The Republican Party in Utah has recently given up any pretense of caring about limited government, fiscal conservatism, or anyone who isn't rich. Late last year during the winter holiday, with as little fanfare as possible, Governor Herbert passed a very unpopular tax reform that seems specifically written as a "screw you" to the lower classes. Not that everything in the bill is bad, or that allocating additional funds for education and mental health is bad, but as politicians like to do they've made those redeeming qualities inseparable from the crap and are now using those qualities to feed us barefaced lies about how this tax reform is good for us little people and we're stupid for opposing it.
I, for one, am especially livid about taxes on groceries going from 1.75% to 4.85%. Free from any longer maintaining the pretense of wanting to cut spending, Republicans brainstormed all the ways they could raise money for their future spending increases, and finally decided "Let's punish low-income people for eating." Or maybe that was their first choice from the beginning, because after all, corporations are people but people aren't people. Exhibit A: Now that Harmon's and a few other grocery store chains are publicly opposing this particular increase, Governor Herbert is upset that they didn't come and talk with them first about their concerns that he didn't care about when they were only voiced by thousands of average citizens.
In his defense, even though it's off-topic, I will say that Governor Herbert isn't a complete waste of a human being. He has betrayed the Republican Party by welcoming refugees to Utah and asking Trump to send more, despite the outrage this has generated from thousands of his constituents who have the audacity to call themselves Latter-day Saints. So I want to like him. This latest development causes me some amount of cognitive dissonance.
The laws of Utah do, however, provide a way out of this. We, the people, have generously been granted something like three weeks, including a few major federal holidays, to gather 116,000 signatures on a referendum opposing the bill that the government had months to write. If successful, this referendum will block the bill from going into immediate effect and instead will leave it to the people of Utah to vote on. Although this might set a dangerous precedent of elected officials not being able to do whatever they want, it's a calculated risk that's uniting people from all over the political spectrum. Now there are ten days left and it's impossible to say how many signatures have been gathered, as many haven't yet been turned in and/or verified.
The biggest obstacle is that a great number of people have never heard of this tax thing in the first place. The lying cowards who passed it haven't exactly gone out of their way to advertise it, until now when they're in damage-control mode. In my own very limited sphere of influence I've been sharing updates that are either getting blacklisted by Facebook's algorithms or just universally ignored. It's times like this I wish I was famous and influential, but then I would probably also be rich and not care.
To find a signing location near you and/or volunteer to collect signatures, please join the Facebook group Utah 2019 Tax Referendum
Recently I saw this thing on Facebook and decided to tear it apart, because that's what I do.
This is, of course, a highly contrived fictional conversation that somebody made up to pat himself on the back for how woke he thinks he is. (That's still the word kids today are saying, right?) So I shouldn't hurt anybody's feelings by mansplaining what should be the self-evident fact of how ridiculous it is. Of course I realize that in the hierarchy of hate crimes, mansplaining is just below smiling while white, but I never said I was perfect.
Ugh. I know the feeling.
"This 'sexual harassment' ---- is -------- ridiculous".
I am not inclined to empathize or side with someone who starts off by saying this. Actual sexual harassment is wrong, plain and simple, and should not be tolerated in any workplace. But again, this is a fictional person and almost nobody in real life is stupid enough to say this so bluntly in public even if it reflects his actual opinion.
"What, now I can't even tell a woman she is pretty without getting in ---- for it?"
This part is a tad more realistic, and the point where I expected the post to take a completely different turn than it did. I expected the author to say something like, "No, you just have to treat women with respect and not be a pervert. You shouldn't feel personally victimized by that concept. Allow me to explain the difference between sincere, thoughtful compliments and sexual harassment."
"Well, we've worked together for you've never told me I'm pretty."
"That's because you're a dude, like me."
In this instance, the fictional person is correct and the person making up this conversation is an idiot. It is not and never has been normal in any English-speaking region of the world to call a dude "pretty" as a compliment. Even if you're gay. The typical male equivalent is "handsome". If the author had demonstrated a first grade level of English fluency by recognizing this fact instead of pretending that two entirely different contexts are the same thing, he would have greatly strengthened his argument. But he didn't.
"Gotta tell ya, that's a little disappointing because I think you're pretty."
"Cut that ----, bro. You're creeping me out."
Again, the fictitious nature of this conversation is painfully obvious. Based on the context immediately preceding these statements, to say nothing of the way most straight males aged twelve to thirty interact with each other, the fictional sexist straw man would need an IQ in single digits to not realize the author is just being a jackass and messing with him. He certainly would not play right into the author's exceptionally woke hands by saying "You're creeping me out." At best he would roll his eyes and say (correctly) "You're an idiot." But in this SJW wet dream, anything goes.
