Rand Paul fails on marriage equality, with this CNN interview:

"I don't care who you are, what you do at home or who your friends are, where you hang out, what kind of music you listen to. What you do in your home is your own business. That's always been who I am. I am a leave-me-alone kind of guy."

"But not when it comes to marriage," Bash noted.

"Well, no, the states will end up making the decisions on these things," Paul replied. "I think there's a religious connotation to this. I also believe people ought to be treated fairly under the law. I see why if the marriage contract conveys certain things, that if you want to marry another woman, you can do that and have a contract.

He's sounding like a typical right-wing weasel, suggesting that same-sex couples should be satisfied with "contracts" instead of marriage certificates.

Does he really believe that marriage for some and contracts for others is an acceptable solution?

Should the officiant's announcement "I now pronounce you party one and party two" be the highlight of a same-sex ceremony?

The NYT editorial board identifies a new phase in anti-Obama attacks that "is growing louder, angrier and more destructive:"

Republican lawmakers in Washington and around the country have been focused on blocking Mr. Obama's agenda and denigrating him personally since the day he took office in 2009. But even against that backdrop, and even by the dismal standards of political discourse today, the tone of the current attacks is disturbing. So is their evident intent -- to undermine not just Mr. Obama's policies, but his very legitimacy as president.

"The current offensive is slightly more subtle [than Birtherism]," the editors write, "but it is impossible to dismiss the notion that race plays a role in it:"

Perhaps the most outrageous example of the attack on the president's legitimacy was a letter signed by 47 Republican senators to the leadership of Iran saying Mr. Obama had no authority to conclude negotiations over Iran's nuclear weapons program. Try to imagine the outrage from Republicans if a similar group of Democrats had written to the Kremlin in 1986 telling Mikhail Gorbachev that President Ronald Reagan did not have the authority to negotiate a nuclear arms deal at the Reykjavik summit meeting that winter.

There is no functional difference between that example and the Iran talks, except that the congressional Republican caucus does not like Mr. Obama and wants to deny him any policy victory. [...]

If this insurrection is driven by something other than a blend of ideological extremism and personal animosity, it is not clear what that might be. But it is ugly, it deepens mistrust of government and it harms the office of the president, not just Mr. Obama.

Reason's piece on what Libertarians get wrong about American history is, well, quite reasonable:

Libertarians naturally sense that their philosophy will be easier to sell to the public if they can root it in America's heritage. [...] The problem arises when libertarians cherry-pick confirming historical anecdotes while distorting or ignoring deeper disconfirming evidence.

The piece candidly asks, "Where are libertarians likely go wrong when it comes to history? And answers "By and large, it's in presenting American history as an essentially libertarian story." While their view "contains grains of truth," it continues, there's more to the story:

Advocates of a unified nation under a powerful central government [...] eventually arranged for the Federal Convention in Philadelphia, where the Constitution--the acknowledged purpose of which was to produce more, not less, government--was adopted. The libertarian Albert Jay Nock called the convention a coup d'etat because it was only supposed to amend the Articles. Instead, the men assembled tore up the Articles, crafted an entirely new plan that included the powers to tax and to regulate trade, and changed the ratification rules to permit merely nine states to carry the day, instead of the unanimous consent required for amendments to the Articles. [...]

One would expect a "government" that lacked the power to tax and regulate trade to be of more interest to libertarians. One would also expect libertarians to be suspicious of plan to address those alleged deficiencies. Instead, the Articles typically are shunted aside and the Constitution is lauded as a historic achievement in the struggle for liberty. That is odd indeed.

I think we can explain this lack of interest in the Articles by noting that it fits poorly into the mainstream libertarian narrative about America. After all, it would be hard to praise the Constitution as a reasonably good attempt to limit government while acknowledging that it replaced a political arrangement under which the government could neither tax nor regulate trade. In that context the Constitution looks like a step backward not forward.

He links militarism to mercantilism, and eventually makes a concession to realpolitick:

You cannot build a continental empire and a worldwide political and military presence without planting the seeds of powerful government at home, a national-security state, and all that they require, including income taxation, regulation, central banking, and a welfare state to ameliorate the worst hardships of the system's victims, if only to tamp down radical resistance.

Salon published an excerpt from Andrew Sayer's Why We Can't Afford the Rich that leads with the question, "So why hasn't the spectacular shift in income and financial wealth to the rich over the last four decades led to unprecedented jobs growth?"

First of all, we need to ask what the rich and super-rich do with their spare money. They generally use it to try to get even more, through either real investment or financial 'investment.' In the latter case, whether by betting on market movements or buying income-yielding assets, or the many other ways unearned income can be extracted, their actions are unlikely to result in net job creation. [...] But even if the rich do fund real investment in productive businesses - in equipment, training, new infrastructures or whatever - this may or may not result in job creation.

The improper use of entrepreneur is mentioned as "another case of how words can mislead:"

Rentiers don't call themselves rentiers, and not many capitalists call themselves capitalists, but many of each like to call themselves 'entrepreneurs.' Upbeat terms like 'entrepreneur' and 'enterprise' can be stretched to cover things that don't deserve them.

Therefore, "we should be sceptical about the idea that the rich are entrepreneurs and thereby deserve their wealth." As for the supposition that "They'll just go to another country and take their money with them if we tax them too much, or otherwise restrict their power:"

This point is frequently wheeled out, as if the rich were major wealth creators, possessing rare powers, and therefore people whom we must do all we can to attract.

Of course, "the threats to leave are exaggerated:"

If it were the case that higher taxes caused wealth to flee we would expect to see an exodus of the wealthier citizens of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and France - the countries with the highest tax rates. A glance at the latest Forbes billionaires list reveals that of four Norwegians on the list all live in Norway, the two Danes live in Denmark, five of the nine Swedes live in Sweden, and eight of the ten French live in France.

trolling Hugo

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Salon's Arthur Chu discusses how right-wing trolls can ruin anything:

One of the false promises we've been made that people keep buying into is that the Internet is a "democratizing" force, that the digital world gives us instant access to the real vox populi, that the simple fact that anyone can leave a comment, or answer a poll, or submit an entry to a contest means that everyone does, and therefore opinion of "the Internet" is everyone's opinion.

This is obviously false.

Worse, the more specialized and dedicated an Internet space is, the more "It tends to be a space dominated by privileged reactionary jerks:"

Today's longest-lasting, most determined trolls have a real ideology behind their trolling, and it usually takes the form of a feeling of betrayal and resentment of the world around them and a knee-jerk rage against the idea of progress.

