Friday, November 18, 2016

Post Truth

Washington Post article on post truth era.

I feel it is time we say what many people seem unable to say straight out.
Post Truth is what naturally follows from willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The easiest quiz you ever took

Out of the seven billion plus humans on the planet, choose the one who belongs to these quotes:

He trusts no one, and places a premium on revenge. ("If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck!")

And to make creative choices, he writes: "I try to step back and remember my first shallow reaction. The day I realized it can be smart to be shallow was, for me, a deep experience."

"The world is a vicious and brutal place, he wrote. "Even your friends are out to get you: They want your job, they want your house, they want your money, they want your wife, and they even want your dog.''

"When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it," he writes. "I always get even."

In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye," he wrote. "I'm not proud of that, but it's clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way. The difference now is that I like to use my brain instead of my fists."

"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it.  Then they were vicious. They were horrible, but they put it down with strength.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

You've reached "Narcissists-R-Us", how can you help me.

Setting aside for a moment what the "Left" says about the election, I suggest the following.
The people who voted Republican for President have no idea what they've done, nor how it is likely to swing back around and bite them as well as everyone else.

I know there are many very concerned people right now and I do not wish to fan the flames of hysteria. However, in my considered opinion, the inmates taking over the asylum is no longer just a metaphor. Further, if you are not frightened- you simply do not yet understand the consequences of this election. Conversely, if you are frightened to the point of immobility, you need to snap out of it. We are all likely to need clear heads if we hope to come out the other side of this heinous fiasco.
The above thoughts are mine.

From this point down is ostensibly a letter written by an attorney to the liberal Daily Kos site. I found it online and unsigned so I can not vouch for the authenticity. I can say the writer makes a fair amount of sense to me:

I’m a business and corporate attorney in the Midwest, in practice for 32 years.  Today a client emailed me, asking me what I thought of the election.  Here’s what I wrote back:

