Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category.

I Can See Clearly Now

The only saving grace from the White House is their total incompetence.  The reason for the firing of James Comey is becoming crystal clear.  In spite of the memo claiming it was the outrageous treatment of Hillary, which nobody believes from this White House, White House minions were out with very different versions of Trump being unhappy with Comey for some time and had lost trust in him,  Of course that says what happened to the plot line that the new guy Rod Rosenstein who had been in office 12 days, writes a memo and the White House gets it, and then acts?  Well, nobody believes that one either. There are reports that when the White House started to lay blame on him, he threatened to resign.  We all know that was a fiction to get Sessions involved.  And it is clear Sessions’ involvement was a clear breach of his recusal.

Now the veil is slowly being lifted.  Apparently the Russia investigation was ramping up and Comey had asked for more money and resources.  Trump had been getting madder and madder about the ongoing investigation and that Comey would not follow orders to back off. He was mad that Comey had not supported his Obama had phone tapped me.  He was mad because Comey had confirmed an investigation into his campaign and administration.  And he was really mad because, as noted, Comey seemed to be ramping up the efforts.  And as now reported Comey thought Cheeto-head was mad in an insane way.  Oh, and did you see where yesterday after Cheeto-head’s meeting with the Russians (now there is a visual), he banned U.S. Reporters from the photo session/ meeting? And don’t forget Valdimir gave Cheeto-head a thumbs up for acting presidential.  That ought to count for something.

So there is no question about what is going on today.  The smoke was getting thicker and Trump ordered the hoses brought out.  No one listened.  And for an immature child, who has something very bad to hide, he went on a firing tantrum.  Republicans so far have failed to understand their duty to the country, with all of them hedging their comments, calling Sally Yates a political hack (although nothing in her testimony was political and backed up by multiple accounts) and saying the President had the right to fire Comey, which he did, but not noting that in an ongoing investigation of his administration, highly inappropriate and destructive  to our democracy and our confidence in it.  If it’s not clear at this juncture that we have a president who is out of control, has things to hide, and is a danger to a functioning democracy, then you must have voted for this dangerous moron in the first place, clear evidence of brain damage. And so far the Republicans are right there with him.

But I think the dam has broken.  There are so many lies and blame going on, that people are starting to push back.  I think what we have learned is that the political appointees cannot be trusted, Right now that is Acting Attorney General Rosenstein and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe are suspect, Rosenstein with his part in given cover to the White House for firing Comey and McCabe for failing to answer a simple question put before him by the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning, did Comey tell Cheeto-head that he was not under investigation?  Oh, I get the privileged conversation, except the President already put it out there.  We ought to be able to know if it is true.  He did promise to report any political interference which kind of puts him on notice with career professionals.  I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.  Wouldn’t you have given Comey a heads up call?

So between the Republicans and the political hacks, the real ones, nothing will happen.  But as I mentioned earlier, the dam is broken.  Career professionals will take their Constitution and country as more important than toddying to the Firing-in-Chief.  Expect to see more leaks and a real blow up if the Republicans and Cheeto-head try to slow walk this.  Finally, I will give Comey the same advice I gave to Obama.  Speak out.  These are not normal times and the very foundation of our democracy is at stake.

Look! He is Moderating!

That is the lead all week as Cheeto-Head flip-flopped on multiple issues.  Actually they weren’t flip-flopping as acceding to reality in foreign affairs.  But one has to ask why the obvious truths did not dawn on him sooner and is he just so ignorant that his view of reality is shaped by the ones nearest him.  And on North Korea, while he now understands a little more of the China-Korean relationship, does his twitter pugnacious brain simply further goad the situation into a show down?  And with two nut jobs, one ours, who can’t stand losing, and theirs, one who needs confrontation to survive, this could get very ugly.

