Can’t we all just get along?

Can’t we all just get along?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that I follow politics.  I like to say that I follow politics like most people follow sports.  They have a favorite team, to some extent live and die by their team, buy their jerseys and caps and whatnot, support them in any way they can.  My team is Bernie Sanders, but that’s irrelevant to what I have to say today.

I am sick and tired of the discourse that surrounds politics in this country.  The mainstream media is definitely implicated here, but I’m more concerned with the person to person conversations on social media.  Nobody wants to hear anyone else’s ideas, whether a Bernie supporter, a Trump supporter, or Hillary, or whoever.  Everybody thinks they have it totally figured out already, and there’s not a damn thing in the world that could convince them of anything.

First, to the “Bernie Bros”:  If you guys had any sense whatsoever of the ethics and reasoning behind Bernie’s campaign, you would never use sexist slurs against supporters of another candidate.  Bernie’s message is about equality, first and foremost.

Second, to the Hillary fans:  Stop calling all Bernie supporters ignorant, clueless, entitled, young… the list goes on.  You are presupposing so much about a fan base that is as diverse as America itself.  Bernie supporters come from all walks of life, from different geographical areas, different income tax brackets, different nationalities.  I’m sure you’re probably tired of hearing that you’re supporting Hillary only because she’s a woman, just like I am tired of hearing that I’m ignorant and entitled, which I am neither.

Finally, to the Trump supporters:  I respect the fact that you’re willing to go all in on a fringe, anti-establishment candidate.  I get it.  You love the fact that he speaks his mind, that he shuns political correctness.  Believe me, I get it.  I get so tired of the regressive left always tiptoeing around words like “radical islam” and “terrorist” and “Muslim extremist.”  Your gut tells you that he will be strong in the face of threats from around the world, whether Muslim, Mexican, Chinese, Iranian, or whatever.  I get that, too.  But he won’t.  He has already been co-opted by the Republican machine.  Donald Trump doesn’t care about anything but Donald Trump.  He doesn’t care what happens when he becomes president.  He just wants to win.  That’s all he has ever wanted to do, and he will say whatever it takes to get that to happen.  And all this talk about his campaign being self-financed, well, it isn’t.  He loaned a bunch of money to his campaign for the primary, but even he can’t afford a general election campaign.  You are being lied to and manipulated by a very slick (and sick) guy.  It’s not too late to recognize that and find a better candidate.

Lastly, to everyone, can we PLEASE start treating each other with respect out there?  We’re all humans, we all live here, and for better or worse we all have to deal with the election and the consequences of who we elect.  So let’s try to be a bit more civil, shall we?

On that note, the election doesn’t stop at the presidency!  Find out who the senators and representatives are that best reflect your values and vote for them too!  Find out who is running for city, county, state positions!  It is your duty as an American citizen to be involved in the democratic process, so by all means, fulfill your duty as an American.  DO YOUR RESEARCH AND VOTE EVERY ELECTION!

Ok, that’s it for this time.  Patiently awaiting Oregon and Kentucky primary results.

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In Response: The Comical Conservative

CC

 

This meme popped into my Facebook feed today.  I wrote a comment on the post that I am going to publish here, because it explains about as well as I am capable why I support Bernie Sanders.

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Bernie supporters understand this:

1) They know it doesn’t mean free. It means that the corporate world pays to train their employees, rather than their employees having to pay for it themselves, in most cases taking on absurd amounts of debt just to be viable in the marketplace.

2) It has nothing to do with entitlement. It has to do with the capital markets paying for ALL the costs of doing business, not just what shows up on their income statement.

3) Actually, you can. See FDR’s administration and the US circa 1950-1975, approximately.

4) The rich are not 100% responsible, but they are to a great extent. The rich have rigged the system through lobbyists and corporate campaign contributions so that it is increasingly difficult to gain upward financial mobility in the USA. They are also responsible for conditions that cause certain people to work 2-3 or more jobs just to eat and have a place to live (read: totally miserable).

5) Not sure what you’re talking about here, but America IS great. It is great right now, despite what you and Trump and whatever other pundits say. Democratic Socialism will make America better. When basic needs are met, such as food, health care, enough money to get by every month and maybe even save a little (aka a livable wage), life gets a lot better for hundreds of millions of people.  Crime goes down.  The murder rate goes down.  Social and political involvement increases.  Art flourishes.  People start to be able to live rich, meaningful lives.

It’s a Bad Time To Be an Aging Rockstar

It’s a Bad Time To Be an Aging Rockstar

Today, the world found out another of its cherished rock and roll icons has passed away.  Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles, has passed away due to a lethal combination of illnesses.  I must admit, possibly at the expense of my own ridicule by the hipsters of the world, that Glenn’s death hit me a lot harder than David Bowie’s did.  I was never a big Bowie fan, but I love me some Eagles.