Ok, I normally don’t discuss politics with clients, but since you asked:   Trump is the most appallingly unprepared, unqualified person ever “elected” (he didn’t win the popular vote) to the presidency.
He is dishonest to the core, an ignorant, vulgar, bigoted megalomaniac.  He is an authoritarian with a taste for revenge, who has nothing but contempt for democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law – subjects he knows nothing about in any case.  He neither knows nor cares about science.  He will put criminals and crackpots in charge of government agencies. The Supreme Court will be packed with right-wing ideologues who will ensure that all manner of fringe legal theories will become legally enforceable.  Trump’s presidency will make the Bush nightmare look like America’s halcyon days. 
Russia – aided by an astonishingly unprofessional FBI director James Comey --  succeeded in swaying just enough votes to swing the election. Yesterday the Russian Foreign Ministry actually confirmed that Russia had worked with the Trump campaign to help get him elected.  For months the Trump campaign had vigorously denied this even after it had to fire campaign manager Paul Manafort after his ties with Putin and pro-Putin Ukrainians were discovered.  Russia also officially confirmed that it was indeed behind the hacked Democratic Party servers and the leaking of emails to try to change the talking points by creating controversy about Clinton while suppressing anything negative about Trump.  Imagine if something like that had surfaced regarding Obama or Clinton during their campaigns – the right wing would have gone apoplectic – but now all we hear is crickets.  The Russians have cultivated Trump for years; they know he can be manipulated to allow them to gain the upper hand in whatever areas they wish. Trump is, as the Russian saying goes, Putin’s “useful idiot”:   Полезный дурак Путина. 
I have a number of clients who also wanted to discuss politics with me this past couple of days, and who are elated that Trump won.  Their reasons seem to be: 
  • They think our country is being overrun by Muslims or will be, and they want to avoid a situation like in Europe.  That’s a legitimate concern, since non-Europeans are indeed pouring into Europe and refusing to assimilate.  I have traveled and lived in Europe and have seen it with my own eyes. It threatens to destroy the fabric of society there. But we don’t have that problem:  One reason is that we control immigration.  We let in the best and brightest, and a tiny trickle of refugees, and that’s about it.  In Europe, by contrast, uneducated people from countries that never advanced beyond the 13th century can just take the train or drive and sneak in.  Also, non-Europeans flood into Europe from former French, etc. colonies such as Tunisia – a problem we don’t have.  Immigrant Muslims here in the States are assimilating far more than in Europe, in part because we don’t relegate Muslims to ghettos; we welcome them into our neighborhoods.  We have two first-generation Muslim families on our street. The wife in one of them wears a headscarf, but otherwise they’re not much different than anyone else. Our kids play together.  We get together socially.
  • They hate Obamacare because it is killing small businesses.  Obamacare is a classic example of that saying, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.”  It leaves a lot to be desired but it is far better than nothing.  As I’m sure you know, it’s just Romneycare on a national scale -- a Republican plan designed to privatize health care by delivering 20 million new customers to insurance companies.  It works fairly well in Massachusetts.  But once the Democrats abandoned Medicare for all and instead passed Obamacare as the price for getting Joe Lieberman’s crucial vote, Republicans did everything possible to sabotage and obstruct it, just as they have sabotaged and obstructed everything Obama has tried to do from day one.  The result is that the costs for small business are higher than they would have been – even though Obamacare has already resulted in a huge reduction in overall health care costs:  $2.6 trillion savings over the first 5 years.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why Congress doesn’t just enact Medicare for all – it would be financed by payroll tax deductions and small businesses wouldn’t have to contribute a dime.  And the result would be even greater overall savings.
  • They think Clinton is a “liar” and “corrupt,” but all they know is the propaganda they have been fed for decades by right-wing hate media. They think her speaking fees make her corrupt but couldn’t care less about the fact that Trump stiffed thousands of people who sold him goods and services.  They think she is a liar because she mischaracterized something James Comey said (which he shouldn’t have discussed in the first place), but overlook the daily deluge of lies coming out of Trump’s mouth.  I have followed the Clintons and the right-wing vendetta against them ever since I was in law school 33 years ago. Hate media (Fox, Rush, Savage, Jones, Drudge, Breitbart, Falwell Jr. et al.) use exactly the same propaganda techniques used by Goebbels in the 1930s and by Radio Moscow in the 1970s-1990s, only slicker.  And people eat it up.  In fact, these past few months it was hard to tell the difference between the Russian state-controlled media and Fox News.  Both sounded just like the old communist Radio Moscow, using their usual propaganda techniques, but this time to shamelessly promote Trump and just as shamelessly denigrate Clinton. In reality, Hillary Clinton has dedicated her life to public service, to the betterment of the country.  She is comprehensively knowledgeable about public policy and the world (an in particular is under no illusions about Russia), and knows how to get things done in a bipartisan manner.  She is as honest as any politician can be.  I’ve had a top secret clearance and worked in intelligence, and the email circus was just that.
  • There is definitely a racial and misogynist component.  One client, who laughed that Clinton got “spanked” and said he and all his friends talk like Trump all the time, and see nothing wrong with it.  Over the past eight years I’ve heard a lot of vile, disgusting racial stuff about Obama and Michelle Obama.  We aren’t nearly as civilized as I had hoped.
The world order is fragile.  Democracy is fragile.  The Trump presidency will be an unmitigated disaster. Our country and the world are in more danger now than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  For me as an attorney, I feel as though my country has just died.  White supremacy has emerged again. Vast numbers of uneducated white men have gleefully voted with their middle finger.  Every great nation has its rise and its decline.  Trump’s election may well mark the beginning of the decline of the United States as a great nation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I hereby rename these practices.

Henceforth, Alternative Medicine shall be known by its more correct title: Alternative to Medicine.

Young model pays the ultimate price for believing in faux medicine.

I am sorry the poor young woman needlessly died. On the other hand, if her premature demise teaches us something, that could be a good thing that results from a tragedy.

LOL, just kidding.

Almost everyone who believes in faux medicine will continue to do so. Their evidence? “I go to the chiropractor and I feel better (at least temporarily) and, up to this moment, her manipulations have not directly resulted in my death.” How could I possibly contend against such a weighty argument?

Oh, sure, I know what you're thinking. I could employ critical thinking skills and logic.  But, seriously. I take Sam Harris' position on this:

“If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?”

Friday, September 16, 2016

Safe Space or Vindictive Protectiveness?

Two things. 

First, I have been mostly diligent lately about keeping politics and heavy ranting on my blog (that almost nobody reads) and off my Facebook feed which quite a few people read. I intend to stick with that program, despite being sorely tempted.

Two. I am regularly critical of those on the Conservative side of the political spectrum. Flatly stated, I am more aligned with those on the Left. However, any case of poor thinking is open to criticism, regardless of political affiliation. I am stating bluntly and unapologetically this type of thinking is not some tiny problem being blown out of all proportion. It is at minimum foolish and at maximum dangerous. Slapping a “politically correct” sticker on something should not offer a free pass to poor thinking. I am embarrassed that the liberal/progressive movement, of which I consider myself a proud member, would harbor or even encourage this sort of behavior.

