"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Speaking of Banned Books Week

It's Sunday at Green Man Review, with our usual mix of books reviews, music reviews, and a licorice/chocolate combo (from Iceland, which may explain something), and the like. Scoot on over and enjoy.

Today's Must-Read: Another Point of Contact

Trump's sense of his own superiority, no matter how unjustified by real-world events, rests on a foundation that -- well, it's flimsy at best. Digby takes a hard look:

Like history's monarchs, Trump believes that the qualities that make him successful are in-born. He once said he possesses a genetic “gift” for real estate development.

“I'm a big believer in natural ability,” Trump told me during a discussion about his leadership traits, which he said came from a natural sense of how human relations work. “If Obama had that psychology, Putin wouldn't be eating his lunch. He doesn't have that psychology and he never will because it's not in his DNA.” Later in this discussion, Trump said: “I believe in being prepared and all that stuff. But in many respects, the most important thing is an innate ability.”

Perhaps Trump's conviction that DNA — not life experience — is everything explains why he proudly claims that he's “basically the same” today as when he was a boy. “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I'm basically the same,” he said. “The temperament is not that different.”
(Emphasis added.)

Do I have to comment?

That whole passage is so ridiculous as to defy analysis. And he probably believes every word of it.

And it's not that big a leap from that attitude to the idea (which I find somewhat bizarre) that people not like him (i.e., brown people) are inferior.

And people wonder why he's such a big hit with people like Tony Perkins and David Duke.

Happy Banned Books Week

Yes, it's that time of year again, when the forces of righteousness are acknowledged for their vain attempts to make ideas go away. Here's a nice little story on the subject. This struck me:

In March 2001, Reverend George Bender of the Pentecostal Harvest Assembly of God Church in Pittsburgh led his congregation in a bonfire of “ungodly” music, Disney movies and books including the Harry Potter titles. Later that year, another Christian church in New Mexico followed Bender’s example, calling the books “a masterpiece of satanic deception."

I suspect we all know what other group was known for public book burnings:


Somehow, the ideas didn't go away.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Today's Must-Read: High School Civics Edition

OK -- this should scare you, even if nothing else does:

Unfortunately, many Americans lack fundamental civics knowledge, according to the recent Constitution Day Civics Survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and therefore cannot understand current events.

“In light of the information in the news about First Amendment issues, the ignorance of the public about the First Amendment is startling,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC, tells Newsweek. “So there are times in which one needs knowledge about the Constitution to make sense of what's happening in the news environment,” she adds. “In particular when rights are at issue it's important that people understand what their rights are as they read the news.”

The results, published on September 12, reveal that more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe people in this country illegally have no protections under the Constitution. If that weren’t startling enough, only about a quarter (26 percent) of Americans can successfully name all three branches of government, with one-third of respondents unable to name a single branch, 27 percent who knew one branch and 13 percent who knew two.

It gets worse.

There's a reason Betsy DeVos was named Secretary of Education -- and it wasn't to improve the general public's knowledge of how this country works.

Actually, I'd like to blame Trump, but we've been a while getting here. Don't look for it to get better, if for no other reason than those who don't know don't care and don't want to learn, and, since the right has taken over the majority of state houses, no one's going to make them.

Job, Jobs, Jobs. . . .

It looks like we may have to rely on the coal industry to keep Americans working.

Fewer international travelers came to the United States during the first few months of this year than over the same period last year, confirming concerns of some in the travel industry.

New figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce show a drop in international visitors to the United States by close to 700,000 in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year. European countries were down 10.1 percent, and Mexico was off 7.1 percent in the quarter. The largest drops were from the Middle East and Africa, though they represent a much smaller percentage of overall travel to the United States.

Overall, 697,791 fewer foreigners visited the United States in the first three months of the year, down 4.2 percent to 15.8 million. According to Tourism Economics, a branch of Oxford Economics based in Wayne, Pa., that analyzes travel data, the drop represents a loss of nearly $2.7 billion in spending.

It's not only hotels and restaurants that are going to suffer. People visiting the U.S. shop, they visit cultural attractions and national parks, you name it. As a small example, Chicago is a major tourist destination. I was talking to a couple from North Carolina the other day, and they were all set to tour Chicago -- they'd gotten City Passes, which give free admission to a number of attractions, including most of the major museums. (And just a note on museum admissions: regular, nonresident admission to the Field Museum is $22 -- plus up to $25 additional for special exhibitions. The prices for the Art Institute start at $14 for Chicago residents and go up from there.) Granted, these were American tourists, but they were going the full tour -- museums, shopping, restaurants, the trolley system that takes you around to the various attractions without having to figure out the buses (which even some Chicagoans have trouble with, if they're in an unfamiliar part of town). I'd say it's at least comparable to the kind of visit that foreign tourists would plan. Now, think of all the jobs involved in servicing those people, from hotel staff to trolley drivers to retail "associates" (as they call them these days), museum staff, waiters, and on down the line.

