Monday, September 27, 2010

Why It's So Hard for Scientists to Believe in God | Francis Collins | Big Think

Lots of scientists out there reject whole heartedly Franci Collins approach. And he acknowledges as much in the Big Think piece linked below. What I like about Collins' approach however, is his recognition - too often shunted aside by many in the blog-o-sphere, that science and spiritual pursuits, including religion, really are out to deal with different parts of the human experience. There's no reason to hold scientists suspect simply because they too search for meaning (the "why" questions) and science isn't well equipped to answer that quest. And there's no reason to reject religion simply because science makes a better explanation for the creation and ordering of the natural world then religion ever can.

Why It's So Hard for Scientists to Believe in God Francis Collins Big Think

Friday, September 24, 2010

from the DC Dispatches Archives: There's a war brewing, but it may not involve guns...

I decided to repost this piece today, from my first month here over 2 years ago, becaus ethe central idea remains pertenant - we humans are simultaneously taking in, and ignoring, the nuanced existance around us. How else to explain the Tea Party, and politicians on both side sof the aisle who seem to think that spouting plattitudes (and bad ones at that) is leadership.

DC Dispatches: There's a war brewing, but it may not involve guns...:

In other words, the human capacity to deny the seemingly obvious is likely an evolutionarily hardwired trait. So we have to work, really hard, to overcome it. The war, which is already here, is really about which part of the brain, the denying part or the pattern recognizing part, will lead humanity into the future. I'm rooting for the pattern part.

The Existential Manifesto: Can we just move on already???

I like Geek Chick - she's even braver then I am. In this case, she happens to be right. If we don't move past 9/11, not only will we continue to do things as a nation that betray our stated values, but we will continue to have our existance defined by those hell bent on eliminating us. And we'll gladly help them do it,if only because that allows us to feel "safe."

The Existential Manifesto: Can we just move on already???:
"September 11, 2001, was a terrible day. A day that shall live in our nation's memory. A day when we were attacked on our own soil, when in..."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Annual Liberal Blog Post - Richard Cohen checks the box

I'm no fan of the Washington Post's Richard Cohen - he of supporting torture and state sanctioned terror (as long as America practices it). I believe Mr. Cohen serves no agenda but his own -which is undersatndable in a town that hastruly lost any ablity to conceive of real public service.

Yet today he makes some sense (in what is sure to be his annual "See, I'm really a liberal columnist who has to fight off all the big, bad conservatives" column).

This fatuous infatuation with the Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment, is clearly the work of witches, wiccans and wackos. It has nothing to do with America's real problems and, if taken too seriously, would cause an economic and political calamity. The Constitution is a wonderful document, quite miraculous actually, but only because it has been wisely adapted to changing times. To adhere to the very word of its every clause hardly is respectful to the Founding Fathers. They were revolutionaries who embraced change. That's how we got here.

He even manages (sort of) to point out that President Obama's Liberal credentials are, at best, strained:

Similarly, only a spell can explain why much of the Republican Party insists on calling Obama a socialist. To apply this label to the very man who saved Big Finance, who rescued Goldman Sachs and the rest of the boys, who gave a Heimlich to the barely breathing banks, can only be explained by witchcraft or voodoo or something like that. It has caused the GOP to lose its mind. Obama did something similar to the American auto industry, saving it from itself. He did not let it fail or nationalize it, as a socialist would have done, but pumped cash into it so that -- this is me speaking -- it can fail later on.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Almost a defense of liberal policies in a town where the policies, and their defenders get few and far between as the weeks drag on.

My problem with believeing this, of course, extends to Mr. Cohen's fetish for defending the indefensible:

At the same time, we have to be respectful of those who were in that Sept. 11 frame of mind, who thought they were saving lives -- and maybe were -- and who, in any case, were doing what the nation and its leaders wanted. It is imperative that our intelligence agents not have to fear that a sincere effort will result in their being hauled before some congressional committee or a grand jury. We want the finest people in these jobs -- not time-stampers who take no chances.

The best suggestion for how to proceed comes from David Cole of Georgetown Law School. Writing in the Jan. 15 New York Review of Books, he proposed that either the president or Congress appoint a blue-ribbon commission, arm it with subpoena power, and turn it loose to find out what went wrong, what (if anything) went
right and to report not only to Congress but to us. We were the ones, remember, who just wanted to be kept safe. So, it is important, as well as fair, not to punish those who did what we wanted done -- back when we lived, scared to death, in a place called the Past.

Its a great place Mr. Cohen live in, where we as a nation can break our own laws, destroy probably innocent lives (on both sides of the torture chamber) and then run around calling the people who did it great patriots. And as long as Cohen stand by these words, I can't stand by him as a liberal.

