Reader Response

I got the following reply from a reader over my F@$% Fairness blog post.  I will post a link to my original blog at the bottom.  I actually encourage any of you that have intelligent arguments to make about what I have written to make them.  One of the models for this blog is Andrew Sullivan’s.  I like that he doesn’t have comments on his blog, which usually just lead to partisan bickering and name calling.  But what he does do is post the most intelligent reader comments that are in disagreement with him as the “dissent of the day.”  I do allow comments here
, but I must approve them before I post them, not to stifle debate, but to prevent the kind of ignorance that I believe actually is counterproductive to real debate.  Anyway here is the readers comment:

Jeff, There’s something overlooked in your comments, at least what’s expressed here. Trust funds, stocks/bonds, bank accounts, etc, are different than ranches. The death tax has destroyed more natural resources than all the bulldozers ever built. Those who inherit farms and ranches are forced to sell because, unless they’ve won the lottery, the only way they can pay the death tax is to sell their farm/ranch to a developer. So open space, and all its benefits provided to society … aquifer infiltration, riparian areas, wetlands, wildlife habitat, carbon sinks, oxygen production, aesthetics, rainfall runoff reduction and its cleaning, food, fiber, shelter, recreation, etc, etc, etc … are soon eliminated by becoming covered by asphalt and rooftops. And those who say that “proper planning” can escape this tax are, under certain market timings, swings and changes, full of shit. So if you want to help the environment, help keep open spaces open. There are ways to accomplish this, via carefully constructed and regulated conservation easements, etc, etc, but our “leadership” in BOTH parties won’t listen and/or are too dumb to understand, or has not so far. Finally, always remember there are two kinds of landowners: those who take from the land, and those who give to the land. Penalize the former. But, the latter should be encouraged via more appropriate policies than exist today. There’s much more to this discussion that is too complicated for my email skills, but happy to discuss any time.

I think this is a completely valid point, and one that I overlooked.  However, the only thing that I would like to add is that my original blog was more about the hypocrisy of people that are against the Estate Tax so that their children benefit from wealth, and also against social welfare of any kind for other children, and not necessarily a response to the Estate Tax itself.  If this was not made clear, I apologize.  One always realizes when one writes that, unless one would write till the end of time, given all the nuances and shades of gray of each subject, there are going to be small holes in every argument.  Here is a link to my original blog:

Goodbye is Too Good a Word: Eric Cantor Loses

The above link is to Andrew Sullivan’s blog The Dish.  It is in itself a summary of different reactions by bloggers to Eric Cantor’s loss in the republican primary and what this may mean for our political future.  He lost to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat.  Eric Cantor was a total douche bag, but the fact that he was beat by even someone more insanely right wing is disconcerting, especially because Cantor already was already a puppet for far right interests.   However, that is something we can worry about in the future.  For now it is time to laugh at his fall.  Goodbye to the nothing man.  The following link is to an article at Vice that gives reasons why we should all be glad that Eric Cantor lost:

As the article begins:

For those of you who don’t know, Representative Eric Cantor, majority leader and second-most powerful Republican in the House, has just fucked off into that good night at the behest of Virginia voters. If you feel like you hardly got a chance to know Cantor in the first place, that’s because there’s really nothing to know about him as a person. He’s a politician who “reportedly has no hobbies, but enjoys James Bond movies.” 

Andrew Sullivan on Dick Cheney

An interesting post again by Andrew Sullivan.  This post is about Dick Cheney and immorality of things that were done while he was in power.  Remember that Sullivan supported the Bush administration when they first came to power.  I find it interesting to examine another human being and find a worldview so far away from you own.  Same country, same species, different universe.

The Importance of Art History

I thought this was an interesting post from  Someone is arguing how an art history degree, despite being an easy punchline for politicians, is actually a valuable skill in this image driven age.  Just some food for thought.  

Minimum Wage Debate

I was reading Andrew Sullivan’s always interesting blog The Dish today, which I have mentioned many times.  He had a post today about the minimum wage debate.  One reader wrote in that he worked at a successful business and that he would gladly hire several teenagers as helpers if there was no minimum wage, if only he could pay them $3 to $5 an hour.  A readers response made me laugh:

If he really needs to hire a helper for his business, he would do so, regardless of the minimum wage. But his business, he says, is “very successful,” so he’s obviously prospering without a young mentee. He would, however, as some sort of public service, be happy to pay “two or three teens” less than the minimum wage to work for him. Okay then, let’s take him at his word – if he could pay two teens $5/hour or three teens $3/hour, why can’t he afford to pay one teen $7.50/hour – or even the $15/hour implied by three teens at $5/hour? Since he won’t suffer with 3, 2, 1 or no hires, as he says, the minimum wage should make no difference. So why the discrepancy? Well, that would probably be because he’s completely full of crap.

Alec Baldwin, Swearing, and Vampires  

I just read the piece by Andrew Sullivan up above.  I love Sullivan’s writing and even when I disagree with him I feel like I learn something.  Even in this piece, where I disagree on some points that he makes, he questions himself. It is the rare writer these days that is unafraid to dabble in uncertainty.  