The worst trolls are almost universally hard-right conservatives, in other words, and they generally care about their pet causes with a breathtaking fervor that their enemies can't possibly hope to match.

Apportioning public recognition in the guise of awards can be one of those areas, especially when it's seen as counterbalancing "liberal bias" or some other imagined ideological slight. Chu notes that "Recently we've seen the results of freeping in an area particularly vulnerable to it, the Hugo Awards:"

The Hugos aren't a private award given by a handpicked jury, nor are they a massively publicized vote where everyone who's in the know votes every year à la "American Idol" or a presidential election-the two cases that make a vote difficult to freep.

Instead, they're done by popular vote, but to vote you have to pay $40 for a "supporting membership" to Worldcon, the organization that sponsors the Hugos. [...]

To vote on the Hugos you have to either know and care a ton about science fiction-or you have to be convinced that science fiction is part of the vast liberal conspiracy arrayed against you and make a disingenuous post calling you and your friends "Sad Puppies" over said liberal conspiracy. $40 is a lot of money to pay to express your opinions, even strongly held ones, about fiction you love-but it's a cheap price to stick it to liberal pro-diversity elitists you hate.

This sort of heckler's veto is one price of democracy:

"Just let the public give their input" is a lazy, useless and above all dangerous way to make decisions. If you want democracy you have to put effort into designing a process that actually makes sure your voting population matches the relevant population and to keep the process from being captured by bad actors. If that's too hard for you, then accept that democracy is too hard for you and find some other way to claim legitimacy for the decision you end up making.

In explicating Facebook's power, Salon interviews Jacob (Terms of Service) Silverman. Aside from Facebook's psychological rewards, Silverman suggests that "the idea of constant connectivity" is desirable "because it means we are constantly generating more data, being more engaged, looking at more ads, and being a good user for them:"

On a socio-cultural level, what that means in practice is being visible. To be visible you have to be posting often. It helps to be personal and confessional, and to expose yourself.

The issue of Facebook's power is also addressed:

This might be a vague question, but what kind of power is this? I feel like we don't have any real-world analogue for the sort of power that these companies possess.

That's something we are all figuring out. Facebook's power is to sort what people see and to screen information. That's basically what Google does, too. They filter information for large amounts of people. [...] You see Facebook getting very deep into messaging and into Internet connectivity. And for a lot of people in the developing world now, Facebook is their experience of the Internet, because that is how they connect through these cheap phones, to this low-bandwidth version of Facebook. That really cuts down, potentially, on their possibility to experience an open, unfiltered Internet.

So is the issue of potential hypocrisy:

You have a smartphone, a Gmail address and a Twitter account. Like most critics of social media, you're enmeshed in the very system you're analyzing. How do you launch a critique from that position of entanglement?

Frankly, I think it's a very cheap irony to say, like, "Oh, you're complaining about Twitter, but you use it." That's like people who say, "If you don't like the U.S. government policies, why don't you move?"

We all are entangled within capitalism. We can still complain about it, even as we have to take part in certain aspects of it, or feel compelled [to do so]. I feel very conflicted about a lot of social media. I still use it, in part because I want to be a good critic of it. I want to know how it works. But there are also aspects of it that I do like. I think there's nothing wrong with saying, "Look, we're engaging with it on all these levels."

NY Daily News reports that FB can even be used to serve divorce papers:

[Ellanora] Baidoo, 26, "is granted permission serve defendant with the divorce summons using a private message through Facebook," with her lawyer messaging Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku through her account, Cooper wrote.[...] "I think it's new law, and it's necessary," said Baidoo's lawyer, Andrew Spinnell. [...]

The "post office has no forwarding address for him, there is no billing address linked to his prepaid cell phone, and the Department of Motor Vehicles has no record of him," the ruling says.

"We tried everything, including hiring a private detective -- and nothing," Spinnell said. The first Facebook message went out to the husband last week. "So far, he hasn't responded," Spinnell said.

Indiana

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

As usual, current events (in this case, the Indiana "religious freedom" law) demonstrate a key difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives are worried about nonexistent problems (Rush Limbaugh brings up bestiality), whereas liberals want to prevent actual harm to people (see the bigot pizzeria that will deny service to LGBT customers).

Crystal O'Connor, who runs the business [Memories Pizzeria], told local news outlet ABC57, "If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no," because it was not reflective of their Christian values.

In doing so, O'Connor insisted such a move would not be an act of discrimination, as many critics of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act have argued. "I do not think it's targeting gays," she said. "I don't think it's discrimination. It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief."

Hillary Clinton tweeted about it:

"Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn't discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT

and Conor Friedersdorf went on to complain about the misdirected zeal gay-marriage converts:

The biggest affront to gay equality in America today is the fact that same sex couples in 13 states are still prevented from marrying. [...] So it is strange to see Indiana, where same sex couples can and do wed, emerge as the focus of national controversy on gay rights.

He notes that Indiana's "sad" position today is far more progressive than Clinton's own stance was just a few years ago.

As best I can remember, I have never opposed gay marriage. It's a policy that never even occurred to me until I came across an Andrew Sullivan piece on the subject. His eloquence sold me from the start. I began arguing in favor of gay marriage with my grandparents at dinner. I've kept arguing in favor of it for the entirety of my career as a professional journalist, even early on when I had editors and bosses who vehemently opposed it. Over the years, I've watched a lot of people shift from opposing to supporting gay marriage, as have we all.

His complaint that "Bill Clinton signed, and Hillary Clinton supported, federal laws that blatantly discriminated against gays" is an oversimplification: both DOMA and DADT were half-measures intended to prevent greater discrimination from being written into law.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence backtracked a bit on the pizzeria, saying "I believe in my heart of hearts that no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe. And I believe every Hoosier shares that conviction" but the O'Connor family comes in for heavy fire from Daily Kos:

You have done a great job showing exactly why this law is so awful, the kind of mean-spirited bigotry it was passed to enable, and the degree to which all of Pence's talk of the Golden Rule and how Hoosiers are too nice to discriminate has been a shameless lie. You are the perfect voice for this, which is to say you are abhorrent, un-Christian people.

Of course we know the likely next chapter of this story: the O'Connor family goes whining to the right-wing media about how mean people have been to them (on Yelp, for instance) since they bravely expressed their bigotry and announced their intention to discriminate. Cry me a damn river.

One can always count on Bryan Fischer's "big gay" nonentity:

Big Gay is not about "marriage equality" but "homosexual supremacy" https://t.co/vSbofmnc1O #Vimeo -- Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer) March 31, 2015

Fox "News" complains about "these [gay] groups that are so outraged and indignant over a law that Bill Clinton supported in '93 and Barack Obama supported."