Meanwhile what is happening in domestic land to show us how he is now presidential?  Well, it is not pretty:

  • President Trump signed legislation Thursday allowing states to withhold federal family planning dollars from clinics that provide abortion services, a move that could deprive Planned Parenthood and several other family groups of tens of millions in funding.”  (WaPo). Now note that federal money cannot be used for abortions and Planned Parenthood has been audited millions of times and have never used federal money for abortions, but well, screw women.  Planned Parenthood is like any other medical provider and bills the government for covered services and I don’t see how this is constitutional, but what do I know.  Also, while we seem to accept that federal money cannot be used for abortions (Hatch Amendment), why not?  Is it not a legal and in many cases a justified medical procedure? Again, what do I know?
  • With the stroke of a pen this week, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s new education secretary, thrust the future of the government’s system for managing federal student loans into confusion.” (NYT).  President Obama had signed an order to combine the confused administration of student loans into one simplified system.  But that would hurt all those vendors who are trying to make a killing off kids going to college.  Progress is only for Progressives must be the motto.  As an aside, while I was having a basal cell carcinoma removed from my leg, I was discussing single payer with my dermatologist and she said she had mixed emotions because the government always makes things too complicated.  It is not the government, but politicians. Note that with advanced stage prostate cancer I no longer fear talking politics with those welding knives.
  • President Trump’s top environment official called for an “exit” from the historic Paris [climate] agreement Thursday, the first time such a high-ranking administration official has so explicitly disavowed the agreement endorsed by nearly 200 countries to fight climate change.” (WaPo). That is what we elected, science ignorance and they are carrying it out.
  • The Trump administration will not voluntarily disclose logs of visitors to the White House complex, it announced Friday, breaking with the practice started under former President Obama.”  (The Hill)  I wonder what they are afraid of?  Kind of like the tax thing.
  • In an interview with The Wall Street Journal this week, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold the subsidy payments [in Obamacare] as a way to induce the Democrats to bargain with him.” (NYT) Really.  He has a majority in both houses and he needs Democrats to wreck healthcare?  I know this has been beat to death, but the bad parts pay for the good parts.  There is no Republican fix and Democrats would be insane to help dismantle it.
  • “Donald Trump’s travel to his private club in Florida has cost over an estimated $20 million in his first 80 days as president, putting the president on pace in his first year of office to surpass former President Barack Obama’s spending on travel for his entire eight years.”  (CNN) Where is Michelle Bachmann when you need her.  Here is the tip of the iceberg on Republican hypocrisy as none of them see a problem and imagine what they would say (and did) if this was Obama.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a “ground zero” of death and violence where Americans must “take our stand” against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico.” [NYT]. The beginning of the border Gestapo and prosecutions of families just trying to stay together and make a living.  No mention of a rational change in our immigration laws that would allow a free flow of workers we badly need, or treating the cause of all that drug traffic, demand.  Just another mindless day at the beach (on the Rio Grande River).
  • One of the first things this administration did was to rescind a government proposal to ban a pesticide used on much of the fresh food we eat — a chemical compound, chlorpyrifos, found to be harmful to the brain and nervous system of children. This move didn’t get a lot of attention. But when you’re throwing out a half-dozen major lies and missteps a day, it’s tough to compete for airtime.” (Timothy Egan NYT).  Yeah, we don’t need no stink’in regulations if they get in the way of profits.  Who cares who dies if it increases profits?  Unless of course it is your child.  “With his proposal to gut the E.P.A., Trump would make it much more difficult for the Great Lakes to be great again. His budget would eliminate restoration projects in the iconic waterways of America, from Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound. Plus, he would decrease grants to monitor unsafe tap water, creating future Flints.  He also wants to cut research into harmful chemicals — some linked to breast cancer and birth defects — found in things most Americans keep in their cupboards. The tobacco companies must sense a comeback in the offing… ‘We’re doing an amazing job on regulations,’ Trump said this week. ‘We’ve freed it up. We’ve freed up this country so much.’” Nope, we don’t need no stink’in regulations. Free at last, free at last.

So if you are not paying attention, and most of our pundits are not, swept up into group think, he is becoming presidential.  If you are paying attention, he is destroying the America we all love.  Stay tuned.  Maybe he will get us in a war with North Korea and millions will die.  Maybe that will wake up the clueless.

Fake News

A friend of mine saw the 60 Minutes segment on Fake news and was alarmed.  How can we keep this off of social media or determine that it is fake?  Note that many people read stuff because it is trending, and of course hackers get this so they write Bots to cruise the internet find this stuff and make it look like millions are reading it.  My initial response is that there is nothing you can really do about, except be a critical thinker.

I also took issue with the 60 Minutes both side do it approach.  Clearly during the election we were being bombarded with this stuff by the Russians and Americans to favor Cheeto-Head.  Noting now that there is a large amount of left-wing response garbage out there now is not the same.  The conservatives amplify this stuff through their media outlets (Fox) and President Cheeto-Head himself.  You think President Obama would be repeating this stuff without fact checking it?

