Friday, July 30, 2010
I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
Anne Rice, Wednesday and Thursday, on her Facebook page.
Welcome back to the real world, Ms. Rice.
If you backed Obama and want to see real change continue, now is not the time to give up because it's not as easy as you thought it would be. Now is the time to oppose the passionate intensity of his opponents with the reasoned conviction that elected him.
Remember: we are the ones we've been waiting for. Are we really going to substitute pique for purpose and ennui for hope now? By all means criticize when necessary, as I have. But he's the best we've got, and we are lucky to have him.
Each level of sociopolitical progress was grinding and grueling and packed with half-measures -- because remember, the other side gets its say, too; plus the other side, notwithstanding our oft-proper ridicule, is not always without its own version of idealism, possessed just as passionately.
That, quite simply, is the way it is. Indeed, that's the way it's supposed to be. If genuine conservative genius there ever was, it came in the Founders' Burkean inspiration that true and lasting progress must pass the tests of peaceful struggle and tireless debate.
"Peaceful struggle and tireless debate" is America. The pseudo America visible on our TV screens, heard through our radio speakers, and read/viewed on the internet and in the press, is the farce that many in America would rather see. It gives us permission to blame the other, to abdicate personal responsibility, to be intellectually lazy and morally superior. Progress, and true conservation, comes when both ends meet in the middle. The cynicism of those who work in and/or are elected to high offices in government, on the backs and wallets of cynical corporatists driven to maximize profit and ensure continued dominance in their industries, render well-intentioned but generally ignorant ordinary citizens impotent. This impotence leads to anger and, because they lack access to those in higher offices, turn to the media or other opportunists only too willing to separate them from their money and fuel their anger enough to ensure that more money continues to flow.
As Einstein said, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." And, "The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow."
Thursday, July 29, 2010
8. Upon your return to the office, when your premature infant is three days old, would you (a) keep him at home in the care of a baby nurse, where he can receive UV light treatment for his jaundice along with careful monitoring, should he develop any complications due his congenital heart defect; and as your staff will be excited for you, take some family baby pictures to work, thus avoiding the dangers of exposing such a vulnerable baby to the germ-filled environment of your office or (b) bring him with you to the office so you can show him off for photo opportunities?
Sarah Palin chose (b).
The Tea Party is not the Republicans to claim. This is the citizen's movement and we will not stand for any politicians to try to use us for their own political gain.Blunt, who is running against 18 other candidates on the ballot, voted both for the TARP stimulus package and Cash for Clunkers, so one can imagine that he's not their favorite. Blunt skipped the state's first Tea Party rally in April 2009, and has since not been invited to any other. Blunt is expected to win his party's primary without much trouble.
If Blunt wins the primary, what then for the Missouri Tea Partiers? Do they pack up their stuff and sit out the election, risking that a Democrat might actually win? Do they endorse a write-in candidate who more closely reflects their warped, twisted, largely racist view of America, which could split the GOP vote and help Blunt's Democratic opponent? Do they publicly walk away from their heroine, Bachmann, undermining their credibility by losing a key connection in the Congress? If the Tea Party truly upheld the values implicit in the quoted statement above, then it would follow that they would probably distance themselves from the Republican Party, since the Republicans, in general, have never been known to adhere to any sort of creed other than the total defeat of the Democratic Party.
No, my guess is that they'll drink the Blunt Kool-Aid and eventually endorse him. Blunt, in a gesture of goodwill, will show up at a rally, endure a few catcalls, and say a number of red-meat-style things that will fire up this bloc of voters, solidifying their quasi-relationship. I don't think the Tea Party could afford to piss off Bachmann in any way, because, as a Republican populist, she's just going to get behind whatever movement supports her continued reelection.
When Palin endorses Blunt, by the way, the die will be cast.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.Wikipedia’s entry for satire reveals the following:
In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.Now, without the benefit of context, see if you can find the satire in the following:
Dear Mr. Lincoln -- We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop! …This is from the full text of a “letter” written by Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams, a radio talk show host and CNN’s favorite spokesman for the Tea Party movement, on his blog, in response to a recent resolution adopted by the NAACP that calls for the Tea Party movement to repudiate its “racist elements.”
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government "stop raising our taxes." That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?
The letter, which Williams has since been taken down due to criticism from within the Tea Party movement itself, was intended as satire. But where is the intent to push the NAACP and/or the people it represents into improvement, or the construction social criticism? Meanwhile, CNN reports that the National Tea Party Federation has booted the Tea Party Express and Williams from its ranks.
