Tea Party Recession

September 30, 2011

Things are getting worse in European banking. What happens if European banks fold?  We (the U.S. … us) get more (or worse) of what we have.  Are there ways to mitigate a potential damaging rerun of the years since the failure of Lehman Brothers? According to Kevin Drum, yes. But the right is having a Tea Party and by the doctrinal protocols of their purity-fest help will not be on the way:

“Just remember,” Drum says, “it doesn’t have to be this way, no matter how often and how loudly Republicans shriek about austerity and budget deficits. If we want them to, both monetary and fiscal policy can have plenty of bite left. Bottom line: If we plummet into a second recession, it will be solely the fault of fanatical conservatives in Congress who refuse for reasons both partisan and ideological to acknowledge that we can do something about this. It’ll be the Tea Party Recession of 2011.”

As I said in an earlier post congress is no longer a deliberative body negotiating it’s way by reasoned debate through troubled seas. We no longer have a ship of state. The House of Representative is not a flexibly manuevering secular organization, it’s more like a monastery set in stone controlled by angry, fanatical monks following sectarian rule. They operate on the basis of belief, not reason.

The Dust of Mendacity

September 29, 2011

Faith-based religion is one thing, but faith-based economic policy is not something that leads to effective solutions to financial collapse. The religious conservative faith system now hobbling American government includes not only the belief that Jonahspent three days in the belly of a whale and lived to tell the tale, but also the belief that government is inherently bad and simply doesn’t work. Such creedal thinking is a kind of practical Christian anarchy that waits for divine intervention to run a bulldozer or to write legislation that temporarily finances the running of bulldozers.
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Waiting for God’s miraculous deliverance from our economic melt-down instead of utilizing the miracle God has already delivered in the form of the human intellect’s problem-solving ability is a road to Armageddon. Waiting for God to fix our roads and bridges, or to rain money like manna upon the construction industry to (among other things) put people to work when God has already provided the means to do so, is to spit in God’s face and to cut off our nose to spite our own in the bargain.
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 If the Prince of Lies were ever to sprinkle the diabolical dust of His mendacity upon the USA it would create gridlocks that look a lot like that being perpetrated by the politically religious right in 2011.
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But Joshua Holland says this much better at Alternet. It’s worth the read.
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The Real Ponzi Scheme

September 24, 2011

“No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.”

This simple and obvious truth was articulated by Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren last week.  She was answering
Republican claims that president Obama is practicing class warfare in his efforts to have the financial cream of the USA pay for their good fortune in being able to fulfill their dreams in an environment set up and paid for by all Americans.

What Warren was pointing out is that the infrastructure that has benefitted the most fortunate among us was not created and paid for by them alone, but is the product of the composite dream, shared effort, financial backing and resources of the commonwealth. What she’s saying to the country’s deepest pockets is, simply, “Don’t forget where you come from. You are not a universe unto yourselves.”

Republicans would like all of us to forget this. This is their current primary political objective. They would stiff  Americans of humble means to serve their own interests.

The irony of this class warfare sound-bite currently being hyped by the right is that it’s an enormous projection. In the world of psychology a projection is defined as a defense mechanism whereby a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, and ascribes them to the outside world, usually to other people. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, that whole Tea-Party-Pandering bunch is ascribing to the left what they themselves have been so completely immersed in: class warfare. Every move they make, every obstacle they throw up to corrective economic action, every sound bite they concoct, every one of their “nos”, every policy they promote is geared to make the wealthy wealthier, the middle class poorer, and the poor—  well, forget about the poor.

As Roshi Bob said, “When the rich rain economic bombs upon ordinary folks, that’s just capitalism. When ordinary folks point out the bombs, that’s class warfare.”

What Elizabeth Warren brings to light in her brilliant push-back is the sheer hypocrisy of these people —their blind adherence to principles that serve them alone and which acknowledge nothing of the contributions of average Americans to the greatness of the nation and to their own prosperity. In that regard alone these are not good people, they are on a self-deluded campaign to ruin what America has meant to the world. I repeat: despite their fine suits, silk ties, perfect teeth and Christian credentials, these are not the kind of folks that lift up, they are societal wrecking balls.

But Warren was not being seditiously socialistic in her remarks. In fact she allowed for the impulse of greed that drives capitalism but added a fact-based moral dimension. She went on to say: “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory … because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Republicans, however, would have us believe that the rich have achieved richness by dint of their own remarkable efforts alone. Warren on the other hand says, that’s just baloney. And she’s suggesting, if you don’t believe this look to your local police officer or fire-fighter.  It was not the CEOs of Exxon or the Bank of America, or the Koch Brother who rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11 to save lives, it was average Americans who did that and, what’s more, continue to do that to make the prosperity of the Koch brothers possible.

It was not the Paul Ryans of the world who sweat and died building Hoover Dam or the great bridges that link the industries of the nation.  It was not the Michelle Bachmans, Rick Perry’s or Mitt Romneys who sweated and died building the infrastructure that made the financial success of these people possible.  They enjoy their success because of the commonwealth of the nation. Their accomplishments were not produced in a vacuum.

The Republican Party has been milking the financial meltdown resulting from eight years of disastrous conservative mismanagement for all it’s worth. They have been intent upon diminishing democratic government to serve the interests of their primary constituency: the richest among us. And they have, with too much success, been cobbling together the kind of American that suits their objectives. “An America,” writer Harry Walsh says, “… of slogan shouting hateful mobs.”

