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Posted at 8:21 AM ET, 11/29/2010

Safe again to talk religion and politics

By Joel Achenbach

I guess Thanksgiving is over and the relatives have left, because the paper has a story that combines religion and politics and is the kind of thing that would surely lead to dinner-table rancor, tears, thrown plates, and declarations of no-turkey-sandwiches-for-you. Apparently there are conservatives who think Obama doesn't believe sufficiently in American exceptionalism. Obama says he does believe in it, but he doesn't say it with the required huffing and puffing and chest-thumping -- like he believes it in his gut -- and, predictably, he throws in some qualifiers and caveats, like the constitutional law professor that he is.

So he's basically Noam Chomsky.

If not Ghaddafi.

Whereas the red-meat conservatives basically say God is on our side, and if you don't think God is on our side then you're not on God's side, and you know the implications of that. Eternal torment, the flames, the lake of fire, chronic discomfort, a sense of ennui until the end of time, etc. At least that is one possible interpretation of what people and politicians are saying in Karen Tumulty's story:

A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution found that 58 percent of Americans agreed with the statement: "God has granted America a special role in human history."

Gingrich says Obama fails to understand that "American exceptionalism refers directly to the grant of rights asserted in the Declaration of Independence," and that it is a term "which relates directly to our unique assertion of an unprecedented set of rights granted by God."

So exactly how entangled is God in American politics? Doesn't He have better things to do? There's a whole universe out there, billions and billions of planets in all likelihood -- wouldn't you feel bad if, say, the fuss over the 10th Amendment was proving to be a distraction at the highest, cosmic, intergalactic level?

A planet should be seen and not heard.

Question, while I'm thinking about it: What, according to theologians, does God think about the separation of church and state? Or do they say God likes some parts of the Constitution more than others?

And correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Thomas Jefferson, who is credited as the author of the American creed, kind of a howling secularist by the standards of today's religious fundamentalists? Yeah, he liked small government -- and a giant wall between religion and politics.

Please start arguing now. Thank you.

By Joel Achenbach  | November 29, 2010; 8:21 AM ET
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In education, the word "exceptional" is used to describe any child who falls outside the norm, outliers on our bell curve. This means that the same term is used to describe both the extremely gifted child and the profoundly retarded one.

So, which one are we claiming that the United States is more like?

Posted by: GomerGross | November 29, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

[Hastily translated from the Aramaic]

"I am God and I approve this message."


Posted by: -bc- | November 29, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

We are special. So very special.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

On twitter this morning, I called this The New Jingoism.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Here is the relevant clip-

Featuring a future senator portraying a former presidential candidate. And isn't that SPECIAL!

Posted by: kguy1 | November 29, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I think most of the Founding Fathers would have been abandoned at the caucus level because of lack of piety. (Except that scoundrel Ben Franklin who would have been forced to publicly apologize for his sexual indiscretions and end up with a nice book contract. But I digress.)

The notion that God likes us bests is insulting to God. Since when do we get to dictate the nationalistic preferences of the Almighty? Next we are going to dictate what professional football team he wants to win. (Wait, the winners already do that.)

Further, of course, once you presume to know exactly what God wants, you have theological cover to implement God's will without resorting to any kind of pesky logic. If we are God's Favorite, than surely all we do is okay in the eyes of God. (And don't call me surely. A joke it would please me if St. Peter were pulling at this very moment.)

To suggest that God would favor someone who does evil is blasphemy. See where this gets you? Well, in the extreme, you get Protestants burned, Christians hung, and really big buildings full of people blown up all because of the absolute certainty that such things make God Happy. This is not the way you want your leaders to think and we should all stay far, far away from it.

We don't know the mind of God, so let's not use this as a way to establish policy.

But there is another danger, that I've mentioned before to getting theology mixed up with politics. Religious thought is based upon defending certain premises despite the appearance of contrary information. Doubt is sinful. To lose one's faith is to get invited to the Fiery Pit.

Now, whether this is a proper mindset for religion is not the point. It does not belong in politics. Such things as tax policy and the size of the military are not in the same category as Biblical Literalism or Transubstantiation. But if you start thinking about public policy through the filter of religious thought, you end up defending indefensible positions. And feel good about it.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 29, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

If being on-kit mattered around here, we'd all be relieved of any obligation by Gomer's most intelligent observation.

As a Christmas present, Mr. F has arranged for me to accompany him to Germany in January. I am attempting to learn enough of the language to at least be able to show that I've made an honest effort. When I've exhausted that I will fall back on my usual technique of passing as Canadian. The line between Exeptionalism and ugliness is easily crossed. Don't suppose Newt and his ilk even know there is a line.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 29, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

On a related note, the Pope recently made comments regarding condom use -- now, for some reason, I'd like to ask him what he thinks of Newt Gingrich.


Posted by: -bc- | November 29, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Peripherally related to the concept of God Knows What I'm Doing And He Approves; Heck, He Practically Begged Me To Do It: is anyone besides me skeeved out by the David Yurman jewelry ads that appear in the printed Post Magazine? That would be the ones that show very attractive, distinctly undressed, lusciously young-but-not-so-young as to be illegal girls... I mean, women... wearing jewelry they couldn't possibly afford at their age, nor could an inamorata of their own age afford it without inherited wealth. Ads that say: "Yes, gentlemen; you, too, could be a sugar-daddy and get some of this, if you know what I mean, if you purchase our products."

Or is that just me?

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 29, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

In Bill Maher's stand-up routine near the end of the show he gets philosophical and asks "Why is faith good?" He then riffs on the idea that blindly following ideas that cannot be logically deduced is normally seen as a bad thing. But he does it funnily.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Making note to send Frosti my Maple Leaf pin and Olympic wear, or alternatively stock up on the Red Mittens - they seemed to be very popular inside and outside the country. New ones this year,

I am no religion or bible expert but wasn't the attitude of "exceptionalism" sort of frowned on, particularly in the New Testament?

Posted by: dmd3 | November 29, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

*sigh* Another social wedge issue.

Very unlike David Ignatius's very recent column about American resilience, I might add.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan war plods along with no seeming progress. We could stand to pass an effective food safety bill (see Pollan's op-ed in the NYT today). Unemployment is still persistently high. Much crumbling American infrastructure needs rebuilding. The recommendations of the Deficit Reduction Commission come out this week and will probably be swept under the rug. We're stuck with security theater at our airports. Real issues.

I went back to the history section at Border's on Friday to see a young woman seated in one of the two chairs available in the history section, with a copy of "Decision Points" in her lap, to be a gift for her grandfather, she said. G.W.'s book at number one in nonfiction sales for the past week, according to the NYT list reprinted in our own local Sunday paper.

I found myself interested, recently, in Peter Beinart's "The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris." This must be the fourth or fifth book to have been published in the last handful of years about this subject. Great fodder for a writer, apparently. I'm wondering why it's impossible to see hubris when we're engaged in it?

"Globish" is on the list of books that interest me--since I found gaping problems with a few posts/discussion about the history of the English language in the last kit. Guess I can put "Globish," should I decide to purchase it, on my own library shelf next to Ostler's "Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World." Interesting prespectives here about invading armies and invading populations.

Or should I invest in one of two--or both--"Empires" books (history of) that came out this past summer? Specifically, "Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference," and "The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall."

With independent voters ready to swing across party lines, as evidenced in the last two "change" elections, I believe the test for 2012 won't be wedge issues like the one in the Tumulty article, but who can deliver actual results in the next two years. So, eyes will be on Washington, D.C. for the legistlation or actions that benefit the American people. No more of this type of yakkety-yak, results!

Posted by: laloomis | November 29, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure God would want us to argue about Him and what He's thinking about at any given moment or which pronoun is appropriate to use when referring to Her. It just craves the attention, yanno?

