On Morality and Faith

A little while ago I was reflecting on the Karl Marx quote, “religion is the opiate of the masses”. It got me to thinking about cognitive biases in religion and faith and specifically – Conjunction Fallacy: The conjunction fallacy is a formal fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than a single general one (Link)

In 1983 researchers Kahneman and Tversky asked a question that is now called as the “Linda Problem”. A variation of the original question goes like this:

At a dinner party this weekend, a friend introduces you to a woman named Genevieve.  He tells you that Genevieve recently graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. in Philosophy, where she was active in the Occupy movement and edited a literary magazine.

You’re interested in talking to Genevieve about Hegel, the subject of her senior thesis, but your friend jumps in and asks you to rank the following statements about Genevieve in order of their probability:

(1)Genevieve is a feminist.

(2)Genevieve is looking for a job as a sanitation worker.

(3)Genevieve is a feminist who is looking for a job as a sanitation worker.

Given what you know about Genevieve, rank the statements from most likely to least likely.  

The Answer (Taken from this Link):

This tests how well individuals reason using probability theory. In Kahneman and Tversky’s 1983 study, 85 percent of subjects got it wrong. Your answer was incorrect, too, if you ranked statement (3) in the first or second position. Logic dictates that (3) is the least likely scenario: two conditions being true (Genevieve is an ardent feminist + Genevieve is looking for a job as a sanitation worker) is always less probable than only one of these being true.

If you got this one right — it doesn’t matter whether you put (1) or (2) first, just that you ranked (3) last — congratulations. If not, you’re in good company: only 15 percent of Stanford business school students who had received training in probability theory got it right.  

Basically, people make conjunction fallacies when more information provided confirms their prior biases. So how does this relate to matters of faith, religion and specifically morality.

Take this example below extracted from theconversation.com:

When Jack was young, he began inflicting harm on animals. It started with just pulling the wings off flies, but eventually progressed to torturing squirrels and stray cats in his neighbourhood.

As an adult, Jack found that he did not get much thrill from harming animals, so he began hurting people instead. He has killed 5 homeless people that he abducted from poor neighbourhoods in his home city. Their dismembered bodies are currently buried in his basement.

Now, knowing what I have just told you about Jack, is it more probable that Jack is: A) A teacher. Or B) A teacher who does not believe in God?

If you answered “B”, you would not be alone. An average of 50 percent of people in a recent suite of experiments gave the same answer. The wrong answer.

Wrong not because Jack believes in God – we have no way of knowing what Jack believes. B is necessarily incorrect because the entirety of group “B” the teachers who don’t believe in God, are also members of group “A”, the teachers. It is impossible for B to be more likely than A, but it is likely that a great many people in group A do not belong to B.

The article goes on to eloquently describe how people are able to use the conjunction fallacy to correlate lack of faith (or belief in God) to lack in morality. Even in the political landscape, this extrapolates to the fact that there is little or no chance for for an atheist to become the President of this country. Even though this country is built on “Separation of Church and State” there is always an overt suspicion that having no faith means lacking moral values.

While I personally have no skin on what faith (or lack thereof) a person needs to be, to be a good and moral person, I am more interested in the thought process behind the conclusion – “lack of faith equates to lack of morality”. 

Cause that is simply not true and here are the reasons why:

  • Most religious people and people of faith are already “arbitering” their morality. There are references of ” homosexuality being evil, how to treat slaves and how to control women” in most of our good books. But we sidestep those and choose the passages and verses that talk about love, charity, and kindness to organize our lives i.e. we are already cherry picking our morality from the religious texts.
  • There are material differences in what constitutes as morality between the major faiths.
  • There has not been a knock-down philosophical argument to counter Plato’s Euthypro’s Dilemma – Is a “good deed” good because the deed itself is good or because God deemed it was good. This creates two “horns” that question either  Omnipotence or Omnibenevolence. I realize that there have been multiple apologist counter arguments including the proposing of a “third option” (from William Lane Criag) i.e. God simply is good and it is God’s nature to be the ultimate good. However, these arguments have been repeatedly refuted from a philosophical standpoint.
  • We have so many examples of BOTH, institutions and individuals who do not conform to any faith, who are doing yeoman’s work in helping the world to be a better place – Oxfam, Doctor’s without Borders, Gates Foundation, Amnesty International to name a few i.e. leading a moral life of love, charity and kindness.

