Sunday, May 15, 2016

Storyline


http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2016/05/the_u_s_and_japan_have_very_different_memories_of_world_war_ii.html

An  excellent summation of the issues. Some points from the article I'd like to highlight:  1. "You have to separate out the Japanese public from the right-wing politicians."  The Japanese people in general, the author notes, want to compensate the comfort women and face the evils of the past.  The politicians don't.  2. The American people regard the dropping of the bomb as the end of the story and the war. The Japanese people regard the dropping of the bomb as the beginning of the story; the story of their liberation from evil rulers and of their devotion to prevent future wars.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hellzapoppin'


Here's an interesting and fun challenge for all my friends. If you're a religious person, it's probably a critical issue in your mind. If you are an atheist, it still remains an interesting intellectual exercise and a great insight into your view of the nature of the reality and justice.

The challenge is, assuming there is an afterlife, what would be the nature of hell? For the sake of limiting the discussion, let's assume that God is both just and loving.  If any of my atheist friends simply can't imagine there being a God, then imagine the singularity has arrived. There is now a God. It is the great over consciousness created in the unity of all organic and silicon sapience.  So eternal life has been created and Techno God has to decide what to do with all the subconsciousnesses; like, say, a contemporary Hitler.

This has been an important issue for me for a very long time. Even as a child I could not understand what loving God could possibly maintain a private torture chamber just to amuse Himself punishing those that didn't obey.  On the other hand, as indicated in the website A Puritans Mind, many take quite a different attitude, "That the torments of the damned are no matter of grief, but of joy, to the inhabitants of heaven..."

So, according to some, not only are the unspeakable horrific torments of the damned well-deserved, we are all going to sit around in heaven (I guess eating popcorn and having a great time) watching the screaming victims as they suffer horrible, unspeakable torture.  Sorry, I mean evil bad people who deserve everything they get suffering horrible, unspeakable torture.  

Sorry, but I never could believe that, not even when I was a little kid in Sunday school. Somehow it just doesn't fit in with my concept of "a loving God".

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/160513-theology-hell-history-christianity/   Points out that;
>  an alternative doctrine, known as “annihilationism” or “conditional immortality,” which holds that, after death, sinners simply cease to exist, while those who are saved enjoy eternal life under God’s grace. Although it’s not a positive outcome for the wicked—in fact, it amounts to spiritual capital punishment—it’s deemed a far more merciful and just fate than an eternity of torture.  <   

The article also points out that well today many traditionalists insist that their position is the only acceptable, the fact is that early Christianity had many differing opinions on the nature of hell.

>   Origen Adamantius, a third-century theologian, believed the wicked were punished after death, but only long enough for their souls to repent and be restored to their original state of purity. This doctrine, known as universalism, envisioned that everyone—including Satan—would eventually be redeemed and reunited with God.  <   

Augustine, the oh so sexually obscessed and oh so very creepy father of much of modern Christian belief, was the one who insisted that hell had to be  eternal and horrific and unspeakable and all the other awful things that so many loving Christians believe it must be today.  Although he is widely be feared, I think is about the least reliable internal source for Christian theology.

So, if you were God, what would you do about bad people who have done bad things? Would you just wipe out everybody's memory and send them to heaven? Would you have them suffer only enough to cleanse themselves of their sins, making hell into an upgraded version of Catholic purgatory? What would be just and loving?

Depending on your religion you might want to be careful about responding to this. As the National Geographic article pointed out by quoting one minister, some churches are not very tolerant of differing opinions.
>  “We have a very fear-driven evangelical culture where if you don't toe the line, you get kind of shunned,” says Sprinkle. “It's really kind of scary.”  <   

As for me, I long ago lost my belief in an afterlife. Some have asked me how I can still be a believer because they say that eternal salvation is the only reason to believe.  I say that's ridiculous. Believing in God is not a business deal where we have a contract and He gives me eternal life in response to my believing in Him.  I believe in God because I know God. No deal or special arrangement is required.

Yet, somehow I still have that all so human desire for justice. The question remains an intriguing one. It relates to how one conceives of the very idea of justice. If you were God, what would you do?

My answer is that I would be sure that everyone saw themselves as they really were. No more delusions. No more self-justification. No more excuses. Here you are. This is the real you. That could be a real hell for many people.


