Category Archives: Random Blogging

And Now…The Other Side of the Story?

Yesterday, I posted about the newest crop of crazy running for what used to be a serious Congress. That post unleashed a lot of angst, doom and gloom in the comments. But now–as Paul Harvey might have said–for the rest of the story.

Because there are glimmers of hope.

From Pew:

But in addition to the generation’s Democratic tendency, Millennials who identify with the GOP are also less conservative than Republicans in other generations: Among the roughly one-third of Millennials who affiliate with or lean Republican, just 31% have a mix of political values that are right-of-center, while about half (51%) take a mix of liberal and conservative positions and 18% have consistently or mostly liberal views. Among all Republicans and Republican leaners, 53% have conservative views; in the two oldest generations, Silents and Boomers, about two-thirds are consistently or mostly conservative.

In short, not only are Millennials less likely than older generations to identify as Republicans, but even those who do express significantly less conservative values than do their elders.

The generational divisions among Republicans span different dimensions of political values. Some of the most striking generational differences within Republicans concern social issues like homosexuality and immigration, but younger Republicans are also less conservative when it comes to values related to the environment, role of government, the social safety net and the marketplace.

It isn’t simply changing attitudes. From The Guardian:

Two high schools in Colorado canceled classes Monday after dozens of teachers called in sick in protest of a conservative school board’s proposal to change the history curriculum.

This is the second such teacher sick-out in two weeks and comes on the heels of student walk-outs over the issue. At the two high schools where sick-outs were staged, Golden and Jefferson high school in Jefferson County, 73% and 81% of teachers called out, respectively.

Add in the spread of “Moral Mondays,” the efforts of moderate and liberal Christians to take back their religion from the kooks and theocrats, the successes of the “Flush Rush” campaign, the frustrations expressed by the Occupy participants, and hundreds of other indicators, small as they still are, and we do have evidence that the pendulum is about to swing.

The question, as several commenters noted yesterday, is whether that swing will be soon enough to save the nation from irrelevancy and decline, and strong enough to overcome the structural barriers that have been erected by the plutocrats.

Pete often ends his comments here by saying “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Me either.


Mitch Evidently Started a Trend

According to Business Insider, Florida Governor Rick Scott has “pulled a Mitch” at Florida State University, appointing Trustees who then (what a coincidence!) appointed his campaign manager and crony as president.

According to The Times-Union, the state senator’s final interview with the FSU Board of Trustees Tuesday “came despite opposition to Thrasher from faculty and students expressing concern about the school’s reputation and the need for the next leader to have stellar academic credentials.”

Jennifer Proffitt, the president of the FSU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, told The Times-Union that “It’s clear [Thrasher] does not have the qualifications to lead a research university.”

Thrasher is a former Florida house speaker and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He graduated from FSU for both his undergraduate and law degrees.

The Times-Union reports that Thrasher had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of students and faculty last week at an open forum. Of the close to 700 responses collected after the talk, 11% gave Thrasher ‘good’ grades, while 87% gave him ‘not good’ or ‘below average’ marks,” according to The Times-Union.

Another criticism of Thrasher is his close connections to many of the FSU trustees — most were appointed by Florida governor Rick Scott, whose campaign for re-election is managed by Thrasher. (emphasis mine)

The justification for placing politicians in these positions is that they will be good fundraisers. It is evidently irrelevant that they do not share the values of the academy–or even understand the mission of a research university. They are spectacularly unfit for the job of protecting scholarly inquiry and academic freedom.

Sic transit intellectual integrity and institutional credibility.



Clueless and Mean–Not an Attractive Combination

Ah, Arizona! You do seem to produce some outstanding examples of defective humanity.

The recalled Arizona senate president who proposed the state’s controversial anti-immigration law said he could fix public assistance programs by forcibly sterilizing women who receive aid and by requiring drug tests for all recipients.

“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” said Russell Pearce on his weekly talk radio program. Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

He suggested drastic cuts to food assistance for needy families, reported Phoenix New Times, and he urged strict limits to items that could be purchased with what little help was available.

