CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

Bobby Jindal doesn’t understand the First Amendment

2016 presidential hopeful’s defense of Duck Dynasty star’s homophobic comments suggests a deep misunderstanding of what the Constitution says.

Here we go again.

The great thing about Duck Dynasty-style blowups is that they provide dumbasses a chance to trot their dumbassery out for public display. Take Louisiana governor (and prospective 2016 presidential candidate) Bobby Jindal, whose comments this morning suggest that he doesn’t understand Constitution even a little bit. Continue reading

Cthulhu Republicans

Club for Growth: meet the Cthulhu wing of the GOP

Here’s wishing the Tea Party luck in its efforts to destroy the GOP. One down, one to go.

A few days ago I wondered if, for the Tea Party, there’s any such thing as “too conservative.” After all:

Does the Tea Party have a right “edge”?

Is there any such thing as “too conservative” for Teabaggers?

I shall be with you on your wedding-night. – Frankenstein’s Monster

You may have noticed that a new “bipartisan budget compromise” has emerged on Capitol Hill, largely brokered by conservative darling Paul Ryan and “pragmatic liberal” Patty Murray. The howls of outrage from the Tea Party wing commenced on cue. Which is why, earlier this morning, I found myself joking that I was looking forward to seeing Ryan primaried from the right. Continue reading

Hey Facebook – can you tell me who my perfect match is?

PrivacyBig Data and Social Media: Americans can’t give their privacy away fast enough…

Big Data just keeps getting bigger and biggerer, and it seems like if you have enough data you can figure out damned near anything. Last year we had the case of Target telling a Minneapolis man his teenaged daughter was pregnant before she did. Now it seems like Facebook knows who you’re involved with whether you reveal it or not. Continue reading

Barry buys a car at GOP Motors

Barry needs a new car. Something spiffy to show off, so people know he’s a big deal, an important guy, a man for all seasons. So he heads down to GOP Motors. Those guys always have nice cars.

“I need a car,” he says.

“Oh, it’s you again,” says Mr. Haney, the senior sales rep, brightening appreciably. “Which one you like?”

“Well, that big silver BiPartisan luxury sedan looks awful nice. How much?”

“What you looking to pay?” says Mr. Haney.

“I reckon I could go $35,000 for it, long as you throw in floormats.”

“Lord, Barry, you’re killing me. I can’t possibly let this fine automobile go for that little. Tell you what, I think I can get my sales manager to let you have it for $50,000.”

Barry thinks, scratches his head. “I don’t know, Mr. Haney. That’s a lot of money. How about we say…$55,000?”

Haney pauses for a second, hits replay on that last sentence to make sure he heard it right. “How much did you say?”

“Oh, all right. $60,000.”

Haney stares at him for a few seconds. Figures maybe he’s being punk’d, but okay, he’ll play along. “If I let you have it for that I’m losing money. My manager will fire me. Can you go to, say, $75,000?”

Barry whistles through his teeth. “Man, you drive a hard bargain, Mr. Haney. I don’t know if I can do $75,000. The little lady would kill me. Tell you what, $80,000 and no floormats.”

Haney, getting into the bargaining spirit, yelps like a bit hound dog. “JESUS AND MARY, Barry! I’ve got a family to feed. I can maybe go to $90,000, but not a penny less.”

Barry sprouts a satisfied grin and extends his hand. “We seem to have agreed on $100,000 even.”

Haney takes his hand, trying to stifle the urge to dance around the lot. It’s been a pleasure doing business to you.”

In other news….

BlackForstFire

When it comes to judging America for its sins, God is an absolute doofus

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with God. And having no luck at all.

If you’ve been paying attention, by now you’ve figured out that natural calamities are God’s judgment on America. Preachers preach it and Christians believe it. When a hurricane hits, for example, it’s usually because we’re being unholy in some way or another. Drinking, fornicating, gambling, etc. But mainly the queers.

Katrina was God’s judgment. And it’s just beginning. Because of the Pride Parade. (A Google search on “Katrina God’s judgment” returns 129,000 hits, by the way.) Sandy? God’s judgment.

Tornadoes are God’s judgment. Earthquakes are God’s judgment. Forest fires, famine, volcanos – God’s judgment. You get the point.