PS,

Since I don't believe God wants to torment people forever I believe He would help people to come to terms with what they once were and try to guide them into being repentant and to making what amends are possible. If some people was truly so horribly they could not stand their own existence, I believe He would permit them to commit a sort of soul suicide so they would simply cease to exist.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Real Solution To A Real Problem


The Vox headline reads:

Abortion rates in North America and Europe are now at 30-year lows


Note that the use of abortion has dropped in both America and Europe, even though in Europe there are no highly restrictive abortion laws being desperately passed by conservatives on a crusade to save what they say are human beings fully developed, fully formed, already born, and perhaps even already raised.

 I remind my readers that I hate abortion and find it repugnant. However,  I find the situation in which desperate women are forced to engage in illegal and unsafe abortions even more repugnant. Our choice is not, do we lose unborn children or protect them? The choice is, do we lose unborn fetuses and their mothers or do we allow safe, legal abortion but prevent the necessity of it by providing free, or at least very inexpensive, contraceptives?

 The most important question here in America is why do conservatives keep insisting on hurting both the unborn and their mothers by not providing contraceptives to those who need them? The solution to the problem is clear, simple, and effective, yet conservatives refuse to do what works and insist on doing what has the opposite effect of what they desire. It is hard to respect people who say they want to put out the fire in your house by banning the use of firehoses and that they are going to save your property by throwing on so much gasoline that this will cause all the oxygen to be burned up, thus extinguishing the fire.

To repeat the key point, why has abortion so sharply declined in North America and other developed countries? The answer has nothing to do with laws against abortion. As this study by one of the most highly respected medical journals in the world notes:

-- The declining abortion rates in the developed world, experts say, tell a story about better access to contraceptives. More frequent use of better birth control gives women more control over their fertility — and ultimately seems to lower abortion rates internationally.
"When contraceptives aren't available, women use abortion, even if it isn't legally sanctioned and even if it puts them at great physical risk," ...

..."When contraceptives are more available, use of abortion declines."...

...Countries where abortion is illegal don't have lower abortion rates... --

Why is this so hard for conservatives to understand? In many ways, this is a silly question. Conservatives don't like facts. Conservatives don't like reality. Conservatives live in a delusional alternate reality in which everything is exactly the way they feel it should be.

I know that this is so. I just can't understand how obviously intelligent people can allow their emotions to shut down their higher brain functions. If abortion is such a critical issue, then perhaps they should take effective action to reduce abortion rates even further. Sorry, I just keep trying to be realistic. That's a losing battle.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sense And Nonsense

In response to a news article indicating that The president would visit the peace center at Hiroshima, I posted:

Good for the president!

Also, two points: 1. There is no doubt that dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved many American lives. It is also beyond dout that it saved many more Japanese lives. This point seems to be forgotten by almost everyone who discusses the issue. Far more Japanese civilians would have died in an American invasion than died in Hiroshima  and Nagasaki.


2. The article quotes a peace advocate.   --The president, Martin said, "will look insincere if his words espouse ridding the world of nuclear weapons while at the same time his administration continues its plan to spend a trillion dollars over thirty years to upgrade nuclear weapons.” --  This is nonsense. No doubt, foolish people will be so deluded. The fact remains, however, that the American nuclear arsenal cannot simply be unilaterally disbanded. Disbanding it requires cooperation with other nations, which has currently not been forthcoming. Therefore, the United States has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons which are in a dangerously aged and unreliable condition. Upgrading them is simply a safety precaution. This is not the act of a hypocrite. It is the act of a prudent man.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Republican Ghouls


In response to a foul Internet meme showing a mutilated human body and claiming it was Ambassador Stevens and thus smearing Hillary Clinton. A friend asked me, "Help me Jim. What can we say about this? Do we know if it is even him?"

I did something the poster should've done, a little fact checking. Then I responded:
No. That is not him. He was carried the hospital by locals who support America after the incident. He had not been raped, not been tortured. What this is is an act of hatred by despicable bigots. The people who have posted or spread this are Mr. Hankey without the charm, the intelligence, or the self-respect.

No one knows who is in the picture, but it's been used again and again to portray different people from variety of nations and wars when someone wants to rouse up mindless hatred.

And also again and again, the Republicans have admitted that Hillary Clinton could not be shown to have done anything  wrong. Of course, their investigating what she might have done wrong recieved heavy publicity, while their admitting they couldn't find that any evidence that she had done anything wrong was virtually ignored.