So thanks for your annual broadside at consrvatives. It happens to all be true. Sadly, it does nothing to buff your images with real liberals.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/11 and American Exceptionalism - Chapter 3 (In which the slumbering beast starts to stir)

Leave it to one of my blogging "heroes" Glenn Greenwald to do a great job of aggregating writings on this issue that I would have other wise missed. That, in and of itself, is one of the central benefits of the blog-o-sphere: good bloggers make it easy for other bloggers to find good source material to work from.

And Glenn has done it again though the sources he has pointed me to are not, for me at least, going to be about scare tactics used to "motivate" voters. Rather, I am indebted to him for allowing me to continue my look at so called American Exceptionalism, and more importantly how (and someday why) the "liberal media" and the Left side of the political aisle are just now waking up to how badly the current Administration is doing.

From Tim Rutten, at the Los Angeles Times, we are treated to this:

James Madison once wrote, "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." In armed conflict, he argued, "the discretionary power of the executive is extended ... and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people.... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

Great words written by a great man. And its true that we as a nation have seen our freedoms erode as the "War on Terror" has progressed. We have entered the disgusting legion of nations of torturers - which the media defends. We have begun to allow assassinations of our own citizens without so much as a show trial to cover our backsides. And we continue to allow the federal government to shield private companies and persons from legal scrutiny lest they be forced to reveal "state secrets." All in the name of fighting off a band of radical "Islamic" terrorists who, like "Christian fundamentalists" distort the teachings of their holy text to justify heinous actions in the supposed furtherance of a political and economic agenda.

To be sure, Mr. Bin Laden is probably planning his next attempt at attacking us, and his next and his next. To be sure if one of them succeeds, in spite of our ever growing security state, there will be calls for ever more and ever tougher surveillance. And to be sure, politicians more concerned with keeping their large campaign donations will acquiesce - unless the American People rest back control of our government from the oligarchs sitting at the top of the economic food chain.

My question to you is this - where do we draw the line in the sand? What ELSE do we surrender of our freedoms in the name of physical and economic security? Why and for how long will we continue to tolerate politicians who claim to lead us but seem to only decieve time and time again? When does the pursuit of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" cause us to say enough is enough?

I fear the answer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Power Politics and Economics 101 - protect you rbottom line at all costs!

this is why I love Simon and James' blog:

At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it’s politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone’s control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society’s wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.

Sadly, I do not share their hope.

9/11 and American Exceptionalism - The Second Chapter

Lest anyone think that Ted Koppel's missive last week on the national compulsive over-reaction to 9/11 was just an attempt by a single former media darling to regain current exposure, along comes this missive from Fareed Zakaria:

So the legitimate question now is: Have we gone too far? Is the vast expansion in governmental powers and bureaucracies -- layered on top of the already enormous military-industrial complex of the Cold War -- warranted? Does an organization that has as few as 400 members and waning global appeal require the permanent institutional response we have created?
The obvious answer to me, and to many more Americans I suspect, is yes we've gone too far. The problem is the message it too many days late, and too few dollars short. See, many on the Left did decry the excesses of the Bush years, and many of us warmed to Candidate Obama because we expected him to roll those excesses back. But just as Mr. Koppel talked in generalities about our national mind-state and not in specifics about what our current regime is doing, so too Mr. Zakaria tries to avoid being pushed out o fthe "Liberal media" camp by not calling out Mr. Obama directly.

Cowardace is alive and well on the Left side of the political aisle, and while I fear its repurcussions in the forthcoming election, Democrats and liberals generally have no one to blame but themselves for allowing this state of affairs to persist.

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11 and American Exceptionalism - What hath our Nation wrought?

It's an easy and far too convenient conceit to believe that 9/11 changed our Nation not by our own hand, but by the hands of those 19 hijackers and some far away madman named Bin Laden. Today Ted Koppel shows us why that conceit is a complete lie:

We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus; and we are so absorbed in our own fury and so oblivious to our enemy's intentions that we inflate the building of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan into a national debate and watch, helpless, while a minister in Florida outrages even our friends in the Islamic world by threatening to burn copies of the Koran.

If bin Laden did not foresee all this, then he quickly came to understand it. In a 2004 video message, he boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. "All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written 'al-Qaeda' in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Shame of Barack Obama - protecting torturers

Lest anyone doubt how far we've fallen, as a nation, under a supposedly "liberal" "Progressive" President, read this from the New York Times:

The state secrets doctrine is so blinding and powerful that it should be invoked only when the most grave national security matters are at stake — nuclear weapons details, for example, or the identity of covert agents. It should not be used to defend against allegations that if true, as the dissenting judges wrote, would be “gross violations of the norms of international law.”