"Soooo me telling you that you're pretty when you neither asked for nor welcomed comments about your appearance is making you feel uncomfortable."
What alternate reality is this guy living in where you're not supposed to compliment people until they "ask for" it? The same alternate reality where there's no difference between calling women and men "pretty", I suppose. And how exactly does one "welcome" compliments? "Attention, everyone, I am now welcoming comments about my appearance for the next fifteen minutes. Please submit your comments before the deadline or they will not be accepted." Look, if someone is making unsolicited unflattering remarks about your weight or complexion or whatever, of course that's messed up and you have a right to be upset. But if you think people need your permission to say you look attractive, and/or if you can't tell the difference between those things, something's wrong with you.
No, not really, you pompous tool.
And the story ends there. I suppose modesty forbade the author from mentioning the part where all his other coworkers applauded, and the misogynist piece of crap was so ashamed of his behavior that he deleted all his Facebook posts where he had accused Rey of being a Mary Sue.
Once upon a time, a gay friend told me that I'm "dorky cute". I'm not gay, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. More recently, a straight friend told me, "I know guys aren't really supposed to say this, but that shirt really brings out your eyes." He was right, guys aren't really supposed to say that, I appreciated the compliment anyway and started wearing that shirt a lot more often. Last week at church, a friend of my grandparents who's old enough to be my mother asked them, referring to me, "Who is this handsome man?" The obvious explanation is that she needs stronger glasses, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. Though I would have appreciated it more if she had called me pretty. Why didn't she call me pretty, when all the people more woke than me know that's a perfectly normal way to describe men? Another time, I was in the restroom at Hasting's (now closed) when some guy outside started whispering "I want you." I looked around for something to kill him with if he came inside. So I would certainly qualify that one as sexual harassment.
I'm hardly an expert, but here's some free advice on giving compliments that aren't harassment. I waive all responsibilty for death or injuries that may result from following said advice.
First of all, I don't think you should call someone pretty or handsome or cute or whatever unless you actually know them a bit. When complimenting strangers, which if done properly brightens any normal person's day, I think it best to focus on an item of clothing or swag and leave it at that. "I like your scarf", etc. Maybe if you have social skills and pure intentions you can proceed to get to know this person but I wouldn't bother. Even with someone you know, a specific compliment with some thought put into it is usually more meaningful. Something that singles out the clothing, a physical feature from the neck up, a personality trait, or a skill.
I would forego the gender-specific and potentially loaded terminology altogether, to say nothing of slang that could make someone feel objectified, and just say "You look nice." I have never experienced or heard of someone reacting negatively to being told that they look nice. Sometimes they have low self-esteem and try to deny it, but they probably won't bite your head off, but then again people apparently exist who think you need prior authorization to say something like that. Perhaps I've just been fortunate enough to avoid those people. Not that I go around giving out as many compliments as I'm making it sound like here.
If you're a middle-aged or older man, probably just don't compliment anything about the appearance of a woman in her twenties who isn't related to you. It's not harassment if done properly but it just isn't necessary enough to justify the potential discomfort. Yes, there is a double standard that makes this less acceptable than when the genders are reversed, but let's be honest, we all know that double standard exists for a reason and we all know what that reason is. I wish we lived in a world where everyone had pure motives and just wanted to brighten everyone else's day out of the goodness of their hearts. But since we don't, I'll just keep being a jerk.
What's happening now in Hong Kong feels like the most Earth-shaking event of my life since the Arab Spring erupted while I was in high school. At that time I was on proverbial tenterhooks to see what this would mean for North Africa, the Middle East and the world. And what it meant was that Tunisia transitioned to a constitutional democracy, seventeen other countries did not transition to constitutional democracies, and Syria spiraled into an eternal civil war that's now a primary contributor to the largest refugee crisis in world history. Not exactly on par with the fall of the Iron Curtain. As yet there have been no other comparable events of such obvious significance in my lifetime. 9/11 could have been, if I had been old enough to understand its repercussions or if I had ever so much as heard of the World Trade Center before that day, but it wasn't.