As for why --

The question of whether the results prove a ripple effect from President Trump’s proposed travel ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries, an expanded wall along the Mexican border and anti-immigrant statements remains unanswered. But the data tracks with a decline in United States favorability abroad: In June, the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of those surveyed in 37 nations had a positive view of the United States, versus 64 percent at the end of President Obama’s term in office.

Last week, Pew reported that nearly two-thirds of Mexicans held a negative opinion of the United States, more than double the figure of two years ago, which stood at 29 percent.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” said Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics.

In response to a Facebook post by The New York Times, European readers overwhelmingly cited the Trump administration and its policies as reasons for avoiding or canceling trips to the United States.

Those are the broad, abstract reasons. In terms of real people, the comments at Joe.My.God.'s coverage of this are illuminating. This is from commenter vorpal, who's an American expatriate:

I'm an American citizen and every time I travel through the US, I feel like a criminal based on the way that security treats me. As an expat, my desire to go to the US as a vacation destination is pretty much zero at this point.

Body scans, laptop searches, having to remove my damned shoes?
No, thanks.

And this is an American citizen just visiting home. (A side note: I haven't done any traveling for a while, so I'm a bit out of touch with current conditions at security stations at the airports. I can only guess that they've gotten worse than merely annoying.)

It's not just individual tourists. From commenter Hue-Man:

Canadian schools and their sports teams stopped travel to the U.S. when Muslim students were hauled off the buses at U.S. ports of entry. Conference planners around the world have to consider how many of their speakers and conference attendees might not be able to attend when they read stories like this.

SEVEN entrepreneurs based in the Brussels district Molenbeek, dubbed the 'jihadi capital of Europe' have been denied entry into the US.

There are a lot of comments from Canadians who are going to Europe or South America for their vacations this year, instead of the U.S.

But to get back to the basic premise: The NYT notes that this ("this" being Trump) has cost us $2.7 billion in the first three months of 2017. Given that most overseas vacations are planned well in advance, it's only going to get worse, as people elect not to come here later this year or next.

And it's going to cost jobs.

Way to go, Donnie!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Today in Disgusting People: NIMBY Edition

This is no less than appalling:

Lucie's Place, a Central Arkansas nonprofit serving homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults, has withdrawn its request for a conditional use permit for a seven-person transitional home in Little Rock's Leawood neighborhood after receiving an email from a neighbor vowing to make the home's location public knowledge.

Penelope Poppers, executive director of Lucie's Place, said the nonprofit was midway through the sale and was prepared to close on the property as soon as it received the use permit from the city. Poppers said the group initially received some pushback from neighbors unhappy about the idea of a homeless shelter in their neighborhood but were able to allay those concerns by explaining its nature: a small residential setting for formerly homeless young people to develop life skills and get back on their feet. Lucie's Place already operates one four-bed transitional home in Central Little Rock.

Of course, there's always one person who will screw things up. Poppers got the following e-mail when the organization was on the verge of closing on the house:

I just received notification that there is some sort of halfway house or homeless shelter being proposed on Harmon [Drive], For LGBTQ persons who are at risk of being homeless. We are supposed to make clear if we oppose or support this idea.

We are completely and 100% opposed to this happening in our neighborhood! While I am completely in support of helping any who are in the situation of homelessness, and used to run a shelter myself in Houston, I am absolutely opposed to this happening in our residential neighborhood. We purchased a home in this neighborhood specifically because it was safe for our children. I do not want to live anywhere near a home like this. Since I have personal experience running a home like this, I am aware of the dangers involved, from a resident disclosing the location of the home, to a person tracking them down, to sneaking drugs in, to having a criminal background that's undisclosed, etc. This is a terrible idea for our neighborhood! If this passes, I will make it my personal mission to get all of our neighbors involved in disclosing the location of this home to anyone that we can and fighting the forward motion of this plan. This is absolutely unacceptable for this area. I've talked to all the neighbors within 500 feet of our house, and every single one of them feels the same way. We will all be attending the meeting to voice our opposition, but if this goes through we will disclose the location of this home to anyone who wants to know, and will fight this every step of the way. I cannot even believe that you would be considering opening a home of this nature in a residential neighborhood, that has many many children all around it. Not to mention elderly, Christians who completely oppose that lifestyle, etc. please take this idea and plant it elsewhere. I think it's a wonderful idea, just not in this neighborhood!

Couldn't be more clear: "not in my back yard," which is rankest hypocrisy. There's also the fact that this person (apparently it's a woman) never bothered to learn the specifics of the project, but just went off.

And let's be clear: disclosing the location of a shelter like this exposes the kids to all sorts of harassment and violence. My personal feeling is that Lucie's Place should forward the e-mail and any available contact information to the police, although that's probably moot, given that the organization is now looking at another property. I tend to agree with a lot of the commenters: this woman should be outed for what she is: a bigot and a bully, and a hysterical one at that. (Of course, bigotry and hysteria tend to go hand in hand.)

