May 20, 2011

The World Ends on May 21, 2011.... It's no Laughing Matter, Too Many Americans Believe this One Way or Another

Got to finish this post before midnight, because I'm going to stake everything on the prediction that the world as we know it will not end tomorrow. Obviously, it will end someday, because of climate change and as our star reaches old age.
There have been several news stories about the group that believes this is it! It all ends just about now!  Unfortunately, mainstream media aren't willing to ask the underlying question when it comes to religious claims: How do religious leaders (past and present) know something, anything, the rest of us can't? Knowledge can't be apocryphal; it has to be accessible, inquired, thought out, and arrived at--not divinely revealed.
We have a problem with religiosity--the kind that makes people give up reason and scientific knowledge. Why do you think we still debating how old the earth is (I'm talking about those who believe our planet is only thousands of years old instead of billions) and whether one of  the strongest scientific theories we've got (evolution) should be taught to students.

From XKCD (
I understand the difference between the fundies and the moderate religious folk, because they operate differently politically and when it comes to forcing their beliefs on my life. However, both have a fundamentally wrong understanding of a big part of reality.

I've seen some polls that show even a majority of Americans believing that Jesus will return to earth in their lifetime--which is sometime in the next 50 years. This would definitely mean that the world will end.

You'd think that people who are slapped by reality changed their views and reassessed their beliefs. [*see footnote] Not necessarily. I bet you that those crazies who are utterly convinced about tomorrow will simply say it was a calculation error. Do you know that the Mormons--the Church of the Latter Day Saints--believed in eschatology? That the world was about to end? It didn't happen, but it didn't matter either. The Mormon Church is rapidly growing actually.

So, the next time someone claims something of significance, let's put our thinking caps on. And, we should stop conferring automatic legitimacy, immunity, or even attention to anyone who puts the word "reverend" before their name.

I'm going out to celebrate life, look at that stars (it's a beautiful evening tonight) and think of the great days/nights of the summer ahead.  

UPDATE (5/25/11): Well, I predicted correctly, people should follow me instead. Ha! I also said that most believers aren't convinced by reality and keep their delusions. Did you hear that Jesus (God?) decided to spare us the 150 days of tribulation but the world will end this October. Whatever...

* Jesus's followers believed the world would end in their lifetime and Jesus said, "Repend, the Kingdom of God is at hand." Here's a book to read about eschatology, Expecting Armageddon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy.

May 16, 2011

Need for Serious and Comprehensive Immigration Reform But it Won't be Possible Before 2013

President Obama gave a speech recently about the need to reform the immigration system, but I think it was mostly political theater. I'm sure he knows that the Republican-controlled House will not agree to give such a policy initiative to the president. Even when the Dems were in control, they couldn't pass any immigration reform despite former president Bush supporting it.

Senator Durbin re-introduced the DREAM Act but even this very sensible improvement of a tiny part of immigration law won't probably go through. The Republican Party today is much more conservative and is catering to the extremist elements within (Southern states) and in its proximity (Tea parties). As a salt lake shrinks, the water becomes more saline, so it's the same with the shrinking base of the Conservatives. Don't be fooled by the last election gains of the GOP. It had to do with other factors than rising popularity for the GOP, and, most importantly, its policy proposals.

See where the country is today and where it's moving. What was radical just a generation ago, it's mainstream today: DOMA, DADT, same-sex marriage, Immigration (yes, over 70% of Americans favor Obama's ideas on immigration reform), legalization of marijuana, etc, etc. Unfortunately, the second largest political party in the US is hostage to its conservative base and its extreme activists and won't move where the rest of the country is moving.

As for the political theater, it will go on. Obama has been criticized by the pro-reform groups for not doing enough, and support from the Hispanic community is eroding. He'll use the immigration rhetoric to bring attention to the fact that it's the Republicans who don't want reform, but not much else will happen before 2013, when the new Congress will be in place.