Fine. God isn’t happy and he’s sending us a message. A warning shot across the bow, as it were. But…you can’t help wondering. Is God stupid? Does he have a bad aim? And what does his recent spate of angry warnings say about history? There have always been natural disasters, even back in the ’50s when there weren’t any homosexuals. There were volcanos during the late Cretaceous. Who the hell was he mad at then?

Let’s take a closer look.

Oddly, most hurricanes target our godliest states. Yes, Louisiana has the modern-day Gomorrah that is New Orleans, but if you recall Katrina mostly missed the Big Easy. The front side – the big overhanded haymaker – hit the Mississipi Gulf Coast and the damage there was massive. Had God aimed further west busted NO in the lips the way he did Biloxi, Bourbon Street and everything else within 20 miles would be gone. So – what the heck did Mississippi do? They’re one of the best-behaved Christian states in the country.

Another state that gets stomped by hurricanes a lot is Florida. Now, the Sunshine State is a mixed bag. You have some wickedness down around South Beach, but you also have a bunch of old people who haven’t done anything wrong. Not in the last 50 years, anyway. And yet, God judges them like they were one big Frankie Goes to Hollywood video. Makes no sense at all. He even threatened last year’s Republican National Convention, and the GOP is HIS OWN POLITICAL PARTY.

W. T. F?

Among recent hurricanes, Sandy is the only one that sort of makes sense. NYC is a godless wasteland, for sure, home to every kind of decadence known to man, as well as a few others that are still in the development phase. But God, in judging NYC, blasted the shit out of New Jersey, which has a Republican governor, and some of the hardest hit areas of NYC are in Congressional District 11, home of Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican.

Apparently God can’t afford a laser and has to use a shotgun instead.

What about tornadoes? Ever heard of “Tornado Alley“?

The core of Tornado Alley consists of northern Texas (including the Panhandle), Oklahoma and Kansas. However, Tornado Alley can also be defined as an area reaching from central Texas to the Canadian prairies and from eastern Colorado to western Pennsylvania. It can also be disputed that there are numerous Tornado Alleys. In addition to the Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas core, such areas also include the Upper Midwest, the Ohio Valley, the Tennessee Valley and the lower Mississippi valley.

Overlay a map of Tornado Alley with an election results schematic. They might as well be the same thing. Bright red, Republican, God-fearing and prone to swirling black judgment from one end to the other.

If it weren’t for tornado activity you’d have never heard of Moore, Oklahoma. Only 11 F5s (the highest and worst rating) have struck the US since 1999, and two of them hit Moore. Two more pounded nearby El Reno, which means that God has aimed one-third of the most devastating twisters in the last 15 years or so at the Oklahoma City suburbs. That’s Oklahoma, which is about as close to Sodom as Peoria is to Proxima Centauri.

Clearly, something is amiss with the God’s Judgment Hypothesis. Even the sort of … umm … intellect prone to believing that God judges us this way … even that guy has to be a little confused. I know, I know – the whole Lord worketh in mysterious ways thing. Mysterious, sure. But barking batshit crazy?

Think about it this way. Say that you’re a) God, b) pissed off about the gays, c) determined to send a message, and d) wanting to make sure it’s understood. Duh. A lot of your followers aren’t exactly rocket surgeons, so you need to avoid as much ambiguity here as possible, right?

Do you spin hurricanes at states that vote exclusively according to their understanding of the Bible or do you, you know, smite the guilty? If I’m God, I’m going to dial up a 9.4 on the Richter Scale and epicenter that sumbitch under the manhole cover at Castro Street and Market. I’m going to point three or four category fives directly at South Beach. And the greater OKC metropolitan area is safe, because the new Tornado Alley is going to start in Seattle, wind its way down the coast, make several passes back and forth through Hollywood, skip across to Vegas, then skip again to the Upper Midwest where we’ll thump Minneapolis and then draw a bead on Taxachusetts. Just to show off, I’d drop a hurricane on Ann Arbor. And don’t even try to tell me that isn’t possible. With God, all things are possible.

Hammer down, bitches. But that’s just me, and I ain’t God.

Meanwhile, I can’t help noting that my own state is ramping up another epic summer of wildfires. The Black Forest Fire, the worst in Colorado history, has so far killed two, destroyed 379 homes and forced 38,000 people to evacuate. And it’s nowhere near contained. The God’s Judgment Hypothesis predicts that such a fire ought to be looming over Boulder or perhaps creeping down Highway 36 toward Denver.

