Washing your hands after using the toilet is not government overreach

TillisRiding the bus this week, one of the patrons was reading aloud a story about a US Senator complaining about onerous governmental regulations. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) suggested that businesses should be allowed to “opt out” of requiring employees to wash their hands after using the restroom. “The senator said he’d be fine with it, so long as businesses made this clear in ‘advertising’ and ’employment literature.'” See the video.

The jaw of one of the listeners dropped. Sure, most of us surmised that he was exaggerating to make a point, but it’s SUCH an unsavory image.

The right-wing website HotAir defended Tillis: “The idea is that, even in the most extreme or absurd situations, the common sense of Americans and the self-correcting nature of the free market take care of many woes. There are exceptions, of course, where the government can and should step in to ensure the general welfare, but that doesn’t mean that every single aspect of waking life for normal Americans requires Big Brother to rush in and hold their hands.”

Accepting that premise, one might want to come up with an example of real government overreach, rather than challenging a simple but effective rule to protect the public health.

Church and state: Francis I

If a Catholic priest were to echo Francis’ complaint about the rich-poor divide, that might be safe territory.

I found this graphic really interesting. The Socialist US Senator is embracing the Pope’s condemnation of “doctrinaire capitalism, ‘deified markets,” trickle-down economics, and the finance industry. He decried the growing gap between the rich and the poor, tax evasion by the wealthy, and characterized ruthless free-market economics as a killer that was inherently sinful.” I assume this will mean that the Pope will be painted as a socialist.

Francis, moreover, launched a broadside against former President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic theory, which continues to serve as conservative Republican dogma.

Of course, he’s in the Vatican, so he’s insulated from the US political issue. But I’m always re-examining what “separation of church and state” means. (And so is Dustbury.) I will make the case that being a good Christian – in my definition, obviously – could be, may be perceived as a political statement. If a Catholic priest were to echo Francis’ complaint about the rich-poor divide, perhaps by calling for raising the minimum wage, that might be safe territory. But if he were to name names, such as calling out the late 40th US President, that might well be crossing the line to partisan political talk that could theoretically get one’s tax-exempt status yanked.

Certainly promoting, or denouncing a political party or candidate can be a treacherous path, whereas, say, praying for the President and Congress and the federal courts to do good and just actions is OK. Calling for the closing of the wage-productivity gap is OK, but calling out the politicians who created the system, not so much.

It was weird watching Peggy Noonan on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos this past Sunday. She was SO pleased by the new pope, who was bringing back some of the disaffected Catholics, even though he was directly dissing her former employer and mentor, Ronald Reagan, who she clearly adores (present tense). It’s enough to give other denominations a case of pope envy.

Francis still stubbornly traditional positions on women’s ordination and other issues notwithstanding, I’m liking this Pope; the fact that his position is considered radical by some tells how far from Christ’s teaching some of the church has become.
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Bill O’Reilly speaks on behalf of Jesus about the scourge of Food Stamps

No, the US is NOT closing the Vatican embassy.

Veterans Day 2013

The better photo ops during the shutdown involved patriotic old men in their 80s and 90s unable to get to war memorials.

Reading this somewhat self-serving history of the Department of Labor during and after World War II: “When the war ended, attention shifted to the needs of those returning from war and their families. The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of June 22, 1944—widely known as the G.I. Bill—provided a weekly unemployment allowance, as well as counseling, placement services, education and job training to nearly 10 million veterans between 1944 and 1949.” Taking care of that generation was important to the country.

At the end or near end, of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we see that
most Americans now believe those conflicts were mistakes. I’m sure battle fatigue was a major factor in people’s opposition to an American incursion into Syria. Yet this is not a reflection of what people felt about soldiers’ bravery, from all reports.

The Veterans Affairs Department is drowning under mountains of paperwork representing services not rendered. During the government shutdown, the VA secretary said that “more than 5 million veterans, as well as some active-duty service members, would not have received “crucial benefits after Nov. 1 if the event had continued much longer. As it was, the shutdown slowed the process of paying those vets.

The better photo ops during the shutdown involved patriotic old men in their 80s and 90s unable to get to war memorials. Yet, one could argue that veterans were hurt far more by the loss of benefits during the shutdown than by the symbolic lack of access to some shrines. Open memorials may matter, but money for essentials matters, too.

Facebook and the shutdown

If no one’s is talking about the shutdown in YOUR Facebook circle, maybe it’s because it’s SO toxic.

In the Ask Roger Anything tradition, New York Erratic recently wondered:

Why do you think almost no one is discussing the shutdown and debt on Facebook? Usually, when something even vaguely political happens (e.g. an election, a school shooting, the Supreme Court decided something that made it to the national news), people are posting like crazy. So why virtually nothing?

OK, two contradictory answers about the shutdown:

1) It is not MY experience on Facebook that people aren’t talking about the shutdown. I see stuff every single day.

Here’s a couple on my timeline, from the last 36 hours, none from me:
“I think it’s time to start a revolution, friends. It only takes one! Imagine if one percent of Americans marched on Washington DC and demanded a new government. We could change the world!”

“REMOVE THE RADICALS IN DC ASAP. Ruining this country.”

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces that the state will pay the roughly $61,000 a day to reopen the Statue of Liberty. On the one hand, it’s a nice thing to do (and it no doubt helps tourism), on the other, these little tweaks to take the sting out of the shutdown just take the heat off the House of Representatives. ‘Hey, the parks and monuments are open, so what’s the big deal with the shutdown, right? Maybe those tea party folks are right that we don’t need the gubmint.'”

