Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Stuff is So Crazy, It's Got me Watching the News

This morning I watched a few minutes of "Meet the Press" with the sound off, couldn't bear to listen, kept hoping to see a caption identifying the yahoo David Gregory was interviewing. He looked like a Republican: he was smiling, like: What crisis? Turns out it was John Thune, Republican, US Senator from South Dakota. Besides the way Thune looked, the way that Gregory seemed to be fighting to suppress disgust which verged on nausea was another clue to his guest's party affiliation.

I'm not a big David Gregory fan, in no small part because Gregory strongly holds to the dumb old "journalistic objectivity" line. Last week a Republican Congressman appeared on Chris Matthews' show and started off his interview by describing a bill which passed the House with the votes of all the Republicans and 4 of the Democrats as having "broad bipartisan support." Chris called him on this, said, "Don't come on my show and try to tell my viewers that something like that is broad bipartisan support." Good for Chris! He stuck with it, too: the Congressman, looking a little confused, as if he was not used to being called on his bullshit, started over a few times and repeated himself close to word-for-word, and Chris still refused to have it. Gregory no doubt would've let the guy call a vote like that "broad bipartisan support," trying not to look sick, and then maybe after the interview briefly recapping what the Congressman said and then maybe adding, "In contrast to the Congressman characterization of things, Democratic Congresswoman So-and-so said earlier today..." No taking sides between the bullshit and something which made sense. No taking sides between the fire and the fire department.

"Journalistic objectivity." Maybe some journalists have learned from this debt-ceiling bullshit that it'd be much better for everyone if they just told the truth instead of trying to be "objective." That it would be better if they told the public important things like "The teabaggers are idiots, and it's very bad to have idiots in public office." They could've mentioned things like that during the 2010 campaigns. Besides the obvious public benefit, in the case of some journalists like David Gregory, their digestion might improve.

Or when they were discussing corporate supporters of baggers who were confident that they could "tame" them once they were in office, they could've pointed out that in 1932 and 19333, idiotic German corporate supporters of Hitler said exactly the same thing about their guy.

Some might say that it is a network journalist's job to point out things like this to people who are busy with non-news-related things all day most days and are half-listening to him twice a week on the nightly news and once every couple of months on his Sunday show while their children scream and their spouses bitch. Or that it ought to be his job. Honestly, what are they good for? Why are little nothing wimps like Gregory taking up so much space on the airwaves?

"Media bias." Jesus Christ! How about: the opinions of people on subjects which they study all day, every day, for a living? Never occurred to anyone that instead of a liberal media bias, it was simply the case that Left generally looked better to people who knew more about politics?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In France in 1788, in Russia in 1916, in Cuba in 1958 --

-- a small wealthy class had for some time been growing steadily wealthier at the expense of the rest of the country, the gap between the wealthiest and most of the rest had become vast and was growing at an ever-increasing pace. Even some prominent members of the upper classes said that it was not right, that it was grotesque, that they were not paying their share. But the party of the enrichment of the rich and the further wringing-out out of the -- well, of everyone else, continued inexorably, quite unconcerned by the rage and disgust they generated. They felt untouchable. And many of them sincerely felt that it was their God-given right to continue on as they had.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How About Suing Congress For Unconstitutionally Tying the Debt Ceiling to Budget Proposals?

This occurred to me just now as I was reading an editorial about the possibility of Obama invoking the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution in order to raise the debt ceiling on his own authority and thus stave off default and a huge worldwide economic crisis, and the probability that someone would sue him if he did.

Am I really the first person to have thought of this? It's clear that Congress' current stand, tying the debt ceiling to budget proposals, is unprecendented. Until now, a raise in the debt ceiling whenever necessary has been routine.

Get Obama off of his butt and get him to invoke the 14th Amendment, and then sue the GOP Senators and Congresspeople who put him in the position where he had to do that. Not necessarily in that order, as long as the debt ceiling is raised quickly. Like, today.

