Unreality Check #17: Some want your money, others…?

I got an email today with the subject line ‘List of corporations that support the “Equality” Act’. It was from Ralph Reed, FFC. I wasn’t familiar with either his name or what FFC meant, but the quotes around “Equality” suggested that it was probably from someone who didn’t believe in the term. In any event, I was curious to see which companies would be listed, so I opened it.

Sure enough, the salutation was “Dear Fellow Conservative.” According to Mr. Reed the act is “an attack on religious liberty in all forms.” Passing it would mean “opening women’s bathrooms and changing areas to biological men.” It would also, Reed said, force “adoption agencies that operate under a biblical understanding of family…to violate their beliefs or shut down adoption services.”

There’s a lot to unpack even in these few selected excerpts but suffice to say the following: the idea of Reed, or evangelical Christians in general, giving a hoot about religious liberty “in all forms” is laughable; biological men have been doing the things described above for centuries, with or without legislation such as this; and the stuff about adoption agencies is just nonsense.

What I want to talk about is how the fine folks at Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC!) apparently feel they have to trick even their supposed supporters into opening their fundraising emails. There was no list of companies, not even a mention of one. The only thing inside the email was a bunch of words designed to terrorize the feeble minded, surrounded by a bunch of links to send FFC your money.

The Satanic Temple, by contrast, has a straightforward approach to addressing actual issues. In light of the renewed assault on women’s freedoms, it is sending out simple instructions as to how to become a member, noting that as one “your rights to abortion will be protected by religious freedom.”

I don’t purport to know the accuracy of that statement one way or the other. But it makes me wonder. Which do you suppose is the better recruiting technique? Tricking your audience into opening your message and then shaking them down for money? Or providing a straightforward solution to rapidly escalating problem?

Not to worry…Mr. Reed is ready to defend religious liberty in all forms! Right, Mr. Reed?

Mr. Reed? Oh well. He was kind of a bummer anyway.

Unreality Check #16: Insurrection Commission

It’s nice to move on. And slowly but surely most people seem to be doing so, both from COVID-19 and a more-painful-than-usual election cycle. But it’s also important to figure out why bad things like pandemics and insurrections happen, the better to avoid them in the future.

In this spirit, the US House of Representatives voted yesterday to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The vote was 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in deciding that it’s important to figure out what happened and why.

I’m particularly happy about five of the GOP congressmen. Two were from my natural habitat, two from my chosen home, and one is a wildcard.

From southwest Michigan, both Peter Meijer and Fred Upton voted to have a look at the day’s events. Meijer took office just this year, is 33 years old, and part of the Meijer grocery family. An 8-year Army Reservist, he was deployed for two years in Iraq and holds an MBA from NYU. Meijer has purchased body armor and adopted a varied schedule due to threats against his life following his vote to impeach Pres. Donald Trump in the insurrection’s wake.

His West Michigan counterpart (and counterpoint) is Fred Upton, who’s been in Congress since 1987 and is 68 years old. He voted both to impeach Pres. Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump after the insurrection. Upton holds a BA in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Van Taylor and Tony Gonzalez are the two Republicans from Texas. Taylor is from Plano, north of Dallas. He took office in 2019, is a Marine combat veteran of Iraq, and holds an MBA from Harvard University. Gonzalez is a freshman congressman representing far-west Texas (excluding El Paso). He was elected in this long-purple part of the state when his six-year predecessor, fellow Republican Will Hurd, chose not to run again. The region’s new rep is a 10-year Navy veteran and has a Ph.D. in international development and security studies.

Gonzalez also shares the frustration felt by anyone who goes by Chris Smith of having someone else lock out the first page of Google results for the name. In his case it’s a Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end. In mine, it’s a 68-year old Republican New Jersey congressman (with help from a recent UCLA point guard).

But Smith did vote to establish the commission, doing the tens of thousands of us who share the name proud!

Unreality Check #14: Universal Suffrage

Every US citizen should be able to vote in every election. This is a fact and it should orient our views regarding the issue.

Eligibility to vote should be the default condition. As a US citizen, once you turn 18 you should automatically be added to the voting rolls and issued a voter ID. Adult immigrants would be issued their ID as part of their citizenship.

If there is a statutorily prescribed reason to remove your right to vote, it should be removed and your voter ID deactivated. Such statutes would ideally be limited, but ultimately would be decided by the people of the times, as is fit and proper.

Voting is a right, and US citizens should not be disenfranchised without agreed upon reason. Which means you should vote in every election to make sure not just the President but the people climbing the political ladder agree with your views on the topic.

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Voting Rights Part 2: “Own the libs” edition

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The Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) is a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations as well as federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. It issued a rule in December 2020 allowing predatory lenders to evade state interest rate laws by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork. It seems unlikely that this rule was designed to benefit or protect the average citizen.