The proposed legislation that pissed many Hong Kongers off enough to protest has been retracted, but the protesters have still had enough and they want their independence from mainland China altogether. I fully support that goal because the government of mainland China is evil to the core. And this is where things have a chance to turn out differently than the Arab Spring. My hope, in fact - and I don't know the likelihood of this happening, so I'm not getting too excited, but I really really would love it if it did - is for the protests to spread across the mainland, for the entire country to rise up and bring down Winnie the Pooh and the other murdering dictators who control their lives. It would be difficult to coordinate without Facebook, but the government wouldn't have a chance in hell of suppressing such an uprising if it included a majority of the population.
Of course, it does have the power, in theory, to suppress the protesters in Hong Kong, and every intention of doing so. I say "in theory" because there is ample historical precedent for poorly armed, vastly outnumbered underdogs kicking their enemies' trash (e.g. the American colonists, the Viet Cong, the Alliance to Restore the Republic). So I'm on the tenterhooks again waiting to see what will happen, wishing I could actually contribute to this cause I believe in. If I were an actual successful multimillionaire author instead of a virtually unknown blogger talking to himself, I could have enough political and financial influence to put my white savior complex to some use, but as the situation stands I can do little more than pray for them. And I know prayer is powerful, but as the continuing epidemic of mass shootings in my own country demonstrates, it's not a substitute for action.
Even the best case scenario will come at a heavy cost. There is almost no conceivable chance that many, many innocent people won't be disrupted, hurt and killed for standing up for their city's freedom. This is probably why many other Hong Kongers are wary of, or even opposed to, the protests. Every sane protester is undoubtedly terrified. I hope that as the situation deteriorates, their courage and convictions will not falter, and that others will be emboldened by their example to join their ranks. This is mostly what I pray for. I pray that God will strengthen their hearts for what lies ahead. As Captain Peter Quincy Taggart said, "Never give up, never surrender!" As the singers on Atari's video game cash-in album "Yars' Revenge" sang, "Better to die a hero, than to live a slave." And I'm sure there are some similar quotes from real people that I could throw in if I felt like it.
My one piece of white savior advice that will make no difference to anything is that their actual physical violence and vandalism need to be directed at the right people. The protesters need to stop disrupting civilians' lives and livelihoods, no matter how justified they feel. They are needlessly alienating potential allies from their cause. Maybe they need to target police officers. They probably will need to target soldiers and bureaucrats as things heat up. But they should never target anyone merely for having, or being suspected to have, certain political leanings. They should not vandalize businesses, airports, train stations, and the like that are not actively strengthening the government of mainland China. They need to let their call for freedom ring loud and clear without giving others reason to paint them as terrorists or common criminals.
And if/when all hell breaks loose, they should fight clean and with dignity. The government of mainland China will undoubtedly commit war crimes. The rebels shouldn't stoop to that level. While certain regrettable actions may be justified and necessary for this cause, there is a line that should never be crossed. Some things are never justified by even the most noble cause. People of Hong Kong who will never read this, I implore you not to become the very thing you seek to destroy. I know it's none of my business, but I'm praying for you, for your own sakes and for your children and your grandchildren. Good luck.
The bad news is that the government of China is sterilizing, murdering, and harvesting organs from religious and ethnic minorities with impunity. The good news is that closer to home (meaning, in my case, the United States, in case that's not obvious), Donald Trump is facing imminent impeachment proceedings after a whistleblower report revealed, among other things, that he cheated on Putin with the president of Ukraine. I won't celebrate just yet, though. I can't predict with confidence that he'll face any actual consequences, because the last four years have demonstrated that he's exempt from the standards of behavior that apply to actual humans. Case in point: several Republican senators have refused to even read the report. Admittedly, at nine pages including the appendix, it weighs in substantially longer than a tweet, but these are the sacrifices we should reasonably be expecting them to make for their country if they actually cared about it.
Only two U.S. presidents have ever been impeached (which, contrary to popular misconception, doesn't mean they were booted out of office, but just that the proceedings that could potentially lead to them being booted out of office took place). The last was Bill Clinton. I was alive at the time, but too young to care who he was, let alone notice when he came under national scrutiny for fooling around with an intern and lying about it under oath. My parents were disgusted at him for dragging this country through the mud and not having the decency to resign, but I don't think even they could fault him for wanting literally any woman who isn't Hillary Clinton. But Trump's wandering this time around is just baffling. Why would you want this
when you could have this?