May 7, 2011

We Can't Reap the Benefits of Modernity When Leaders and Sheeple Still Advocate for the Dark Ages

Ever since the Supreme Court (back in 1973) ruled that women have the right to reproductive choice to terminate a pregnancy, the religious conservatives and their political branch--the Republican Party--have tried to pass restrictions to access and any other obstacle short of prohibiting the procedure. The latest assault is the Texas law that requires women to get a sonogram and the doctor to give them a description of the fetus.

But, wait, not in case of rape, incest or fetal abnormality. What's the moral standard here? If the fetus is conceived by rape or incest then it's not worth defending its life? Huh?!  But, that's the absurdity of having religious beliefs--or any other unscientific beliefs--serve as guide for public policy.

Meanwhile in the state of New York, same-sex marriage is about to be approved as the governor and a majority of New Yorkers support this. Chalk one up for equal rights and progressivism. 

We're hitting levels of inequality in this country like the ones during the Great Depression (1930s)! Listen to this NPR radio program about How Inequality Hurts Societies. No advanced liberal democracy is like the US in this inequality measure, while they're ahead of us in longevity, health, happiness, and general quality of life. The pro-lifers and the conservatives here are mostly concerned with anti-scientific notions rather than focusing on the actual life of people between cradle and grave. Just the other day, we're reminded that the US has highest infant mortality rates among advanced societies.

The Congressional Republicans just voted for a budget that would end the Medicare guarantee to senior citizens. But, like that Louisiana gov. Jindal said, there's nothing Americans can't do on their own! OK, I'm going to fetch some leaches (home remedy) from a pond while I'm monitoring an active volcano, and I'm going to go snoop around Indian Point {nuke plant in Westchester, NY} to make sure that it's safe. What the hell do we need the EPA anyway? That agency, by the way, wants to take away our freedom! Yes, siree, our freedom to do whatever we like, including the job-providing big energy industry (like coal-burning plants) to emit all those ..natural substances in the air. 

It's time to move our politics to the realm of reality and discuss what makes a society happier, healthier, freer, and more equitable. But, we can't do this as long as there are leaders and sheeple who advocate for policies fit for the Dark Ages.

May 2, 2011

The Party of Crazy.

It's a sad day for the US when the president has to stoop to the level of stupidity and political absurdness by having to prove he's a US citizen! It has to do with the conservatives and bigots who will never accept Obama as a legitimate president. Even though this campaign to de-legitimize this Democratic president has racial undertones, the same people did it to president Clinton.

By the way, there's nothing that will satisfy the "birthers" and those who will never accept Obama's legitimacy to be president. It's not a simple political disagreement here. Bush was awarded the presidency in 2000 but even though we hated his policies we recognized that half of the country voted for him. I think Obama calculated that he'd score some political points by presenting the "long form" of his birth certificate, and that the clueless "floaters" [low-information, highly impressionable voters] were buying the birthers' conspiracy! Whatever.

Such campaigns of stupidity take hold because there's a critical mass in the US that support it. Haven you noticed something else? The crazies tend to congregate in the Republican party and the conservative base. Nowhere in no time* the Democratic party, and the progressive voters, allowed for such craziness to take hold. There is a reason why the likes of Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, et. al (too many to mention) don't exist on the progressive side. 

We had liberal populists but any presidential candidate that broke the 5% approval was not politically extreme. Take a look at the field of the GOP presidential candidates fro, 2008 until the next presidential election next year... Oy!

OK, I haven't forgotten the Congressional Republican leadership and their demonstrated values and priorities, but for now... it's the economy, stupid!

Update: * Obviously, the history of the Democratic Party has had its shares of kooks, but I meant in my lifetime, in the last couple generations, no crazy extremist has gained acceptance by the rank and file. The Republican party was the progressive party during the Civil War and up to the start of the 20th century when there's was a split--with the progressives leaving it (like Theodore Roosevelt), charging the GOP as a offshoot of the big business interests.