Saturday, September 7, 2013

Is The Obama Administration Blowing Health Care Due To Being Above Explaining It?

I read The Rude Pundit every once in a while as a kind of guilty pleasure.  Not so much the rudeness which is common as hydrogen but because he often makes points I haven't read anyone else saying or saying as succinctly.   His post last week about the potential for Affordable Health to help destroy the Republican right contained one passage, though, which made me go down memory lane.

As far as the GOP is concerned, the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act is their appointment with the executioner. That's why they have desperately attempted to defund, discredit, and disappear the thing. Forty votes to overturn it in the House. Threats in the Senate and House to hold the debt ceiling or the budget hostage if it's not defunded. A campaign of disinformation that has succeeded in making 44% of Americans unsure if it's still a law. 

And let's be honest here: The Obama administration and the AFA's supporters in Congress have totally fucked up in making people understand exactly what the hell the thing does, beyond easy shit like "No caps" or "Kids can stay on your insurance until 26." Transforming health care for tens of millions of Americans is a huge undertaking, made more complicated by the demands of asshole Republicans and assholier conservative Democrats, so of course it's gonna be hard to explain until it's in effect, no matter how many Katy Perry tweets or Bill Clinton speeches try to help. On October 1, the health insurance exchange opens and people can start shopping and discover for themselves that Obamacare won't rape their dogs, kill their parents, and eat their childrens' hearts while Kenyan drums beat savagely in the background.

Which, while it's not my style, says it about as emphatically as it will be put anywhere.  I'd say that the Obama administration is in serious danger of blowing it because they're either too snobbish to explain the program in language that can be understood often enough for it to be understood or, as I strongly suspect, they are so clueless about communicating with real people outside of the DC-Ivy League class that they don't really understand that it's even important to do that.  Sort of as a follow up to my post yesterday.

Why smart people do stupid things like that featured in one of my early blog posts when the same kind of thing was happening in one of those experiments in the 50 states that you're always hearing about, one of the alleged virtues of our rather awful federal system.   Then I attributed a lot of the problem surrounding Maine's experiment with providing full coverage to too many people wanting to sound like they were speaking West Wing talk.  And I think that kind of thing is still a big part of the problem.   Oddly, you'd think that Kathleen Sebelius, the former DEMOCRATIC governor of Kansas the quintessential puzzle of selling programs to people who need them, would have a clue about this.  That is until you see in her CV that she used to be the Insurance Commissioner of Kansas as well as being a state legislator before then.   I suspect that, as much as it may have counted as an asset in setting policy, it probably disabled her ability to talk to real people about health insurance.  But that's only a guess.

Here is what I wrote seven years ago as I was tearing my hair out while my Democratic Governor was in danger of blowing what should have been a spectacular asset both in terms of providing health care to people who couldn't afford it and in liberal politics in my state.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Stay with me two paragraphs, that's all I'm asking. One of the most important and ambitious of those fabled experiments on the state level is in really bad trouble. Dirigo Health of Maine, a well planned try at providing affordable health insurance to the uninsured and the soon to be uninsured, is under full attack by the insurance industry and its Republican spearhead. Those who wax romantic about the states as test tubes always leave that part out. When progress is made in one of the fifty Petri dishes instead of all of them, it's easier for industry to kill the culture. And Maine is a mighty small dish.

For those who are already turning away, let me reassure you, this is not going into the details of Dirigo Health, though those aren't as complex as an income tax form. A lot of the trouble Dirigo is in comes from the same source as what plagues so much of the Democratic agenda. .

The explanations of Dirigo from its supporters are just awful. They are detailed, they are truthful, they mention all possible roadblocks and turns. They are delivered in so much insurance industry and policy jargon that not one in a thousand of those paying attention can understand what's being said.

John Baldacci, the incumbent Democratic Governor of Maine, has done some things I don't like at and has appointed some people I don't like but he hasn't been a really bad governor. For anyone who needs reminding, Jock McKernan, now better known as Mr. Olympia Snowe was the gold medal winner of bad governors. [Paul LePage, Baldacci's sucessor, has certainly demoted McKernan to second place.] But John Baldacci has appointed spokesmen for Dirigo who can't seem to get three words out not guaranteed to make eyes roll from Kittery to Fort Kent. The program is under attack from Republicans who have two things to say about it, "costs money", "socialized medicine". They just took out the talking points handed to Ronald Reagan in the 60s by the AMA and the insurance industry and are going to bury an experiment that has a real chance of doing it. A model for the nation.

