Archive for the ‘Irreverance’ Category.

Religion is the Problem

Have you noticed one common characteristic that most of the crazies on the right have in common? They are in one form or another conservative Christians. From Rick Perry to Michele Bachman, across the whole spectrum of science and fact denying Republican crazies, they are deeply religious. I don’t think that is an accident.

Now one could argue that conservatives by nature like structure so a dogmatic religion meets their psychological needs for certainty and structure in a chaotic world. But I think there is another reason or maybe the primary reason, their ability to suspend their disbelief, in other words their unquestioning faith.

If you are a rational person then your belief system has to align with your rational mind. Religion isn’t just irrational, the more conservative (dogmatic) your religious beliefs, the more of science and logical thought you have to deny. You know, things like evolution, age of the universe, the virgin birth, trying to reconcile the vain and violent God of the Old Testament with the all merciful God of the New Testament, and all the contradictions and impossibilities in the stories.

So the more you adhere to fundamentalist Christian ideas, the more you have equipped yourself to deny science, logic, and the world around you. You have hard wired yourself to believe that if you feel it, it is true. It builds a whole way of thinking that allows you to limit your experience to what you know is true and to deny reality if it does not comport to your belief system.

I am not arguing that an argument for religion cannot be made, but I am arguing that those who have a dogmatic adherence to religious ideas that do not stand the test of reality or logic have developed a way of processing information that is highly flawed. With half of our Congress denying evolution, global warming, studies that show their economic and social policies are counter productive, and believing in unlimited regenerating oil, it is not a coincidence that most of these people are conservative Christians.

I think that is why rational thought no longer makes any difference. Sure there can be honest disagreements, but most aren’t and the solutions to most of our problems we know, we have done them before, and yet today, we deny them. I can only attribute this to fuzzy religious thought that has become endemic. I feel it is so, it makes me comfortable, therefore it must be true. To quote Al Gore, we are in for some inconvenient truths if we continue down this path.

Note: I was wondering what the conservative reaction would be to Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey where Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson presents the scientific basis for the universe and life while walking a respectful line between what we know and religious belief in a supreme being. Well they “have their panties in a knot.”

News Creating News

I had to run some errands today and this is what I heard while listening to national news:

We don’t know anything about what happened to the downed Malaysia flight but it could have been caused by someone illegally smoking in the lavatory after a release of methane from the lavatory storage tanks, or not. There are terrorists everywhere.

There may be a new investigation of Chris Christie, but we are not sure. It could be related to political manipulation of the Port Authority, but we have no facts to support that and won’t know anything until someone is indicted. Now we turn to our panel to discuss what we don’t know.

Justin Biebir was charged with driving while intoxicated … Sorry just the mention of his name and I kind of drift off.

California needs to free the whales and legalize marijuana for fun and profit, although the Governor fears too many potheads.

Will Hillary run in 2016. Let’s talk to a few experts that know as little as we do about this…

Now I feel equipped to handle the issues of the day and make informed choices at the polls.

Breaking News: God Wrote the Constitution!

Tom Delay declares that the Constitution was written by God. That just furthers my thesis that evangelical Christians are the problem. I guess he missed that whole Constitutional Convention thing where they spent all summer fighting over the wording, or the next few years adding the first Ten Amendments and ratifying the document. Oh, and let’s not forget that most of the Founders were Deists, who believed that if there was a god, he didn’t dabble in human affairs. Delay and his brethren give us Atheists a good name.

I hate to break it to most people, but God didn’t write the Bible either. A bunch of guys wrote it hundreds of years after the fact and it is full of contradictions. Maybe some good literature there and a few good ideas, but it is the work of man, just as God is.

