Christians In America Are Not Being Persecuted; Or, The Only Christians Being Persecuted By Wal-Mart Using ‘Happy Holidays’ Signs Are Exploited Wal-Mart Employees Who Happen To Be Christian

I am a Christian and we are so ridiculously far from being persecuted in this country, that it’s… ridiculous.

The major holy days of my religion are national, federally recognized holidays. Spring break is entirely designed to make sure people have time off during Easter!

Yom Kippur and Songkram are not holidays. Americans do not suddenly feel compelled to say “happy holidays” to each other during Ramadan, nor are we deluged with signs and holiday sales during it.

And about that whole “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” b——t… the entirety of non-Christian America is basically forced to recognize Christmas for an entire month, at least, so “Happy Holidays” does not represent an attack on the Christian faith, but rather a recognition that maybe we could make the state sponsorship of a Christian holiday maybe, slightly, but not really less exclusive of non-Christians. And, frankly, if the Wal-Mart stops using the name of a holiday celebrating the birth of my faith’s messiah to promote the sale of lawnmowers and to celebrate an exploitative system, well that’s okay with me.

The entirety of supposed ‘persecution’ of Christians in America is a response to a half-hearted effort to make our culture less overwhelmingly biased towards one religion.

The Sunday Paper – Shuffling The Tarot Deck

Economic model or astrological tool?
Economic model or astrological tool?

Economists use ‘mathiness’ to disguise their astrologies.

Old fashioned literary hate mail is the best literary hate mail. Today’s internet trolls just can’t compare to the greats of the genre.

We just don’t make good polymaths anymore.

‘Thunderbird’ By Dorothea Lasky

I feel vaguely guilty about this book, because I got it for free from Wave Books, because they were late getting some books I’d ordered sent out (Wave Books is a great publisher of contemporary poetry and I feel guilty about inconveniencing them and cutting into their margins; on the other hand… free poetry!).

This was my first time reading Lasky’s poetry and, at first, I found it a struggle. Not difficult, just not my kind of thing.

But I persevered and was pleasantly rewarded by a series of political and feminist explorations. Basically, I didn’t like the first two poems in the book, but thought everything else was pretty super awesome.

From ‘I Want to Be Dead’

I want to be dead
After all the ultimate act of self-indulgence is to be dead
Histrionic bareback

I will make one tiny objection, though. The fonts are terrible. Or rather, the titles of each poems are in a terrible, bold, gothic-y font that strains the eyes and take me out of the poem whenever my attention wanders to the top of the page.

Fiscal Conservative, Social Liberal

Whenever I hear that phrase, I cringe, because it’s a favorite phrase of upper middle class, white liberals who have fallen for both a false idea of fiscal conservatism and a shallow conception of social liberalism.

The social liberalism is generally a vague mixture of support of abortion rights, environmental protection, and LGBTQ rights. The fiscal conservatism is usually some vague platitudes about living within our means, not wanting to pay taxes, and perhaps some Pete Peterson-esque BS about cutting Social Security or Medicare and/or the ‘fixing’ the federal debt.

Here is an example my objections, which show why this stance is almost always BS.

For example, on LGBTQ issues, the support is frequently around marriage equality (though it is less vital since the Supreme Court made it the law of land). All well and good, of course, but an issue that costs far more precious blood and treasure is the issue of the still high rates of homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, and suicide among LGBTQ youth. They don’t brunch and their issues cannot be solved with a court ruling. In fact, what they need is to loosen that belt and invest in social services and programs that cost, you know, money.

The fiscal conservatism is almost always a false economy. Cutting social services and depriving America of the talents and future contributions of those young people is a long term cost. In the medium term, the higher rates of STIs and the connection between drug addiction and crime have considerable costs in blood and treasure.

The thing is, we, as a country, always wind up paying for these things. Just as when conservatives pissed and moaned and cried about healthcare reform. We can’t afford it, they said. It will be too expensive, they said. Mindbogglingly ignorant. Can’t afford it? We are already paying for it. Literally. Money is fungible. America pays X amount per year for healthcare. We already pay for healthcare, as a nation. We are just doing it ineffectively. In fact, we even pay more than that X would suggest, because we are also paying in reduced wages.

That goes for most of this stuff. In fact, it’s very much like your mother told you when you were a kid: take care of it now, or else it will be worse later. Take your medicine and pay upfront for social services for those kids, or else pay later and pay more. Set up a rational healthcare system that controls costs or else don’t and pay more later, one way or another.

Fiscal conservatism is actually about not wanting to pay now. Not wanting to pay now, also benefiting from the fact that, in America, poor people will pay a higher relative share of those future costs than you.

Other phrases I hate include, ‘I vote the person, not the party’ and ‘I’m just telling it like it is.’

In the first phrase, nine times out of ten, that’s just to provide an independent veneer, because the person who said that invariably votes for the candidate of a single party (usually Republican, because most Democrats aren’t so ashamed of their affiliation) in 99% of elections.

In the second case, the phrase almost always follows a statement which was some combination of pointlessly hurtful and/or racist.