Hitchens Morality Challenge – name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge, think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith? The second question is easy to answer, is it not?

  • Finally, it plain doesn’t make sense.
    • If religion is the ONLY thing that is keeping you from being a horrible immoral person then could it be you are a horrible immoral person?

 

  • If you lead an amoral life of crime and debauchery, it seems a bit arbitrary that all you need to do is repent and ask for forgiveness prior to dying and you are at the same level as someone that lead a pious and moral life (in terms of reaping the afterlife benefits of religion).

If religion were the only durable foundation for morality you would suspect atheists to be really badly behaved. You would go to a group like the National Academy of Sciences. These are the most elite scientists, 93 percent of whom reject the idea of God. You would expect these guys to be raping and killing and stealing with abandon.- Sam Harris

Then there is the other often cited atheist fallacy argument. It goes something like this – In the 20th century, heinous atrocities were committed (by the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot) because these societies gave up faith and religion. This has been debunked by multiple folks including Hitchens and Sam Harris. As Harris puts it, most of these were cargo cults which ended up looking like a perverted version of a religion with a figurehead being worshiped as a God.

Morality is doing what is right, no matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told, no matter what is right. H. L. Mencken

We have a pretty good sense regarding how morality within social norms have evolved over the past 2000 years. Significant progress made in civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights have been not because of adherence to religious morality but rather secular thought that began from the age of enlightenment, with philosophers such as Kant, Hobbes etc. More recently science is starting to make significant forays into this field.

So, the question to really ask is – Why would you base your morality on religious frameworks that are at most subjective; inconsistent and in many cases lack logic. Why not be good because it is the right thing to do, rather for an eternal reward?

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Media Bias? – that’s news to me

Is there a liberal media bias? Of course there is a liberal media bias. You are thinking, “Wait,  have those nut job talk show hosts been right all along?”.  Well…kinda yes. The reason there is a liberal media bias is cause diversity of political views amongst journalists is very low with  only 7% of media journalists state that they vote Republican.

However, our problems are much deeper that just a liberal media bias. It is really how we consume our news. In a prior article, I argued that our country is one giant block of confirmation bias. How we consume absorb and assimilate information has fundamentally changed over the past twenty five years. We used to “trust” our newsmen and newswomen. There was a sense of comfort and stability that the news was the news and not opinion.

But thanks to the internet and social media all that has changed. With multiple inputs fighting for our eyeballs and our decreasing attention span to really understand issues, we are left with news feeds that tailor to our needs. I am left leaning so I listen to MSNBC, get my alerts from DailyKos, Huff Post and follow progressive voices and leaders on FB and twitter. Or I am right leaning I listen to Fox News; get my alerts from conservative outlets and follow conservative voices online. And so we end up creating one giant confirmation bias. Now, in my past posts I have specifically called out the republican bubble and I stand by that. It is one thing to have biased news and views of the world and a totally different matter if you live a fact free life.

This confirmation bias has polarized our country and it can be seen in our election cycle. Twenty years ago there was a bigger swath of independent/undecided voters. Now, once you are past the primaries the wonks can pretty much tell you which 3-4 states are the battleground states. The left and the right had a small loyal base and the middle was always up for grabs in each election. Now that middle has shrunk to the point that people vote based on ideology and NOT what the candidate stands for on key issues. 

Here is an example of how our Facebook/Social Media feeds are fundamentally impacting our objectivity. The quote from candidate Trump made it’s rounds on all the social media sites and it was proved to be Fake News. He never said the quote below. And, similarly there was a ton of fake news on Hilary Clinton.

Fivethirtyeight.com had a postmortem article on liberal media bias and a few key points of note are as follows:

The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans (although only 28 percent called themselves Democrats with the majority saying they were independents)

Diversity of opinion? For starters, American newsrooms are not very diverse along racial or gender lines, and it’s not clear the situation is improving much.

Decentralization? Surowiecki writes about the benefit of local knowledge, but the political news industry has become increasingly consolidated in Washington and New York as local newspapers have suffered from a decade-long contraction.

