It's been a week in which we all kind of inadvertently focused on religion, with (forgive me) spirited debate. Thanks to frequent contributors T. Paine, Ryan, For Your Consideration, and John Myste. Jerry Critter, Infidel753, Trey, Emily deserve their own special thanks. In fact, as I recall, it was Infidel, on his own site, who pretty much lit the fuse here.
I am a committed Christian with an appreciation for disagreement. I believe I am not alone in that. One of the largest megachurches in Missouri is Church of the Resurrection in the Kansas City area. It's a couple of hundred miles away, so I've only been there once. Their bookstore hosts prominent displays of authors such as atheist Richard Dawkins. I understand respectful debates and discussions are sometimes featured as well.
Emily suggests a respite from a "tread on Mr. Deming's blog" but I confess to enjoying it. I hope nobody gives up for a while.
And from around the web:
Ryan at Secular Ethics reprises in bullet form his arguments against the arguments for religion. I do have one advantage in coming from a background of skepticism. I can often recognize a bit of religious smugness before it erupts into view. I seldom offer polemical arguments. My evidence is internal and I understand why it is not compelling to others. Ryan offers a view that should be cautionary to those of us who walk by faith. If, as Shakespeare points out, the eye cannot see itself except upon reflection, Ryan provides to us a mirror.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, offers a cautious, even tempered, conclusion to a completely objective, balanced, study of an internationally known social service network. The piece is called: I HATE FACEBOOK!!!!!
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster brings news of how "nonpartisan, non-ideological" voters will come together in a National Conference of Independents in February. A sort of harmonious convergence of nonalignment?
In President Obama's first term, the administration identified sky rocketing healthcare costs as the biggest non-defense danger to efforts to produce a balanced budget. So the administration began a campaign to reduce those costs by forcing hospitals and other corporations to stop overcharging schemes that included multiply repetitive testing. It saved 750 billion dollars without affecting healthcare. During the election, conservatives accused the President of slashing healthcare by 750 billion dollars. Remember that bogus charge?
Republicans have a hard time accepting that sort of thing didn't work. So now some have executed a Mitt Romney type flip. John Boehner, in a rambling interview with Stephan Moore of Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, accuses President Obama of privately "blaming" health care costs as a scapegoat for spending. Boehner accuses the President of saying there is no spending problem, only a health care problem.
Of course there were no witnesses to that discussion. Possibly the President whispered his secret musings into Boehner's ear. Conservatives are eager to take Boehner's word for his version. After all, who could be more objective than the guy struggling under the weight of disapproval by ordinary Americans for the way he conducted the last fiscal crisis?
In fact, health care costs are the single skyrocketing domestic cost that will not disappear as the economy improves. Cure that, and you've handled the biggest chunk of it. Handle that, and the entire deficit as a percentage of the economy is already shrinking.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, joins his despondent fellow ideological soul mates who just can't believe that Americans did not have the wisdom to reject the national figure conservatives hate most. "Obama has redefined a 'balanced approach' to mean tax increases only, so it seems," laments our misguided friend. Mr. Paine, you really must stop believing some of the stuff you read. It really is bad for your heart.
The Heathen Republican copies some figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and adds a bit of Fox News type spin: "If the labor force participation rate were the same as when President Obama entered office, true unemployment this quarter would be 9.8% instead of 7.8%." Republicans tried hard during the last election to include, in their evaluation of Obama policies, those months before those policies could even be passed,much less applied, and much much less have an effect. Voters didn't buy it then, but that doesn't keep diehards from re-litigating November.
Those conservatives who cringe at gun safety measures don't mind targeting media violence as a substitute, rather than a supplement. Tommy Christopher, of Mediaite, documents the strange case of a video featuring Eric Holder. About the only thing conservatives hate more than background checks and limits on rapid-fire weapons is Eric Holder. Several right wing sites have "discovered" a 17 year old video in which Eric Holder castigates the media for engendering a "fascination with violence" by targeting young men with a message that it is "hip" to flash lethal weapons. Pretty good "gotcha", right? Making it appear that Holder agreed with the gun manufacturers' lobby that it's all about media? Well, no, actually. Conservatives are attacking Holder as if he was attacking gun ownership and gun owners.
When these guys are in attack mode, they really can't stand agreement.
Jerry Critter at Critter's Crap offers, from the best authority, the reason Republicans should want to leave Social Security alone.
- Rumproast notes a new poll asking respondents to compare Congress to other people, places, and things. Congress does not compare favorably to most of them, with some exceptions.
Complicated things are often understood with the help of analogies. Bad analogies kill brain cells. Rumproast points out that a few really bad analogies about deficits and the economy are leading the country into extreme economic danger.
Jack Jodell, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST recounts, with appropriate outrage, efforts by the conservative Republican fringe to bring down the US economy, then deprive victims of superstorm Sandy.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite looks at contrasting televised analyses of a CBO report on the fiscal cliff resolution. A panel of Fox News experts is befuddled and finally gives up, while Rachel Maddow carefully breaks it down and presents it with clarity.
The Heathen Republican contemplates a series of conservative predictions of evil results from liberal actions, such as increasing deficits, which evils never seem to come true. Well, it's a beginning. Since he has previously embraced the measure of deficits only as a proportion of GDP, he may want to go on to examine that portion of the deficit that will disappear as the economy improves. He may find that President Obama is addressing the issue pretty well. The Heathen Republican is often one of the more thoughtful conservative political analysts on the web. I try to forgive him for his talent.
Dave Dubya suggests that, as their national support continues to diminish, Republicans in Congress will grow more radical and rely increasingly on brinkmanship.
Conservative James Wigderson graciously re-posts a review published here of the largely unknown wartime experiences of actor Charles Durning, who recently died, and the important lessons his bravery and suffering provide. Thanks to James. And especially thanks to Charles.
Intelligence shortcuts, such as torture, tend to be impractical as well as ... you know ... real wrong. Conservative Julian Sanchez takes on the Wall Street Journal over warrantless wiretapping. This is one of a series of articles at his site dissecting recent FISA legislation, including this short video.
