blueollie

Pamela Geller on CNN: comes across well.

It is highly likely that I don’t agree with Pamela Geller on much of anything.

But on this video, she comes across as the far more reasonable of the two:

Now as far as what her lead speaker said: so what? True, I find all dogmatic religions to be rather…well ridiculous. Hey, by all means, get together and socialize and if you end up doing good works: WONDERFUL. Many religious groups do feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. And I admit that some (many?) places of worship challenge people to live a better life. That is great.

But as far as the supernatural mumbo-jumbo: whatever. I find nothing to respect in that aspect of faith. So for me, it is all Zeus vs. Thor.

Now as the video itself: Professor Jerry Coyne is right, IMHO. I encourage you to read what he has to say. Here is a bit of it:

But until now I’ve done what many of us do, which is to go with the tide of liberal opinion and simply accept what we hear about her (and others who are demonized) from vocal Leftists. They may well be correct in calling Geller an “Islamophobe”—that is, somebody who hates Muslims rather than just Islam—but I’d rather find out if that’s true from reading her statements rather than from listening to liberals who dislike her. After all, we’re supposed to be skeptics. The failure to exercise proper skepticism, for example, is what led liberals like Garry Trudeau into misguided denunciations of Charlie Hebdo. They simply didn’t do their homework. And when it comes to religion, especially Islam, it’s unwise to follow the tide of liberal opinion without due diligence. So I’m going to start at the beginning and say that although I don’t agree with Geller on some things, I’m not yet convinced that she hates individual Muslims rather than Islam and what its religious dictates portend for Western democracies.

And when it comes to saying “all good liberals ought to be for X or against Y”: in my opinion, we are every bit as bad as conservatives.

May 6, 2015 Posted by | political/social, politics, religion, social/political | | Leave a comment

Poverty, Baltimore, disagreement, TPP, etc.

Baltimore protests and riots (which are different things)

The American Renaissance has a reputation as being a white supremacist site/publication. But some of what they say might appear to be merely “uncomfortable truth” that others are too polite or cowardly to say:

Discovers why blacks riot.
An article from yesterday’s New York Times about the relative calm in Baltimore stumbled by accident onto something like the real reason why blacks were rioting. Near the famous burned-out CVS–the city had begged the company to “invest” in a dodgy neighborhood–the Times reporter found someone it identified as “Robert Wilson, a college student who went to high school in Baltimore.” The article concludes with Mr. Wilson’s explanation of why blacks rioted. He said nothing about Freddie Gray or police brutality. Instead, he said this:

We’re just angry at the surroundings–like this is all that is given to us?–and we’re tired of this, like nobody wants to wake up and see broken-down buildings. They take away the community centers, they take away our fathers, and now we have traffic lights that don’t work, we have houses that are crumbling, falling down.

After the riots in Baltimore in 1968, whites panicked and sold their property at desperation prices. Now, these houses are “broken down” because blacks didn’t maintain them. This pattern of white flight and “broken down” houses was repeated in Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Washington, St. Louis, Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jacksonville, and countless other American cities. Some of the best city housing in the world was handed over to blacks who wrecked it. Neighborhoods filled with irreplaceable architecture are now wastelands.

Mr. Wilson complains that “we have houses that are crumbling, falling down.” The remedy for crumbling houses is for the people who live in them to fix them, but instead, Mr. Wilson asks, “Is this all that is given to us?”

This quote almost perfectly captures the black mentality that leads to rioting. Blacks live in neighborhoods that they, themselves, have wrecked, and then ask, “This is all that is given to us?”

Hard-working white people built the “broken-down” buildings Mr. Wilson is complaining about. Many had parquet floors, high ceilings, and fine moldings found today only in the most expensive new construction.

Like so many blacks, Mr. Wilson doesn’t realize how perverse it is even to think in terms of pleasant houses and neighborhoods being “given” to anyone. Does he imagine the white authorities “giving” nice neighborhoods to whites and cruelly handing out slums to blacks? They didn’t start out as slums. Whites saved and worked hard to build those neighborhoods. They maintained them, repaired them, and loved them.