File this under the same heading as their calling Obama both a Nazi and a Stalinist. Stay classy, guys!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
In case you don't know Palin's story -- as then governor of Alaska, Palin travelled to Texas while in her eighth month of pregnancy (at age 44 with a special needs baby growing inside her) to deliver a speech to a convention. She reports in her book that she woke up that morning leaking amniotic fluid and feeling contractions, yet she soldiered on and delivered her speech ("big laughs, more contractions), travelled back to the hotel, then to the airport. At that point she boarded and apparently comfortably sat in her seat on two transcontinental flights (never once letting a single flight attendant know that she was pregnant and in labor) to get to Anchorage, then got in a car and drove more than an hour to the local hospital near Wasilla, which was not equipped to handle the birth of a special needs baby who might need intensive care.
Now, reporters right and left (and not a few bloggers) have wondered why she made these choices to travel across North America while in labor and with broken water, at age 44 with a Down Syndrome baby (and even to travel to Texas in the first place). Reporters have looked at pictures of Palin during earlier pregnancies and wondered how she could not have been visibly showing a baby bump. They have wondered why she has adamantly refused to put the rumors and speculation to rest by providing a copy of Trig's birth certificate showing her to be his mother. They have wondered if it's true that Palin refers to Trig as her "retarded baby" while she claims to be a "mama grizzly" defending her child at all costs. Blogger Dave Weigel says that none of this stuff matters at all, which has prompted a huge debate over at The Daily Dish.
Well, today a Sullivan reader hits the nail on the head with why all of this stuff actually matters (reader's italics):
The fundamental problem with the story isn't that it's physically improbable, though. It isn't even that it may not be true. It's that either way, it does more to discredit her than help her. It's possible that somehow, someway, she managed to leak amniotic fluid and undergo contractions with enough stealth that the assembled convention-goers and later airline staff did not cotton on that the professedly pregnant governor was in fact giving birth to a high-risk baby. If it's true, though, she was doing herself no favors. It makes no sense to act the way she did if she was in labor, none whatsoever. Does acting stupidly automatically mean the story's false? No. But it does mean she put herself and her unborn child in inexcusable risk, in a situation that demanded that critical decisions be made quickly and calmly.
Was she deliberately choosing to put her unborn child in danger? Was she simply not thinking? Either way, her decisions, as she related them, make her look like a poor person to have making important decisions in a high-stakes environment. If she was indeed so careless and thoughtless with the safety of her own baby, how can we, the voters, believe that she would be any more cautious with the nation?
Exactly. When every single health professional with even a passing interest in obstetrics would say that her travelling during her eighth month AT AGE 44, and particularly while in labor, and forgoing all manner of medical attention until she got back to Wasilla, all while carrying a special needs child, was a fucking insane thing to do. If this is an example of her judgment during a critical moment, how are we to judge her temperament as leader of the free world?
Of course, her acolytes will twist this to mean that she would do anything and suffer anything to protect her family, so we should expect the same level of commitment and sacrifice from her as president. But that makes no sense: a president can and should be as committed and dedicated as that without resorting to life-threatening recklessness.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I don't think that classical economists would make the argument that the market never gets things wrong, but they may have a different take as to why mistakes get repeated/aggregated and what to do about them. In the subprime mortgage example given, classical economists would point to three market problems - information asymmetry, agency problems and government intervention. Information asymmetry shows up when investors buy mortgage pools, but have no idea about the underlying credit-worthiness of the borrowers. Agency problems arise when the mortgage broker offering the mortgage has no downside exposure to default. Government intervention makes it all possible when Fannie and Freddie implicitly back the debt with the taxpayer's future income streams.
Anti-market types will search for solutions in more regulation. Market disciples would call for a break-up of Fannie and Freddie and increased information availability regarding the mortgages in the pools. We had plenty of regulations and regulators on the job already, and they couldn't get past Barney Frank and his gang. So going forward, this market disciple would prefer we go with the approach of increased information and less government involvement. Of course, we are getting exactly the opposite.
How about both more information and more government involvement? See, who is going to make sure that the information provided by the private market is correct and sufficiently adequate -- the market? Oh yeah, that may be, if we trusted those who made the market, but in the case of the mortgage industry, it's painfully obvious that information is filtered and tailored to the needs of the shareholders of the company with the mortgage product. Unless the level of information dissemination is managed by the government, there is nothing to ensure it gets done. Of course, the government can and does frequently do it wrong and do it badly, but I'd rather have that than a private enterprise with no accountability and the arrogance of the profit motive determining how much information is enough information.