Max's Dad doesn't normally take the lead in cheering for CNN's Piers Morgan. He makes an exception in the face of know-nothings who seem to believe the Constitution begins and ends with the Second Amendment. They advocate the deportation of the television host for exercising rights covered by the First Amendment.
Infidel 753 posts a series of images - words and photos - ranging from skepticism to derision about religion. I confess I have never been able to generate within myself much empathy with the anger that so many invest in debates about spirituality. My thoughts about faith are here, and also here.
- PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, holds a bad cold as evidence against evolution. I suspect sarcasm. He goes on to describe a few underreported stories of the year just past.
President Obama looked stern, parental, and quietly impatient as he spoke of his "modest hope" for Senate leaders to pick up pieces of the Republican House and fashion a fiscal deal. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite chronicles the Presidential event as the Chief Executive took a brief break from scolding Congress who "can’t do their jobs" to scold someone to the side making noise, then went back to giving a lashing to Republican caucus members who have turned the House of Representatives into a variant of Lord of the Flies.
The Heathen Republican quotes Thomas Sowell, who laments that politicians allocate the nation's governmental resources in a way that might get them re-elected. If I recall my grade school social studies classes correctly, serving the people is kind of the way representative democracy is supposed to work. I could be wrong. It was a long time ago and more modern Congressional Republicans seem to have attended a different school.
From the extreme right, the Westboro anti-gay hate group is on everyone's not nice list. They disrupt every military funeral they can reach and attempted to picket a memorial service for the little kids killed in Newtown. Fox News really doesn't like liberals. So News Corpse notices the conflated mix-n-match as Fox posts a caption labeling Westboro as the "left-Wing Westboro Cult."
Conservative Chuck Thinks Right contemplates the Newtown killings, and is profoundly saddened by gun control advocates who seem to react to every little thing that goes wrong. Also, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre is a great humanitarian.
Jerry Critter at Critter's Crap brings word of one response to Newtown killings of a classroom of small children. LA offered a buyout of guns from anyone who would turn them in. Jerry includes a photo of the impressive result.
Vincent of A wayfarer's notes does what he almost always does. He starts with some tiny incident and lets it cascade into some vital new reality. This time he finds a copy of a book. It is a work that he had once possessed but gave away many years back. He looks up a word, unfamiliar to most, describing in dramatic fashion spiritual progression . From there, he notes the definition, and repents, in his way, from an initial reaction. He goes on to apply, obliquely, the definition to his own recent life. His insights are far from the original starting point, but the line is maintained. It must be a remarkable book, if only because it captures the attention of a remarkable human being.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster abandons writing altogether this week to bring to us an outward Christmas view from inside the Time Warner Building in NYC. She does have an eye for such things.
Manifesto Joe of Texas Blues, whom some of my more treasonous family members regard as the best blogger ever, celebrates a new job, just as Republicans end unemployment benefits that the jobless desperately need. Let's hope it's very temporary. Still, we should wish a good holiday, even to Republicans who are hostile to those dealing with economic hard times. Merry Christmas, jerks.
At Why do we have to do this, Sir? our favorite teacher sees a contemporary interpretative display of the nativity and reacts to the reactions.
- James Wigderson reviews the predictions for 2012 he got wrong, and finds a degree of empathy with ancient Mayans.
There are many reactions this week to the murders of children in Connecticut. My own nightmarish mental image is of one moment, as a teacher lay dead and a combat weapon was turned and trained on a classroom of horrified little kids in their seats.
Ancillary issues are worth addressing, treatment for mental illness being the most obvious. When those issues are used to avoid the more urgent concern, that of where to draw lines on guns, I become suspicious of motivation.
Some people should not have guns.
Some firearms should not be allowed outside the military.
Where those lines are to be drawn makes for a legitimate discussion.
S.W. Anderson at Oh!pinion seems to endorse the NRA proposals to the extent that they include mental health care. I'm okay with it, although I believe treatment would have been easily available to the Newtown killer. Anderson parts from the NRA on an assault weapons ban. So do most of us.
Conservative, and friend, T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, offers arguments as far as I can tell, intended to support the NRA position that the ills of guns can be solved by more guns. He conflates all restrictions as reacting "in knee-jerk fashion to disarm those citizens that are law-abiding so that they are unable to adequately defend themselves and their loved ones."
I dunno. Does it really obstruct legitimate protection to say that a gun owner should not have the ability to execute a classroom of little kids without reloading?
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite notes that, as the NRA was preparing to present their more-guns-will-cure-gun-violence, a mass shooting was happening in Pennsylvania, with several police injured and 3 people killed.
James Wigderson writes about the killings of the children, beginning with "Proposed gun laws will not stop evil", an observation that seems impervious to challenge. Speed limits and anti-fraud laws have a similar flaw. If you can't eliminate evil, I suppose nothing is worthwhile.
Rumproast notices an aspect of the NRA plan that has escaped everyone else. It is the only jobs program Republicans in Congress will support.
The Heathen Republican continues his research, showing that "Under Barack Obama, government handouts like food stamps, unemployment benefits, welfare, disability, and others have risen steadily..." Sadly, there is no mention of the driving force for those costs, the horrible recession, or that their cost is lessening as the economy improves. The Heathen Republican does rant about the presumably prevailing belief that "none of it costs anything anyway," something nobody actually says and nobody actually believes, outside of the fevered imagination of this conservative writer. The Heathen Republican merely carries on what is becoming a tradition. As with previous arguments, he constructs a strawman and then knocks him down.
Papamoka at Papamoka Straight Talk notes the vacancy in the US Senate left by the appointment of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State. Republicans have counted on this to get another Republican elected. But Papamoka has an alternative.
Conservative Julian Sanchez likes privacy. He also likes gmail. But Google doesn't encrypt gmail, which presents concerns. Julian educates us on the technical obstacles and possible solution. Interestingly, he manages to keep it understandable.
- News Corpse takes a look at the fate of a beauty queen who became a drug smuggler and died in a shootout with the Mexican army, and Fox News reporting it a little differently. They turned it into an Obama assisted killing of a sweet pretty contestant.