But in today’s world of welfare, food stamps, government housing, and white guilt, Mr. Wilson doesn’t know any better than to ask for handouts.

Ok. Yes, it is true: those houses were once nice houses and now they aren’t; they weren’t kept up and yes, blacks were living in them when they went downhill.

But that is, at best, incomplete information.

For one: if these houses were rented (as they surely were), who is responsible for the major upkeep? Yes..the landlord. Who actually OWNED those houses?
And as far as the poor blacks that moved in: what we really had was well paying blue collar jobs leaving. Remember that higher education was less accessible to the poor, especially the black poor. They weren’t in a position to follow the paths of the well paying jobs.

Now as far as social pathology: yes, it is there. But the best evidence is that the dearth of employment opportunities and poverty come first; the social pathology follows. It is time to act economically. And yes, our poverty reduction measures have worked better than some claim.

TPP: Yes, much of this is about intellectual property and though this is not likely to be a disaster, Paul Krugman wonders why President Obama is spending political capital on this.

Robert Reich is a more passionate critic.

Me: sort of on the fence; I tend to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt based on how his other programs have worked out or are working out.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, political/social, politics, politics/social, poverty, racism, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Senator Sanders and rhetoric vs. action

I know that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has officially decided to run for President. Some of the more outspoken liberals I know are backing him.

Yes, he says many of the “right” things in public, and Secretary Hillary Clinton has been derided as being too close to Wall Street, too much of a hawk in foreign affairs, etc.

But here is the question I’d love to get answered by someone who supports Senator Sanders: what actually has he done?

Saying the “right thing” is pretty easy one one comes from a small, “safe” state; in 2012 he won by 70 percent but still had about 2/3’rd the vote that the current Chicago Mayor got. But if “saying the right thing” is what we need, then why not draft, say, Paul Krugman? Krugman certainly knows more about economics than any political candidate and I mostly love what he says. :-)

I want someone who has demonstrated some political skill at actually getting legislation passed and getting hostile political opposition to at least give a little.

So, at least to me, Senator Sandars is something like a Democratic version of Senator Santorum or Senator Cruz; I really don’t take him that seriously even if I am in agreement with most of his positions.

Hey, I agree with myself 100 percent of the time, and I’d be horrible at that job.

May 3, 2015 Posted by | 2016, Democrats, political/social, politics | , , | Leave a comment

Some sane discussion…

I had posted President Obama’s remarks about Baltimore and applauded him for distinguishing the rioters and looters from the protesters. People should remember that anytime there is a disturbance that leads to a lessening of order, some will take advantage, be they sports rioters, riots and looters during police strikes, looters or just plain morons.

But as far as the plight of the poorer inner city communities (such as Baltimore’s), the evidence is that much of the social pathology is the result of poverty rather than the cause of it.

sanebaltimore

Of course, this is where I get sore. Conservatives are quick to point out the pathology and often blame…well, who else..for it.

On the other hand, trying to get the rank and file liberal to admit that there IS a social pathology and that, yes, the looting and rioting in those communities are caused by bad people, just as they are in other communities…well good luck with that. Now-a-days if you call a looter a “thug” some delusional individual will call you a racist.

In the above video, the person who spoke just afterword had some good things to say (and yes, the arguments over the word is just a distraction)

To conclude: I think that Kathleen Parker’s remarks are well taken.

May 1, 2015 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, poverty, racism, ranting, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Woo woo, satire and some math

Last night, The President had some fun with his critics:

Mathematics gets a should out (yay!)

