Dec 26, 2012

"God, Why?" .... Maureen Dowd Ponders. I've Got Some Thoughts on This...

“Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent.        Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent.        Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” 

(David Hume: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; 1779).

*
Maureen Dowd in her NYT op-ed [link] today, 12/26/12, ponders about God's role, and she demonstrates how reasonable, intelligent persons surrender the tools they use every day--the logical, rational approach to reality--and surrender to ignorance. With God, yes, everything is possible, accept anything, and I mean anything, without evidence or reason!

If we behaved with depraved indifference we wouldn't consider it moral, especially if we had the power to save innocents from harm. Yet, the supreme being gets a pass on this. Ah, maybe He knows something we don't, is often the reply. Really? But we are rendering judgment and praise for him when something goes well. 

Millions of children die every year before the reach the age of five. They're not old enough to understand sin or to do anything that deserves the death penalty. That God knows how they'll turn out in the future precludes free will. If we're made defective by the designer, then we have to prove ourselves to him through free choice, it doesn't make sense why children should die before they actually exercise their free will. Even babies die every day. No need to go farther than the nearest children's hospital to witness little ones dying of cancer and other horrible afflictions. Is this the morality of a God?


Most humans practice religion because they were born into it and it's a way to belong, be part of the community's norms and culture. But, to have faith it means abdication, surrender, ignorance, and fear. Fear has a paralyzing effect and can distort reality. The more fearful a person is the less likely to act calmly and to exercise reason.  Being nice to a bully in hopes that he won't hurt you. Be in terror and do it often, you may end up loving him! He beats me, but he loves me, that's why I stick around....

What's even more incredible is that societies have organized themselves on unproven, incredible stories, and they have gone to great lengths to enforce conformity by uncountable violent ways. It's Xmas as I'm writing this. By the way, the "X" is from the original Greek and it's not another attack on Xmas as some super-sensitive ignoramuses suggest. [link]   I enjoy the holidays and I don't need religion to do so. Actually, the celebrations around the winter solstice go back before Christianity, while Xmas wasn't really celebrated by the Church until it decided to co-opt this holiday from the pagans! Obviously, Jesus was not born on December 25th.


Speaking of Jesus--the light, as in the first light of the solstice--how do you explain the triadic notion? That the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost are all manifestation of the same God. Well, then God sacrificed himself [in a very gruesome way, and whose death device we hang around our necks] to himself to save humans from the sin a couple defectively-designed humans (Adam & Eve) committed long time ago! In other words, we're told that we're born with original sin, a curse really, and we have to pay for the sins of others; so in order for this curse to be lifted we have to accept God Jesus as our Savior.  Sounds like a scam to me.


Humans have been reacting to the darkness, the harsh life, the threats to the species' survival by making up stories, that there's a force who protects us, and if we pay the high price of servility, there are heavenly rewards! Any rudimentary application of logic destroys these stories but most people refuse to do it. Smart, educated, affluent people that have excelled in many endeavors choose willful ignorance when it comes to the question of God. It's fear that prevents them.  

It's fear of punishment, it's fear of missing on the afterlife, it's fear that the "designer" put in us. Yet, like when Prometheus stole the fire from the Gods, some of us have discovered another seed in us: to ask questions, to use logic, to seek the truth even if it's sometimes painful. Maybe God put in us the seed of his own destruction! 

I do not need to prove that I exist, because this would require evidence and thus will destroy faith. Without faith, I'm nothing!   God (allegedly)


Dec 16, 2012

Obama: "This Must End!" But, he Speaks More Like a Preacher than a Secular Leader Who Must Pass Federal Laws on Gun Ownership


Yes, it's time to politicize the Newtown massacre and change our politics and gun laws


I don't know if the president has a plan other than to reassert his Xtian credentials, because he sounded more like a preacher tonight than a leader who has to change the gun laws of this country as the public by overwhelming majority now demands. Will he, or will he ..lead from the rear as in many other issues (immigration, DOMA, DADT, etc)?

I reserve my judgment until I see what he does in the next few days regarding federal legislation to ban assault weapons, high capacity magazines, require strict controls on handguns, etc. Maybe it's his strategy to grieve his the families and through the emotional path try to bring the necessary change.

Obama: "God called those children home."
Sadly, perpetuating stupidity and superstition still the norm in the US!

However, enough with superstition and ignorance. What the hell is this supposed to mean, "God called back those children"??!!! Really, Mr. president? Then if God wanted to call those children in such horrible way--and you assume you know that--why should we blame the gunman or demand any change? If God is able and willing, he'll do whatever is necessary. Or, he won't... Why should we bother with anything really if this is the motto?

Someone has to speak up against this primitive superstitious and ignorant approach/reaction to tragedies. This should end. I'd like those who have access to megaphones and want a more critical thinking public would not bring out the voodoo dolls during times of crisis. It's the 21st century, we should be mature enough to handle reality, so references to the supernatural is a disservice and an action that further perpetuates wishful thinking, prejudice, servility, and superstition.