Lots of charts, enough to make an aging Democrat lose hair from head scratching. Since that ship has pretty much sailed for me, I looked at his basic argument. He first says that Truman tax rates, being held steady during the Eisenhower years, also produced a steady stream of revenue during those years as a proportion of GDP.
The fact that a stable rate of taxes produces a stable rate of revenue in proportion to what is being taxed will not seem amazing to most of us, but Heathen concludes "higher tax rates don’t necessarily lead to higher tax revenue as a share of GDP." Huh?
He compares tax rates with revenue as a proportion of GDP. He does this up through the years of George W. Bush. He finds no pattern that indicates the success of Supply Side or of Keynesian economics, aside from a spike in revenues after the Kennedy tax cut. Ah yes, the Kennedy tax cut. "From this positive trend, conservatives tend to draw the lesson that lower tax rates always lead to higher tax revenue." That "always" describes theology, being a mathematical impossibility. Would a zero rate produce more revenue? How about a negative rate?
But over all, he finds no connection between tax rate and revenue as a proportion of GDP. So he ends up with a hand fluttering conclusion, which is that there is no conclusion. It's just all too complicated and confusing. There are too many factors at play. Since only growth proves to be a constant correlation (you think?), the no-lesson lesson is "increase tax revenue, focus on economic growth instead of increasing tax rates." Yeah, that's the lesson when the data present no lesson.
Here's what he seems not to get. The entire argument Supply Siders (aside from The Heathen Republican) attempt to defend is that even though lowering rates will, of course, lower tax revenue as a proportion of GDP - Duh - raw revenue will rise precisely because that proportion is lower, thus producing fantastic levels of economic growth. Always, always, always.
Except that the George W. Bush years pretty much disproved that yet again, and put a stake in its heart, and buried it. Not in the minds of true believers, but for those who got through multiplication tables in grade school. Heathen does provide an unintentionally relevant graph showing straight revenue. He dismisses the only part of it that proves anything. "Tax rates did not vary significantly across those recessions, so they cannot correctly be associated with Bush’s tax policy."
Actually, the first sharp acceleration downward coincides fairly closely with the effect of Bush tax cuts, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.
Heathen is right about the second major drop, the major and catastrophic near depression, which is more commonly traced to the collapse of sensible regulation of mega-financial institutions than to the tax policies that favored the fabulously wealthy.
If Supply Side economics is correct, Heathen's analysis would be blind to it. And if Supply Side economics is completely bogus, Heathen's analysis would be oblivious.
The Heathen Republican produces a series of complex graphs that prove and disprove very little, pretty much because his central focus misses the point his own side has been trying to make for more than a generation.
Maybe he'll try again after a good long nap.
S.W. Anderson at Oh!pinion manages to explain with a bit of common sense why Republican economic policy has been shown not to work. If you're feeling dizzy after The Heathen Republican's metaphysical mobius strip, this will bring the universe back into focus.
Debra Dickerson is back (Y-a-y-y-y-y) with an article at US News and World Report. She talks of a form of minority recruitment that parallels affirmative action, putting promising but currently unqualified candidates for officer training, candidates of any race, through hard military prep school. It is called United States Military Academy Prep School, or USMAPS. Good to see Debra Dickerson, herself an Air Force veteran, in print again.
Last week James Wigderson politely decapitated the candidacy of a Republican who is on record as wanting to arrest any Federal official who tries to implement Obamacare in Wisconsin. This week the candidate responds. Seems it is old news and, besides, he only thinks state law enforcement should take up arms against federal officials if there is a law in Wisconsin that says so. James is having none of it. Fort Sumter is mentioned. Good for James.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite recounts it. I heard it Monday morning while I was getting ready for the morning commute. I've got to learn not to shave while listening to conservatives. People I meet are startled at the bruises. The controversy has been whether torture of terrorist suspects, while wrong, is a reliable source of information. Many experts have concluded it just eats up valuable investigative hours chasing down false intelligence. But Joe Scarborough informed his audience that torture works. He knows. He saw the movie.
Joe Lieberman's farewell address was sparsely attended, since he is pretty much friendless. Dana Milbank says it is because of Joe's noble efforts to "push back against the mindless partisanship." Rumproast notes the departure of the courageous old fighter and responds with what I take to be a bit of skepticism. "What a steaming load of horseshit," says Rumproast. Yeah skepticism, that's the word I'm looking for. My own explanation of Joe's popularity comes from four years ago. Rumproast goes on to acerbic contemplation of Barbara Walters' mindless contemplation of the girth of Governor Christie. But Joe's departure is a bit more substantive.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST puts forward a series of pithy thoughts from philosophers, public figures, and some dudes through the ages. Easy to read, some thought provoking.
Well, atheists have their internecine fights too, I suppose. PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, makes a public presentation, has an onstage exchange with a woman, and is breitbarted by fellow athiest Reap Paden. A video is edited and captioned to make it appear that PZ Myers is anti-feminist. A sort of Godless war on women?
Vincent of A wayfarer's notes amazes again. He goes from a broken refrigerator to a brilliant point on defining spirituality. He finally applies it all to home repair. Reading Vincent slowly isn't to overcome any complexity. It's to consider each nuance. Kind of like some incredibly condensed product. Just add water, and his writing explodes your mind.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, correctly points out that the Scientific Method was invented by church people. However, his point is not that belief is compatible with science, it is rather that atheism requires a "greater leap of faith" than the rationality of Christianity. A worthy point becomes a bumper sticker gibe.
- Michael John Scott of Mad Mike's America brings to us everything Jesus says in the Bible about homosexuality..
War on women? What war on women? Rumproast notes that Republican's have temporarily narrowed their focus to a denial of protection from domestic violence for Native American women.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, tells of a very nice wealthy family he knew as a child, and so illustrates that Democrats win because deluded, slothful, voters envy those nice people instead of going out and working for a living.
S.W. Anderson at Oh!pinion relates the latest strategy of some of Mr. Paine's kindly wealthy folks in the highest levels of Walmart management who want to deny health benefits to their workers. Slothful. That's what those lazy workers are. Slothful.
