Nov 18

Racists Have Murdered Again and Biblical Misinterpretation Helped

Anti-Semites have been abusing the Bible for centuries, and they still do. The Pittsburgh synagogue murderer and his ilk quoted Jesus, in John 8:44, supposedly saying, “Jews are the children of Satan”. But ol’ Jeebus didn’t say that. He said that the group with whom he was having a disagreement, were sons of the devil. Not all Jews. Basically he was saying, You guys here are assholes.

The text of John 8:44, presented here in the New International translation, is very interesting because, as Will Durant observed about many stories of Jesus, and much of what he’s quoted as saying, it has the ring of truth in a purely historical sense. It has verisimilitude. It plays out like real life does. One of many indications that Jesus–while not a supernatural miracle working redeemer–was a real person. Notice that Jesus has to duck out to keep from getting pelted with stones.

Dispute Over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.2”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would3 do what Abraham did.
40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.
41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.
43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?
47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Jesus’ Claims About Himself
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.
50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.
51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death.
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.
55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Oct 18

Why Conservatives are a Necessary Component of a Vital Society

This short essay originally appeared in Tangent magazine. I don’t mean we need conservatives like Mitch McConnell and his unconstitutional actions on SCOTUS picks; I don’t mean Trump or his acolytes in congress. I mean decent conservatives, like Eisenhower, back in the day, or, say, a Mitt Romney. I myself am a progressive. See what you think:

“What do you mean by conservatives being necessary? Necessarily in charge?”

No. It might be difficult to convince liberals that conservatives are necessary at all. There are, after all, shades of liberals, and progressives. “The moderate Democrats are bad enough,” I hear someone say. I understand—I’m a liberal. I understand their reluctance. They can see “the arc of history.” From the point of view of a progressive, conservatives are arguably on the wrong side of history.

It’s true that colony Tories who resisted the American Revolution were conservatives opposed to change; they were loyal to the monarchy. And despite the unsupported, vastly debunked libertarian claim that “the Civil War was not about slavery,” it definitely was, and opposition to abolition was a conservative impulse. Don’t buy that? How about opposition to the female vote? Opposition to suffrage? Certainly that was a conservative opposition. Conservatives opposed the Chinese-American vote. And they opposed the League of Nations and the UN. And they opposed the New Deal, and the WPA. And they were and are in opposition—often violent opposition—to unions. And conservatives opposed integration. (Yes, Southern Democrats were up to their ears in anti-integration fights—but those were an exception, Southern Democrats acting conservatively.) Much that was opposed by conservatives—Social Security, Medicare—became treasured American institutions, which many conservatives will be grateful for in their old age. There was, too, the conservative support for crushing Democratically elected Latin American leaders who wanted to nationalize some industries…

But of course it was not always so simple. In Asia, the Vietnam war was a mess, but two Democrats, JFK and Johnson, first got us into Vietnam—though one might argue they were trying to please business interests which meant pleasing Conservatives—and Bill Clinton, a slightly left of center Democrat, signed the repeal of Glass-Steagal, a free-market move setting the stage for economic disaster. “Those people weren’t progressive enough,” a liberal would say. Maybe so.

Still—while many conservatives and business leaders (who were mostly conservatives) opposed environmental laws, it was Nixon who ushered them in.

Yet modern conservatives are generally opposed to significant (and badly needed) environmental regulations. Modern conservative polticians block money for veterans, try to eliminate food stamps and social security, refuse funding for desperately needed infrastructure projects, are opposed to a minimum wage, are opposed to subsidized health care, are opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment for women, are opposed to Planned Parenthood, believe the free market will ease problems it won’t ease, wish to gut vital social programs and unions in favor of the discredited “trickle down economics” notion, are trying to sell national parklands to gigantic private business interests, and on the whole, it does seem to many of us, that Conservatives are, as in the now trite expression, “on the wrong side of history” most of the time. The conservative impulse, the classic reactionary knee-jerking, seems to us to want to drown the baby of the future in the bathwater of the past.

