SocraticGadfly: 5/15/11 - 5/22/11

May 21, 2011

Responsibility for individuals but not Big Biz

Valerie Parker is generally a reasonable moderate conservative. When I disagree with her, which is not as often as other conservative columnists, usually my disagreement is somewhat nuanced.

Not this time.

In calling for personal responsibility in diet and weight control (versus "nanny statism") that call is only made to individual consumers, individual eaters of food. Big Ag and Big Food, for making portion sizes too big, using too much salt, sugar and not-so-good fats in food in the first place? Nooo ... to regulate them would be "nanny statism."

Bible quiz! Marriage, sex and more!

No, not by a Gnu Atheist, but the eminently mainstream New York Times columnist Nick Kristof. That said, fundamentalist types, if they answer the simple questions by a blindered belief system, will fail.

Long-term unemployed 99ers, without help, set record

Behind the smiley faces of falling unemployment rates in most states is this ugly reality: the long-term unemployed, those unemployed more than 99 weeks and therefore ineligible for further extended unemployment benefits, is now at 2 million.

People unemployed more than 6 months is nearly half the total. People unemployed more than a year is nearly one-third the total.

And, as the story notes, there's people who land jobs, only to lose them again in just weeks or a couple of months, often through no fault of their own. Since they got a full-time job, no matter how short, it broke the "streak" so they don't count as 99ers.

Add in the social-Darwinist job ads that say "no unemployed need apply," sounding vulgarly reflective of the 1840s "no Irish need apply," and it's clear that we have a long ways to go before we should be smiling too much.

What? Gnu Atheists NOT raptured to Mecca?

Well, the day is over and I haven't seen any Gnu Atheists raptured to Mecca to draw friendly, cuddly pictures of Muhammad for pilgrims at the hajj. Soooooo disappointed.

But, since both the rapture-Not! and Draw Muhammad Day are about done, you can still Draw a Gnu Atheist.

As I said on the Draw Muhammad post, "cui bono"? To what benefit is this day?

Does it, in and of itself, actually bolster free speech that much? Probably not much more than Justice Holmes' famous dictum about yelling fire in a crowded theater. What would probably help more is writing the U.S. and UN embassies of relatively moderate Islamic-majority countries, encouraging them to be more supportive of free speech, countries such as, say Jordan or Turkey.

Does it benefit more liberal-minded Muslims? Of course not. Especially in countries of some openness in the Muslim world, by painting a picture of yet more Americans tarring all Muslims with the same brush, it backfires, and potentially hurts them. That said, the majority of Gnu ringleaders, or "cadre formers," if you're P.Z. Myers (his post on the Mooney-Lindsey interview), prefer to lump the masses of believers of any religion with the most regressive elements within them.

Does it actually do anything vis-a-vis fundamentalist Muslim leaders? Of course not. It won't get them to suddenly "repent" of violence, narrow-mindedness, misogyny or other actual or alleged defects.

Does it benefit atheism or secular humanism in general? Absolutely not, and especially not in those countries I just mentioned.

Draw Muhammad Day is like using a shotgun instead of a rifle. Of course, for PZ, Jerry Coyne, et al, seem to like confrontation for confrontation's sake. Like ... Lenin! Another "cadre former" was he, after all.

May 20, 2011

Worrying good for your wallet? Or is this Pop Ev Psych

So says a member of the one school of economics that is actually scientific: behavioral economics.

True? Or maybe "ehhh"? Or even more problematic?

Research says good worrying can prevent dumb decisions, Robert H. Frank claims.

First, before I get to the meat of Frank's column, you have to love this quote:
The late Amos Tversky, a Stanford psychologist and a founding father of behavioral economics, used to say, “My colleagues, they study artificial intelligence; me, I study natural stupidity.”
And that's why behavioral economics is scientific; it doesn't start with the straw man of "Homo rationalis."

On the other hand, claiming that "the anxiety we feel about whether we’ll succeed (in finding an ideal job) is evolution’s way of motivating us" veers close to Pop Evolutionary Psychology.

Anxiety can fulfill that role; whether it evolved to do so, or the more ancient hominid equivalent thereof, is an entirely different question.

It stands to reason that some degree of anxiety produces a certain drive and focus. But, high-quality jobs as a Maluthusian-constrained "driver" of evolutionary change? Ahh, that's social/cultural evolution, not biological. And, if you look at the short length of human life since the development of civilization and ideas about jobs, differentiation of labor and private property, that doesn't seem enough time to be an evolutionary driver.