This almost makes me sympathize with my friend John Myste in his rants against charts. The Heathen Republican reports in chart form that varying government benefits make it profitable to earn less income. It represents what Heathen calls "economic disincentives that are inherent to welfare and entitlements." Wow. My first instinct would have been to fix the problem, but I suppose that's impossible if the disincentive is inherent.
He offers a source for his data. The source is a blog from someone named Tyler Durden. No it isn't the movie character who performs liposuction and makes bombs from human drainage. This is someone who is a really good source.
You can tell Tyler Durden is a good source for The Heathen Republican's chart, because Tyler Durden presents his own chart that you would swear is the exact same chart, so it sort of confirms the chart of The Heathen Republican. I mean, what would be the chances of both developing the same data if that data was fictional?
There is another reason we know Tyler Durden is a good source. If you click on his chart to find out where all this information comes from, you get a bigger chart. It has things on it like "CHIP" and "MA".and, here's the important thing. It has a web address on it. You know, a URL. So there really is a source.
And if you click on the URL, you get. Well, nothing, actually. It isn't a link. And you can't copy the URL, because all you get is the smaller chart back again. But all is not lost. The non-link is pretty short, not a lot of letters in it. So you can copy it into a browser.
If you do that, you find yourself on the main web page of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Hooray! After all that, you really do get to the source.
And nowhere on the page do we find any of the promised information. We find a mission statement. And a link you can click to report welfare fraud. Lots of announcements about prevention of child abuse and neglect. Also Medicaid information and how storm damage is being handled. Just nothing, nothing at all from The Heathen Republican's argument that leads to the chart and a link that leads to an identical chart that leads to a bigger chart that leads to nowhere but can be copied to get to ... well ... something different.
And I suppose that's the problem with most conservative arguments about economic disincentives. In fact, I would even say the disincentive to link to actual data may be considered - - well - - inherent to an ideology that is independent of actual reality.
James Wigderson notices that a Republican running for higher office opposes Obamacare and wants to start arresting federal officers. James pretty much disapproves. Personally, I suspect it may have something to do with the outcome of the American Civil War.
Republicans say they intend to make the annually misnamed debt ceiling resolution into a should-we-pay-the-bills-we-owe crisis. That's an economy killer since it makes the good faith and credit of the United States suspect. Then Republicans say they will keep repeating the exercise every year. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite reports that a tougher than ever President Obama assures us that "I will not play that game." I believe it has something to do with refusing to negotiate with a minority who want to take the American economy hostage.
Joe of Texas Blues performs a sort of reverse Romney. He doesn't write off Mitt Romney's 47%. He turns away from the 91% of us who are intellectually dimwitted, morally stupid, or Christian. None of us is perfect, I guess.
Dave Dubya compares contemporary conservative views, sourced to reputable polling, with contrasting views from representative Biblical Christianity as sourced to scripture. Sounds about right to me.
Vincent of A wayfarer's notes begins with a traditional attack on some forms of atheism (how can you critique what you do not experience?) then meanders into a long, winding, description of his own spirituality. Completely illogical, and totally mesmerizing. I am reminded of one comment about literal Bible worship, that it takes inspired writing, concentrates on the writing, and loses the inspiration. What comes through this essay is that this writer is an entertaining and enlightening genius. His logic is often hard to track. His descriptions are always, always, always, compelling.
He is not a polemicist. He is a verbal illustrator, and he is a master at what he does.
James Wigderson notes with mixed emotions the Newsweek-type transformation of a left-leaning student paper from the college of his youth to an online-only publication. James has fond memories of friendly competition from the conservative alternative where he served as a student.
S.W. Anderson at Oh!pinion speculates about which Republicans, had one of them been the nominee instead of Governor Romney, would have defeated President Obama this year. Any alternate universe could carry other results, I suppose. I'm skeptical.
The Heathen Republican says the takers of society, those tempted to require handouts from their economic superiors, should behave with the admirable qualities of a three legged dog. As usual, this articulate and intelligent writer brilliantly summarizes the view of Republicans toward the voters whose support they believe should have flowed to them. If only those people would accept the disadvantages life has thrown at them then, like any other disabled pet, they would have voted for their masters. That last sentence is my interpretation of the analogy. The three legged dog comparison belongs to the Heathen Republican. "I wonder," he writes, "if Americans should be more like the three legged dog."
Rumproast finds the Romney campaign turned out to have a measurable penchant for self-deception. They didn't really believe they were going to win on election day. They knew it for a fact. Rumproast discerns policy implications for the presidency that never was.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster is inspired by a letter to the editor to wonder if pretty much everyone ought to declare themselves to be independent of party. It's an interesting thought, especially in a philosophically theoretical sort of way.
Problem is this: A high proportion of Democrats are actually committed to their party. A high proportion of independent voters are former Republicans who would vote for their grandfather's GOP. That is why independents were more conservative and Democrats won elections this year. That Democrats would declare themselves uncommitted seems unlikely because, you know, we're not.
A reporter for Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller tries to be a little subtle in a dog whistle article about an early Susan Rice piece from a quarter century ago on black contributions to American history. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite notes that editors chose a headline that pretty much blew away any pretense about intent. Dog whistle turns to bugle.
Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST takes on Grover Norquist. As far as I know, Norquist has never expressed particular hostility toward those struggling to get out of poverty. He just wants to kill any government help they might get. Seems he's led a life remarkably free from the need for any bootstraps.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, targets the immoral use of embryonic stem cell research. It seems adult stem cells and embryonic stems cells are functionally identical for research purposes. Plus, adult stem cells are wonderful for research and embryonic stem cells are worthless. If you think that line of reasoning is self-contradictory, Mr. Paine shows no consciousness of it. He does quote an article on Wikipedia as an authority along with a reference to the National Institute of Health.
So I went to the National Institute of Health website to a list of several embryonic lines and the approval status of each line. The page I found is not intended as a polemic. A lot of information is aimed in another direction, but, in a few minutes, I was able to find research directed at diabetes, HIV, and something called Marfan Syndrome. I also found some expert testimony about the differences between embryonic and adult stem cells.