Pew did a research of the most trusted and least trusted news outlets in the US and the results ….well it comes down to how you look at the data:

There is definitely something to be said about objectivity in the media but the bigger point is,  we the consumers are also accountable. We need to play a bigger part as consumers in seeking and demanding information with minimal bias. While we may never get a truly unbiased media and journalists we can definitely try to do our part:

  • no feeds from bat shit crazy left or right wing sites
  • left wing and right wing talk radio are NOT objective news sources. They are opinions and points of view.
  • You can glance at your Facebook feed but it would do you a world of good to read a proper newspaper or magazine (either print or online)
  • If you do want to seek editorial or opinions find voices that are both center left and center right
  • Facts matter! Remember the only way to break confirmation bias is to look via a different point of view to see if the conclusions still hold up.

We as consumers need to take more accountability, else the polarization will continue to increase. Between information bias and “alternate facts”, the very foundation of what we use to make and shape our decisions is being compromised. And we are now ending up like this…………

Life in bigly Pieces

I asked a friend of mine why he voted for Trump and he had two answers. First, he hated the other candidate and second he wanted an “outsider” that will clean up Washington and make the country great again. I thought to myself, all noble reasons to vote for the candidate but wait a minute, what if the candidate was a walking bag of contradictions, with all the red flags laid out in plain sight that even a moron could figure it out.

Nothing about the last election cycle was subtle. While both candidates were seriously flawed, as demonstrated by their likeability polls, there was clearly one that was just plain wrong.

There is an old Hindu saying from the Bhagawad Gita – “Everyone gets what they deserve and not what they desire”. This is one time I disagree with that saying! we really don’t deserve this and certainly did not desire this.

For the past few years, I have been lamenting that our collective intelligence as a country has been dropping at an alarming rate. I am specifically referencing to our ability to confront, absorb and act on facts that are presented to us. Topics that the rest of the civilized world takes for granted as facts  – evolution; climate change etc. are still hotly debated in our country as if they are still opinions. We are starting to live in a fact free world.

Typically there are two telltale signs to this dumbing down:

  • the rush to “normalize” shocking and egregious behavior
  • the complete and utter refusal to acknowledge facts and evidence

I realize that our current President did not win the popular vote but he still was quite close and my point is this should not have even been a contest. If any candidate said/did 25% of the things he did, there is no way he/she is getting elected. 

So, my personal belief is that this we are living in one giant CONFIRMATION BIAS bubble. The right says there is fake news from the left and the left says there is fake news from the right. However, there are facts and facts don’t care what opinion you have. The atmosphere doesn’t give a flying crap if you don’t believe in climate change and that carbon levels have been increasing.

Take this election, everyone saw their version of the facts and cast their vote for this President. This was an election of ‘vote for the pieces‘ but not for the WHOLE!

  • The Evangelical groups wanted their Supreme Court appointee. So three marriages and dodgy morals – not a problem.
  • The old guard wanted their personal and corporate tax cuts and someone that can run the country as a successful business.  So three bankruptcies and multiple businesses that hoodwinked and swindled people – not a problem
  • The hawks wanted their defense spending – So cozy relationship with Russia –not a problem
  • The Alt-Right that wanted their ‘white America’ and no minorities and other religions – So someone who has a Jewish son in law, has deep real estate and financial interests in Muslim countries – not a problem
  • The ” suburban women” wanted a man who could speak his mind and who wasn’t a Washington insider – So someone who is a documented misogynist and (still) wears the badge with honor – not a problem
  • The “forgotten blue-collar voters” wanted someone that could change the status quo, bring  jobs back and drain the swamp – So someone who has no idea of the nuances of policy and government, can rattle countries and relationships with inane early morning tweets and has deep ties to the traditional Washington lobbies –not a problem
  • And finally, the folks that went – ” I can’t vote for her so I will vote for him” – how is that working out?

Everybody look at a piece and ignored the whole! And now we have the ass-whole. Two months into this administration and we are longing for the blundering days of Dubya. Even he is on the talk circuit saying, “Y’all need to give me a break”.

Let me state this, the other candidate was no picnic either. I am sure a similar list can be put together. But the critical point as P.J. O’Rourke (LINK) points out:

“I’m votin’ for Hillary.

“I am endorsing Hillary. And all her lies and all her empty promises. I am endorsing Hillary. The second worst thing that could happen to this country. But she’s way behind in second place, you know? She’s wrong about absolutely everything – – but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

Alternate Facts – Is this the ‘new normal’. I sincerely hope not as I fear for my children and the next generation. I really don’t want our country to follow the plot of the movie – Idiocracy.