All too often in the past, the judges pointed out, secrecy privileges have been used to avoid embarrassing the government, not to protect real secrets. In this case, the embarrassment and the shame to America’s reputation are already too well known.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, the editorial is a response to a decision yesterday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to deny the opportunity of 5 men to confront and seek punishment for torture they suffered that was arranged by the U.S. through its Extraordinary Rendition Program:

In a
6-5 ruling issued this afternoon
, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ's argument that Bush's rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are "state secrets" and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts. The Obama DOJ had appealed to the full 9th Circuit from last year's ruling by a 3-judge panel which rejected the "state secrets" argument and held that it cannot be used as a weapon to shield the Executive Branch from allegations in this case that it broke the law. I've written multiple times about this case, brought by torture/rendition victim Binyam Mohamed and several others
against the Boeing subsidiary which, at the behest of the Bush administration, rendered them to be tortured.
Its not enough apparently to strut around on stage and call out Mr Bush for what are most likely violations of war crimes laws and federal statutes - as torture clearly is. Nope, apparently once in office, one has to actually enable future torture by protecting prior torture. That, so the current Democratic theory goes, is how we secure our nation, and show we're tough guys - and thus should be reelected.

Except this sort of thing is a major reason that I'm looking for other liberal candidates to support. Its a major reason that I do not believe the President when he speaks. Its a major reason that I do not trust the President. And since I vote, he ought to be worried about that. Of course he won't be, largely because I won't be handing him big campaign checks next year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bitter Anniversaries

Today is a day that, frankly, I have dreaded for a few weeks now. Today, my little Peanut is as old as Hudson was when she lost her life so suddenly and so tragically. It's an eerie, odd feeling to know that we're now at this milestone - 17 months and 12 days. And its a milestone I would trade anything not to experience, if only to ease the suffering of two dear friends - Mandy and Ed - who do not deserve the grief they now feel daily.

Mandy wrote recently about how she missed all the things Hudson would now be doing now if she had passed this day:

Hudson would be 21 months old today. Rounding the final bend into her second birthday. I can only imagine all the incredible things she’d be doing now—making full sentences, pronouncing syllables she couldn’t say before, eating popsicles, maybe using the potty and sleeping in a big girl bed by now. Who knows what else? I hate that I have to wonder.
And I understand, in a tiny small way, how she feels. Hudson was our guide post - for those of us parents with younger kids we could always count on Hudson to show us where our little ones were headed. If Hudson was making a certain sound, or word or gesture by a certain age, it was a safe bet that Peanut would be too within a couple of days of that age in Hudson's life. When Hudson started walking, and climbing the stairs in our daycare room, I could see Peanut and the rest of the kids watching intently, and trying to catch her. Looking at Hudson, and Mandy and Ed, we all knew what was coming.

Except now we don't. Tomorrow, when Peanut wakes up, she'll be 17 months and 13 days old. Hudson never made that day. Tomorrow, we start experiencing Peanut in a whole new way - as the trailblazer, with no one to serve as our guide. Tomorrow we start living a life that Ed and Mandy can not yet live (though I am certain they will have more kids - such is the nature of their love for each other).

No doubt we'll have a ton of joy from this. Hopefully, we'll be able to share that joy with everyone, Mandy and Ed included. But it will always be tempered by the sure and sadly painful knowledge that we're missing the head of the line. We'll always know that our guide is missing, and we'll always wish that Peanut and Hudson could have grown together, to a point of deep friendship and mutual inspiration. What would that have been like? I only know in my imagination, and as Mandy says, I hate that I have to wonder.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exceutive Micro-managing - it even happens in government

I tried to post this comment three times at the WP site, but it kept saying i had to be registered . . . except I was logged in. In any event, From inside the Executive branch, down at the mid-senior career level . . . the political appointees of the Administrations ARE micro-managing the Executive enterprise. And it is starting to cause problems. So unless you are a federal Senior Executive Service, or GS13-to 15 employee, knock off the attempts to run Jena McGregor's analysis off the tracks. She's right - and I see it nearly daily.

That said, it isn't a lack of executive experience that causes this problem - it's a political state where openness and trust of career civil servants is antithetical to the perpetual campaign that politicians seem to prefer to governance. Many of the inner circle at the WH were senior campaign folks, and were retained under the misguided notion that successful campaigning naturally translates into successful governance. It does not, and thus there are a number of folks who feel that they have to micromanage, lest the message get off track, and the news/election/campaign cycle get derailed

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Duldrums in the blog-o-sphere

In case you at home have wondered why I haven't been blogging lately - this sort of sums up one of three major reasons:

He's proved himself to be a lightweight and a poseur. I'd nearing the point where I'd prefer an honest conservative (is there such a being?) over someone who advocates for lots of lofty things in word, then absolutely undercuts those goals in deed. What a wasted opportunity.