Then, there's this:
In every domain, people who work harder are more likely to succeed professionally, more likely to make a difference.
Well, Frank doesn't say if professional success equates to larger-life success. He doesn't talk about how the word "success," other than, in a simple evolutionary issue of "staying alive," is defined culturally.

And, there's yet other problems with Frank's column.

Per things such as happiness quotients, does job success, above a certain level, outweigh nonjob ennui, angst or even self-loathing? Or does it outweigh high blood pressure, obesity, alcohol or drug problems and other ways of trying to control this anxiety?

Also, it doesn't address genetic-based vs. societal-based differences in different people's baseline anxiety levels.

Nor does it address differences in acceptable vs. unacceptable anxiety, etc. across cultures.

And, per various happiness quotients, it doesn't address how much job success, especially the monetary part, does or does not contribute to broader happiness.

Don't get me wrong; I love behavioral economics' scientific insight into matters economic. I just don't want it jumping the shark into the world of Pop Ev Psych. Or, the shark-jumping of lack of research and just-so of non-behavioral economics.

'Americanism matters' but hypocrisy doesn't

Beyond writing a blathering paean to American exceptionalism, Mona Charen also wrote a blathering bit of hypocrisy in the same column.

That's because, in the past, in other columns, she's shown that for her, "Americanism matters" must always be "nuanced" by Zionism when it comes to Israel.

That said, her American exceptionalism blather is summed up here:
Liberals always worry that a celebration of American greatness will descend into chauvinism, triumphalism, or denial of the mistakes and crimes of American history.
Actually, many liberals aren't a lot better on that than many conservatives.

And, that said, chauvinism? Let's not forget "freedom fries." Triumphalism? The "bin Laden is dead" sports-like celebration orgies.

Denial of mistakes? She quotes Calvin Coolidge:
“If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy.”
Misinterpretation of the First Amendment in witch-hunting paganism and promoting Christianity, sometimes under the fig leaf of "Judeo-Christian heritage" with the abetting of Jewish conservatives like Charen, comes immediately to mind as a mistake.

Invasive species crowd out wildflowers

A before-and-after picture is indeed worth 1,000 words. To read the words that explain what's behind the unscenic absence of California lupine near Salinas and elsewhere, go here.

Majority of U.S. supports legal same-sex marriage

Per Gallup, legal same-sex marriage now has 53 percent support.

The shift was all among Democrats and self-identified independents; Republicans didn't move. However, by political philosophy, self-described conservatives did become slightly more favorable.

On the age break, it gets above 50 percent for all age groups of women, and at 50 percent or above for all age groups of men.

So, how long will the GOP continue to resist and how long with the Democrats kowtow to a resisting GOP?

May 19, 2011

Global warming cuts crop production

So much for the Green Revolution touted by cornucopian heirs to Julian Simon.

Over the last 30 years, global wheat and corn production is off almost 5 percent.

The study also claims the U.S. hasn't warmed during that time, something I would like to see get more study, since that, the claim U.S. crops haven't declined, the overall claims, and the global warming link are all based on computer modeling. Also, how much is due to global warming, and how much due to other anthropogenic induced change, like rainfall pattern differences?

Patriot Act sneakiness

Congressional leaders of both halves of the two-party duopoly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner, are working to get passed a four-year extension of the Patriot Act with as little publicity as possible.
The legislation would extend three expiring provisions until June 1, 2015, officials said.

The provisions at issue allow the government to use roving wiretaps on multiple electronic devices and across multiple carriers and get court-approved access to business records relevant to terrorist investigations. The third, a "lone wolf" provision that was part of a 2004 law, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. individuals without having to show a connection between the target and a specific terrorist group.
And, of course, Herr President Obama, he of the "changiness," will immediately sign it into law.

"Now more than ever, we need access to the crucial authorities in the Patriot Act," Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This coming from the AG who has done a boss's butt-kissing volte face on civilian trials for people in Guantanamo and who is now siccing his Justice Department on marijuana operations in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Is it implausible that the War on Drugs sees the use of the word "terrorist" in the near future?

Texas schools lawsuit ahead?

Tricky Ricky, aka Gov. Helmethair, and a GOP with a supermajority in the state House and the equivalent of one in the state Senate still aren't likely to get a budget passed without a special session.

And, Perry admits that having to go to a special session will do plenty to mar the "Texas miracle" mythology he's been peddling to visiting Californios, etc.

And, the one they do pass is going to financially stiff school districts of money the state is legally obligated to pay them. Or was, coming up to this legislative session.