Cause remember the following gem from our new Secretary of Education –  “I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

I shudder in fear for our next generation. At this point, our only choices are – get active, resist and execute the indivisible.com playbook and pray pray that there is minimum collateral damage.

That is my hope….BIGLY!

 

 

Faux News

What is happening to the Fourth Estate? I thought our founding fathers were astute in putting checks and balances and ensuring that a free press actually challenged the other branches of the government. There was no way to foresee this huckster that is now the leader of the free world. Take the most recent sequence of events:

  • A judge provides an opinion in Fox News stating that a British Secret Service Agency colluded with the previous President to “wire tap(p)” the existing President when he was a candidate
  • The White House picks up this story and provides it was a “tongue in cheek” evidence that their allegations had momentum
  • When confronted by the press the President very glibly deflected the whole matter stating that we should check with Fox News, as they were culpable for generating this in the first place. 
  • Both Fox News and the British Intelligence vehemently stated that this entire narrative had no grounds in reality and was simply false
  • Finally, in the Congressional hearing, both heads of the NSA and FBI also stated that there was no proof that there was any hacking by the former President

There have been a lot of articles and reviews in the recent past that (rightfully) call the Press to question on how much free publicity they provided the current President during the election cycle. The President, in turn, loves to chastise the press as ‘Fake News” at every opportunity.

However, there are a few problems with this:

  1. The President and his team are very selective. Any outlet that questions or challenges his policies or statements is deemed as “Fake News”. Alt-Right websites, news outlets that have a sycophantic relationship with the administration are “Real News”. The evidence is clear based on how many interviews have been granted to Fox News and Breitbart in comparison to the other news outlets
  2. The word Fake News itself seems so vague. The President uses this as a suitcase term to rally the base. The right wing media obviously has embraced this term as a convenient passive aggressive response to anyone or any organization that directs any criticism at this administration.
  3. Finally, where is the indignation? where is the anger? for years we have heard the right say that the media has a liberal bias and then that turned into “fake news” but now when fake news is turning into “news that is fake” where are all the people of conscience, from the right? Remember the birther arguments, does that sound familiar,or is that “real news”?

Which brings me to my main point. We all now know where the fake news is coming from. It is not the main networks or any outlet that is rightfully questioning the accountability of this administration, it is coming from the White House.

THE FAKE NEWS GENISIS (Source – myself):

(I realize I missed the Facebook channel in the steps above)

I remember a quote from one of the reporters, “in the absence of facts, both our opinions are accurate”. Even though we are now living in a fact free country, I am encouraged in the fact that the press has been hitting back and calling for accountability and we are hopeful that this will reduce the level of egregiousness.

At the end of the day, the blame lies squarely on us, the people. We allowed ourselves to get hoodwinked, sucker punched and bamboozled into this.

My faith in the intelligence of our plebiscite is at an all time low. Maybe common sense is not so common after all!

 

 

 

Democrazy

Election year has come and that means a barrage of media talking heads, pundits, opinion polls, exit polls …it is the politics version of E! Online. The best part of the primaries for me is to see if this will be the cycle we “finally” get our technology (and process right). I am glad to report that there is NO CHANGE to the status quo. Things are as ridiculous and asinine as before. For a country that prides itself as the greatest democracy and greatest innovation engine we sure have some “WTF” things going on.

Here are a few samples:

a) In the Iowa primary, coin tosses was used to decide the winner between Sanders and Clinton (LINK). In an interesting flip of events (yes pun intended) Clinton won all six coin toss decisions!

b) New electronic voting machines (in Maryland) are being scrapped for the April Primary and the plan is to revert back to manual paper balloting. Apparently this year’s cavalcade of candidates is posing a real estate problem on the electronic screens. In addition, what can be deemed as “ridiculously hilarious” the electronics machines have a glitch when the voter clicks the ‘PREVIOUS” button it actually takes them to the previous candidate race (and same for NEXT) – LINK

c) We have aging voting machines. Read –  really really old voting machines. NPR Report (Link to Report ) –  Allen County, Ohio, election director Ken Terry knows how bad things can get. In the last presidential election, he had to replace the Zip disks — a 1990s technology — in the main machine his county uses to count votes. The disks are no longer made. And when he finally got some from the voting machine manufacturer:

“They actually had a coupon in them. They were sealed and everything. And the coupon had expired in … 1999,” he said.