Federal laws must be passed as to what kind of firearms are allowed. It's a political choice of a secular regime! No hunter should get guided missiles, bombs, or machine guns to enjoy their sport. No one should get clips that hold dozens of bullets, and of course no assault weapons. The Second Amendment--written by people over 2 centuries ago whose idea of "arms" was much different than ours--has already been modified by reality: "the right to bear arms" doesn't mean today the right to have tanks, F16s, and nukes. Oh, and the argument that we need guns to protect ourselves from the government is so 18th century too. Out duty as engaged and informed citizens is to never reach that point of having to violently resist our own government, because if we do it'll be too late! The government will always have more, bigger, and powerful weapons.

There are more gun shops than grocery stores (or McDonalds, or Walmarts or gas stations) in the US!


It's absolutely ridiculous that in order to get a car you need to be tested for ability, obtain insurance, while the vehicle is registered and inspected, but getting a gun is simple matter of going to a gun show and buy one with no background check! This is totally insane. I'm fed up with going through the same motions of sadness, anger, grieving, promises of "never again", every time such a bloody event happens, but we don't do anything about it!

Children under 14 are 13 time more likely to be killed in the US (in advanced countries). Guns kill 30,000 Americans every year. The murder rate in other advanced countries is in the dozens whereas in the US is in the tens of thousands. Yes, there are complex reasons for having such a violent society--and we should start a national dialogue on this--but we certainly can do something about the means of violence.

Obama has done this kind of consoling after massacres 4 times during his tenure. Has he learned that the mass murderers used legally-obtained assault weapons? But, this is the president who signed 2 gun bills into law. One, to allow firearms into national parks and one to allow them on Amtrak! How's this for a radical president who'd confiscate all guns as the conservative nuts argued in 2008?...

Time is now for serious action and the president to lead. I understand the script, I understand that Obama has to speak a certain language, but no amount of comfort can bring back the innocent dead. However, if we change our attitudes and public policies we can prevent tragedies in the future. We'll all gain from this. We should come together when we face adversity and pain, but we should stop being masochists and fatalists now!

PS>Yes, more readily available guns lead to more violence and homicides. Here's a study among advanced countries. Yes, it's also the culture that plays a role, but even formerly violent countries (Japan, Germany) have changed due to gun control and other sensible laws! The US can too.

Dec 15, 2012

The Senseless Murder of Schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary Reflect on All of Us. It's Time to Seriously Think About Reducing Violence in the US

If this is not a good time to pass serious gun control--after the massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school--I don't know when it'll be a better time. The gun lobby has lots of power, but it can't have more than the outraged people who say enough with gun violence in our country! 

Along with mourning for the 20 schoolchildren and half a dozen adults who got sensibly murdered today, I'm angry that those who perpetrate a culture of violence and make it easy for anyone--yes, anyone--to obtain weapons.

Mike Huc╬║abee reached a new low today when he said, We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be surprised that schools would become places of carnage?” […] “Maybe we ought to let (God) in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call Him up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

In times of crisis, idiots like Huckabee [just watch how many others like him will make similar statements] who point out how bad God must be to allow children to be murdered, because the liberals (who else?) removed the deity from schools! But, this is the kind of thinking that's preventing our country from progressing into a more peaceful, rational, and happier society. 


The NRA is coming out as an equal asshole by blaming gun control advocates for the massacre, arguing that if everybody else had guns there wouldn't be so many victims. We had those days when almost everyone packed heat, but advanced societies decided to change that and gun violence, including gun accidents went down. I work on a university campus and I don't want to see everyone carrying any weapon, because not only it wouldn't be safer for all of us, but it would create a tense atmosphere--not nice!

As our thoughts are with the families of the victims and the little children who experienced this trauma, I hope that Obama indeed politicizes this event. When events unfold while public policy has something to do with them, then political decisions must be examined. We should allow a well-organized and financed minority to dictate bad policies to the rest of us. It's time to seriously restrict access to firearms and control who gets what. It's also time to revisit the 2nd Amendment...


------------------
Update 12/15/12
I had an interesting debate last night on the topic of violence and ..creationism. Are we created faulty, say, with a bad seed in us, as conservative philosophers think of human nature? If you assume that God created us in our present form, then the designer should be blamed for a defective unit. Ah, free will, is the retort. But, then, what would that prove that free will results in the suffering of innocents? Take a look at the 20 little children in elementary school who have been murdered. They couldn't be that bad that deserved the death penalty. Therefore, why does God allow for such? Take a look at any cancer ward in a children's hospital also....This doesn't look the work or the care of a loving God, does it?

It's the small-mindedness of humans that results in most of the violence we've inflicted on each other and on our environment. A couple centuries after the Enlightenment, much of humanity is still in the dark in many more ways than lacking electricity....

Dec 7, 2012

The Conservative Disposition Hurts Progress and Helps the Very Wealthy at the Expense of the Rest. Plus, a Word on "Traditional America!"

Traditional America: When women and blacks knew their place, 
homosexuals were locked in the closet, and the Government could ask, 
"do you know, or have you ever known a ...."
By looking at some states you'd think the country is certainly moving in the right direction regarding civil liberties and into a progressive way of life. Yet, there's still polarization and it's growing, though the regressives are losing ground overall. Some states are becoming decisively more liberal/progressive whereas others more conservative. 

Many of the modern conservatives [in the sense of post-American & French revolutions], especially the "economic conservatives" have accepted many of the basic principles of liberalism but they don't seem to get over the pace of social, economic, political change.