Meanwhile, CNN debunks the 'god-vs-gays' narrative by noting a Pew poll's finding that "57 percent of Catholics and 59 percent of black Protestants believe wedding-related businesses should be required to serve all customers."

Brittney Cooper decries the bigots' white-supremacist Jesus:

Just in time for Holy Week, the State of Indiana has passed a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law explicitly permits for-profit corporations from practicing the "free exercise of religion" and it allows them to use the "exercise of religion" as a defense against any lawsuits whether from the government or from private entities.[...]

Any time right-wing conservatives declare that they are trying to restore or reclaim something, we should all be very afraid. Usually, this means the country or, in this case, the state of Indiana is about to be treated to another round of backward time travel, to the supposedly idyllic environs of the 1950s, wherein women, and gays, and blacks knew their respective places and stayed in them.

"As a practicing Christian," writes Cooper, "I am deeply incensed by these calls for restoration and reclamation in the name of religious freedom:"

Nothing about the cultural and moral regime of the religious right in this country signals any kind of freedom. In fact, this kind of legislation is rooted in a politics that gives white people the authority to police and terrorize people of color, queer people and poor women. That means these people don't represent any kind of Christianity that looks anything like the kind that I practice.

Cooper also notes that "This white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, Bible-quoting Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making:"

This God isn't the God that I serve. There is nothing holy, loving, righteous, inclusive, liberatory or theologically sound about him. He might be "biblical" but he's also an asshole.

The Jesus I know, love, talk about and choose to retain was a radical, freedom-loving, justice-seeking, potentially queer (because he was either asexual or a priest married to a prostitute), feminist healer, unimpressed by scripture-quoters and religious law-keepers, seduced neither by power nor evil.

She concludes that "We need to reclaim the narrative of Jesus' life and death from the evangelical right. They have not been good stewards over the narrative." In the an-oldie-but-a-goodie department, let's recall how that "fool says in his heart" Bible verse is part of their 'asshole atheist' narrative:

Since the Christian hurling such a quote in your direction likely believes that his or her bible is worth at least some attention, I suggest that you offer a quote of your own. Specifically, I'd refer to Matthew 5:22, which says,
Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Interesting, isn't it? The Christian who squeals with delight while tossing Psalm 14:1-3 at you is risking the wrath of his or her imagined god by doing so. That being the case, I think it is probably safe to conclude that such a Christian is either ignorant of his or her bible or - and this is where it gets fun - doesn't give a damn because the transient pleasure of insulting you is worth the risk of eternal punishment.

Interestingly, I mentioned that verse-and-response pairing (two times) the previous year.

This Ted Rall cartoon is especially appropriate:

20150401-worstgodever.jpg

Does everyone remember that 26-year-old MIT graduate student Matthew Rognlie and his challenge to Piketty? Well, he's getting more press:

Rognlie's blockbuster rebuttal to Piketty is that "recent trends in both capital wealth and income are driven almost entirely by housing." Software, robots, and other modern investments all depreciate in price as fast as the iPod. Technology doesn't hold value like it used to, so it's misleading to believe that investments in capital now will give rich folks a long-term advantage.

Land/housing is really one of the only investments that give wealthy people a long-term leg up.

The piece concludes with a look toward housing rather than taxation:

If Rognlie is correct and we really care about inequality, it might be wiser to redirect anger towards those who get in the way of new housing, rather than rely on taxes to solve our problems.

Nautilus suggests that casual sex may be improving America's marriages:

For the past five years, my colleagues at Match.com and I have conducted an annual national study called Singles in America, and in each year, a majority of survey respondents have reported having a one-night stand. And 27 percent of our 2014 respondents reported having had a one-night stand turn into a long-term, committed partnership.

With data from the "Singles in America" survey, described as "an annual representative sample of over 5,000 Americans, based on the U.S. census," the piece notes that "these numbers have varied little over the past five years." The next question asked is, "Why do we hop into the sack with someone we hardly know?"

Perhaps because you learn a lot about a person between the sheets. You might even kick-start a real relationship: Any stimulation of the genitals promotes dopamine activity, which can potentially push you over the threshold into falling in love. At orgasm, oxytocin and vasopressin--neurochemicals linked with feelings of attachment--spike. With just one night of casual sex, risky as it is, you may win life's greatest prize: a devoted mating partner. [...]

Because feelings of attachment emerge with time, slow love is natural. In fact, rapidly committing to a new partner before the liquor of attachment has emerged may be more risky to long-term happiness than first getting to know a partner via casual sex, friends with benefits and living together. Sexual liberalism has aligned our courtship tactics with our primordial brain circuits for slow love.

Daniel Fincke explains how the film God's Not Dead actually denies the existence of atheists:

In the movie God's Not Dead the evangelical Christian filmmakers used atheist characters like puppets who would act out evangelical Christian stereotypes about atheists. Evangelical Christians frequently assume, unsympathetically, that were they atheists they would see no reason to be moral. So they have the atheist characters act unapologetically immorally over and over again. Evangelical Christians assume atheists would be more selfish and materialistic, so that's how the atheists in the movie act. They like to characterize atheists as basically rebellious children ignoring their loving Father who they deep down know exists but that were they to get in serious trouble they'd come running back home.

Part of the problem Fincke identifies is that "The filmmakers 'know' that atheism is not really a sincere conclusion of the head but an excuse for something going on in the heart:"

Not even someone who has a PhD and a professorship in philosophy is actually motivated intellectually to disbelieve in God. In fact, even this person whose job involves being an expert in arguments related to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of religion, etc. is only lying when he says he disbelieves in God at all! Because the Christian filmmakers "know" that atheists all know there is a God and are in denial, it turns out that Professor Radisson is lying to himself when saying he's an atheist and in fact he does believe in God and is simply angry at God for his mother's death from cancer when he was 12.

Fincke makes a personal effort to "help evangelical Christians understand what's so wrong with Christians refusing to acknowledge the actual existence of atheism:"

We former Christians have to deal with the equivalent kind of treatment all the time. We say "I don't believe in God anymore" and are told by Christians what is supposedly really the case about our own minds. We are told by other people than ourselves that we "hate God" or are "angry at God" or are "turning our backs on God". We are told this by total strangers who simply assume that they know all about atheists better than atheists do. [...]

Rather than remembering the facts about our spiritual commitments and listening to us and painstakingly trying to understand our perspective, these friends and family members are so palpably threatened by the prospect of entertaining our actual point of view that they would rather assume that we are liars in our claims to having been intellectually dissuaded and that we are immoral people who simply want to sin.