“No cash for Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, you’d only get money for 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and powdered milk – all the powdered milk you can haul away,” Pearce said. “If you want a steak or frozen pizza, then you’d have to get a job.”

Speaking of ding-dongs, this particular one evidently believes that unemployment is a choice– that jobs are plentiful and folks without them simply don’t want one. There is ample evidence to the contrary (most unemployed and underemployed people are desperate for work–and their incidence of drug use is lower than among the population at large), but I get the distinct impression that evidence is a foreign concept to this repellent excuse for a human being.

Punishing people for being poor seems to be the flavor of the day among the clueless and cruel political demographic.

Pearce’s delusions evidently aren’t restricted to the job prospects and drug habits of poor folks: Pearce, who served as first vice-chair of the Arizona Republican Party until the furor over these remarks prompted his resignation, and who lost a 2011 recall election over ethics concerns and his sponsorship of the controversial anti-immigration law, claimed on his most recent job application that he attended graduate school at the University of Arizona. Arizona begged to differ; the school had no record of him attending. He also claimed to have “attended graduate school” at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. I guess you could consider that technically true; Harvard reported that he once attended a three-week seminar there. And then there was this:

Pearce accepted but didn’t report nearly $40,000 in paid junkets and college football tickets from Fiesta Bowl officials while helping them receive state subsidies.

Maybe instead of sterilizing and starving poor people, we should sterilize and starve the unethical and soulless influence-peddlers living off the political fat of the land.




Well, Give Him an A for Candor

File under “damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

The administration has set up a series of meetings, evidently intended to persuade Congress to embrace the president’s plan to deal with the Sunni militant group known as ISIS. Congressional Republicans had been loudly complaining that they aren’t sufficiently consulted on White House policy initiatives.

So how has Congress responded?

Per the New York Times,

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

This isn’t governing. It’s a game of gotcha, and We the People are the pawns.

An engaged/informed citizenry would clean house–by cleaning out the House–in November. I’m not holding my breath.


Religion and Football–More Alike Than We Might Think

It’s Sunday, and today’s sermon will consider the origins of religion.

There are all kinds of theories about religiosity. Some scientists believe humans are “hard-wired” for religion, although there is considerably controversy over that theory.

Anther is that belief in a deity arose from the need to explain otherwise inexplicable phenomena –the “God of the gaps” thesis. Why did lightning strike that guy’s hut? He must have angered the Gods…The problem with the God of the Gaps theory is that science and empirical inquiry keep narrowing the gaps.  (Bill O’Reilly famously defended the existence of God by the fact that “the tides come in and the tides go out, and no one knows why.”  As Neil DeGrasse Tyson pointed out, however, we actually do know why, and God isn’t involved.)

Whatever the genesis of religion, social scientists have pointed to the benefits of religious affiliation, most of which can be explained by membership in a supportive community.

Because supportive communities come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t necessarily revolve around worship, one social scientist suggests that membership in a religious group is a lot like being a football fan.

Anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse has concluded that belief in the supernatural is window dressing on what really matters—elaborate rituals that foster group cohesion, creating personal bonds that people are willing to die for. (He doesn’t suggest that football fans go quite that far.)

The cooperation required in large settled communities is different from what you need in a small group based on face-to-face ties between people. When you’re facing high-risk encounters with other groups or dangerous animals, what you want in a small group is people so strongly bonded that they really stick together. The rituals that seem best-designed to do that are emotionally intense but not performed all that frequently. But when the group is too large for you to know everyone personally, you need to bind people together through group categories, like an ethnic group or a religious organization. The high frequency rituals in larger religions make you lose sight of your personal self….

All really large-scale religions have rituals that people perform daily or at least once a week. We think this is one of the key differences between simply identifying with a group and being fused with a group. When you’re fused with a group, a person’s social identity really taps into personal identity as well. And identity fusion has a number of behavioral outcomes. Perhaps most importantly, fused individuals demonstrate a significant willingness to sacrifice themselves for their groups….

Unfortunately, sacrificing oneself for one’s group has often meant demonizing–or even murdering–those who belong to other groups, who worship other Gods–or none.

Religion has been, at best, a mixed blessing.