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend.

Mr. A, when are we gonna get more 'OMG, the Big Five-Oh is almost upon me' kits?

Posted by: MsJS | November 29, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Good frosty Monday to all!

Have enjoyed backboodling these last few days ... too many wondrous observations and events from you all to comment upon further. Thanks for being here.

One thought about this kit (obviously, I'm with the Boss and the Boodle) --- may the FSM protect us if this is posted on the front page. Has anyone checked the heating system in the bunker lately?

Posted by: talitha1 | November 29, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

God does not have the time and inclination to favor one nation or another. He is far too busy helping music producers win Grammys.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Great kit this morning, Boss. Actually, I discussed it with God earlier and, exceptionally speaking, She agrees with me.

I think we can expect this to be on the front page if it isn't already. Whereupon, I ask the bunker committee to have comestibles at the ready, the fire sparkling in the fireplace and muzak flowing from the speakers (no earbuds, please).

And, now (for something completely different) back to my legal stuff.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

U.S. exceptionalism is something I struggle with. When we default on treaties it seems to undermine our own standing, that's for sure.

It's cold as a teacher's wit in here. Off to feed the cast iron beast.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 29, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

My two cents added to the comments following the aformentioned article:

"Wow, another block-buster political meme, almost as big as "The Scandal of the Flag Pin." Perhaps the U.S. should air drop millions of soft cuddly wubbies for all these Americans who are so unsure of themselves and their country."

All right, that's pretty snarky. But the point is, this is a manufactured political issue. Most Americans (1) don't feel that the U.S. has become either more or less "exceptional" in recent years, or (2) Obama makes the U.S. more or less "exceptional." This is more conservative barking at the moon. It's why they should be kept out of the house.

Warmest Regards,


Posted by: jp1954 | November 29, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

dmd and you other Canuckistanis, please keep your cotton-picking hands off of this here discussion, please, cuz this is America we're talking about here, not "North America." God didn't mean "America and Canada" are special and exceptional; He only meant America. If he'd have meant to include Canada He'd have said so unambiguously, as is His customary wont.

I suppose some smart-alecky flaming liberal might ask "at what point in U.S. histroy" did God decide we were exceptional: at the beginning, on, say, July 2 (or maybe July 4), 1776, or in 1887 when the Constitution was adopted, or kinda sorta just in that whole general time frame, or did He wait a while to see how the Founders were gonna do until He put His Goodhousekeeping Seal of Approval on us?

Cuz I'm thinking maybe He had some reservations about that whole slavery thing, which basically didn't get resolved until about 1865, or maybe even later, because of Jim Crow and all that. So there is some doubt in some people's minds (not mine, of course), about exactly WHEN we might have beciome exceptional.

Unless of course God had a pretty loosey-goosey take on it, and that His Approval evolved and morphed and adapted as the country changed and adapted -- and also added more states. See, originally he only had just the 13 to approve of. Then we started adding places like Texas and Sarah Palin's Alaska. Some we got by force, and some we just purchased outright, like that Black Friday deal Jefferson got when he bought Louisiana. I mean, jeez, they threw in, like, 12 more states or something. Could that guy shop, or what?

A philosophical question, perhaps for astronomers like SciTim: is Divine Approval and Exceptionalism a steady-state phenomenon, or just it kinda waver up and down, depending on what the country is doing at any given time? Were we exceptional, say, during Vietnam? The Civil War? During Prohibition? During Sweeps Week? Are we even more Exceptional at some times than others (i.e., when Bristol Palin is doing well or doing poorly on DWTS)? Are we more Exceptional during Republican administrations than Democratic ones?

Whatever. All these questions are making my head hurt. Be that as it may, I do think we need to listen to Red-Meat Conservatives a lot more often. Which is enough to drive me to become an effing Vegan.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

SCC: 1787

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Laughing Mudge.

I am sure God did not include Canada, we are godless socialists. I am not sure I would want him/her to choose us, whenever God favours someone/a nation is seems they must endure a lot of difficulty.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 29, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Gomer, RD and CowTown have all elucidated important aspects of this topic and done it well.

I particularly like CowTown's reminder that most Amurricans don't necessarily know what the doctrine of exceptionalism is, much less agree with it. Asking if we think God has granted America a special role in human history is meaningless without some follow-through. Do those same people believe America is preordained to lead the world, or justified in doing so? Does this belief mean they think America should expend people and resources in other countries? Judging from the unpopularity of both foriegn aid and foreign wars, I think not.

Of course people responded "yes" when asked if God gave America a special role in human history. One point of faith, for many, is that God has a purpose for everyone and everything, and our lives are at least in part spent finding and fulfilling that purpose. This is easily restated as a belief that God has given individual believers a special role in human history, because that's what (at least to a subset of believers) faith in God does. This would naturally extend to their country. Probably a smaller set of voters would agree that God has a special role set aside for their dog.

Of course, cats are the provenance of Satan.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 29, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm all confused. I thought it was the Prussians that God was backing. Wasn't "Gott mit uns" the Wehrmacht's motto?
That gal sure gets around.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 29, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

If God had wanted Canada to be part of American Exceptionalism, She would have let us win the War of 1812.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Here's an exact quote:

"Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking." - Bill Maher

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Speaking on behalf of world Jewery (as I am often asked to do), we went through this whole, Divinely-bespoke "Hey, you guys are really extra special" thing about four thousand years ago, and quite frankly, it didn't turn out all that well for us.

You know that old canard, "Be careful what you wish for." In our case it meant circumcision with a sharp rock, no shrimp cocktail, persecution, and gefilte fish, not necessarily in that order.

Then about 1,500 years ago He seems to have switched over to the Vatican. I guess that worked out a little better for them, but I kinda think the bloom is off that rose, if ya know what I mean.

But hey, I don't wanna be a glass-is-half-empty kinda guy. Maybe you guys will get a better deal, or maybe God is just getting better at this whole omnipotence and crowd-selection thing.

I wonder how He's doing at picking football games this season. My bet is he's scratching his head and asking WT[Redacted]?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Michael Kinsley's opinion:

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I am sooo glad you folks have been explicating on this theme, so I don't have to. Thanks to all for your sensible comments.

Poor God, I feel sorry for Her, She gets the bad end of the stick on everything!

Amazing how the Bible is so incredibly misinterpreted by the fundamentalists. Think, people, think! Study! Read! What does the book actually SAY?

Off to get an ice cream cake for Geekdottir.

Posted by: slyness | November 29, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

And, um, slyness -- who wrote the Bible and why are there so many versions of it and what was the original language used (remember the "telephone game" everyone?)?

Is there to be any chocolate in and/or around that ice cream cake for Geekdottir?

*I'll be right over*

Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"What does the book actually SAY?"

Unfortunately, mine's all in Hebrew, and I can't read Hebrew, so I can't make heads or tails [or tales] of it.

I would guess that many of you who don't read Aramaic or classical Greek have similar problems.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Here's a story in the NYT that may send Scotty bonkers:

Parity Keeps Many N.F.L. Teams in It

6 minutes ago

Entering Monday’s game, 23 of the 32 N.F.L. teams were within two games of the lead in their division, with five games left.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

The translation of my copy is titled "How To Serve Man."

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Gingrich conflates the divine purpose in the birth of liberty and justice FOR ALL in the US with right wing politics.

Posted by: madstopfern | November 29, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

This is a good column...except for the last two grafs.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I love this Steve Benen post about how Fox News' website fell for an Onion "news article:"

Warmest Regards,


Posted by: jp1954 | November 29, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Fox News doesn't fall for Onion stories as much as they fulfill the prophecy of them.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I think that Maher is wrong, at least in many cases. Maintaining faith often requires a tremendous amount of thought. People must exert great effort to interpret what they observe in a way consistent with their underlying premises.

