Summary: From the perspective of the evolution of life, it can be seen how value is an emergent -- but none the less real -- dimension of the reality of creatures like us humans. Evolution operates on the principle that life is better than death. Operating on that basis, evolution brings into existence creatures who experience that fulfillment is better than misery. That is the foundation of value. and it makes value fully real in every way it could be.
1) the imbalance in intensity in the political battle raging in America is largely due to the deficiency of moral and spiritual passion in Liberal America,
2) this deficiency is the by-product of the worldview that is strong in Liberal America, according to which "value" is considered a matter of subjective opinion, and thus not really real, and there can be no such thing in the human world as "the battle between good and evil," and
3) it is a mistake to believe that intellectually responsible thinking about the evidence of our world requires that we reach those conclusions.
In order to regain its moral and spiritual passions, Liberal America does not have to to embrace the forms traditional religion has used to represent the issues of good and evil. That reconnection can be achieved, by moving further forward along the path of rational, empirically-based scientific knowledge.
In other words, the path of evidence and reason can provide us good answers to those vital questions of value -- answers that can connect us to those deep parts of our human core from which comes the passionate intensity required for this urgent battle.
I mean, seriously, THIS is what Ed Gillespie chooses to focus his energies on during the closing days of the 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate? Just to put this in perspective: according to the latest polling, the top priorities for Virginians are: 1) the economy (22%); 2) jobs/unemployment (13%); 3 - tie) budget/taxes (9%); 3 - tie) health care (9%); 5) leadership/gridlock (6%); and 6) education (5%).
Note what's NOT on that list of concerns? That's right, the name of the Washington NFL franchise. My guess is that it's probably a top priority for about, oh I dunno, 0.001% of Virginians? Yet THIS is what lobbyist "Enron Ed" Gillespie has chosen to focus his energies on during the final 6 days of this campaign? Can we say "utterly out of touch" or what? Pathetic.
Making matters worse, Gillespie seems to think that citing right-wing extremist, demagogue, and all-around buffoon Sean Hannity is something positive, in support of his staunch defense of the Washington NFL franchise's name, which many (albeit not a majority) believe is racist and/or derogatory and/or simply idiotic (I'd fall into pretty much all three categories, particularly the latter two).
By the way, note that by far the top-rated comments on Gillespie's own Facebook thread basically make the points noted above.
*"This country has much bigger issues than worrying about the name of a football team...The name of a football team should be the last thing on the minds of those in Washington." (35 "likes")
*"With all of the problems our country is experiencing I fail to see why a football team should be any of their concern?" (17 "likes")
And those are Gillespie's supporters saying that! Total #FAIL, get this guy off the stage (anybody have a hook handy?).
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Wednesday, October 29. Also, check out the video of President Obama explaining, with regard to Ebola, that "America is not defined by fear."
Forget Ed Gillespie's atrocious Spanish pronunciation, how about the #FAIL in the title of his Spanish-language video? Gillespie writes, "Podemos hacerlo major," which means "We can do...major?" Try: "Podemos hacerlo MEJOR," which means "We can do...better." One thing's for sure, Gillespie's not the brightest bulb -- in any language.
It's a tough contest who's the most extreme and/or bigoted and/or crazy Barbara Comstock endorser, given that she's already been endorsed by the likes of: 1) right-wing hate radio host Mark "Full Mussolini" Levin; 2) Sean "Cliven Bundy's most strident champion" Hannity; 3) Penny "Age of Enlightenment and Reason lead down a slippery slope (don't ask) to the Holocaust" Nance of the Concerned Women for America (publishers of "Harry Potter: Seduction of the Occult"); 4) John "Jesse Helms protege" Bolton; 5) Brent "President Obama a 'skinny, ghetto crackhead" Bozell; and 6) the anti-Semitic "joke" dude. Now, though, someone who gives these folks a run for their craaaazy money - "The Donald" Trump himself - has weighed in on her behalf. In addition to being a "birther" (questioning whether President Obama was born in the U.S., whether his birth certificate is real, etc.), Trump has said all kinds of bizarre stuff over the years. Just recently, for instance, Dr. Trump claimed that the Centers for Disease Control "should be ashamed of themselves" for opposing strict Ebola quarantines as counterproductive (which the vast majority of actual doctors say they would be). Trump's also a climate science denier (of course!) and anti-vaccination nut. Given all this, you'd think Barbara Comstock would be running as fast as she could to disown and disavow Trump's endorsement. Instead, she just retweeted it. That really says it all. Next Tuesday, vote for John Foust!