And yet…and yet…

Every democracy genuinely needs conservatives. And not so we can have someone to argue with. We need them for their perspective; we need them for their call for individual hard work, which is always a good thing in itself, when people can find it; we need them for the reluctance at least some of them show to get engaged in wars that squander blood and treasure. And we need them to be skeptical of our schemes.

We need them to push back.

I can imagine conservatives reading this and reacting with, “You’re being patronizing, you’re finding a niche for us instead of giving our way a real shot.”

Herbert Hoover gave it a real shot—how did that work out? George W. Bush’s real shot with it got us into the Iraq war and massive national debt, amongst other messes.

And after all—I am philosophically a progressive. I’m a pragmatic progressive—but I really do believe in the value of the progressive arc of history.

Yet what disaster if we had no conservatives! Every political point of view, every social philosophy, is capable of excess. A mother was at risk, not long ago, of having her kids taken away from her because she let the kids play alone in a park. The kids were 6 and 10. Child Protection took them in for awhile. (And this has happened to other parents, in other areas.) Conservatives were among the first to come to her defense, and they were right to do it. You have to leave some things to parents, and governmental protectiveness can extend from the big things, where it should be, to the small personal things, where it’s excessive.

Government does well to protect us from environmental toxins; it does well to protect national parks, and wildlife habitats; it does well to protect us from invasion; from violations of Civil Rights laws and violations of the best labor laws. Local government does well to supply ordinances protecting us from wildfires. Privatization is not effective in the long run and most of us are glad for public fire departments and police and utilities. Government does well to closely oversee companies that put us at risk from poor maintenance of oil or gas pipelines. There are big overarching issues we need help with.

But we don’t need them telling us we can’t send our 10 and 6 year old children together to a park.

Conservatives are right to argue that a strong family unit is good for people, good for society. We can disagree on what that is in some cases—gay couples are just as likely to make good parents. But when Republicans decried the break-up of the family unit in African American communities, going back some years, they were called racist for it. In time the African-American community itself realized they were right: perhaps because of innate social stresses, too many families were being abandoned by men who should’ve been good fathers. Michelle Obama and many black organizations have acknowledged the problem and worked to reverse the trend. It was conservatives who first called us out on it.

An opinion piece in The New York Times said, “Republicans were right to blow the whistle on broken school systems, for education in inner-city schools is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Democrats, in cahoots with teachers’ unions and protective of a dysfunctional system, were long part of the problem…Bravo to Republicans for protesting that teachers’ unions were sometimes protecting disastrous teachers…”

Unions are overall a good thing—I could provide the statistics to show it. However, any institution can be excessive. I’m grateful to the Writer’s Guild of America and have walked the picket line with that union. But unions that bloat, that become over protective, that regard themselves as immune from corruption investigations, might be the very embodiment of liberal excess. I’ve seen some clear examples of union greed. Conservative pushback on unions helps keep them in line. Some conservatives go too far with respect to unions—Chris Christie!—but we need that conservative impulse, in ourselves and on the part of conservatives, to moderate unions, to put pressure on them to stay honest and fair. Conservative skepticism about unions helps us keep unions honed and fair.

I don’t think liberals like me can be trusted to run the country alone—I think we tend to be defensive about our institutions, just as conservatives are defensive about theirs. I think we need that pressure, that push-back, to moderate us. When we are inspired by what we believe is right, we’ll push back on their push-back. Hence we supported the successful effort to legalize gay marriage despite Republican opposition. But on other issues, the conservatives hold a mirror up, a special lens, and challenge us to look into the mirror and through the glass…and see things as they do. Sometimes we see they’re right, or partly right. And we eventually modify our position. Because the dynamics of debate leads to new ideas, to insights.

Then there’s the question of democracy—America is not made up of liberals, though there are a lot of them, and a lot of moderate Democrats. There are also a good many conservatives, and we liberals fall into some kind of argumentative quivering mass, chasing our tales with political correctness arguments, without conservatives to help us focus on what matters.

