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Gender: Male
Hometown: Orlando
Home country: USA
Current location: Holistically detecting
Member since: Wed Jan 27, 2010, 04:59 PM
Number of posts: 12,002

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I kind of love this question.

Non-believer here (okay atheist, but it's a stupidly loaded term at this point):

Faith, according to this piece (which says the Bible backs this up) is:

"Belief in something without evidence."

I've been interested for a while in the idea that faith (defined as above) is considered by many to be a virtue. In the harshest terms, in order to be a good idea, faith would have to somehow turn out to be well-founded and true. It's hard to find a way to think a false belief is a good idea after all. If there is no (fill in the god) aren't people at the least wasting a lot of energy, and at worst, making a lot of decisions and voicing a lot of opinions based on nonsense?

The only way I can make that work for me is to undermine the definition a little, and allow for faith to be either philosophy (for which I suppose there is theoretical rhetorical "evidence") e.g.,

"Forgiveness is better than vengeance," (because it ultimately works better) Can't be proven, but there is an internal logic in play, so it's not random, or just based on tradition or social conformity, or a desire to self-delude.

Or you could posit faith as a kind of semi-conscious metaphorical tool, like

"I choose to live as though we were all governed by a supernatural being who has given us guidance through ancient writings," etc. That gets a little trickier though, because unless there's some self-awareness mixed in, that's pretty close to embracing cognitive dissonance, and that doesn't seem like a good idea.

Sometimes faith gets mixed up with hope, which I think is a viable psychological tool for survival:

"There probably isn't an oasis over the next sand dune, but let's imagine it's possible and keep crawling." Nothing wrong with that. You're basically using imagination to get to the best possible state of mind. Sitting there dying of thirst because there's probably no point in going on is a bad use of empirical evidence.

I guess what I can't get behind is the idea of either

a) acculturating children to feel comfortable with religious belief (and uncomfortable without it) by sheer dint of repetition and family pressure, without any examination of why we should or shouldn't do that or

b) rational adults deliberately short-circuiting the thinking process they would apply to anything else in their lives, including the question of anyone else's religious beliefs, to hold on to something that, if examined honestly, doesn't really make any sense. I think there's a danger in leaping in and out of critical thinking that way.

It's not all quite that simple, but that's where I've come down after a number years thinking along these lines.

Economic problems foster xenophobia among conservatives.

It's the conservative reaction to problems to find a group to blame. Fascism was born of economic hardship the last time around, as we know.

And the Brexit folks sure did hit economic promises (false ones) hard:


So arguing about "polling" is a bit facile. The right-wing is always there, selling racism and fear. They get people to buy it when people are suffering.

Of course everyone knows they didn't really mean that.

A person could "bear" a Stinger missile, hand grenades, a suitcase nuke, nerve gas, etc. ad infinitum. No one thinks that all modern "bearable" weapons should be kept in the home or carried by civilians.

None of the modern argument from proponents of "The Second Amendment" has anything to do with Constitutional principles or democracy or anything else. The idea was that colonists could have law enforcement and militias in lieu of a standing army, not for civilian yahoos to nurture fantasies of fighting the government or preparing for the zombie apocalypse or whatever. Above all, bearing arms was to be "well-regulated."

The discussion today isn't even about "arms." It's about guns. Just guns. Only guns. Guns and guns and more guns.

What we have today is a deliberately warped, pseudo-religious philosophy developed for the sole purpose of selling expensive guns to a lot of hobbyists and a fair number of dangerous nuts. The magazines are full of ridiculous "tactical gear" catering to a fantasy that civilians can be "ready" for some unspecified future disaster for which all of it would be fully useless if it ever actually occurred.

The Founding Fathers would vomit at the thought of the modern NRA and its lunatic arguments that a crowded modern society should allow private ownership of massive firepower anywhere, by anyone.

Tend to agree. But there is more going on as well.

It sure looks like nationalism and xenophobia carried the day -- European NeoNazis and fascists seem thrilled. Doesn't mean there isn't a kernel of righteous fury at oligarchy in there as well though.

I think there's a danger whenever the population senses establishment forces have run amok that popular anger is directed not at the problems in the establishment itself, but at the usual bogeymen of the uninformed -- groups of people outside the traditional culture.

Putin is selling homophobia to distract from the kleptocracy he's running. Trump soothes the fearful by promising to build a wall.

Meanwhile, the TPP sails blithely forward, and U.S. banks look for the next speculative bubble they can use to transfer the remaining scraps of middle class wealth into their bulging pockets.

Everyone seems to recognize we need change; no one can agree on what that needs to look like.

There is a grotesque angle on race-baiting

building amongst the conservative wing of the Dems, along the lines that economic progressives are actually just poor, uneducated, racist white people, which is supposed to paper over the fact that comfortably ensconced elites who don't mind at least nominally supporting racial and gender equality are actually quite strongly opposed to any across-the-board measures to level the playing field.

They are terrified of ideas like universal college education or healthcare or a strong social safety net, because these things actually threaten their privilege.

It's not going to work, but it is kind of nauseating seeing it attempted with such arrogant glee, as though people will never catch on.

Entitlement. Over and over and over.

The culture of the Clinton campaign is entitlement. The career politicians will support her. The financial sector will support her. The "super delegates."

They will let everyone know precisely what their choices will be.

This is the attitude of people who have cultivated power under corrupt circumstances. They have made the required moral sacrifices. Bargained with the right devils.

So no one else should be heard or should be permitted to succeed in any other fashion. Not people with $27 to donate. Not people who hold principle over party affiliation. Not the young. Not the idealistic.

How DARE they?

