, from Christians, from Jews, Muslims, atheists, agonistics, from Rabbis, from Preachers and Shit Shakers and Holy Rollers, I got … nothing.

No definitive answer, not even a vague answer.

I got bible quotes and guesses and a lot of sarcasm and a bunch of hand waving. I got links to Wikipedia articles – an article, I’m at pains to point out, which does not in any way provide any kind of definitive list of Judeo-Christian values.

I would like to note that I got a polite and reasoned discussion among thousands of people on my various Facebook pages, which is either a testament to the personal values of those particular people or a testament to my screening criteria. Maybe both.

But for a list of values that we’re all just supposed to know, that we all assume everybody else knows, that our leaders insist are the very basis of our country, well, there’s absolutely no consensus at all.



Many responders threw their hands up in the air and said given the limits I placed on the question, an answer was impossible. Some of them got angry about it. One person left the Stonekettle Station Facebook Group in outrage, thinking that I was mocking her religious beliefs because she could not answer the question as asked.


Words matter.

Definitions matter.

Concepts matter.

Precision matters.

Because that language, the words we use, defines how we see the world around us. How we relate to each other. Words can build a society, or tear a civilization apart. Language is information. And information used as a weapon can bring a dictator to power, topple governments, start wars (or end them), or shape the worldview of a nation.

When the president of the United States tells Americans that their values – their Judeo-Christian values – are under attack, it matters.

The limits matter. Because these are the conditions set by those who would use their values as a weapon. As a club. As a flail. As a cudgel to beat the rest of us about the head and shoulders.

These are the conditions set by those who would claim that their values are exceptional and thus should be the values of the nation and us all. By force, if necessary -- even if they themselves are unable to detail exactly what those values actually are. 

These are the limits set by those who would use some imagined martyrdom to justify theocracy and fascism and to put their boot on our throats.

And so I asked.

But the answer, given the limitations placed on the definition by those who use the term, is impossible.

And that – that right there – was the point.

One thing I didn't understand in life was that I had $100,000,000 in the bank and I couldn't buy happiness. I had everything: mansions, yachts, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, but I was depressed. I didn't know where I fitted in. But then I found family and friends and I learned the value of life.
-- Vanilla Ice

Monday, October 9, 2017


This post first appeared on Columbus Day, 2014. // Jim

Here's what I don't get: Pluto.

More specifically, I don't get the argument over what to call it.

I’ve seen people nearly come to blows over Pluto.

And I just don’t get it.

Planet, minor planet, Kuiper Belt object, whatever.

I mean, if you're not an astronomer – that is: a vitamin D deficient long-hair who spends all night staring at a computer monitor filled with mathematical gibberish instead of watching Bang Bang Theory like normal people – why do you care?

No, really, why do you care?

Go outside, look up. Where’s Pluto?


You have no goddamned idea, do you?

It’s not something you need to deal with on a daily basis. Hell, it's not even in the bible, is it?

And let’s be honest, shall we? The closest most Americans get to astronomy is watching Dancing With The Stars and giggling over the pronunciation of Uranus.

So, I’ll ask again: why does anybody care what the hell science calls the damned rock?

Hell, Clyde Tombaugh could have just made the whole thing up...


Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. American astronomer. The guy who “discovered” Pluto back in 1930. You know, Clyde Tombaugh. I mean, you're all over the whole Pluto thing, right? Probably have Clyde's swimsuit poster on your bedroom wall. Oh, sure, Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. Big fan. Saw the movie with Brad Pitt as Tomblargh, that’s the one with the sparkly vampire zombie Nazis, right?


Tombaugh could have made it up. Sure he could have.  And how would you know? Pluto, it’s just a spot on a photographic plate. I mean, who verified this? Other astronomers? Oh, and we believe them, do we? We won't take science's word for for evolution, climate change, Bigfoot, oh hell no – but Pluto? Science, totally real, Dude, totally.

A couple years back the little world, which Americans can’t see and never think about, was demoted from planet to not-planet.

And we lost our shit over it.

What? They demoted Pluto? Oh, now it’s on!

It’s a wonder astronomers weren’t dragged from the universities and burned alive.

Politicians and pundits weighed in with ponderous gravity. Congress milled about in various orbits of outrage and actually considered a bill mandating the little frozen ice ball be declared a Full Planet in law if not in fact.

Ironic, isn’t it? That we can’t agree people are equal, but, man, we’re all about civil rights for planets.

I mean, think about it, what if Pluto turns out to be black? Or gay? Would you still want it to marry your sister? I mean, come on, folks, think it through, it’s not rocket science … ur, okay, maybe it is, but I think I’ve made my point here.

The web was aflame with pitched battles. People were all, "Oh I've always been a huge Pluto fan! Favorite planet ever, man, love how they named it after the Disney character, yo!"

And it's still going on.

Somebody asked me about it just the other day: say, Jim, where do you come down on this whole Pluto demotion issue? I sure hope you're not one of them "minor world" guys.

Hey now, I replied, some of my best friends are dwarf planets…

Here in the nation of the perpetually outraged and offended, Pluto’s status is just another thing to be outraged and offended about. What? What's that? They've demoted Pluto? Why those dirty SONS OF BITCHES! In my day we had nine planets! Nine! But now? Everything is going to shit. This is probably Obama’s fault. That guy. You know. 

As if we're all somehow diminished as human beings, as Americans, if Pluto isn't a planet.


Honestly, what's next? We gonna put some big chrome stacks on Jupiter and hang a giant pair of Truck Nutz on Neptune?

You’re wondering where I’m going with this, aren’t you?

Columbus Day.

That’s where I’m going. Columbus Day.

Pluto. Columbus Day. How could you not see that coming?