I don't like Hillary Clinton. I'm afraid that she will follow her husbands lead and restore "triangulation", also known as "capitulation", in order to undo much of what Obama accomplished, but I don't think she is any more corrupt than the average politician. And I know that she's been proven conclusively to be innocent of any wrongdoing in Benghazi. In fact, some of the blame must fall on the Republicans who cut the budget for security for the State Department. If we didn't have enough guards, it's because the Republican's didn't let us.  Reports have indicated there were failures in the State Department in preventative measures before the incident, but at a much lower level that that of the Secretary of State.

From http://markmaynard.com/2013/08/more-disgusting-politically-motivated-misinformation-about-the-death-of-ambassador-chris-stevens-in-benghazi/

-- Someone I went to high school with posted an absolutely horrific photo on Facebook today of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens being dragged naked through the streets of Benghazi and tortured with a cattle prod after being set on fire and repeatedly raped. I hesitate to share it here, as it’s so graphic, but I feel as though people need to know the truth… which, of course, is that Ambassador Stevens was never raped, or tortured in the streets of Bengazi.

Stevens was, as all of us who bothered to read the actual reports know, carried by Libyan civilians to the Benghazi Medical Centre in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attack on the American consulate. He, as we all know, died from the injuries he sustained, but his body was not desecrated, and he was neither raped nor tortured. (Speaking of the attack, murder charges were filed yesterday against Ahmed Abu Khattala, the prominent Benghazi militia leader thought to be responsible.) --

Friday, April 29, 2016

Race And Economic Staus Rule!

Nick posted:

One reason inequality is self-perpetuating 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/29/upshot/money-race-and-success-how-your-school-district-compares.html?_r=0

I responded:

Nick, it starts long before school, as teachers have known for decades.  The article below reports, "children from families on welfare heard about 616 words per hour, while those from working class families heard around 1,251 words per hour, and those from professional families heard roughly 2,153 words per hour. Thus, children being raised in middle to high income class homes had far more language exposure to draw from."

http://literacy.rice.edu/thirty-million-word-gap

Of course, we must hold teachers accountable for the way parents talk to their children in their homes before the children are even old enough to go to school. Accountability is good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Howard Roark, Foiled Again!



http://architectureau.com/articles/affordable-sustainable-high-quality-urban-housing-its-not-an-impossible-dream/

I found this really interesting, so I posted the link and added:
Nicholas, this is right in your area of interest. It sounds so nice in the article. Is it practical? Would it be applicable in America where we have a different attitude toward housing?

Nick responded:
Hmmm, I'm reading this right, these are essentially mid rise, middle density buildings that try to keep costs ultra low, and also be environmentally friendly. 

That sounds good but each part has different obstacles and varying degrees up importance. 

Take the idea of middle density units. These are very much needed in supply constrained urban regions, particularly the outer edges of the core. But of course most of these areas are zoned for single family homes or office spaces, and don't allow anything in this size. Unfortunately these zoning laws have a lot local protection and are very difficult to overcome--especially with all the brain dead thinking out there about the critical need of new housing stock. 

The cost of building isn't a bad idea but I don't think much of a problem. The cost of construction isn't really the problem, but rather the cost of land and regulations. Plus soon to be coming 3D printing will dramatically lower construction costs and speed.

Environmental stuff all sounds good too and I'm sure if we ever get our needed building boom, a lot of this kinda stuff will be incorporated. SF just mandated all new buildings must have solar panels for example.

I responded:
So, not such a bad idea, but a little hard to apply in the real world. I shouldn't be surprised. It seemed  like such a good idea though.

Later I added:
I can't help but recall news reports that when a Catholic charity group (Mother Theresa's?) tried to convert a decrepit high-rise in New York into a refuge for the homeless, they were unable to do so. What prevented it? It was too expensive for them to install elevators and if they renovated the building they were required to install elevators. So the homeless stayed on the streets.

In a similar case, when George Air Force Base closed, a California group tried to take over the base housing and use it for the homeless. They were not allowed to do so because state regulations wouldn't allow anyone to be housed in buildings which had asbestos content. 

There are two ironies here. Number one, this housing was considered adequate and safe even for the Colonel  commanding the base and his family.   Second, the asbestos in question was only dangerous if you broke open the walls and accessed the insulation.

The California regulation was not unreasonable. However, hundreds of the homeless could have been very comfortably housed and conditions which were safe as long as no one broke open the walls.  The question is, were the homeless better being left out on the streets and down by the river bed where they tend to collect here in the Victor Valley?

In the end the housing simply sat, and is still sitting, and is slowly rotting away.