For the Democratic Party in other states and on a national level, you've got bright people making the same STUPID mistake. I know they are brilliant with real degrees in real subjects from fine universities. I know they love the feel of those words coming out of their mouths with perfect diction. I know that if they close their eyes they see C. J. and Toby. But remember all of those plots where these brilliant, jargon fluent, policy wonks got into trouble when they tried to speak in public? There is a reason for that. It's because anyone who takes five minutes from their frantic schedule and looks knows that policy wonkery as public relations is guaranteed to do three things:

1. Confuse the public that would like the program if they understood it,
2. Embarrass them and make them hate you for it.
3. Provide the decisive opportunity for the lying servants of your enemies to master the debate.

For the love of Mike, stop it. You've got to use plain language, you've got to finish talking about step one before you jump to step 49 no matter how much of an inter-relationship there might be. Train two people on your staff to speak English on the subject, on that subject alone and let ONLY them talk on that subject to the public. Come up with simple accurate words and phrases to replace the industry terms that no one understands. If you want to know what those are ask the experts. The janitor, the lunch counter person, your doctor who has only been pretending to understand them all these years. Don't use the words the insurance industry invented to confuse their customers in the first place.

You have made a noble choice to serve the public. You have decided that the sacrifice is worth it. But if it is worth serving the people you should have enough regard for them to explain things. Getting them to understand isn't an exercise in vocabulary building. They've got all the words they want to know. Use those and show the world how smart you really are.

Update 2013:  Dirigo Health never lived up to its original potential.  What should have been an extremely popular program was always underfunded and its availability was limited.  What could have been a roaring success, once it was put into place, was constantly undermined and always widely misunderstood.  Here is what the Maine Government website says about it today.   Unless and until the Obama administration comes down from the Ivy Tower and explains the program in language people understand, it will always be a shadow of its potential and it will always be under attack, lies about it sold to the very people who would probably like much of it, and will wither and be in danger of blowing away.   Unless you've got designated spokesmen who are trained in explaining it, selling it to real people around the country in language they can understand, its failure will be due as much to administrative arrogance as to Republican-corporate lies.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What About Snowden's Reliance on His Encryption In Face of Today's Episode?

The daily dose of attention getting in the Snowden cult has brought the shocking information that the major intelligence branches of the U.S. and British governments have made enormous strides in breaking encryption.  That that should be shocking is rather shocking in the British and Anglophile TV viewers of the U.S. who make up such a large percentage of our soi disant educated classes who are the ones who are being so regularly shocked on cue is rather shocking.  Didn't they watch all of those BBC based Nova and Masterpiece shows about Alan Turing and the others at Bletchley?  And they didn't have access to anything like modern computers.   The uniqueness of Turing's genius would seem to be unlikely, though I've had someone recently express skepticism that there could be anything like a Chinese Turing, assuming that a country containing a significant percentage of the human population wouldn't have someone approaching his abilities.  Which could make an interesting blog post in itself. 

One of the things I've been assured of while raising the near certainty that the Chinese and Russian governments had whatever data that Snowden carried with him was that the Super Snowden's Amazing Powers of Encryption would guard it from them.  Leaving aside the ability of those two governments to force him to give them the keys,  presumably Snowden had read the documents that we are to be so shocked about in today's episode of this show.   Are we to assume that the Chinese and Russian governments, which are hardly famous for the innocuousness of their intelligence agencies, wouldn't have at least the decryption capability of the British government?  

It's too bad that Snowden can't be forced to answer questions about that because it looks like another very good reason to not believe anything that his cult has been saying on the basis of his and his promoters' assurances.

On The Non-Thinking of the Play Left

If I'd never been able to read large numbers of people who believe themselves to be and are considered to be on the left end of the political spectrum online, a lot of things that hadn't made sense wouldn't have become clear to me.  I'd still look at the general outline of asserted liberal-leftist stands and assumptions as presented in formal articles and political platforms and I'd be at a loss to understand how they and the politicians who supposedly support those could be rejected by the very people who would benefit from them.  In other words, I'd still be looking at Kansas and, in frustration, asking what was wrong with it.

William James famously pointed out that,  "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."  And that  isn't a habit reserved to people who vote for Republicans against their own interest.  It's quite amazing how many of those who believe themselves to be evidence based rationalists are really only playing with toy blocks of cognition,  many of which are minimally reasoned out based on a little evidence, many of which are far less successful as logical holdings, many of them, and most damaging of all, are nothing more than alternative expressions of class and economic interest, mere alternatives to conservative thinking based on slightly different factors, producing a mere variation on self-interest perhaps enlightened by a few more watts.

A lot of those in the last category are powered by the snobbery and disdain for the lower classes, those who had less educational opportunity, in unglamorous low-wage jobs whose lifestyles are entirely unfashionable.  And it is more insidious because, while conservatives are sly enough to hide their intentions, the "rational class" proudly maintains their superiority on the basis of that conceit.  It's a matter of scientific fact, or so they love to believe, that they are right and that their opponents are stupid-heads.  If there wasn't that kind of snobbery really present in a significant percentage of what gets called "the left" it would never have been possible for the right to use it to talk so many millions of people into voting against their best interests.  Just as the right seems to be on the verge of losing big due to its racism, its sexism and prejudice, the left has lost so much due to its toleration of the snobs who play at being leftists and liberals.