But woo-woo gets front page at the Peoria Journal Star:

OTTAWA — In an age when science explains many of the natural world’s mysteries, there still exist things not fully understood.
As a licensed clinical professional counselor and a priest, the Rev. Michael Driscoll, a Peoria native, believes both science and the spiritual world should be considered in the realm of mental illness.
Driscoll’s new book, “Demons, Deliverance, and Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction About The Spirit World,” employs modern thinking while addressing the age-old notion of demonic possession.
“We certainly don’t have everything figured out when it comes to mental health problems,” said Driscoll, during a telephone interview from Ottawa where he works as the chaplain and director of pastoral care at OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center. While there is greater understanding today about brain chemistry and other factors that lead to mental illness, spiritual issues should still be considered in the treatment of patients.

[…]

“I don’t want to say every mystery can be attributed to the devil, but some of us think, ‘Well, there’s a spirit world too, and maybe that explains some things.’”
Driscoll referenced a 2014 story in the Indianapolis Star about a Gary, Ind., woman who claimed she and her three children were possessed by demons. Several hospital workers and police officers witnessed extraordinary events — such as a 9-year-old boy walking backwards up a hospital wall — that made them believe. A series of exorcisms seemed to solve the problem.

[…]

The question became the subject of Driscoll’s dissertation several years later while he was working on his Ph.D. through Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. The book contains the same information, but it is written with the aim of educating priests and the public about the differences between mental illness and demonic possession. Published by Catholic Answers Press, the book will be available by month’s end.

Oh dear. This reminds me of the “genuine psychics” signs I’ve seen.
I’d like to think that I don’t live in a 3’rd world backwater but evidently, I do.

April 26, 2015 Posted by | Barack Obama, health, mathematics, Peoria, political humor, political/social, politics/social, religion, superstition | Leave a comment

Slackers and punishment…

Workout notes early morning: 10K walk in Bradley Park; 5.1 mile plus lower 1.23 mile loop. It was cool and pretty; it would have been peaceful too except our local ROTC contingent saw fit to run around and chant stereotypical military sounding stuff. They might have been more impressive had they not been going 10-11 minutes per mile. They aren’t exactly West Point material.

So, needless to say, I don’t like slackers. But sometimes one can be counterproductive when one attempts to punish them. This New York Times story talks about the poor who get into debt but are then hampered by losing their driver’s license …which makes many jobs off limits to them. I believe in paying one’s debts; perhaps wage garnishments are the way to go.

Charter Schools I have mixed feelings about these; and these can sometimes lead to increased segregation:

Parental preferences are part of the problem. The charter school admissions process is itself race-blind: Schools that are too popular conduct lotteries between their applicants. But if a school isn’t white enough, white parents simply won’t apply.

In previous research, Ladd discovered that white North Carolina parents prefer schools that are less than 20 percent black. This makes it hard to have racially balanced charter schools in a state where more than a quarter of schoolchildren are black.

“Even though black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of black students sets up a tipping point,” the authors write. “Once a school becomes ‘too black,’ it becomes almost all black as white parents avoid it.”

On the upside: this is the type of bipartisanship that I hope to see more of:

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes in the way Medicare pays doctors, clearing the bill for President Obama and resolving an issue that has bedeviled Congress and the Medicare program for more than a decade.

The 92-to-8 vote in the Senate, following passage in the House last month by a vote of 392 to 37, was a major success for Republicans, who devised a solution to a complex policy problem that had frustrated lawmakers of both parties. Mr. Obama has endorsed the bill, saying it “could help slow health care cost growth.”

The bill, drafted in the House in negotiations between Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, through 2017.

Without action by Congress, doctors would have faced a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees on Wednesday or Thursday. Senate leaders cleared the way for final passage by allowing votes on several amendments sought by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics, poverty, walking | | Leave a comment

Social and economic divisions in the US

I know that is would be a politically unwise move. But there are some who want to celebrate the Union’s victory over the Treasonous States (aka Confederate States)(by Brian Beutler) :

In a speech one month ago, the first black president of the United States challenged millions of white Americans to resist the convenient allure of overlooking the country’s blemished moral record. It was a dual challenge, actually—first to the classical understanding of American exceptionalism, but also to America’s persistent critics, who abjure the concept of exceptionalism altogether.