This is really scary  – seems like our democratic process is run by hamster wheels with actual hamsters. The detailed report from the Brennan Center can be found here – LINK

We can breakdown these issues into two broad categories:

  • Flaws with the Primary process
  • Ongoing Logistics problems with voting (obviously this is not just a primary issue)

Let’s examine these:

45302_600

Why Iowa and New Hampshire? These states probably are the least representative of the country’s demographics. For example Republicans would do better in choosing Florida given the state’s broad representation of Social Conservatives; Evangelicals and Fiscal Conservatives. California would be a great choice for the Democrats. (LINK ). So many other states make the list before Iowa.

Caucus-is-not-a-dirty-word1

And why a caucus and not a straight up vote like the real elections (like other states run their primaries)? I am all for the neighborhood and community vibe but this is serious stuff, electing the leader of the free world. We can’t have folks walking around in gyms like they are in a county fair trying to decide which stall from which to buy crap. Even more confusing is the concept of open primaries whereby voters do not need to have party affiliations which can open up the risk for shenanigans.

I realize that the “primary” objective of the Primary is to nominate the presidential candidate and each party approaches it slightly differently. But can we not at least standardize the primary process to get rid of the caucuses. It was disheartening to see a bunch of folks around what seemed like a Costco plastic table counting the ballots (and dropping a few on the ground)

Coming to our logistics issues with voting machines. Everyone is painfully aware of the systemic issues during the 2000 elections and here we are 15+ years later with not much to show for it.

From the Politico Article – “Fifteen years after the term “hanging chad” entered the American political lexicon, and Congress appropriated $2 billion to move to electronic voting systems to avoid a future conundrum, those same electronic systems are still in use in many jurisdictions.”

Why isn’t this issue front and center for the Congress and the Senate. This is surely bipartisan and impacts everyone. Why can we not provide the additional funding to expedite this?

It is extremely frustrating to see the level of sophistication in the American Idol voting and our Government still is unable to fix this fundamental democratic process.

 

 

Maybe we need more Marsupials??

The Year 2015 has been a horrendous year for deaths due to gun violence and mass shootings. There have been one mass shooting every day in Yr-2015 and the statistics are saddening – 2015 Mass Shooting Deaths

We have been having this debate for a while now and the talking points for the gun ownership side is really getting stale. Same talking points same reactions but the number of Mass Shootings continues unabated.

After this most recent horrific shooting if we would like to revisit the gun control issue, the overwhelming answer from gun advocates is:
a) This is NOT the time to talk about gun control this is the time to grieve (as stated by Louisiana Governor Jindal when questioned after the Lafayette shooting)
b) We should not politicize the issue as it it is the time to mourn

So let’s unpack that:
– “When”? is it the right time to talk about gun control? At 372 shootings in YR-2015 is our  leadership saying that we literally don’t have any time to have a conversation since we are in “constant” grief and mourning mode? That is ridiculous beyond any realms of rationality.
– How come the horrific Bengazi killings CAN be politicized with not one, not two but NINE hearings and counting but we cannot have a meaningful conversation in the Congress about gun control?

President Obama in utter frustration actually called for the politicization of this issue. I guess this was his way of telling people that he cannot do it all alone, the public must exert their influence in the voting booth. (LINK)

I have covered the whole issue of how the NRA influences this issue Link to Blog Post . But the broader issue is how do we do what Australia and Great Britain have been able to do with sensible gun control (granted they did not have a “Second Amendment” to deal with). The statistic below is very sobering and should really put the gun debate in perspective:

 

NBC News summarized the data this way:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 153,144 people were killed by homicide in which firearms were used between 2001 and 2013, the last year that data are available (that number excludes deaths by “legal intervention”).
The Global Terrorism Database – which uses a criteria to determine terrorist attacks but also includes acts of violence that are more ambiguous in goal – estimates that 3,046 people in the U.S. died in terrorist or possible terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2014.
The top number doesn’t even include suicides and legal police killings (which boost the number to 394,912). Still, just counting homicides alone, 11,780 Americans were killed by guns a year on average, in that time period, while 219 on average were per year killed by terrorism – although of course the 9/11 attacks are the bulk of the deaths.