And, Perry is holding budget issues hostage while pushing for House Bill 9, his higher education "reform" bill, to be passed. (It would establish performance-based funding for state schools, based on six-year graduation rates with degrees in several key fields, targeting the graduation rate of "at risk students." Most minority-group advocacy organizations, such as NAACP and LULAC, run from somewhat opposed to strongly opposed.

Ozzie Smith-Tony La Russa tops aging player feuds?

At least it does for ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

In the most recent edition of his Starting 9 column, he ranks the dustup between The Wizard of Oz and Tony the Pony as No. 1 in animus level of an aging superstar getting the cold shoulder in some way from somebody in management, sometimes along with players.

As far as nuclear level, he rates this and Sammy Sosa vs. Cubs both a 10 on the player's part.

That said, Slamming Sammy was tossed away, post-roiding fallout. But, he had never endeared himself to his teammates the way Ozzie did, let alone to the general public.

Ozzie? He had good reason to be PO-ed. Royce Clayton getting moved ahead of him? Throw out that shoulder surgery year in 1995 and look at both 1994 and his swan song of 1996. Sure, it was with abbreviated time both years, but in 1994 he was slightly above his career batting numbers and definitely ahead of them in 1996.

Fielding, his HOF meal ticket? Perhaps not above his average, but still above league averages on range factor and fielding percentage both, both years. A 1.2 dWAR in 1994 and 0.4 in 1996. Total zone runs also solidly positive both years.

Add in that Oz won two MLB service awards near the end of his career, the Branch Rickey in 1994 and the Roberto Clemente in 1995, and to say La Russa handled this poorly is the understatement of the baseball decade.

Of Crasnick's list, I think Frank Thomas vs. Kenny Williams is the only one that can really compare.

Obama - real or fake on Palestinian borders?

Short answer? He's still more fake than real.

The New York Times does not fluff President Barack Obama's support for Palestine to have 1967 borders as much as the Christian Science Monitor implies, but it fluffs it enough.

After admitting Obama said 1967 is just a "starting point," the old gray lady claims:
The shift is significant because it means America now explicitly backs the view that new Israeli settlement construction outside those borders would have to be reversed — or compensated for by exchanges of territory — in talks over the formation of a new Palestinian state.
Wrong. It doesn't mean that at all. Since 1967 borders are just a "starting point," any denoument doesn't imply any compensation at all.

Rather, Obama could mean that an eventual borders deal will result in something halfway between 1967 and current Israeli annexations.

Indeed, he himself says this later on, though the Times buries the quote near the end of the story:
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said. “The Palestinian must have the right to govern themselves and reach their potential in sovereign and contiguous state.”
Note that? Mutually agreed swaps. That's your code language.

And, speaking of language, did you hear the phrase "right of return" anywhere? Of course not.

Anyway, to stop future Israeli settlements, until Obama does something serious, like his predecessor George H.W. Bush impounding foreign aid to Israel until it stopped building, we'll really know he's still more fake than real.

Beyond that, the Monitor is right to note that Obama was engaged in semantics more than anything else:
The first paragraph of the story, filed from Washington, is quite dramatic. Obama, "seeking to harness the seismic political change unfolding in the Arab world... publicly called for the borders prevailing before the 1967 Israeli-Arab war to be the baseline for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the first time an American president has explicitly taken that position."

The only problem is, it's not much of a shift at all. The key word in that opening paragraph is the world "explicitly." What it means in this context, is that he said something that multiple presidents have said before him, but with slightly weaker language. What did he say? "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

That an eventual settlement would be based around borders from before the 1967 war, with land "swaps" of some kind to reflect the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has been a central assumption behind the peace process kicked off under President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s and pursued with subtle variations by presidents George W. Bush and Obama after him.
So, the Beltway media establishment uncritically fluffs Obama on the Middle East, while the Monitor picks up on the key of "swaps."

The Monitor goes on to provide more evidence Obama's still more fake than real:
He also sought to shoot down Palestinian efforts to win recognition for an independent state at the United Nations, something the Palestinian Authority has been gearing up for in September.

"For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state," Obama said, in a speech in which he repeatedly praised nonviolent protest in other parts of the region in pursuit of national "self-determination."
Did Mahmoud Abbas say the General Assembly must boot Israel as the price of Palestinian admission, like Beijing did with Taiwan?

Nope, nope, nope.

And, UN membership is "symbolic"? Well, if you're the U.S. and picking and choosing UN actions to accept or not, I guess the answer is yes.

