22 November 2010 pm posts

Yes, your brain can play tricks on you, such as just making stuff up to fill in the gaps of your memory. Also, your memory can be made over (e. g., you can be shown fake images of something you attended and burn the fake image into your memory as the “real” one.

Religion Catering to outdated, useless religious rules can cause harm:

There is no question that factory farming treats animals inhumanely. Yet Johann Hari points out that in Britain at least, there is one redeeming feature in that system in that the animals are required to be stunned before they are slaughtered, thus making them numb and presumably sparing them considerable pain as they are killed.

Yet there is an exemption for even this minimal requirement, granted for (surprise!) religion:

You are allowed to skip all this and slash the throats of un-numbed, screaming animals if you say God told you to. If you are Muslim, you call it “halal”, and if you are Jewish you call it “kosher”.

Atheists who criticise religion are constantly being told we have missed the point and religion is really about compassion and kindness. It is only a handful of extremists and fundamentalists who “misunderstand” faith and use it for cruel ends, we are told with a wagging finger. But here’s an example where most members of a religion choose to do something pointlessly cruel, and even the moderates demand “respect” for their “views”. Their faith makes them prioritise pleasing an invisible supernatural being over the screaming of actual living creatures. Doesn’t this suggest that faith itself – the choice to believe something in the total absence of evidence – is a danger that can lead you up needlessly nasty paths?

As has been said by many people many times, it takes religion to make otherwise good and reasonable people do bad things.

Tough Moral Call A man shoots his wife of 70 years in the head…after she falls hopelessly ill and unable to even recognize those around her. What is the right thing to do here? On one hand, we can’t allow for people to shoot others when they become inconvenient. On the other hand, we all too often keep people alive long after there is no point to it.

Social The enhanced TSA screenings/patdowns are very unpopular, even (especially?) with the poor souls who have to do them. I admit that I thought about this when I had to go through a far less invasive pre-screening procedure to get into this weekend’s NFL game. They had lines for women and men; I would NOT have liked to have had to do such a “pat down” (relatively non-invasive) with these football fans (yuck!).

These procedures (the pat-downs and scanners) have lead to ridicule from other countries. (the Daily Squib is a UK version of The Onion)

World Events
This hasn’t been covered much in the mainstream media, but other countries in Latin America are using their energy revenues to build up militarily. Here is an article about Brazil building up its navy including building some nuclear powered submarines.

One thing that Brazil should remember: it is one thing to build when your revenues are high. But these submarines are hideously expensive to maintain and they become all but worthless sans constant upkeep. The Russians learned this the hard way.

North Korea: fires artillery shells at a South Korean island (an inhabited one). The South has retaliated. There is more here (including maps of the affected region).

President Obama There is disagreement on the left about President Obama.
One thing that many people forget: he ran, in part, not to fight to push a liberal agenda but to overcome the “smallness of our politics”; there were people on the left who were alarmed by that. Here is the text of his announcement speech:

It was here, in Springfield, where I saw all that is America converge — farmers and teachers, businessmen and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard. I made lasting friendships here — friends that I see in the audience today.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable — that it’s possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we’re willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst. […]

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

For the last six years we’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault. We’re distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what’s filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.

Harry Truman he was not…and evidently still isn’t. That bothers many and one of his most vocal critics is Paul Krugman (who backed Hillary Clinton). His claim is that President Obama, instead of fighting the right wing narratives, actively embraces them:

Some readers may recall that back during the Democratic primary Barack Obama shocked many progressives by praising Ronald Reagan as someone who brought America a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.” I was among those who found this deeply troubling — because the idea that Reagan brought a transfomation in American dynamism is a right-wing myth, not borne out by the facts. (There was a surge in productivity and innovation — but it happened in the 90s, under Clinton, not under Reagan).

All the usual suspects pooh-poohed these concerns; it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology.

But are you so sure about that now?

And here’s this, from Thomas Ferguson: Obama saying

We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.