“What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this?” President Barack Obama said. “What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?”

This was both a rejection of the fairytale America perpetuated by American conservatives, in which national virtue overwhelms sin, and a statement of faith in the country’s robust capacity for self-improvement. And he delivered it in Selma, Alabama—a Southern city whose folksy name evokes state-sanctioned, state-administered violence against black citizens—on the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Selma would be a perverse venue for celebrating the Jingo’s exceptional America, but it was the perfect backdrop for Obama’s more nuanced rendering: the convening point of the march to Montgomery, on a bridge named after Edmund Pettus—a vicious white supremacist, who committed treason against the United States as a Confederate general, and later terrorized former slaves as an Alabama Klansman and Democratic Senator.

And so

This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together.

Of course this would infuriate the South, but at this point I really don’t care. They still go on about “The War of Northern Aggression” so perhaps they need to be reminded as to who won?

To be blunt: I wish that we hadn’t have fought that war…we would be a stronger nation today had we just let them go.

But this idea isn’t going anywhere.

Punishing the slackers I think that there is a time and place for “tough love” and to challenge people to do better. And yes, if one is on public aid, should one be spending money on stuff that harms one’s life (e. g. cigarettes)?
But when it comes to public aid programs, it is unwise to lard programs with extensive restrictions which can be costly, ineffective and demoralizing. The drug testing program was one of these; what passed in the Kansas legislature is another. No, I don’t think that strip clubs and porn stores are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. But pools? Isn’t swimming healthy and uplifting?

Never mind that: why lard up a program with expensive, difficult to enforce restrictions that attack a problem which hasn’t been shown to be statistically large?

Conservatives see things differently. Forget “libertarians”; they are tiny in number and not significant, as Paul Krugman points out:

Well, the best story I have is Corey Robin’s: It’s fundamentally about challenging or sustaining traditional hierarchy. The actual lineup of positions on social and economic issues doesn’t make sense if you assume that conservatives are, as they claim, defenders of personal liberty on all fronts. But it makes perfect sense if you suppose that conservatism is instead about preserving traditional forms of authority: employers over workers, patriarchs over families. A strong social safety net undermines the first, because it empowers workers to demand more or quit; permissive social policy undermines the second in obvious ways.

And I suppose that you have to say that modern liberalism is in some sense the obverse — it is about creating a society that is more fluid as well as fairer. We all like to laugh at the war-on-Christmas types, right-wing blowhards who fulminate about the liberal plot to destroy family values. We like to point out that a country like France, with maternity leave, aid to new mothers, and more, is a lot more family-friendly than rat-race America. But if “family values” actually means traditional structures of authority, then there’s a grain of truth in the accusation. Both social insurance and civil rights are solvents that dissolve some of the restraints that hold people in place, be they unhappy workers or unhappy spouses. And that’s part of why people like me support them.

In any case, bear this in mind whenever you read some pontificating about a libertarian moment, or whatever. There are almost no genuine libertarians in America — and the people who like to use that name for themselves do not, in reality, love liberty.

Krugman has a bit more snark, especially for those who call his macroeconomic ideas “radical”:

The message instead is for those people — you know who you are — who imagine that the macroeconomics in this blog and in my column is somehow way out there on the left. In reality, I’m almost depressingly mainstream. It’s the other side in these debates that is showing lots of creativity, coming up with novel and innovative arguments about why we should do stupid things.

And as far as facts: well, conservatives desperately try to discredit any bit of good news:

Two impossible things happened to the U.S. economy over the course of the past year — or at least they were supposed to be impossible, according to the ideology that dominates half our political spectrum. First, remember how Obamacare was supposed to be a gigantic job killer? Well, in the first year of the Affordable Care Act’s full implementation, the U.S. economy as a whole added 3.3 million jobs — the biggest gain since the 1990s. Second, half a million of those jobs were added in California, which has taken the lead in job creation away from Texas.