Which, some might say, is precisely the attitude Democrats, at their best, oppose.

We shall see.

Good Christ. She didn't actually say this?

I have extended Ms. Clinton every benefit of the doubt I can think of. Her qualifications. Her resume. Her self-assuredness navigating the political system. And so forth.

But while she continues to hold a heavy advantage in the Dem primary race, it seems like the moment anything remotely dissatisfactory occurs, decency and good faith are tossed heartily out the nearest window, and we get this sneering, disingenuous flavor of personal attack.

I remember it well. Our household supported her in 2008 until she started her racist dog-whistling about owning the "hard working white people" vote and that fast one was she tried to pull in the Michigan and Florida primaries.

On March 13, 2008, NPR interviewed Clinton, reporting:

Hillary Clinton says the results should count, even if Barack Obama's name did not appear on the ballot. "That was his choice...There was no rule or requirement that he take his name off the ballot. His supporters ran a very aggressive campaign to try to get people to vote uncommitted."...Clinton that the Michigan and Florida pledged delegates should count because both are seen as key battleground states in the general election. But if the national party does not agree, she says, the states should re-do the primaries.

When pressed by NPR, Clinton said, "We all had a choice as to whether or not to participate in what was going to be a primary, and most people took their name off the ballot but I didn't." Critics have labeled Clinton's actions as dishonest, and charged her with trying retroactively to change the rules for her own benefit.


I'm trying not to fully reject the idea of her being the nominee, as that still seems likely. But boy, is she hard to like sometimes.

Health insurance is just a systemically bad idea, really.

As someone else here noted, someone probably has to connect patients with health care providers. The huge problem comes when that administration is done as a for-profit business that must, by the very nature of the thing, somehow extract billions of dollars from the process.

Sure, they could make things "profitable" by encouraging efficiency, but that only goes so far, and nothing is ever far enough when it comes to corporate profits.

So the profit ultimately comes by reducing care to patients, and compensation to providers. The whole framework of reimbursement for discrete services is not a health care model, but rather a way to pin down costs in rigid ways that can then be chiseled away, inevitably again by reducing care and provider payments.

None of the touted benefits of free enterprise apply in a system like this. There is no real competition, because people can't really "shop" for health insurance; even under the ACA, they mostly take what their employer gives them, period. And there are so few insurance providers to begin with that they can easily prevent any kind of superior way of doing business from emerging.

It's not even really "insurance." Insurance is a pooled distribution of risk, like the risk of car accidents or fire. Health care problems happen to everyone -- more so to some people, like the elderly -- but ultimately health problems aren't a "risk;" they're an inevitable cost of staying alive for literally everyone.

What we've got is a forced brokerage system, where a multi-billion-dollar industry dictates how health care works on both the patient and the provider sides to ensure it gets richer every year. Their "customers" will never walk away, because (haha) they can't.

No one has to twist their mustache for evil to happen. All it requires is the ungoverned application of normal human greed and short-sightedness, and the unwillingness of enough people to do something about it.

The sense of "ownership" of people and legitimacy speaks volumes.

What is a political party -- the people controlling it, or the people in it?

Who has the right to say who "we" are?

Who gets to say who is legitimate and who is an intruder?

And all the same questions apply equally to the country at large. Are "the people" writ large supposed to have a voice, or do they need to just settle down and let their self-imagined betters run things as they see fit?

Because that's maybe not working very well.

To me the attitude that someone will establish control and then dictate to everyone else is supposed to be the Republican view of "democracy." Once it was white male landowners; now it's simply whoever has the most money or can otherwise purchase the most influence.

"We stole this power fair and square. Now butt out!"

Whenever I see people enthusing about how they can't wait until people who disagree with them have to shut up or be "kicked out," I wonder why they call themselves Democrats in the first place. We already have a party that's about hierarchies and rigid power structures and elitist ideas of who is permitted to call the shots.

And of course, WaPo is so deeply in the tank for the Clinton campaign that it was recently observed hitting 16 anti-Sanders stories in 16 hours, joining the growing laundry list of establishment institutions setting their credibility on fire to try to swing the Democratic Primary.


Whatever we do in this election, we need to think about whether the Democrats stand for small "d" democracy, or for a slightly more polite authoritarianism than what the Republicans are offering.

It's a big, old, sacred lie Clinton was trading on there.

Yes, Castro is an authoritarian dictator. But that was never our problem with him. The U.S. was fine with his predecessor, Batista, a mob-connected, U.S. casino-friendly dictator who carried out mass violence against the population, including torture and public executions, with the happy support of the U.S.

Yet none of the talk about the evils of Castro ever acknowledges he came into power on a wave of revulsion and rage at the arguably more savage and oppressive, U.S.-friendly regime he replaced.

Why is that?

U.S. interventionist policies were never about favoring democracy over authoritarianism. They were about promoting U.S.-friendly business practices over anything and everything else. Socialism and communism were an enemy not because they sometimes went with authoritarianism, but because they screwed WITH OUR MONEY, PERIOD.

This conflation of socialism and communism with authoritarianism and evil has gone on for decades. But all the scheming and maneuvering in Latin America and elsewhere was never about freedom and democracy vs. oppression, or even really about one economic system vs. another.

We just sided with anyone who kept the oil or the bananas or whatever else was making American business money going, conveniently telling only one side of the story. Left-wing, right-wing -- we didn't choose based on whose death squads were the dirtiest or which dictators were the cruelest. In fact, a good non-commie dictator usually suited us just fine.

I think it's as good a time as ever, especially given an avowed socialist vs. a student of Kissinger in the election, to drag all of that out into the sunshine and give it a good, hard, look, once and for all.

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