In a 52-47 vote tonight, the US Senate voted to overturn the OCC’s “fake lender” rule via S.J. Res. 15 introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Rep. “Chuy” García introduced a parallel resolution, H.J. Res. 35, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that the Senate approved the resolution, the House has until the end of this legislative session to vote on it.

Advocates applauded the Senate vote and urged the House to act quickly to prevent a massive expansion of predatory lending through “rent-a-bank” schemes in all 50 states. Republican Senators Cynthia Lumis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined with Democrats in voting to overturn the rule.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is sending out fundraiser texts that read: “We can’t allow Dr. Fauci to continue this political theater. Chip in now if you want to FIRE FAUCI: bit.ly/FauciTheater

Way to stay focused on the issues, Rand.

Unreality Check #13: Conspiracy Generator

The need to be victimized is apparently limitless. The 2020 Census resulted, as designed, in the reapportionment of some seats in the US House of Representatives. Most of the states that gained seats lean Red, most that lost, Blue. And yet somehow conspiracy theories have emerged (yet again) that the fix was in on the part of the Democrats.

The speed with which each new event generates its own wave of misinformation designed to reinforce the idea that something was stolen during the last election stretches the limits of credulity. It’s almost as if the stories are generated by design.

In the event they were, who could benefit from reminding the disaffected as frequently as possible that they’d been wronged?  Republicans? Russia? The Media Elites? Let’s look at the size of benefit for each. The people who run media companies could make more money, and then use that money to attempt to force their artist-waged employees to execute the bigwigs’ evil agenda. The GOP could retake control of the executive and legislative branches of the United States government, a bigger prize by far. But Russia…Russia could succeed in destabilizing the greatest defender of freedom the world has ever known. Now, THAT’s a prize!

Uh oh. I think I might have just done it myself.

The moral of this story? Rabbit holes, even when you build them yourself, are dangerous. Best to spend most of your time taking things at face value. That’s almost always what reflects reality anyway.

Here’s a fun graph looking at how motorsports fans break vs. the general population in terms of how likely they are to buy an electric vehicle. As both an avid motorsports fan and an F1 fan, it looks like I’d better starting planning for higher electric bills!

Unreality Check (#5)

Photo from studentenergy.org

It looks like there might be some wiggle room on energy in the both the new administration and Congress. Congressional Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have made a series of proposals intended to modify the terms under which oil and gas leasing can occur on federal lands rather than banning it outright. They’re also trying to get President Biden on board. Grassley called on Congress to increase royalty rates, describing the current system (in place since the 1920s) as “corporate welfare.”

Yes, Grassley represents the state that produces far more ethanol than any other, but sometimes you take help where you can get it.

Democrats likewise want to raise royalties paid to the government and are also pushing for remediation of abandoned wells, tougher regulation of methane emissions, and increased public input into the process. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), chair of the energy and mineral resources subcommittee, described Congress’s actions as an effort to provide Biden with ways to fix a broken system rather than simply throwing it out.

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Republicans in the Texas legislature are keeping the pedal to the metal, putting forward a bill that would ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization. The bill would charge women who have abortions and doctors that perform them with murder. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Mar. 9 signed a bill into law banning abortions for any reason except saving the life of the mother.

Unreality Check (#3)

‘To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth,’ released in 1997, is Swedish metal band Entombed’s fourth album. It was a step away from the band’s death metal roots, providing the cornerstone for the then-nascent metal subgenre, death n’ roll (yes, a blend of rock n’ roll and death metal).

Most fans would choose one of the three albums that preceded it as their favorite Entombed record, but ‘Too Ride…’ has a special hold on me. It was the soundtrack of my first trip to Rio de Janeiro. Rio in 1997 was better than Rio even three years earlier, but it was still a place where it was never clear who the bad guys were and in which nightclub madness could turn into actual chaos in the blink of an eye. Gunfire rang from the favellas well into the night and police sweeps of Copacabana were non-stop once the sun went down.

‘Too Ride…’s’ overdriven everything, nearly continuous swing, and lyrics focused on the perpetual struggle for sanity (or at least peace) made the perfect musical accompaniment for a new visitor to a society on the edge. Vocalist LG Petrov didn’t write the words he sang, but he delivered them with such unfettered disgust, amazement, and ferocity that they were inescapable.

LG died today, taken at age 49 by bile duct cancer. He was a unique and striking personality in a genre full of them. But I have ‘Too Ride…’ forever. And the journey’s just getting started.

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So it looks like everyone’s cool with Marilyn Mansion getting cancelled. Let’s use that common ground to build something. You know where to reach me. #bipartisanship

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When Trump backed COVID relief legislation it was urgently needed aid that got broad support from both sides of the aisle, but now that it’s Democrats it doesn’t even merit consideration. How can anyone take the GOP seriously? That’s a real question.