Blinded by the Light

I almost never listen to Republicans anymore. And for that matter there are quite a few older Democrats I ignore too. They are blinded by the light. The light is their political/religious philosophy that colors everything they hear and see, warping it into their fixed belief system. Before I attack Republicans for their gross denial, I will point out that I don’t think Bill Clinton is a savior for the Democratic Party and I think his hewing to the right while listening to his banking friends help bring about the crash in 2007. His description of unemployment as a structural problem (not enough workers trained where the jobs are) is just flat wrong.*

But what I see is mostly from Republicans who have a fixed idea about what it means to be a Democrat (some wild eyed spending nutcase), and is in deep denial about what his/her party has become and who controls it. Probably the most destructive force for our country is the anti-intellectualism we see in Southern politicians who are blinded by their evangelical beliefs and that they are the chosen people. Science be damned, God will take care of us.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night on her show, the head of North Carolina’s environmental department believes in the immaculate conception oil theory (if the world is only 4000 years old, then oil is being made within earths bowels continually and there is a limitless supply). The head of the the Congressional Committee on Science (Georgia Congressman Paul Broun) is another one who disavowals evolution and the Big Bang theory. Blinded by the light.

But in more mundane circles I heard/read two “moderate” Republicans once again blinded by the light. The first was Kathleen Parker who was being interviewed by Alex Wagner about the Republican war on women. Ms. Parker launched into a moderate ploy, there is not really a war and tried to refocus the discussion on the framing of the argument instead of the argument itself.

When you look at the record number of bills passed to restrict women’s choice, when you look at the Republican opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, when you look at Republican opposition to equal pay for women, what would you call it. Instead Ms. Parker pointed out that poor men were threatened as women became more empowered and while we should not call it a war on men, you can understand their feelings, right? Blinded by the light.

Then there was David Brooks this morning. David is the classic example of the “smart” Republican that goes into convoluted and twisted logic to try to hang on to failed ideas. This morning’s tome was David trying to explain why raising the minimum wage is a bad idea (destroying 500K jobs!):

The big new problem, Brooks (conservative Authur Brooks, no relation) writes, is that labor markets are sick. Fewer people are working and enjoying the sense of reward that is a key to happiness. Democrats embrace a raise in the minimum wage that could drive another half-million workers out of the labor market.

Much better, he says, would be to expand the earned-income tax credit (EITC) or maybe use direct payments or loans to help people move to opportunity.

This is another hammock argument, that entitlements are killing the middle class (“Then they need to point out that it is the web of middle-class entitlements, even the home mortgage deduction, that really threaten benefits to the poor.”. But as Dean Baker points out, the earned-income tax credit has this giant disincentive to expand your income when you lose your benefit. And as Dean points out, had President Obama proposed an expansion of the EITC, Brooks would have been against that. Blinded by the light.

*Sadly when it comes to the economy, both Clinton and Obama were captured by the fear the debt campaign. There understanding of economics comes from their banking pals and is their Achilles Heel. Sadly they are in the home budget analogy camp looking for the confidence fairy. Believing in a Grand Bargain as an answer to our long term debt is just waiting for the confidence fairy to appear.

Breaking News

What? There are inaccuracies in the Bible? Flash bulletin: Archaeologists at Tel Aviv University sought evidence of when domesticated camels were first introduced into the land of Israel and the surrounding region. And behold:

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.

Like that is a flash bulletin? There has been tons of research just on the existing literature in the Bible to show many, many, many contradictions. But not to worry. Of course the Bible is the word of God and infallible. God works in many mysterious ways.

Meanwhile in NFL land, where men are real men until they lose their way with dementia from past head injuries, a young gay athlete has come out before the NFL draft and some in NFL land are wary. One player said that they were not homophobic, but being naked or in the shower with a gay man would be, well, uncomfortable and hurt team cohesiveness. I hate to break it to him, but that is homophobia (is he afraid he might be interested?) and think about it. The ultimate team sport is war and our armed forces got over it or at least are facing up to trying. Maybe the real men in the NFL could give it a try too.