Since Edmund Burke, one of the early philosophers who talked about a conservative disposition, conservatives are concerned about the pace of change, human nature (we're all governed by "original sin"), and preservation of traditional culture, morality, and the status quo. This is the ..bargain conservative parties have offered the lower classes in exchange for their support. Maybe there's a conservative disposition in most humans, because the familiar can be more comforting than the unknown, the abstract, the experimental. Most people aren't exactly looking for anything that would challenge their preconceived biases. 

Click on it if you're a woman
In the US, there was rapid change after WW II. Blacks came back from fighting against Hitler's evil (and his notions of racial purity) to a racist country. The civil rights movement gathered steam. Women in the workplace were now common. The middle class was upwardly mobile [sadly, it hasn't since the 70s today], there was Rock & Roll, sexual revolution and women's choice, drugs, Hollywood, wars and political crises. Even the face of immigration changed from white Europeans to Latinos and Asians. All of this was very unnerving to the conservatives as "traditional America" was dissolving.

In the 1970s, there's a reaction and the religious conservatives begin to organize to "take back America"... Restore the moral fitness of the country, it was their aim, they said. Still is. This big pool of activists (not just voters), lobbyists, fundraisers, changed our politics beginning with Reagan's presidency. By 1990s, the transformation of the Republican party had been evident in its very conservative leaders and policies. The tea party of late added to this extremism.

The bargain's basic premises are still being used by the GOP. As Irving Kistol said, the fight shouldn't be about (or between) the haves and have-nots, but about morality and traditional values. Focus on economic growth, not as a class warfare, but as a ..rising tide that lifts all boats, and trickle-down economics. That's why we see the Republicans not wanting to increase taxes on the top rich, and keep saying more affluence at the very top creates jobs. 

Leadership matters. Elections have consequences. Obama does have a mandate so he should use it to bring the US more in line with the advanced liberal-social democracies, where:
  • higher social and economic mobility exists
  • more equitable wealth distribution
  • more educated public
  • more scientific and secular
  • longer life expectancy
  • healthier population
  • more leisure time
  • more productive workers (per hour)
  • less crime and violence
  • less stressed people
 .....

(Update)
In case you're unhappy with his sudden departure and wondering what  Senator Jim DeMint's (R-SC) has been leading the Republicans into for many years, here as some of his ..lowlights:
  • Led the opposition to "Obama care". OK, no surprise. Supported Tom Akin (remember the "legitimate rape"?), even when the GOP distanced itself from this moron for a moment.
  • In 2010, DeMint “said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom.”
  •  Pushed a bill outlawing the discussion of abortion over the Internet. Last year, DeMint proposed an amendment to an unrelated bill that would have barred a woman and her doctor from discussing abortion over the internet, even if her health was at risk and tele-conferencing was the most feasible option to receive care.
  • He promised to use his new position at the Heritage Foundation to take back America from the throes of progress and into the Dark Ages. [well, he didn't quite put it this way, but this isn't far from the truth if he dared speak it!]

Nov 15, 2012

With the Election of 2012 Over, Obama Should Take the Initiative and Push for Common Sense Policies

Well, we should be happy that the retarded conservative party and its designee didn't win the presidential election. My biggest surprise was that the Republicans expressed shock that not only Romney would win but win in a landslide! Apparently "bullshit mountain" [Jon Stewart's description of Faux News] and the conservative pundits--who've been wrong about everything--sold the gullible snake oil.

Not to brag, but I wrote here Obama would win very comfortably the electoral law plus the popular one. Also, that the Senate would remain Democratic. I hoped the Dems would win more seats than what they actually won, though I thought it would still be under Repub control. Interestingly, the Dem vote was higher, but redistricting and other quirks give the Repubs the majority.

These maps below show the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.



State by state, winner-take-all, view.


Population matters.

State by state, WTA, but adjusted for population. The blue states have a lot more people.



Looks may be deceiving:

Outcome by counties, regardless of population.


How Americans voted by county:




County by county adjusted for population.

This country still remains very divided and I don't know if the gap is shrinking. The leadership of the GOP doesn't seem to want to move its political base closer to the center, and modernity. By divided, I don't just mean the Dem-Repub division, but also a whole host of issues, from the economy to social matters. For example, use of marijuana, same-sex marriage, homosexuals in the military, notions of social safety net (including health care), role of US in the world, science (including climate change), etc. 

In the first few days after his reelection, Obama came out swinging. This is good, very good. He has to use his political capital right away otherwise it will evaporate. In addition, a more forceful president can set the tone for the next four years. Let's get some reform in the US Senate so a handful of obstructionist can't stop the country from doing its business. 

Nov 4, 2012

Post-Hurricane Blues But With High Hopes for the Blue Team on Election Day!

I'm writing this a week after losing power at home and within a brief window of semi-normalcy that a generator can provide. It's also two days before the election; at least on this end, things look good. One of the most duplicitous, fake, and dishonest presidential candidates ever will go down in defeat, though not by a landslide--which says something about our electorate.

FEMA and other governmental agencies are absolutely necessary in times of emergency; why Romney and the Republicans argue differently it's a reflection of their crusty ideology. By keep demonizing the role of government, they have been doing a disservice to our country. I'd say, if you don't have a positive proposal for government, then you shouldn't be elected to any important position!

The northeastern US has been hit hard by Sandy and this will have some impact on the election, hopefully not too serious that too many Dems won't be able (or care) to vote. We must turn back this GOP to the Dark Ages where it belongs.