Obama in his address – ““We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?”

So why can’t we do what Australia did after the mass shooting in Tasmania. How was a conservative President in Australia able to mobilize a national cause and address this issue in one fell sweep?

We need a social movement on gun control. The second Amendment gives us the right to bear arms. But we also have the right to NOT bear arms.

In this article here the author references a colleague who states – This is not about the government saying you cannot own a handgun. This is about society saying you should not have a gun, especially in a home with children.”

Source:http://otherwords.org/automatic-congressional-allegiance/

The bottom line is we need to do something fast as trusting our elected officials to mobilize a solution has been a bleak proposition for quite sometime.

(bad pun intended) – we need a call to arms!

Pope Music

The new Pope has been on a tear for the past two years. If ever the term “Hope and Change” can aptly be used, it would be for His Holiness. He is fundamentally transforming the Roman Catholic institution’ thinking (not doctrines but attitudes) with some of the most liberal and progressive views. Here are a sample of his recent stances on various issues:

a) Global Warming – Pope Francis has blamed human selfishness for global warming in his long-awaited encyclical calling for action on climate change (Reference – Link )

b) in July 2013,  “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge… it is not right to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” (Reference – Link )

c) On Atheism – Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists (Reference – Link )

d) Abortion – Pope Francis opened a special, temporary, “mercy” window to make it easier for women who have abortions and confess to get back into the full good graces of the church (Reference – Link )

Don’t get me wrong he is NOT a liberal, and the softening of his positions on key issues opens up an opportunity for a conversation regarding change within an institution that has been long criticized as anachronistic. He still has to make significant changes in multiple areas such as improving the response to the pedophilia charges, contraception, female priests to name a few. As Jorge Ramos of Univision put it, ” He has delivered style but not substance (yet)”

That brings me to Free Market Capitalism. Here is a quote from Yr-2013:
[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Over the past two years, on numerous occasions the Pope has been very vocal of the “evils of capitalism” and the “Free Market” comparing “Unbridled Capitalism” as the “Dung of the Devil”

So what does all this mean to our stateside Conservatives. Clearly such positions are in conflict with our country’s conservative pro capital viewpoints. From a fiscal standpoint clearly his positions on Free Market makes our conservatives squirm, but his take on social and environmental issues really has them in an uproar.

As an outside observer of this there is a certain element of schadenfreude in watching this unravel. For years the conservatives felt they had the backing of the Church on key social issues (read – marriage, abortion, contraception etc.). Now here comes a Pope who is no longer interested in having the traditional conversations on social issues but rather would like to bring wealth inequality and climate change to the forefront of the conversation. In other words (quoting a particular right wing talk radio person) he is a “Marxist”.

So here is how a typical conversation goes:
– “Climate change is a fact” there is a broad consensus amongst almost all scientific institutions around the world
– ” How can u say that? there was a scientist in the UK who was “fudging” his research and it has been proven to be a hoax
– “Yes! that was one person and he was discredited BUT there still remains the fact that there is broad consensus”.
– I don’t believe it for the following reasons – a)climate has changed before so this is cyclical; b) it has actually been colder in the past few years; c) increasing CO2 has no effect; d)they said we will pass point of no return but we didn’t”..and so on
– “OK but let me reiterate – consensus is broad; proof is real and even the Pope has called it out as one of the most important issues of our time”
– (quoting Santorum)” “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours,”

Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic and a once long-shot contender for the Republican nomination, told a Philadelphia radio station: “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.”

So riddle me this:
– We cannot take direction from the Pope on matters related to science since that should be left to the scientist.
– We cannot take direction from the Pope on matters of wealth and free markets since that should be left to the Economists
– But we should take direction from the Pope on contraception related matters since that cannot be left to the doctors or health care specialists?

The answer cannot be cause it is in the good book?….cause the good book is very specific about charity; greed and wealth. So then where does this hypocrisy originate from?

The answer – it is the “Conservative Bubble”. The beauty of this bubble is it is impenetrable to logic, reason and rational thought. The bubble is fed by a steady diet of talking points from the right wing radio and television outlets. While the so called pundits are getting rich pandering the same weak talking points, the folks who listen to them are struggling to enter or stay in the middle class.