For example, there is the question of evil. Why does God allow bad things to happen? True, some may simply accept this without thought as an unknowable mystery of faith, while others simply reject the notion of God because of this. But for many centuries thousands, if not millions, of individuals have attempted to understand this apparent contradiction through logic and clear thought. Whole books written by brilliant individuals have been devoted to both this and other intellectual questions inherent in faith.

So, often faith means having to think quite a lot indeed. Which is why many highly intelligent individuals are also people of faith. The question, though, is if doing so make one more virtuous. Something to think about.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

It's very self-aware that Ross Douthat comes to the defense of hypocrisy and inconsistency.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Funny, disturbing, and hilarious. Fox should never live that down.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 29, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

And in Christopher Columbus news, now he's Polish.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

You are in fine form today, Mudge.

On American exceptionalism, I thought I'd best go to Wikipedia to see if we were talking of the same thing. I see I was using a more technical definition only, in the sense of history and not religion per se. Odd, this, because just yesterday I was reading about Lewis Morgan's
contributions to Lenin and Marx's view of historical stages in social development, a view I find discredited, now as defunct as the view of human evolution as a hierarchy with us at the top.

The Wiki article draws heavily from de Tocqueville.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 29, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I suppose what remaining fragments of exceptionalism I have are of this sort:

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 29, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen... *SIGHHHH*

Several of my h.s. classmates decided at the last minute to not attend the reunion as they weren't feeling well. It seems that at least one more person should have stayed away, since I'm home sick with a bug of some kind and the reunion's an obvious source of blame.

I'm also OK with the concept of not getting a raise the next two years.

Seriously, that bothers me not one whit, but it peeves me no end that heads of various government unions feel the need to demagogue the issue. *SIGH*

*hoping-some-homemade-turkey-soup-(it-couldnt-hurt)-will-set-me-right Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 29, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse


You are right. The best minds of several centuries have mused on the nature of God and faith to often mutually contradictory conclusions. For a long time the goal was to use philosophy and logic to prove God and then it was to point out that God can't be proven, which is why faith is necessary.

But in the end, all religions and other faith-based constructs rely on the same answer given by bedraggled parents when their kid asks "Why?" one too many times: "Because."

For many people this answer is sufficient.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

It had better be.

Posted by: bobsewell | November 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

CqParkian, parading as theologian today briefly.

All concepts and definitions of God in Christianity, at their heart, ARE NOT EXCEPTIONIST. Really.

Quickly, with one or two paragraphs: God is proclaimed as loving parent and author of all life. This means that God loves all children equally: even those who do not acknowledge or know this being. And, nothing, nothing, nothing about any people, or community or race or ethnicity or nation-state being especially espoused in God's eye or heart. NADA!!!

Also, salvation is freely offered to ALL. NO EXCEPTIONS.....period.

Hate it when we rank order amoungst ourselves some notion that Orwell wrote about so chillingly in Animal Farm:

All animals are equal; Some animals are more equal than others.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | November 29, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I do want to defend the idea of American Exceptionalism in one narrow sense. The United States was the very first non-monarchical constitutional democracy in the world and is the longest continuous practitioner of that governmental form. As such, we have an honor and a duty to uphold the sentiments of our Founding Fathers (to use Palinesque capitalization) who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, three of the most influential political documents ever written.

However, I reject any notion that a deity had anything to do with it. Except for perhaps the Flying Spaghetti Monster who saw that our early nation was devoid of pasta and sent waves of Italian immigrants to our shores to rectify that deficiency.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Chocolate ice cream cake it is, ftb, with Happy Birthday Geekdottir written on top! (That cost me $5 extra, but is worth it.) Come on over, there's plenty!

The problem with the answer to why God allows evil isn't that it doesn't make sense but that it pales in comparison to the suffering that evil causes. So often there are no words to help the suffering, there is only love.

Posted by: slyness | November 29, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Phillip Jose Farmer, writing pseudonymously as Kilgore Trout, did posit an answer to the question of "Why are we created only to suffer and die?" at the end of his version of 'Venus On The Half-Shell'. I shan't spoil it.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

He was...Polish???

Jeez, that explains sooooo many things.

On the second voyage, we had 17 ships, IIRC, and maybe 1,200 sailors. So we're sailing through the Caribbean, and we come to this island, and Columbus says, "Mudge, that island yonder. Let's name it Montserrat, for Santa Maria de Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, in Catalonia. Put it down in the logbook, please?"

And I say, "You got it, boss. Just spell that for me, wouldja."

And he sez, "K-R-O-Z-P-C-Z-N-S-K-T-Z. Just like it sounds."

So I'm thinking, okay, the Old Man's been hitting the madiera again, so I look it up later on.

So we sail on, and we come to this little island with what looks like a snow-capped peak. "Mudge," he sez, "let's call it Nevis, derived from the Spanish, Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, meaning "Our Lady of the Snows."

"Sure thing, skipper. Gimme a spelling on that, wouldja?" And he sez, "Nevis. N-K-R-T-C-Z-R-V-R-K-N-C-W-T-Z."

Turned out as we got closer it wasn't snow, it was just the top of a cloud. "You want I should fix that in the logbook?" I asks him. "Nah," he saus. "It won't matter. Snow-Cap and Cloud-top are spelled the same anyway."

Saint Croix, same thing. Tortola. Sint Eustatius. Saint Martin. K, Z, Y, R, whatever.

So one day in the far distance we spot a whole chain of islands, though we didn't go up that way. "Whaddaya wanna call 'em, chief?" I asks. Comes his reply, "Islas de Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgenes," he says. I have to think a minute. "That's Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins, yer eminence," I sez. "No one's gonna want to build a Club Med in a place with a moniker like that. The cost of the stationary is gonna be prohibitive right there."

"Mudge, ya got a point," he says. "Let's just shorten it to the Virgin Islands."

I didn't ask him how to spell it, since I already had some small familiarity with virgins myself. But jeez, you ought see how he spelled it when we got to Jamaica and then to Martinique right before that hurrican hit.

I have to tell you, in all honesty, that after a while I stopped asking him, and just made up some of the names myself. That was right after we sailed into this lovely little harbor he wanted to name Kielbasa, Cuba.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Yello - just about all philosophical questions worth their salt can be reduced down to a "self-evident" or unprovable assertion. For example, why is it wrong to kill innocents if it benefits the collective whole? Sure, there are a lot of arguments, but it comes down to something unprovable. It's, you know, bad.

The point being, there is nothing unique in religion, per se, in being based on an unprovable premise - a "Cause I said so" statement. The mere fact that it is unprovable doesn't mean it isn't valid. The weakness is that the virtue isn't associated with the premise, but with the process of belief itself.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 29, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"But in the end, all religions and other faith-based constructs rely on the same answer given by bedraggled parents when their kid asks 'Why?' one too many times: 'Because.'"

There are those of us who have witnessed and/or received miracles. We have tangibly experienced the Divine.

For me the answer to "Why?" is "I've experienced it."

Posted by: MsJS | November 29, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

All logical and philosophical constructs require premises. And small changes in them can cause big differences. Just look at Euclid's Fifth Postulate. So somebody has to say "And it was good."

Likewise, it has been 'proven' that no logical construct can be made inherently un-contradictable, so it would be unreasonable to demand that religion not have some as well. A certain amount of faith is always needed. But once you give faith primacy over reason it leads to bombing abortion clinics and flying airplanes into buildings.

And when Supreme Deity Of Your Choosing is allowed to talk to random people who change the rules and premises at will, chaos results. The Prophet Of God business needs to be much more closely regulated with some sort of accreditation system or something.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

And I am in no position to refute or deny your experience. I am happy for you. Genuine people of faith always make me feel churlish for being so relentlessly cynical.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Amen, MsJS, amen.