He makes a number of forceful suggestions, borne of frustration:

Some of us genuinely do not believe in God. Accept this fact. You do not need to share our disbelief to simply acknowledge its existence.

Some of us conclude there is no God and reject distinctive conservative Christian values as matters of our own sincere moral and intellectual consciences. Accept this fact. Talk to us in such a way that treats it as a bedrock premise about what is going on in our minds.

That doesn't mean you need to agree with our consciences. But it does mean you have to stop smugly acting like we are inherently more frivolous intellectually and reckless morally than you are. You reek of bigoted contempt for us when you act as though we don't come to our beliefs or values conscientiously and talk like it's some kind of obvious fact that our opinions come out of selfishness, thoughtlessness, childish rebelliousness, or moral laziness.

Atheists exist. They're not just rebellious, sinful, hateful, selfish, amoral god-haters in denial about how they really believe in Christianity.

If you don't respect this basic fact and let your acknowledgment of our existence and our moral equality filter naturally into the things you say to us, don't be surprised when you alienate us, make us angry, or even lose us from your lives.

While reflecting on the success of Thomas Piketty, The Economist reports that "a new challenge to Mr Piketty's book has just appeared, and from an unexpected direction:" 26-year-old MIT grad student Matthew Rognlie. As the piece notes, "Rognlie mounts three main criticisms of [Piketty's] arguments:"

First, he argues that the rate of return from capital probably declines over the long run, rather than remaining high as Mr Piketty suggests, due to the law of diminishing marginal returns. [...]

Second, Mr Rognlie's research suggests that Mr Piketty has overestimated how high the returns on wealth are likely to be in the future. These should also decline over time, he reckons, unless it is very easy for the economy to substitute capital (like robots) for workers. Yet the historical evidence suggests that this is far harder than he suggests.

And third, Mr Rognlie finds that the growing share of national income deriving from capital income has not been distributed equally across all sectors. The return on non-housing wealth, in fact, has been remarkably stable since 1970 (see chart). Instead, surging house prices are almost entirely responsible for growing returns on capital.

Just how inconvenient Mr Rognlie's argument is for Mr Piketty's overarching narrative is a matter of perspective. The latter certainly did not make housing wealth the central theme of his bestselling book. But a story in which a privileged elite uses its political power (albeit through the planning system) to create economic rents for the few fits Mr Piketty's argument to a tee. Well-off homeowners may for the moment be more responsible for rising wealth inequality than top-hatted capitalists or famous hedge-fund managers. But their NIMBYism is a very Piketty-like phenomenon.

Rognlie's paper "Deciphering the fall and rise in the net capital share" is certainly worth reading:

Capital income is not growing unboundedly at the expense of labor, and further accumulation of capital in fact most likely means a fall in capital's share of total income - refuting one of the main theories of economist Thomas Piketty's popular book Capital in the 21st Century.

20150325-housing.png

As Brookings summarizes:

Piketty's Capital argues that the role of capital in the economy, after falling during the Depression and two world wars, is set to recover to the high levels of the 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Piketty, wealth will accumulate amid slowing economic growth to push up the capital-to-GDP ratio in the economy, which will then cause an increase in capital's share of income - and growing inequality.

In contrast, Rognlie finds that a rising capital-to-GDP ratio is most likely to result in a fall in capital's share of income, since the net rate of return on capital will fall by an even larger proportion than the capital-to-GDP ratio rises. Outside of housing, postwar changes in the value of the capital stock have not led to parallel changes in capital's share of income. In fact, the value of the capital stock relative to private income reached its highs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when capital's share of income was near a low.

Meanwhile, in a move calculated to increase inequality, the GOP is still obsessed with cutting taxes for rich heirs because "the Republican Party is nothing if not dedicated to making sure millionaires pay the absolute minimum amount of money to the IRS:"

And truly, we're just talking about millionaires at this point. Currently, the government only taxes estates worth $5.43 million in the case of a deceased individual, or $10.86 million for a married couple--which impacts just the richest 0.2 percent of Americans, according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. Fifteen years ago, when the tax kicked in around $675,000 per person, it only affected the wealthy. Now it only affects the super-wealthy.

engaged atheism

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Adam Lee explains why atheism is a force for good:

I've been asked by various critics why I don't leave atheism behind and join a group explicitly built on promoting social justice, if that's the cause that matters to me. Here's my answer to that: I stay, and I speak out, because I believe that atheism has value as an end in itself. It's too important a cause to be sabotaged by those who foolishly speak on topics outside their competence or knowledge.

In fact, I'd go further and say that a politically active, engaged atheist movement is a force for good in the world. The more success it enjoys, the more potential it has to benefit everyone. As such, it deserves our support and advocacy, even when it may stumble or go astray.

Lee sees atheism as "the acknowledgement of reality, and reality matters"--in fundamental contrast to faith, which "keeps us from what's real:"

The cosmos is beautiful enough as it is, deep enough as it is, glorious enough as it is; we need no small human fantasies to embellish it, nor a dusting of mythology to confer it all with meaning. The real story of how everything came to be and where we fit into the grand picture is more spectacular and awe-inspiring than any religion, and it has the virtue of being true. Embracing reality in all its fullness, unclouded by false hope or illusion, is the most profound of all the gifts that atheism has to offer the world.

Did Ted Cruz make a musical sacrifice in the wake of 9/11? New York Magazine mentions an instance where "the inevitably boring interview question of what music a politician listens to has, in this case, yielded a fascinating and revealing answer." Cruz commented:

Music is interesting. I grew up listening to classic rock. And I'll tell you sort of an odd story: My music tastes changed on 9/11. I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn't like how rock music responded. And country music -- collectively -- the way they responded, it resonated with me.

NY Mag retorted that "Of course, the thing about classic rock is that it mostly didn't respond to 9/11 at all, since most of it was written in the decades beforehand:"

To the extent that it did respond, it was in keeping with the patriotic spirit of the moment. Many of the biggest classic rock stars participated in "America: A Tribute to Heroes" ten days after the attacks. As the name of the event implies, the event was not exactly a Chomsky-esque exercise in attributing the attacks to blowback caused by imperial overstretch. The single biggest classic rock star, Paul McCartney, wrote a song the next day, "Freedom," the proceeds of which he donated to families of the victims and the NYPD.

It is true, however, that, in general, rock stars did not reach the jingoist heights of their country brethren. The rockers were mourning victims and celebrating freedom; country stars were demanding blood. That was a real partisan cultural divide.