The Social Contract

  I’m not going to explain Rousseau’s Social Contract. Frankly, if you’re reading this, you can look up what better folks than I have to say about the Swiss philosopher meant or should have meant or maybe meant. Also, you probably have access to a public library. And if that public library is poorly stocked in terms of Enlightenment philosophy and commentary, there are university libraries. Maybe you can’t check out a book, but there is pretty much no barrier to simply going inside and spending a few hours reading up on the subject.

What struck me was how some of his remarks are quite prophetic in their implicit criticism of some of the structural problems affecting the American (and global) economy.

Very early on, he criticizes what today we might call rentier capitalism. In The Social Contract, he is speaking purely about land (possession of agricultural still being the avenue towards wealth and the source of the aristocracy’s wealth), but the idea is easily transferable to modern financial instruments.

Possession of land, he says, must, in part, be justified by ‘labor and cultivation.’ Modern financial instruments do little to actually invest in production or innovation or much of anything (if I buy AT&T stock, AT&T does not suddenly have extra capital to expand broadband access; rather, I have simply given money to the someone who used to own the stock). In other words, they do not participate in ‘labor and cultivation.’

Later, he also explicitly attacks finance directly, as a destructive force that drives government away from the business of public service and which replaces ‘community’ (though he references the city-state, which shouldn’t be taken too literally, but rather as a reference to Greek philosophy and an idealized, Athenian-style polis) with money.

On economic inequality:

It is precisely because the force of circumstances tends continually to destroy equality that the force of legislation should always tend to its maintenance.

His distinction between ‘will’ and ‘force’ are in the context of the difference between the legislative and executive branches, which is less interesting and, in one sense, posits ‘will’ as the act of legislation and ‘force’ as the act of execution of said legislation (later, he also says that separation of the legislative and executive is necessary in a democracy). But he is pretty explicit that will is a moral cause (using ’cause’ in a loose, but not too loose, philosophical sense).

He gets what Machiavelli was trying to do in The Prince. Ostensibly writing for a prince, but actually writing for a future, restored republic.

Rather interestingly, he notes that, sometimes, slavery was a necessity for a form of democracy. He notes that widespread use of slaves in ancient Sparta might have been what allowed Spartan citizens to be free to participate in the government and direction of their city.

It’s interesting because, more and more, it is clear that American democracy was built on the economic back of slavery – that only the economic benefits (benefits for the white, male elite who created American democracy) of slavery allowed for the existence of America, both intellectually and practically.

The old copy of the book that I read had a slip of paper in it (actually, a piece torn from an envelope), with an address in my writing to the Open Fist Theatre Company in Los Angeles. It’s not far from my old apartment in Hollywood, though I don’t remember going there.

Monday Morning Staff Meeting – Somebody’s Got A Crush

Art loves poetry. Or manipulates the idea of poetry. Or appropriates. Poets still get no respect.

Better business through literature.

Mean writers.

Weekend Reading – The Making Of Schiller

photoFriedrich Schiller’s strange education at a military academy that promoted poetry, rhetoric and Enlightenment principles. Also, caning.

This does not actually reassure me. It’s more like the second coming of Rod McKuen.

So, while poetry only bookstores aren’t exactly blossoming everywhere, there are a lot more than there were just a few years ago (when it was really just Grolier’s in Cambridge and Innisfree in Boulder) And while it might be an exaggeration to call them wildly profitable, they clearly can be economically viable.

The unrecognized republic of Zaqistan.

In search of the new flâneur.


Not Dead Yet – Weekend Reading

A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728
A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728

Yes, that was a Monty Python reference, but I’m referring to old fashioned bookstores. Unbelievably, there is a book store in DC that I haven’t yet visited. It’s in Petworth and is called Upshur Street Books.

What? No Shakespeare! Inconceivable! And yes, that’s another movie reference.

This just sounds awesome. How can I get myself invited to one of these ‘Little Salons?’

The ‘mind’ of poetry. But, seriously – you used the Laffer Curve to prove your point? I mean, you do know that the Laffer Curve is almost completely bogus?

This is just kind of cool – a collection of short reviews of both books in Ace’s ‘Doubles’ series. I just read one with The Caves of Mars on one side and The Space Mercenaries on the other. However, there is no review of that book(s) on this site. But that’s okay. You are quite literally visiting a site – right now – that reviews both those books. There’s a search feature. Feel free to use it.

I have heard that the Philly poetry scene is pretty cool and happening. It even got mentioned on Gilmore Girls once.

Nothing short of genius will do. Genius… and no sex. Wait… what?

Typewriters I have known.

Monday Morning Staff Meeting – Art, The Savior

scififanzines4Investing in art is investing in community prosperity.

Salt from an ancient sea.

A poetry reading from the Miami International Book Fair.

Preserving sci fi zines for posterity. This is actually pretty cool. How many people printed and mimeographed wonderful collections of poetry and stories and art in zines and chapbooks, for them to be lost and destroyed and the authors, rather than being preserved in some part of human consciousness, to disappear with nary a ripple and finally leaving no mark on time?

Midweek Staff Meeting – Yes, It Is A Problem

I took this picture at the Providence Athenaeum
I took this picture at the Providence Athenaeum

Yes, H.P. Lovecraft was racist; yes, I still love his stories; no, his milieu doesn’t excuse it; and yes, it is an issue.

It’s only a matter time before they just buy the whole damn state. After all, under Rick Scott and GOP, it’s already for sale.

Feminism is not a wave (nor a particle).