The piece is about Alec Baldwin and how some of the vulgar things he says make him an anti-gay bigot.  There is a text message that Baldwin sends later in the piece that I do believe is out of line.  Writing takes time and even when angry there must be some deliberate thought put into it.  However, let’s just take the thing he is being vilified for at this moment.  Alec Baldwin recently went on a tirade against a photographer where he used some pretty vulger and hateful language.    

My gut just tells me that we have to learn to differentiate between real hate and one temporarily losing one’s shit in a stressful situation.  We also have to learn to not respond to language, but to sift through it and find the real meaning behind something.  One can maybe or maybe not see a pattern emerge over time and make a value judgment, but something said in anger one time should not doom an entire life. 

I swear, a lot.  I have said things that would make women, children, and grown men blush.  I find a certain poetry in swearing.  Watch the show Deadwood where swearing is mixed with Victorian language and occasionally iambic pentameter.  Listen to George Carlin where the right swear word is used in just the right place for devastating effect to get a point across.  My dad told me about a piece by the comedian Louis Black where he talks about swearing.  I am paraphrasing but Black says something along the lines of, “when you lose your job it’s not like you are going to say ‘oh horse feathers’.” 

When angry, or if one is just having fun, one very well might swear.  If someone says fuck do they necessarily mean to have sex?  Of course not, as that word has about a million meanings when used in different ways.  You might say about someone, “that fuck”.  In that way you are basically saying someone is a jerk and it has nothing to do with the word’s original sexual connotations.  Or you might say, “oh fuck”, as in I’m in trouble now!  I believe that certain swear words that have homophobic origins have been divorced in people’s minds from their original intent.  If you say someone is a cocksucker, you very well might mean that they are an asshole. 

The more meanings that a word has the less it should have the power to offend.  The word has actually been devalued as a word of hate.  This is a good thing.  The problem with the N word is that, see I can’t even type it, is it has never lost its original intent and therefore is still a word of hate.  It can’t be construed in many other ways other than to say something derogatory about black people.  And that is a problem, for the more you put words up in an ivory tower where they can’t be touched, the more real world hurt they can actually cause when used. 

I’m not necessarily defending or attacking Alec Baldwin. I’m just saying that certain words, especially ones that have been pervasive, and are often divorced from their original meaning, do not necessarily translate into hating a whole type of people.  The term homophobe means that one has fear of or contempt for homosexuals.  Bigot means that one is intolerant of those that are different.   Those are quite heavy trips to lay down upon someone, if we are only talking about the one situation, for swearing. My gut tells me that he might be someone with ego or anger issues, but he probably doesn’t hate gay people.  He is probably far more in need of meditation or anger management classes than in learning tolerance for those different than himself.  However, I don’t know him and I could be wrong.  We are all free to decide in this life. 

And there are two other problems.  The first is, look how much time I have spent writing about this situation.  I could have been writing about global warming, gay marriage, drone warfare, or any other number of things more important.  I believe in economic and social justice for all, and I have just spent the better part of an hour talking about a celebrity meltdown.  When we allow ourselves to be easily offended over meaningless controversies, we take our eye off of the ball of far more important things.  The press thrives on this.  It loves to entertain and distract us so that it doesn’t have to do its real job which is to keep us informed.  That’s how it keeps people tuned in while allowing them to spend as little money as possible on real investigative reporting. 

The second is what is wrong with our culture that we are so invested in the personal lives of celebrities?  Watch TMZ someday and ask yourself how we allowed people like that to thrive in our culture.  Many of you don’t believe in vampires, but there they are on our TV screens every single day.  Something like that can only function because it has the interest of enough people.  How did we get to a point where celebrity gossip has become a currency in which so many people trade?  And yes, I’m partially complicit because I just spent an hour writing this piece.  We all need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves if this is the best use of our time.  Anyway, I’ve got much more to say on all these topics, but unfortunately, I’m out of fucking time.  (See how fucking there has nothing to do with sex?)   

The Strongest Storm on Record?

Andrew Sullivan has an article on his website talking about what might possibly be the strongest storm on record.  The article also talks about how this can be linked to warming ocean temperatures as the result of climate change.

If this storm actually ends up doing the kind of worst case scenario damage that it is capable of, there will be no joy in saying I told you so.  If lives are ruined and homes destroyed, there will simply be sadness.  Not only for the results, but in knowing that we have as country have done so much to ensure that this storm exists, and that there will be more to come like it.

I apologize to those of you that got two versions of this post through email.  I don’t mean to be clogging up your inbox.  I am having some trouble the last few days with the wordpress link function.  Thanks for being patient.  


The Tea Party as Religion

The Tea Party as Religion

I know that I link to Andrew Sullivan a lot on here.  I think he has one of the best blogs period.  And I think that he understands where conservatives jumped the shark about as well as anyone.  He is actually someone that wants there to be a strong conservative party, although one that is moderate, modern, and sensible.  Although he is to the right of me on many issues, I always learn something from reading what he writes.  I’m glad he is out there.