Oct 21, 2013

Life, Death, Wishful Thinking, And The Devil Incarnate. All in this Week's Post. Come Right In!

I've listened to NPR's series "What Comes Next? Conversations on Afterlife" and I found it entertaining but nothing surprised me though. The philosopher argued the most interesting points, but the rest--from all sorts of religious points--made incoherent arguments for an afterlife. No proof offered, not even good reasoning. Of course, there were divergent opinions, because, guess what, they can't agree as they don't agree on what's in the mind of God. 

Basically what they proposed was some kind of a theme based on their pre-conceived notion that select ancients had captured God's dictation--which is quite preposterous. What comes out of these arguments is wishful thinking. People need to have hope to deal with their pending total annihilation, which, I admit, is not a pleasant thing to look forward to. But, I guess it's a matter of choice whether to believe in something that makes you feel good (better) than the unpleasant reality.

Like many true skeptics, I can't be sure of what happens after we die, other than our bodies, including our brains--the seat of conscience and individualism--decompose and wither away. Survival, for the person would mean the preservation of memory and personality as a minimum. Yes, our atoms will be recycled and combine with other atoms from and into other stuff. Every atom in our body has come from an exploding star! It's novel to think that way: We're star stuff. Of course, a negative person might call us ..nuclear waste.

But, a skeptic wouldn't make up stories of a nice outcome simply it feels better than any other alternative. That's what a scared person would do. It's the job of the religious leaders to get followers by delivering enticing but empty promises. And, they do this by appealing not to reason and evidence but to credulity, fear, and ignorance.

Did you know that in the past, Xtians didn't believe that their bodies will go with then during Rapture. Actually it made more sense that way, if you wanted a better experience without an old, wrinkled, sick body that had needs, some of which were "unclean urges." In the modern age, this changed. Many Xtians today believe they'll be raptured along with their bodies and that they'll go to heaven where they'll even see their pets there!

Speaking of beliefs, most Americans (US) believe in an afterlife. Actually many believe that it's probable Jesus will return in their lifetime--in the next 30 years. That would mean the end of times, or life as we know it.  Whatever. Reality doesn't depend on majority rule, and science didn't progress by polling public opinion. 

We're far behind when it comes to scientific literacy, thanks to strong religious beliefs--which are the strongest in the western world. That's why scientific facts are controversial in the US! The age of the earth, evolution, global climate changes, or even basic human reproduction fact. Public policy and much debate in our country is "informed" by faith. 

New Jersey Allows Same-Sex Couples to Marry

The NJ Supreme Court unanimously rejected the governor's (yes, that's Republican Christie) request for a stay, not to allow these marriages to happen because he argued "irreparable damage." The high court ruled the opposite, that no one would be hurt if it happened.

The governor wanted to put this into a referendum too. Which would be fine if we had settled on the question whether it's a right or a privilege for adults to associate & marry anyone they want. If it's a right, then a simple majority (or even an occasional  supermajority) should be able to deny rights. Slavery was quite popular back when.

What's the harm by allowing same-sex marriage? I'm not gay nor black. Should I care about them? Yes, because I want a tolerant, happy, free-from-prejudice society to live in. Have you noticed that a conservative (yes, Republican too) attitude is that they care when it affects them directly! They are not for a social safety net, funding for science, etc, unless they need those services. 

Some of the loudest voices complaining about government came from Republicans after superstorm Sandy. The same people who applauded Romney's statement that FEMA (and most other public emergency response agencies) be privatized! Much like that idiot governor from Louisiana who went on national TV (responding to one of Obama's speeches) to tells it's a waste of money for government to monitor volcanoes!

Dick Cheney is in favor of same-sex marriage because he has a lesbian daughter. Sarah Palin is in favor of funding research into finding treatment for childhood diseases. You guessed it, she has a child with Down's syndrome.  By the way, why is Palin still relevant? Why did Fox News hired her as a talking head? OK. I have the answer, no need to reply. I dare you though, if you can handle it, to watch her latest interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox about the government shutdown. In true-Palin fashion, she puts some nonsensical statements together, mixing irrelevant points, confusing terms, and it's pure nonsense. 