Posted by: slyness | November 29, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

1 John 4:8 (New International Version, ©2010)
...God is love. The most wondrous statement in the bible. I feel sorry for those with no faith. But I still love them. I am also glad I can forgive my enemies. As far as exceptionalism, we are the most forgiving and loving nation in the world.

Posted by: Windy3 | November 29, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

"Genuine people of faith always make me feel churlish for being so relentlessly cynical."


You cannot think or feel something false. You cannot be a conscious hypocrite. There's nothing churlish in that. You're honest. I wish that your honesty garnered the same respect from the proselytizers of the world that you afford to believers.

Posted by: kguy1 | November 29, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"A planet should be seen and not heard"?

We Americans are only 5% of the world's population.

Hardly a planet.....

Posted by: shopping1 | November 29, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to the wonderful world of hyperbolic humor writing, shopping1. See, what Joel meant was...oh, the hell with it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Windy -- whenever I see the statement beginning with "we" or "America" followed by "most forgiving and loving nation in the world" I wonder if you've ever traveled outside the country. While I am not as widely traveled as some on and off the Boodle, I have been places and am proud (not to mention gleefully happy) that I have friends (dear friends) on four continents. And each one of them believe exactly the same thing about their own countries, as well they should.

This ethnocentricity stuff makes me turn off the sound during the Olympics and other world competitions. I simply cannot stand it. It's also a message of entitlement that curdles me.

If you want to posit that we as a nation are the most forgiving and loving nation in the world, does that sample include only people you know or choose to hang out with? Witness lynchings, cross burnings, school and church bombings, mosque bombings and synagogue bombings, the McVeight massacre in Oklahoma City, etc.

Perhaps it depends only upon whose ox is being gored. Sure, I can forgive (selectively) and my love is known worldwide (selectively), but I also never forget.

Back to work.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Hear, hear, ftb!

Posted by: talitha1 | November 29, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Yello, you are genuinely you and who can ask more of anyone than that?

ftb, very well said. What a delightful duality that 'Merika can be violent on the one hand and loving/forgiving on the other.

Posted by: MsJS | November 29, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, guys. I am also p1ssed off at those who rail against Michelle Obama for her statement that the election of her husband made her proud of America, with the implication that she might not have been always or continuingly proud of this country? WTF???

Can these people *not* be "exceptionally" offended by slavery, by lynchings, by gratuitous (isn't it always?) violence against others in this country, *including* fellow citizens? What about the trafficking of young children (male and female), whom other Americans willingly exploit? Does that make them proud?

*growling loudly, but, after all, I *am* writing a pleading, so my outrage coefficient is pretty high right now anyway*

I'll tell ya, though -- willingly stooooopid people acting as if they are the only Americans worth listening to (and being paid for it, to boot) offend the hell outta me.

Dearest Mudgekins -- you are a treat. I remember your tales when we shared that flagon over flickering candlelight way back when. Oh, the tales you told.


Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Part of the subtext from the article about 'exceptionalism' is the dog whistle attempt to emphasize the 'otherness' of Obama. It's another round of the same stuff they were using on Michelle. They are just trying to paint the Obamas as un-American whenever possible.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Who is this God character that Christians keep talking about ??? I would like to know whether or not the word God is his real name or do he have other names like JHVH, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rasheif ??? I wonder if any of the Christians know the orgin and meaning of the word God ??? If this God character have more than one name, is he the same God as the one that goes by many names ??? The Republican Tea party have only one use for Christianity. The Koch Brothers, corporate boss controlled Republican Tea Party intend to use Christianity in an attempt to justify their fatally flawed, extreme right wing, pro corporate, anti American agenda. Gingrich and Beck are nothing more than jack leg, shade tree, charlatan snake oil salesmen. They're shysters without a plan. The corporative lap dog Republicans act on their wit and not with their hearts. "Share the wealth, tax the rich." [Huey P. Long]

Posted by: ODDOWL | November 29, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I know, yello.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I know what Windy is saying. I understand the emphasis on love. And, my tradition is less focused on the sharing or commission of share the news. However, I do hope people will here will consider the good will I know that she intends.

About our generosity. Yes. We are rather generous at times; by we, I mean our community that we know, which defacto on many days is our friends and neighbors and colleagues summed up into our country. It is natural to identify this.

And, I also know that others in other communities (counties, ethnic groups, religious groups, regions....) are generous, too. And, the people who occupy these "zones" know these particular incidents of generosity too, and sum the up to yield their groups too.

One clearly documented phenon is that some of the most generous among us have the least material goods. See this NYTimes Magazine August 2010 article on the giving divide:

For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans. In 2001, Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.

I know Windy's and for that matter Cassandra's great good will toward all, including us. (MISS YOU, C. PHONE HOME!)

And, like them, pray for you all daily to a rather conventionally conceived God, who is at essence, pure love and ground for all being.

Pardon the faithiness here.

And, LOVE FTB TOO! Hear you on the particular stains on our American souls....and that so often TOO OFTEN, we humans are so inhumane to our brothers and sister. May that cease; may we listen to our inner voices or may we heed the angels.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | November 29, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

I skimmed a book review by a South Korean who has knowledge of the inner workings of North Korea. Here is the premise of his book.

"North Koreans are taught to see themselves as a unique race bestowed with an unparalleled spiritual purity. This sets them apart from the evil and inherently immoral outsiders, but also makes all contact with the outside world dangerous. Being uniquely pure, spontaneous and naïve-overgrown children, essentially—Koreans have to be guided and protected by a leader."

Those North Koreans are just plain deranged, no?

Posted by: baldinho | November 29, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

ftb - People certainly have the right to their opinions, but not to their own facts. Please keep the following somewhere for future reference, so the ($@*&ing !#7%%) clods will at least know that we know that they are stretching the truth mightily.

Here's what Michelle Obama said at the rally in Madison in 2008 [Transcription by me. I was working fast, but I think it's pretty accurate. The section below follows a recap of the campaign to that point, recalling the obstacles --- lack of funding & organization --- which collective political wisdom had held to be insurmountable.]:
"But what we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud.

And I feel privileged to be a part of even witnessing this. Traveling around states all over this country, and being reminded that there's more that unites us than divides us. That the struggles of a farmer in Iowa are no different than what's happening on the south side of Chicago. That people are feeling the same pain, and wanting the same thing for their families, and they're ready to work for it."
Speech here [the video ain't great, but you can hear her speech clearly enough]:

Don't give me any revisionist crap about how her feelings are somehow special because of the traditional troubles of 'her' people, or that she was referring to the acceptance of her mocha-hued hubby. That wasn't the point of her speech, and only liars & fools will tell you that it was. She was making the point that people who have stayed politically uninvolved (because they thought they could make no difference) for quite a long time had gotten very motivated & active during the election campaign, and she was very proud of that fact.

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

baldinho, I suspect North Koreans consider themselves to be, well ... exceptional. In this country, note that the Tea Partiers have been "led" by those who make an exceptional amount of money out of "leading" others.

Windy -- my blowback on what you wrote was a reaction to the all-encompassing absolutism of your statement. It really makes me cringe when I read stuff like that. That being said, I know what you're saying and on a more granular level I agree that "many" Americans are generous and "many" Americans are forgiving and "many" Americans are loving. But this country as a whole *isn't* and shouldn't be made out to be so. Micro is much more important in this context than macro.

CqP -- you and your sources are so right that those on the lower income scale are more generous to those in need than those who have a lot of money. I've always been of the school that "you can't take it with you" and obsessive showing of opulence (at least in these here parts) I find insulting. I don't have much money (and right now, since clients aren't paying, things are a bit dicey), but if the lottery (which I do not play obsessively) ever hit, the first thing I'd do (besides paying off my mortgage and all of my bills) would be to create a trust (or two or three) for the children I love and care about in Zambia, in addition to a foundation for doing good over there -- or even directed to other eleemosynary activities wherever they may be.

