When reaching out to better understand my fellow Americans, facts are non-negotiable

Reality has facts, however poorly we see them sometimes. Reaching out to understand someone else’s experience requires common ground, and for me, that common ground must be based upon a shared understanding of objective facts.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how I was living in a bubble that distorted my perspective on America. The point was that, while I’m living in a bubble, I’m hardly the only one, and I gave an example of a grandfather from Vigo County, Indiana, who felt that his America was populated by “real people,” as opposed to the presumably fake or inauthentic people in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago. But after reading several excellent comments on that article that provided suggestions how to reach people – listen, talk with instead of at, stop dismissing, denigrating, and demonizing – I realized that there is a limit to my ability, even to my willingness, to reach out and have a meaningful discussion.

Facts. They exist. And they’re a non-negotiable entry point for any bubble-piercing attempts I’m going to be involved in.

Let me give a few examples of what I mean. Continue reading

You have to be OK with a lot of awful stuff to vote for Donald Trump

You don’t have to believe everything Donald Trump does to vote for him, but you do have to be OK with everything he believes and everything he’s done.

Image Credit: DiversityInc.com

Image Credit: DiversityInc.com

You don’t have to be a liar to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with lying.

You don’t have to be a hypocrite to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with hypocrisy.

You don’t have to enjoy mocking the disabled to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with other people mocking the disabled.

You don’t have to be a narcissist to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with narcissism.

You don’t have to be an adulterer to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with adultery.

You don’t have to be a misogynist to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with misogyny.

You don’t have to be a sexual assaulter to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with sexual assault. Continue reading

Rolling Stone’s UVA story flogged as flawed — and rightly so

Magazine’s story on college assault claim burdened with shaky sources, biased choice of UVA

Critics are panning Rolling Stone’s 9,000-word account of a sexual assault, an account that preceded protests at the University of Virginia and vandalism of the fraternity house at which, the article claims, the assault occurred.

The chief complaints: First, Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Nov. 19 story about a woman identified as “Jackie” relied too heavily on the woman making the accusation and failed to show attempts to interview those accused. Second, Erdely “shopped” for a context that best fit her own agenda in proposing and crafting the story. Here’s Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple:

Rolling Stone thought it had found the “right” campus and the right alleged crime: Following her Nov. 19 story on Jackie’s alleged assault in a dark room at the Phi Kappa Psi house, the university suspended all fraternity activities and a national spotlight fell on the issue of campus rape. Continue reading

It’s SchadenFriday! Who really got theirs this week?

You want to get away with this? Then be this guy. Otherwise, stop.

Sadly, nobody really.  Surprising no one, I’m sure, it can be terribly difficult to find tales of people who actually get the full spectrum what’s coming to them. That’s the degree of trouble that causes me the most perverse dance-a-jig-on-a-grave glee. Failing that, I’ll gladly accept for my prurient amusement any troubles at all for folks and institutions that, in my estimation, deserve that and so much more. This week we’ve got six stories that detail people who are at least feeling the heat for one kind of asshattery or another, or should be sometime soon.

Christian family home after ill-fated Pacific voyage to escape US tyranny

First up, we’ve got the Gastonguay family. This would be a real rib-tickler if not for one key point…children were endangered. I’ll settle for a round of hoots and jeers. Why is it even remotely amusing? Well, while I do give Ma and Pa props for having the courage of their convictions, I have a huge problem with a) inflicting those ill-informed convictions on children when b) such courage puts the lives of those children in jeopardy.

For one thing, these miscreants (if reckless endangerment of children isn’t a crime, it damned well should be) have the problem ass-backward. Government isn’t interfering with religion. Proponents of one particular religion, particularly the faithful in an especially virulent strain of that religion are interfering with government. Facts matter.

Ma feels deeply wronged because they have to pay taxes for things they don’t agree with, specifically, abortion provided for by Obamacare. Funny thing about that, there’s no truth in it.

For that matter, cry me a river when it comes to paying taxes for things you don’t agree with.  Maybe those of us who are against wars of aggression rife with “conflict of interest,” dare I say greed, should be exempted from paying taxes because that’s just not fair? After all, we have a bit of a history of killing hundreds of thousands of people for trumped up reasons, and those people happen to include civilians, women, children.