Richard Nixon never faced impeachment proceedings after Watergate because he did have the decency to resign. A shrewd political move, in hindsight, because now he's almost exclusively remembered for that one scandal instead of his War on Drugs that's ruined the lives of millions of good (and disproportionately non-white) people. I obviously wasn't alive then but I've heard that this was the moment when American faith in government was irreversibly shattered, giving way to the ubiquitous cynicism we find ourselves immersed in today. We expect politicians to be corrupt and dishonest, and we only muster up the energy to get upset about it if they're in the opposite party from us. I see memes sometimes claiming that Obama's only scandal was wearing a tan suit. Yeah, no, just because you ignored scandals like Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS harassing conservative groups to help him get re-elected, and his secret White House Halloween party with Johnny Depp doesn't mean they didn't happen.
What neither Nixon nor Clinton had, though, was legions of sycophantic butt-kissers desperately trying to defend everything they said or did. Neither of them would have gotten away with a tenth of what Trump has said and done. And maybe the Democrats will even lose their nerve if they decide having Pence take over as president would be even worse. So like I said, I'm not holding my breath to see if he actually gets held accountable like an actual human this time. But there is hope. And rebellions are built on hope.
I harbor no ill will toward the leaders of eastern European nations for manipulating the political processes of another nation to further their own interests. The United States has done exactly that and worse. I guess it's supposed to be okay when we do it because we're the good guys. And I harbor no ill will toward the Russian trolls who made a profitable career out of writing fake news about Hillary Clinton prior to the 2016 election. We all need money, and it's not their fault the U.S. is home to millions of gullible morons who can be exploited for profit. (In one article I read, one of them said he started out writing fake news about both Trump and Hillary, but only the Hillary stuff went viral so he focused on it exclusively.) Maybe the Nigerian scammers need to learn a thing or two from them. Americans above a certain age will forward almost any bullcrap in an email or Facebook post, so if they won't even take yours seriously, you're doing it wrong.
Just today as I was writing this post, for example, I had to see this garbage in a group called "Sustaining the Prophets and Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ" - intended to be a forum of uplifting religious content for Latter-day Saints from any country - from some poor soul living in an alternate reality where black is white, up is down, and Donald J. Trump is a great man who deserves respect. It actually legitimately scares me that people who think like this exist. I'm not talking about people who held their noses and voted for the lesser of two evils, I'm talking about this inexplicable level of delusional worship that makes me physically ill.
The admins took their sweet time doing anything about it, so I'm not at all sorry for my progressively less tactful role in the dumpster fire that erupted in the comments. I got accused of "casting the first stone" just because I expect a reasonable middle ground between "perfect" and "thoroughly unworthy and unqualified to be president of the United States". The distinction between righteous and unrighteous judgment really shouldn't be that that difficult to grasp, but it is for some people, and I'm sure my sharing this hilarious response from somebody else in the thread won't help.
In more lighthearted news, sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg pissed off a lot of people with her impassioned defense of basic science and common sense. Some of the actual "unwarranted abuse" from idiots whose worldview is threatened by actual facts centered around her being on the autism spectrum. It's unusual for a prominent girl/woman to be known for being on the autism spectrum, because women usually hide it a lot better and don't get diagnosed until later in life. But she's on the spectrum and that's played a major role in shaping her activism and it shows somewhat in the way she looks and talks. And in some people's minds, that makes her a second-class human. I enjoy being reminded periodically that people like me are still viewed as second-class humans. By all appearances, though, Greta is not the slightest bit bothered or deterred by her haters. Good for her. When I was sixteen, I was doing things so unimportant that I don't even remember what they were.
Remember the demonic mosquitoes I wrote about? The mosquitoes that, before I bought a handheld bug zapper, attacked me en masse every day on the way to work and bit me more times than I can begin to estimate? Yeah, so I read the other day that some of them, this exact mosquito population on this exact block, were trapped and tested positive for West Nile virus. I'm sorry, what century is this? What country is this? And why in the seven levels of hell hasn't anyone in Logan done anything about this mosquito infestation, which has existed for years, until I bought a handheld bug zapper?
So by my calculations, there's a zero percent chance that I haven't already been infected with West Nile virus several times. Nothing has happened yet and maybe nothing will happen because actually 8 out of 10 people who get infected with West Nile virus aren't affected at all. And only 1 in 150 people develop super severe and potentially fatal symptoms. If that does happen to me, though, I don't have health insurance so I'll just be screwed. Yay, America!
Probably I'll be fine. But the unwelcome revelation prompted me to think even more about my mortality than usual. What would I do if I found out from the doctor I can't afford to visit that I only had a few days or weeks to live? I would tell my least favorite people in no uncertain terms exactly what I think of them, write a brief list of instructions for what I want done with my corpse, and then relax and look forward to never having to worry about money again. I have no fear of death. None whatsoever. I do have a considerable fear of death being preceded by protracted high levels of pain, but the actual prospect of transitioning out of this craphole into a far better plane of existence is a happy one. I think about it at least once a day. Every morning, and I do mean every morning, I wake up so exhausted that I fantasize about slipping into oblivion so I don't have to get up or open my eyes. Meanwhile President Russell M. Nelson, who turns 95 tomorrow, says "I can hardly wait to bounce out of bed each morning."