See Right Wing Watch for more about how good ol' E.W. Jackson "calls upon black and Hispanic Christian voters to leave the Democratic Party, telling them that if they were to dare to talk about their faith, 'you will quickly find out how much they really hate you.'" And just remember, 1 year ago today, this theocratic extremist and all-around nutjob was the Virginia Republican Party's nominee for Lt. Governor of our state. Amazing.
Student debt is currently about $1.2 trillion. Even more staggering is that, according to Brookings Institution figures, the amount increased by 20% in just the past 2 years. And though Brookings' research plays down the consequences, the analysis is flawed. Warner has recognized what could become a significant crisis.
There were stories about student debt on the Wall Street Journal This Morning today and in the Journal's newspaper yesterday mentioning initiatives by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others. Unfortunately and maybe intentionally, our Senator's initiatives went unheralded.
During a swing through Virginia last month, Senator Warner stopped at a number of campuses to discuss his concerns. The commercial media has not given Warner's ideas the attention they deserve and his opponent hasn't been challenged on the issues.
Studies like the one done at Brookings that downplay the impact of student loan debt rely on data from 2010 and before; not recent enough to capture the changes to the economic landscape precipitating from the financial crisis. They also fail to account for the debt generated from loans that paid for "educations" from predatory for-profit colleges and universities and the waste of veterans benefits squandered at those same institutions.
Plus there is an intangible factor bearing on the psyche of graduates that the Senator lays out after explaining that his own first two ventures in entrepreneurship and capitalism ended in failure and financial loss:
"The point of the story is: if I had come out with, the way many students are now, with forty, fifty, sixty, seventy thousand dollars' worth of debt, I'm not sure I would have had the courage or ability to try to take those multiple chances."
College debt may be an obstacle to the kind of freedom necessary for the creativity and invention that made America the leader in innovation. Warner offers a number of ideas to mitigate the challenge that student loan debt presents.
My god, where do these people come from and why are they always right wingers?
Ex-gay activist Linda Wall, who has launched a new Religious Right group called Virginia Mass Resistance, promoted her organization in a Saturday interview with "Mission America" host Linda Harvey.
Wall described to Harvey her own experience of being "seduced" into homosexuality, which she said all started with "a glass of wine and marijuana."
"It was as if it was an instant addiction as to a drug," she said.
By the way, I Googled this Linda Wall person, and one of the first articles that appeared was Linda Wall: The anti-gay activist who molested an underage girl ("A conservative crusader seeking office in Virginia admits that she had sex with a middle-school girl who was her student in the 1970s"). Why am I not surprised? As a friend of mine put it, "It's always the most virulently anti-gay ones who have this in their background."
Mark Twain once said, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." Well, apparently, 8th CD Republican candidates Micah Edmond either never heard that expression or has decided that Mark Twain didn't know what he was talking about, because he's just done exactly that: opened his mouth and removed all doubt that he's a fool. Why do I say this? Check out Edmond's bizarre interview with right-wing radio host Andy Parks of the Washington Times (but of course!). A few "highlights?
1. Edmond agrees with the right-wing host that Democratic nominee Don Beyer "disrespecting minorities simply assuming as an example the African American vote is an automatic vote." Edmond responds:
Well, I will tell you I think that he's done that in a number of ways...One is, when the minority community holds forums, Don Beyer never shows up. I've attended a number of them by...the Urban League...What I thought was the biggest insult was, he couldn't make the time, so he just thought, 'I will just send, you know, a black surrogate'...When I went to go debate at the Jewish forum, hosted by Olam Tikvah just recently, he chose not to show up and then he said well, you know, 'I'll just send a Jewish surrogate.' And then also with the League of Women Voters in Fairfax, he chose not to show up, but then he says, 'I'll just send some woman.'... For a very diverse district, Don Beyer doesn't seem to show up...he just [believes if he?] sends someone else that looks like them is good enough, and it's not representation.
