Friday, January 22, 2021
Thursday, November 05, 2020
Walt Whitman wrote in his poem Song of Myself,
"Do I contradict myself?Very well then I contradict myself,(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..."
and perhaps also when he wrote,
"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."
Consider how you might define your self and find meaning in your one precious life. Don't sell your self short, don't be afraid to be ignorant, or to put it another way - don't let your hard-headedness or hard-heartedness prevent you from learning; or finding compassion for fellow beings.
You could define your self as something small and constraining such as a member of a political party, state, or nation.
You could think of your self as a precious unique individual with expansive possibilities - a human living in a civilization that is the product of thousands of years of human history, millions of years of geological history, on a planet, in a solar system, in a galaxy, in a universe that is infinite.
Many many possibilities - it's up to you to make the world you live in. In that vein consider another quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson -
“I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
As is so evident in contemporary American society what we read, listen to and watch has extraordinary impacts on who we are (or at least who we think we are).
The right-wing media ecosystem has for decades encouraged millions of Americans to be fearful, angry, hateful, and aggrieved at one another; as well as promoting distrust of science, expertise and traditional journalism i.e. fact-based and error-correcting.
This blame displacement exercise has led to the richest country on earth lagging other economically developed nations in key aspects of how our society cares for it's citizens - health care, education, wages, family leave etc. while a large portion of it's citizens have been propagandized into blaming each other, rather than holding those with power (wealth), who control the economic and political structures, accountable.
That's bad...but here's the silver lining.
Humans who are ensnared in the right-wing media ecosystem aren't necessarily racist, or stupid, or mean...they are just people. Forgive them for they know not what they do...if you want to be angry you could be angry with those with power (wealth) who created and control these vast right-wing propaganda machines in order to use people as a means to their own selfish ends.
Friday, October 02, 2020
Sunday, September 27, 2020
"We think that fundamentally, anyone who insists on claiming that we cannot draw conclusions about which side is biased, and which side gravitates more closely to the truth, must explain how the media sources most trusted by consistently conservative survey respondents—Fox News, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck—are the equivalent of the sites that occupy the same positions among consistently liberal respondents: NPR, PBS, the BBC, and the New York Times."
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Amy Coney Barrett, nominated to replace Justice Ruth Ginsberg, is a member of the group People of Praise. This ecumenical, but mostly Catholic, group subscribes to non-Catholic theology in their belief that husbands are the "head" of the family and wives "handmaidens".
I'm being a bit unfair with the "handmaiden" label. In 2017 when Ms. Barrett was nominated for her first judgeship on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals the leader of the group People of Praise, Mr. Lent, said the group’s system of heads and handmaids promotes “brotherhood,” not male dominance. He said the group recently dropped the term “handmaid” in favor of “woman leader.”
Catholic doctrine does not teach "male headship", which is a belief held by some evangelical sects.
"Male headship" contradicts Catholic doctrine which states that in the mutual relationship of man and woman in marriage -
The woman cannot become the "object" of "domination" and male "possession".
The group People of Praise also believe in prophecy, speaking in tongues, divine healing and most troubling - discriminating against some of God's children, namely LGBTQ people.
This snippet from a South Bend Tribune article is illustrative of the groups treatment of LGBTQ people, specifically a young woman named Flannery who joined the group at 18 -
When she returned to South Bend after graduating, she was allowed to transfer to the South Bend branch. At that time, Flannery was realizing that she was lesbian or at least bisexual. During a women’s group meeting, she talked about her “big life change” and how she had met a woman she was interested in, and she was struggling with the fact that she no longer identified as straight, she said.
“I did not ask them to approve of what I did or to pat me on the back and say ‘good job,’” she said. “I just needed to tell somebody so I could talk about it.”
Flannery said she was shocked to learn that the women then reported what she said to her leader, who, a few days later, called her to a meeting at her house and said the women “were very uncomfortable that you were talking about that.”
“She said, ‘Either you never mention this again, or you leave.’ I said, ‘I’ll leave, I don’t want to live like that.’”