Another fallacy is the idea that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can suddenly be jettisoned in favor of a less government-reliant substitute. When one considers the facts that Fannie and Freddie literally have trillions of dollars at their beck and call, and own trillions of dollars' worth of mortgages, which are then sold to investors around the world, which gives it and us more money to lend out, which keeps more people employed (like me), I can't see a private market alternative that wouldn't take years and years to develop.
Finally, the reader gets it partially wrong that brokers have no downside to default. It is true that a small shop that does nothing but broker loans has little downside if a loan goes into default, since by the time the borrower goes into default that broker may be out of business or may be forced out of business. Still, there are those shops who use their own funds to make loans that they can sell directly to Fannie/Freddie or an institutional lender who then turns around and sells it to Fannie/Freddie. If a loan goes into default within a certain period of time (usually 90 days), those lenders must re-purchase the loan. There are also financial checks on the sellers of those mortgages to make sure that they have adequate loan loss reserves to be able to repurchase the loans. True, those shops could also fold up and declare bankruptcy, which basically proves one true thing: the locked door only keeps out the honest man.
Brandon McInerny, age 14 at the time of the killing, is charged with first degree murder with a gun enhancement charge and a hate crime allegation. He is being tried as an adult, and faces a maximum penalty of 53 years to life in prison. The defense had rejected an earlier plea offer from the prosecution of a reduced charge that carried a sentence of 25 years to life.
While everyone would readily agree that killing this classmate, for any reason whatsoever, was a horrible crime, is justice going to be served by sending this child to prison for 53 years? By trying him as an adult, the state of California is saying it has absolutely no reason to try to help this boy understand what he did and to turn him into a responsible adult who can rejoin society. The decision to try him as an adult smells of politics and pandering to interest groups (just like the hate crime charge). I don't deny that the alleged romantic overture had sparked intense agitation for McInerny, and I'm not a legal expert, but couldn't his reaction be as much a product of an immature mind?
If he'd been 18 and still done this, I would of course call this a hate crime, because by that time -- at least in the opinion of the state -- he should know better than to react that way. But children sometimes act in ways that defy all logic because their brains do not have the capacity to discern that their behavior is wrong.
Yes, I know that any adolescent child should know that killing is wrong, but that doesn't answer the fact that there might perhaps be some adolescent children who don't know that killing is wrong, especially after one's entire sexual identity at that tender age is being questioned. I've had gay men hit on me before, and I have politely and calmly told them I'm not attracted to men. Should they press the matter in an obnoxious way, however, I could see myself getting a little firmer and telling them to piss off.
But I can't imagine myself at 14, when although I was first discovering sexuality was completely sure I was attracted to girls, not flying off the handle and freaking out that some guy told me he liked me in a sexual or romantic way. I don't think I could have dealt with the looks I would have gotten by classmates who would be questioning (or even asserting) that now I was gay (the words would have been much harsher too). The embarrassment, confusion, and shame that I would likely have experienced (not to mention the physical violence I would have encountered by some of the boys I knew back then) would have completely messed me up. I don't think I would have gone for a gun, but there would have been a lot of very crazy thoughts going through my mind.
So while the choice McInerny made is clearly wrong, I can understand what his state of mind might have been. And for that reason, I think that trying him as an adult and placing him in an adult facility after he serves time in a juvenile facility is the wrong thing to do. I think a case can probably be made for involuntary manslaughter and a much lesser sentence (too bad that the defense appears to be too obtuse to get that).
I'm putting my money on the Palin-ization of politics. Partly this is because the mainstream press is dying anyway, and partly it's because Palin and others are demonstrating that you really don't need conventional press coverage to win. In fact, as Rand Paul and Sharron Angle can testify, it's a real risk. Between YouTube and Twitter and Facebook and blogs and friendly talk radio hosts — as well as more conventional things like TV ads and database-driven phone outreach — who needs the New York Times? Increasingly, I'll bet the answer is, no one.
So far, you haven't seen many Democrats follow this model, but you will. And then what? Whom will the press cover then? Each other?
Monday, July 12, 2010
Well, here's Rubin's over-wrought and over-thought response:
None of this is untrue, of course. But it's over-wrought because it's set in a vacuum. King Hussein has been dead a long time, way before the Iraq War (the one with the "bad Hussein"). Reading Rubin's comments shows how he completely lacks context. Obama's off the cuff comment was made to American media outlets in front of American news cameras, so his audience was almost certainly American. And it's clear that a great many Americans do not like that his middle name is Hussein; otherwise, why would Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and a whole host of right-wing media types have made such a big deal of it during his campaign in 2008? In fact, Coulter referred to him as "B. Hussein Obama" in many of her columns. Right wingers also "mistakenly" referred to him as "Obama bin Laden" or "Barack Osama." The whole idea was to cement the link between terrorism/Islamism/"Other-ism" and the Democrat from Illinois. Further, the Israeli government and political climate is about as close to the American neocon right as it has ever been.