Early in my blogging career I tried to reconcile what I encountered in the unedited thoughts of more "leftists and liberals" than I'd encountered in real life by a large factor, with what I knew about electoral politics.  I've been friends with a number of people who have been members of local and state governments, many times as a liberal running in swing districts.  I knew that in order for them to do anything they had to hold the office, something that the many of the leftish libertarians apparently don't understand about basic civics.  An out of office politician can do nothing to make laws, to repeal laws, to set regulations and to participate in legislative or committee debates and hearings.  If they don't hold office they are either a failed politician or a politician in their own mind and the minds of those they can sucker into wasting their votes on them or, I suspect not infrequently, being suckered into giving money to.  Alan Keyes wasn't the first person to make being a serially failed politician into a career.   But such focuses of futility couldn't exist without people willing to be suckered.  In that endlessly repeating and unproductive exercise, the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves, as someone else once put it.

While the play-leftists online can play at politics, real politicians know they have to be elected with a majority of their vote.  Their party, their coalition's hold on power depends on receiving the most votes - and, as the last election proved - even getting the most votes doesn't insure that.   In only a tiny handful of congressional districts can the elite snobs playing at being the left deliver an electoral victory for a real liberal, one who is in it to make law to change life for the better.   In almost all cases, the real left depends on votes from people this elite disrespects and, in so many cases, openly despises.  Unable to deliver on a liberal agenda, they can deliver electoral defeat for liberals, they have largely been doing that for the past forty or so years.  Real liberals who attain office in most districts will have to weigh carefully how much the support of the play left will cost them in order to determine how seriously to take them.   That is a real factor in why they won't do what we want them to do, they have no choice if they are to hold the office and make liberalism a real force in life instead of the mutual whining of blog communities.

As one of my favorite composers and musicians said,  "Don't just sit there taking abuse, you've got to put it to use."  And I have put the frustrating experience of watching the play left at play for the past twelve years.  It wasn't fun, it wasn't easy to take, its diminution of the effective real left in numbers is troubling, but facing the reality of what it will take for the real left to win elections and make its positions real in real lives is the only road to a better future.  It may be the only road to any future that includes human beings.  Anyone who wants to divert us or put stumbling blocks of thought in the way will have to be rejected and marginalized, their whining ignored and discredited.  Eventually better politicians will be able to take better stands on our agenda, but that will depend on real liberals rebuilding the credibility that has been lost through the "left" which has made itself an asset to our opponents.   We need The People to be with us, in their unfashionable clothes,in all their unstylish uncouthness and lower class diction.   Those are the people we have to love and respect and listen to and learn from, they won't listen to people who demonstrate their disrespect and disdain for them.   I don't expect that the people who this post calls out are going to listen to what it says, after all.  Only thing I can say about that is I can count who has been winning elections and making law.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Claude Debussy: Feuilles Mortes Preludes Book II #2

Monique Haas

Trees here have started turning so Dead Leaves.

Glenn Greenwald As The Dead Canary in the Coal Mine of Pseudo-Liberalism

Major Update below
One of the weirdest things about the Greenwald cult is the assertion that we're supposed to be upset that the United States spied on other countries and diplomats.  O, so the saying goes, the humanity!   That his fan base is so wet behind the ears that it doesn't understand that's the truly legitimate reason for spying, to find out what other countries are up to that they're not telling the world about, only shows how truly unserious they are.  That a country keeps something secret is a pretty good indication that it is of legitimate interest to another country and, quite often, is something seriously important for them to know.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be keeping it a secret.  And it's especially funny considering the bread and butter of their cult. What do they think Snowden was doing when he took a job to engage in free lance espionage?   And that was what he was doing.  If we were in a declared war I'd have no problem calling what he did treason, by his own admission.   He was stealing secret information from the U.S. government and handing it out.  As of now, we don't know what he did with all of what he took, I doubt he gave all of it to Greenwald and Poitras and, as it becomes obvious, other entities.  I strongly suspect he was intending to either sell or trade some of it to the Chinese government but was rather stupid in putting himself directly under their control as he did that.  If he thinks that's libelous,  he can sue.

I am glad the United States spies on other countries and I am certain that other countries spy on the United States.  The countries that Snowden fled to and Greenwald lives in certainly do that and, far more so than the United States has been exposed as doing, on their own citizens.  As Joshua Foust seems to be making a habit of doing, he puts into words what others of us intend to get to someday, asking Why is There Outcry Only Over American Spying?   