Actual Example (s)

– One of the conservative talk show hosts allege that Boehner’s resignation was timed to coincide with the Pope’s arrival so he can spend the last month of his term executing Obama’s remaining Marxist agenda. All this because Boehner was instrumental in bringing the Pope stateside.

– Sarah Palin trying her best to equate her son’s domestic abuse to Obama’s policies (Link to Story). You just cannot argue with this kind of lunacy.

Maybe the Pope’s visit to the US was a positive harbinger of change to conservative attitudes. Or maybe I should look out the window and see if pigs are flying.

Eysis, Spieses a Davises

The 2015 Davis phenomena has given us a lot to think about. On the one hand we have Huckabee who implored to put himself  in jail instead of Davis and on the other hand we have the right wing cavalcade making statements that “God’s Law supersedes the Supreme Court Laws” (Mike Huckabee Article )

Now let’s ponder on that point for a moment – “God’s law supersedes the Supreme Court Laws”. I wonder….wonder if this parallels another group in the middle east that is currently on the quest to create a Caliphate. So how is this different from the implementation of Sharia Law? (realize I am being a bit flippant with the generalization)

Ah! but I am sure I will get the “sanctity of marriage” argument. Am sure her three ex husbands agree with her on the sanctity of marriage. For Pete’s sake we let Michael Jackson get married (not to speak ill of the dead)
I love the internet meme on Kim Davis – Sorry we can’t give our marriage licenses, I used them all on myself!

But I come to a broader point..religious persecution. Christians constitute the majority of this country’s population and yet if you listen to Fox News or the right wing apparently catholisim is under attack. Further more Christmas is under attack! Marriage values are under attack! being able to practice religion is under attack!
My question is where? For a majority group why do they always feel the victim?

In a recent Real Time with Bill Maher episode Salman Rushdie nailed this as follows:

” It is the classic trope of the religious bigot.While they are denying people their rights they claim that their rights are being denied. While they are persecuting people they claim that they are being persecuted. While behaving colossally offensive they believe that they are being offended”

Rushdie continues, “But everybody does this. In India right now, which has a 85% Hindu majority, leaders are always saying Hinduism is being threatened. In the Islamic world, the paranoia is routine; ‘The world is anti-Muslim.’ and so this is a trope that they are stealing from other bigots”.

For me Rushdie summed up a feeling that I have had for years. Back to the original point how can anyone even state that God’s Law rules over Supreme Court law? The egregiousness of this argument is mind boggling.(Louie Gohmert weighs in).  One wonders if these people really believe this or is this grandstanding to pander to the base that can get them the vote.

Interestingly when the Pope weighs in on Gay Marriage; Atheism and Climate Change …that is NOT God’s Law. So at best what we have here is God’s (Selective) Law that goes something like this:

– Marriage has to be between a man and a woman (or many men and many women OR as the Bible stated one man and many women). But just not between man and man or woman and woman.
– There is no choice and abortion under any circumstance is evil
– This is a Christian Nation built on Christian values

It is very difficult to debate this. Specifically if you consider the last point. While no one can argue against the impact of Christianity in the formation and development of this country, the founding fathers went to great length to separate church from state for the very same reason.
(A great article breaking down the details of our founding documents can be found here – LINK )

Oh well…… as long as the “trope” continues to be perpetuated, the likes of Davis will have a fan club.

Separation of Church and Confused State

On May 5th, the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict when it upheld the right for government institutions to have Christian prayers, prior to the start of local city council sessions. The issue, originally raised in Greece NY, relied heavily on a prior 1983 decision where the court upheld the Nebraska Legislature to having prayer sessions prior to starting sessions.

Never mind that in the town of Greece NY, more than 90% of the sessions were catholic prayers and the plantiffs on this case were a Jew and an Atheist. The larger issue is how does this infringe upon the separation of church and state and the original intention of the founding fathers.

This is an interesting decision, since if you look at the religion split across the US, based on the recent Pew Poll, there is a significant increase in the “unaffiliated” group.

SCOTUS ruled 5-4 on this issue and the main reasons given were as follows: “Defending a practice used by the town of Greece, N.Y., the majority ruled that opening local government meetings with sectarian prayers doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause as long as no religion is advanced or disparaged, and residents aren’t coerced”.