I understand some positions are taken as a result of deeply held convictions. I also understand the temptation to support those positions with questionable scientific statements. Taken to an extreme, we get words about pregnancy being impossible from "legitimate" rape, which is to say rape where the victim is not a willing participant. That's sort of thing is what comes from Queen of Hearts reasoning: placing conclusions before the evidence.
Ryan at Secular Ethics, without naming it as such, takes a look at a priori reasoning, the notion that an idea has to be true just cause... well... it just is. I wonder if the Romney campaign or our friend T. Paine are familiar with the concept. My own thesis is that this may (or may not) be less true for those whose ideology is oriented toward societal results.
Dave Dubya notes a video piece about a hardline conservative who accidentally stumbles into a compelling presentation on climate change, and suffers a painful epiphany. It's just an illustration, but Dave finds that it illuminates a larger truth.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot notes a startling interplanetary discovery in weird science that essentially proves that a snowball's chance in Hell is greater than we thought.
Bill Nye, the science guy, explained on CNN that the same science that explains the age of the earth, predictable radioactive deterioration, is used in smoke detectors and a thousand other practical places. PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, pretty much has the same reaction as most people with thumbs, which is to say he drops his teeth on the table, as a nationally known ignoramous charges that Nye is comparing earth to a smoke detector. But hey, such is the current state of contemporary conservatism. At least the earth is not a three legged pet of the well-to-do.
Michael J. Scott of Mad Mike's America performs vivisection on the term militant athiest. I confess that, coming as I do from that philosophical surrounding, I'm pretty comfortable with respectful discussions with self-described atheists. In fact, I'm comfortable with those very rare occasions in which a skeptic is less than respectful toward my own beliefs. Frankly, I lack an emotional connection with hostility toward those with a different view of themselves, me, and our respective relationships with the universe.
'Tis the season and the generations old debate goes on about whether and to what extent government should support Christianity over other religions or no religion at all. At News Corpse, Mark notices Bill O'Reilly's defense of government support, in spite of Constitutional prohibition of laws respecting the establishment of religion. Christianity, says O'Reilly, is not a religion. I'll try to keep this bit of wisdom from our pastor tomorrow. He, and many in the congregation, think we worship for a reason.
- Why do we have to do this, Sir? Our hero, the intrepid teacher and developing spiritual leader, has a bewildering day with a rebellious student who later insists his behavior was much worse than it was. Negative hypocrisy?
Every once in a while PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, comes up with an amazing thought. This time he does a sort of hall of mirror takeoff of evolutionary determinism:
Belief in Evolutionary Psychology May Be Hardwired, Study Says.
Vincent is back (YAY!) at A wayfarer's notes. He reviews an example of evolutionary development, then parallels into the evolving of spiritual belief, eviscerating Robert Wright's The Evolution of God and organized religion along the way. Did I mention Vincent is back? (YAY!)
Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST explores Republican motives in attacking UN Ambassador Susan Rice over Benghazi information. He doesn't omit the bitter hatred, but suggests a strategic aspect as well. My take is here. T. Paine contributes his anti-Obama anger here.
Manifesto Joe of Texas Blues, entertaining as always, offers his reaction to the reaction of post-election Republicans.
The Heathen Republican is one of the most diligent researchers in conservative opinion. This week he posts four quotes from extremely biased mainstream media about politics and conservatives and debunks them all.
Here's the problem. Although he provides direct quotes from those extremely biased sources, "ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, AP, Reuters, and The New York Times," he forgot to include any links. Hey, no problem. Being the helpful old soul I am, I devoted some time to running each quote through search engines. Sure enough each quote really did appear somewhere. Sadly, each source turned out to be The Heathen Republican.
Chuck Thinks Right reads about a little frustrated sarcastic humor from an unemployed guy waiting in line for hours to apply for work. Chuck seriously, ever so seriously, sees a serious symptom of the serious election season. Seriously serious.
The election is over and the controversy is surprisingly over as well. That burning question has been whether the Republican candidate was a flip-flop moderate or a severe conservative. Joe Hagstrom at Mad Mike's America notes the sad confirmation of Mitt Romney's severity. Mitt can't figure out how Republicans will appeal to those worthless takers who will only vote for Santa. Seems America dodged a very severe term, for Pete's sake.
- Our favorite severe conservative T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, conducts an election post-morose and severely chides Democrats for not admitting that the severe Mitt Romney was right in his gift and bribe reactions.
I came across a counter-suggestion from Newt Gingrich: "He had enough billionaire supporters that if buying the electorate was the key, he could have got all of his super PAC friends together and said, 'Don't buy ads, give gifts.'"
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster offers advice from a series of sources on why the independent vote can be dangerous, what Democrats must do to maintain election victories, and what Republicans must do to remain relevant.
Senator John McCain has been attacking UN Ambassador Susan Rice for representing the administration untruthfully on the Benghazi assassinations. He skipped a briefing on intelligence concerning the Benghazi events in order to complain about not being given information on the Benghazi events. The weirdness doesn't end there.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite reports the strangest of strange interviews as CNN's Soledad O'Brien tries to make sense of Nevada Republican Representative Joe Heck's dreamlike comparison of the Rices. Susan Rice is guilty of misleading the public by passing on information from intelligence agencies that later turned out to be wrong, whereas Condoleezza Rice years ago was completely honest when doing the same thing concerning Iraq. This is because C. Rice was in a position to know the truth, and S. Rice wasn't. Tommy Christopher calls it a sort of Jedi mind trick in reverse.
Tommy has a point. I listened to the interview yesterday morning while shaving and stopped to avoid further marring an already sorry looking face. Later, during the morning commute, I found myself mumbling about the droids I was looking for.
Bette Noir at Rumproast goes to Obama mind control and Republican research on such dangers in the Georgia state Senate. These are not the droids...
Slant Right's conservative John Houk has hopey changey feelings toward Congressman Allen West. He dreams innocent dreams of a recount. Could happen. Here's the punchline: "This has Pelosi and the Democrats in a total panic." Yeah, that'd just ruin the entire election for us.