One of the things that this whole thing shows is that there is a very weird thing going on.  The United States probably has among the strongest legal protections of individual liberties of any country in the world. In fact, it is exactly those liberties from which many of our problems come.  Buckley vs. Valeo, Citizens United are all structured and sold as rights under the constitution.   I would assert that most our problems, most of the real, genuine dangers to democracy,  come from the rich and powerful and their legal and media lackies, abusing those protections to harm and cheat other people, destroy the environment and endanger our democracy.  Oddly enough, extending privacy as far as some of these people want to will only make that worse.  As the post I linked to yesterday morning shows, Greenwald isn't especially on record as caring about that and he is on record of wishing for a billionaire savior who will subvert the democratic process with his money to take power.  Not to mention his hankering after a conservative Republican such as Gary Johnson.

By saying he might support Gary Johnson, Glenn Greenwald has now demonstrated that he is a narrowly-focused advocate who cares about only a few issues, and is not a liberal or progressive with a broad sense of the common good. He’s also a poor political analyst, for if can’t he recognize the damage that would be unleashed by having as a president someone who cavorts with 9-11 truther Alex Jones and who in 2008 endorsed nutball libertarian Ron Paul for president, why pay attention to what he says outside the narrowly legal boundaries of his claims about the government, our politicians and public policy?

And that same narrow focus guides many of his admirers who know that they don't trust the American government while ignoring that, compared with others such as China, Russia, Brazil ... it's the freedom and privacy available in the United States that has allowed the billionaires and multi-millionaires to corrupt it just as it has in those countries which, apparently, are seen by what unfortunately represents the left as havens of freedom and privacy.   And, by the way, we are supposed to take that all very seriously even as it is complete nonsense. 

Most bizarre of all is how the alleged liberals sound exactly like what are supposed to be their polar opposites, their irrational paranoia focused on the federal government to the extent that some of them express admiration for the insanity of Rand Paul and others.  If you transposed a lot of the comments on allegedly liberal blogs to World Nuts Daily or Before It's News, you'd be hard pressed to find the "liberal" expression from the right wing crackpots. 

If the results of Edward Snowden's espionage result in ending the contracting of spying to corporations such as those who hired and cleared Snowden and conglomerates such as the Carlye Group it might signal a real reform of domestic spying operations.  If the base of judges under FISA is widened under a system less guaranteed to produce bias, that will be good.  If there is more, real, independent, congressional oversight of spying, that would be excellent.  But I doubt those are going to be the result of this nonsense.  I've never been less than extremely unhappy with the present system of civilian oversight of spying and I'm certainly not happy with the operations branches of the CIA and FBI.  But I doubt that the national tantrum over the rather unshocking revelations of what the NSA is up to - frankly, I'd always figured they were doing a lot more than that - is going to lead to real reform.  And that reform is absolutely needed because every country that has ever existed spies both internationally and internally.  

I'm not unhappy that some of that spying happens when it prevents murders and terrorism and a host of other crimes against The American People and people elsewhere.  I'm not unhappy when it puts criminals in prison.  I'm unhappy when they spy on pacifist groups, environmental groups, and civil rights groups.  I'm unhappy when they get away with doing that.  I suspect that under a Gary Johnson administration, that wouldn't be done less often than it is under the Obama administration.  Though I thought Eric Holder, among many others, should be replaced by people less wedded to the establishment.   That establishment serves the billionaires, the Bush family, the Cheney Family, the Koch's and not The People.   That is where the real danger to democracy lies, their ability to game the Bill of Rights and the law for their purposes, and, as Greenwald shows, he's not really interested in addressing that, he wants it to take the presidency.

Update:  After finishing this post I remembered that Glenn Greenwald was a big fan of the Citizens United ruling, presenting a truly dangerous ruling for the very legitimacy of the government as a "free speech" issue. That along with his heroic savoir billionaire, cutting through the democratic system powered by the billions in "free speech" at their disposal, betrays just how elitist Greenwald is.  A long time ago I noted how dismissive the media were of the importance of self-government by an accurately informed population are and Greenwald is certainly singing from the same book they are.   Among the most important reasons for free speech to matter is its service to that kind of self-government by The People.  When "speech" is equated with money, it's very easy to do a calculation.

If money equals speech then you can count it, you can figure out how much speech someone has. It only takes the simplest math. With P being a person and m being the money they have. P(m)= Speech owned by p. Or, more simply, 1xm=Speech. P is a person and always equals 1. m is a variable, it depends on the amount of money P owns. As m increases then the total speech owned by P increases. Buckley v. Valeo makes it possible for the first time in our history to calculate the amount of free speech someone has.

It might be lost on our brilliant Supreme Court and the scholars who support this monstrosity but if m=O the free speech owned by P is zero. Maybe they are so busy rearranging legal Platonisms that they don't know what happens when you multiply one by zero. Or maybe they do understand and the outcome doesn't bother them. And that wouldn't surprise me anymore than that it is a Buckley who has his name attached to it.