In her dissent Justice Kagan wrote  – “”When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another,”

There my fine feathered friends is where the rubber hits the road. This is one where the conservative majority of SCOTUS tipped this decision. But this interpretation is just plain wrong, akin to working back to the question from an answer.

What this means now is any town council can start their session with a prayer and not just any prayer but a Christian prayer. This violates the basic constitutional rule that the government should be impartial to matters of religion and not favor one over another (even if it is as trivial as starting a session with prayer).

Town supervisor of Greece NY, whose town board meets once a month said, ” Prayer was not intended to isolate or convert anyone. If they feel comfortable with joining us in the prayer, they can have a moment of silent reflection while the prayer is offered

Let’s take this example and work it another way. Let’s say that the city council was predominantly made of Atheists and prior to start of a session assume they had a brief discourse where they thanked science and debunked faith and god (not specifically coercing anyone as stated by SCOTUS) what do you think will be the logical outcome?

In the words of the great George Carlin – ” I’m Completely In Favor Of The Separation Of Church And State. My Idea Is That These Two Institutions Screw Us Up Enough On Their Own, So Both Of Them Together Is Certain Death ”.

Realize that SCOTUS is the law of the land but this ruling amongst a few others in the recent years makes you wonder if it is time to the conversation of “non partisan” judges or term limits for SCOTUS.

Cash Rules Everything – Dolla Dolla Bill y’all

Yeah reminds me of the Lil Wayne/Akon/Wycleaf Jean Song – Sweetest Girl – “Cause I’mma tell you, like Wu told me, Cash Rules Everything Around Me….singing dolla dolla bill y’all”

I am not for one to take my cue from a rap song especially from one that that has a controversial subject like the “Sweetest Girl” song. But somehow this chorus line kept ringing in my head recently after the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance.has left a LOT of citizens shaking their heads.

“The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the majority opinionn.

This is illustrated below from the NY Daily article

So this is basically become a PAY & PLAY democracy. The Supreme Court’s decision was based on ensuring the protection of the First Amendment i.e. Free Speech. But as described by this article  there is strong reason to believe that the judges are out of touch with reality.

Even though this ruling will affect a few HNW (high net worth) donors, here are specific reasons why this is really really bad for our democratic process:

a) The Golden Rule – the man with the Gold makes the rules. Agree this is a bit of an oversimplification but as the above article quoted, the person with the most money gets to “buy the most free speech that is often enough to drown the opposition”.
Exhibit A – All GOP candidates flying to Las Vegas a few days ago to court Sheldon Addleson (including the apology of one Mr. Christie).
From Jon Stewart Friday April 04th Episode: I would respectfully like to approach the bench, and remind the Court that when the media refers to Sheldon Adelson as a super-donor, they’re not talking sperm. 

b) More money means more lengthy primary cycles. As much money can be given to campaigns that much will be taken by them. With no more limits there there is a possibility of a huge list of candidates who could all be potentially well financed and drag the primary out.

c) Refer to my previous post on One Percenters. This ruling has a lot of unintended consequences. A major one being the impact to income and wealth distribution. More money buys more speech which in turn buys more money and the wealth continues to get concentrated within a small slice of society.

It is going to be very interesting to see how the 2016 elections play out especially from a spending perspective. How much super PAC and lobbyist money will be  spent and how will that influence the electoral process remains to be seen.
Maybe the answer is with how our Supreme Court works?
– Why do Judges have to be partisan? and if that is the case why aren’t Libertarian or Progressive judges ever nominated.
– Why do we need appointments for life which results in these judges who are not in step with the times? (yeah yeah I am aware of the obvious reasons).Obviously none of that is going to change anytime soon.
As stated in the same Jon Stewart episode……..

JEFFREY TOOBIN (4/2/2014): Basically, it gives people who have a lot of money at their disposal the chance to spread their influence even more widely.  If you have a million dollars now, think how many chunks of $5,200 that makes.  It’s a lot.  You could write a lot of checks.

Yep!  Lots and lots of $5,200 checks.  The last great hope of preserving our democracy from the corrupting influence of money is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Maybe like the Legislative section our Judicial section also needs a reboot.  I for one am hoping to win the lottery cause I badly need the “speech” to stop the idiots from teaching intelligent design in our school curriculum.