But it isn’t. It’s in Colorado Springs, ground zero for America’s aggressive new evangelical Christian movement. Specifically, the fire is roughly six miles, as the crow flies, from the headquarters of Focus on the Family. Where it’s currently 90° with humidity in the low 20% range.

I wonder if God is judging someone.

Mark Udall: working hard to fly a drone up the ass of every American

UdallDronesWe’ve had some issues through the years with Colorado’s BiParticrat Senator, Mark Udall. He’s worked hard to cultivate a reputation as a guy who’s looking after our civil liberties, and his chief tactic in doing so has been an insistence on no-nonsense, pro-rights policy a nigh-Cirque du Soleil-esque commitment to misdirection, sleight-of-hand, obfuscation, backpedaling, smoke-blowing, singing in tongues and tapdancing. Recall, if you will, his silver-tongued bullshittery back in 2008 when I wrote him about his anti-Constitutional collaboration with the Bush administration over FISA. I don’t know who his Propagandist-in-Chief is, but his/her gift for doublespeak could, in a month or two, transform Charlie Sheen and Paris Hilton into poster children for abstinence.

Now Udall is on the stump for domestic drones, and again, he’s waving the bright shiny with one hand while he fishes the Vaseline out of his pocket with the other. See, the thing is, he wants us to understand, the thing is that we have to make sure all those people putting drones with cameras in the air over America’s cities and towns are doing so in a way that doesn’t, you know, result in illegal surveillance.

No, wait. That’s not quite right. That’s what he wants you to hear. What’s he’s actually saying is slightly different.

“We need to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the American psyche in a way that isn’t threatening or scary,” he said, in remarks at the National Press Club. “Many here today have likely recognized that I’m deliberately not using the word ‘drone’ because it carries a stigma.

Ahh. There’s the Vaseline. What we have to do is deploy those drones – excuse me,  unmanned aerial systems – in a way that doesn’t upset folks. The problem isn’t the drones, it’s the people. We don’t need to ban drones, we need to reengineer people’s psyches so that they look up in the sky and see a friend. It’s not like Big Brother at all.

Udall’s solution sounds okay on its face, although we’re not being given anything in the way of specifics. But we can trust him.

Udall is working to update safeguards to protect Americans from being surveilled by private drone operators without their consent, addressing concerns raised by his constituents while helping to head off possible legal problems for an emerging and potentially important industry for Colorado.

The great news is that he has a track record of being an uncompromising privacy watchdog and if history tells us anything, it’s that Congress always refuses to bend and water down legislation in the face of lobbying by big industry interests.

Ahem.

In related news, you may have been reading that the NSA has been routinely collecting our phone records without warrants for several years now. Why do I mention this now?

Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: “This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I’ve said Americans would find shocking.”

Yes. I’ve been worried about illegal government surveillance all along. Which is why I voted to grant blanket immunity to telecoms that helped Bush operate his illegal scheme.

Ahem, I say. Ahem.

So now BiParticrat Udall wants us to all get warm and fuzzy about those unmanned aerial systems which he’s being careful not call, you know, the “D” word. Kumbayah, bitches. We can trust him to shoot straight and never compromise where our rights are concerned. Just like he always has.

Pass the Vaseline, yo.

Honoring the men who made Memorial Day possible

Today is Memorial Day, the annual holiday where we pay tribute to those who gave their lives in service to their country.

As always, not enough attention is focused on the men who made those ultimate sacrifices possible. for example:

  • William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, whose baldfaced lies propaganda brand of yellow journalism sucked the US into the Spanish-American War.
  • “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry Truman, who decided that the best way to contain China and/or the Soviets was to get involved in Korea.
  • John F. Kennedy, who reviewed the American experience in Korea and concluded that it worked so well we should take the same show on the road to Vietnam.
  • Lyndon Johnson, who inherited Kennedy’s unsuited deuce/seven and saw an opportunity to go all-in.
  • Bush the First, who realized te importance of protecting democracy in Kuwait.
  • Bush the Second and his minions Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney, who cocked up whatever “evidence” was necessary to get our brave young future Memorial Day honorees into Iraq where they could put an end to all those WMDs and snuff out al Qaeda, which was in Pakistan, which is in Iraq.

Happy Memorial Day. Wave that flag with pride.