Were President Obama’s policies the cause of national job growth? Did Jerry Brown — the tax-raising, Obamacare-embracing governor of California — engineer his state’s boom? No, and few liberals would claim otherwise. What we’ve been seeing at both the national and the state level is mainly a natural process of recovery as the economy finally starts to heal from the housing and debt bubbles of the Bush years.

But recent job growth, nonetheless, has big political implications — implications so disturbing to many on the right that they are in frantic denial, claiming that the recovery is somehow bogus. Why can’t they handle the good news? The answer actually comes on three levels: Obama Derangement Syndrome, or O.D.S.; Reaganolatry; and the confidence con.

[…]

Which brings us to the last point: the confidence con.

One enduring puzzle of political economy is why business interests so often oppose policies to fight unemployment. After all, boosting the economy with expansionary monetary and fiscal policy is good for profits as well as wages, yet many wealthy individuals and business leaders demand tight money and austerity instead.

As a number of observers have pointed out, however, for big businesses to admit that government policies can create jobs would be to devalue one of their favorite political arguments — the claim that to achieve prosperity politicians must preserve business confidence, among other things, by refraining from any criticism of what businesspeople do.

In the case of the Obama economy, this kind of thinking led to what I like to call the “Ma! He’s looking at me funny!” theory of sluggish recovery. By this I mean the insistence that recovery wasn’t being held back by objective factors like spending cuts and debt overhang, but rather by the corporate elite’s hurt feelings after Mr. Obama suggested that some bankers behaved badly and some executives might be overpaid. Who knew that moguls and tycoons were such sensitive souls? In any case, however, that theory is unsustainable in the face of a recovery that has finally started to deliver big job gains, even if it should have happened sooner.

I think it is best to view conservatives who hold beliefs similar to the theological beliefs held by religiously conservative people; trying to convince one with data is like trying to convince a Biblical literalist that it is logically impossible for the Bible to be literally true.

So what is an example of a liberal vision? Here is an example. Yes, no conservative would ever agree with it.

Economics and politics So how does the economy affect an upcoming election? There is evidence that what helps the incumbent isn’t overall performance but rather the change in the few months preceding the election.

April 8, 2015 Posted by | economics, economy, political/social, politics, republicans, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

PC-ness on various levels

Today on Facebook, a friend posted the following:

realmenblahblahblah

I had to laugh. Personally, I think that I am attracted at what I am genetically predisposed to be attracted to, moderated by what I am capable of attracting back. Seriously….this is expressed very well here: (science)

and here

“Love: being slightly deluded in each other’s favor”…or an evolutionary adaptation that makes it easier for our species to propagate.

Heck, to see who I might be in love with, all I have to do is to watch her pick something up. If she bends over like this…she is probably for me.

No, I don’t go along with ideas that I don’t agree with (though I can change my mind upon seeing appropriate evidence). And yes, I am a liberal, who sometimes loses patience with other liberals:

There is some good discussion on this topic at Jerry Coyne’s website.

And no, liberals attacking each other over …well…not much is nothing new.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | education, evolution, political humor, political/social, politics, politics/social, social/political | , , , , | Leave a comment

Numbers, fraudulent and misleading…

Education: yes, if you base teaching performance on the test scores of their students, the teachers will cook the data any way that they can. Given a metric, people will seek to optimize the metric, regardless of end results.

A questionable pro-President Obama claim: This article claims a 22 point improvement in President Obama’s approval ratings:

President Obama’s approval rating has improved by 22 points in the Gallup poll since Republicans won control of Congress. Obama’s opposition to the Republican agenda is making the president more popular while destroying the myth of a GOP mandate.