But that doesn't much concern the libertarian puritanism of Greenwald.

For those who believe that “money is not speech,” I’d be interested in your answers to these questions. [Note: the link doesn't work at Salon]

As for the question of whether corporations possess “personhood,” that’s an interesting issue and, as I said, I’m very sympathetic to the argument that they do not, but the majority’s ruling here did not really turn on that question. That’s because the First Amendment does not only vest rights in “persons.” It says nothing about “persons.” It simply bans Congress from making any laws abridging freedom of speech.

And in a response in the comments:

FRIDAY, JAN 22, 2010 11:37 AM EST

As Justice Stevens said in 2000, "money isn't speech. It is property." I find it hard to argue differently.  [From KcM's comment]

Greenwald's comment on it:

I don't find these even plausible, let alone persuasive. Anyone who believes that would have to say that there's no First Amendment problem with any law that restricts the spending of money for political purposes, such as:

"It shall be illegal for anyone to spend money to criticize laws enacted by the Congress; all citizens shall still be free to express their views on such laws, provided no money is spent;" or

"It shall be illegal for anyone to spend money advocating Constitutional rights for accused terrorists; all citizens shall still be free to express their views on such matters, provided no money is spent"; or

"It shall be illegal for anyone to spend money promoting a candidate not registered with either the Democratic or Republican Party; all citizens shall still be free to advocate for such candidates, provided no money is spent."

Anyone who actually believes that "money is not speech" would have to believe that such laws are necessarily permitted by the First Amendment (since they merely restrict the expenditure of money, which is not speech).

Do you actually believe that? I don't even find that argument sufficiently coherent to warrant much discussion.

It would be like saying: "No person shall be permitted to use a megaphone or television outlet to advocate liberal views -- there's no First Amendment problem: megaphones and television outlets are just 'property, not speech'."

Of course, I've never known of someone who had, never mind could use billions of megaphones and the number of billionaires who would use their wealth to promote liberal views would seem to be not in evidence or where are they now?   Greenwald is a wealthy libertarian living the expat life in a multi-million dollar enclave among truly horrific third world squalor.   He's a very odd hero of American style liberalism.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Provocative Idea For The Day

While washing up, I've been listening to Dr. Matt Walker of the U.C. Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory Arts and Lectures, going on about sleep even as he admits that very little is known about it.  In passing he quoted someone whose name I didn't catch, he called him "the father" of his field, who said that if dreaming didn't have any biological function it was the greatest error of evolution.  

Well, how would you know that if you don't understand dreaming in human beings?  And, since he goes on to talk about animals who can't articulate anything of their experience of dreaming, how much less does he know what's going on in animals' experience when we assume they are dreaming?  Even in humans about all we know about dreams is based on people reporting their experience and their reports are not exactly uniform.  Perhaps there are a range of things that happen that we, in our inability to access other peoples' experience, we classify as "dreaming".  

But, and this is far more provocative, how does he know that dreaming has anything to do with evolution? Maybe it is entirely divorced from evolution, especially if, as most of the scientists I've heard talk about evolution, he really means natural selection.  If, and this is a crucial "if" to make my point, dreaming is entirely neutral in terms of evolution, the temptation would be to try to force it into an explanation based in some invented benefit in terms of natural selection.  I doubt, given the total hegemony that natural selection has on our thinking about biology, that it is presently possible for us to even entertain possible alternative ideas about it.  But what if more understanding of dreaming, or any other aspect of our experience, would depend on radically different ways of thinking about it, we wouldn't be able to understand it.  But we might believe the lore that develops due to the cyclical explanatory system of trying to fit phenomena into natural selection and that being taken as confirmation of the selective explanation.  I have to say that a lot of this looks exactly like begging the question to me. 

I wonder what chance any other explanation could have in the orthodox culture of biology and, especially, in fads like neuro-imaging.   I suspect that any real advances will depend on unorthodox thinking about it. Though I strongly suspect that human consciousness is not, ultimately, susceptible to scientific methods. We've seen the frameworks around that rise to a glorious hegemony only to witness their crashing into ruin over and over again.   Beginning with natural selection and trying to push consciousness into it has not been a successful strategy.  It's been the basis of a lot of it, from Freud to today.   After three or four major schools tumbling into discredit sort of feeds my skepticism on that count.  Given the discussion that is all over the map, both the interview (where's the lecture?) and the questions, it doesn't sound much different from the things I suspect these same folk would call "woo" if Walker had an Indian or Chinese instead of a upper crust British accent.

Oh, yeah, I've procrastinated enough, back to the dishes. 

On Not Courting Popularity

I don't usually look at the statistics for my blog because I'm afraid of it corrupting me.  It's one of the obvious facts about blogging that the hate-talk blogs get a lot more hits and traffic than those that deal with serious topics in a serious way.   Libertarians of the liberalish kind aren't immune to the irresistible urge to vent and hate on things that have kept Rush Limbaugh and the like on the radio for decades.  I'd really rather not participate in that, if it were going to make things better, things would be nearing perfection now.