I'm surprised that the Repubs don't complain that Obama should have fixed this by now! Or, that Romney was able to prevent all superstorms as governor and as president he could fix the weather too! Oyvey...

Again, the Dems will hold the Senate, unknown is the fate of the House, but Obama will get over 300 EVs and win the popular vote! 

See you on the other side of the election.
 

 

Oct 26, 2012

Choices Are Clear But the Polls Remain Muddy. Fortunately, the Fundamentals of this Election Haven't Changed

In a couple weeks, we'll know the master of the universe, well, not really, because there's this pesky thingy--the filibuster.

However, the presidential race has tighten as many polls indicate. I won't tire in saying it's all about turnout, and I feel confident that the Democratic base is energized enough--or at least as much as the Republican one--to make the difference on Nov. 6th. In the critical state of Ohio, the Dems have a 3-1 advantage on field operations.

I've been engaged in all sorts of discussions, from the academia to the street, and I've heard almost every argument. Basically it mostly comes down to people's wishful thinking and their rationalizing of that view. Very few are conflicted about their choice and may change their minds based on last-minute impressions, or, most likely, not vote at all. 

It's easy to get lost in one meandering argument, but the fundamentals are rather simple: what creates jobs, wealth distribution, social safety net, personal choice, quality of life. Both candidates aren't willing to shake the system too much, but the direction matters, because even if it's a few degrees of difference now, the destination will be very different years from now. Meanwhile we're dealing with human lives, from hungry children and poverty, to the uninsured and health care, to environment, and education. We should help safeguard and create new opportunitiesies that allow people to engage in their own pursuit of happiness.

Both candidates are specializing in generalities, especially Romney who has a ..plan to fix everything without offering any specifics or when he does, the math does not add up. Meanwhile the president could have been more forceful in attacking Romney, but what's new?  My analogy would be the smashed up car, courtesy of conservative economics--the type Romney and his party advocate. The process of repairing the mess is slower and every time the mechanic (the prez) asks for a tool, the Congressional Repubs say "no".... I wish Obama would keep saying that their aim was to destroy his presidency not to help the country, and that's why BO should be asking for a Democratic Congress too!

Extremism of the Dark Ages, Today's GOP


These times offer a good opportunity to debate the role of government, and a host of other social issues. When I asked my students to read the platforms of the two parties as approved by the conventions, it was an eye opener! Even Republicans were surprised to see such extreme views there. Yeap, that's the medieval GOP still competing in the 21st century!

 Potential Romney Treasury Secretary: “the Rich Are Taxed Enough”

Fortunately, there are several Repubs running for public office who express those anachronistic views, like pregnancy from rape is a gift from God! But, still the American public is not aware of GOP extremism.

Inequality Doesn’t Matter Because Poor People Have Appliances?
Top adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign denied the nation’s income inequality gap in a Wall Street Journal editorial on Thursday, brushing off the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy by arguing that lower-income Americans are buying more consumer goods.
In the debates Romney became a reasonable centrist, notwithstanding changing his views dramatically since the Republican primaries. Even if I were a Repub (brrrr), I'd be wondering where is this guy going to land if he wins the election. Would my dislike for Obama suffice to vote for a liar? I guess it would if I believed what Bullshit Mountain (Fox News) has been spewing.


 Who are the "irresponsible takers"?

I was disappointed that nobody brought up the neoconservative view during the last debate. Romney's rhetoric of a "more forceful" US policy, and "restoring America's superiority abroad" is a big red flag for me. Where is he going to draw his policy advisers and policy staff from? Likely from the last bunch of neoconservative chicken hawks adventurers who like to engage in bloody conflicts to prove that the US can act unilaterally in the effort to shape the world according to some backward worldview. Tsk.

Anyway, I know there are lots of polls showing everything anyone would like to hear. My take is that Ohio, Virginia, NH, Colorodo, Nevada and the other 2008 blue states will remain so. Romney will pick up Indiana and North Carolina for sure. Florida I think it's tied and go either way. Yet, even with FL (29 EV) on the GOP column, BO would win 303 Electoral Votes of the 270 needed. If FL goes Dem, it'll be a landlslide. 

Another drubbing at the polls may make the Republican party reevaluate its extremism and love affair with the tea party. The Dems, by the way, should thank the tea partiers for keeping the US Senate in Dem hands in 2010 and this year!

Oct 19, 2012

In a Nutshell...

I'm an awesome humble executive who cares!
Trust me. I have a great plan for America. You don't need the specifics right now, but I know what I'm doing.
Trust me.  Why, I know I've said what I need to say, even contradictory statements, but I had to get here... in a position to help you!
Once you elect me president of the US of A, you'll see how great it's going to be! 
Trust me. 

That's Romney's presidential campaign message in a nutshell.

...

.....
UPDATE
Finally, I tracked down Romney's detailed plan. Check it out here:Romney's America

Oct 18, 2012

Obama Scores With the Independents and the so-called Undecideds in the Second Debate.

The prize for the most-improved candidate went to president Obama in the second debate. I think Romney did well enough for his own political base. But, the polls indicate that the "undecided voters" and "independents" also gave Obama the nod.
 

Now some polls already showing a bump for Obama and I'm wondering why? Seriously, if we are to believe that there are many undecideds out there, is this how they make up their minds?! Don't they know the big differences between these two guys? Is the delivery of the message that counts more in shifting the poll numbers? That's not very encouraging for our democracy.