Really? Well, his approval went from 39 to 50 percent, which IS nice. So where did “22 point improvement” come from? You see, his DISAPPROVAL went down so the difference (approval minus disapproval) went from -17 to +5. Okkkkaaaaayyyyy…

That is an interesting slight of hand. But Rep. Sessions (R-Texas) thinks that 108 billion divided by 12 million is 5 million and not 9000. He called it “simple arithmetic”. Hmmm, for him, not so simple? :-)

That’s ok; Fox News will probably back him up, and NPR will probably try to present “both sides” of this arithmetic issue “well, most math teachers say that the quotient is 9000, but some say 5 million so we’ll give BOTH SIDES an equal opportunity….”

March 26, 2015 Posted by | education, health care, political/social, politics | | Leave a comment

David Brooks was not completely wrong (nor completely right)

One way to raise the ire of some of my liberal friends is to look at the living habits of the poor and point out how deficient those habits are. Yes, there is data that points to the poor social values being correlated with poverty. Here is but one example, which is contained in a liberal article:

Edin sees in these obstacles to full-time fatherhood a partial explanation for what’s known as “multiple-partner fertility.” Among low-income, unwed parents, having children with more than one partner is now the norm. One long-running study found that in nearly 60 percent of the unwed couples who had a baby, at least one parent already had a child with another partner.

Multiple-partner fertility is a formula for unstable families, and it’s really bad for children, which Edin acknowledges in the book.

Now there is always the danger of confusing correlation with causation and those that point out that better financial situation often cures many of the “value ills”.

There may be something else going on. On the average, poor people are dumber than wealthier people:

Poor people have I.Q.’s significantly lower than those of rich people, and the awkward conventional wisdom has been that this is in large part a function of genetics.

After all, a series of studies seemed to indicate that I.Q. is largely inherited. Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal twins who grow up together.

If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would lead to the depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty programs can accomplish much.

The above article goes on to say that IQ might not be something that is completely fixed by our genes. Sure, some of it is; after all, there is NOTHING anyone could do to make me as smart as Stephen Hawking. But people can get smarter if the situation around them changes:

Intelligence does seem to be highly inherited in middle-class households, and that’s the reason for the findings of the twins studies: very few impoverished kids were included in those studies. But Eric Turkheimer of the University of Virginia has conducted further research demonstrating that in poor and chaotic households, I.Q. is minimally the result of genetics — because everybody is held back.

“Bad environments suppress children’s I.Q.’s,” Professor Turkheimer said.

One gauge of that is that when poor children are adopted into upper-middle-class households, their I.Q.’s rise by 12 to 18 points, depending on the study. For example, a French study showed that children from poor households adopted into upper-middle-class homes averaged an I.Q. of 107 by one test and 111 by another. Their siblings who were not adopted averaged 95 on both tests.

The upshot: our genetics establishes an upper bound for our IQs but the environment has much to say with how close to our upper bound we reach. For example: though no one could have made me into a Stephen Hawking caliber scientist/mathematician, had I had a worse upbringing, I might not have attained even the minor degree of success that I’ve had (and yes, it is very minor).

Also, there have been studies that show that IQs of entire groups of genetically related groups of people have diverged and then come back together in a short period of time (e. g. East and West Germans).

So, everything I’ve stalked about has been at the statistical average level.

However, where I think that Mr. Brooks has a point is at the individual level. Example: I know of a brother and sister that are only a year or two apart in age. Both had the same parents and the same upbringing; both got college degrees.

Yet one is successful (sister) and the other is indigent. They both got equal inheritance (substantial). One invested it and still has most of it, even in retirement. The other lost it in less than one year.

Sorry, but individual intelligence and the decisions that one makes matters, and too many liberals have trouble acknowledging that. True, the wealthy have a much greater margin of error in life; they can act very badly early and still reach the top of the heap (example 1, example 2) I do not pretend that the playing field is level; it would be delusional to claim that.

But one’s individual choices do matter, and many times the poor contribute to their own plight by poor choices, though I acknowledge that a higher stress life usually means more poor choices, and poverty is extreme stress.

This is one tough issue, and different sides of the political spectrum have pieces of truth.

March 14, 2015 Posted by | political/social, social/political | | 1 Comment

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