Monday, November 30, 2020

Well-Wishes for (nearly) All

I recently saw a bumper sticker advocating a certain candidate. The tagline was: "Make Liberals Cry Again."

To me, this seems very telling - the argument for your candidate is to cause tens of millions of people to suffer.  

I don't want anyone* to suffer. I want everyone to have a secure income and not have to worry about healthcare. I want everyone to feel safe in public and to be able to marry whoever they want. I want everyone and their kids to have access to quality education that gives them access to many opportunities in life.

I find those policies more compelling than hating about half the country.

*OK, I can think of a few exceptions.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Good article by Pope Francis

I saw commentary noting that the Pope is less of a religious fanatic than the US Supreme Court (love this). I've also seen people who claim to be Catholic attack Frances for being "anti-American." 

Pope Francis: A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts

Of particular note:

"When I got really sick at the age of 21, I had my first experience of limit, of pain and loneliness. It changed the way I saw life. For months, I didn’t know who I was or whether I would live or die....

"The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future."

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Stuffing is a meal!

When Anne and I got back from Chiricahua National Monument on Thanksgiving proper, EK was baking a pumpkin pie (the secret ingredient is tofu!) and stuffing. Not just bread, but optimal stuffing! Diced Field Roast Apple-Sage sausages, cashews, baked apples, sweet potatoes, and dried blueberries. Delish!

Yesterday (Friday) was Field Roast's Philo-wrapped Hazelnut & Cranberry loaf

Friday, November 27, 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

So this is too far?

Sam Harris has given a platform to, and even celebrated, some of the worst people (e.g., Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray). But I hear now that Sam has "turned in" his "membership card" to the "Intellectual [sic] Dark Web" because some of his IDW pals have remained in the Trump camp even after the election. 

News flash to Sam: These folks were clearly dishonest and terrible even before now. I know it triggers you, but Ezra Klein was entirely right and reasonable regarding this. 

I know some of you ask why I care about Sam Harris. It is because he's been good on meditation and very good on the Catholic Church (1, 2) in a time when most people are cowed into silence about anything to do with Christianity. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

To Infinitives and Beyond

 From Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue:

I can think of two very good reasons for not splitting an infinitive.

1.   Because you feel that the rules of English ought to conform to the grammatical precepts of a language that died a thousand years ago.

2.   Because you wish to cling to a pointless affectation of usage that is without the support of any recognized authority of the last 200 years, even at the cost of composing sentences that are ambiguous, inelegant, and patently contorted.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Why Facts Don't Change Minds

Full article; excerpts:

“People are embraced or condemned according to their beliefs, so one function of the mind may be to hold beliefs that bring the belief-holder the greatest number of allies, protectors, or disciples, rather than beliefs that are most likely to be true.”

We don't always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about....

Any idea that is sufficiently different from your current worldview will feel threatening. And the best place to ponder a threatening idea is in a non-threatening environment. As a result, books are often a better vehicle for transforming beliefs than conversations or debates.

In conversation, people have to carefully consider their status and appearance. They want to save face and avoid looking stupid. When confronted with an uncomfortable set of facts, the tendency is often to double down on their current position rather than publicly admit to being wrong.

Books resolve this tension. With a book, the conversation takes place inside someone's head and without the risk of being judged by others. It's easier to be open-minded when you aren't feeling defensive.

There is another reason bad ideas continue to live on, which is that people continue to talk about them.

Silence is death for any idea. An idea that is never spoken or written down dies with the person who conceived it. Ideas can only be remembered when they are repeated. They can only be believed when they are repeated....

“Every time you retweet or quote tweet someone you’re angry with, it helps them. It disseminates their BS. Hell for the ideas you deplore is silence. Have the discipline to give it to them.”

Your time is better spent championing good ideas than tearing down bad ones. Don't waste time explaining why bad ideas are bad. You are simply fanning the flame of ignorance and stupidity.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Partisan and tribal divides

Just like the vegans who see every headline as justifying their personal beliefs, there is a certain strain of "public intellectual" who think every result justifies theirs. For example, Andrew Sullivan seems to think everyone who supports Trump does so as a reaction to "political correctness" and "cancel culture." 