Not commenting specifically on Flannery’s case, Lent said the group would end the membership of a person who admits to homosexual activity, or any other “ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant wrongdoing.” He said the group believes that only married people should have sex, and only men and women should marry. Homosexual attraction is not sinful, but acting on it is, Lent said.
Aside from the group’s views on homosexuality, Flannery said she “absolutely” would have been concerned if Barrett had received the Supreme Court nomination.
I don't know anything about Amy Coney Barrett - she sounds like a good person from what I've read. Looking at a group like People of Praise as an outsider doesn't tell me what it's like to be in the group interacting with it's members. It has some aspects that sound appealing to me but there are other aspects that sound quite disturbing. I don't have any issue with people joining non-traditional religious groups it's just that I'm not sure if being a member of a group like People of Praise should not be disqualifying for anyone wanting to be a judge in secular society or at least that a member of that group should be questioned and explain how her membership does not skew her ability to be an impartial judge.
Friday, September 25, 2020
The quoted text below is from volume I pages 667-669 of Will and Ariel Durant's series of books "The Story of Civilization" -
"The Confucian program is expressed pithily and profoundly in the famous paragraphs of The Great Learning:
The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own selves. Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.
Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated. Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. The states being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy."
Will Durant goes on to write -
"This is the keynote and substance of the Confucian philosophy; one might forget all other words of the Master and his disciples, and yet carry away with these "the essence of the matter," and a complete guide to life. The world is at war, says Confucius, because its constituent states are improperly governed; these are improperly governed because no amount of legislation can take the place of the natural social order provided by the family; the family is in disorder, and fails to provide this natural social order, because men forget that they cannot regulate their families if they do not regulate themselves; they fail to regulate themselves because they have not rectified their hearts - i.e., they have not cleansed their own souls of disorderly desires; their hearts are not rectified because their thinking is insincere, doing scant justice to reality and concealing rather than revealing their own natures; their thinking is insincere because they let their wishes discolor the facts and determine their conclusions, instead of seeking to extend their knowledge to the utmost by impartially investigating the nature of things. Let men seek impartial knowledge, and their thinking will become sincere; let their thoughts be sincere and their hearts will be cleansed of disorderly desires; let their hearts be so cleansed, and their own selves will be regulated - not by virtuous sermonizing or passionate punishments, but by the silent power of example itself; let the family be so regulated with knowledge, sincerity and example, and it will give forth such spontaneous social order that successful government will once more be a feasible thing; let the state maintain internal justice and tranquility, and the world will be peaceful and happy.
It is a counsel of perfection, and forgets that man is a beast of prey; but like Christianity it offers us a goal to strike at, and a ladder to climb. It is one of the golden texts of philosophy."
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Monday, September 14, 2020
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Friday, September 11, 2020
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Saturday, August 15, 2020
- "We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
- “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
- “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
"In 2006, the GOP Congress passed a bill that required the Postal Service to fully fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and to accomplish this within a 10-year period. Republicans are always insisting that the USPS be run like a good capitalist enterprise, but few, if any, private businesses could bear the burden of funding three-quarters of a century of retired employees’ medical costs over just one decade.""In truth, the Republicans who crafted the bill were not interested in turning the Postal Service into a better business; they were seeking to run the post office out of business.""The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction."
People living thousands of years ago had highly developed civilizations that lasted for a time and then vanished leaving nothing but incomplete historical records for future generations. There is no reason to think that what we refer to as civilization in this century will suffer a different fate...it's just a matter of when. If I was a betting man I'd put my money on the climate crisis which the Republican party's decades of science denial has most-likely made insolvable according to people like Bill McKibbon. Never underestimate the power of the American people though...
Thinking about how the (current and soon to be worse) climate disaster happened, and if we ever could of prevented it given human nature makes an old guy like me sad, angry and confused...for awhile, life is too short to stay focused on things you can't control.
How about talking about money instead?
Money depends on public trust. If you have money backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government (as opposed to a money backed by gold or other precious metals) it is imperative that a certain amount of trust exists between users of that money and those who print it. As Wall Street thrives thanks to massive amounts of money being printed, and main street fails - the trust people have in the U.S. dollar will diminish.