And I guess that is the point.  Are we so brain-dead we do not fact check stuff?  Answer yes.  My friend had a suggestion that we could add ratings to this kind of news like false, lies, true, mostly true, etc. that would get rid of the fake stuff.  I pointed out to him that it would be a simple thing to write another Bot to brand real news fake and fake news real.  The answer is a critical mind.  What is the source?  How has it been substantiated?  Are there multiple reliable sources?  Do you even know what a reliable source is?  Free speech is with us and people can make the most outrageous claims, some we might want to believe, but we have to be careful.

That brings me to one of my favorite subjects, why are we so susceptible to these kinds of falsehoods.  You would think we evolved to be a critical thinking species to survive.  Now we seem to want to create and live in a fantasy world that suits our political philosophies and gut feeling, but could in fact undo us when reality invades that fantasy world.  The answer is that other thing we evolved with to help us become a community and deal with chaos, religion.

Religion, and I have made this argument many times, is a non-rational way of thinking.  In order to believe, especially if you really do test reality, is to suspend your disbelief.  There are so many contradictions in believing in an all-powerful all-knowing god that it just boggles the mind.  But most have been brought up on this non-logical thinking and we just believe it because we feel it.  Just like I know the crowd sizes at Cheeto-Head’s inauguration were larger than Obama’s.  I just feel it is true.

Well this morning in the NYT was an op-ed called The Evangelical Roots of Our Post-Truth Society by Molly Worthen.  It made my point about faith-based logic (I believe it therefore it is).  It comes from teaching our children to distrust information from the scientific or media elite because “these sources did not hold a biblical worldview.”

“It was presented as a cohesive worldview that you could maintain if you studied the Bible,” she told me. “Part of that was that climate change isn’t real, that evolution is a myth made up by scientists who hate God, and capitalism is God’s ideal for society.”

…That innocuous phrase — “biblical worldview” or “Christian worldview” — is everywhere in the evangelical world. The radio show founded by Chuck Colson, “BreakPoint,” helps listeners “get informed and equipped to live out the Christian worldview.” Focus on the Family devotes a webpage to the implications of a worldview “based on the infallible Word of God.” Betsy DeVos’s supporters praised her as a “committed Christian living out a biblical worldview.”

You can read her analysis, but the gist is that we have been taught not to be critical thinkers when it comes to what we want to believe and there is the foundation for fake news.  As Ms. Worthen tells us:

We all cling to our own unquestioned assumptions. But in the quest to advance knowledge and broker peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic world, the worldview based on biblical inerrancy gets tangled up in the contradiction between its claims on universalist science and insistence on an exclusive faith.

In other words, “tangled up” means runs into the brick wall of reality.  We have a whole segment of society that wants stability in a changing world.  They throw their faith up as a wall to believe they are protected.  So if you can suspend your disbelief on religious matters, where do you draw the line?  After a while it leaks into every phase of your thinking and your gut is the final arbitrator.  Fake news that feeds it is icing on the cake to this way of thinking.

The only real solution is to learn critical thinking.  To understand what we know and what we do not know.  This requires questioning what we think we know continuously.  See the conflict with faith-based thinking?  It also requires an understanding of science as a method for acquiring knowledge and rational reasoning and logic.  Because we are a religious society, we have our work cut out for us.

As an after thought just try to keep in mind that the philosophy of religion, is different from the supernatural beliefs.  The philosophy can “learn” (gays are not evil), the supernatural cannot.  In other words, religion needs to evolve with reality and we are not good at that.

American Theocracy

Once again I am just amazed that the media has not picked up on or disturbed by our Government being taken over by conservative evangelical Christians and their march to institute their religious beliefs on the rest of us.  Maybe it is the idea that religious freedom means the right to discriminate to many of us.  Maybe it is the he said/she said nature of media coverage of anything and they don’t want to hurt ratings by addressing the dangers of a religious state.  Maybe their own religious indoctrination has blinded them to the double-edged sword of religion.  So I will help you.

As an atheist I have a kind of unbiased view.  That may seem strange to religious people as their view of an atheist is that it is just another religion like theirs, with beliefs based upon faith.  In that case, there is no God and I must convert others to this belief.  With this view in mind, an atheist has an axe to grind with religion.  Quite frankly I could care less.  You may delude yourself in any form you want if it meets your needs.  I have no need for you to give up your religion*.  But I do have a need to make sure your religious ideas do not use the force of government to legislate your views on others.