Obama was initially--when he had the same name as he does now--quite popular in Israel as polls show. Only when he evinced hostility did the attitude of Israelis change sharply.
[Also], that same name belies the implication that Israelis are biased against him because of his middle name. Israelis, after all, have dealt with two famous Husseins: King Hussein of Jordan and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The former was a good friend, the most popular Arab leader in Israeli history. (Note 1)
So one can be a good Hussein or a bad Hussein. Of course the issue with this third Hussein is his policies. And that's why I find his saying this thing far more upsetting.
So yeah, while the comment was off the cuff, it was certainly on the mark in chiding people for putting so much stock in his name. Of course, as the right sees it, his deeds have generated a lot more grist for their mill, but that's besides the point. In general, the political machine on the right will seize on ephemeral shit like this to score points whenever possible. And Rubin does not disappoint.
Friday, July 9, 2010
But the nefarious thing going on now is that Republicans are trying to frame the debate on Afghanistan so that they can run in 2012 as anti-war, which is currently the very popular and populist opinion of many Americans, including The New Republic's Andy Bacevich, who writes that Obama's choices in Afghanistan reveal that he lacks a moral compass. Those comments are not from someone who is a libertarian, a Tea Partier, or even a Republican. Bacevich is a reliable voice on the center-left, and he wants us out now. Steele's comments suggest that the GOP position going forward will be one that captures the sentiment among the Republican faithful that Obama is an utter failure on all counts, that he has harmed the country, made it less safe, and sent soldiers off to die in an unnecessary war. See, the prevailing feeling among most Republicans I know is: "Afghanistan? Just a bunch of Muslims! Fuck 'em! Let 'em kill each other."
Turning the Republicans into the anti-war party in two years -- brilliant. It can be done, I tell ya.
What has neoconservatism achieved? In Afghanistan, the best possible option is a country dominated by an increasingly Islamist and nuclear-armed Pakistan. In Iraq, the best possible option is a country dominated by Shiites far more aligned with Iran than many Sunni Arab states. And so the upshot of the Bush-Cheney years is an empowerment of both Iran and Pakistan, the two Muslim countries either with or close to nuclear capacity. That is the end result of a policy designed above all to prevent WMDs getting into the hands of terrorists. I mean: you couldn't make this up.
And still they want more war. In fact, they are now angling for American support for Sunni Arab states (and Israel) to launch a war against the Shiite power of Iran. Not content with enmeshing the US in two intractable wars, they actually want America to take sides in the ancient intra-Muslim feud between Shiite and Sunni. Yes, that sounds like something brilliant doesn't it? No unintended consequences could come from diving into that briar patch.
Anyone out there want to counter that this isn't true? Anyone want to say that Obama made this happen? Anyone want to say that this won't happen if Republicans regain the White House in 2012?
Thursday, July 8, 2010
A 60-year-old African-American gay man provided 25 million of his cells for screening, from which 12 (!) were located that produced the antibodies. Talk about a needle in a haystack.
Now the trick is to see if there's a way to produce these cells on a massive scale so that other bodies can produce them.
I'm in the mood for good news today. I'm glad I came across this article!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
[W]hen we decide that an American citizen is Guilty of Terrorism, there is no need for a trial, or due process, or even any public presentment of evidence. It suffices that we have concluded this in secret, with no checks or external review. Once we decide that, the death penalty is imposed and we will execute it ourselves. We are literally Judge, Jury and Executioner. And, despite the fact that we have been continuously wrong in our accusations of Terrorism and have even knowingly imprisoned innocent people, you'll just take our word for it, on blind faith, that the citizen we want to kill is really an Evil Terrorist. Yes, it's true that you refused to accept that same rationale when the Bush administration used it merely to eavesdrop on or detain American citizens -- in fact, you screeched that those less extreme policies were tyranny and a shredding of the Constitution when they did it -- but you should nonetheless accept this mentality when we use it to murder your fellow citizens who have never even been charged with any crime.
The piece also links to a story about an email exchange -- forwarded unwittingly by Gen. David Petraeus -- between Petraeus and neocon columnist Max Boot. In the exchange, the general discusses statements Petraeus submitted during testimony before Congress about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. You might recall that that statement was seized upon by proponents of the administration's position on the conflict that Petraeus was realistic and pragmatic re: Israel than many in the administration and Congress were publicly willing to admit. But, in his exchange with Boot, he clearly downplayed that statement as though he had no real investment in it:
I sort of like that Petraeus, at least in this exchange, comes across like a neophyte in the area of world politics. Considering that he has a Masters in Public Administration and a Ph.D. in International Relations, and has risen to the top of the military and advised two successive presidetial administrations, one could easily draw the conclusion that he is merely faking the naivete that permeates this exchange. But that would be just wrong.