Seriously? This is what Edmond's going to close out the final week of his losing bid for Congress talking about? That Don Beyer supposedly doesn't care about minorities because he sends highly qualified surrogates (like Sen. Adam Ebbin) to a couple forums? Note that Beyer has been involved in this community for decades (e.g., see here about Beyer courting the NAACP back in 1997), while Micah Edmond...well, give him a few decades and we'll see, but I'd wager that 99% of 8th CD voters had never heard of him prior to this election. Anyhoo...
2. Edmond says Don Beyer's "top three stated policies" -- climate change, women's reproductive rights, and gun control -- are not voters' priorities, but are "incredibly ideological issues in a district where the average person here cares about...having a new vision and new voice on how to grow the economy and create jobs." WTF? Where to even begin. First, there's nothing "ideological" about climate change -- it's basic science, and the only reason it's even political at all is because of Edmond's party and the fossil fuel interests who fund them. As for women's reproductive rights and gun issues, many people care deeply about these issues, for one simple reason: they're really important to people's lives. Again, if they're "ideological," that's largely because Edmond's party has made them ideological, instead of for instance simply acknowledging that 80%, 90% of the American people support things like universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, etc.
Finally, as for growing the economy and creating jobs, all the evidence is that the economy performs better under Democratic leadership than with Republican bungling. So, no, we don't need Micah Edmond's "new vision," as it's clearly the same old vision that got us into this mess in the first place. No. Thanks.
50 years ago today (October 27, 1964), Ronald Reagan delivered his (in)famous "A Time for Choosing Speech" in support of Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater over President Lyndon Johnson. Soon thereafter, LBJ went on to defeat Goldwater in one of the greatest landslides in U.S. history. So, in that respect at least, Reagan's speech wasn't toxic. But in most other respects, the speech - and Reagan himself - were a dangerous mix of dishonesty, demagoguery, delusion, and divisiveness. Let's start with the speech, since Reagan-worshipping right wingers will undoubtedly be celebrating it today.
First off, the speech clearly revealed Reagan's hard heartedness towards the poor, hungry, etc. As part of his assault on the Great Society specifically, and on the very concept that we are all "our brothers' keepers," Reagan joked (seriously, he thought this was very funny): "We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet." Hahahaha, get it? People aren't really hungry, they're just on a diet. Yeah, not funny. At all. Unless, perhaps, your heart is as cold and empty as Ronald Reagan's was (remember, this was the administration that thought AIDS was hi-larious! and did nothing about it while thousands died).
What's frightening is that it wasn't just Reagan who thought that way back in 1964, nor has this type of thinking gone away in 2014. To the contrary, there are now tens of millions of Americans - Republicans and Tea Partiers mostly - who apparently believe that it's fine (even highly desirable) to lavish taxpayer-funded welfare on corporations and the super-rich, yet not to give a helping hand to those who really need it (or even to mock them for needing that helping hand). If that's not corrosive and dangerous, I don't know what is.
Second, the speech was classic Reagan in its utter dishonesty. For instance, Reagan claimed - without any evidence whatsoever, of course - "No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income." Of course, that's not true in any way. For instance, some of the most prosperous and successful countries on earth today are well above the percentage Reagan tossed out in his speech. A few examples: Denmark (48.2%), Sweden (46.4%), Finland (43.1%), Norway (41.0%), Germany (37.0%), and the UK (34.3%). As for the U.S., we're way down there, below Turkey and South Korea, as one of the LEAST taxed countries (as a percent of national income) in the OECD. So what was Reagan ranting about? Simple: it's the corrosive, Big Lie that the United States' budget problems are not the result of having such low taxes. Nope, in the eyes of right wingers, it's all because we spend too much. Of course, when you ask rank-and-file Republicans and Tea Partiers, program by program, what they'd like to cut, they have no answer: the military (god no, they want to increase it!), "homeland" security (you must be kidding!), Social Security and Medicare (hell no, don't touch that!), roads and other infrastructure (if anything, they claim to want more of that -- they just don't want to pay for it), etc, etc. The bottom line is that Republican philosophy, as summed up by Reagan in his "Time for Choosing" speech, is that they want everything but don't want to pay for anything. The result: as President, Reagan talked tough but actually expanded government big time, cranked up the national debt several fold, pretty much violated everything he claimed to stand for in the "Time for Choosing" speech. Shocker, huh?