Let me ask you a question:  Where in the world has a theocracy in history lead to a free and open nation that celebrates minority rights?  Muslim countries are aflame or waiting to ignite.  Israel is pushing toward continuous warfare and the suppression of non-jews (Palestinians).  I cannot go back in history and find one that worked other than to empower the ‘right’ religion and disadvantage everyone else.  Then there were the power struggles within the religious righteous.  You know, who has the real word of God?

Our poor Founders must be rolling over in their graves along with most historians.  Does Cheeto Head and his evangelical buddies even know what the Enlightenment was about?  I doubt it.  The Founders got it big time and realized that a democracy based upon rational argument and compromise could not exist in a religious atmosphere where faith makes rational argument and compromise impossible.  Cue the riots, revolutions, torture of heretics, and mass chaos whose only respite is a totalitarian government.

So stand back and look at the whole conservative movement.  It is about totalitarian views.  There is only one right way to see the economy, economism** (Econ 101), which takes a simplified view of the perfect market place, supply and demand curves, and does not accept the complexity of the real market place.  In the same vein they are dominated by evangelical Christians (it could be called the evangelical Christian Party) who have the same simplistic rule following view of religion.  Either view is totalitarian in that debate and compromise is heresy.

Now enter Donald Trump who is championing these groups with simplified views of almost every issue.  His nomination of Betsy DeVoss is a thinly veiled attempt to allow government to fund religious schools and kill the public schools system.  His proposal to remove the Johnson Amendment, requiring religious organizations to refrain from overt politics to maintain their tax exempt status, is an overt attempt to bring religion back into politics. Note that all of his Cabinet appointees have the same mind-set whether it is birth control, or the Affordable Care Act.  They have that intolerant religious view of their politics and social policies.

So unless you are blind, our country is being taken over by religious zealots who hide their fanaticism behind a feigned moral facade.  But it is tearing down the walls of religion and government and unlearning the lessons of the Enlightenment.  It is what ignorant people do when they have no understanding of our history or the foundations upon which our Constitution is based.  It is the beginning of the end of rational government.

*Some modern religion has evolved to adapt to reality around us.  In my mind, informed religion is really a philosophy.  Many Christians are not Bible thumpers, but people who find great wisdom in the teachings of Jesus.  The work to try to take those teachings and interpret them in light of science and reality.  The advantage of a philosophy as opposed to a faith, is that the philosophy is susceptible to evaluation and evolution.  Faith is not.  Evangelical Christians for most part are not into evolving, hence their teachings about gender choice, sexual orientation, and a woman’s choice.  This same kind of mentality is applied to economic matters and we have the intolerance and refusal to change we see today.

**Economism is a term used by Economists to refer to simple interpretations of Supply and Demand curves and then apply it across all spectrums of our political lives as fixed rules that do not adjust to the complexities of the world we live in.

Our Theocracy of Economics and Religion

Here is one thing few people are writing about*, I guess because they think Trump is not really a religious man, many of the policies that will come out of the Trump administration will be based on a very narrow view of religion.  Not only did we get conservative economic ideology (also a religion**), but in many of the social policies, they will be heavily imbued with a religious belief.  I guess because the media is afraid to point out or criticize religion and its influence in our government, this is just ignored.  The idea is that we respect freedom of religion and attacking religious beliefs is really un-American.  But what do we do when they define Government and our policies, and those religious beliefs are a narrow conservative evangelical Christianity?

Think about Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of Education.  She wants to basically end public education and fund religious schools and charters that, “will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” Note that while it barely came up in the hearings, she has given generously to groups “funding Christian schools, evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.”  She has support groups who want to relax the boundary between religion and government. (Mother Jones). It’s all about getting our kids to be thinking right evangelical thoughts.

Think about the EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt.  He is another conservative Christian who “as a state senator,  proposed one of the most onerous anti-abortion laws in the country, and as attorney general, he helped lead the opposition to the recent Department of Education guidelines on transgender students using gender-appropriate bathrooms.”  As the Daily Beast implied, he comes from the evangelical groups that believe, “Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” In other words, What Me Worry.  Science is rubbish.

Think about the Vice-President, Mike Pence whose policies on abortion and gays is driven by his evangelical Christian views.  Then there is Ben Carson, and like Pence, a creationist, or Rick Perry who has been quoted as saying evolutionists are “out there”.  A more in-depth look at this comes from Israel’s Haaretz.com and I suggest you read it.  Basically we are seeing an evangelical religious government being put in place.  But what of the  inclusion of so many Goldman Sachs alumni former generals and billionaires?