The other day I had occasion to look at the statistics for this blog and it is obvious, from the number of hits that they got, I could probably make a career out of a PZ Myers watch blog, if I could stomach having to read him and his putrid fans.   Those posts I did on him last month and earlier got a lot more hits than my usual post does, one of those by a factor of hundreds to one.  Other topics that are big in the hit count were the critique of Darwinism and pseudo-skepticism, especially the odious James Randi.

I've tried to keep my writing about those to my main theme of promoting the success of the real left and its political agenda, though in some cases the links might seem a bit tenuous to some readers.   I really am convinced that materialism is basically and inevitably opposed to any agenda of the left that deserves to be considered an alternative to what is called conservatism these days.   As conservatives these days are all about the accumulation of material wealth into a few hands on the basis of Mammon worship as opposed to the equal distribution of wealth on the basis of need, the connection really is no big surprise.  The conservative program requires both a rather vulgar materialism in which objects of commerce and use are more important than people and that the rights which require their needs be met are illusory.  Even the conservative-materialist icon Jefferson was hard put to account for those kinds of rights except to attribute them as a gift of The Creator.   I suspect that Jefferson would be mighty uneasy with some of his greatest avowed disciples just as Jesus and Marx would.  Surprisingly it turns out, whether or not you really believe that people have those rights and that those rights are real and that you are required to honor them really does make all of the difference in political identity.   The position of the actual left really is based on those metaphysical ideas denied and damaged by the ideology of materialism.  Allegedly leftist materialism is irreconcilable with any left that will not devolve into another sect of  the same materialism practiced by the most vulgar kind of conservative, the kind who dominate both of our political parties.

I am back at work and things will slow down here a bit - yesterday I had to process a pile of tomatoes that split in the rain that finally came -  I will try to keep focused on the goals of this blog.  

More topically, here is a two year old post from another blog Glenn Greenwald: Neither a Liberal Nor a Progressive.  That Greenwald can become the champion of so many alleged liberals is a really weird thing because he's really nothing like one.   I think there's something to be learned about pseudo-liberalism from the people they champion.   The number of apostates from the alleged left in the past should have clued us all off about that issue as well.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bela Bartok: A Bujdosó/The Wanderer

The Sz. 93 Hungarian Folksongs by Bartok are some of the most harmonically opulent pieces in the unaccompanied choral repertoire.  Extremely difficult to perform (I suspect they are harder than Schoenberg's Friede auf Erde) they are seldom programmed in the United States.  Which is too bad because they are masterpieces.  Here's one of them, The Wanderer.

Lieberman Redolent

If there is one American politicians among the myriad of despicable politicians who I despise the most, it would be Joseph Lieberman.   He matches complete hypocrisy, complete sanctimony, complete treachery, complete corruption and complete duplicity, complete ingratitude with some even more unattractive, not to mention depraved, qualities.  

Here is him whoring for yet another war which, as many others have already pointed out, neither he nor any of his family will ever be in danger of fighting.  

There are many states who have a lot to be ashamed of in terms of what they vote into office.  My state which has inflicted such scum as Paul LePage, Susan Collins - Lieberman's regular TV date, Bob Emery and many others, certainly has lots to blush about.  But in recent times the state that imposed Lieberman on the world, electing him to that last term well after his real nature had been on display for years,  has a unique burden of guilt.

Now that he's out of the Senate, the media, who were the creation of him  in his most degenerate form, is what keeps him from entering the oblivion that he so richly deserves.  Of course, high among those is Rupert Murdoch's Slough of Ordure.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Secularist Takes The Truth Out of Addiction Treatment As A Condition of Parole

I've written about the alleged atheist alternatives to AA before and how they are largely a false front.  In this article posted on "Truthout" yesterday, a link to a familiar atheist "alternative" was posted.  It's one of the things I ran across during the desperate search for something that our brother would, possibly try since he rejected his last chance, AA on the basis of its alleged religiosity.   I looked and found there was still one "contact" listed, a name a half a state away from where he lived with no actual way to contact them.

The article, by Julie M. Rodriguez, was one of the many, many knock-off whines about an alleged wrong done to atheists by a majority religious society that are ubiquitous these days.  In this case it was a meth user who wanted to be paroled.  

An atheist man from California is suing the state after he was jailed for failing to participate in a court-ordered 12-step drug addiction program in 2007. After serving time for methamphetamine possession, Barry A. Hazle, Jr., was told that he would have to attend a local, religiously-oriented organization as a condition of his parole.