Third, on foreign policy, this speech was downright dangerous, advocating for an end to "containment" of the Soviet Union and switching instead to an aggressive posture of rolling back communism, of liberating the people behind the Iron Curtain, etc. Which sounds great, at first glance, until you realize a few things: a) we had absolutely no way to do that using conventional force; b) if we had tried to do that, it almost certainly would have led to war (quite possibly the last mankind would ever wage, as we'd all be a smouldering ruin after it was over) with the nuclear-armed Soviet Union. Today, we see Reagan's crazy legacy in the positions of Republicans like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and many others whose foreign policy basically comes down to "bombs away!" It's extremely dangerous, extremely costly (in both lives and treasure), and we've seen the disastrous results many times now. Thanks Reagan!
I could go on all day critiquing this speech from hell, but I'll just point out one other corrosive, vicious, dangerous aspect that we very much continue to see today: the demonization of government. Namely, according to Reagan and his ilk, any government program aimed at bettering peoples' lives constitutes "socialism" (as Reagan called it in his speech; sound familiar?), the product of an insidious "little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol," (yep, gotta love anti-intellectualism) the "ant heap of totalitarianism" (hyperbole much?), the demise of "freedom" and capitalism (yada yada yada), and stemming in part from the evils of federal "bureaucrats" and the "bureaucracy." Today, we see this attitude reflected in the likes of Grover "drown government in the bathtub" Norquist and everyone who's signed onto his extreme, anti-tax pledge (note: here in Virginia, the list includes Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes, Robert Hurt, Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith, Dave Brat, Barbara Comstock, and Ed Gillespie).
Bottom line: Reagan's "A Time for Choosing Speech," not to mention his two terms as President, epitomizes everything wrong with the Republican Party (and its even worse spawn, the Tea Party). Now, at another "Time for Choosing," I urge everyone who rejects the selfish, every-man-and-woman-for-themselves, we-are-NOT-in-it-together, "I've got mine so f*** you," trickle-down, corporate-welfare-for-the-wealthy, know-nothing philosophy to: a) vote; b) vote Democratic; and c) make sure you encourage all your friends, families and neighbors to do the same. The future of this country, as always, hangs in the balance, and you the voter will decide whether we move "forward, together," or backwards into the ditch.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, October 27. Also, check out the photo of Sen. Mark Warner and Fairfax County Dems Chair Sue Langley, from a "meet-and-greet" yesterday.
A look through publicly available tax records shows over a hundred thousand dollars spent on payments classified as consulting "Staff." Less was spent on payroll or salary payments. By classifying staffers as consultants, Comstock can avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes and contributions to Medicare and Social Security.
According to the IRS, independent contractors are self-employed - like pollsters and marketing companies. Staff that perform services that are controlled by the employer - like staff knocking doors on a campaign - are employees, and should be treated as such:"If you classify an employee as an independent contractor and you have no reasonable basis for doing so, you may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker."
"Given Comstock's reluctance to do the right thing when it comes to financial dealings, it's unsurprising that she'd jump from ignoring legislative conflicts of interest to skimping out on thousands of dollars in payroll taxes and Medicare and Social Security contributions," said Morgan Finkelstein, press secretary for the Democratic Party of Virginia. "We're seeing time and again that Comstock says one thing and does another. It is pretty ironic that Comstock tries to campaign on taxes when she clearly has her own tax issues at hand."
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