True, Bibi Netanyahu expressed outrage over the speech, but he'd express outrage if a non-Zionist told him his watch was off by 5 minutes.

Ed Schultz is an Obamiac asshat

I've long suspected Schultz's prairie progressivism was more schtick than substance. (Kids, that's alliteration in the service of journalism; don't try this at home alone.) Given his previous, pre-Obama tendencies and political leaniongs, there's also been reason to suspect why it's fakery. Ed used to be a wingnut.

Anyway, there's good proof of that.

He's apparently a blank-check defender of Obama's Bush-like views on extensive executive power in foreign affairs, or at least can't stand to see an action of Obama's (in this case, the bin Laden killing) questioned.

He's enough of an asshat to actually call into David Sirota's radio talk show and take Sirota to task for asking the very questions Ed would ask were he a real progressive. Here you go (h/t Salon):

May 18, 2011

Zionism on dangerous ascent in Israel

For Americans who still want to pretend that the interests of Israel and the Uhited States should move in lockstep, let me introduce you to what passes for a mainstream politician there.

Danny Danon of the ruling Likud Policy is not a "backbencher." He's deputy speaker of the Israel Parliament, the Knesset.

Here's his Middle East peace "solution": Annex the Israeli-settled part of the West Bank. No, really.
While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
And put the Palestinians in the unannexed but Israel-surrounded areas into citizenship-lacking apartheid.

No, really.
These (unannexed) Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
And, because the U.S., above all, has kissed Zionism's (not "Israel's") butt for decades, Danon says Israel can do this and get away with it too.

No, really:
In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion moved the Knesset to Jerusalem and declared it the capital of the State of Israel despite the 1947 United Nations partition plan, which had designated the city an international zone. Immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol annexed East Jerusalem and declared that the city would remain a united and undivided entity. And in 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin extended Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights.

In each of these cases, Israel’s actions were met with harsh international criticism and threats of sanctions; all of these decisions, however, are cornerstones of today’s reality.
In 1967, when Israel attacked the USS Liberty, LBJ should have strafed Tel Aviv. And, no, given Israel's four-decade record since then of stealth assassinations and more, the claims that the attack was deliberate are NOT conspiracy mongering.

But, no matter the current or upcoming occupant of the White House, the kissing of Zionism's (not "Israel's") butt will continue as certainly as sunset follows sunrise.

The myth that Texas never raises taxes?

Things like Section 7 of Senate Bill 1811 of the Texas Legislature, with passenger airlines and Amtrak getting nickeled (literally) with a five-cent per-drink-served tax, instead of old beverage permit fees, show that it's a myth indeed.

And, no, not surprising ... this is the "smoke" half of smoke and mirrors.

Plus, is it business-friendly to make airlines go through all this paperwork? And, how do you determine a drink served in Texas with an airplane?

Beyond that, SB 1811 has plenty of other smoke, like speeding up business reporting requirements to the last day of August rather than Sept. 15, for example:
Each permittee who is liable for the taxes imposed by this subchapter shall file not later than the last workday of August of each odd-numbered year the report that would otherwise have been due on or before September 15 of that year under Subsection (a) without accounting for any credit or discount to which the permittee is entitled. The report must contain estimates for the month of August of the information ordinarily required on the report if it were filed in September.
Another bit of smoke? Increasing the cigarette tax a teeny bit:
SECTION 7.06. Section 154.021(b), Tax Code, is amended to read as follows:
(b) The tax rates are:
(1) $70.51 [up from $70.50] per thousand on cigarettes weighing three pounds or less per thousand;
A penny a thousand? Not even "nickeling," BUT ...

It IS a tax increase.


And, Tricky Ricky, aka Gov. Helmethair, and a GOP with a supermajority in the state House and the equivalent of one in the state Senate still aren't likely to get a budget passed without a special session.

A few brief e-responses I'd like to send

Dear ACLU: Yes, I know I'm not a member. I've not given you a dime since the whole fallout over Executive Director Anthony Romero teaching the Ford Foundation how to comply with the Patriot Act became public and he and then-President Nadine Strossen purged three board members who were also upset. But, waste away on your paper pleas to me.

Dear Nation: I might consider subscribing ... about the same time you'd consider endorsing the Green Party candidate for president in 2012 instead of Obama. I'm sure you'll get back to me quickly on that one.

Dear Truthout: I'll consider subscribing when you publish more house-produced material.

Dear Harold Camping: If a Christian dies one day before the rapture, why?