Hazle, a lifelong atheist and member of several secular humanist groups, expressed his discomfort to his parole officer. But the answer wasn't what he was hoping for — he was told there were no alternative groups available. Despite his misgivings, Hazle attended the group as ordered. When he continued to raise objections about the nature of the program, he was arrested for violating his parole and sent back to state prison for another 100 days.

Unfortunately, this is an all too-familiar story for many who are struggling with addiction. If you've never been to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or a similar 12-step recovery program, you may not realize that these organizations are all, at their heart, deeply religious. While they don’t endorse any particular sect or denomination, 5 of the 12 steps explicitly require members to accept and acknowledge the existence of God.

I'm not certain that there is actually any right to parole.  There wouldn't seem to be but I'm no lawyer and I'd have to have one explain how, if it is a right, that so many people seem to be denied it on a regular basis. And I've never heard of anyone being paroled without making some kind of agreement to abide by conditions.  Oddly, the court case that she sites, doesn't mention parole but of prisoners who are ordered to attend religious meetings.  So I'd like to know how it applies to this case?    

I would assume Barry A. Hazle, Jr would have had to agree to the conditions of his parole, including the 12-step.  If he did agree to those terms, I can't see that he has a leg to stand on if reason is the basis.   He didn't like the program he agreed to.  Lots of addicts don't like rehabilitation, even the allegedly science based ones.  If the atheist alternatives were more than a false front operation, I'd bet you anything that there would be a large number of drop-outs, and non-compliance with its restrictions.  But, of course, those aren't available as even this biased article has to admit.

This wouldn't be a problem if secular alternatives to these programs were available for people struggling with addiction. That leads to another fact that may surprise you: by and large, few non-religious alternatives for drug and alcohol addiction exist. In many parts of the country, they’re not available at all.

Well, perhaps the self-appointed rationalist, considered the situation for a few minutes, she would realize there's a good reason for that,.   ATHEISTS AND OTHER "SECULARISTS" HAVEN'T STARTED AND MAINTAINED THOSE ALTERNATIVES.  

There was no AA until it was begun by a couple of guys who, among other things, had a sense of religious obligation to do it.  It was originally influenced by a rather conservative religious movement but it quickly expanded its service to people of many different religious beliefs and, yes, even those who are non-religious. There are atheist members of AA who report it's worked for them.  There are even explicitly non-religious AA meetings.   There was a specifically secularist AA meeting a lot closer than the closest "alternative" in that list, two states away from where my brother lived. But, helpfully provided with just one more excuse to not stop, that "AA is religious,"  he wouldn't consider it. Most irresponsibly of all, Rodriguez repeats the popular atheist accusation - also popular among alcoholics who really don't need even more excuses to not stop -  that AA is a "cult". 

The devotion some attendees display towards AA has even caused some to label the group a cult.

Well, if you want to talk about cults on that basis, most of the atheist membership organizations could be considered for inclusion on that list.   Look at how many people Madalyn Murray O'Hair suckered in to her own AA, American Atheists, with all of its sleaze and intrigue during her tenure as President For Life.  You could say the same about CSICOP during the Kurtz era.  Go look at the blog threads at the "Free Thought Blogs"  Especially the heavy hitters like PZ Myers, Ophilia Benson etc.  Not to mention the quite secular, if not actually atheist psychotheraputic cults.  My brother went to a psychiatrist for eight years, without it seeming to do him the least bit of good.  And that was on the basis of a medical referral.  If he had been "addicted" to the "cult" of AA instead of the very secular, very molecular-based ethyl alcohol molecule, if he hadn't given his life up to that higher power, he'd still be alive, with a job, a house, a car and a life.  

I'm at a loss to understand the point of the article.   That atheists addicts get to have parole on their own terms? That the courts have to provide these atheist "alternative" groups that people they define as "religious" have provided on a private basis?  Or that it's just another excuse for whining and religion bashing?   What does Rodriguez imagine parole boards and courts are supposed to do with atheist addicts who want parole?   I know. I know.   I said I wasn't going to write anything this weekend but this one strikes too close to home to ignore it. I will be posting it to another blog that I began and then immediately let lapse.

Update:  The article this is based on and the comment threads I've read on the two sites it's posted on have made me decide to resume a blog I'd begun and gave up.  It's the one I cross posted this piece to.  Not All Atheists Are Assholes but this blog is about the ones who are.  I'm fed up with the atheists I encounter online who are almost, to a person an asshole.  I don't see too many atheists calling them out on the basis of their assholish behavior.  