And puh-lease!  The state is controlling religion?  News flash:  nobody forces churches to file for tax exempt status to keep them however ineffectually, out of the political arena.  Smarter churches have even realized that the tax exemption is basically the government bribe to shut the hell up.  I don’t think you get to collect the bribe and still complain about being regulated.  Want to talk about having real government intrusions into your faith?  First, consider the Navajo.

Poor dear also feels, “”The Bible is pretty clear.” Really, now? Is that why the history of Christianity is a history of bloody schism and war resulting in no less than 200 denominations? Clear as mother’s milk, it seems. So clear, for that matter, that Skeptic’s Annotated Bible has a heyday with all that crystal clarity.  The Bible may deserve praise for a number of reasons, but clarity just isn’t one of them.

The just desserts? Poor Pa Cretin will now have to get a job to pay back the government to the tune of $10,000. Now if only someone would bring criminal charges against them for endangering their children and see to it that those kids are raised in a safe home, regardless of the religion (or lack of) espoused by the foster parents.

Tenn. judge changes infant’s name from ‘Messiah’

Next up, we have a judge who is actually either stupid enough or genuinely corrupt enough to say out loud that her ruling boils down to, “because Jesus.” For now, I hope she’s squirming from all the attention. I’ll be much happier when her ruling is overturned. I will be ecstatic if she never gets to darken the bench again with her oppressive bigotry. Bonus points? There’s some indication that this is an issue where the left and libertarians have a chance of reaching agreement.

Charges: W.Va. judge tried to frame ex-mistress’ husband

For now we’re still stuck at the stage of allegations and accusations. Should it turn out this poor schmo has been unjustly targeted and that he’s really a nice, upstanding guy, I’ll feel bad for feeling good. I won’t hold my breath. Should it turn out that this man actually is a feculent lump of injustice disgracing his robe, I really hope he has to spend some time behind bars.  This story makes Newt Gingrich and Anthony Wiener look like ardent defenders of the sanctity of marriage by comparison.

Rick Santorum accused of soliciting illegal campaign contributions

This story should surprise nobody that already suspects Santorum of schmuckitude in the first dregree. It really would just be a matter of time that this walking conflation of stupidity and malice would cross a line where money is concerned. Oh, please, please, please let there be evidence that would grace a prison with his presence.

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

I really want to be clear here. It’s not the difficulties of some nebulous “NSA” (as though it doesn’t comprise flesh and blood people), or even of people I’m mostly willing to give the benefit of the doubt to when it comes to good intentions and service to country, that make me merry when doused in sunlight. It’s the death throes of misbegotten policy that hit the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned. The more that comes out about NSA overreach and outright incompetence, the closer we get (I hope!) to drawing some clear and proper boundaries around their actions and those of the government in general. Just don’t bank on it coming from empty (or worse, misdirecting) posturing from the POTUS. After all, only three days after announcing that he wants an independent body to provide some oversight he suggests that known liar and policy apologist Clapper would be just the guy to set up that “independent” body. I can’t wait until the next Snowden release. Eventually we’ll hit a tipping point where we must do something adequate to remedy these violations of our constitutional rights.

Photo: Hooters Restaurants in San Diego Won’t Serve Bob Filner

Finally, SOMEBODY has to pay a pound of flesh now, sort of.  Pa Gastonguay’s $10k bill is ultimately far more satisfying, but it lacks a certain immediacy.  Right now, America’s new poster boy for misogynistic douchebaggery, Filner, is barred from America’s most mainstream meatmarket’s locations in San Diego. I’m sure he would have gone just for the sliders, right? Oh, wait, I guess that depends on whether that’s a euphemism. Seriously, when you get called out by Hooter’s for disrespecting women, you’re doing it terribly wrong.

—-

Image credit: twm1340 @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Herman Cain is unfit to be President

I have no idea whether Herman Cain did or did not assault the four women who have accused him of sexual assault. But something he said during his press conference last Tuesday has me very suspicious. According to news reports, Cain said the following at least twice:

I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period.

Why does this statement make me suspicious, you ask? Simply put, any man who makes this claim and isn’t the second coming of Jesus is a liar.

I don’t know a single man who hasn’t acted inappropriately with regard to a woman (or another man, if gay) at some point in his adult life. Some men brag about their sexual conquests to their buddies or on social media. Some mime sexual acts to make their boorish buddies laugh. Some quote inappropriate comedians at socially awkward times. Some reveal personal secrets they were told by a woman in confidence. Continue reading