Conservative James Wigderson defends, after a fashion, pre-election disagreement with Nate Silver. Critics who went after Silver's methodology weren't necessarily waging an attack on Math. True, in a distant hypothetical sort of sense. But unaddressed in this piece by the thoughtful, as usual, James Wigderson is that Silver was not simply confronted with disagreements, but also with criticism that mutated to challenge, then angry and bitter attack. Those attacks Silver were what is referenced as attacks on arithmetic. My pre-election take on the controversy is here.
Julian Sanchez suggests that there is a legitimate reason for conservative defiance against reality as the election approached. A cheerleader at a pep rally does not exhilarate a crowd with icy cold analysis. There was logic to the lack of logic, mindful purpose behind the lack of reason.
The Heathen Republican goes confessional with a gracious acknowledgement that his hopeful predictions didn't come true. He generously names me as one who was right about the accuracy of mainstream polling. Alas, he gives me more credit than I deserve. While I was cautiously optimistic, I was mostly just less courageous than was he. I don't know that a chicken-like approach is always best. Perhaps I can find it in myself to follow Heathen's excellent example in the future. Taking a bold stand means taking, along with it, the risk of being wrong.
Infidel 753 begins his election review with two dramatic photos, then 24 iterations of "GLOAT" in Jack Nicholson's "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" style. I suppose he has the right since he had posted a host of correct predictions. Did I mention that I was cautiously optimistic?
Kent Pittman, writing from Open Salon ran an election day experiment with photo ID. Seems he wasn't the only one. A couple of Republican operatives in separate states decided to prove that voter fraud is really easy. They were caught and face serious prison time. Kind of explains why voter fraud pretty much never happens. Too easy to get caught. High price to pay. Little potential benefit. It's easier and safer to steal an election by some variant of stuffing the ballot box after polls close and voters are gone.
Dave Dubya does a little speculative mind reading during the Romney concession speech, telling us what Governor Romney was thinking while he spoke. I enjoy the ESP side of life, although I'd guess Dave Dubya knew I was going to say that.
Prosecutor: Doctor, can you give the Court your impression of Mr. Striker?
Dr. Stone: I'm sorry. I don't do impressions. My training is in psychiatry.
Max's Dad does impressions.
Several denominations, mine included, devote a day each year to those of the faithful who left this world. At Why do we have to do this, Sir? our favorite erstwhile spiritual leader is back (YAY-Y-Y-Y). He devotes this past week's All Saints Day to death as a part of spiritual life.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, reviews his personal experience with folks from whom he draws inspiration as they live daily lives of quiet heroism. Worth the read, just to inspire similar awareness of those around us.
Gwendolyn Barry with New Global Myth is back (Yay-y-y) with an anti war excerpt from a fictional but plausible account of a drone attack.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, 52 years after John F. Kennedy explained to America that Catholics make up their own minds on issues and candidates, explains to Catholics how they must vote, if they are to remain faithful Catholics. You kind of get his direction when he empathizes with those "torn between adhering to their faith and a sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party."
From the heartland of Mad Mike's America, Erin Nanasi responds point by point to arguments strikingly similar to those offered by T. Paine. She is less than flattering, though, as she suggests how Christians can stand up to bullying from other Christians.
Chuck Thinks Right not only sees Mitt Romney on the rise, but explains that it is because of rebellion against biased media.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot walks the short distance from the Mars Laboratory, a triumph of physics and complex calculation, to a polling controversy based on whether basic arithmetic should be seen as valid.
James Wigderson is presented with the results of an opinion poll showing President Obama with a significant lead in Wisconsin. He responds with the only reply available to one in the warm embrace of contemporary conservative thought.
The Heathen Republican recounts how we Democrats were shocked right down to our unsuspecting socks when President Bush was re-elected in 2004, were astonished when Republicans won in 2010, and think it utterly impossible that Romney has any chance at all of becoming President after next Tuesday. Actually, what really surprises me is that my memory has so dimmed that I cannot recall having any of those absolutist opinions, or hearing them from any of my leftist, socialist, Kenyan supporting friends.
Heathen helps us out of the delusional daze that lies beyond my recall by explaining Mitt Romney's path to victory on Tuesday, something none of us would accept as even a theoretical possibility were it not for Heathen's gracious assistance. Now, if I could just get some help with my evidently distorted memory.
At News Corpse, Mark chronicles odd anger from Fox directed at NBC for hosting a benefit special for victims of storm Sandy. Fox feels that any sympathy for storm victims might benefit Obama's election, so they're against it. Let them eat votes?
Rumproast contrasts Romney and Obama approaches to federal disaster relief and applies those approaches to the reality of actual disaster.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame brings us a new turn from Mitt Romney, as the campaign attacks the Obama administration for the local closing of a small barbecue restaurant, targeted by town officials with their overbearing regulations. All because the little establishment was guilty of health violations and child labor abuses. The connection with the federal government is unclear, but we can be sure Governor Romney sees how it ties together.
Max's Dad takes a position on the Nebraska Senate race between Democrat Bob Kerry and Republican Deb Fischer. At the risk of giving it away, he does seem to obliquely suggest that, should she win, Senator Fischer would commute to Washington by broom.
Matthew Ygleseas makes a bit of a goofy argument about third parties syphoning off votes. He argues that it makes sense to stay home if you believe the not-a-dimes-worth-of-difference case or if you think your vote won't matter any more than a single leaf in a forest. So far so good. Then he goes to a strange bit of reasoning. The dimes-worth belief only supports not voting, rather than a third party vote.
Julian Sanchez wisely disagrees. But rather than simply point out that a vote-as-message is a good strategy for the lesser-of-who-cares voter who wants a vote to count for something, if not someone, Sanchez gives us medical triage analogies and and Kantian philosophy before making the point that votes count, even if the only purpose is to teach a lesson. Lots of big words, though.
Great news for those who favor great writing. Vincent is back at A wayfarer's notes. He reviews an insightful book on inherent issues involved with reasoning. How do you form intelligent views on the world when you are part of that world? Interesting mobeus strip. In this case an alternate irony is how to review a remarkable writer reviewing a remarkable book?