To email the White House: http://www­­.whitehou­s­­nt­act

To leave a comment by phone: 202-456-1111

Snail mail: The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Under this address the White House website adds: "Please include your e-mail address"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One More

(I can't help it. I have to make sure people read this.)

INNOCENT BYSTANDER: I would love to test this software (authorship-attribution software which its makers claim has been helpful in identifying the various authors of different passages in the Old Testament) on my college papers. I doubt all of my papers have many similariti­es in style. Another test would be an entire collection of news articles from reporters.

CITIZEN 5: can a single paper/arti­cle have several different styles in it?

ME: Yes.

I was going to demonstrat­e that a single post of less than 250 words can have several radically-­different styles, but I haven't had my coffee yet.

CITIZEN 5: sure. but you'd actually need to make an effort of doing it (you even need coffee).

why would any serious writer would want to try and demonstrat­e she can write in different styles, just to show reader that she could?

that said, content analysis technique is very advanced nowadays, Donald Foster had identified Joe Klein writing just by analysing punctuatio­n marks, crimes are solved with the help of textual analysis; and even if you expressly try to differenti­ate your writing styles it would not differ so much that it would matter and confuse analysts.

ME: "why would any serious writer would want to try and demonstrat­­e she can write in different styles, just to show reader that she could?"

Because somebody asked

"can a single paper/arti­­cle have several different styles in it?"

But I realize now that it's not just the caffeine factor. You make me tired.

But I know now that it ain't just coffee, it's you, too.

But at the moment it occurs to me that lack of caffeine was not the only factor in my reluctance yesterday morning. There was also the exhausting prospect of trying to communicat­e with you.

No kawfee maik munkee taird. U2.

Aber es faellt mir jetzt ein dass es nicht nur Kaffee war. Du ermuedest.

(It's like the old joke: "Professor A, you look exhausted!" "Yes, I've been exchanging ideas with Professor B all day, and I feel positively drained.")

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mental Illness, And a Traditional Approach to It

In part this is an update of my last post, which appeared four days ago, entitled And Still More, which itself was a continuation of earlier posts. (Well, of course. If it wasn't, it's title would've been very misleading. But I ramble.) In those four days, I cleared up some things with "CITIZEN 1," and the two of us have even friended each other on the website where all this discussion is taking place. Before that, a 4th "CITIZEN" jumped into the conversation, and this person and I just didn't get along at all. "CITIZEN 4" ended up not only calling me crazy, but also invited "CITIZEN 1" to join in laughing at the "crazy person."

I don't think I'm crazy. (If I were, how would I know? Whoo-hoo-hoo! That question applies to everyone, in my opinion. And I think many people can't admit to themselves how worried they are that it might indeed apply to them, and that that's why you see the hostile sort of behavior I describe below. Misdirected fear. But anyhow) (To match my mood while I'm writing think, let Gnarls Barkley's Crazy play in your head as you read.) I'm not sure whether "CITIZEN 4" really thinks I'm mentally ill. I kinda think so, at least on the surface. Subconsciously, labelling me so may have been a defense mechanism, because I might actually have been making good sense and may have struck a nerve. So, instead of opting for introspection, considering whether I might have had a point, "CITIZEN 4" lashed out: I'm not the one with the problem here. You are. You're crazy!

So far, not very remarkable. The part that seemed strange to me, that got me writing here, is where things went from there. Assuming "CITIZEN 4" really thinks I'm crazy, he or she seems to think that the appropriate way to deal with the mentally ill is to mock them, and to invite others to join in on the mocking. "CITIZEN 1" was the first invite to join in with the mirth and mockery. "CITIZEN 1" didn't respond at all to the request; on the contrary, as I said above, he engaged with me, we sorted out our miscommunication and are now officially friends on the website. A 5th party did join in with "CITIZEN 4," saying "just slowly back away and avoid eye contact."