This website, Tangent Online, relates to the science-fiction field, and so do I. From time to time the sf field has been storm-lashed by political controversies, essentially conservative vs. liberal and vice versa. Going back, it cuts both ways: back in the day, Donald Wollheim and Fred Pohl and Judith Merril and others were slagged by conservative sf writers and editors for leaning left. Now the pendulum has swung way, way the other direction and certain reasonable conservatives amongst science fiction writers and critics are sometimes being over scrutinized, even punished, for outspokenness and some fairly normal speech tropes—most recently, Dave Truesdale was actually ejected from the Worldcon for having declared on a short story panel, in the space of a few minutes, that science fiction was being unfairly truncated by politics, and free speech gagged by political correctness emanating from the left. I listened to a tape of the remarks and could find nothing that broke any convention rules. Some defending the convention fall back on claims that his use of the term “pearl clutchers” is sexist, is hateful to women. But in my experience the term does not apply to women, particularly—it’s about people who are making a drama of nothing, probably just to get attention. Underlying the con committee’s action was, I suspect, emotional fallout from the “Sad Puppies” Hugo Award controversy. But people shouldn’t let emotions dictate their interpretation of the rules.

Lawrence Person reports that a few years back those with a political agenda “forced WisCon… to disinvite Elizabeth Moon as Guest of Honor (something that’s almost never done in the field) over the ‘crime’ of penning an essay mildly critical of Islam and the planned Ground Zero Mosque.” I was shocked to hear about that. Disinviting her for that reason is absurd.

Excessive lefty sensitivity led to fist-shaking condemnation of the Red Sonja cover art for an issue of the SFWA Bulletin—rather foolishly under-dressed, in terms of war preparation, the red-maned woman warrior was posing a trifle luridly but was also showing tough defiance, and while one can recognize a cheesecake aspect, the image is more to do with old-time science-fiction/fantasy pulp tradition combined with recognition of the power of a deadly warrior who just happens to be a woman. Are we supposed to assume that men (and gay women) can never publicly appreciate full-body female pulchritude? The outrage was more lurid than the image—it was lurid over-reacting, the kind of thing that the left is sometimes blighted by. By all means, progressives, we should call the right-wing on its real sexism—as just two examples, its dismissal of a woman’s right to get paid the same as a man for the same job and its attempts to undermine women’s reproductive health concerns. But this outrage at the Red Sonja cover just makes us look foolish. It also slanders women who like to dress in a mildly provocative way. Will these same people start picketing costume events at cons where fan women (and sometimes men!) dress as Red Sonja types, or, perhaps, Wonder Woman?

If I see a guy passing out actual KKK literature at a convention, I’ll be the first to denounce him; if I see a man actually sexually harassing a woman at a con, grabbing her ass and drooling on her, (I’m reliably informed there were some real cases at Dragoncon a couple years ago) I’ll denounce that guy and even call for his arrest. But PC policing is likely to be inaccurate; it’s like a purblind referee at a ballgame, shouting foul ball when it struck inside the line. PC excess suppresses free speech and free expression; it chills conversation, it creates needless gulfs between people. And what we lose, in science fiction—in the stories sometimes, in the conversations at fan venues—is the valuable perspective of conservatives, and people who are more culturally traditional. We don’t need to agree with their conclusions, but we can benefit, at least in terms of mental flexibility, by their perspective. And without a contrary viewpoint, discussion becomes flaccid, dull, and eventually narrow-minded.

So—we need conservatives, in science fiction and in the nation. But do conservatives need liberals? “We don’t need liberals—there are shades of Conservatives, we have more liberal and less liberal conservatives and that’s enough!”

But conservatives need to be opposed. Just as liberals need to be opposed. Just as children need to be opposed at times. We’re all children, pushing and shoving, trying to define our territory, not fully understanding our world, learning as we grow up together.