A political education is a long process, it doesn't happen in a couple weeks, that is, assuming someone has a clue of what the issues are and what are some of the general views of the political parties. Yes, both support elements of the status quo, but, yes, there are important differences. My ideal candidate is not running though--I doubt he/she ever does. Yet, I do know that a Romney presidency (as a GW Bush one) will be different than a second Obama term. The Supreme Court, deficits [Republicans create bigger ones], health care, tax rates, public goods & services, reproductive choice, education, science, military spending, and a host of all other aspects will be different depending on who wins in November.
 
It's very important to watch the two candidates and the political parties over a long period, because that's the proper way to learn about their ideas and policy proposals, not during a "debate" where a candidate can say whatever to appeal to the broadest bloc of voters as possible. Romney did very well, and established himself as a credible presidential candidate because he moved to the center during the first (and second) debate! He lied of course, and moved far from the positions he had taken during the Republican primary earlier this year. He flipped a couple days later on Faux News and other conservative media.

Link: Romney's 31 Lies in 41 Minutes

Does this matter? Do the swing voters follow up the post-debate news analyses? Or, the debate impressions stick? I have my doubts whether this group of voters pays much attention to the ..details. The polls do show bumps after big media moments--like conventions, debates, and other political events. Such movements most likely indicate levels of excitement, and the oscillation of the "floaters." The floaters are very low information voters, highly impressionable, and unpredictable. Most don't vote but are counted in the polls.

Some national polls look very good for Romney. Indeed he has really huge advantage in the very red states, much bigger than what Obama has in the blue states. But, the Electoral Vote count is still heavily in Obama's favor. I'm keeping my prediction that BO will be reelected very comfortably in the EC.



 

Oct 12, 2012

Joe Biden Takes the Fight to the Republicans and Delivers!

Are you serious congressman? Stop lying.. (Mr. Prez are you watching this?)
The first and only VP debate of 2012 is over and Biden did what Obama should have done last week, so I chalk this one for the Dems. Ryan did well enough too. But, let me explain how I see this election shaping up.

The two campaigns are not trying to convince the "undecideds" or convert new followers. Instead, they're trying to appeal to their political base and excite it to come out and vote. Yes, it's about turnout and the more energized base usually wins the election. The so-called independents that are already registered to vote [note that the "likely voters" are not necessarily actual voters] have already picked their pony. Only something major event, really big, will make them change their minds, and even so, many will simply not vote instead of voting for the other ticket.

We like to believe that voters are acting on good information and rational choices, but this is not the case. If someone is undecided at this stage, they are either very uninformed about the candidates or seriously confused. 

What these debates actually do is to motivate the troops, and in this regard I thought both candidates delivered. As a general impression, I thought Biden clearly won the match by not conceding any points, appearing in command of the facts, and as one who could step into the presidency if need be. Ryan didn't come across like that, but it hardly matters.

About Polls and Polling

All of us have been aware of the narrative after the first presidential debate, that is, how the polls showed a big Romney surge and how some key states became more competitive for the red team, while national polls showed Romney either ahead or tying Obama. I have had my doubts about how this new narrative is being dished out. Even though no one can claim to be a total agnostic without a shred of bias, I'm trying not to rely on wishful thinking in order to feel good.

It's been very, very rare that a candidate wins the electoral vote and loses the national. Even in 2000, Gore should have won Florida easily. He would have if the recount had continued or some other voting problems had been remedied before the election. The battleground states barely moved [well, depends who's doing the polling. Russmussen polls are especially biased], and that's why I'm suspicious of the national numbers. Levels of excitement or disappointment affect the polls. After all, not everyone answers their phone!

Polling is as much as art as science. There are a lot of assumptions, and corrective measures, and techniques, and, yes, insufficient data upon which to design a poll. Many (it's a dirty secret) pollsters buy into the consensus narrative and tweak their numbers to reflect that.

Again, performances during the debates help motivate the two parties' political base and may create the sense of inevitability--that's why Obama's failure to close the curtain on Romney pissed most of us off.  At any rate, the second presidential debate is next Tuesday. We'll be watching. Hopefully Obama will be much better and regain the narrative.

The best we can hope for is that the majority (as it did before the debates) thinks Obama is going to be reelected, this way turnout will be higher among his political base and maybe this will help win back the House. The Senate seems safe for the Dems, but the president needs to make the case for a Democratic Congress since the Republican House, and the minority in the Senate, have been obstructionists and nothing more.

You've got to love Joe. He took the fight to Ryan and not only. Maybe he can coach his boss, we only hope...

Oct 4, 2012

Obama Loses First Presidential Debate of 2012, But Hold Your Parties or Funerals. Most People Have Already Picked Their Ponies

The first presidential debate of 2012 is in the history book, though it'll probably go into the pages no one reads in the future. The general consensus is that Romney beat Obama by a big margin and that the latter missed a dozen opportunities to deliver. So, is this a game-changer?

Not so fast. Obama disappointed many of his supporters. He showed that he is not a forceful leader by nature, that he becomes professorial and almost "above the fray" when he needs to show strong commitment and when he's expected to clearly demonstrate that he's in the fight to win it. As in many games, playing it safe against an inferior team often leads to defeat.