Back (yeah, I know what time it is) to work.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

My number one rule of being the best: if you are the best, you don't have to keep repeating it to yourself.

Posted by: baldinho | November 29, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Since when have context and nuance ever meant anything to a wingnut?

Posted by: yellojkt | November 29, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

I get that, Bob-S. I knew I didn't have the complete factual discourse in regard to what she really said, but that wasn't my point. My point was -- no matter the circumstances underlying her reasons for saying what she did -- the opposition to it was completely idiotic for the reasons I posted in my earlier post. You aren't going to hear any revisionist stuff (crap or otherwise) out of me, and that wasn't the point of my comments.

Simmer down there, cowboy, and take a load off.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 29, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

ftb - I was agreeing with you, and giving you support.

Next time one of those ignorant/lying jagoffs spouts that crap, give 'em the transcript, give 'em the link, and point out that her speech (and her pride) had nothing to do with the "special" status of her & her husband, and everything to do with an upwelling of political involvement among Americans of very diverse stripes & colors.

It was a very good speech indeed. People who insist upon misrepresenting its message deserve to be confronted repeatedly with the fact that they are dishonest and/or misinformed, even though they will resent being reminded of that inconvenient truth.

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with your 3:07, kguy. I can indeed be a hypocrite fully conscious of it. This makes me exceptional.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 29, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

The US is truly exceptional. There are, however, always exceptions.

Posted by: baldinho | November 29, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with your 3:07, kguy. I can indeed be a hypocrite fully conscious of it. This makes me exceptional.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 29, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

If ftb thought I was being critical of ftb, then I punctuated & formatted poorly. The only part of my earlier post specifically addressed to ftb was the first paragraph.

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Nah, Jumper, not so exceptional. In fact, some other Jumper1 at 8:45 PM had exactly the same thought!

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

You know what the two funniest (meaning strange, weird, sicko) things about all this "Exceptionalism" crap are?

1) The people making the claim are among the most mediocre, average, know-nothing, UNexceptional, non-thinking, brain-damaged, sanctimonious unself-critical people ever to walk this continent; and

2) they are also the anti-elitist crowd, always harping about the *&^%$ Elites and how they are proud to be NOT part of any gull-durned Elite.

We have heard much too much already about Exceptionalism from the politicians. Now we need a couple of good op-eds and pieces in the Atlantic from practicing psychiatrists about the deeply rooted self-esteem issues, insecurity, and general braggadocio pathology of people who feel the need to not only be God's very special people, but to be part of something so exceptional.

because this thing isn't just round 17 in the culture wars. This is a deeply neurotic behavior these people are exhibiting.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

curmudgeon: I take the exceptionalism thing as proof that they have nothing of real merit to discuss. Pushing buttons is much better. At some point people will realize that button-pushing gets us nowhere.

Posted by: baldinho | November 29, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Very precisely correct, baldinho. It's truly empty posturing, and while I can (and do) tune it out the vast majority of the time, it is frustrating that it eats up resources better spent elsewhere.

Sigh... Bread & circuses, right?

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but you two guys don't get it. Yes, it is button-pushing, but it isn't meaningless button-pushing. The kinds and types of buttons they push have meaning and significance. I'll be the first to grant you there is an underlay of total cynicism in this by many of the promoters -- but there is a core of people who are responding to this crap, and they are the ones who are not being cynical (like you are). They *believe* this exceptionalism stuff. The question is why. That's where the neuropathology comes in.

You're looking in the wrong place, at the speakers, not the listeners. The question isn't whether Elmer Gantry is a charlatan, as you guys suggest. Of course he is. The question is why his followers are in the Chatauqua tent and are so willing to believe his message.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 29, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Shirley you're correct that it's important that so many peeps are so ready to take comfort in the same tired demagoguery that has occasionally worked (temporarily, and never happily) ever since your youth, lo those many (many, many, many dozens of hundreds of) moons ago. We gotta give some thought to why that's true, and what to do about it.

The button-pushing itself is, in fact, relatively meaningless, because it is so predictably familiar. Spending much time on them charlatans is mostly wasted energy, just as fighting terrorists is no more than a holding action until an actual worthwhile future can be presented as a viable option to populations that support terrorists.

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Postulate two sets: (a) the set of Public Radio Nerds, and (b) the set of Comic Book Nerds. Iff the intersection of these two sets is not the empty set, then there exists a product (The "X-Men/This American Life Crossover Poster") that can be marketed successfully.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 29, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Credit's tight even for people who are probably good for it, continuing education is gosh-darned expensive, and health care is (for anyone who isn't independently wealthy or heavily-subsidized) a terrifying morass of expensive pitfalls. Even a very temporary period of unemployment is sufficient to throw many [of us] into a tailspin with catastrophic consequences. Even for those who avoid all of the aforementioned difficulties of life, there are many people in the world who regularly trumpet their heartfelt intent to kill as many Americans as possible, wherever they may find them.

The appeal of mindless demagoguery is hardly mystifying.

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

SciTim - Sweet!! I'm on it! [Actually, I'm forwarding your comment to a good buddy. He'll be on it fer sure. I'll keep you posted. I foresee a gallery.]

Posted by: Bob-S | November 29, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

The intersection of comics nerds and NPR nerds is not a null set. Comics are a regular feature of the NPR Monkey See blog.

Another interesting NPR item is this story about how crazy anonymous internet commenters are:

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

The internet comment board is the single invention most targeted to the crazy loner in his basement with no friends. In real life, everyone else has tuned him out. If he tried to actually rant and rave in person, eyes would be rolled and he'd be shunned.

His second life is the internet.

Posted by: baldinho | November 30, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Inconvenient truths about evolution.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 6:43 AM | Report abuse

curmudgeon, I think I get it. To me, the right uses "exceptionalism" as a way to make sure their supporters line up behind all the beliefs of the right. Exceptionalism is a belief that what we do it the best and the right thing... period. They use the exceptionalism hammer everywhere the other party deviates from the beliefs of the right.

In short, to the right, American exceptionalism means that the beliefs of the right are what makes America exceptional.

It is exactly the same concept as the North Korean leadership uses with its people.... we are exceptional.... which is why we must do these things that seem silly. Do not question us...or else you are a non-believer.

It can be effective... after all, to argue against them is to argue that America is not exceptional... that we are ordinary. Who wants to hear that?

To me, the whole thing is silly. It won't and doesn't work. It only works with a minority of the population and it never achieves anything. The rest of the people see through it and the exceptionalists are placed where they belong.

I have faith that this time won't be different.

Posted by: baldinho | November 30, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all. Agree with CQP, glad she has joined the parade. God's porch is LARGE.

Newt is a jerk, never did understand why anybody gave him any mind....

Posted by: VintageLady | November 30, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Probably because he's so forceful about being a jerk, VL... *SIGH*

*still-waiting-for-the-caffeine-to-kick-in-and-wishing-all-as-dry-a-Tuesday-as-possible Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I've enjoyed all the comments regarding exceptionalism as it makes my blood boil every time I hear someone say that this is the greatest country in the world, blah, blah... Their arrogance astounds me, not to mention their amnesia about Native Americans, slavery, and other lovely events in our history. So thanks to all who spoke more eloquently than I could on the subject.

I'm feeling the Christmas panic. So much to do and hard to find the time for it all. Of course, I feel this every year and I always get everything done, so I guess I'll just muddle through. Have a good day everybody.

Posted by: badsneakers | November 30, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Morning all... it's the Battle of the Measuring Tapes in my house this week as this is the second day in a row that someone is sizing up our basement to come up with an estimate for me for replacing drywall, ceilings, trim and painting.