Honestly, it’s like you people don’t know me at all.

Today is Columbus Day in America.

It’s a bullshit minor holiday that’s mostly just an excuse for federal employees to get a paid day off.

Because, you know, that’s what we need, another reason for Congress to take a long weekend. Not like there’s a big backlog of legislation or anything, right?

I mean, what exactly are the ancient traditions associated with this holiday?

Look, I’m not unpatriotic, I know my American history, sure, I know the part about going to Wal-Mart for “Columbus Day Blow Out Deals.” I’m not a total Philistine. But I’m a little hazy on the religious aspects. Do we gather together at Grandma’s house, she’ll make her famous deep fried ham stuffed with firecrackers and syphilis, the kids will carve a Plymouth Rock from gingerbread while Uncle Phil gets plastered and manages to light his balls on fire again from shooting bottle-rockets out of his ass in the backyard, we’ll watch the big Macy’s Columbus Day parade in new york where men dressed as Conquistadors wade ashore from floats that look like Spanish galleons in search of gold and slaves under the baleful copper gaze of Lady Liberty, then we’ll all meet down at the church for the traditional Columbus Day Prayer Of Peace and Togetherness? Are there little construction paper war bonnets? Fireworks? Do we get to nail somebody to a cross? Is there a gift exchange? Tell me there’s at least going to be a giant male rabbit who shits foil covered chocolate eggs. Something.

But, of course, there’s none of that.

So far as I can tell, the primary Columbus Day tradition involves shouting variations of the phrase:  “Oh what the fuck? Why is the post office closed?

Folks, Columbus Day is the Pluto of American holidays.

Most Americans have no idea where this stupid “holiday” came from and most of the time they couldn’t care less.  Columbus, he’s the guy who discovered America, right? He was like the first American … or was that George Jefferson? I forget, anyway, off to Wal-Mart, gotta make a beer run before Dancin’ Wit Da Starz comes on.

I mean, come on.

Columbus day? Really?

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians!  Indians!"  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

Except it turns out almost all of that is, literally, whitewashed bullshit.

Columbus was an asshole, even his friends thought so – what few friends he had.  He routinely screwed his own crew out of money that he’d promised them and gloated about it, rubbing their faces in it. When his men threatened to mutiny (which happened repeatedly because Columbus was a shitty leader), he handed out pre-pubescent native girls as compensation, after enslaving their parents. He justified genocide by reasoning that so long as he didn’t let anybody convert the natives, he wasn’t killing Christians so God had to be good with it.  They used to say you could navigate between Europe and the New World without a compass, all you had to do was follow the trail of dead Indians floating behind Columbus’ ships.  He ruled Hispaniola as a brutal tyrant, see, Columbus wasn’t exactly keen on democracy and liberty – though he was a big fan of gold. 

Christopher Columbus didn’t discover the United States.

In fact, Columbus never set foot on any part of what is now the United States. Never. He wasn’t even close to the first European to reach the shores of the New World. And he certainly wasn’t an American, he was an Italian sailing under a Spanish flag.

Columbus never set foot on what is nowadays American soil.  Never. He made his voyages nearly 300 years before the United States even existed.

Most Americans couldn’t tell you much of anything about Christopher Columbus beyond the silly fairytale of that child’s nursery rhyme  – let alone anything about the actual man who called himself Cristóbal Colón.

What? What’s that you say? Oh, c’mon now, Jim? What are you, some kind of America hater? Why Christopher Columbus was a genuine American hero. You’re just repeating liberal lies. Besides, who really knows what happened back then?

Yeah, except for the part where Columbus himself documented his atrocities in his own logs and diaries in full detail – and it’s not me who whitewashed history.

In fact, Columbus Day as a federal holiday is a relatively recent invention created whole cloth by people who are largely ignorant of and tone-deaf to actual American history.

But just like Pluto, bring up demoting Columbus’ place in the Pantheon of American Fairytales and watch the spittle start to fly – as if we, as Americans, will somehow be diminished if we don’t have a largely ignored holiday named after a genocidal tyrant who died two and half centuries before our country was even founded.

And you want to know what the really funny part is?

Do you?

Because I’ll tell you.  See, the people most adamant about the sanctity of Columbus Day? Yeah, those Americans? They’re the very same people, the very same people almost name for name, who want English declared the official language of the United States and who demand that the southern border be secured with a wall a hundred feet high specifically to keep out Christopher Columbus’ Spanish speaking descendants.

Now, how’s that for irony?

Listen, you know what will happen to America if Pluto is allowed to remain a minor planet?


Likewise, you know what will happen to our nation if we dump Columbus Day?


Listen to me, you want a day off in October?

Then how about a holiday that includes us all?

How about a day that celebrates our great accomplishments as a nation? How about history and events we don’t have to whitewash? 

How about a holiday where we Americans celebrate our great accomplishments, our moments of exploration and discovery?

We can talk about the first peoples to arrive here chasing wooly mammoths 25,000 years ago. We can celebrate the native cultures that once dominated this continent – the ones we name our rivers and states and sports teams after. We can talk about the Viking longships that explored our shores long before Columbus – and hell, we can even talk about The Great Navigator himself, if we want. Then let us celebrate and remember those moments in time where we Americans, all of us, came together in wonder and awe. Let us remember our voyages of discovery and exploration and hope. From the Nome Serum Run to the California Gold Rush, from Kitty Hawk to the footprints in Mare Tranquilities, Columbia and Challenger and Apollo One, to Voyager and Curiosity and beyond.

We’ll open the museums and the history books and teach our children what it is to be an American - and maybe one day we will again became a nation and a people who look outward instead of staring into our own festering bellybuttons.

Let’s call it Clyde Tombaugh Day.