The piece wonders, "Has the good senator actually stopped listening to the classic rock he spent decades enjoying?" Over at Salon, Digby asks what's really behind his conversion and observes that she is "hard-pressed to think of any rockers, classic or otherwise, who were disrespectful in the aftermath of 9/11:"

Certainly it wasn't Bruce Springsteen or Paul McCartney or Neil Young or Fleetwood Mac or literally dozens of other rock and pop artists who penned heartfelt songs about the event. But then Cruz undoubtedly didn't want to hear poetic songs about loss and pain. He wanted songs of revenge and killing, like Toby Keith's famous anthem, "The Angry American" which featured the kind of language that gets Cruz and his voters very, very excited:
Now this nation that I love
Has fallen under attack
A mighty sucker punch came flyin' in
From somewhere in the back
Soon as we could see clearly
Through our big black eye
Man, we lit up your world
Like the 4th of July

"This whole thing is silly," she concludes, because "Ted Cruz's musical tastes are only interesting to the extent they make him seem like a regular guy:"

But come on -- nobody changes what music they like for political reasons. That pandering comment is so awkward and calculated it makes him sound like an automaton. In fact, it's very hard to believe that Ted Cruz has any interest in music at all.

Slate's piece on opting in to social media discusses Jacob Silverman's book Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection:

If you complain about social media (especially if you post that diatribe on Twitter or Facebook), your friends will tell you one thing over and over: If you think it's so bad, don't use it in the first place. Criticism, they propose, is a waste of breath when all you really need to do is opt out. [but] Those who do manage to escape rarely fare much better: We often treat people who try to extract themselves with contempt, responding as if it were little more than an anti-modern affectation.

Is it possible that "we've yet to develop a language for discussing what it means to really give up on social media"?

To some extent, the problem may be that social media has become increasingly essential to the ways we relate.

As Silverman argues in Terms of Service, opting out may have more to do with privilege than truly radical rebellion. Very few have the luxury to extract themselves completely.

Is someone a hermit for not being hermetically sealed in the social-media bubble? In preferring to interact more deeply with fewer people an anti-social act? This bears more thought.

Dan Kahan had a considerate and thoughtful commenter on the ideologically lopsided trust-in-science debate:

Could an alternate conclusion be reached that scientific and reasonable people downplay the danger of climate change and nuclear power precisely because we are well informed and able reason logically?

Kahan's response was that "that's not what the data show:"

They show that those highest in one or another measure of science comprehension are the most polarized on a small subset of risk issues including climate change.

That doesn't tell us which side is "right" & which "wrong."

But it tells us that we can't rely on what would otherwise be a sensible heuristic -- that the answer individuals with those proficiencies are converging on is most likely the right answer. Because again, those very people aren't converging; on the contrary, they are the most polarized. [emphasis in original]

Digby on Maher

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Digby explains how Islamophobes like Bill Maher are tragically wrong in their "ridiculous assertion that what they usually depict as the debauched left is in cahoots with al Qaeda or ISIS:"

They are unlikely allies to say the least. And there are very few liberals who are anything but appalled by the repressive governments he's talking about.

The fact is that liberals get upset when Maher and his friends claim that Islam is uniquely and inherently violent and that all societies in which Muslim populations have some form of social and political power operate the same way simply by virtue of the fact that they are Muslim. This is patently untrue. Muslims are as different from one another as the members of any other religious tradition... [...] Most liberals believe that to tar all of them with the acts of a few is inflammatory and just plain wrong.

Although "Maher sees himself as the one true liberal who calls out intolerance wherever he sees it. But he's remarkably tolerant when it comes to irrational, racist demagoguery:"

It may have escaped his notice but conservatives always feel under threat and always have a reason to "take the glove off." It's their primary organizing principle. That's not liberalism. It's good old fashioned right wing paranoia.

indoctrination?

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Bear Bergman's opinion piece entitled "I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children into My LGBTQ Agenda" has drawn fire for its forthrightness:

I knew from my activist mentors that accusations of indoctrination and recruiting were very bad, and I was supposed to refute them promptly. So I did. No indeed, I replied, I would never indoctrinate; never recruit. I was just providing an alternate viewpoint, I said.

Bergman's perspective is now a bit broader, and he currently writes that "All that time I said I wasn't indoctrinating anyone with my beliefs about gay and lesbian and bi and trans and queer people? That was a lie:"

All 25 years of my career as an LGBTQ activist, since the very first time as a 16-year-old I went and stood shaking and breathless in front of eleven people to talk about My Story, I have been on a consistent campaign of trying to change people's minds about us. I want to make them like us. That is absolutely my goal. I want to make your children like people like me and my family, even if that goes against the way you have interpreted the teachings of your religion. I want to be present in their emotional landscapes as a perfectly nice dad and writer who is married to another guy. Who used to be a girl (kind of). Who is friendly and cheerful and not scary at all, no matter what anyone says.

I would also like to know: Why are we so afraid of admitting this? I ask as a person who quailed before this accusation (and its slimy misguided undertones of pederasty) for more than two decades. That is our job: to encourage people, especially children, to think differently about a subject than they do now. To dispel the dim and dismal miasma of myths and stereotypes, and instead allow the light of truth and fairness to shine in.

He concludes with the blunt honesty that "I want kids to know this [the truth about sexual orientation] even if their parents' or community's interpretation of their religious tenets is that we're awful:"

I would be happy -- delighted, overjoyed I tell you -- to cause those children to disagree with their families on the subject of LGBTQ people.

If that makes me an indoctrinator, I accept it. Let me be honest -- I am not even a little bit sorry.

After skimming some of the typical right-wing misinterpretation (with its unique use of scare quotes, e.g. "men who have 'sex' with men"), I was glad that Godless Mom could provide a Quote of the Day as counterbalance:

We all know how hard it is to go through puberty. Imagine what it would feel like, if everyone you knew and loved were adamant that the way you were going through puberty, was wrong. You're 15. You're awkward enough. Now everyone says you're just not the right kind of awkward.

That's why gay kids kill themselves.

She imagines herself in the shoes of gay kids who "come home to packed bags, frowning parents and a one-way ticket to a pray-away-the-gay camp:"

You sexualize a child.

Then you condemn him as an abomination.

And then you wonder why he kills himself.

You, my friend, are the abomination.

Wired asks, are data scientist earning their salaries?

US recruitment agency, Glassdoor, report that the average salary for a data scientist is $118,709 versus $64,537 for a skilled programmer. And a McKinsey study predicts that by 2018, the United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and a 1.5 million shortage of managers with the skills to understand and make decisions based on analysis of big data.