There is no contradiction here.  The folks that come from conservative economic ideas have the same zeal as religious fanatics and approach other points of view with the same closed mind and sense of heresy.  The market place is God, deciding winners and losers. the winners are the anointed people, and government intervention is heresy.  Wealth flowing to the wealthy is a result of this system and is a system of right, wrong, punishment, and reward determined by their God, the market place which fits very nicely with evangelical Christian belief.  If many suffer under this system, it is okay because they deserve it, just as those who don’t believe as the evangelical Christians believe, are doomed to hell.  We are now living in a Theocracy of Economics and Religion.

So when you see the first policies coming out of the Trump administration, things like moving the embassy to Jerusalem, moving quickly on defunding Planned Parenthood, another round of attacks on gay rights, an attack on climate change, even defunding the Endowment to the Arts, it makes perfect religious sense.  Wait till we see what Betsy DeVos does in the Education Department.  It is about taking narrow evangelical Christian beliefs and forcing them on the rest of us (the Endowment to the Arts attack is because the arts challenges us to think about who we are as opposed to accepting scripture).

The Economic theology will come quickly enough as the attacks on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and of course using that money to fund tax cuts. Only the right people are rewarded. We are about to become a total Theology which has combined conservative economic ideology with evangelical religious beliefs.

The Constitution is clear about religion and government, but this flock sees no problem with using their religion to define the world and use government to inflict it on the rest of us.  Rational debate need not apply.  And that is what is happening.  What will save us is that reality will run head long into ideology and finally something will have to give.  But in the interim a lot of us are going to suffer and there could be violence and unrest as these failed ideas are put into policies around the world.  We are entering a new Dark Age.

*I found the best coverage of this from all places, Israel in Haaretz.com which is an Israeli publication.  I thank them for their work.

**I use the term religion to mean a set of beliefs not subject to rational debate, but accepted on faith.  Not all religions are like this, but in this context, that is exactly what is going on.

Why are We Watching a Church Service Right Now?

The media, instead of covering some of the things the Donald is doing to us, is covering a church service while the Donald sits there with his pouty mouth.  What does that have to do with anything?  Okay, I admit it, I am wrong.  Religion has a lot to do with the Donald and the Right’s agenda.  As one commentator said yesterday, the Donald had surround himself with religious leaders that were telling him God selected him for this job.  Nope.  The rubes in middle America.  But religion has everything to do with conservatism.  It allows them to assume their policies are what God wants and they don’t have to question themselves.  As the Nazis believed they were the superior race and that superiority allowed them to commit horrible atrocities, so too does religion assign superiority and history is replete with examples of atrocities done in the name of God.

And of course there is no God just man’s foolish need for superstition to anoint him special.  If you don’t believe that ask how if there was a fair and just all powerful supreme being, why we have Donald Trump.  There are a lot more elegant arguments to refute religion, but that may be the most salient one.  Oh, play that funky organ white man, play that funky organ white man.

Rubes

I used to call the Republicans morons, but too many people objected and it is quite clear that some Republicans are not morons, just badly either misled or in complete denial.  Rubes seemed like a better term because it indicates a level of ignorance that allows one to easily mislead them. See Trump, our media, and of course his supporters.  Our media I have discussed on numerous occasions and their ignorance of facts and issues allows Republicans to pump out their propaganda with a media bullhorn, unfiltered.  See the election of Donald Trump.  But the focus here this morning is on the rubes themselves.  Now I realize that rubes is a perjured term, and may turn off the very people who need to read this blog, but it describes where we are today.

Have you ever wondered why the urban areas lean blue and the rural areas are red.  Well one explanation is rather simple, people who live in cities are exposed to diversity and different ideas.  People who live in rural areas are in a conservative bubble.  Now I guess one could argue that in cities one could be in a liberal bubble, except cities for the most part are much more balance in political representation than rural areas and even if say for instance you hated gays, in a city you are much more likely to be exposed to them and all the stereotypes get challenged.  It is that way with many issues.  Global Warming is one of those issues that in this light is hard to explain since rural areas that depend on whether for much of their economy would seem to notice.  The obvious explanation is that if you admit you are wrong about Global Warming, then what else do you have wrong.