Maybe on resurrection morning, for the first time, I won't wake up more tired than when I went to bed. I read all about resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 this week with a study group, and was touched by the entire chapter but particularly verse 19: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." If I believed that this life was all I'm going to get, I certainly wouldn't tolerate it for another moment. And my life isn't even that bad in the big scheme of things, but it's completely not worth drudging through if I'm not going to be compensated at some point.
I was struck also, for related reasons, by this comment from an anonymous twelve-year-old who's recently decided to spend his one and only life drive-by trolling the Deseret News Facebook page. In its few sentences, wisely ignoring the centuries of Christian theologians and philosophers whose prior musings on the subject would only bog him down in semantics and critical thinking, and refusing to be baited into actually engaging with or demonstrating the slightest cognizance of the contents of the article on which he posted it, he undertook to singlehandedly once and for all resolve an issue that lesser minds have debated for as long as they've grasped their own mortality. Behold:
I'm not sure which he needs more - the gospel of Jesus Christ, or a grasp of basic English grammar. And what kind of responses, I have to wonder, do such simpletons think their asinine comments are going to trigger from the faithful? "Oh, you mean to tell me there's suffering in the world? I had no idea! That completely disproves my heartfelt beliefs in a higher power, which were entirely contingent on my misconception that the world was made of rainbows and butterflies, and on my never having considered the problem of evil until just now, thanks to you, you brilliant free thinker, you! This also explains the mystery of why the least prosperous nations in the world have the lowest levels of religiosity, except actually the opposite of that is true, but who cares because reasons!" That's what I'm going to say the next time I accidentally read such mindless blathering from one of these jackasses.
Also, "cult members"? I've never been called that before, and it really hurts. Really.
To my shame, though, I must admit that I took a couple minutes to actually look at his page. This is his cover photo:
I guess the implication is that God can't exist because stars exist? Or something?
If the worldview he's proselyting for is correct, then the existence of life, let alone sapient life, is a tragic accident of astronomical proportions. Even the happiest life on this planet is a pointless existential nightmare from which one is only released by the endless and inescapable void of death. There is no ultimate justice. Nobody ever really gets what they deserve, for good or evil. Any and all "lasting" achievements that people may focus on to delude themselves that it's worth it anyway, that they can take comfort in collective progress and some cheap bullcrap counterfeit of immortality, will die with the human race in a couple centuries at most, to say nothing of the eventual demise of the entire known universe. If I believed this, I would also believe that my only rational course of action as a thinking person would be to kill myself and escape the nightmare as soon as possible, and that's exactly what I would do.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that I think atheists, either those who coexist in mutual respect like adults or those who spend their pathetic lives taking personal offense at other people's sense of purpose, should kill themselves. I'm just being honest about what the problem of evil looks like to me. In pretending that theists are the ones who can't solve it, Mr. Delusional has got it exactly backwards.
Dr. Daniel C. Peterson said it very well: "Most of the world's population, historically and still today, does not live, well fed and well traveled, to a placid old age surrounded by creature comforts. Most of the world has been and is like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the slums of Cairo, the backward rural villages of India, the famine-ridden deserts of northeastern Africa, the war-ravaged towns of the southern Sudan and of Rwanda. If there is going to be a truly happy ending for the millions upon millions of those whose lives have been blighted by torture, starvation, disease, rape, and murder, that ending will have to come in a future life. And such a future life seems to require a God.
"Yes, the problem of evil is a huge one, but to give up on God is to give evil the final say. It is to admit that child rapists and murderers dictate the final chapters in the lives of their terrified and agonized victims; that Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot really did triumph, forever, over the millions they slaughtered; that, in the rotting corpses of Darfur and Iraqi Kurdistan, we see the final, definitive chapter of thousands of lives; that there is, really, no hope for those whose health is in irreversible decline; that every human relationship ends in death, if not before.
"This would not be good news, and I see no compelling reason to accept it. In fact, I see numerous persuasive reasons to reject the claim. But that is a subject not just for another occasion but, necessarily, for a great number of other occasions."
I love these words, even if the God I depend on for this hope is the same guy who thought it was a good idea to invent mosquitoes and West Nile virus.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.