As I've already said, 2012 looks much like 2004 in the reverse. Kerry won all debates against president Bush but he lost the general election. Romney won last night but not convincingly. He earned a few points among Independents, but I hardly think that this will turn the tide. Let's see how the polls move in the next few days. If the gap, especially in the swing states remains in Obama's favor, this election will be already decided.

What debates like that one do is to energize the base of the candidate that does well, and this, indeed, has an effect. Much of the result in all elections depends on turnout when the margin of popular support is within a few points. Again, if the post-debate polls maintain the 4-5 point difference (in battleground states), there's no path to victory for Romney. I do not see this Obama advantage melting away in the next 4 weeks. However a more energized Romney base may make a big difference in Senate and House races because of turnout. This, however, is still to be decided. We're just entered fourth quarter. If the losing team begins to believe the game is lost, it gives up and the ultimate gap becomes bigger as the "players" (voters) don't show up on election day.

Both candidates tried to send specific messages to their political bases. They know turnout is crucial. I'm not sure if they believe that there are many undecided voters up for grabs; the polls show that there aren't many, and of those it's a big question whether they'll actually show up on November 6th.


The debates measure what exactly? How the two candidates deliver, communicate their message, their temperament and quick wit. Most people who tune in are doing so to crystallize their views, confirm their decision. In my view, very few actually tune it with a totally available mind to be convinced one way or another. We know this. We know that most of those who say the candidate they preferred before the debate but lost is also the candidate they'll end up voting for! I know my horse hobbles horribly, but will I change my pony?....

When I raised this point during my interview with WABC radio, someone observed that politics is not like sports, because it's not the emotional side but other needs that take precedent. Well, yes and no. Choosing positions--philosophical or political--is a long term process. It's also emotional, more so that people are willing to admit. Politics like religion runs in families. The environment plays a role, but it's not during a few autumnal weeks prior to an election. Investing in a team, an idea, an identity is logical and emotional. The longer a person does this the harder to change his/her views. Then it's picking ponies of similar colors. Occasionally some people may confuse a mule for a pony, but in their minds they're picking a pony.

 
Predictions is a risky business, but, what the heck, I'm making an educated guess that Obama will win at least 320 Electoral Votes, possibly 332, while Romney around 200, a little more or less. I cannot see how Ohio, Florida can go Romney's way. The states he can win is Indiana, for sure, possibly North Carolina, and maybe, at best, one or two smaller states. Not enough to land in or surpass the 270 box.




Sep 15, 2012

You Are Going to Be Offended. Grow Up and Deal With It Without Resorting to Violence

With technology news travels faster and there are many more ways for ideas, events, and whatever else to spread everywhere. It's getting increasingly impossible to remain in isolation any more. Guess what? The world is not made to please us all the time! All the religious fanatics, the ultranationalists, and whomever has a oversensitive disposition should take a deep breath and deal with this fact: they are going to be offended!  

Not all ideas are good or make any contribution except to waste our time and energy, but so it's the deep-entrenched belief that certain revealed knowledge should be unassailable. It is through free exchange, trading, and thinking that we have advanced in the face of the reactionaries who are more comfortable with repetition, ignorance, and mental isolation.

The US ambassador to Libya and others were killed because some idiot in the US, plus idiots in the Middle East showed a video defaming the prophet Mohamed. Same story with the Danish cartoons several years ago. Along the line of the Biblical moral value of punishing someone for the sins of someone else, innocent people are injured, tortured, and killed. Mohamed, Jesus, Apollo, Odin, Buddha, etc, must be happy when the mortals kill each other defending the true prophet's reputation. Otherwise the heavens should have another clear and universally-accessed message of which version is correct and whether the killings should stop.
 A Matter of Confidence
People who have confidence and are mature don't need to use violence to defend their beliefs when offended. We, men, while growing up forming an identity were very sensitive to, say, having our masculinity challenged. Most of us remember getting into fights because someone said something to our face. Most of us adults don't do this anymore, because we are confident, don't need to prove something through violence, and our identity is not invalidated by some idiot's remarks. Right? Yes!

Freedom of expression includes the free circulation of ideas, good and bad, without the fear of punishment. Societies who have experimented with tolerance and free exchange have been more successful, creative, and happier. Ancient Athens gave a lot to western civilization, and not only, while the playwrights made fun of the gods, while the scientists were discovering the world without having to please the secular and religious authorities. 

It's a safer, more rewarding, more practical & beneficial to our lives that we seek to understand the world instead the mind of God. Since the latter has given contradictory messages to different peoples throughout the continents and through millennia, while he is not willing to speak to all of us without intermediaries, in a clear indisputable way, let's just say we can live with offending each other. 

Yes, it would take maturity, confidence, and a rational mind to stop behaving like primitive primates, but we can make a better world for all of us. Unfortunately, keeping humans in a primitive state maintains servility--of body and most importantly of spirit. Who benefits from this? Who benefits when ignorance rules? Who benefits when people live in fear?  I know who is least served by such conditions: the poor, the middle class, the oppressed. 

I understand that once an idea, a practice, or a belief system is raised to the level of identity, amendments are hard to come by. But, we should promote the rational mind instead of the irrational, the prejudicial, and the uneducated. A better world depends on this. 

I'm Offended! Richard Dawkins is Disrespecting Zeus!