CATEGORY: Religion

Atheists in heaven? Vatican spin machine leaps into action

CATEGORY: ReligionRemember back in the ’80s when Ronald Reagan would ramble on in front of a crowd, saying all kinds of crazy shit? And immediately after, the reporters would turn to his handlers, who would explain that the president hadn’t said what he just said, that he had in fact said the exact opposite? That’s where the term “spin” came from, and boy, were those the days.

Yesterday we reported on the latest from Pope Francis, who told a crowd this week that even atheists could go to heaven. At least, that’s what everybody thinks he said. I mean, read what he said.

You knew it was too good to be true. While The Gipper His Holiness does appear to have made it through the night without being assassinated, he has certainly not escaped without a tongue-lashing from the apparatchiks he reports to. And today, the Vatican trotted out a spin doctor – actually, I guess he’d be a spin priest, instead of a doctor, huh? – to explain that the pope didn’t say what he said.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who [are] aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”

Ummm. No, that’s what he said. Moving on.

At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”

Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.

Although the pope’s comments about salvation surprised some, bishops and experts in Catholicism say Francis was expressing a core tenant [sic] of the faith.

“Francis was clear that whatever graces are offered to atheists (such that they may be saved) are from Christ,” the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a conservative Catholic priest, wrote on his blog.

“He was clear that salvation is only through Christ’s Sacrifice. In other words, he is not suggesting – and I think some are taking it this way – that you can be saved, get to heaven, without Christ.”

Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, agreed with Zuhlsdorf, pointing out that the pope’s comments came on the Feast of Saint Rita, the Catholic patron saint of impossible things.

So, to sum up, when Francis said that atheists can be redeemed if they do good works, what he meant was that they can’t redeemed by good works unless they stop being atheists? Is that about right?

No word on whether all dogs go to heaven yet, however.

You’re probably confused. I know I am. But that’s okay. The good news here is that we’re entering a new golden age of spin. (Not that the last couple of decades haven’t been pretty fucking remarkable on that front.) Francis is the new Reagan, and with any luck we’re going to get a new sitcom episode every time he opens his mouth.

Enjoy. And now, I’m off to re-read “The Grand Inquisitor.”

CATEGORY: Sports

Goddamned wasteful gummit spending: Who’s the highest (over)paid “public servant” in your state? (WTF?)

A Special Guest Commentary From Randy Wayne Boudreau, Grand Dragon of the Alabama Tea Party

All right thinking citizen patriots hate gummit. Wasteful bureaucrats living off hard workers like you and me. Might as well be welfare queens.

And now, thanks to the good folks at Deadspin – private, non-union workers, I should note – we know who the highest paid gummit bloodsuckers around the country are.

What the motherfuck? Hold on a cotton-picking minute. Coaches don’t count. ‘Cause that’s football. And sometime basketball. Them’s revenue generators. I mean, you know. They’re technically gummit employees, I reckon. But not really. ‘Cause they generate revenue that funds the rest of the school. [ED. NOTE: That doesn't really happen.] Not like them damned tenured leeches in the English department. Coaches work for a living. Them what can, does. Them what can’t, teaches. [ED. NOTE: I thought coaching was teaching.]

Goddammit. I don’t know who “ED” is, but will you cut that shit out? I’m trying to make a point here. Buncha fucking libruls trying to do away with America’s pastime. Don’t think I don’t see what’s going on here. [ED. NOTE: Technically baseball is America's pastime, but go on.]

Last time I ever waste my money reading Pravda – I mean Deadspin. [ED. NOTE: Deadspin is free.]

STOP THAT STOP THAT STOP YOU GODDAMNED PANSY BALLET-GOING SOCIALIST SOCCER-LOVING FREEDOM HATER!!!!

[ED. NOTE: The remainder of this essay has been deleted as the editors deemed the language employed unsuitable for a family audience.]

Business

Squirrel!: Welcome to the Ricky Bobby School of Management

BusinessPart two of a series.

Ricky Bobby is not a thinker…He is a doer. – Talladega Nights

In part one of this series, we talked about a new analysis that explains how important stupidity is to the modern corporation. Today we’re going to have a look at what this means for you.

In short, despite what you’ve been told your whole life, being smart may not be good for your career.

In some job situations, being smarter, faster, and more rhetorically gifted might also keep you stuck in your current role longer than your peers.