This is Too Important To Not Share

“Credibility” is Obsolete

Lord have mercy, a half-century beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis and almost as many years beyond Vietnam, our erstwhile leaders are still mouthing stale clichés about “credibility.” Remember Dean Rusk saying we went eyeball to eyeball with the Soviets and they blinked? Of course the world almost ended, but never mind.
And to go back a little further into the too-soon-forgotten past, some historians surmise that Truman dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not to force an already forthcoming Japanese surrender, but to make ourselves more threateningly credible to the expansionist Soviets as the World War II wound down.
"Oh that my country could be led by stout hearts like King and Hammarskjold. They were giants of credibility."Credibility was the main motif of Secretary of StateKerry’s statement rationalizing possible military action against Syria. If we’re going to kill a few thousand non-combatants in the next few days or weeks, and it looks increasingly as if we are, could we not do it for some better reason than maintaining to the world, as if the world cared, that we are not a pitiful helpless giant?
What is it with my country? It is particularly painful to hear these valorous-sounding, but actually exhausted, toothless locutions from John Kerry, who began his political career with electrifyingly refreshing congressional testimony opposing the Vietnam War, a war pursued on the basis that if we did not maintain a credible presence in Southeast Asia, country after country would fall to the Commies, ultimately the Chinese Commies. Meanwhile the historical record of a thousand years showed that China had been Vietnam’s mortal enemy. Never mind.
Only a day before Secretary Kerry’s rationalizations, we listened to our first black president commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The truth-force of Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to hover above Barack Obama like a tired and angry ghost, because any person with half a brain could feel the cognitive dissonance between the president’s mealy-mouthed obeisance to the mythology of King’s non-violence, and the hellish violence soon to be visited upon Damascus from our cruise missiles. Mr. Obama, Mr. Kerry, surely you cannot have forgotten how steadfastly Reverend King stood against militarism, how he made the connection between inequality at home and the waste of foreign adventures.
Our missiles will unleash stupid violence. Unnecessary violence. Hypocritical violence.
Stupid violence because it extends yet further the hatred that so many in the Middle East must feel for our crudely righteous meddling.
Unnecessary violence, because the resolution of the civil war in Syria will not come one whit closer on account of our missiles—even if we kill Assad. There are now too many conflicts folded into the Syrian tangle, the Shia-Sunni conflict, the Iran-Israeli conflict, even the proxy Russian-American conflict.
Hypocritical violence, in view of the U.S. military’s own indiscriminate use of depleted uranium in the Iraq war—and our government’s eagerness to look the other way when Saddam, back when he was our ally, gassed Kurds and Iranians.
Hypocritical violence also because we Americans rationalize our looking to violence as the “solution” to conflict by hiding behind the fig-leaf that gas is so much worse than our other well-trod paths of war-making. It is not gas that is uniquely horrific. It is war itself.
All this being so, there is zero loss of credibility in admitting that there is no military solution to this war, which the world already knows.
When will my country begin to enhance its credibility for “living out the true meaning of its creed”? The worldwide equality of humans, their equal right to life and liberty and happiness, is fundamentally threatened by Orwellian political shibboleths like “credibility,” especially coming from a nation that possesses vast piles of weapons of mass destruction that could make death by Sarin gas look like a family picnic. This kind of credibility is incredible.
The Syrian impasse is horribly difficult, but at least we don’t have to ham-fistedly make it worse. There are so many creative things we could do besides throwing around our power. First of all, restraint itself can be a creative act, when lack of restraint, such as what we are contemplating, leads nowhere but further into chaos. Don’t just do something, stand there. Or at least stand for credible, consistent values.
Stand against reflexive unilateral military posturing. Stand for the encouragement—and funding—of unarmed U.N. Peacekeeping troops going into Syria in large numbers to create buffer zones between adversaries. Stand for supporting the creation of a parallel Syrian government-in-exile that could make halting steps toward processes of truth and reconciliation when the violence finally exhausts itself. Stand for giving ten times more resources to career diplomats in our State Department, in order that a larger number of people get trained not only in foreign languages and cultures, but also in the arts of diplomatic conflict resolution.
We have forgotten the kind of credibility slowly but steadily built up by Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the U.N., the first person to undertake endless, patient shuttle diplomacy as a better solution than war. Hammarskjold lived a consistent, impartial ethic bent upon steadfastly reconciling the interests of nations with the interests of the human family. Oh that my country could be led by stout hearts like King and Hammarskjold. They were giants of credibility.

Aaron Copland plays Copland Four Piano Blues

Each one is dedicated to a different piano player.
1 - For Leo Smit: Freely poetic
2 - For Andor Foldes: Soft and languid
3 - For William Kapell: Muted and sensuous
4 - For John Kirkpatrick: with bounce

Claude Debussy Masques

This 1929 performance of Debussy's fantastic, innovative and extremely difficult piece, Masques, played  by Lazare Lévy is still  the best example of Debussy playing I've ever heard in my life.   I wish he'd recorded more and especially the French repertoire, many of whose greatest composers he knew and was associated with.   His family suffered enormous hardships under the Nazi occupation, his son dying while fighting with the French resistance.   He lost his teaching position and was not able to regain it after the war.  Which, considering his genius and his fame as a teacher must be one of the most shortsighted of injustices done in that regard.