[2:27 p.m.] From: Petraeus, David H GEN MIL USA USCENTCOM CCCC/CCCC To: Max Boot Subject: FW: On the Middle East: It's Palin vs Petraeus
As you know, I didn't say that. It's in a written submission for the record...
[2:31 p.m. reply from Boot]: Oh brother. Luckily it's only [blog] media matters which has no credibility but think I will do another short item pointing people to what you actually said as opposed to what's in the posture statement.
From: Petraeus, David H GEN MIL USA USCENTCOM CCCC/CCCC 2:37 p.m.
Thx, Max. (Does it help if folks know that I hosted Elie Wiesel and hiswife at our quarters last Sun night?! And that I will be the speaker atthe 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps inmid-Apr at the Capitol Dome...)
[2:45 Boot]: No don't think that's relevant because you're not being accused of being anti-Semitic.
[2:57 Petraeus]: Roger! :-)
That Petraeus would think there is a difference between what he says during testimony and what is contained in a "posture statement" submitted for the record is sickeningly disingenuous. What we now know about Petraeus, who has repeatedly claimed not to have any political ambitions outside the military, is that he is a schemer of the highest order who will (clearly) have to do a better job of policing his communications to avoid looking like a schemer of the highest order.
Back to Greenwald's piece for a moment -- Greenwald also has a fit over the fact that the US is involved in the longest war in our history over what one Obama administration official has confirmed in a Newsweek interview is about 300-400 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Pakistan combined. Over these 300-400 people, the Bush and Obama administrations have conceived, implemented, hidden, and then defended positions on activities that range from mere eavesdropping without warrant to torture to outright assassination of US citizens without due process. All because we want to take the battle over there so they don't bring it over here. Well, Greenwald is, of course, right to point out the overwhelmingly disproportionate response the US has waged, especially since our involvement over there is very likely the #1 reason Terrorists can recruit new blood to continue perpetrating their cult of death. However, another BIG reason is because these people perpetuate a cult of death! Not to get all ideological, but there is an element of wild-eyed, Kamikaze-like fanaticism in the actions of jihadist terrorists, no? Better to have us over there, doing as earnest a job as we can to convince people who live there that there is something better than what they have had, and what they could have if we leave the Taliban to continue doing what they're doing. If you want to call it nation- or empire-building, then do so. But to me, a long-term presence there to monitor developments (the way we did in Japan, Korea, and Germany) can have benefits if there is the support of the local people.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Seems there is a disorder, called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), which renders women less interested in having sex with men, getting married and performing the traditional wife/mother role. Also, an endocrinologist in Florida is trying to prevent lesbianism by treating pregnant women with an experimental hormone.
The last post highlights a reader's thoughts which echo mine exactly. I think that the whole idea that there might be a "cure" for homosexuality based in biology presents a huge moral dilemma for Christianists and Republicans. Now, it seems logical that these groups, which would like to eradicate homosexuality altogether, would readily hail the development of a medical procedure that could affect females such that they would have higher interest in traditional female sexual and familial roles and activities. But, as the reader writes:
[T]heir opposition to homosexuality, at least ostensibly, stems from the fact that they see it as a sin. But if there is a biological basis for homosexuality, then one cannot say that homosexuality has been chosen. And if you don't have a choice about sexual orientation, then homosexuality cannot be considered a sin.
If it's not a sin, then the whole Christianist dogma about homosexuality being a lifestyle or a choice falls apart. So they would then find themselves in the dubious position of having to oppose something that empirically could eradicate behavior they consider sinful. Can you see their heads spinning around and exploding like the Fembots of Austin Powers?
Of course, they can always come back with their standard response to all things scientific, which is to say that they don't trust medical science any more than they trust evolution, carbon-dating, or paleontology. But, then again, that argument falls apart. It's the position of Christianists that homosexuality is a learned behavior which can be unlearned, or at least curbed, through faith and vigilance. What that implies, at least to me, is that they can, over time, help gay people and their behavior evolve into something more acceptable. Well, isn't all behavior a product of biological and social factors? If the pursuit of sex is something that all humans feel, there has to be a biological aspect to it, no? So trying to alter behavior has to acknowledge at least some biological contribution to that behavior. Again, if it's biological, then homosexuality can't be a sin.