“When you have a lower-level job, being exceptionally good at it is usually a deterrent to getting promoted,” says Lilit Marcus, author of Save the Assistants: A Guide for Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace. For example, “when you’re such a great assistant that your boss has difficulty functioning without you, it means that he or she will keep you on as an assistant as long as possible and will not consider promoting you out of their service.”

You bust your ass, you’re the best performer in the office, and yet you got passed over for a promotion by that useless dolt Johnson, who spends all day on Facebook? Indeed, and now maybe you know why.

I was talking with my friend and colleague J. Stephen O’Brien, who spent years as a senior level consultant for some of the country’s largest corporations. He hid this to say about the process of deciding whom to lay off:

It wasn’t that they targeted smart people, it was that the people they let go tended to be among the very best or very worst performers. The very best performers tended to be the very smartest, or at least the smartest who were unwilling to just go along and keep their mouths shut.

And this is a common phenomenon. You hear it all the time in post-layoff interviews and focus groups. The people left behind are, in virtually every case, flabbergasted that “Mary” of “Bob” or whoever was let go, because they were the very best.

But the very best tend to be both threatening and irritating. They figure out stuff that’s being done wrong, and they want to fix it. When interviewed about why Mary or Bob was let go, the people making that decision usually had something to say along the lines of “not a team player,” “trouble-maker,” “didn’t fit in,” etc. People who worked side-by-side with Mary and Bob didn’t have these impressions, at all. Just the opposite, in fact.

This dynamic helps explain a particular kind of company, one that some of us know all too well. In this company you find smart people, but a) they’re generally quiet, and b) none of them are higher than mid-management. The senior leadership stratum is Ricky Bobby from one end to the other, and anyone lower down the food chain who demonstrates above average intellect is soon out the door. (Fred Spannus does a wonderful job of articulating their particular perspective, and I recommend you pop over and give him a read when you’re done here.)

The irony is that a lot of the former employees JS describes had probably been encouraged to speak up. Be forewarned: it’s a trap. Avoid cultivating a reputation as a “straight-shooter” as you would the galloping herpes. When the bosses say “we really appreciate your honesty,” they’re lying.

In the end, it’s clear that all too many businesses are populated and run by people who, as I have been known to say in business meetings, “aren’t rocket surgeons.” In some cases it seems to work out for them (witness the massive profit numbers generated by companies whose leaders are essentially sociopathic C students). But there’s a cost, and it’s frequently paid by workers who haven’t yet learned to keep their intelligence to themselves.

As I thought about this series over the past few days, my mind kept swinging back around to dogs. You know how dogs don’t really grasp the concept of pointing? You’ll be pointing up a tree and saying “look, buddy, a squirrel!” He’ll be all excited because he knows the word “squirrel,” but since he’s staring at your finger instead what you’re pointing at, he’s completely baffled?

That’s what a lot of business leaders are like. They talk about how important it is to have smart people, even though they’re structured so as to keep smart people out of the company (or at least away from decision making). They bray about creativity, making frequent reference to how important it is to “think outside the box.” Because nothing is more creative than the tiredest cliché in the jargon manual.

But when a truly smart employee stands up and points to a creative idea, like a dog owner to a squirrel in a tree, the “leaders” respond by staring at the finger. And then trying to bite it.

Be brilliant if you must. But if leadership finds out, be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Business

American business: powered by Stupid®

Part one of a series.

Phil Rizzuto: “Hey Yogi I think we’re lost.”

Yogi Berra: “Yeah, but we’re making great time!”

BusinessYou know how certain segments of society think that governments and universities and public school systems ought to be “run like businesses”? And how those same people bitch at length about how messed up their companies are and by the way, their bosses are complete morons. Yeah. Me, too.

Truth is, hardly anything should be run more like a business. Including, you know, businesses. There can be appalling levels of stupidity at work in even the best of companies: counterproductive decision making, breathtaking short-sightedness, a robust commitment to keeping smart people as far away from meaningful authority as possible – these are all too often the hallmarks of real businesses.