 Conservatives Accept Judge Scalia's Views as Intellectual Fortitude

Supreme Court Justice A. Scalia proves what we progressive have been saying all along: his an intellectual midget whose moral code and "informed opinions" come from the whackiest sources.

For those who might want to read the interview Scalia gave to the New York magazine, hit the link. Some of the highlights (lowlights):
  • the devil is real; actually a real person who walks among us
  • the Bible is a document that talks about real history, people, and events
  • the Old Testament and the Gospels reveal truths about reality, the universe, morality, and why our legal system is based on such [it's not really, but that's what we get in Scalia, who's 1 of the 9 on the highest court of the land that interprets the US constitution!]
  • "we're fools for Christ" [whatever this means]
  • sources of information include conservative talk radio, the Washington Times (this scientology-owned, arch-conservative rag)

Oct 15, 2013

Ah, at Least Nature is Putting a Great Display of Colors in the Northeast this Year!

While the political world in our nation's capital is very dysfunctional these days, we're having a wonderful season here in the northeast. The weather has been great, with warm days and cool nights, but the most important aspect is the beautiful autumnal colors. It's shaping to be a great Fall this year.

I've been taking day trips in the surrounding areas, but I'm hoping this coming weekend I can drive up to the Berkshires in Massachusetts if the weather holds.  These pictures are from last weekend as I rode my motorcycle in Harriman Park, NY. The Seven Lakes Drive goes through some of the most gorgeous landscapes.

The Foliage Network has frequent reports on the leaf/color situation. As of Oct. 11th, we're in "high color" which is a tad below "peak color".  Depending on the weather, dramatic changes can take place within a couple days. So get out and enjoy, especially if you live in an area that offer such a spectacular natural display. The northeast US is great for this. We're so lucky, for the most part, because there have been several years that the display isn't as magnificent due to weather conditions. Sometimes the leaves fall before they go through much of color change, or that the colors aren't as bright and diverse.

Oct 10, 2013

Shutting Down Our Government Matters to All of US, but the Republicans Wanted to Negotiate the Ransom.... (after they threw the brick through the window anyway)

What is the role of government? Why should we have government? Can we be better off without government? What is the "mission statement" of the US?  What is a good, just, society? These are some of the questions I ask my Political Science students, to begin the discussion beyond the simplistic labels we often hear and see in politics and media.


Senator Warren (D-MA), in the above video, makes a succinct explanation of the government shutdown by the extortionist Republicans. The funny thing is that there's enough support for a resolution in the House but Speaker Boehner doesn't want to pass a bill without the majority of the majority, and if he did bring such a bill to the floor, the teapartiers would revolt. The GOP is paying the price for the Sarah Palins, M. Bachmanns, Rand/Ron Pauls, etc.

Elections have consequences. In 2010 the GOP managed to capture governorships and state legislatures in a midterm election. The result of the "gerrymandering" has meant that even though Dems got over a million votes for House races, they ended up in the minority. As it is now, the Dems need to score close to 7% more (average in the country) in order to get a slim majority in the House next year. If they manage to blame the GOP for the shutdown and if Dems actually show up at the polls next year, it could very well happen.

There's a very interesting NPR piece [click on the link] on why there's less incentive on the wingnuts to compromise. They come from safe districts. Politicians first think of themselves and their re-election; the party and the country are secondary-tertiary concerns. Another phenomenon is that parts of our country not only are moving at different paces but actually in different directions. Especially the 6 southern states who are becoming more conservative, while the blue states are becoming more liberal. 

To close this post, here's a quote from a favorite of mine, Robert Reich.

"They call themselves conservatives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to conserve what we now have. They’d rather take the country backwards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Act, Medicare, and Medicaid; before the New Deal, and its provision for Social Security, unemployment insurance, the forty-hour workweek, and official recognition of trade unions; even before the Progressive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Federal Reserve.

They’re not conservatives. They’re regressives. And the America they seek is the one we had in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century."
Robert Reich