Most Eagles songs I really like.  A few have been overplayed, as is true of any classic rock radio staple, but remain great nonetheless.  There are a few stinkers in there, like everyone with a career as long as theirs.  But there are few Eagles songs that I LOVE.  Forget the Beatles, these guys could write songs.  “I Can’t Tell You Why,” “Take It To The Limit,” “One of These Nights,” all brilliant work.  “Hotel California” too is an amazing piece of music.  How many songs do you know where the progression is 8 chords long and includes both A major and A minor, without a trace of irony?

Please join me tonight in toasting a drink of your choice to the memory of Glenn Frey, and a bucket list item that will go unchecked.

Rest in peace, Glenn.  You were one of the good ones.

 

“You know I’ve always been a dreamer
And it’s so hard to change
But the dreams I’ve seen lately
Keep on turnin’ out, and burnin’ out,
And turnin’ out the same

So put me on the highway
Show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time.”

Comparative Religion for the Modern Era

Comparative Religion for the Modern Era

What’s happening out there?  I’ve been slacking on my news intake lately.  It seems to go in waves – sometimes thirsting for it, other times exhausted by it.  I’ve been further annoyed that some of my favorite NPR programs keep talking about football.  If I wanted football, I’d listen to sports talk radio.  But, I digress.

I’ve been thinking about religion a lot lately, mostly since the San Bernadino shooting.  I happened to be in southern California when that shooting happened, spending a lot of time in a hotel room by myself, so I totally overdosed on the news surrounding that event.  I saw the early reports of three shooters, I saw the horrific scene of the black SUV that was shot up all to hell, and I saw what turned out to be two radicalized Muslims who, so we were told, were the masterminds behind the deaths of 14 people at a social services center.  I have seen reports recently that suggest that it was a setup, that the two Muslims we all now recognize were patsies, but I don’t want to get into that here.  I have so little knowledge of the ability for anyone to pull off something like that, I don’t even want to speculate.  I would like to avoid becoming a member of the Tin Hat Society for now.

Since that particular shooting, the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US has reached ever-increasing heights thanks mostly to certain famous GOP presidential candidates.  In the wake of all this rhetoric, it occurred to me that I know basically nothing about Islam.  I don’t know anything about what Muslims believe.  So, what better time than now, what better place than here, to explore the subject, learn a little something about it, and share it with you guys.

Before I continue, I want to preface this by saying that I am not here to say anything about what we as a nation should or shouldn’t be doing with Muslims, or Syrian refugees, or whatever.  I am here to educate myself first, you guys next, and hopefully we can all come to our own conclusions, and hopefully more educated conclusions.  Maybe I’ll explore that a bit later, but for now I would like to stay as objective as possible.

In my research on Islam, the first thing that I noticed is that I got really bored.  I’m not gonna lie, I got totally bored.  But, I persevered, for my sake and yours.  The second thing I noticed is that there are a lot of similarities between Islam and Christianity; a LOT of them. Allow me to mention a few of those similarities.

Islam and Christianity both believe that –

  • There is one God, and only one. Islam, which began about 600 years after Christianity, believes that both are originated from the same God, but is itself something of an update.
  • The purpose of man is to worship God.
  • Their primary book (Quran or Bible) is the literal, divine word of God as revealed to His prophets. The Quran acknowledges the Bible as the literal, divine word of God also, though the Quran would override any conflicting passages in the Bible.
  • Angels are a real thing and subservient to God.
  • The world as we know it ends in a day of revelation and judgment, whereby “good” people go to “heaven” and “bad” people go to “hell.” A primary tenet of both religions is that non-belief in God is an immediate disqualification for being a “good” person.
  • Both allow for immediate forgiveness of any and all sins upon repentance.
  • A personal expression of belief in the One True God is the key to converting to both religions, as well as instant qualification as a “good” person worthy of “heaven”.
  • Prayer is direct and personal communication with God.
  • Eternal life is a thing. Except with Allah, he has the ability to end you at his discretion.  By extension of being omnipresent and omniscient, God probably does too, but to my knowledge the Bible does not expressly grant him this ability.
  • Disapprobation, or the willingness to condemn others on moral grounds. Some people of both religions take this idea further than others.
  • There are more variations than I can count. (Catholics, protestants, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, you get the idea.  Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Twelver Shias, Ahmaddiya, the Sevenrrs, Nizaris, Ismailis, and so on.)

Lots of similarities, right?  I was raised a Christian, so many of these features of Islam are familiar to me.  However, one prominent feature of Islam that is in direct contrast with Christianity is that Islamic law does not differentiate between church and government.  Jesus was quoted as saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; an unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).  Christians in America, for the most part, are willing to let their church be their church, and the government be their government, ne’er the twain shall meet.