But we have to be careful when talking about business and teh stupid, because one often finds oases of pure genius in the midst of the intellectual wasteland. In larger companies, for instance, it’s almost impossible to talk about how things run in the aggregate – you usually need to take the conversation business unit by business unit, work group by work group. I once worked in a Fortune 500 telecom that was, collectively speaking, steeped in every kind of 19th century legacy idiocy you could think of. But Corporate Communications was a model organization. Truly, to this day it’s the best PR group I have ever seen. And within it sat the Employee Communication group. When I arrived, it was (for a variety of reasons, many of them owing to the senior manager in charge), a complete joke, the target of barely concealed snickering on the part of the talented folks around the corner in Media Relations. By the time I left two years later, though, it had earned a great deal of respect from everyone it touched.

So within one narrow silo in the org chart as of the moment I arrived, you had a bad group that was part of a world-class department that was part of a company captive to old, dying ways of thinking. All of which means that yes, there’s lots of stupid, but it’s important to think in nuanced ways about it.

The problem is that I have been writing in such a way as to suggest that stupid is a bad thing. Not so, says a recent analysis.

A recent article in the Journal of Management Studies examines the value of stupidity in successful companies. Yes, I said “value.” For starters, says lead author Mats Alvesson, professor of organization studies at Lund University in Sweden, stupidity can increase efficiency.

In…”A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations” Alvesson and colleague André Spicer explain how what they call “functional stupidity” generally helped get things done. “Critical reflection and shrewdness” were net positives, but when too many clever individuals in an organization raised their hands to suggest alternative courses of action or to ask “disquieting questions about decisions and structures,” work slowed.

I think what we have here is a corporate application of the old adage that “ignorance is bliss.”

The study’s authors found that stupidity, on the other hand, seemed to have a unifying effect. It boosted productivity. People content in an atmosphere of functional stupidity came to consensus more easily, and with that consensus came greater roll-up-our-sleeves enthusiasm for concentrating on the job.

To sum up, stupid people reach consensus quickly and then set about enthusiastically acting on it. I can’t lie, that does have the ring of truth about it. The authors are describing what is known, in management-speak, as a “bias for action.” No word on how stupidity and consensus relate to doing the right things, but one presumes this goes back to the whole “too many clever individuals” problem from that first quote.

This all leads to some disoriented thinking, I fear. Many of us look at top businesses and fancy that their success is a function of intelligence. And we want government bureaucracies and schools, which are less “efficient” and hence less intelligent, to be more like businesses, which we now know owe their accomplishments in large part not to intelligence, but to stupidity.

Which may mean that those organizations we hate aren’t how they are because their people are idiots, but just the opposite. They’re too smart for their own good. They’re so worried about doing the right things the right way that they never get off their butts and do anything.

Now I’m thinking about the old management catchphrase from some years back – don’t work harder, work smarter. Which is precisely the wrong advice. By all means work harder, and if possible, work dumber.

My head hurts. I’m going to go have a couple of stiff drinks before I get back to work….

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligionLegislators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. That bill has now been turfed, but we can probably expect similar moves in the future.

An Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, reveals just how far from the nation’s roots we have traveled on the subject of separating church and state and retaining the nation’s neutrality when it comes to how Americans chose to practice their respective religions.

According to the survey, 34 percent of Americans would favor making Christianity their official state religion while less than half (47 percent) oppose the concept. Thirty-two percent of those polled indicated that they would also favor a constitutional amendment that would make Christianity the official religion of the United States with just over half (52 percent) opposing the notion.

Leaving aside for a second the abject failure of millions of Americans to grasp the most basic precepts of their Constitution, this poll actually provides more questions than answers. Lots more. And in truth, these are questions with roots that are hundreds of years old.

If you’ve visited America anytime during the past couple of centuries, you realize that the nation has something of a church and state problem. You can argue the details all you like, but the bottom line is that the Framers of the Constitution set the stage for controversy by being too damned vague. I mean, “separation of Church and State” – what the hell does that really mean, anyway? We have these problems before us today because Jefferson, Madison and Co. didn’t have the basic good sense to insist on specificity, which is odd, given that all the Founding Fathers were pretty clearly fundamentalists. As, one assumes, were the Founding Mothers. They just toss terms like “God” and “Church” and “separation” around like we all know what they mean, when clearly we don’t.

So here’s what we have to do. Let’s forget separation of Church and State and accept that we are One Nation Under God, In God We damned sure Do Trust, and that we are a Christian Nation® (this part is crucial). Let’s get past all that soulless secular humanism and By God establish a state religion. Better yet, let’s charge Congress with the job, since so many of the members of that august body have thought long and hard on the subject already.

