Category Archives: Random Blogging

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.





Good Question

Over at Balkinization, political scientist professor Mark Graber asks a reasonable question.

My down and dirty research indicates that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has more than doubled while President Obama has been in office.  The Dow began the day at 17,044.  When Obama took office, the Dow was at 7,949. The result is unprecedented gains for anyone slightly above middle-class or better.  Is there any reason why no one refers to the remarkable returns on investments (include 401(k)’s) as “the Obama Market?”

I think we all have our theories…..


What’s with the Right and Vladimir Putin?

Over at Political Animal, Martin Longman notes something that has bothered me as well.

I voted against George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and I spent most of his presidency actively working against his administration with every tool at my disposal, but I never said or wrote that I would prefer that the country be led by a foreigner or a foreign leader. Not so, for many pundits on the right. Ann Coulter wants Benjamin Netanyahu to be our president, Erick Erickson wants David Cameron to be our president, and Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be okay with either Netanyahu or Vladimir Putin being our president.

Someone needs to explain the right’s adoration for Vladimir Putin because it’s creeping me out.

This desire for a strongman to tell us all what to think and do–and take us into glorious battle a la “Braveheart” or whatever–is creepy. But it’s also a characteristic of people frightened by complexity and ambiguity, people who want bright lines distinguishing good ‘us’ from evil ‘them,’  who conflate strength with certitude.

People who don’t want to have to think too much.