I have some pretty strong thoughts about the fact that the richest country in the world has people living on the streets with no place to go. I also have strong thoughts about "Christians" (and of course the e-mailer makes reference to "Christians" who "disagree with that lifestyle") who never read the Gospels: she needs a good dose of Matthew 25: 41-46:

41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

45 “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

It's worth noting, this being Arkansas and all, that the overwhelming majority of commenters at this article are not kind to the NIMBY.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

More reviews, of course -- a special section on Charles de Lint's early novels set in and around Ottawa, some really interesting music reviews, and the graphic novel from Hell. (Not the work itself, just because my browser and the site decided they didn't like each other while I was trying to upload, edit, and publish.) So click on through and enjoy.

Today's Must-Read: Yes, There Are Fifty States

Interesting piece by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo on a grassroots effort to reinstate the 50-state strategy in the Democratic Party:

A friend sent a DKos post about a new organization, It Starts Today. The group hopes to "restart the 50-State Strategy" by raising small-donor money for every Democratic House and Senate race in the country, regardless of candidate. The reason is the Democratic Party has been playing the strategic targeting game at least since after 1994 and in the process losing ground in large swaths of the country:
Every time, it made sense in the short term. And, every time, this decision to be “strategic” and “efficient” also caused us to abandon more and more districts, essentially ceding them to the Republican party. As a result, each Democratic wave—think 2008—got reversed fairly quickly, as the Republican party rallied around a consistent message and fought back. Meanwhile, each Republican wave—think 2010—became that much harder to undo, as the Democratic Party focused on an increasingly smaller pool of “competitive” districts.
If you don't show up to play, you forfeit. It's been shortsighted, clearly, for Democrats in Congress, for winning the presidency, and for being able to advance an agenda when Democrats win it. Mark Warner put it bluntly when he told Yearly Kos in 2006, "[W]e cannot just go after 16 states and then try to hit a triple bank-shot to get Ohio or Florida." Yet that's how the party plays it again and again.

Let's face it, the Democrats' strategy for the past few cycles, ever since Howard Dean left the chairmanship of the party, has been a disaster. As Sullivan points out, not only have Democratic mid-term sweeps been reversed in the next election, but Republican sweeps haven't. And the GOP has made strong gains in state houses, and not just in red states: I'm still trying to figure out how our current governor in Illinois got elected, in a state where Democrats dominate the legislature.

Read the whole thing, of course.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Today in Christian Supremacy

Via Joe.My.God., from noted "Christian" Matt Barber's website:

Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived. Also, is it wrong for a professing Christian service member to say, “I support the rights of all Americans to practice their faith since the Constitution protects their rights?” Absolutely!
(Emphasis added.)

There's not really much to say, save that the "Christian" right is getting more and more blatant about its opposition to fundamental American values.

Can you say "anti-American"?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Welcome to Trump's America

And these are American citizens:

Sattar Ali is questioning his family's return move to Wichita following an attempt to deposit a check at his bank which landed him, his wife and daughter in police custody..

The Ali family recently sold their home in Dearborn, Michigan. He moved back to Wichita, he said, to finish his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering at Wichita State University where the Ali's 18 year old son is also a student.

Ali said, "I went to the bank to deposit the check and I took all of the documents with me to verify."

The check was for just over $151,000. "And I told them I don't need it until I find a house. So keep the check with you, verify, take your time." "Simply we were just going there to deposit a check. We were not asking for money."

But he said his experience started to go down hill. Ali said, "And I was talking to them for less than five minutes and I found the police behind me, handcuffed me, confiscated everything and took me outside."

His wife Hadil and their 15 year old daughter Hawra were waiting in the car outside the bank. Police take them into custody also and take all three downtown to police headquarters for questioning. And while holding the family for nearly three hours, police called the private school the Ali's eleven year old son attends in Andover, telling the school to hold their son because the family was in police custody.

You really want to get sick to your stomach? Get this:

Emprise Bank issued the following statement: ".. We are aware of a situation at the 21st and Woodlawn branch yesterday and can confirm that our team acted in accordance with our policies and procedures. If faced with the same circumstances today, we would expect our team to take the same actions."

In other words, don't bank at Emprise Bank if you're brown and you don't have an "American" name -- you know, like Woczejowicz.

I hope he sues the bank for millions.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Today in Disgusting People

I don't know the official death count for Irma, but at least four people have died in the U.S., I believe, and more in the Caribbean.

Ann Coulter's response:

It seems that callous indifference to other people's misfortune is a hallmark of the conservative movement (think of all those "conservatives" who voted against aid for the victims of Sandy), but making a joke of it is beyond the pale.

I think Digby has the right take on it:

This isn't an ideology problem. It's a maturity problem. And there are millions of people like her. One of them is in the White House.

The country's being run by a bunch of nine year olds.

Of course, we have to consider the right's priorities:

Cartoon du Jour

There's something reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter in this:

Or maybe it's just that this is where the Republican party has gotten to.

Via Digby.