There is a level of ignorance in our voters today that defies logic.  Electing Donald Trump defies logic.  I want to give you some quotes I read today from “rubes” on the two big items, healthcare and what Trump voters really think about liberals that appeared in the NYT on Thursday.  Let’s start with healthcare.  The point of the article was what voters really want from Healthcare who voted for Trump:

The Kaiser Foundation organized six focus groups in the Rust Belt areas — three with Trump voters who are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and three with Trump voters receiving Medicaid. The sessions, with eight to 10 men and women each, were held in late December in Columbus, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Mich., and New Cumberland, Pa. Though the participants did not agree on everything, they expressed remarkably similar opinions on many health care questions. They were not, by and large, angry about their health care; they were simply afraid they will be unable to afford coverage for themselves and their families. They trusted Mr. Trump to do the right thing but were quick to say that they didn’t really know what he would do, and were worried about what would come next.

…But asked about policies found in several Republican plans to replace the Affordable Care Act — including a tax credit to help defray the cost of premiums, a tax-preferred savings account and a large deductible typical of catastrophic coverage — several of these Trump voters recoiled, calling such proposals “not insurance at all.” One of those plans has been proposed by Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services. These voters said they did not understand health savings accounts and displayed skepticism about the concept.

…There was one thing many said they liked about the pre-Affordable Care Act insurance market: their ability to buy lower-cost plans that fit their needs, even if it meant that less healthy people had to pay more. They were unmoved by the principle of risk-sharing, and trusted that Mr. Trump would find a way to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions without a mandate, which most viewed as “un-American.”

So let me summarize here:  They trust Trump to do the right thing, the did not like Republican Plans “calling such proposals not insurance at all,” and were unmoved by the principle of risk-sharing, and trusted Trump would protect people with pre-existing conditions without a mandate, which they viewed as “un-American”.  Rubes.  They voted for a guy who has a history of screwing the little guy, but he will do the right thing, hate Republican plans (where do they think the plans are going to come from), and sharing the cost across all plan holders, you know, the very basis of all insurance, is un-American.  Is automobile or home mortgage insurance that work on the same principle un-American?  Oh, and when they get sick and their rates go out of sight, maybe they might then understand the problem.  Their ignorance is astounding.

Okay let’s try the other article entitled Why Rural Americans Voted for Trump:

One recent morning, I sat near two young men at a coffee shop here whom I’ve known since they were little boys. Now about 18, they pushed away from the table, and one said: “Let’s go to work. Let the liberals sleep in.” The other nodded. …They are part of a growing movement in rural America that immerses many young people in a culture — not just conservative news outlets but also home and church environments — that emphasizes contemporary conservative values. It views liberals as loathsome, misinformed and weak, even dangerous.

Hmm, so all liberals are lazy, misinformed and weak?  I never was and most of the people I know are not and this is a bias from ignorance living in a bubble.  Mr. Robert Leonard who wrote this goes deeper and points out a basic philosophical difference that allows no bridges, these rural Republicans see liberals as naively believing people are good, while they know we are born bad and made good (by discipline and God I assume):

The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that.

“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.”

He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”

Mr. Leonard finishes with:  “Rural conservatives feel that their world is under siege, and that Democrats are an enemy to be feared and loathed. Given the philosophical premises Mr. Watts presented as the difference between Democrats and Republicans, reconciliation seems a long way off.”

Step back a minute and look at this.  It is really about feeling threatened and making the other guy the devil.  It is not about thinking, or data, or logic, it is about making someone so evil you don’t have to listen to their arguments.  It is an excuse to be arrogant and ignorant.  There is a level of ignorance that is permeating from rural America that has normalized a Donald Trump.  There is no excuse for this.  And the kind of faith-based reasoning we see coming out of rural America is dangerous to everything we stand for.  If you really believe we are born to be bad, why have innocent until proven guilty and why allow free speech?  We have reached a very sad and dangerous times and the rubes have brought us there.  Of course the Democratic establishment helped create them with their own arrogance and complacency. Now we have to live with the result.

UPDATE:  Apparently I am not the only one who has settled on the term rubes.  From Krugman this morning:

Consider, by contrast, the story that dominated several news cycles a few weeks ago: Donald Trump’s intervention to stop Carrier from moving jobs to Mexico. Some reports say that 800 U.S. jobs were saved; others suggest that the company will simply replace workers with machines. But even accepting the most positive spin, for every worker whose job was saved in that deal, around a hundred others lost their jobs the same day.