I wonder when Joel will Kit about the Wikileaks kerfluffle. I also wonder how we can even think of charging anyone for the leaks when the justice dept apparently didn't even care when the White House outed a covert CIA agent. Exceptional, indeed.

Posted by: -TBG- | November 30, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

So, 58 percent of my countrymen believe in
American exceptionalism. That's somewhat better than the 68 percent who thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11 and the 70 odd percent who think that foreign aid and welfare chomp up more than half the federal budget. Maybe there is some comfort in believing that God will step in at the last minute and save this country from what looks to me like an inevitable big fall.

Posted by: bird-1 | November 30, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Except that God, in God's infinite wisdom, won't.

Good morning all. I need to call Cassandra, I suppose, and let her know we're missing her. I hope that baby has come!

My task for the day is not to be in a bad mood. So I'm tired from running hither and yon yesterday in celebration of the Geekdottir's birthday, that gives me no right to be a PITA today.

So, exercise. Mr. T and I didn't walk this morning because of wetness. I have to use the exercycle instead.

Have a good day, everyone.

Posted by: slyness | November 30, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: DNA_Girl | November 30, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: DNA_Girl | November 30, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Hey. Funny this is the kit I landed back on earth and found. I was just thinking the other day (in a very space cadet kind of way, I assure you) that the growing cry of American Exceptionalism is veering (careening?) things more and more in the direction of providing support for Jeremiads, both the 'you're bringing bad things on because you somehow goofed with God's law' kind (Westboro) and the 'bad things are happening because we're getting too far away from what founders intended' kind (TPers). If anxiety as means and goal is in the political game plan, advancing the idea of exceptionalism would be your first step, no?

I didn't get much further in the thought process. Probably moved on to something weighty like how peanut butter jars should be wider so you can dig out the last of the pb with a cracker. Or maybe they should put lids on both ends.

Posted by: LostInThought | November 30, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Patent that idea quick, LiT!!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Ooh Movable Type chose me!
I feel special...

Posted by: DNA_Girl | November 30, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

It's a snake oil cure for cognitive dissonance, I'd say. It sure can be monstrous.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 30, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

slyness, if you do plan to be a PITA today, then you would be "exceptionally" justified in stuffing yourself with hummus.

Bob-S, I was really tired when I last posted to you, so I apologize for not getting "the link" from what you said to what I said. Glad we're on the same page.

And now, for something completely different, getting to work.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 30, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Wow. S'nuke, PJ and GWE sharing the tiara. This I gotta get a photo of. Congrats all.

Posted by: LostInThought | November 30, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

LiT, I almost fell off my chair when I read your "peanut-butter-jar-theory" because, I swear, I had the EXACT same thought the other night and almost posted it here just for a laugh.

Soggy good morning, y'all.

The Exceptionalism convo has sent me on random web searches and long periods of "thinking too hard", as omni calls it. I'm mired in dealing with mundane and pretty sad tasks in life these days so appreciated you all keeping my synapses 'clicking'.

Posted by: talitha1 | November 30, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. DNA Girl, you continue to amaze me with your ability to pull just the right Sinfest for any discussion.

I feel exceptional today. I began my work day with an exceptional cup of tea, then caught up on this exceptional Boodle. After what I'm sure will be a satisfying and fulfilling chat, I'll continue my exceptional work on my current case, pausing for a tasty lunch. Should anyone find this less than exceptional, I trust you'll understand if I take exception.

Posted by: Ivansmom | November 30, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

That one was worth the double post, DNA_Girl!

Hummus and PITA, I'll take that under advisement, ftb.

LiT! I was thinking of you as I typed earlier. Good to see you back and in normal (rare) form. I like your idea; I just wish I liked pb more than I do. I'm a pimento cheese kinda girl, never was into peanut butter.

Posted by: slyness | November 30, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Talitha, I sometimes wonder if people look at me and think 'what *does* she do in her spare time?' Seems the answer might be 'same thing as Talitha.'

Posted by: LostInThought | November 30, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

How to clean a peanut butter jar for re-use or recycling:

Cook one serving of oatmeal with skim milk instead of water. While that is cooking heat 1/2 cup frozen berries (I like raspberries) in microwave with 2 tsp brown sugar. Spoon half of the oatmeal into a nearly empty peanut butter jar, then dump in the hot berry/sugar mixture, top with remaining oatmeal. Eat oatmeal directly from jar.

Between melting the peanut butter, and scraping the sides for every last delicious bit, the jar will be quite clean with no waste.

*works best with chunky peanut butter

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 30, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Whoa, frosti -- that sounds terrific (although I am *not* a fan of cooked cereal at all).

I was a peanut butter kid, indeed. Loved it on toast and, like most kids in my neighborhood, I walked to school with peanut butter breath. Ah, the memories.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 30, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Your stimulus $ at work:

Just approved disbursement of a small business loan for a waste oil heater in Our Fair City's auto/small engine repair garage. 2 years in the making, this is the first loan to be issued with our revolving loan fund. The fund was created with 2/3 block grant to the state from the feds and 1/3 matching money from our reserve fund. (I consider the existence of a modest reserve fund my crowning achievement.)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 30, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Greetings Everyone
I hope that Tiara is one big sucker to fit all 3 of our heads.

We(my family) made it through Thanksgiving without too many tears and we actually had a very good day despite the empty chair.I made sure I went back for seconds,because my sister always did.

Other then that,it has been a pretty busy time with work and such.

Now come on,am I the only who has actually sawed a peanut butter jar in half to get to the last bit of goodness.A good sharp knife or a hacksaw works fine,although sometimes the pbj kinda tastes like the rainspot I sawed last week.

Have a great day everyone!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 30, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

LiT, eating peanut butter from the jar using crackers as a utensil is dish-free, eh? As to what else we're doing in parallel universes ... the difference in the ages of our children might make some difference, but not the love we have for them, I 'spect. 8~)

Posted by: talitha1 | November 30, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure yello, GWE and I can fax the tiara to each other at least once before next week's survivor is determined.


Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

For hockey fans:

Offkit, offboodle, but what the hey, it's snowy and icy outside. It's... Hockey season!

And Wilbrodog would like something to be exicted about soon.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 30, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

For Wilbrodog .....

Posted by: talitha1 | November 30, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

In overall standings it's not so much a Battle For The Tiara as it is a Battle For The Bottom.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

In overall standings it's not so much a Battle For The Tiara as it is a Battle For The Bottom.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The Battle to Survive Parity, perhaps?

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I think I have last place pretty much sewn up Yello.

I used to be in a pool where the 1st,2nd,3rd and last place finishers all won something.It was just as hard to try and pick the losers as the winners.But with that said over 10 years, I was fortunate enough to finish in all 4 spots.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | November 30, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Just saw news that NASA is going to hold a news conference on Thursday to announce an "astrobiological finding". That could be most anything, but I assume it is of some import. SciTim, you got any advance intelligence?

Posted by: ebtnut | November 30, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

SciTim's intelligence is very advanced, I'd say...

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Talitha, DC is my Excellent Surprise. The other two are grown people.

Posted by: LostInThought | November 30, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

My guess : Hydrocarbons on Rhea.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The author of 'Captured by Aliens' should live-blog NASA's roundtable. Astrobiological findings are right up his alley.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 30, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Free oxygen on Rhea?

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 30, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Sirens of Titan. Look for a Tralfamadorian carrying a can opener.

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

LiT, after all these months, I didn't realize that! *hangdog smile*

Posted by: talitha1 | November 30, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The Kinkade collection in the Bunker may not be quite as unique as we think:

Posted by: yellojkt | November 30, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Man will never be free until the last Politician is strangled with the guts of the last Religious Leader.