 
We are not advancing our collective civilization the more we stoke the fears and the worst primal instincts of people. We are not advancing if we are forced to respect--under the threat of the death penalty--the attributes of man-made gods who, according to the holly books, are jealous, vindictive, megalomaniac, capricious, dictatorial, genocidal, ethnic cleansers, and insecure when challenged by other gods or humans lacking faith.


Let's just all agree that we're all going to hell--that's what religions say about the other religions--but in the meanwhile we can make it a better world by respecting each other and a person's right to free expression. Ideas don't need rights, people do!

Perspective...

 This is all we've got, and we've been wasting our little spec of time fighting each other about whose illusions are more correct...


Sep 9, 2012

Are We Better Off Today Than Four Years Ago?

Are we better off four years into Obama's presidency? Well, it depends how you look at it. I say, yes, we are! The previous chief and his crew started the fire that began to consume our house. This chief and his crew put out the fire and have began the rebuilding process. Is our house better since 2008? Probably yes. Is it better since we arrived? Probably not. However, the previous regime that created the whole mess now wants the keys back because the present regime hasn't completely fixed the mess!

Oh, and when the current chief asks for tools, programs, jobs, the Republicans in Congress say, NO! Under our system, the president can't raise or spend money unless Congress agrees. Further, we should never elect to high office persons and political parties that do not have a positive view regarding government. If they don't think our government can be a positive force for our commonwealth, they should stay away. No, government is not the answer to all problems, but it is the agent that reduces obstacles to freedom, to enhance access to opportunity, and to push for legal equality.

The numbers


Clinton was right, the Dems have created almost twice as many jobs despite controlling the White House for fewer years! The Repubs have created more deficits and increased the gap between the 1% and the rest. How about the market? Without including the Great Depression [guess who was mainly responsible for it?], had you invested in the market, under a Dem president you'd have gotten an annual return twice as big, 8.9% to 4.7%; including Hoover's term, then it drops to 0.4%! [Here's the link to those numbers]

Obama gets an "D" (barely passes) when it comes to political communication. He cut taxes for 95% of the middle class taxpayers and nobody knows it. The benefits of the health care law are not known to those not immediately affected by it, so many people think it's another big government program costing billions more, when it's not and it actually reduces medical expenses. One third of the stimulus went to tax breaks for working people!

There's been a huge investment in green jobs and the CBO reports that 2.5 millions jobs are a direct effect. Likewise for the automobile industry and the many private business connected to it. The stimulus package was mainly a jobs bill in essence, but Obama hasn't communicated that!

Banks got a bailout--private banks with very highly-paid execs--but that saved the financial system. It wasn't done in a way most of us would have liked, but it was necessary.

Where's G. W. Bush?

In 2008, the US had lost millions of jobs, and was losing hundred of thousands every month until the summer of 2009 when Obama's policies began to take effect. The conservatives started labeling the Great Recession as Obama's recession a week after the November election in 2008!

If the GOP really believes Obama is responsible not for the pace of the recovery but for the roots of the problem why don't they take G.W. Bush and his crew out of mothballs and parade them around today until the election? Did you hear Dubya's name at the GOP convention? I didn't either!

In 2008, the economy was shrinking 9% a year; it was like the entire economy of Canada disappearing! Deregulation and lack of oversight of Wall Street created many of the financial scandals. This is the philosophy and policies of the conservatives at play. Yes, many Democratic leaders also cater to Wall Street and big banks, but there are a few, like Elizabeth Warren, who want to change that... to the benefit of everyone, including the big financial institutions. 

Why? Because capitalism needs referees, needs oversight, needs to be saved from itself. The more successful, stable, happy, safest, healthiest countries are the ones who have strong regulations and a good oversight. The more "pure capitalist" countries are on the opposite side of this spectrum. Check it out.

It's truly amazing that the US conservatives' policies attract so much support. Why Romney and his party are still competitive in this election... They are not saying anything different nor are proposing new policies but the ones that got us into a deep recession and worsened the position of the middle class.  Are we suffering from Alzheimer's as a nation? I hope that enough people will turn out and stop this insanity on November 6th, 2012.

...

My next post, soon, will be on the electoral calculations. I'm looking into the post-convention bounce and into the numbers from the battleground states. As of now, it looks very promising for the blue team.




 

Aug 27, 2012

The Clash Between Science & Religion has Great Implications for the Quality of Our Lives

Humanity has been making technological, cultural and all sorts of other progress for millennia, but around the 18th century, with the culmination of the Englightenment and modern science leading the way, we've made huge leaps forward compared to the past.

In the last 100 years alone, we've doubled the average life expectancy. Our knowledge increased tremedously and with the improvement in the quality of life and education humanity changed the ways it organizes the society.  Progress, however, hasn't been linear, nor at steady pace, so the question is Why?

Good change, innovation, new ideas may occur whenever, as they were normally in the past, but the conditions/environment plays a great role. Who are more likely to produce technological advances? Who are more likely to be progressive or conservative? What are the obstacles to progress? Here are some:
  • ignorance (includes lack of education)
  • poverty
  • prejudice
  • religion

Why is it that a woman in an advanced liberal democracy fares so much better than the worst place in the world to be a woman, in Afghanistan? [beheadings for showing ..ancle]. Yes, the conditions are different, obviously, but the conditions within people's minds is what counts the most in the outcome!