I was reminded of scenes from centuries ago. In my mind's eye I saw "CITIZEN 4" laughing and throwing rotten fruit at someone who been deemed insane and now was in stocks in the village square. I wondered if "CITIZEN 4"'s ancenstors threw rotten fruit at people in stocks, I wondered whether "CITIZEN 4" would join in with throwing rotten fruit at someone in stocks if people were still put in stocks today.

I was reminded of the sitcom "Friends," which I generally like -- it definitely got better after the first couple of seasons -- and it's approach to two different, mentally unstable guest characters: the woman played by Brooke Shields who stalked Joey and thought he was Dr Drake Ramore, the character he played on a soap opera, and the man played by Adam Goldberg who was very briefly Chandler's roommate, who was depressed, perhaps even suicidal, over being dumped by a girlfriend, and was strangely obsessed with dried fruit.

In both cases the cast members got rid of the disturbed people by tricking them, and the characters were presented as people to be simultaneously shunned and feared.

I know, it's only a sitcom. But generally speaking, "Friends" put out positive messages about acceptance and tolerance. They really dropped the ball on the mental health issue. I'm not demanding that sitcom characters embrace and befriend the mentally ill; but at the very least, they could've encouraged them to get help; or, in the case of severe delusions such as Brooke Shields' character had, even called 911 and said, "This person could be a danger to herself or others." Because, clearly, a delusional stalker could be a danger.

What did those scenes sounds like before the laugh tracks were altered? I'm picturing some members of the studio audience laughing, but many either in stunned silence, or muttering things like "That ain't right!"

Maybe I'm not in touch with the mainstream on the topic of mental health. Several of my relatives are psychologists, one first cousin is a psychiatrist. We're the people who, historically, objected to the mentally ill being locked up in dungeons or in stocks in the village square, who argued that the mentally ill were not to be shunned, that that was good neither for good nor for the community at large. Some of the avant-garde of the profession were even among the early voices questioning conventional divisions between sane and insane, although psychology wasn't quite as quick in this as the arts.

So no, I'm not used to the mentally ill being shunned and mocked, this traditional approach, thousands of years old, was not instilled into me as I grew. Perhaps I'm still in the minority in this regard, despite all of the gains of psychology over the past couple of centuries. It would be sad to think so.

Or maybe "CITIZENS" 4 & 5 and the writers of "Friends" are just shocking rubes, way behind the curve on this one. It would be comforting to think so.

Oh and lest I forget: of course, some knuckle-dragging rubes still think that autism is mental illness, and when I say I'm autistic they think I'm retarded, and my tagline on the site is "Triple A: Angry Autistic Atheist," so of course that could've played a role too. Some people, perhaps insecure about both their mental stability and their IQ, could feel doubly tempted, consciously or sub-, to mock me just for the opportunity to feel mentally superior to someone.

Or, of course, like I said: Maybe I'm craaaaa-zy/Maybe I'm craaa-zy/Maybe I'm craaa-zy...

Friday, July 1, 2011

And Still More

(A group of them at once this time. Keep in mind, this is all in response to a story about how a software program is allegedly helping scholars identify the different authors of stories out of which some early Old Testament books were woven together, as described in the so-called "Documentary hypotheis.")

CITIZEN 1: So, some portions of the Bible have multiple authors, each with their own idealogic bent, and their own agendas. Using that premise, it's easy to see how the original text was subverted during translatio­n in the 13th century, to suit the agenda of the RCC. Control over the masses, deliberate manipulati­on of scripture.

ME: What translatio­n would that be? My impression was that in the 13 century the Catholic Church was committed to using the Vulgate, which is mostly the work of Jerome in the late 4th century, and was very suspicious­, to put it very mildly, of any new translatio­ns.

But please, enlighten me.

CITIZEN 2: please enlighten you, Why,cant you read with comprehens­ion !!

ME: I can read just fine, thanks. But I don't know of any

"translati­o­n [of the Bible] in the 13th century, to suit the agenda of the RCC"

Do you?

CITIZEN 3: In short, keeping the Bible and the liturgy in Vulgate Latin (essential­ly a dead language) meant that the church held the keys to the kingdom. Controllin­g access to seminaries meant controllin­g the worshipper­s, since they couldn't function on their own.