A lack of analytical and comprehension skills in the management suites? No surprise there...

The piece also asks, "Can data scientists actually justify earning their salaries when brands seem to be struggling to realize the promise of big data?" and points out that "the real value from data comes from asking the right questions of the data:"

And the right questions to ask only emerge if you are close enough to the business to see them. Are data scientists earning their salary? In my view they are a necessary but not sufficient part of the solution; brands need to be making greater investment in working with a greater range of users to help them ask questions of the data. Which probably means that data scientists' salaries will need to take a hit in the process.

If data is needed to answer these questions, doesn't it become a the-master's-tools-will-never-dismantle-the-master's-house dilemma?

The StingRay cell-tower-spoofing technology is apparently supposed to be a big secret:

A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.

Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.

Orin S. Kerr, an expert in privacy law at George Washington University, wonders: "What's the secret that they're trying to hide?" With an epidemic of NDAs, will we ever find out?

The Advocate's Andrew Holleran talks to Larry Kramer about his new novel, the 800-page The American People: Volume 1: Search for My Heart. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

I just finished reading your new novel, The American People: Volume I. Is it true that you started writing it in 1975?

I started when I finished Faggots, long before AIDS came along, and I kind of put it to the side. I wrote a couple of plays in between, so it was done in bits and pieces over the years. And it wasn't until I got really sick, when I had the liver transplant [in 2000], that I got serious about making it as a whole. Because I didn't think I was going to live. Now I've got to finish Volume II.

[...]

If you started it before AIDS had even emerged, what was the impetus then to write the book? Was it the idea that gays have been written out of history?

Oh, I don't know. Why does every gay writer start out? To write his Proust? And so I wrote my Proust. The title comes from that speech by Reagan which really did hit me, where I knew he was talking about "the American people," and I knew that I was not part of that crowd that he was talking about. It was so obvious. There has never been any history book written where the gay people have been in history since the beginning. It's ridiculous to think that we haven't been here forever.

[...]

How much of Volume II is written?

I'm writing. It has to come out a year after this one.

Kramer is unhappy with the presence of pharmaceutical prophylactics, observing acidly that "part of what depresses me is how passive most of the gay population is about this issue:"

So now we have Truvada and you can get laid on Saturday night, and surely, we deserve more than that from 35 years of waiting. We could have so much if we just used the power that was there to be taken, if we could just learn how to take it. Why are there still so few people saying that? Why hasn't there ever been another Larry Kramer? And I don't mean that as self-serving.

This Q&A pair should surprise no one:

Which president would you single out as the worst in U.S. history?

Reagan, hands down, no contest. What with his being responsible for not attending to gays and AIDS deaths, he was responsible for killing more people than Hitler or Stalin.

That isn't hyperbole; 30 million people died of AIDS to date, and another 35 million are living with the disease. Without the likes of Larry Kramer, things could have been much worse. I'm eager to read the first volume of his magnum opus to find out what else he has to say.

In explaining the hidden secrets of the right-wing brain, Paul Rosenberg discusses his recent interview with political psychologist John Jost:

Moral foundations theory posits a small set of distinctly different moral concerns, and it correlates those moral concerns with distinctly different emotions: harm with anger, sanctity with disgust, etc. In fact, it has been argued that moral judgements are essentially post-hoc rationalizations of distinct instinctual emotions. But the actual evidence for such distinct basic emotions is noticeably quite weak--indeed, it's virtually non-existent.

In contrast to the basic emotions interpretation, there's another long-standing approach to psychology, known as constructionism, which has been making quite a comeback recently, taking note of the gaps in the basic emotions story, and taking advantage of new technological advances in brain imaging to study what's really going on in our brains. If the constructionist account is true, then moral foundations theory is not an account of how humans are hardwired. It may provide a useful map of where we've been in the past--of social mores more than morality--but it doesn't provide us with maps for the new world we may want to shape in the future. For that, we may need a new set of maps entirely.

The paper "A Constructionist Review of Morality and Emotions: No Evidence for Specific Links Between Moral Content and Discrete Emotions" notes that "Morality and emotions are linked, but what is the nature of their correspondence?:"

Many "whole number" accounts posit specific correspondences between moral content and discrete emotions, such that harm is linked to anger, and purity is linked to disgust. A review of the literature provides little support for these specific morality-emotion links.

Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse asks, since when were we a Christian Nation?"

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.

The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this campaign they were wedded in pointed opposition to the "creeping socialism" of the New Deal. The federal government had never really factored into Americans' thinking about the relationship between faith and free enterprise, mostly because it had never loomed that large over business interests. But now it cast a long and ominous shadow.

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and '40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology's appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns. Generous funding came from prominent businessmen, from household names like Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, E. F. Hutton, Fred Maytag and Henry R. Luce to lesser-known leaders at U.S. Steel, General Motors and DuPont.

"The most important clergyman for Christian libertarianism," he writes, "was the Rev. Billy Graham:"

In his initial ministry, in the early 1950s, Mr. Graham supported corporate interests so zealously that a London paper called him "the Big Business evangelist." The Garden of Eden, he informed revival attendees, was a paradise with "no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease." In the same spirit, he denounced all "government restrictions" in economic affairs, which he invariably attacked as "socialism."

"In 1952, Mr. Graham went to Washington and made Congress his congregation," writes Kruse, and "The rest of Washington consecrated itself, too:"

The Pentagon, State Department and other executive agencies quickly instituted prayer services of their own. In 1954, Congress added "under God" to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. It placed a similar slogan, "In God We Trust," on postage that year and voted the following year to add it to paper money; in 1956, it became the nation's official motto.

During these years, Americans were told, time and time again, not just that the country should be a Christian nation, but that it always had been one. They soon came to think of the United States as "one nation under God." They've believed it ever since.

His book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America seems destined for my TBR pile.

In "Tom Cotton, Iran, and Old GOP Ideas," Rolling Stone's Jeb Lund writes about seeing freshman Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) "in action at the Conservative Political Action Conference:"

I already knew him as a bad liar who still thinks Iraq was involved in 9/11, wants to prosecute New York Times reporters and fears the inevitable partnership between Mexican drug cartels and ISIS, but homeboy can work a room.