In other words, it may have sounded as if Mr. Trump was doing something substantive by intervening with Carrier, but he wasn’t. This was fake policy — a show intended to impress the rubes, not to achieve real results.

Rectify – Almost Over

One of the absolutely best drama’s on television is Sundance’s Rectify, the story of a boy, Daniel, convicted wrongly of rape and murder, his 19 years on Death Row, his release, and the impact on everyone around him. You know it is a good show when you wake up thinking about it and can’t put it out of your mind.  Well, last night was the second to last episode and they started to tie things up in the complicated and messy lives of all their characters.  One of the characters is Tawney Talbot, the wife of Daniels stepbrother, Teddy.  The last episode was really about tying up Tawney and Teddy. Well, Tawney got tied up, Teddy is still hanging out there.

Tawney shows up early in the 4-season show when Daniel is released from Death Row on a technicality, but everyone still believes he did it.  Tawney is a Christian with a capital C, which is why she was so interesting to me.  Everything Tawney does is through the lens of God.  On the good side she really believes in Christian love, on the bad side, she uses a sign from God for a crutch to make a decision.  At the base of her soul, Tawney is lost.  She has no idea who she is or what she wants and all her relationships are based on someone else taking charge whether that be God or her husband Teddy.

Now, I see this through the lens of an atheist.  But you can see how her life and her community is totally defined by their religious community.  So when she hits a bump in her life, a major one where she has feelings for Daniel, recognizes she no longer is in love with Teddy, and feels horribly guilty, God doesn’t answer her.  Without God she is adrift.  On the plus side she was one of the purest souls on the show, except maybe for Daniel.  On the downside, she had no inner guide if she did not believe it came from God.  The rest of the seasons were really about her finding herself.

And the way the show resolved it was for her to find God again.  She is going to divorce Teddy and become a nurse to help people which she believes is her mission in life.  Cleary she is happy and content now as she has a purpose and her faith back, and no one can say she is not going to put her life to good use.  But I found it unfulfilling.  Early in the show, it was clear the whole community had a religion that was not tested.  It was easy and comfortable to believe you are special and God has a plan for you, and everyone around you reinforces that.  Then shit happens and God is nowhere to be found and the shallowness of her faith was how quickly she lost it.

I would have found it more interesting to explore how Tawney could come to grips with the reality that God does not answer her prayers and she actually had the strength and self-knowledge to find her own path.  Maybe if they had another season, so we got the simplified (over-simplified) result that she got her faith back and God had given her a path.  If she really goes to work for Doctors without Borders she may again have to address whether God is a fair and just God.  Oh, well.

Meanwhile, Teddy has grown up and has found himself.  He does not want to sell tires and work for his Dad.  His Dad is lost when Teddy tells him they can’t be responsible for each other any more and have to live their own lives.  Teddy is searching for it, his Dad is destroyed.  Maybe the last episode will tie that up.  Still out there is Amatha, Daniel’s sister, who is so angry at how Daniel’s life took over her life, Daniel’s mother who abandoned her children emotionally for Daniel, and Daniel himself.  I can’t wait.  Daniel is truly a special character with a warmth and wisdom that is truly affecting. It will be nice to see after all he has been through, to get his life back.

Tortured Conservatives and Tortured Logic

I am sure you have seen them.  Some are Kathleen Parker, Nicole Wallace, Elise Jordan.  The pain is their eyes is obvious when they talk about what happened to their party, and yet they hang on.  Somehow they think the conservative movement, the one they thought they knew, will come back.  Elise Jordan comes to mind when she is on Lawrence O’Donnell and you can see the loss on her face.  They abhor where the Party has gone and yet are wedded to conservative values.  One liberal pundit turned to Elise Jordan the other night and said come on over, the water is fine, but she demurred thinking maybe Libertarian is where she might land.

These kinds of conservatives you probably know. They are good people who believe in being frugal, being careful, and are fearful of big government.  What’s not to like?  I always imagine myself in a friendly argument with one of them about their conservative beliefs, you know, where you can show that what they have supported does not work.  A rational dialogue.  But you cannot win it.  It would be a rare conservative that will cross over even in the face of overwhelming data.  Why is that?