But back to God. In Baghdad apparently a suicide bomber instructor blew himself and 22 of his students up during a class demonstration. As one Iraqi put it:

“This is so funny. It shows how stupid they are, those dogs and sons of dogs. This is God showing justice,” Mr. Hashim continued. “This is God sending a message to the bad people and the criminals in the world, to tell them to stop the injustice and to bring peace. Evil will not win in the end. It’s always life that wins over death.”

So maybe he does exist? Either God works in mysteries ways or stupid people do stupid things. Just another day in news to point out how irrational we are and to ponder how we ever got to the top of the food chain.

A Thought for Saturday Afternoon

I am sitting on my patio on this Saturday afternoon in my shirt sleeves, drinking a beer and enjoying an above 70º day at three thousand feet in the Sierras. Yes something has gone awfully haywire with the weather (I think it is called global warming). I worry about what this might bring this summer for my grapes, the rest of the farmers, and the animals and plants up here. But right now there is nothing I can do about it, so I am sipping a Heineken and listening to music streamed over my WiFi on my Sonos speakers. Then I wonder that other magical and beautiful “music” is in the air that we are just not in tune with. Food for thought.

Fox News: Santa is White

Well I guess it is time to address this nonsense. Santa isn’t a real person. It is an idea, a hope, a dream, a belief in some good in the world. It is the spirit of giving and renewal. It is the wonder that magical things are possible. Santa lives through us in our hopes and dreams. That doesn’t have a color. It is called the human condition. Oh, and there is no war on Christmas. People who don’t believe in Jesus can still have the Christmas spirit of giving, joy and peace without embracing someone’s narrow view of their personal religious dogma. Remember, Christmas was originally a Pagan holiday. And those who decide to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas are simply being considerate and kind, a characteristic removed from the Fox Noise channel. These people should be put out of their misery. That’s what I would like for Christmas, Santa.

Black Friday

I checked my email this morning and I noted that my local outfitter store (I live in a rural mountain area) is having a sale on guns on Friday. Gee, if I could just find some liquor sales it would be a perfect holiday. Guns and liquor, what could be better? See you in the emergency room.

Television Writing that Drives me Crackers

I watch a lot of what I would call entertainment SyFi because it gets me through a workout on my elliptical or stationary spinning bike. I usually watch news when I weight lift for the anger factor and increased strength through adrenalin rushes when somebody says something that makes me want to strangle them. So anyway I record these shows so I can skip through the commercials and distract myself from my cardio work. So here are some of the things that drive me crazy in the plots and see if you can relate:

  • Beauty and the Beast – Kat loves him, Kat distrusts him, Kat trusts him, Kat distrusts him. Kat hunts for months focused on finding him because they have this connection and then has all these doubts. She finds her father who is a jerk and all of a sudden she wants to bond? This is one screwed up lady
  • Person of Interest – Mr. Kung Fu macho man did not see the shooting of his Detective Carter love interest coming? Talk about not being aware of your surroundings. Oh, and the machine will talk to a pyschopath, but not its creator?
  • Arrow – Please, shoot to kill so we don’t have to deal with repeat villains because they keep escaping. Arrow’s one endearing quality was his decisiveness and now he is a bleeding heart liberal?
  • Grimm – Okay, I could suspend my disbelief, but if half the population is some kind of weird creature, wouldn’t we have noticed by now, and are they acting out creature problems just in the Seattle area? Maybe it is the coffee.
  • Hostage – Okay again, things get bad and then they just get worse. How does anybody come out of this a good guy? They did get politicians right though and they all are scum
  • Blacklist – Elizabeth Keen knows she is adopted but never wonders about why Red takes such an interest in her. Has she heard of DNA testing? Oh, and talk about being oblivious about her hubby. Red has never lied to her. For a profiler, she sucks. Also she lets a lot of people escape. She doesn’t shoot them when she should and shoots them when she shouldn’t. Oh and on most of these cop shows when they are rushing to the scene, do they ever think about calling the local police who might be closer?
  • Mentalist – Anybody sick of Red John yet? And when Patrick feigns giving up, well haven’t we done that before. Oh, and Lisbon, when you go into a dangerous situation, call for backup. It is standard police procedure.
  • Revolution – Anybody besides me want to slap the sniveling Aaron? In reality he would have been dead a long time ago. He runs from everything, doesn’t want to ask obvious questions, and generally is useless. The nanites in the atmosphere who Aaron created, are so confused by his confusion, they showed good judgement and desert him when he wants them to kill the people who killed his love, instead of restoring her to life. Discerning little creatures. He rejects the one force who could make them safe and maybe restore the power. For someone who is supposed to think logically and write algorithms, this guy could not use logic to open a door. Just about everyone else has situational morality and it is really a downer
  • Haven – This one does not even pass the sniff test, but Audrey is really fun to look at.