I grew up in rural Ohio in the 1980s. The people there did not hate me because of something that they heard about at Evergreen College or Yale. They hated me because I had an IQ over 120. 

It wasn't a question of "understanding" them. It wasn't a question of "they would support pluralism and left-wing policies if sold correctly." It was "play stupid and small-minded or be 'othered' and hated." And I was a straight white male. 

Anyway, that's all just a preface to this:

I've spent 4+ years trying to understand Trump supporters. I'm all done now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Suffering under Obama

From Andrew Tobias:

Not long after Trump took office, Kentucky columnist Teri Carter offered this:

The sentence I hear most from well-meaning, conservative friends since President Trump’s election is this: “We suffered 8 years under Barack Obama.”

Fair enough. Let’s take a look.

The day Obama took office, the Dow closed at 7,949 points. Eight years later, the Dow had almost tripled.

General Motors and Chrysler were on the brink of bankruptcy, with Ford not far behind, and their failure, along with their supply chains, would have meant the loss of millions of jobs. Obama pushed through a controversial, $8o billion bailout to save the car industry. The U.S. car industry survived, started making money again, and the entire $80 billion was paid back, with interest.

While we remain vulnerable to lone-wolf attacks, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed a mass attack here since 9/11.

Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

He drew down the number of troops from 180,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan to just 15,000, and increased funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He launched a program called Opening Doors which, since 2010, has led to a 47 percent decline in the number of homeless veterans.

He set a record 73 straight months of private-sector job growth.

Due to Obama’s regulatory policies, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 12%, production of renewable energy more than doubled, and our dependence on foreign oil was cut in half.

He signed The Lilly Ledbetter Act, making it easier for women to sue employers for unequal pay.

His Omnibus Public Lands Management Act designated more than 2 million acres as wilderness, creating thousands of miles of trails and protecting over 1,000 miles of rivers.

He reduced the federal deficit from 9.8 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3.2 percent in 2016.

For all the inadequacies of the Affordable Care Act, we seem to have forgotten that, before the ACA, you could be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition and kids could not stay on their parents’ policies up to age 26.

Obama approved a $14.5 billion system to rebuild the levees in New Orleans.

All this, even as our own Mitch McConnell famously asserted that his singular mission would be to block anything President Obama tried to do.

While Obama failed on his campaign pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, that prison’s population decreased from 242 to around 50.

He expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research, supporting groundbreaking advancement in areas like spinal injury treatment and cancer.

Credit card companies can no longer charge hidden fees or raise interest rates without advance notice.

Most years, Obama threw a 4th of July party for military families. He held babies, played games with children, served barbecue, and led the singing of “Happy Birthday” to his daughter Malia, who was born on July 4.

Welfare spending is down: for every 100 poor families, just 24 receive cash assistance, compared with 64 in 1996.

Obama comforted families and communities following more than a dozen mass shootings. After Sandy Hook, he said, “The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.”

Yet, he never took away anyone’s guns.

He sang Amazing Grace, spontaneously, at the altar.

He was the first president since Eisenhower to serve two terms without personal or political scandal.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

President Obama was not perfect, as no man and no president is, and you can certainly disagree with his political ideologies. But to say we suffered? If that’s the argument, if this is how we suffered for 8 years under Barack Obama, I have one wish: may we be so fortunate as to suffer 8 more.

Andrew Tobias adds:

Carter might have added that Obama and his team prevented Ebola from becoming a deadly global plague; deployed CDC teams in 49 countries to prevent the spread of future pandemics (sadly pulled back in 2018); and left his successor a detailed manual for dealing with a pandemic if one ever should reach our shores (sadly ignored).

Oh!  And she might have mentioned the glorious sea change that moves millions of LGBTQ+ Americans, their families, and friends nearly to tears.  (It ain’t that way in Chechnya.)

But even without those two additions, Carter’s essay reminds us what Obama/Biden and their team of competent, dedicated public servants did . . .

. . . and gives me hope for what Biden/Harris and their team may do.