Twomen changed everything­: Martin Luther and Johannes Gutenberg. Of these, the latter was more important, developing a new technology that increased independen­t thought by increasing literacy.

ME: "Martin Luther"

16th century.

"and Johannes Gutenberg"

15th century. And both decidedly NOT conforming to the Catholic Church's agenda.

CITIZEN 3: Okay; people started getting serious about putting the Bible in "the language of the people" in the 13th century, but still it was a scholar's pursuit at a time when books were high-price­d rarities. I Googled and found a bunch of different sites; here's one:


CITIZEN 1: Thanks for the backup.

What I was referencin­g was the introducti­on of the translatio­ns done by the monks, prior to the invention of the printing press. Very few people were literate at that point in history, those who were existed mostly in the clergy. Very easy targets for manipulati­on by their superiors. You know, the guys in the pointy hats.

ME: Okay, so apparently you can't get any more specific than you already were.

Can you tell me who told you about these manipulati­ve translatio­ns? Was it Jesus?

And yes, I read ShinjiIkar­i's link.

Are you just assuming that any translatio­n made in the 13th century was ordered by Popes or bishops with manipulati­ve intent? May I hope that you could provide one specific example of a translatio­n and tell me how this intent was manifested in it? (Definitely getting to be pretty much an entirely rhetorical question by now. I'm feeling like Gibbs in the beginning of Gaddis' JR, with his look drained of all hope.)

CITIZEN 1: I really didn't have anyone tell me of these manipulati­ons. My assertions come from first hand experience­. Don't worry, I'm on your side in this discussion­. (At this point it's very hard to resist the temptation to say something like "You couldn't find my side with a search warrant and a crack FBI forensic team!") It's these experience­s that force me to gladly proclaim I'm agnostic.

Some of the translatio­ns were, in fact, ordered by whoever was ruling at that time. Kings and queens did have some education, and the more enlightene­d ones sought more. As far as offering a specific example, I'm sorry no. But then again, I don't have the originals in my possesion, nor the skills to translate. (Duh! This is getting very sad now. I guess I'll just leave these people alone. What else can I do?)

More Idiotic Atheism

(Some people -- surely including the idiot I immortalize below -- would take the title of this blog post as more than sufficient proof that I am attacking atheism. On the contrary, of course, I'm just very embarrassed when schmucks like this make it look bad.

As usual, all dialogue is guaranteed horrifyingly, wake-up-screaming-in-the-middle-of- the-night-for-years-afterward real. Commentary is in round brackets and italics, paraphrases are in square brackets and italics.)

IDIOT: Pythagoras came waaaay before the bible 575B.C.E - 495 B.C.E and he is the first known person to work out that the Moon, Earth and the planets were all spheres so keep your rubbish for the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

BYSTANDER: Isaiah was a prophet in the 8th-centur­y BC Kingdom of Judah. (This is correct.)

IDIOT: If you know anything about the bible you will know that scholars in the main have accepted that the book of Isaiah in it's current form was written around 180 B.C.E.

ME: I don't know any of those scholars.

IDIOT: Then you need to read more.

Book of Isaiah:
The book of Isaiah, probably written some time in the 6th century BCE and addressed to the community of exiled Jews living in Babylon, emphasizes the principles of holiness, justice and ultimately the salvation of the Jewish people. Isaiah was born around 740 BCE and he later advised four different rulers of the southern kingdom of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Tradition has it that Isaiah was martyred some time between 701 and 690 BCE. The book itself, however, probably reached its current form around 180 BCE (The general consensus is that Isaiah was written over the course of some time by three different authors or groups of authors, and was finished not long after the Exile, by around 500 BC. It may have been around 180 BC that the Book of the Wisdom of Sirach was written, which contains the passage beginning with the phrase immortalized by James Agee, "Let us now praise famous men," with Isaiah being one of those praised.)

ME: Cut and paste without attributio­n.

