Friday, June 3, 2016

Check...mate?


Here's an interesting thought. Below is Jon Ronson's psychopath checklist [source-- psychologist Robert Hare's widely used psycho diagnostic tool, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)]. How many of these traits do you think apply to Donald Trump?

You have glibness and superficial charm

Grandiose sense of self-worth

Need for stimulation/proness to boredom

Pathological lying

Cunning/manipulative

Lack of remorse or guilt

Shallow affect/emotional range

Callous/lack of empathy

Parasitic lifestyle

Poor behavioral controls

Promiscuous sexual behavior

Early behavior problems

Lack of realistic long-term goals

Impulsivity

Irresponsibility

Failure to except responsibility for own actions

Many short term marital relationships

Revocation of conditional relief (recidivism if paroled)

Criminal versatility

Juvenile delinquency

Democracy For All (Educated, Wealthy, And White)

An OpEd in the Washington Post suggests Americans should be required to pass a test before  being allowed to vote. The idea is that this would weed out ignorant voters.

I responded:

Define ignorant.  My definition will be wildly different from Trump's. Who designs the test? Administers it? Scores it?

This reminds me very much of an old ploy used by the Soviet Union. Public relations were an important aspect of the Cold War. The Soviets made great gains in this area out of America's treatment of minorities and out of our Jim Crow laws.   We made great gains in this area out of the Soviets treatment of dissidents.

In order to protect themselves from this effective criticism, the Russian communists came up with a very clever solution. They started with the undeniable fact that communism was a scientific system of governance and economics.  Since it was the only scientifically designed government, it was proven to be the most effective and best government available on earth. Therefore, anyone who thought that it was a bad system must be insane. This person was not a dissident. This person was mentally ill. In order to protect these poor victims of their own delusions from harming themselves and others it was necessary to place them in a mental institution.

You get the picture.

In an age when there is a serious attempt to destroy democracy in America by rigging elections through computer guided gerrymandering and voter ID laws, it should be obvious to everyone that this is just another way for government to deny people the right to vote if those people are likely to vote in the "wrong" way.

Down south it was the literacy test which prevented minorities from voting. It's remarkable how many college graduates and professionals, who happened to also be Black, failed the literacy test. It was also amazing how many Whites, many of whom had difficulty reading the TV Guide, passed it easily.

So unless they're going to appoint me the test creator, chief administrator, and creator of the criteria for passing or failing; this is a bad idea.

PS, I wouldn't test for trivia regarding details of governance. I would test for critical thinking skills.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Once We Were Christians



THE ARTICLE:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/01/anti-abortion-laws-legislation-clinics-dangerous-methods

ME:  Laws against abortion don't prevent abortion. They prevent safe abortion, and in the process they promote unsafe abortion. > Roberts’ past work is part of a body of evidence suggesting that women who want an abortion aren’t deterred by abortion restrictions. “We’re not finding anything that would turn that assumption completely on its head,” she said. “Women who really want an abortion, for the most part, will figure out how to get one.” <

DAN:  Weak politicians pump up the excitement among the religious and any other people who might vote for them.  Especially when they can't think of anything more important to do.

ME:  Once upon a time evangelicals deeply believed politics was a dirty, bad thing. It was something which could pull them in and make them lust after worldly power instead of being dedicated to saving souls. They were right.
Then some Republican Party operatives realized there was a whole pool of untapped voters available in fundamentalist churches, if only they could find one subject to rouse them up.  They finally settled on  abortion, previously not an area of great interest in  evangelical churches, and sent out propaganda films to create a new interest and generate new Republican voters.

It worked.  Evangelical churches have been transformed into Republican Party campaign centers.  Pastors are now political operatives.  Party platforms have replaced the Gospels.
"Blessed be the name of (insert name of current candidate)!"


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 while today many traditionalists insist that their position is the only acceptable one, 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 revered, 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.