Monday, December 29, 2008

So Ann Coulter's broken her jaw. (Yes, I know that was more than a month ago.)

No one seems to want to say exactly how.

Which isn't to say that folks aren't willing to make wisecracks about it.

What no one mentions is that someone with their jaws wired shut can still talk perfectly well.

So is someone hoping she'll break her hands, next?

Anyway, the funniest comment appeared in Tom Tomorrow's "Year in Review." Go there and admire it for yourself.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fred Thompson has some thoughts on how Congress is dealing with the current economic crisis.

What he doesn't say is that current mess isn't the first of its type in recent memory.

Those of us who have a memory span that slightly exceeds that of a gerbil with lead poisoning may recall the Savings and Loan scandal, where the Bush (#41) administration and Congress set up the "Resolution Trust Corporation" to bail out S&Ls to the tune of over a trillion bucks.

The names will sound familiar, though. Like John McCain, who was rebuked in the Senate for his role in shielding Charles Keating from the consequences of bad management. And, before people accuse me of partisanship, Cranston, Riegle, DeConcini, and Glenn, all Democrats, got in trouble alongside McCain. I guess that's what made McCain a maverick?

Or Neil Bush (one of Dubyas many brothers), who was accused of skimming money from his failing S&L.

Anyway, the point is, this current mess is not like the Depression. It's more like what happened *before* the Depression. You all remember the Roaring 20s? When that bubble burst and the markets crashed, bankers (gotta love 'em!) said that people would just have to suck up the margin calls and ride out the market. Sound familiar? They didn't want intervention, because they were afraid that might dilute their holdings in gold. Then they discovered that you can't eat gold, and it won't build houses or cars for you...

I'm not suggesting that giving bankers $700 billion with no strings attached was a good idea. The trouble is that Congress has no idea what banks do, and there's no one in the current administration who knows much more. Even Hank, who came to his current post from Goldman Sachs and was arguably one of the many architects of this mess, doesn't really know, a fact to which he testified in congress.

Anyway, while Thompson is fun to listen to, he's just being a sarcastic know-nothing. He knows it. I wonder if everyone else does, too?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An email from a friend: she's going to wear a headscarf, like Muslim women do, pray five times a day, and study the scriptures, all until the end of September. She says she's done similar things with other religions. She believes this will help her understand the perspective of other people.

Now, I'm wondering if she would consider living for a month as an atheist. Since atheists don't have a regimen of ritual it seems that there are no challenges to that life.

But I wondered.

So here's my summary of how an atheist lives (as opposed to someone who just doesn't pay attention). (Why six points? No reason.)

  1. Appreciate the people in your life who depend on you, and those on whom you depend. From family to friends to neighbors to colleagues, other people is how you give your life meaning and purpose.
  2. Treat your fellow beings with courtesy and respect. Be humble. You will all eventually end up as dust, no matter what you do or what you believe.
  3. Attend to your health every day. No supernatural forces will do that for you. Doctors can help, but they're only human. Ultimately you're your own responsibility.
  4. Be careful and attentive at all times. There are no supernatural forces that will protect you or others from accident or injury if you make a mistake. Seatbelts or helmets are always a good idea.
  5. Life is about change. Take every opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. Learn things that seem difficult. Don't judge the worth of these efforts by their success, but enjoy them, just so. Live, because this is the only life you've got.
  6. Know what you can change, and what must be endured, and learn to tell the difference between the two.

From here we can go on to discuss various things.

We could, for example, discuss if wearing a headscarf, frequent prayer, and studying scriptures (we'll assume she meant the Quran) is sufficient to give one insight into the lives and perspectives of actual members of Islam. Especially given that this project is going to run only three more weeks or so.

Is it possible that any one of the points in my summary is more of a challenge than all three of my friend's challenges put together? She admitted to expecting a certain amount of criticism from people who might be upset with discovering a Muslim in their midst, but is that really a hardship? Many people seem to enjoy taking a position of what they believe is moral superiority where they might evoke expected but undeserved anger from other people.

Or we might wonder why atheists don't have rituals. I suspect that one of the reasons why religions are successful is that they do have rituals. They have rules of behavior that require an effort to engage in, and all members of the religion who subscribe to those rules automatically bond as a result. It's built into the human skull, programmed into our very bones, that shared misery is half the misery, and that we're rewarded for it with social reciprocation.

What do atheists do for social reciprocation? Since we don't get together to discuss our atheism (at least most of us don't, not as such), there is no community of atheists where reciprocation can take place. At best we can share stories about silly stuff we've seen people do in the name of some ancient superstition or other, but that's not much of a ritual. Joe Sixpack gets to do better than that when he visits the pub on Friday nights.

So this might explain why atheists aren't a community akin to proselytizing religions like Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. This isn't to suggest that atheists should start some rituals. There isn't really a need for a community of atheists, because atheists look for community in other ways. Atheists keep the essential nature of human beings in mind. We have religions because our mental and social structures support them. If we wanted to get rid of religions, we'd also have to modify the human mind and human society, to remove the existing supports for religion, and replace them with community forming structures that do not depend on tribalism, ritual, and superstitions.

Until we do, consider the list above. It's at least as challenging as wearing a scarf.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My dad loves to use the word "mainstream media." It's a funny thing, that word. It implies that there's some other sort of media, not "mainstream," which is somehow more salient, more balanced, better informed.

My dad's a smart guy, smarter than me in many ways, but this is one bit where he along with most liberals and conservatives who like to use this word are living in a fantasy land.

Oh, sure, we can point out that the likes of Wolf Blitzer, about as mainstream as they come, has used the platform of the presidential debates to ask over 3,000 questions. Six of them were about global climate change. Some of the other questions that were asked concerned UFOs and Chuck Norris.

I think it doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative or whatever, that's got to look bad.

Consider that, if global climate change is in fact a non-issue, and the next president decides to get all medieval about carbon footprints and the like, we'll be paying a steep price for a scientific boondoggle.

Or, if global climate change is real, and the next president decides to instead indulge in an endless series of studies financed by Mobil Oil, the price will be equally steep, if not steeper. It seems this is the sort of question where we need to know what a future president will do.

Compared to that, Chuck Norris and flashing lights in the sky aren't really in the running, are they?

So how are the non-mainstream media doing?

Well, Weekly World News just interviewed the bat boy...

But that's not who we mean by non-mainstream media. We mean people like the redoubtable Erick Erickson who blogs on, right? One of the pioneers of journalism, a true patriot forging into the wilderness of political chaff, to return with morsels of Truth!


Sorry, I think I got carried away, there. Where was I?

Oh, yes, Erick Erickson. I listened to him talk about Barack Obama this morning. Clinton, he said, was a policy person. Obama, on the other is a Big Idea person. Erickson's words were along the lines of policy would bore Obama and his fans.

Yes, folks, there you have it. Insightful political analysis the way you won't find it in the New York Times.

Incidentally, wasn't the "Big Idea" thing what made Dubya such a great guy? I mean, he can't watch TV and eat pretzels at the same time, but policy bores him, so that makes him alright.

Just a thought.