Government - bigger is happier

Maybe part of why tea partiers are so crabby is that the American government is TOO SMALL. Among industrial democracies, at least, a bigger, more socially supportive (ie, national healthcare and and other safety net items) government tends to lead to happier citizens.

Obama hypocrisy - sanctions on Syria, not Bahrain (or Israel)

Yes, U.S. President Barack Obama is going to impose sanctions on Syria for its brutal crackdown on dissent, but not Bahrain. Nor Mubarak-era Egypt.

Nor, of course, Israel in light of the Goldstone Report.

Once again, feel the "change"? The fresh new air in foreign policy?

I thought so.

Michael Shermer — pseudoskeptical doorknob

Any alleged skeptic who lumps real concerns about the fear of degree of effect of anthropogenic global warming with Harold Camping's rapture nuttery is clearly no real skeptic, and is beyond Penn and Teller, even.

But, that's what he does!

Let's take a further look at Shermer's secular end of days that, for whatever likely nonskeptical reasons, he lumped with Harold Camping and other Xn millenialists:
There are also secular end of days, from Karl Marx’s end of capitalism and Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, to natural and man-made doomsdays brought about by overpopulation, pollution, nuclear winter, genetically engineered viruses, Y2K, solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions, polar shifts, super volcanoes, resource depletion, runaway nanotechnology, and most notably, global warming. In his book Our Final Hour, the British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees put our chances of surviving the 21st century at 50 percent. Last year Stephen Hawking famously warned humanity that contact with aliens could result in our enslavement or extinction.
Marx was unscientific, and his followers even more so. Everybody this side of Pyongyang knows that. Beyond that, contra Shermer, Chicago Schoolers, etc., economics (except for behavioral economics) is less scientific than sociology or psychology, even. Fukuyama was making a political statement, and has since backed off it himself. So, just scratch these from being lumped with scientific "apocalypses."

Nuclear winter? Modelers who were worried about that scientifically looked again at their calculations and admitted they'd overstated it.

Pollution? Still a problem. But, less so, with nonlibertarian regulatory schemes in the US and other advanced nations. If Shermer thinks pollution isn't a problem in general, I've got some Beijing air I'll pump into his house.

Overpopulation? If all of the upwardly-estimated 9 billion ppl on planet Earth at 2100 want to live like Shermer likely does, and other "average Americans," it will probably be a big problem in terms of AGW, degree of effects of AGW, resource depletion, etc.

Ditto for resource depletion to hit that one. Shermer apparently hasn't heard of Peak Oil, Peak Copper and more. (Paul Ehrlich just picked the wrong time frame for his bet with Julian Simon on copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten.)

Wikipedia, talking of their bet, notes that Simon declined a more expansive follow-up bet.

Solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions? Fringe science at best, and it's been known as such all along. More intellectual dishonesty to lump them with legitimate "scientific apocalypses."

Shifting magnetic poles, if that's what Shermer meant? Unknown what damage that might do; that said, the highest alarmists don't seem to have too much evidence.

Nanotechnology? Luddites aside, who knows what might happen as a result of that. Given the rising police state within the United States, maybe we should be alarmed about the possibility of nano-spying. Very alarmed. Ditto for libertarian-beloved big corporations getting ideas in that area.

Hawking on aliens? Well, if they had hostile intent, and the capability for interstellar travel, he's 120 percent right, Shermer. You're a doorknob for mocking a prediction like that.

Surviving the century? While I've not seen anybody besides Rees put odds on it, I have seen other people worry about whether Homo technologus, at least, will survive in current form.

Who knows how close India and Pakistan may be to nuclear war right now, for example?

This all said, Live Science also gives a realistic presentation of scientific apocalypses.

It evenincludes Shermer's pseudoscientific "heaven" - the Singularity!

Speaking of, that's the single biggest reason to not take Shermer seriously on this. As long as he's fellating Ray Kurzweil, we know he's a ....

Crackpot. Not a religious one like Camping, but a crackpot nonetheless.

Michael Shermer ... crackpot, at least at times.

May 17, 2011

Dear America, dear GOP: there ARE third parties

A new Gallup poll shows a majority of Republicans want a third party, as shown below:

I note in reply:

Dear GOPers — there ARE third parties. Now, all you have to do is vote for them. In fact, there's already a "Religious Right" party in place for you. It's called the Constitution Party, and it's where Ron Paul should have run in 1988, since he's not a real libertarian. (Gary Johnson IS, and I wonder, in a GOP subplot, if he can best Paul.)