Plus LOTS of links to articles about the causes of the shutdown, like this one. People I know on FB are ticked off that “the Republican shutdown has now cost American taxpayers more than $3.3 billion and continues to sap our economy every day the government’s doors are closed.” I mean the shutdown doesn’t even save money!

Also, several data users are pointing out alternative sources for information, now that some of the core tools are not currently available.

In other words, NYE, I haven’t sensed that no one on Facebook is talking about the shutdown.

And, BTW, I totally disagree with the person on your FB timeline who wrote: “I think the main reason is that the ‘shutdown’ is not directly messing up anybody’s day.” I know people who have been furloughed. I AM one of those people without some resources I’m used to. People who plan their vacations to a national park all year and find a padlock on the doors aren’t inconvenienced?

2) If, in fact, no one’s is talking about the shutdown in YOUR Facebook circle, maybe it’s because it’s SO toxic. A SCOTUS ruling is announced, an election happens, and though the events have consequences, often long-term, they may not be immediately apparent. Whereas every day, we are reminded of the range of services not being provided by our government: sick people not in clinical trials, accidents and disease outbreaks not investigated, real life-and-death stuff.

We’ve become aware at a level not previously known that our government isn’t working, or at least is not working for the citizenry. When things like that happen, some people yell and holler, but others just want to cry in dismay. It’s what I linked to yesterday about us giving up, which is what some of them want; a discouraged citizenry that has surrendered, leaving THEM even more in control.

3) Re: the debt limit: When individual people weren’t paying their mortgages four or five years ago, it was painted by some as personal irresponsibility, and terms such as “moral hazard” were thrown around. THOSE people – J’accuse!

But the debt ceiling is such an amorphous concept, it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around it. Many people believe/hope/pray that it won’t come. We’ve been threatened with it before, and we expect that, because the political fallout has been so fierce, they’ll fix it, maybe as early as tomorrow.

But I also subscribe to the “I’m used to it” theory. Remember when the price of gas first broke the $3 barrier and there was great gnashing of teeth? Likewise, when it went over $4. So now, with gas prices generally down, but still, over $3 for a very long time, it’s just not the issue it was. We get used to the “new normal” and shrug.

Malala, the government shutdown, and other things

I worked with Jeff Sharlet’s late mother Nancy, so I knew Jeff from when he’d beat me, legitimately, in SORRY when he was six.

I was quite moved to watch Malala Yousafzai on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this past week. Malala is the teenager shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan, but survived, and has since set up a fund to support girls’ education. Here’s Part 1, the section that aired, but see Part 2 and Part 3 as well. If those links don’t work, try this one.

When you listen, you’ll note that what she’s advocating for is essentially a liberal arts education, wanting girls to think for themselves, radical in the environment from which she came. The group that shot her was pleased she didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize this week Jon Stewart may want to adopt her but she is reviled in her own hometown as not being Muslim enough or being a CIA plant.
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My job is funded by state and federal monies. Which is to say I’m still working, but if this partial government shutdown continues for a while, that could be a problem. Yes, the House GOP’s little rule change guaranteed a shutdown. And Speaker of the House John Boehner, last weekend, acknowledged there was a clean continuing resolution – there are no budgets anymore, just a series of CRs – last July.

I suppose it’s ironic that the “reason” for the shutdown, Obamacare, was instituted anyway on October 1, with all its technical glitches. Perhaps a better strategy for the Republicans would have been to ENCOURAGE participation of the Affordable Care Act, hoping to crash the computers.

And yet, if you give in to cynicism about our democracy, our democracy steadily erodes. If it’s their plan to get so sick of it all that we throw up both our hands and let them do what they do, I must say it’s a brilliant strategy.
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The Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857. I had never heard of this.

Sometimes you get a second chance to make a lasting impression.

Melanie has resigned herself “to needing help in private, but there is something that happens to me emotionally when I have to be helped to walk, or even be carried, in public. I do not handle it well.” Also: “Have you ever tried to pray for people who seriously want you dead?

The War on Q, W, and X.

It’s been a year since Mark Evanier’s mom died.

Voice and Hammer: Harry Belafonte’s unfinished fight by Jeff Sharlet. Jeff is prominently mentioned in the article College Writers Exit ‘Bubble’. I worked with Jeff’s late mother Nancy, so I knew Jeff from when he’d beat me, legitimately, in SORRY when he was six.

Roger Ebert’s scalding review of a Rob Schneider film, and what came next.

Disney’s first African-American animator, Floyd Norman.

This Scottish ad for breast cancer awareness may be NSFW, and may save someone’s life.

The reason I like this article is not because of the specific issue, which the homophobia of the Barilla pasta guy, but because Mark Evanier explains the First Amendment so well.

I too was surprised by the lawsuit after the Smiths/Peanuts comic strip mashup. Well, not by the suit itself, but by the fact it came from the Smiths’ music publisher. The Peanuts people have long been very litigious; I DO remember the barn in question.

The back roads of western New York State. Also, Albany’s lost boardwalk.

Entitled vacationers, plus Betty White plugs Air New Zealand.

Nedroid’s Party Cat series.

Jaquandor answers my questions about politics, film casting, and end-of-writing poetry, among other topics.