The most obvious and difficult difference is the concept of Jihad.  This is certainly not a pillar of the Christian faith, though Christians throughout history have been involved in their share of wars and conquests.  Most modern Christians at least have rejected violence as a necessary part of their religious experience.

The literal definition of Jihad in Arabic is “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to perservere.” [1]  The Quran refers to it in the context of struggling for God, or on His behalf.  In practice, for Muslims, the word has two meanings.  One is the “inner struggle,” the struggle to be more like God, and one is the “outer struggle,” the conquest of infidels.  There is a consensus among Islamic scholars that the outer struggle has always held a connotation of warfare against the enemy, the enemy being anyone who does not practice Islam.

This is where my research has ended for the time being.  I would like to leave you with someone else’s blog.  Sam Harris has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is a vocal critic of Islamic extremists.  He believes, and I concur, that it is time we start calling a spade a spade and understand that beliefs drive behavior, and that some behaviors are not acceptable.

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/sleepwalking-toward-armageddon

I can’t say it any better than he already did.

And now, since I can’t help myself, a brief opinion or two:

There is a lot of “Us vs. Them” going on in America right now.  Republicans vs. Democrats, Christians vs. Muslims, Donald Trump vs. Rational Thought, and so on.  This could possibly be the most dangerous domestic threat we face.  It’s about time we stopped looking at our differences, and started focusing on our similarities, namely that we all live here, and for better or worse we’re all in this life together.  We need to start acting in ALL of our best interests, not just our own best interests.

I was wondering to myself the other day why one doesn’t hear more about Muslims denouncing their religion.  The truth is, there are those who have left and are leaving the Muslim religion, it’s just that we don’t hear about it because the Quran commands their death!  For leaving Christianity, I might get threatened with eternal hell fire, but at least not with murder.  I selfishly would like to see more Muslims denounce their religion for the intellectually stifling barbarity that it represents, as I have done with Christianity, but a vocal opposition is very unlikely considering the potential consequences.  However, some internet research has uncovered quite a few websites relating to life after Islam, so by that I am encouraged.

I hope you are all well.  See you next time.

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“They say there are strangers who threaten us
Our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
Those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge, quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice and fear
Walk hand in hand”

Rush – Witch Hunt (lyrics by Neil Peart)

 

 

 

 

4 Rock Albums from the 90s that You’ve Probably Never Heard But Should Hear

4 Rock Albums from the 90s that You’ve Probably Never Heard But Should Hear

I grew up in the 80s mostly, but really started paying attention to music in the 90s.   Here are some of my favorite unsung heroes from those days.

 

Superdrag – Head Trip in Every Key (1998)

This, Superdrag’s second major label release, finds the Knoxville quartet expanding beyond the snarky power pop of their first album, Regretfully Yours.  A true studio masterpiece, Head Trip is what the Beach Boys would have done after Good Vibrations if they hadn’t gotten so into LSD and hanging out with Charles Manson.  Dense layers of fuzz guitars rest on a soft bed of drums and bass in a huge room full of feather pillows.  Listen to this three times, and it will be your favorite album.  Headphones recommended.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KboLknIoL0

 

Failure – Magnified (1994)

A lot of attention has been given in recent years to Failure’s follow-up to this album, Fantastic Planet.  A great album, no doubt one of my favorites, but the brilliance of Magnified cannot be ignored.  This is where Failure really came into their sound.  Heavy, grungy guitars, overdriven bass, dissonant arpeggios, slamming drums, with complex arrangements all coming together to create a sound unheard before or since.  Overlooking this record is a big mistake, in my opinion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAYDNmARsns

 

Handsome – Handsome (1997)

Supergroups are usually supposed to do better than this album did.  Comprised of ex-members of Quicksand, Helmet, Cro-Mags, and other New York hardcore veterans, Handsome never got any traction in the mainstream media.  At first listen, this record could come across as a bunch of old hardcore guys who were trying to get on the radio, but to write it off as such would be such a disservice to such a great record.  As short-lived as this lineup was, they managed to pull off something very special.  The Terry Date “wall of metal” production sounds a bit dated (pun intended) and doesn’t fit the band as well as perhaps the first couple Deftones albums, but the songs, man… the songs.  Catchy, emotive, powerful, riff-tastic, and awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG9HHmVorkY

 

Self – Subliminal Plastic Motives (1995)