Frankly speaking, this brings to mind an “inmates running the asylum” type of mentality. Progressives are constantly (and most often, rightly)  cautioning us about the decline of the educational system in America. Is it possible that, in part, as a function of our horror regarding current events, we are blinded to the darker side of this bizarre set of circumstances?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hearts and Minds

Link to article about a Slovenian philosopher and his thoughts on the migrants.

Perhaps it is time (arguably past time) for us to sort out our feelings from our policy decisions. To be clear, I am a big proponent of acknowledging and being in touch with our feelings. I am convinced feelings are our motive force. That said, they are as much a force propelling us to do stupid or even harmful things as they are for motivating us toward our more noble goals. Further, following our feelings without a sufficient injection of rational thought is almost always a bad play. A cursory check on current events illustrates how, both in our own lives and on the global stage, failing to include the links of critical rational thought into the chain running between events and policy has led us down some foolish or even dark paths. Without heart we are nothing. With only heart, we silly dangerous beasts, indeed.

I am in part drawn to association with my beloved fellows inhabiting the Left side of the political sphere because of their heart. That said, I think it is important to call out my comrades*. The stakes are too high for us to make grave errors because we are (understandably) caught up in the horror. We need to honor our bleeding hearts without drowning in that blood.

I am going to unambiguously label the following as the critical bit. Some of the points being made by the Slovenian philosopher (and other thoughtful humans) are the same as or overlap with points made by people on the far Right here in America and in Europe. How can this be? If a person says some of these things they must be driven by racism, xenophobia, fear, anger and hatred, right?


Recognizing evidence that is disturbing does not immediately make one a hateful, fearful, xenophobe. In the same way that recognizing the horror on the faces of desperate refugees does not make a person a hopeless romantic without critical thinking skills. How one reacts to the evidence is the deciding factor. When the philosopher asserts that many of the migrants entering Europe are from vastly different cultures that may share little in common European countries, this is a fact. When he states that these migrants were at once justified in fleeing their war-torn homelands and not necessarily entering Europe with an intent to assimilate or adopt European values, this is a fact. If the response to these facts is hatred and violence, this is a horrible and sad fact- but not a surprising fact. If the response is to the plight of desperate fleeing refugees is to ignore their plight, this is unconscionable. However, recognizing the horror and committing to aid the afflicted while not simply absorbing them all into Europe is not a horrible or hateful thing. In fact, I would argue (after hearing the recent report on the refugees by This American Life) it is a superior idea. Compare this to the truly horrifying condition they currently endure in squalid under-funded refugee camps as stateless persons. Bereft and hopeless. Link to the refugee story.

Things would be easier if we could blame everything on the far-right-crazies but that won't fly. However, I will advance this idea. I am not the first to think this by any means. We are all concerned by the tendency on the Right, in recent years, to stray from historical fiscal conservatism into fundamentalist ideology both religious and political. I suggest that, when we are not reveling in glee at the pit they've dug for themselves, we may want to have a look at the ripple effect of these trends on the Left. Once upon a time and not so long ago, I could have an honest debate with a conservative in which we shared a fair amount of middle ground (intelligent rational people wanting to solve commonly agreed upon problems). Our routes to the solutions were often quite different but our thoughtful arguments spurred each other to better thinking and eventually some compromise. As the far right ideologues began their ascendency, I noticed the lack of a rational opponent helps degrade the argument on both sides. Without real and thoughtful arguments to push back on, progressives began to lose their edge. Worse yet, we didn't notice ourselves slipping. We rejoiced with cheap jokes about our opponents, but we were duller.  If you are thinking I seem wistful and at a bit of a loss without those old-time fiscal Conservatives, you'd be right. It wasn't all sweetness and light but I might have appreciated the reasonable ones more while there were greater numbers of them to appreciate.

*I agree, that bit about "comrades" was totally gratuitous. It was an unsubtle poke at any hardcore Republican Fundamentalists passersby. One has a certain curmudgeonly image to uphold.

Examples of conflicting cultures:
child brides

so-called honor killing

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thoughtful words from a person with a unique perspective

Elizabeth Smart speaks on Sex, Rape, and self-worth

Back in July I posted about missive in my Facebook feed regarding still pervasive religious teaching that links sexual activity and a person’s self-worth. I only considered the topic in relation to consensual sexual activity. Luckily this articulate young woman helped me see it in a larger context.

In my earlier post I asserted such thinking was fostered primarily by men, almost exclusively directed at women, and was the source of untold misery for many of those women. I find the whole business appalling and feel it is a human rights issue and a feminist issue. Some may have felt, as a man, I had no standing to comment. I don’t agree but fair enough. How about this young lady.