Of course, you could just suggest that I read a good book, but they are also getting harder and harder to find.

Failure of Leadership

Dylan Matthews had a Wonkblog post that basically said Americans think John F. Kennedy was one of our geatests presidents. He wasn’t. I took issue with his opinion based upon his objective measure of his accomplishments in an email he will never read. Basically my point was that he had all his facts correct, but his conclusion missed the real greatness. That geatness was his leadership that got us all thinking of the big things this country could do and our hope for the futue. The accomplishments of Lyndon Johnson were achieved in a America that was still basking in the afterglow of Kennedy’s vision of hope, greatness, and doing the hard things because sacrifice is our duty.

Well you can agree or disagree with me on this one, but when I apply that same measure to President Obama, he comes up lacking. Let me be clear, I don’t think the only measure of a President is by the legislative success he has had, but how he changed the course of the nation’s thinking so that real change could occur in the future. So let’s evaluate what President Obama really accomplished against that measure.

Let’s start with 2009 and the financial/banking crisis. Here was a real chance to change the whole dynamic of the financial markets and what happened was that all the usual suspects were brought in to advise, and what we have today is way way too big to fail. The banks are bigger. We solved nothing. So what happened? I don’t think he had a vision or understanding of what was wrong and how we got here. So he called in the status quo to restore the status quo, not with a look to the future, but with a backward glance at the past. While banks got bailed out, home owners got left holding the bag (and still are). And the real problem, economic inequality never got addressed.

Now comes the stimulus and restarting our economy. One can argue that faced with the Republican opposition, he got what he could get, which we now know was clearly way too small and some economists at the time were telling us just that. But his failure of leadership here was not in getting what he could get, but in selling to the American people that that is all that was needed. Had he change the argument to it is too small, but it is all I can get now, the playing field would be different today in that we would be poised to push for more stimulus and not have the sequester. So what happened?

Well, what happened is what will be a theme here, there is no there there. It is clear, and will be repeated in this analysis, President Obama doesn’t seem to have a well thought out economic policy approach. He gathered flatland economists around him who have shunned Keynes and went with their consensus opinion. There were economists out there warning that this was too little, but he bought into the conservative, looking backward (just not far enough backward to the Great Depression) and trying to restore the status quo. He seems to think that the experts that got us to where we were, had the best solutions for the future, without his own vision of the future and how to get there.

Next up is healthcare reform. And once again, he seems to have no vision for where we want to go. Instead he choses a consensus approach (Romney Care) that is a market based approach the Republicans might buy. He is underestimating Republican hatred of him. Now once again one could accuately argue that this is what was politically possible. But there was a moment when he could pushed for an option for Medicare for everyone. He could have said let’s see if the market place can compete with that. But he let the progressives in Congress die on their swords instead of at least giving us a vision of the future. He is looking for a consensus solution, not the optimal solution. I don’t think he has a vision of the optimal solution.