Here’s how it works. The U.S. will adopt as our national religion that which Congress can agree on sufficiently to pass by a two-thirds majority, and by this I mean they must pass each plank of the resolution by that margin. Understand, “God” is way too vague, and you can’t very well build a moral society around vagaries. We have to insist that Congress agree on what God is and how He (She) should be worshiped.

For instance, we’ll need Congress to decide whether the Bible is intended as a metaphorical guide or as literal, journalistic fact. Was Mary literally a virgin? Did Abraham literally live 900 years? Did Moses literally tie his ass to a tree and walk 40 miles? These are not small issues, and if they are not settled by legislative fiat we risk another millennium of sectarian strife.

Other issues we’ll need Congress to rule on:

  • Should baptism be by sprinkling as an infant or by immersion once one is born again? And, how quickly can we set in place an emergency re-baptism program for all those people that had it done wrong the first time?
  • Is God a man, a woman, both, or neither?
  • What race is God? This will be important when we do physical and artistic representations of Him/Her/It.
  • What about those places where the Bible appears to contradict itself, as in Genesis 1 & 2? Are we to take these as tests by God, or error by monks, or what? Confusion in one’s prime legal texts can lead to all sorts of mischief, as I think is more than evident from the fact that we’re even having this little chat to start with.
  • We’ll need a plan to transfer power from the President to Jesus when He makes his triumphant return to Earth after the Rapture.
  • We’ll also need a policy of engagement for Armageddon. When do we launch the nukes, and at whom? Once we know who’s on God’s side and who’s on the side of Satan, shouldn’t we just go ahead and launch a pre-emptive strike?
  • How old is that darned Earth, anyway? I mean, it’s important to know what to tell kids about dinosaurs if the world is only 6000 years old.
  • What the hell do we do about those damned Jews, who have made clear that they aren’t on board with Jesus as the Son of God? Do we wait and let Jesus deal with them himself or should we set about making them either believe what we believe or leave?
  • And don’t even get me started on Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and other varieties of Satanist. If we’re truly a Christian land, is it right that their blasphemy should be tolerated, and worse, that they should be able to benefit from social programs paid for by Right-thinking Christians?
  • Should the Office of Homeland Godliness be a Cabinet-level appointment reporting to the President? Should the President be the de jure head of the Church? Should it be a separate branch of government insulated from the meddling influence of future secular legislators, and especially from Satanic minions on the Supreme Court? Or, for that matter, should we rework the government and Constitution so that we replace the democracy with a Christian theocracy?
  • What should our foreign policy toward non-Christian nations be like? Some of them are Godless, but strategically important (Britain, Canada, anybody with oil, etc.) Should a nation’s relationship with God be a consideration in conferring most-favored-nation status?
  • There’s also the woman problem. Are they to be submissive to their husbands, as dictated by some, or are they to be accepted as full partners in God’s Church of America? Can they be ministers, for example? And while we’re on the subject of troublesome sorts, is the Church going to take the “accepting” stance toward gays or are they all going to hell? If the latter, should we get them on their way or let God deal with them in His own good time?
  • Finally, what about the athletics programs? Back in the ’80s in Wilmington, NC, there was a huge hullaballoo over – of all things – softball. The local Mormon church signed up for the city-run league, causing the other churches to pitch a galloping hissy fit. Said one spokesman, “we do not feel we can extend the hand of Christian fellowship to people who do not worship the same god we do.” The Mormons stood their ground, those who worshiped a different god from the Mormons stood theirs, and the city was forced to cancel the whole damned league. But that was over 20 years ago – we’re past all that now, right? Nuh-uh. The same kind of conflict broke out again last year in Pennsylvania.

Give me another hour or two and I’ll come up with more questions, but you get the idea. The success of a faith-based government hinges on getting these issues settled and chiseled into stone sooner rather than later. If Congress leaves wiggle room and unanswered questions we’ll be at each other’s throats until the Second Coming, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Framers intended.

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An earlier iteration of this post originally appeared on January 20, 2010.

CATEGORY: Guns

New NRA proposal doesn’t go far enough: has Wayne LaPierre submitted to the liberal gun control lobby?

CATEGORY: GunsThe National Rifle Association has issued a recommendation for safeguarding America’s schools.