It starts with yard signs being stolen. Conservative James Wigderson dismisses the annoying prank. But it gradually builds from minor vandalism into a full blown rant about hyperbolic Democrats who are McCarthyites, who are led by those who would be rude to kind and gentle Vice Presidential candidates in televised debates, and who allow the national debt to explode all over the universe. Local vandalism to local politicians, to national rudeness, to bankrupting what had once been a proud Republic. The domino like emotional buildup makes it worth a read.
It seems a research group has compiled several government studies to document how climate change is impacting geographic regions of the United States. The CATO institute is preparing a rebuttal. Mother Jones magazine got hold of a draft copy. Not hard: it's on-line.
The rebuttal is a bit sly. It copies the cover design of the original report, mimics the writing and table of contents, and is titled "Addendum:" followed by the name of the original. Except this piece claims that "observed impacts of climate change have little national significance." Mother Jones calls it a rip-off and says the obvious intent is to muddy the waters.
Thoughtful conservative Julian Sanchez is a fellow at the CATO institute. So I suppose it is understandable that he departs from his usual analytical style and publishes his own attack on Mother Jones because the magazine's "implication is that Cato is trying to perpetrate some kind of sinister hoax." He is shocked at the implication of dishonesty.
Actually the implication seems pretty much an explicit accusation. And yeah, it is a hoax. Julian's defense of CATO is mostly that the name of the CATO Institute is on that cover and that the draft is available on-line. No attempt to confuse casual readers here, folks. Move along peacefully now.
Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST reveals who he likes for President. Although he doesn't put it this way, his argument is essentially the reasoning we have advanced at Fair and UNbalanced. Even though President Obama has not cured cancer, Jack is not persuaded to vote for Cancer.
The Heathen Republican examines the proposition that Democratic Presidents have abused Constitutional liberties more severely than Republicans. It is a serious and worthy topic, which Heathen addresses by means of an arithmetic comparison of the number of executive orders issued by each set of administrations. As may be suspected, I find the reasoning less than compelling. It is a little like arguing that I am a more reckless driver than my neighbor because there are more miles on my odometer.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame does a bit of hoisting on petards. He notes how one video host describes prevailing Republican views on rape and abortion, using their own descriptions and attack ads from recent history.
marindenver at Rumproast notes with some shock a move by Republican legislators to deal harshly with any rape victim who decides to give birth but then needs financial assistance in supporting the rapist's child. Pro-Life is to be imposed, not supported.
Erin Nanasi at Mad Mike's America examines the Republican concept of gradations of rape. The idea is that rape is not a clearly defined horrible crime. It is a continuum going from a forcible horror to a sort of gray area of male/female misunderstanding.
During the final Presidential debate, it occurred to me that Governor Romney's campaign had been reduced to promising that his policies would be the same as those in place now, only better. He would be President Obama, except on steroids: a sort of bionic Obama. At News Corpse Mark explores the idea with some bemusement, reviewing the me-too policy point by point.
Chuck Thinks Right takes two disparate comments by Chris Matthews about the Presidential debates, "I don’t think he understands the Constitution of the United States" and "He’s the President of the United States. You don’t say, ‘you’ll get your chance," and concludes that Matthews believes any challenge to President Obama is unconstitutional. These folks will breitbart at the drop of a hat.
Ryan at Secular Ethics considers the history that Governor Romney has pointed out of President Obama apologizing for America and discovers that there is far less apology in that history than the Republican candidate has suggested.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot analyzes what Intrade and others say about the probabilities in the next election and contemplates the future strategic military use of bayonets during a possible Romney administration.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, suggests members of what he is certain will be a Romney administration cabinet. I especially like his suggestion for one department: "Perry has a long history involved with agriculture..."
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster explains how to access what had been a live broadcast on changing political culture through independent voting.
Sanctions are a harsh substitute for war. It's a bit like using a shotgun in a crowd. Lots of innocent folks get hurt. Most of us would rather push for sanctions against Iran than go to war over nuclear capability. Those who oppose sanctions point to pro-democracy forces in that country that will be hurt more than the ayatollahs who run the place.
Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin is running for the US Senate. She has voted for sanctions that she thinks will hurt the rulers, and voted against sanctions that she believes will hurt ordinary citizens. In a recent debate, she accused her Republican opponent Tommy Thompson of investing in companies doing business with the rulers of Iran, and Thompson accused Baldwin of accepting campaign funds from a pro-Iranian group. Thompson says he had no knowledge of the investments, and Baldwin says she had no knowledge of the donations.
Conservative James Wigderson exposes a scandal. It turns out that Tammy Baldwin voted against four sanctions and has been supported by a pro-Iran group. It is an interesting investigative piece, noteworthy in reporting what some of us may have thought we knew already.
Such is the breathless fever of a partisan. I guess I should know.
What I especially like about the Wisconsin race is that Tammy Baldwin is an openly gay candidate running against a kind of zany tea party sort of conservative, and nobody has brought up her sexuality as a campaign issue. Seems to me a small ray of light in the darkness. Speaks well for pretty much everyone on every side, including the esteemed Mr. Wigderson.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, rubs his hands in glee, engaging in a bit of pre-gloating. He predicts the impending electoral doom of President Obama. His reasoning is that everyone who voted against Obama the first time will vote against him again, and not everyone who voted for him will vote for him again. I don't know why so many conservatives find such vehemence so personally important. I don't see how predictions will influence the election outcome. I'm cautiously optimistic. But if Americans vote for a choice that differs from mine, I'm fine with trying again at the next election.
One pollster points out that when his findings show President Obama ahead, Republicans want to kill the pollster. When his surveys show Governor Romney ahead, Democrats want to kill themselves. I suppose there is some truth to that. Polls are interesting to me. But I don't see how the loudest prediction will matter once votes are cast. If a pollster is right, he deserves attention next time around. If he's wrong, it affects him, not me. I get the dread folks feel when they think the country is about to go wrong. I don't get the anger at the messenger for having it wrong. He's an unofficial scorekeeper, not a referee who can throw the contest.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot looks to the betting pros and discovers that those who put their money where their predictions are still go for Obama's re-election. Did I mention my own cautious optimism?