Posted by: computehinds | November 30, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Man will never be free until the last Politician is strangled with the guts of the last Religious Leader.

Posted by: computehinds | November 30, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Astrobiological finding? A steriod syringe with Jeff Bagwell's name on it?

Posted by: baldinho | November 30, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Glenn Beck's spaceship finally came and got him? (Please?)

Pamela Anderson's silicon implants have their own atmosphere?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 30, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

SCC: atmospheres. Binary systems can be tricky.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 30, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Despite all my best efforts the dott has wretched taste in art. There is no image too cheesily patriotic to find a spot in her heart or magnetized display space on her car (aka Black Beauty). The one ray of light in this is that she does not own any Kincade treacle, not even a card tacked to the wall (her preferred poor young parent display method for magnetless works).

yello-thanks for the link to the NPR story, far more heartwarming than the paintings.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 30, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

With any luck at all, perhaps we can all look forward to Thomas Kinkade's prison sodomy series.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 30, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Male DNA found on Mars?

Posted by: Scottynuke | November 30, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Yep, spit tea all over the monitor at that one, Mudge.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Posted by: ftb3 | November 30, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Oops. Sorry. *faxing ftb a couple of Bounty paper towels*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 30, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Re: Talitha's 12:38

"your dog will not be disappointed?"

I'm disappointed already.
They're Australian /flour biscuits/.
Where's my 'roo jerky?


Food thieves, fear not:
gnomes still have only two eyes,
none in back of head.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 30, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Since ww2 the United States has carried out military and political interventions into more than 70 nations resulting in the slaughter of millions in the name of

In the last 60 years we have caused more human destruction then any country on earth
Followed by the USSR/RUSSIA.

Posted by: computehinds | November 30, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Great Artists are not always Great Businessmen Mudge. I'm looking forward to the Florence/Southern Colorado Series. Pronghorns and Russian Thisle backlit by Christmas light, that will be lovely.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 30, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrodog, next time I'll pull the ultimate copout and send you a giftcard! ;0

Posted by: talitha1 | November 30, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

SCC thistle. Sorry Weed.
Oh joy, 70mm/2.5 in of rain in the forecast.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | November 30, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Evangelicals who mass-produce visual treacle are technical hacks and 'galleries' who market it deserve to be defrauded ... for trying to sell it as 'art' in the first place.

Posted by: talitha1 | November 30, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Melissa Bell apparently doesn't know a painting from a print. Or that few "doll out" dollars. I bet she writes "then" for "than" sometimes too.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 30, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Send me a valet
with that giftcard and you're on!
Sweet licks, Talitha.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 30, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

On-kit: is it ever truly safe to talk religion and politics? safety? Seems there's some froth flying over a food safety bill.

I'm for it. There are some known causes of cancer that can be transmitted by tainted food, so comparing food poisoning deaths to cancer deaths is bogus.

Also, there seems to be misinformation over current food regulation. Sounds familiar, like with health care? However, I'm busy and distracted enough without talking politics.

Fluffy bunnies are welcome instead.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | November 30, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what the astrobiological finding might be. I tried to figure it out from the panelists, but I don't know the work of the scientists involved.

Posted by: ScienceTim | November 30, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe Rachel and Kurt are making me cry over Don't Cry for Me Argentina.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 30, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Done. Finished. Backboodled.

My apologies for major events I'm not mentioning, but my condolences to Moose, props to yello for his T'day thanks, jumper for the beautiful pup, baldinho for his voir dire proposal, TBG for the pie.

My aunt, last of her generation, passed away last Tuesday. My cousin's college roommate (and bff) drove up with me on Friday morning, we picked up my sister and niece in CT, then moved on to MA. The hotel kindly allowed our group of about 20 to take over the lobby every night, fireplace blazing, discrete (and copious) wine drinking and varied snacks helping us feel we were at one of our homes. Drove back yesterday, thankful for my passenger, both for my cousin's sake and mine--we talked all the way up and all the way back, making a long drive tolerable.

Have a good evening, all. It's good to be back.

Posted by: -dbG- | November 30, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

frosty, Sinead O'Connor does a bang-up job on that song.

Posted by: baldinho | November 30, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

dbG, my condolences on your aunt's passing. It is hard when the last of a generation goes. When my last aunt died I realized that my cousins and I were now the 'oldest' generation (altho' I'm the youngest of them). Anyway, welcome back!

Posted by: badsneakers | November 30, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

A moderately lucid critique of Kinkade. I had no idea he occasionally accidentally produced decent work.

Posted by: Jumper1 | November 30, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

dbG,so sorry about your Aunt's passing. My mom was the last of her generation, on her side of the family. We had similar conversations at her funeral,

Big hugs to you.

Posted by: dmd3 | November 30, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

dbG, so sorry to hear of your Aunt's passing. Glad you had the good company. *Hugs*

Posted by: Yoki | November 30, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

dbG, I'm sorry to hear of your aunt.

Just wrapped up a long workday, and I'm way, way behind on my Boodling and other stuff I should be doing...

Not sure what to make of that "Very Special Astrobiological Announcement" mentioned earlier, though Scottynuke - I disavow any knowledge of the claim of male DNA found on Mars, though I will suggest that it is possible, even from here.

For some of us, anyway.

And on that note -- g'night, folks.


PS Like the idea of the double-lid peanut butter jar, though I'm not sold on the idea of Kinkade 'reimagining' Maplethorpe photos.

Talk about exceptional.

Posted by: -bc- | November 30, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

I've been racking my brain for years trying to think whose work Kinkade reminds me of, and until today it eluded me. But yes, Maplethorpe!! I don't know why I didn't see it before.

Frosti, when Rachel and Kurt started singing that song I burst out laughing, because it was so incongruous (but yet so perfect). I also thought the seniors singing "In the Later Years" was pure Ryan Murphy genius. If you watched TV for a million years you'd still never see that scene. Overall, this was a terrific episode (and last week's was awful).

Just watched the Martin Scorsese show on Fran Leibowitz, which was fantastic. Turns out the eccentric Fran owns -- of all unpredictable things -- a white Checker Marathon (the car that is and was the prototypical taxi). So Scorsese has a montage of Leibowitz driving around New York at night in her Checker -- and you know what the theme music was? Yes. I laughed and laughed. So clever, and so subtle. At first you're wondering just what the hell this is, Leibowitz driving around aimlessly, and this eerie music playing ...and then you realize...

My condolences, dbG.

Hey, Yoki.

'Night, boodle.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | November 30, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Can some smarter boodler explain how the "Second Coming" became an occasion for a jewelry sale?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 30, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: frostbitten1 | November 30, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Mudge.

I have loved Leibowitz since she wrote, in her second book, about small children. "They are often sticky, and seldom in a position to lend you a truly interesting sum of money."

I've read all the buzz about the Scorsese doc, and deeply regret I don't have HBO. Thanks for that snapshot, dear friend.

Just had a lovely telecon with my dear friend David B., from whom I've not heard in a while. Also, my Mum. And #2. I usually *hate* the phone, but tonight it was my friend.

Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

"Public Speaking" is great. But Scorsese's no hack, and from him I've come to expect something approaching greatness.

Whatever it is that Kinkade does, I'm sure that he does it better than I will ever do. I've come right near to falling asleep whenever I tried to pay much attention to his work, but I am presumably not his target audience.

Posted by: Bob-S | December 1, 2010 2:45 AM | Report abuse

When it comes to sentimental schlock, I will confess to a certain fondness for David Winter's stuff.