Science versus religion

Where do the Taliban, the Ayatollahs, the suicide bombers, and the everywhere zealots who believe they must make all of us follow their lunacy get their ideas from? Do I need to give you the answer?... 

No, you can't say every group has its crazies. This may be true, but it's the doctrine of "we know the mind of god and you must oblige too under the penalty of death"... that is the root of evil. It's teaching the children and the gallible adults not to think, not to question, no to offer skepticism, not to know, because everything there's is to know is has been given to us by the Almighty.

In a safe, open & tolerant, and well-to-do society it's easier for people to be more relaxed, have the confidence, and the education to be able to evaluate and accept progressive change.

Why do people believe what they believe? Much is through repetition, culture, and religion. It would be much more ..natural to have the wrong ideas in an environment of ignorance where good information is hard to come by or is prohibited by the regime. But, why do people in the US reject evolution in favor of creation or so-called intelligent design? Why do they believe that a fertilized egg is a human being entitled to full rights as a born person? Why don't they know, for example, that most fertilized eggs don't make it to the uterus. Does this make couples who are trying to conceive ..serial killers?

Why do such people and their political leaderss have the regressive views of women and advocate policies that favor a xtian sharia law on American women? It's amazing that a major political party in the US spreads so much ignorance, superstition and fights against education, civil rights, egalitarian society, and the scientific method.

It's religious ideas that dictate people believe all sorts of stupid stuff. It's religion that makes a person believe and do anything! It's this virus of the mind that in transmitted openly, with the encouragement of the state, and it's considered a virtue to shun reason, empiricism, and skepticism. And, it has a "fail safe" mechanism: if challenged, it must be the devil who wants to destroy you!


Bill Nye (the science guy) has a good argument in that creationism is not good for children! I'd say infecting youngminds with a virus is a form of child abuse. At least, if an adult wants to be wilfully infected so be it.

Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon because of the scientific method and the the US's interest in beating the Soviets in the space, and weapons race. We have a strange situation here in the US regarding science. We have a long luminous history of research and scientific breakthroughs, and many brilliant minds emigrating to the US to pursue such, but at the same time we have an incredible high level of scientific illiteracy among our people. 

The space exploration, for example, was made possible because of public education, public funds for R & D, NASA, etc. This must continue. Military calculations, wars, and national security concerns made leaders spend on R&D,  but how do we convince the non-scientificly inclided public that science is the best tool we've got to materially improve our lives?  The Cold War is over, there are huge budget deficits while a presidential candidate and his party want to make our society poorer, brutish, fearful, and ignorant. 

We have to ask, who benefits from people being ignorant, fearful (real and imagined threats), and prejudiced?  In a democracy, the people vote and the public sentiment has to be taken into account. However, we seem to indulge ourselves more on trivia than substance, and superfluous impressions than understanding of the issues. 

I just saw a poll that shows too many voters are seriously considering Romney instead of sending him and the GOP into one of the worst defeats (in hopes of shedding the lunacy) ever. The people who smashed the car and are still advocating the same insane driving practice may be given the keys to the car again this November! Amazing! Actually, it's stupefying.

This blog has been criticizing this president for governing like a wuss but we can't expect him to deliver a spiffy, fast, unblemished, like-new vehicle in such a short time, especially when he has to get Congress to agree to buy the parts needed for repairs.

Other than that Mrs Lincoln how did you like the play?....




Aug 25, 2012

Robert Reich Explains the Bad Economics & Priorities of the Romney-Ryan Ticket

I received this video from MoveOn.org with my favorite Robert Reich explaining the five reasons the Romney-Ryan plan would further damage the middle class and worsen the US economy. 



My response with five reasons:
  1. My friends believe they know everything so this video isn't necessary.
  2. You wrongly assume that most people are motivated by reason, inquiry, evidence, and are willing to change their minds. Most people seek to confirm their biases.
  3. Isn't Move On part of the liberal media? That fella seemed like he knew what he was talking about until the end.... if he works for Move On then he's biased. I want ..both sides. One the Earth is flat and the other it’s round. The truth maybe is in the middle…
  4. Conservatives won't vote for Romney because they care or know much about Ryan; they'll vote against the black Muslim Kenyan and the unpatriotic Dems. USA # 1
  5. The 5 ways R & R's plan would destroy the middle class can be interpreted that the people in the MC will move up to the rich class! We don't need a MC. I guess the poor will always be screwed, but we all know it's their fault

Seriously, there are very few people who will be moved by reason this election. Most of us already know how we'll vote. The people who will swing one way or another are either low-information voters or true independents. The latter, however, are likely to be leaners, that is, they hold specific and rather concrete views on many issues, thus it's a matter of a campaign making connections between the candidate and those voters. This, by the way, is one strategy of a campaign. Educating the voters means making those connections not changing minds--there's no time for that.

This is another reason why the extreme positions of this Republican party should be advertised as much as possible. It's not where most people are and not where they're headed. For example, Romney-Ryan view on birth control and abortion, tax policies, the environment, health care, etc. The Akin fiasco shows the true nature of the GOP. Once the real "mind" and will of the GOP is revealed people know it's crazy.



Take a look at the speakers appearing in the GOP national convention and what they've said and what they stand for. Appalling. From questioning Obama's birth certificate to conspiracy theories of the bizarre.