As Ferguson explains, this is a right-wing smear. What actually happened was that during the interregnum between the 1932 election and the1933 inauguration — which was much longer then, because the inauguration didn’t take place until March — Herbert Hoover tried to rope FDR into maintaining his policies, including rigid adherence to the gold standard and fiscal austerity. FDR declined to be part of this.

But Obama buys the right-wing smear.

Krugman goes on to point out that the Republicans have no interest in governing…unless they are in charge of it all:

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.”

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water’s edge — but that was then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.

How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern.

My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.

Though there are signs of hope (e. g., Senator Lugar hopes that the Senate will ratify the new START treaty)

And some hope (and see signs of) President Obama getting a bit of President Trueman in him.

Others remind our “critics on the left” friends that the President has gotten many bills through Congress, each of which tacks left though isn’t completely what we wanted.

So what will happen? We shall see.

So what about the Republicans?
There are some who feel that Sarah Palin might well win the nomination and be a “credible” candidate for the Presidency. She is already popping off as to how she will “clean up journalism”. As to how much she knows about journalism: remember that she considered it a violation of her First Amendment rights for her claims on the campaign trail to be fact-checked!

Of course, such idiotic statements won’t hurt her with many in the Republican base; after all many are themselves idiots. Here is a Republican member of the US House (IL-19) who wants to be on energy related committees:

U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS, R-Collinsville, who is still a member of Congress in part because he abandoned his own self-imposed term limit, hopes to become a House committee chairman if a different term limit stays in place.

That could give Shimkus significant control of the debate over issues like global warming — an issue he believes has a “biblical perspective” as well as a scientific one. […]

During a March 25, 2009, meeting of the subcommittee on energy and environment, Shimkus read from the Bible, including a passage that states “the Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”

Shimkus, who easily won re-election Nov. 2 over Democrat TIM BAGWELL of Olney, visited The State Journal-Register’s editorial board during the campaign. I’m not on the board, but I often attend meetings with candidates. I asked if Shimkus was serious about using the Bible to help determine climate policy.

“If you’re asking me as a Christian, do I believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, I do,” he said.

I asked Shimkus what his theology says about global warming.

“I would just tell you that in Genesis and the flood, God said that the world would not be destroyed by the flood again. Hence the rainbow.”

I asked if that ends the global warming debate for him.

“No,” he said. “I believe that there’s climate change. I don’t believe that the world will be destroyed by a flood.”

During the subcommittee meeting in 2009, Shimkus — who said two theologians appeared before the panel — said, “I just wanted to put a biblical perspective, with theologians being prepared to testify before the committee. And one of them actually thanked me afterwards.”

Sadly, such nonsense doesn’t turn off many Republicans; they see such “thoughts” as an asset.

So, just how split is our country? It is more split than it was in 1994:

The Republican Party’s big gains in the House came largely from districts that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole. Democrats kept their big majorities in the cities.

That’s a contrast to the last GOP wave in 1994, when Republicans’ share of the vote was consistent inside and outside metropolitan areas, according to a Washington Post analysis. That year, Republicans captured seats in a broader array of places.

The analysis, based on a review of the House vote in counties across the country in both years, has good and bad news for both parties.

The Obama coalition remained intact. Democrats remained strong in areas with the party’s core of minorities and higher-educated whites. But movement of white working-class voters away from the party is a concern for Democrats, especially because of President Obama’s traditional weakness with those voters.

Republicans’ success with the blue-collar vote and the high enthusiasm of the tea party gives it a fired-up base headed into 2012. But in a presidential election with higher turnout, the party might have trouble winning a majority with those voters alone. It certainly can’t rely on that bloc to carry the party into the future.

Here is a map of the House results.

But there is another glimmer of hope; today’s media demagogues aren’t as bad as some in the past; here is an article that reminds us that Glenn Beck is nowhere near as bad as Father Coughlin was.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, 2012 election, Barack Obama, brain, economics, economy, glenn beck, Illinois, political/social, politics, politics/social, religion, Republican, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, sarah palin, science, Spineless Democrats, world events | Leave a comment