Perhaps it’s like yin and yang, completing one another in the circle; we’re the yin to their yang, they’re the yin to our yang, and so on. Or perhaps it’s Hegellian—thesis, antithesis, leading to synthesis. We’re constantly synthesizing and re-synthesizing our society. Alloys are often stronger metals. And the USA is stronger as an alloy.

New York Times quote and data from:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/opinion/kristof-where-the-gop-gets-it-right.html

Oct 18

Ah,Youthful Rebellion! Ah, Elderly Curmudgeoning! Both are Glorious

After their first decade young people seem enter a phase of rebellion, which seems to be naturally built into us so we can more easily fly the nest, and also because it helps social evolution. The skepticism of the teen or young adult leads to innovation and some of it is good, which in turn leads to a sociobiological benefit, advancing the chances of species survival. When we consider the innovations of youth, that last bit, the benefit, may be hard to believe. But it’s to be taken in context of social evolution, which like biological evolution sheds many failed experiments… Some mutation is good, much just falls by the wayside. Social evolution (and art) then benefits from the rebellion and innovation of the young, and that innovation benefits from the critique and advice of curmudgeonly seniors.

Oct 18

You Are Too, Too Sensitive? Oh, I Am Too! In fact…

I am very sensitive indeed…I have a very, very delicate sensibility… It’s so delicate that if a gnat flies by without smiling I’m depressed for hours… I saw someone blow a kiss toward a hummingbird, and I think they ruined the perfect rhythm of its wing-stroke. I wept. . .Before I eat cornflakes, I think of the little shoots of cornstalks coming from the ground, and the cruel harvesting process, and the little kernels, so lonely and afraid, on the conveyor belt into the place where they’ll be chopped up. And I whisper, I’m sorry, my green and yellow friends. And I weep…I sometimes catch a snowflake on a dandelion puff, and hold it up into the wind, so that it can exist an hour longer. Last time I got frostbite and lost the tip of my nose…. I heard someone saying harsh words, recently, and I had to cover my ears. How can anyone just say, “What kind of crap is the dang hardware store buyin’ from the Chinese now”…and even now, repeating it here, I go dizzy…I must lay down in a quiet, dark place now, and listen to the cries of dust motes striking the floor, and pray for them…

Oct 18

Paranoia? Not When it Comes to Today’s GOP

So, the whole “Democrats are a mob” thing, the whole “Liberals are threatening us with violence” thing, that particular slanderous right-wing spin follows the appearance, in some cases, of guys in masks claiming to be antifa engaging in acts of violence at demonstrations. Sometimes the other demonstrators know who they are–or who they say they are–and sometimes they don’t. Does no one remember the simple, oft-used stratagem of employing provocateurs? “Provocateur: An undercover agent who incites suspected persons to partake in or commit criminal acts.” When we consider what the right was willing to do to shoehorn Kavanaugh into SCOTUS, and their general willingness to engage in flat out deception, we realize that hired provocateurs may indeed be at work.

Sep 18


When you get into your sixties, your street address, and sometimes your phone #, makes its way into lists of older people sold to marketers. So you get some truly annoying come-ons from funeral homes–for YOUR funeral–and from people who want to reduce your body to ashes for you.

But you also routinely get some really dishonest shit in the mail. Often they try to make the junk mail look official, hinting that you must open it our you could be in trouble. This should be regarded as criminal fraud but for some reason it’s tolerated. I just got one I opened only out of curiosity because I was taken aback at the extreme of dishonesty on the envelope. “PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL” it says and then “MORTGAGE NOTICE”. Now, claiming its a mortgage notice is especially crooked–because it ain’t one and because it tries to scare you by suggesting that you’ve gotten behind on your mortgage. In a little box on the envelope it says “DELIVER DIRECTLY TO ADDRESSEE: SEE TITLE 18 SEC 1702 US CODE.” Presumably that’s the US code that suggests postal workers have a responsibility to deliver ALL mail in their care. But these people are hinting that it means The Government is a-coming after you. Inside is a letter on official looking green paper, headed “IMMEDIATE RESPONSE REQUESTED”. Again, an implication you’re in trouble if you don’t response. Then it turns out to be a pitch to get me in deep debt through a Home Equity Line of Credit.