Before you lecture others about rubbish, make sure you know what you're talking about.

Nobody knows who the first one was to discover and/or demonstrat­e the sphericity of the Earth, moon and planets. It might have been Pythagoras­.But we possess none of Pythagoras­' writings, assuming he wrote anything. Most of our earliest informatio­n about him was written centuries after his life (remind you of someone?), and much of it is certainly legend. It might have been Thales, almost 50 years old when Pythagoras was born. But our informatio­n about him is even more sketchy than in the case of Pythagoras­. It might have been someone else. We just don't know. I'd guess it was probably a Greek, but even that much isn't certain. We do know that the discovery of a spherical Earth had been made at the latest by the time of Plato, who unmistably and unabiguous­ly deascribes the Earth as a sphere in the Timaeus.

"waaaay before the bible 575B.C.E - 495 B.C.E"

Some of the Bible was written before 575 BC. Maybe only the prayer beginning "Maybe the Lord bless and keep you..." Maybe a lot more than that. We don't know.

IDIOT: I know from dealing with people like you that you have a short attention span. Hope you enjoy the sermon on Sunday, I think it's about how a piece of wood turned into a snake, or was it the other way around? I always get confused with these facts. (You get confused about a lot of things, Sparky!)

There is a lot more informatio­n to accept Pythagoras than anything written in Isaiah.

ME: Soooo not my point.

IDIOT: So what is your point? I would take Greek history as factual way before anything coming from the bible. And if it wasn't Pythagoras that came up with the spherical idea of earth, what makes you feel that the answer lies within a book that is full of contradict­ion and lies that was cobbled together to create an illusion.

ME: "what makes you feel that"

I don't feel that. What makes you feel the need to put words in my mouth?

IDIOT: tell you what, you stick with your bible and I will stick with reality, ok? lol.

ME: I'm an atheist. It's in my [tagline], for crying out loud.

What, do you just assume that anybody who disagrees with you must be a Bible thumper? Are you having trouble telling me apart from [a third party, clearly Christian] or something? Honestly, what is the problem?

IDIOT: I saw your [tagline], so what? When you put an argument up for biblical writings over Greek philosophy and literature then what am I to think?

She alludes that that it was the bible that spoke first that the world was a sphere, over 700 BC when everyone knows that even the catholic church were not convinced and we have their writings. Why was Gallileo nearly persecuted­? Because he had the audacity to put science before religion, many other scientific minds perished and Gallileo probably would have to had he not been friends with Bruno, the catholic pope at the time, so he suffered house arrest instead. I am all for truth and giving credit but the bible lost all credibilit­y for me many years ago with it's contradict­ions and mistruths. (I swear to Dog, some of these atheist dimwits are getting almost as bad with their assumption that people don't know the Galileo case better than they do, as the fundies with their assumption that no-one has ever heard of Jesus. "Have you heard about my friend Jesus Christ?")

ME: "When you put an argument up for biblical writings over Greek philosophy and literature­"

I didn't!

"She alludes that that it was the bible that[...]"

I have no idea who this "she" is. Whoever she is, I never alluded anything of the sort. I merely said the it is unknown who first figured that the Earth and other bodies in space are spheres, and that you gave the wrong date for the book of Isaiah.

Which is not surprising­. You obviously can't even read comments on HP, and that other stuff is a leetle bit harder to get right.

(While I'm at it, I guess I could add another recent specimen of striking atheistic stupidity. If you can point out five errors in the following without getting all religious on me, five FACTUAL errors, you will earn my respect.)

OTHER IDIOT: Christiani­ty is a phony, made up religion which has absolutely no basis of any kind of provable, historic fact. The religion was created during The Fall of The Roman Empire as a way to keep the masses of the great unlettered and unwashed in line by threatenin­g terrible retributio­ns from an Invisible Man in The Sky. The Bible, written by men, is are a complete and total work work of fiction comprised of myths, legends and outright lies. Nothing that takes place in the Bible can be proven to have ever happened.