Max's Dad gets to the main issue against Obama and the effect of recent debate clashes on conservative sensibilities.
Republicans have been a bit upset that the Romney Benghazi attack on President Obama backfired so retchedly. Rumproast reports that Congressman Darrell Issa, who conducts endless investigations has tried to help out Mr. Romney by going WikiLeak on the US government, releasing CIA documents that include the identities of Libyans who risked their lives to help the US. Nice.
Erin Nanasi of Mad Mike's America looks at the Mitt Romney position that gun violence is caused by women having babies without benefit of marriage. Seems guns don't kill people. Single moms kill people.
Before Tuesday's Presidential debate, The Heathen Republican reacted to the Biden/Ryan confrontation. In an effort to be completely fair, Heathen summarizes three points of view. Here is how he thinks Democrats see it.
On the other hand, if I'm a Democrat watching the VP debate, I think Ryan had his talking points down but wasn't up to defending against aggressive attacks. Biden may have blurred the truth a few times, but overall I agree with what he said and was happy to watch him dismantle Ryan. Plus, he was a dick, and that's what we need to beat Republicans who will say anything.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster finds an organization for independent voters in California which endorses candidates of both parties. I've written about occasional Republicans I would support. I've met one or two in person. But it strikes me as contradictory to say that you vote for the individual rather than the party, then actively seek to balance your support. That's not really letting the chips fall, is it?
Julian Sanchez doesn't much like intolerance against religious attack speech, since tolerance of what is hateful is kind of at the core of freedom of speech. But he finds some encouragement in some false arguments by speech suppressors that parrot and distort traditional points of liberal democracy. Language can influence thought and the principles of the basic right to say what we want without witnessing holy rage in response may be more than a distant vision. It seems Mr. Sanchez has some hope for general recognition that civil respect for free speech does not depend on the civility of that speech.
Infidel 753 speculates on the hopeful possibility of a new instance of Arab Spring as the shooting of 14 year old Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban in Pakistan prompts nationwide outrage, including countless street protests.
- Kent Pittman, writing from Open Salon must be able to make hourglass sand into a fascinating article. I'm not kidding, this is about cleaning his room. Well, his office, actually. He focuses on the space, rather than what material needs to be moved, and engages in a captivating analysis. You end up interested before you realize it's about a household chore, and you're done before you can scream at yourself for going insane. Next week he'll probably write about shades of lip gloss worn by Nancy Grace, make it completely fascinating, and we'll all go crazy again.
Lots on Joe Biden's introduction of Paul Ryan to heavy machinery.
Paul, meet chainsaw. Chainsaw, eat Paul.
Slant Right's conservative John Houk weeps over how very rude Joe Biden was to poor helpless Paul Ryan. What a difference a day makes. In the morning, we hear boasts about how young, muscular, virile, and tough this Ryan fellow is. That evening we hear indignation about how a kid was bullied by an old guy.
The tactical debate question is how anyone is supposed to answer serial falsehoods delivered in machine gun stacato. Joe Biden became an anti-ballistic human fact checker. At News Corpse, Mark looks into just two examples of deliberate untruths.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame says Ryan was unfairly beaten because he had to fight against two opponents Joe Biden and Mathematics. Tommy also, usefully, provides a complete, yeah complete, transcript from beginning to end.
Bette Noir at Rumproast has fun with the issues as they were covered in the debate, then shares a reaction to the closing remarks. My sense of the last few minutes was that Ryan was recovering from the night's beating. He seemed to be getting stronger until the final statements, at which point he lapsed into the words his mom had made him memorize.
Manifesto Joe of Texas Blues agrees that Joe Biden gently and cheerfully stomped his opponent into a soft squishy warm paste, but cautions that it will come to naught unless President Obama dines on whatever his running mate had for lunch that day.
- James Wigderson is offended by Joltin' Joe. He believes Biden was laughing inappropriately at serious topics. Um, James, he was serious, even passionate, about serious issues. He was laughing at the strange logic and falsehoods of his debating opponent. There is a difference.
Not everyone is focused on debates. There are other forms of campaign communication.
Papamoka at Papamoka Straight Talk has an example of a general trend in a Seinfeld campaign, in which the candidate firmly believes in whatever he thinks his audience wants.
Some folks give some profound thought to policy and history beyond one campaign.
Conservative intellectual Julian Sanchez is writing again (Yay!). He contemplates why so many intellectuals favor government solutions to society's problems. He suggests that it is a prejudice promoted by a sort of sociological phenomenon of natural section. I like the dispassionate tone and the assumption of a rockbed motivation of problem solving. His conclusion is worth examining, although I am skeptical. I'd like to see him apply a similar analysis of why conservatives have a predispositon to denying that problems exist or, when they are undeniable, that they are of any import. Here is a modest beginning.
The Heathen Republican defends patriotism by arguing that America's record on slavery was pretty darn good. A weak, but understandable, reaction to a false choice between condemning wrong and promoting a beloved nation. I suggest his aim is more than a little off.
An alternative is to insist that slavery was a horrible national condition, and that patriotism is defined by a dream, is measured by a journey toward a vision. This promotes a more genuine, less strained, pride and love while honestly addressing profound wrongs. The real contest in this nation is between those who celebrate the achievement of freedom as a completed accomplishment, and those who experience the American spirit as a hope and a direction.
Here's an example, as Debra Dickerson goes video with resentment at the notion that there is no racial progress in America. We watch. We learn. Not just about race, but about a more mature way to be human.
Chuck Thinks Right goes FoxLogic on us, with frustration at all the bureaucratic documentation his son and friends go through to get a job. Could it be because of all those anti-immigration regulations? His conclusion: We oughtta do something about them thar immigrants instead of bothering good Americans.
And there are rumors that life exists apart from public policy.
- Vincent is back (Yay-y-y) at A wayfarer's notes. I wonder what sort of freakish evolutionary accident produced this fellow's mentality. He can write about writing and make it provocative and interesting. This time, he tells us about his adventures in book length authorship.