All this targets seniors because they assume that seniors are all dotty and muddled and not up to date and scared. Some are, I suppose. They’re preying on naive older people. It bothers me that this is accepted as a normal way of doing business.

Sep 18

Kavanaugh and the Rant of the Closet Queen

“Graham unleashes his fury on Democrats in Kavanaugh hearing” says headline. Grandstanding, melodrama–like a weeping mama all upset. The rant–quite planned, scripted in his mind–of a person who deep down wishes they’d gone into the theater…But really, it’s just an angry closet queen. Girl, I say to Lindsey, don’t be throwin’ shade. It was a sickening performance on that committee but girl it was shady. You ain’t gonna turn the party like that. That’s all shade no T. Uh uh, bitch, I don’t play that. Bye Felicia.

Sep 18


In addition to these new accusations by *more* women against Kavanaugh, we should remember the original objections from other standpoints, even before Prof. Ford came forward, each of which is a valid reason for opposing him:  1) Due to his judicial philosophy of giving Presidents immunity from indictment, he’s inappropriate as a candidate when it looks like the sitting President who nominated him may well be indicted. He’d be prejudicial. 2) He’s anti-abortion and there are new challenges to Roe v Wade coming to SCOTUS. He’d be prejudicial. 3) Brett Kavanaugh was shown to have perjured himself before Congress in 2006, and there is evidence he was deceptive in testimony more recently. 4) He supports racial profiling which is clearly unconstitutional.

Combine all that with strong indications of bad character, and reported criminal activity regarding women (including promoting gang rape), along with the attempts by Republican Senators to hide his past and intimidate a witness, and we can clearly see a stunning, shamless lack of simple decency in the GOP’s attempt to force Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

Sep 18

the most valuable vintage items of all.

Vintage. It’s all the rage. Vintage clothes, vintage furniture, even “vintage” can openers. People value it. It’s a bit more than a fad, part of our culture now. Like antiquing but…vintage. Antique Roadshow, American Pickers. “Look, it’s vintage, how adorable!”

Well, few people appreciate vintage human beings. Not many do, and not much. There are exceptions, but usually no one but other vintage human beings appreciate vintage human beings. Seniors are the best kind of vintage. They have class, their own style, associated with the culture they were born into and the cultures they’ve lived through; they’re imprinted by what they’ve lived through, what they rejoiced in, and what brought them sorrow. They are “distressed” – like the distressed new clothing that is sold. They are often repositories of wisdom.

But rarely are they appreciated for it. The most important “vintage” is often abandoned to a lonely end.

“What do you want me to do, buy an elderly person and put them in a cabinet?” That’s the way people think. They can’t think of any other kind of appreciation…But senior citizens are interactive. They won’t just sit on a shelf and gather dust. They’ll talk back. They’ll tell stories. They can impart skills and meaningful memories…

Now, that’s some valuable Vintage.

Sep 18


Trump and his endless rallies. How much time does each one take? Who pays for it? How expensive is it? He seems to do them in clusters when he’s under pressure.

My main question is, how much Presidential work time is Trump squandering with the trips to the rallies, the playing out of the rallies themselves–and then the trips from the rallies? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s asked this. But why isn’t he challenged on this issue by Congressional Democrats? Or the GAO, say? Even if the costs of rally spaces and lighting and bunting and staff and enthusiastic clappers are covered  privately by supporters somehow, his transportation and protection is all on the taxpayer’s dime. And the *time* Trump wastes on these incoherent amplifications of his engorged vanity has monetary value to taxpayers as well.

All Presidents travel about, meet people, give speeches from time to time, but this stadium sized national embarrassment is beyond the pale. I say we send Trump an invoice.