Matt Mahaffey, who makes music under the pseudonym Self, is one of those guys that, as a musician, I want to hate.  He can play every instrument, and play it well, he’s a prolific songwriter, and has made a career as a sideman for Beck, among others.  His first major label release, Subliminal Plastic Motives, which was 95% performed and produced by Mahaffey, is a collection of quirky pop anthems that fit right in with the developing alternative landscape.  By all accounts, this should have been a huge hit, but never quite cracked the egg of mainstream consciousness.  Equal parts XTC, Cheap Trick, and Prince, SPM is a joy front to back.  There isn’t a bad song on this record, which is even more the feat considering it all came out of one person’s head.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg2EgX0ZsSs

 

 

 

GOP Debate – 12/15/15

GOP Debate – 12/15/15

In keeping with my new tradition of watching the debates the day after, here we go again.  Last night, the leading GOP candidates gathered on a stage in Las Vegas to talk about stuff.  A few observations…

  • I wasn’t aware of this, but apparently America is a very dangerous place, because all the candidates are very preoccupied with keeping America safe.
  • American exceptionalism is alive and well in the mind of Marco Rubio.
  • Nobody has as much respect for Donald Trump as Donald Trump.
  • Jeb Bush calls Trump out for being full of one-liners. Trump responds with one-liners.
  • Giving up personal privacy for national security is a no-brainer to these people.
  • Agree with Ben Carson that the politically correct “fear of being perceived as Islamophobic” among liberals and others is stupid and counterproductive. (A side note: Obama’s refusal to refer to Islamic extremists as such bothers me a lot.)
  • I agree with Ted Cruz that political correctness is a bad thing in terms of the conversation surrounding radical Islamic terrorists. I do not agree with Cruz when he says that president Obama is perpetuating the idea that the terrorists are winning.  I think that responsibility falls with him and his colleagues on the stage, and other conservative pundits.
  • Trump got booed! Sweet music to my ears.
  • Trump, in a rare moment of clarity, said something that I agree with – that the US would be better off if we had stayed out of the war in the Middle East and spent that $4 trillion locally to fix things that need fixing.
  • Chris Christie just got away with calling Obama a pussy by using a word that no one knows what it means.
  • I liked Ben Carson’s “citizen statesman” comment. Totally agree.  Can we get some term limits in the congress?  Pretty please?
  • Shout-out to Reagan count: lost count a long time ago.  I’m pretty sure one of the pundit websites will release a figure in the next day or two.
  • I don’t think that the heroin epidemic as mentioned by Jeb Bush has as much to do how easy it is to bring heroin here as it does just about every other contributing factor to drug addiction.
  • Chris Christie really wants us all to know that he is a former federal prosecutor. He also doesn’t think that the federal government hides anything from the American people.  Is he joking?  Two words:  Edward Snowden.

So much of this debate was spent talking about keeping America safe and defeating ISIS.  That’s cool and all, but what about the rest of the issues? What about poverty, or health care, or veterans, or the budget, or our crumbling infrastructure, or corruption in government, or the deficit, or common sense gun laws, or taxes, or campaign finance reform? Would it be possible to alleviate some fear, rather than prey upon it?

If a Republican wins the white house next year, we can be sure of four things:  1) military operations in the middle east will not only continue but escalate until at least 2020, 2) mass shootings will not only continue but will see an increase (which might happen anyway), 3) poverty will not be addressed as a social issue (i.e. one of the root causes of homelessness, drug addiction, depression, suicide, etc.), and 4) more tax breaks for their rich buddies.  Hooray for progress.

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“Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die”

War on Christmas?

War on Christmas?

According to a not-so-recent Fox News poll, 42% of respondents believe there is a “war on Christmas” going on in America.  From what I can gather from things my relatives and others post on Facebook, this means that in their minds, people should be saying “Merry Christmas” instead of less specific, more innocuous greetings like “Happy Holidays,” and when they use these more innocuous terms, they are declaring war against God, against Christianity, and against Christmas!  Starbucks was recently accused of being guilty of attacking Christmas because they decided to omit all imagery and other references to any specific holiday from their winter coffee cup.

Basically what’s going on here is that some Christians, empowered by such folks as Bill O’Reilly, have become deeply and personally offended that the holiday greeting used by others does not acknowledge their own superstitions.

May I gently remind all of us that not all people in the world believe that Jesus is the son of God.  For people that do believe Jesus is the son of God, this often has more to do with where you were born, not how right you are.

By forcing one’s will for others to acknowledge religious beliefs that they may not hold, we are in violation of the first amendment.   Freedom of religion implicitly includes freedom from religion.  Despite what our religious beliefs may be, we need to allow others the freedom to believe what they believe, as they should allow us to do the same.  At some point I may address the fallacy of the Christian Nation, but not now.

So next time someone smiles at you and says, “Happy Holidays,” smile back and say, “Thanks, same to you.”  Because anyone getting offended at two words, one of which is HAPPY, is not only ridiculous, but also 100% un-American.