Posted by: Bob-S | December 1, 2010 2:50 AM | Report abuse

It's 4 am and nothing is better than waking up with a nice cup of coffee and setting to brain work in the still and darkness... listening to classical guitar.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2010 4:05 AM | Report abuse

dbg, my condolences on your aunt. *HUGSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS*

Weed, are you in the basement or something? How can all this driving rain and wind be "still?" *L*

*breaking-out-the-wetsuit-to-walk-to-the-Dawn-Patrol Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2010 5:23 AM | Report abuse

From Tom Friedman's column at the NYT today, one graf, about what a cable or dispatch would be like if there were WikiLeaks in China:

"Most of the Republicans just elected to Congress do not believe what their scientists tell them about man-made climate change. America’s politicians are mostly lawyers — not engineers or scientists like ours — so they’ll just say crazy things about science and nobody calls them on it. It’s good. It means they will not support any bill to spur clean energy innovation, which is central to our next five-year plan. And this ensures that our efforts to dominate the wind, solar, nuclear and electric car industries will not be challenged by America."

From October's San Antonio Express News, an article about how Chinese investment will boost South Texas drilling.

From November's Christian Science Monitor, an article explaining *why* China is in South Texas, titled "What does China want with South Texas? Hint: cleaner energy know-how."

And in his op-ed Friedman, takes on the article about exceptionalism written by the Washington Post's Tumulty. Best line in that particular graf of Friedman's op-ed? You go figure it out.

Posted by: laloomis | December 1, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Snuke! why yes.... Rain is only on the radar weather for me right now. I'm upstairs only to work on morning meal before meetings today. (out in the rain).

Could someone please say a prayer to the Javascript gods to help me figure out why a date field is zero'ing out?

It's there, and then it's NOT!

This boodle post is sponsored by WGBH.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Up early too, but not as early as yeoman RT. Why? Wind blew open one of my charming but oddly-shuttered windows. To full effect of rain and wind and leaves.

Tornado watch today! Shall bike carefully. Sigh. Shall be damp all day in the teacher's slot.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | December 1, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Bike carefully indeed CP!

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

RT is encountering quantumness here:

It's there, and then it's NOT!

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | December 1, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Good luck with the programming issue, RT. They can drive you nuts.

Morning, all, hi Cassandra! Windy and gray here this morning. We had some rain, obviously, but not the heavy downpour that was predicted. How typical. It must be December!

After a good night's sleep, I've upgraded from exhausted to merely tired. An improvement, of course, but not enough yet!

Mr. T called to ask that I got to the Post Office to retrieve a package that wasn't left yesterday. The issue with that is that our mail comes from an outlying station in the opposite direction of everything I do. I'll have to find an hour in my day to go. Argh!

Have a pleasant day, everyone!

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

RT also encountered Steak Creole... something is telling me that this is two portions. I'm having my lunch over rice, but you could have put the sauce over eggs and been VERY HAPPY!!!!

bc, don't tell Jose at Louisiana Kitchen, but I will man up on the sauce. Of course, mine is a single (double) portion made in a single saute pan. I did go with a bit of red pepper rather than a green bell pepper as I just can't stomach those grocery store green peppers.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 1, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

The monsoons we had here yesterday have changed to a light icy/snow mix, temps have dropped all night from the balmy weather we had yesterday.

Eldest is off to the big championship football game today, thankfully played inside the dome in TO - she didn't want to go at first but I told her even if she doesn't love football she will have a great time - school has hired buses to take the students that wish to go.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

CqP... just don't put a small dog in a basket on your bike and you should be OK in this windy weather.

Our power went out at 5:45 am but it's now back on (came on around 8:15). Dr G and Daughter had to get ready and out the door in the dark, but I had the benefit of a later, dim morning shower.

dbG... glad you're back safe and sound. Sorry about your aunt, but it sounds like a nice family get-together. I just wish we could arrange spur-of-the-moment gatherings without having to wait for someone to die.

Did y'all see the article about how a missing "at" in a Virginia law led to an acquittal?

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I just saw a new Kinkade house with a black bullwhip sticking out the back door. You'd love it, mudge.

Posted by: GomerGross | December 1, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Gomer, why in the world were you browsing new Kinkades?

'Morning, Boodle.

I hate to tell you guys this, but the WaPo has a new blog, called "Right Turn." Yes, it's what you think. Talk about an aptonym. Just what the Post needs-- more right wingers foaming at the mouth.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | December 1, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Three rights make a left, don't they?

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Is Ben Domenech back?

Posted by: yellojkt | December 1, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

As long as they don't counter with one called "Left Behind", Mudge!

Good morning, y'all. Wow, what a howling night we had ... I've got more limbs down in the yard and on the roof than I can deal with alone. A call is in to my handy-dandy Jane-of-all-trades.

dgG ... love and hugs, dear one.

Posted by: talitha1 | December 1, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

scc: dbG *snorkle*

Posted by: talitha1 | December 1, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I skimmed over the first two "Right Turn" posts. The Comments include lots of self-congratulations and sneering at the Post for its biases, etc. I "enjoyed" her statement of things she believes in: "American exceptionalism, limited government, free markets, a secure and thriving Jewish state, defense of freedom and human rights around the world, enforced borders with a generous legal immigration policy, calling things by their proper names (e.g. Islamic fundamentalism), and recapturing vocabulary (a "feminist" is not the same as a pro-choice activist)."

What bugs me, of course, is that she didn't claim these beliefs as a credo that she feels is best served through political conservatism, but that she implied that these beliefs are the special province of political conservatism. Let's see here:
(a) "American exceptionalism", has been the source of lots of Boodle fun over the past few days. I guess you can't be a conservative without stating a bedrock belief that "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is the creed of wimps and losers.

(b) As a proper liberal, it is my primary goal to see the US government expand exponentially, with a TV camera on every corner and a jack-booted thug in every pot, or bedroom, or something like that, ensuring that people follow sick and twisted paths of perverted pleasure rather than the proper mode of reproductive stoicism that the good Lord intended for mankind.

(c) Likewise with the free market and the defense of freedom and human rights. I'm against all those things. Like all liberals, I think we should have fewer human rights, enforced exchanges of goods from those who work to those who don't, and more prisons. That is what liberals stand for, right? I wouldn't want to be a bad liberal.

(d) Liberals are totally against a secure and thriving Jewish state. Totally. Because there has never been a Jewish liberal, and there never will be. Nope.

(e) The most ironically wonderful is the snobby comment about recapturing vocabulary. I'm pretty sure that the people who have conflated feminism with specific political views with which they don't agree have been the conservatives. I don't doubt that most feminists are pro-choice -- but that's mainly because most Americans are pro-choice, and most people (yes, even liberals) recognize that there is a distinction between their own personal moral choices and the opportunity for those moral choices to be made by others, including the possibility that others may make choices that trouble us.

I would carry this little diatribe over to her comments section, except that she's one of these people who feels compelled to crank out many blog posts a day. The result is that there isn't much opportunity to develop a conversation, since the relevant post is already fourth or farther down the queue. Can't have much of a conversation if you're talking in an empty room.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 1, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

And... I see that there's a new Kit.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 1, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm pumpkin and banananana breads, coffee and OJ on the table.

Regarding the "Right Turn" blog: The GOP will hold a majority in the US House come January, so WaPo sorta has to give them some virtual space. Those left-of-center boodlers skilled in the art of ignoring know how to respond.

TWC is experiencing its first measureable snowfall of the season. Barely measureable, but official. It's quite pretty as long as one doesn't have to drive in it.

For those interested in the $$$ origami ornaments project, here's a sample.

Everyone enjoy the day.

Posted by: MsJS | December 1, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse


Ms. Rubin prattles on about how Rep. Ryan is an enthusiastic member of the deficit committee and how the libs hate the committee's proposals, yet fails to mention Ryan and his fellow travelers also hate anything that seven smacks of reponsible revenue generation (i.e., taxes).

An echo chamber, indeed. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Yes indeed, New Kit.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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