A task force working for the National Rifle Association recommended Tuesday that at least one armed guard be stationed on every campus in America as part of a three-month review on how to make schools safer in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

[sigh]

Why is the NRA soft-pedaling here? Why is it refusing to face up to the single most important data point in the history of American school shootings?

Dear Wayne LaPierre: Here’s the inconvenient fact that you’re skirting. In all of America’s school shootings, from Columbine to the present, every single one of the victims has been unarmed. NO ARMED STUDENT HAS EVER BEEN KILLED OR WOUNDED.

Armed security guards? Armed teachers? Blah blah blah. You want to put an end to school shootings, ARM THE STUDENTS. Every single one of them.

Until you do so, it’s clear that you have no commitment to solving the problem and safeguarding our nation’s most precious asset – its future.

The seven kinds of rape (thx to the GOP for sorting this out)

Back in the old days rape was rape. Or, at most, there were two kinds. There was the “put on a ski mask and rape her at knifepoint” type and there was the “she said she was 18″ statutory type. Which wasn’t really rape at all, because, I mean, LOOK at her. And she really wanted it.

These days it’s more complicated. There’s ALL KINDS of rape, and it’s important to understand the differences because some of them have distinctly religious implications. That is, if you’re being raped, it helps to be aware of whether or not it’s God’s will, for instance. That way you can know whether or not you should be enjoying it (in a holy spirit way, not a sins of the flesh way, you whore) and you can even be thinking about whether or not you’ll be blessed with a pregnancy. Maybe you can even start thinking about baby names.

Brainwrap over at Kos has updated the handy-dandy Republican Rape Advisory Chart you may have seen floating around on Facebook. It explains the different kinds of rape and provides certifying information from Republican candidates for elected office so that you know it’s valid and not some shit that a bozo just made up.

Please share this with any friends you think might benefit from it. You know, like potential rapists or undecided women voters.

Elections are educational! 14 things we wouldn't have known without Campaign 2012

Everybody seems to be so negative about campaign season. They hate the ads, they hate the mudslinging, they hate the lying, they hate the candidates.

Not me – I LOVE campaign season. Why? Because it’s an opportunity to learn stuff that not only didn’t I know before, but that I’d never learn any other way.

For instance, look at some of the Science lessons I’ve learned in the past few months:

And what about History? I’d never have learned this one:

  • Slavery was a blessing in disguise for black people. (Granted, in parts of the country students can learn that most slaveowners were kind and that many blacks preferred being slaves, but it’s nice to have this kind of high-level, official validation.)

Many schools have slipped in their responsibility to teach Civics, but our candidates for public office are doing what they can to plug the gap:

How about Economics? God knows we need to learn how to be more fiscally responsible.

Then there’s Engineering:

And Behavioral Psychology:

And, of course, Political Science:

Finally, Geography:

  • You don’t have to share a border with a nation that has coasts on three large bodies of water in order to be their gateway to the sea.

We’ve got a couple weeks left and I’m carrying my notebook with me everywhere I go.I feel certain that I’m not through learning interesting and important lessons about our wonderful world.

Announcing a new policy: I'm going to slap you in the lips.

I had a small disagreement with a hotel yesterday.

I had booked for three nights, but a change of plans required me to cut the trip short and come home a day early. As the clerk was processing the change, she said that she’d be refunding the third night, minus a “15% administrative fee.” Now, I know that changes like this don’t manage themselves magically, and I understand that I was inconveniencing them a tad, so I didn’t put up a fight. However, I won’t be back. Continue reading

NFL announces new fan promotion: YOU make the call. In the Super Bowl!

In an attempt to quell growing fan unrest over the job being done by its replacement officials, the NFL today announced a new promotion it expects to increase public engagement with the national pastime. Commissioner Roger Goodell says the YOU MAKE THE CALL! contest will randomly select nine lucky fans to officiate Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

The contest hearkens back to the old You Make the Call series, where the TV audience was presented with an actual game situation and asked to decide the correct call. Continue reading

UPDATED: Waiting for a package: delivery guarantees deciphered #wtf

I ordered something from an online retailer last week and in checkout I selected the 3-7 day delivery option. As a public service, I thought I’d take a few moments of the time I’m spending sitting by the mailbox to deconstruct some shipping terminology for you.

Here’s the term: Guaranteed delivery in 3-7 business days. Seems straightforward enough. But what does it mean specifically?

  1. Start with the “3.” That part is from Marketing. Continue reading