Let me start with this:  Solutions cannot be boiled down to big government or small government, market place solutions or government solutions, low taxes or high taxes, more regulations or less regulations.  The world simply is too complex and while simple solutions with simple metrics as above simply lead us astray.  Now I am not going to make that argument today as I have in many blogs.  It is just sufficient to say, sometimes less government is a solution, and sometimes more government is.  Sometimes low taxes can stimulate growth, but in others (like now were the problem is demand) it fails miserably.  Same with regulations.  Sometimes they save lies, and sometimes they restrict business.  Sometimes they do both.

So with that said, if you do away with religious ideology and fixation on only small government/market place solutions, and I think you can convince most rational Republicans to do that, then why do they still resist being a Democrat that basically doesn’t care about the size of government of the level of taxes, just solutions.  I think there are two things going on and that is ignoring the psychological things that predispose Republicans to their beliefs (basically if you work hard you will succeed, and being fearful) (Understanding Conservatives).

The first is that they were raised Republican.  I ask myself everyday why people belive in god when the physical world around clearly belies that belief.  Well one answer is that they need to, but the other is that they were raised in it, indoctrinated into it, everyone around them takes god for granted.  It seems so natural to them that the data and evidence around them doesn’t penetrate that bubble, and then we are back to the fact that the need to believe it, so they are going to throw up all kinds of walls.  Well the same can apply to being raised Republican (by the way I was raised Republican so there is hope)*.

Part of the indoctrination is a view of liberals that violates their basic belief in frugality, small government, and responsibility.  Most of it today is simply not true.  I wonder how they react to California as a totally Democratic government, finally repairing itself and growing each day?  In other words, they have this built-in mechanism that denies that Democrats are not irresponsible spendthrifts.  The second part of this is what I call the home budget analogy.  Could also be the small business budget analogy.  It is Microeconomics 101.  You have to live within your budgets and debts are bad things.

So the indoctrination, familiarity, and the microeconomic analogy, says, we can’t trust Democrats.  Elise Jordan opined she might go Libertarian with the recognition that the old party is never coming back and the craven pandering to Donald Trump instead of values they honor.  I would say same mistake.  Libertarians think all government is bad.  The old Ronald Reagan, government is the problem.  But it is the same old problem of looking for a simple religion that requires complex answers.

You can’t solve global warming without big government to provide the incentives to move away from fossil fuels is just one example, and does she really want to do away with public schools.  Works fine for the gated communities, but not for most who are working two jobs to try and stay even. And if you accept that the system really is rigged and there is not a level playing field, who levels it?  Come on over Elise, the water really is fine, and you will find a lot of Democrats who want to go slow and be careful.

*Molly Ivins, the great columnist and humorist, when asked why she was a Democrat in Texas after growing up in a very conservative Texas family and she replied, “When I found out they were lying about race, I wondered what else they were lying about.”

Hospitals and Intolerance

I wrote a blog back in June based (Once Again the Case for Government(Single Payer) Healthcare) upon a NYT article about how the consolidation of Hospitals into Catholic systems may in fact start allowing religion to decide what care you get:

“As hospitals throughout the country struggle with financial woes, many have begun to merge with Catholic systems in order to stay in business. This means a growing number of patients are winding up in institutions guided by religious doctrine.”

Well, it hit home this morning as I read my local paper, the Sacramento Bee:

“Tuesday was supposed to be a big day for Evan Michael Minton. The Fair Oaks resident packed his bags for the hospital, said a prayer and counted down the hours until he would undergo the hysterectomy that would take him one step further in his transition from female to male.

Instead he spent the day on the phone with doctors and lawyers after Mercy San Juan hospital in Carmichael abruptly canceled the procedure on religious grounds…Health, which until 2012 was affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, declined to discuss Minton’s case, citing patient privacy laws.

The hospital, part of the Dignity Health chain, said the procedure goes against its anti-sterilization policies, which are based on ethical and religious directives issued in 2009 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a statement, Dignity Health, which until 2012 was affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, declined to discuss Minton’s case, citing patient privacy laws.

“In general, it is our practice not to provide sterilization services at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities,” said spokeswoman Melissa Jue, in an emailed statement. Sterilization procedures, such as hysterectomies or tubal ligations, she said, are permitted by Catholic hospitals only to cure or alleviate a “serious pathology and (if) a simpler treatment is not available.”

Isn’t religious freedom great, their right to discriminate against you.  Of course as private hospitals they should be guided by their own moral principles, but what happens when they become the majority provider?  Where does it cross the line from religious freedom to religious discrimination.  Well, right here, right now, right here in River City.