Walsh goes on to point out that, “We have seen this kind energy before, and seen the mass graves that come with it.  Any otherwise good person caught up in it should be ashamed. Any otherwise intelligent person who is too lazy to look seriously at facts and too intellectually lazy to consider and hold in mind seeming contradictions should also be ashamed”

Elizabeth Warren would like us to look at least one simple fact: this is a nation that was built by the rich and the no-so-rich as well.  This is not a fiefdom of so-called  “job-creators” it’s a pluralistic, democratic Republic built by shared effort.

Americans forget this at their peril.

by Jim Culleny
for the Shelburne Falls Independent, 9/24/11

In rebuttle to a recent newspaper column of mine a neighboring Christian pastor lumped me together with syndicated columnist Donald Kaul. Donald and I were accused of portraying Intelligent Design (ID) as irrelevant, dangerous and advocated by a bunch of bible-thumping, knuckle-dragging flat-earthers.

For the record I don’t think ID advocates believe the earth is flat or drag their knuckles, and their relevancy depends upon their success at having legends taught in schools as science. That outcome would also affect their danger to American students interested in careers in science. As to bible-thumping, ID adherents have been trying to steer clear of Genesis in order to look scientific, and while they may not be thumping bibles they are not dumping them either.

I can’t speak for Donald Kaul, but I think he might agree with me that  there’s a difference between science and legend and that we do our children a disservice by confusing the two.

The objection creationists have to evolution (and ID is just creationism camouflaged as science) is that everything we see in the world looks as if it has been designed, therefore the possibility of randomness having anything to do with what we see is incredible. Despite the fact that the Theory of Evolution (which suggests that random mutation is the basis of natural evolution) is well-established in the field of biology, the argument of ID is that randomness is an impossible explanation for the world we experience.

Looking at this from the other side I could point out that the inexplicability of many events often makes it seem like things operate by chance rather than design: the unlucky encounter of an innocent bystander on a street with the bullet of a drive-by shooter, the devastation of a tornado, the last-minute change of flight that ends in a person who shouldn’t have been aboard dying in a plane crash, not to mention the chaos of war, disease, etc.… in a world designed by god do these things imply god’s intention?

Religious folks often explain such events by tucking them into the “mystery of god’s will” while the secular explanation might be “bad luck.” Practically speaking there’s not much difference between the two —the bedrock truth is: someone’s injured or dead and no one really knows why.

To argue as the pastor did that our cells are irreducible complexes and that all their parts must be in place in order to properly function is a belief leading to a conclusion that is not necessarily true. To the contrary, laboratory experiments support the “plausibility of the spontaneous synthesis of organic molecules” of which RNA is one, and that RNA is capable of “catalyzing a number of chemical reactions” which makes RNA a probable candidate for being “the initial genetic system that evolved into DNA’s famous double helix—which is a mouthful from U.S. National Library of Medicine no harder to swallow than the story of Adam and Eve. Evolution simply says that, in nature, when systems work they survive. The funny thing is, if you wanted to be religious about it you could choose to believe that this was exactly the way god arranged it, unless god could not work such miracles.

But in the pastor’s argument he includes a quote by a “prominent scientist” that refutes this theory of the origin of cells. I suspect this scientist is Michael Denton whose book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis was hopped on by creationists as scientific confirmation that the Theory of Evolution is a hopeless explanation for the origin of life. But Denton’s book was not well regarded in the scientific community and his arguments against the idea of large-change mutability have been systematically challenged by scientists.

One such challenge, by Ph.D Mark Vuletic (Philosophy, University of Chicago), notes mutations of plants in the cabbage family. Vuletic points out that, “Anyone who has compared kale with brussel sprouts can see that their structures are extremely different,” yet they are all members of the same family. The changes within this family, says Vuletic, “…have been derived through artificial selection” through a series of small changes that have led to remarkable difference in individual varieties. That such changes have also been made by natural mutation over billions of years is not really a huge leap unless you are constrained by prior belief.

There have been numerous other challenges by scientists to Michael Denton’s earlier conclusions. But the best example of the power of organic change is the mutation in Denton’s thinking that occurred between Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and his later book Nature’s Destiny.

In Nature’s Destiny Denton says, “Contrary to the creationist position, the whole argument presented here is critically dependent on…the reality of organic evolution and on the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms in the profoundest sense of the word….”

Summing up our pastor insists that “creation screams design,” and I have no problem with such belief. Belief is appropriate to religion. Religions are founded and sustained by belief in unchanging ideas, science is not. Rather, the foundation of good science is skeptical process in which hypotheses are formed, experiments are made, data collected and examined, and theories proposed. If, in the process, evidence is developed that undermines previous theory that theory is scrapped or adjusted. That’s how a cure for polio was discovered.  It was not copied from the pages of Genesis.

Whether or not our children will grow spiritually wiser by being taught about Adam and Eve is beside the point of Darwin’s theory, but they will probably not find a cure for cancer there —for that they need to understand the relation between belief and skepticism and the differences between religion and science and metaphor and fact, as well as the appropriate place for each.

by Jim Culleny
for The Greenfield Recorder
9/8/11