For non-social con types, Randians, etc., there is the Libertarian Party.

The poll graphic notes that it's the party out of power, specifically, out of White House power, that bitches about the need for a third party. And, yes, the American system is geared against third parties in a variety of ways, organically, and the organic impediments are amplified by both halves of the two-party duopoly.

Nonetheless, consistent, conscientious third-party voting, by enough people for long enough, can force change. It has in the past, with populists, etc. of the late 1800s eventually leading the Dems to nominate William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and the GOP to counter with Teddy Roosevelt for Veep four years later.

The same holds true for bitching Dems.

Team Obama's latest sellout — the EPA

This should come as no surprise, of course, but the Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will delay implementing a tighter rule on industrial emissions.

To you "My Democrats right or wrong" types — It's like "enabling" an alcoholic, especially one who doesn't want to stop quaffing from the right-hand side of the neoliberal cup of wine, or stop doing the neoliberal shuffle. Until the Democratic Party is punished in general elections for nominating people like him, nothing will change.


Obama will NOT rescind Bush tax cuts if re-elected. He will NOT speed up EPA rule m aking.

And, even before re-election, he won't get tough on the banksters. He won't propose REAL mortgage relief. He won't come up with new worker-friendly ideas to help the economy. Etc., etc.

Admit Palestine to the UN? Sounds like a good idea

Well, why not? It is a nation. And, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas makes a good case. But, several issues abound.

First, the U..S. will use the Fatah-Hamas rapproachment to fight against this idea.

Second, Abbas ignores that Jordan took over the West Bank in 1948. True, it relinquished its legal claims in the 1990s, but it illustrates that the Palestinians have often been the red-headed stepchild of the Arab world. And, theoretically, if Jordan hadn't acted as it did, maybe Palestine could have been (it should have been) admitted along with Israel in the first place.

Anyway, if it did happen now, it would be fun to see Bibi Netanyahu shitting a few bricks.

Billy Graham is master of the obvious — and the clueless

Actually, he's more the master of his interpretation of the obvious, when he says people are atheists because "they want to run their own lives." Actually, the fact of the matter is an acknowledgment of running our own lives.

Other than that, he repeats all the fundamentalist-type accusations about atheism — it allegedly can't explain why we exist/where we came from (try the Big Bang, and evolutionary biology, with details of abiogenesis between the two still being worked out); it allegedly leads to despair (a Religious Right wet dream of hell on earth for atheists); it imputes everything to chance (not true, evolutionary events lead to contingencies further down the line of development and chance vs. design is a false dichotomy); atheism allegedly can't tell right from wrong (nonsense, we see a common core of morals, with some moral relativity or situational moralism at the edges — just as fundies engage in relativistic or situational moral beliefs at times), etc., etc.

Of course, Billy Graham has never, I'm sure, had an honest, open dialogue with a real, live atheist.

May 16, 2011

Newt hearts oldsters, not poor — especially not sick ones

That's the bottom line behind Newt Gingrich slamming Paul Ryan's Medicare revamp.

Senor citizens vote, and often vote Republican.

But, Ryan's plan to revamp Medicaid?

Newt's totally down with that.

The poor don't vote as often (and nursing-home bound seniors pretty much don't vote at all), and when the poor DO vote, they don't vote GOP as often.

So, to call Ryan's Medicare plan "right-wing social engineering" is just another right-wing lie inside the small tent.

May 15, 2011

Positivity BS

Tali Sharot, in talking up the desirability of semi-blind, semi-irrational optimism, shows he has never read Barbara Ehrenreich. He's also never read more serious studies on the benefits of pessimistic thinking.

With the BS he offers new college grads, she needs to. Helicopter-mommed students need a good dose of both reality and humility.

Beyond that, the idea of think everything will be rosy? It's a small-scale, individualized version of American exceptionalism. Also, it at least opens the door to some version of social Darwinist thinking, or, among people of certain religious mindsets, success gospel thinking.

Now, in the past, friends and coworkers have known me to promote a certain amount of positivity. That said, mine was of the level of "things will most likely turn out OK in the end," and not, "I'll make senior partner at a major law firm within 10 years."

Second, there's a difference between talking positivity to a small group of friends, where a certain level of realism, and a certain level of "hedging," can be seen. vs. mass psychologizing of 10,000 college grads.

Finally, per the advantages of thinking more realistically at times, "positivity" of Sharot's type can often be denialism. That includes denying these realities — helicopter-mommed students running the asylum, possibly not learning that much.