Now we get the real ball drop that defines the rest of his Presidency, the pivot from jobs to the debt. The Republicans framed the economy’s problems in government spending and debt. The framing is wrong, the debt solutions are counterproductive, yet he pivoted to their framing and we are stuck in a never ending cycle of cuts with Republicans wanting big ones, and Democrats fighting for damage control. So what happened? This one is the same problem, he has no basic economic philosophy that will allow him to see that this is the wrong solution. All of what Paul Krugman calls Very Serious People (VSP) are repeating the debt mantra, not based on an economic model or data, and Barack is held in their sway.

This becomes even more evident when he starts looking for the grand bargain with all the wrong solutions, including cutting entitlements. His offering up of the chained CPI told you everything you need to know about his buy-in to the Republican framing of the problem. There is a movement now in both houses of the Congress (Democrats of course) to raise Social Secuity benefits recognizing the changed circumstances in our country in regard to pensions and personal savings for the 99%. It is called leadership and what President Obama lacks. A vision for our future. He was saved from his giant mistake (The Grand Bargain) by intransigent Republicans who refuse to do a deal with him even if it was a win for them. Then we get the Sequester which is austerity on steroids which everybody now sees as a huge mistake.

Okay, once again, you can argue that nobody thought the Republicans would actually stand for those severe cuts even to the Defense Department. I would argue that is another failure of leadership to not understand who the Republican Party has become and how much they hate anything that might help the country and make President Obama look effective.

Next up are drone strikes and the massive surveilance state we have constructed. Here we have a “Constitutional professor” authorizing drone strikes and the largest expansion of domestic surveilance in our history. So what happened? Well, once again, no there there. The military and the CIA were loving the success they were having with drones. The counter argument that collaterial damage was creating a greater threat than the removal of high level terrorists was not part of the VSP discussion. Nor was the respect for our constitutional protections and underlying philosophy when it comes to terrorism being examined. Some reporting indicates that the Obama Administration is again late to the party to even recognize the collaterial damage. So he went with the military because he has no real experience with them, just like his surge in Afghanistan that accomplished nothing, it was not thought through (Note, I can argue that our plan to stay in Afghanistan is just as mindless).

On the surveilance thing, first we would not know about it without Edward Snowden so let’s hunt him down like a dog and crush him under our boot of justice. Second, when thoughtful Americans who understand the need for heightened surveillance, asked for more visibility to the FISA court decisions, President Obama assured us there was oversight. By whom exactly if not by the people? Trust me? There is a whole level of no there there is this attitude. I could also attack his failure to go after the torturers and expose the whole sordid mess in the Bush Administration, but we are looking forward, not backward, so sometime in the future this will happen again as Republicans reinvent history.

Now this will be where someone will bring up the banishment of Don’t Ask, Don’t, and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage act, but that was not leadership. It was happening all arould him and he was late to even recognize same sex marriage. It was the courts and the states that were showing leadership and he just saw the flow (unlike Republicans) and went with it.

So we are where we are today and I wonder, what is the plan? The Senate, also very late to the party, has done away with the filibuster for judicial nominees and executive appointments so where are the meetings with Democrats and the White House to see what we can get done? Where is the combined campaign and strategic plan? President Obama does not seem to be a detail guy and the devil really is in the details. Like Obamacae website rollout, if it is important you have to be on top of it. He leaves the details to others and again it is a reflection of no there, there.

So I will just sum this up like this. I think President Obama faced incredible challenges as the first black president. He is smart, well meaning man who came to the White House without a clear agenda except to get both sides to work together and in those compromises would be good policy. Not only was the assumption that out of compromise we get good policy wrong, but the idea that this new Republican Party would work with him was terribly flawed and was late to recognize both. I think he now understands the nature of Republicans, but without a there there, he is very late to the party of staking out our new direction. That was his fatal flaw. I am not sure he knows what that direction is with the confidence to fight for it as his most important legacy. He is getting better, but I think the American people are getting it as they are starting to become more populist. Maybe he can tag along.