Lund gives a history lesson to remind us of Nixon's treason with Vietnam

In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon dispatched a friend of his campaign named Anna Chennault to tell the North Vietnamese to back away from peace talks with the Democratic Johnson administration, promising the Vietnamese a better deal. Nixon's campaign guarantee that he had a secret plan to win in Vietnam would have meant nothing if his opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, could have helped end the war and taken credit for it. And so the North Vietnamese backed away, Nixon condemned the Johnson administration for failing to even get the Vietnamese to the bargaining table; Nixon and genocide-and-assassination hobbyist Henry Kissinger admitted to each other that the war was unwinnable as early as 1969; and in the meantime 22,000 more Americans and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese and Cambodians died. But, hey, Nixon won the 1968 election by a 0.7 percent margin, and Kissinger went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
and Reagan's treason with Iran and Nicaragua:
The Iran-Contra affair was ultimately a vastly more explicitly illegal enterprise at every stage than Nixon's clownish burglary, campaign ratfuckery and slush funds - and yet the response to it, from a nation still disgusted by the post-Watergate bummer process of honest self-evaluation, was bipartisan compartmentalization and hyper-partisan pardon.

In summary, writes Lund, "the threat that successful negotiations present to Cotton and his ilk cannot be overstated:"

They've spent roughly 35 years trying to inflate a regional power nearly 6,500 miles from Washington D.C. into an existential threat to the entire United States, and the last thing they can afford is for the American voter to awaken to the histrionic bullshit nature of that campfire horror story.

LBJ, radical

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Ian Milhiser praises LBJ's radical speech:

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson stood before a joint session of Congress and offered his response to the moral atrocity that occurred a week earlier, when civil rights marchers were savagely beaten by Alabama police on the road from Selma to Montgomery. "I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy," Johnson began in the speech that proposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to Congress. In a rhetorical flourish that moved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to tears, Johnson invoked the anthem of the civil rights movement itself -- twice speaking the words "We Shall Overcome."

He reminds us that "LBJ did far more than simply lay out his case for a Voting Rights Act:"

He presented the cause of the men and women who were beaten at Selma as part of a moral failing that indicts America's very soul. "[S]hould we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal" to the issue of equal rights for African Americans, "then we will have failed as a people and as a nation."

Milhiser's book Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted looks like a good choice for further reading.

In discussing the science of protecting people's feelings, Chris Mooney identifies "an important successor to the Dunning-Kruger paper" [remember that?] wherein "psychologists have not uncovered an endless spiral of incompetence and the inability to perceive it:"

Rather, they've shown that people have an "equality bias" when it comes to competence or expertise, such that even when it's very clear that one person in a group is more skilled, expert, or competent (and the other less), they are nonetheless inclined to seek out a middle ground in determining how correct different viewpoints are.

Yes, that's right -- we're all right, nobody's wrong, and nobody gets hurt feelings.

Mooney clearly identifies the problem with "both sides" being treated equally:

I think it's pretty obvious that human groups (especially in the United States) err much more in the direction of giving everybody a say than in the direction of deferring too much to experts. And that's quite obviously harmful on any number of issues, especially in science, where what experts know really matters and lives or the world depend on it -- like vaccinations or climate change.

The new research underscores this conclusion -- that we need to recognize experts more, respect them, and listen to them. But it also shows how our evolution in social groups binds us powerfully together and enforces collective norms, but can go haywire when it comes to recognizing and accepting inconvenient truths.

Similarly, Jeff Madrick explains why economists cling to discredited ideas while ignoring "the practical failures of free-market economics:"

Such ideas are often rooted more in ideology than in evidence. These beliefs and the policies that follow led directly to the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession. They also centrally contributed to the nation's subpar performance beginning in the late 1970s, and to our widening inequality. They continue to endanger America's economic health.

To be sure, there are dissenting economists. A few even win Nobel prizes. But in the academy, free-market ideas are still the dominant ones.

Smith's "Invisible Hand," Say's Law, efficient markets, and austerity economics dominate the common discourse, and the claim that "Markets Invariably Work Better than Governments" rarely has to face a serious challenge. Madrick sees "three main explanations: faux science, careerism, and political acceptability" as the culprits. Similarly, Robert Reich identifies the 3 biggest economic myths--which are, of course, predominant among those on the Right:

1. The "job creators" are CEOs, corporations, and the rich, whose taxes must be low in order to induce them to create more jobs. Rubbish. The real job creators are the vast middle class and the poor, whose spending induces businesses to create jobs. [...]

2. The critical choice is between the "free market" or "government." Baloney. The free market doesn't exist in nature. It's created and enforced by government. [...]

3. We should worry most about the size of government. Wrong. We should worry about who government is for. When big money from giant corporations and Wall Street inundate our politics, all decisions relating to #1 and #2 above become rigged against average working Americans.


Dominant ideas that can't be questioned for fear of hurting their proponents' feelings--it's almost like a religion, isn't it?

PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel and other anti-government whackjobs are pitching the "Seasteading Institute" as some sort of Libertarian paradise island, but it's destined to be more like a capitalist nightmare because "Libertarianism preaches a night-watchmen government that stays out of businesses way, and allows private industries to regulate themselves:"

It is a utopian ideology, as was communism, that has an almost religious-like faith in the free market, and an absolute distrust of any government. It is a perfect philosophy for a large corporation, like Apple, Google or Facebook. If we lived in an ideal libertarian society, these companies would not have to avoid taxes, because they would be non-existent, and they wouldn't have to worry about annoying restrictions on privacy.

Essentially, their ideology is "the same old libertarian argument wrapped up in a new millennial cloak, that corporations will act ethically because if they don't, consumers will go elsewhere:"

As usual, it leaves out important realities that don't sit well with the self-regulation myth. These realities include the irrationality and apathy of consumers, the lack of information available to consumers, and the overall secretive nature of corporations. The problem with self-regulation is that, consumers do not know what goes on at a corporation behind closed doors, so how would they force a company to act ethically if they are not aware of their misdeeds.

The continual cries for "less regulation" ignore the past century's lessons:

Before government regulatory agencies like the FDA came around, the safety of workers and consumers were both constantly at stake, as muckrakers like Upton Sinclair described so vividly. More recently, the lack of regulation in the financial industry, particularly in derivatives, contributed to one of the worst economic crises in history, and hurt many people in the process.

Libertarians are uninterested in these realities, and believe that all government intervention is useless and stifles innovation, and it is the "cult of innovation" that makes the libertarian philosophy particularly popular in the technology obsessed Silicon Valley. In their world, innovation is more important than privacy or safety, and the best and brightest should not have to play by the rules.

Should Confederate veterans be honored as veterans? That's the question posed by Mike LaBossiere, prompted by an "interesting controversy" in Florida:

Three Confederate veterans, who fought against the United States of America, have been nominated for admission to Florida's Veterans' Hall of Fame. The purpose of the hall is to honor "those military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the State of Florida." [...]