Some economists predict that printing an over-supply of fiat money will lead to hyper-inflation - which makes sense to a simple-minded person like me. I can't help but think there must be other impacts such as increasing the power of publicly traded companies at the expense of private enterprise (mom and pop or other smaller non-publicly traded businesses) leading to more monopoly power by corporations.
Following the roaring 20's we had the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent national depression. The shared pain of that crash led to a variety of financial reforms to keep banks solvent and government projects to employ and otherwise help a struggling people. This time is different - the pain is not shared. People in glass towers making money from investments, divestments, mergers, acquisitions and other financial paper magic that have no intrinsic value to society may find public support dwindling. They retreat to their super-zips while the rest of the nation is left holding an empty bag decorated with the words freedom, individual rights and free markets courtesy of the Republican party.
Whether you think a fiat currency is good or bad, credit should go to the Republican party for creating fiat money in the United States. Our country changed from having a dollar backed by gold to a fiat currency during Richard Nixon's time as president in the early 1970's.
Some people decry the onset of big government as being an outgrowth of the New Deal. That may be true but a complex open society needs a sophisticated open form of government.
We won't get that type of government through slogans like "no new taxes" while Republican congresspeople create tax giveaways for rich people in private meetings with lobbyists ala the 2017 tax giveaway. Or by the sincere sounding words of Ronald Reagan about cutting government spending while his budget director David Stockman said it was "like hogs feeding at a trough" to see the corporate special interest lobbyists manipulating the politicians. Here's the quote from The Atlantic -
Stockman participated in the trading—special tax concessions for oil—lease holders and real-estate tax shelters, and generous loopholes that virtually eliminated the corporate income tax. Stockman sat in the room and saw it happen. “Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront?” Stockman asked with wonder. “The hogs were really feeding. The greed level, the level of opportunism, just got out of control.”
I hold a complex open society requires a sophisticated open government (size is secondary, a small weak government does not necessarily mean good government and a large well run open government does not necessarily mean bad government). The conservative (whatever that may mean) intellectual George Will, citing the classical liberal economist Friedrich Hayak thinks a bit differently - the more complicated society becomes, the less capable government is in dealing with that societies issues and therefore the smaller that government should be. In this video from his appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, George says that the goal of "American Conservatism" is, "to preserve a society open to perpetual dynamic change."
I can't help but think that some people who cloak themselves with a conservative label would be quite surprised to hear George's words about what he thinks American Conservatism really is.
I'm surely not objective but I prefer things a bit easier to understand. One thing I understand empirically is that the working class people I was close to as a young person - loved Franklin Roosevelt. Other people must of liked him, he was elected president four times. Maybe all those people who voted for him were misguided. Maybe so...but at least we could maybe agree that no matter your inherited ideology (and they are mostly inherited) it would be wise to occasionally ask yourself - is it possible I've been misguided?
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
"What was going on? A roar of laughter from the aphasia ward, just as the President's speech was coming on, and they had all been so eager to hear the President speaking. ..
Thus the feeling I sometimes have-which all of us who work closely with aphasiacs have-that one cannot lie to an aphasiac. He cannot grasp your words, and so cannot be deceived by them; but what he grasps he grasps with infallible precision, namely the expression that goes with the words, that total, spontaneous, involuntary expressiveness which can never be simulated or faked, as words alone can, all too easily. ..
And what dogs can do here, aphasiacs do too, and at a human and immeasurably superior level. 'One can lie with the mouth,' Nietzsche writes, 'but with the accompanying grimace one nevertheless tells the truth.'
We recognize this with dogs, and often use them for this purpose-to pick up falsehood, or malice, or equivocal intentions, to tell us who can be trusted, who is integral, who makes sense, when we --so susceptible to words-- cannot trust our own instincts."
"We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941)
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Mystery Science Theater 3000 can be pretty funny. It aired for about ten years starting in 1989. I used to watch it with my daughters when they were young - they may have liked the robots more than the jokes but we enjoyed watching it together.