According to Mike Prendergast, the executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the three nominees in question do not qualify because the applications to the hall did not indicate that the men served in the armed forces of the United States of America.

The writer points out that "Fighting in defense of slavery and against the lawful government of the United States would seem to be morally problematic in regards to the veteran part of the honor," but also suggests a workaround:

It could also be argued that since the states that made up the Confederacy joined the United States, the veterans of the Confederacy would, as citizens, become United States' veterans. Of course, the same logic would seem to apply to parts of the United States that were assimilated from other nations, such as Mexico, the lands of the Iroquois, and the lands of Apache and so on. As such, perhaps Sitting Bull would qualify as a veteran under this sort of reasoning.

Confederate soldiers should be derided as traitors--just like late-eighteenth-century Loyalists shouldn't be honored as Revolutionary War heroes.

Bringing the treason-in-defense-of-slavery issue up to the present day, Rmuse declares that Republicans are traitors:

It is likely that throughout America's short history, except for the traitorous Confederacy, no group of individuals has exhibited the characteristic betrayal of a traitor more than conservatives in general, and Republicans in particular. What makes their actions all the more despicable is that their traitorous actions are founded on racial animus for one man; and allegiance to foreigners [TransCanada, by way of the Keystone XL project] and one tiny segment of the population [the 1%, of course]. [...]

The constitutional betrayal [from 2011's threatened debt default] garnered America's first credit downgrade in history and a ploy they came precariously close to repeating in 2013 when they shut down the government by betraying their Constitutional mandate to legislate for the "people's general welfare;" all over their opposition to Americans having access to affordable healthcare. It was a betrayal of their fellow citizens, and their oath to uphold the Constitution that tasks them to pass legislation, not shut down the government or threaten a credit default. Over the past six years, Republicans have shown that their allegiance to the Constitution is as non-existent as their allegiance to this country or their fellow citizens.

When partisanship is elevated over country, what else could be expected?

killers for Christ

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

In writing about killers for Christ, Raw Story's David Ferguson mentions how easily Obama "raised hackles on the Christian right this week" with a rather simple observation:

"Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," said the president. "Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."

Ferguson also notes that "Conservatives greeted this assertion with their usual unflappable calm and equanimity, which is to say, of course, that they pretty much all started screaming and soiling themselves at once." From the Fourth Crusade to the KKK, from the Holocaust to anti-choice violence, the author reminds us that "those are just a few examples, kids:"

So, the next time someone tries to tell you that Islam produces the only violent religious extremists of the world, ask them how Dr. Tiller's widow probably feels about that, or the survivors of Eric Rudolph's murderous rampages. Praise Jesus and pass the ammunition!

Meanwhile, wingnuts ignore both historical and contemporary evidence and claim that the number of Christian victims would be zero. Here's Fox's Eric Bolling asserting that no non-Muslims have ever killed in the name of their religion:

"Reports say radical Muslim jihadists killed thousands of people in the past few months alone...and yet when you take Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever, their combined killings in the name of religion -- well that number would be zero."

TPM writes that "It's not clear whether Bolling was referring to the total number of people killed in the name of religions other than Islam in the past few months or in general:"

But even if Bolling was referring to that narrower time frame, there was at least one planned attack in the United States with reported ties to Christianity that he overlooked.

Law enforcement officials believed that Texas resident Larry McQuilliams, who was gunned down by police in November while trying to burn down a Mexican consulate, was planning a broader attack against churches and government buildings. Investigators searching McQuilliams' van found a copy of the 1990 book "Vigilantes of Christendom," which is linked to a Christian sect called the Phineas Priesthood that holds racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

shackled

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School, asks why are so many Americans in prison?

Having analyzed statistics on who goes to prison, why, and for how long, Pfaff has emerged with a new and provocative account of how the problem of mass incarceration came to be. If he's right, the implications for the prison reform movement are huge and suggest the work needed to achieve real progress will be much harder than most people realize.

Here are some passages form the interview:

OK. So if it's not the drug war, and it's not harsh sentencing laws, what is it? What do you think caused the prison boom?

You need to break the question into two periods. Because there's a time between 1975 and 1991 when you see this dramatic rise in crime, and the prison population went up as well. And then there's a more interesting period, between 1991 and 2010, when crime steadily declined, yet prison populations kept going up. [...]

Why would that be?

What appears to happen during this time--the years I look at are 1994 to 2008, just based on the data that's available--is that the probability that a district attorneys file a felony charge against an arrestee goes from about 1 in 3, to 2 in 3. So over the course of the '90s and 2000s, district attorneys just got much more aggressive in how they filed charges. [...] the number of felony cases filed shoots up very strongly, even as the number of arrests goes down.

...the real growth in the prison population comes from county-level district attorneys sending violent people to prison. [...] What makes it very hard is that the person we really need to target now--whose behavior we need to regulate--is the district attorney, and the district attorney is a very politically independent figure. He's directly elected, and he's directly elected at the county level. So there's no big centralized fix.

In essence, our political system has also shackled those of us outside the prison walls, preventing us from easily solving the problem.

Recent Comments

  • cognitivedissident: Mea culpa for the misspelling of your surname, but really...nothing read more
  • Rev Michael Bresciani: First you spell my name wrong, next I'm labeled a read more
  • cognitivedissident: Yep...it's a well-deserved punishment for that "man on dog" comment. read more
  • sportsbook: When I saw spreadingsantorum.com as the 1 result for his read more
  • cognitivedissident: Are your online sparring partners fond of GOP talking points, read more
  • cgntvdssdnt: Hello! Your site was recently brought to my attention. I've read more
  • cognitivedissident: Thank you very much for this information; I have corrected read more
  • Jason Leopold: Thank you so much for spreading the word on David read more
  • cognitivedissident: Thank you for the tip about BookFinder; my list of read more
  • DataPacRat: Bookfinder.com is a handy meta-search site, which scans through nearly read more

Recent Assets

  • 20150401-worstgodever.jpg
  • 20150325-housing.png
  • 20130322-killianjornet.jpg
  • 20120605-scienceliteracy.jpg
  • 20120605-oliversacks.jpg
  • 20110418-vandalism.jpg
  • 20110418-pisschrist.jpg
  • 20150101-isnothingsacred.jpg
  • 20060109-taintedlegacy.jpg
  • 20141017-marriage.jpg

Monthly Archives

Pages

  • About
  • Contact
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.031