03-19-20 12:21  •  What to Call It

Hank: Of course President Trump calls it "The Chinese Virus." It's from China!

Viruses are often named for the place they originated. This one originated in China. Nobody had a fit when we named "Ebola" (after the Ebola River) or "West Nile" (the place it was from).

You are just overreacting because it is Trump who says it.

"Ebola" and "West Nile" are not ethnicities.

This virus has a name, Coronavirus, and the disease has a name, COVID-19. Guidelines for naming viruses were updated in 2015 to avoid the kind of xenophobic attacks that have targeted Asian American kids in recent days.

Don't make it worse.

Hank: Fact-free liberals are the problem. Like most people, you don't seem to realize that the flu kills thousand of people every year. In 2018 the flu killed 60,000 people in the U.S. We lose 40,000 every year to car accidents. Death happens in America like anywhere. It can't be prevented. Get used to this fact of life!

We don't shut down the whole country or the economy over the cold and flu season, or traffic accidents. Why are we changing things now?

The flu and traffic accidents don't all happen at once, at the same hospital. The novel coronavirus is likely to make large numbers of people very sick all at the same time, so that the local health services are overwhelmed. If that happens, many will die who could have been helped.

The purpose of the slowdown is to spread the rate of infection over many months, to avoid overwhelming the health care system.

Hank: You have been hoping to destroy America's health care system for twelve years. Don't act like you suddenly care about doctors and nurses now.

I have been recommending a universal health care system like the one in Canada. Doctors there like it.

What's more, universal health care would be a better system for the current crisis. People would not have been avoiding health care for financial reasons for the last several years, and would be in better health and more resilient to illness.

Futhermore, if our system did not push people to the edge of solvency and then hold them there, barely scraping by, we wouldn't have folks who have to go to work when they are sick because they need the money, getting sicker and spreading the germ in the meantime.

Capitalism has made our healtcare system and our people less resilient. The only way to survive this health crisis is by creating policies that prioritize cooperation and sharing. This means shifting left.

03-18-20 8:29  •  Seed Money

MoreReeba: Paula White, Trump's “spiritual adviser” and the head of the White House’s “Faith and Opportunity Initiative” program, is making a plea for your donations during the COVID-19 outbreak. For healing. Just not the kind of healing that will help anyone who actually has the virus.

On her FB prayer outreach White talks about how the Bible can help us through the coronavirus quarantine and then makes a direct request for "seed money". Not for those suffering or losing jobs - money to be sent to her.

Paula is not the only one milking the faithful during this crisis. Jim Baker (how is this guy still a thing?) was trying to sell his silver serum as a cure for Corona virus. Suffice to say, it isn't.

Chas: You act like Christians are more gullible than the next one.

It's hard to draw a different conclusion. Christians routinely buy what the churches are selling. Are they using critical thinking?

02-23-20 12:21  •  Democratic Socialistic Capitalism

Soo: Why embrace socialism? What is your problem with capitalism?

I think the main problem with capitalism is that it only provides half of a system. It is an effective way, the best known way, to run an economy. However the economy is not the sum total of human existence, and capitalism addresses nothing except that one facet.

That is why a society needs to implement capitalism AND socialism. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact they can only work together. Capitalism alone is a savage, cruel, winner-take-all, undemocratic race for dominance. It's great for creating a few big winners, but without strong regulation it destroys the economy - as we have seen - and without social services, it leaves nothing but suffering for the losers. Socialism is a great way to provide needed services democratically, but without capitalism it has no way to pay for itself.

All of the first world nations, including ours, utilize a combination of capitalism and socialism that work together. Some countries utilize slightly better socialism than we do - for example, with national health care - and the people in those countries are measurably healthier as a result.

The upshot is that capitalists have nothing to fear and everything to gain from a tad more socialism in our system.

Soo: The capitalism you know has been tainted by overregulation. It should be allowed to operate naturally.

The strongest regulations that kept the savings and investments of financial institutions separate and stable were the provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed by President Clinton. The repeal allowed banks and non-banks to create phony-baloney "Structured Investment Vehicles" like "Mortgage-Backed Securities" and "Collateral Debt Obligations." These were unregulated vehicles with arbitrary value. In other words, they had free reign to start making numbers up.

So they did. They traded money back and forth with these bizarre banking schemes, just marking the numbers bigger as they went, and in the end they stretched the money so far from any touch on actual value that it just broke. That was the financial crash of '08 and the beginning of the Great Recession which we are still recovering from over a decade later.

The banking crisis was a result of weakening regulations that had been working since the Depression.

Soo: Like most systems, it hasn't been tried in its ideal form.

What about the 1890's in the United States? Laissez-faire capitalism produced robber barons, a dangerously exploited workforce, unsafe products for consumers, and ultimately a complete economic meltdown.

What is your vision for "the ideal form" of capitalism?

Soo: I can tell you that trying to divide the pie equally among everyone will never work.

No one seriously thinks everything in society can or should be divided "equally". However it doesn't have to be equal to be more fair.

Soo: Please show me where in capitalism there is anything stated about a "fair" division of privately owned assets, companies..etc. I must have missed it.

Where in "capitalism" is anything stated? It's not a manual.

True, "capitalism" does not contain the means to fairly provide for all. That is its main limitation.

But, "capitalism" is not a law of nature we are forced to bow to. It is our own invention. It will be like what we want it to be like. We can make the system more fair.

Soo: What, exactly, would YOU determine to be "fair"??

If everybody had enough. Some people might have more, but nobody should ever have less.


LadyBaBa: Unfortunately the folks I know who bash capitalism don't seem to have a lot of constructive ideas about what would work better.

Well I do.

I don't think we need to demand "less" capitalism. We just need a little *more* socialism. Not instead of...in addition to.

LadyBaBa: Yes, you have mentioned this and I always find your take on the subject interesting and thought-provoking.

Why, thanks. In that case, allow me to elaborate:

There is no way we could ever get rid of markets. Trading is a naturally occurring human behavior. The more you try to circumvent market trade, the more it thrives in exile, as a black market, and thus the less control you have over it. The only thing to do is fully integrate markets into the system.

The fact that market trade is naturally occurring is actually good. It is very reliable, and can be harnessed to create a great amount of value. I know of no other system that works to naturally distribute resources throughout society.

But, when the surplus created in this system is owned, it becomes concentrated into "capital" - vast resources controlled by few hands. Because it is so powerful, this capitalism can be cruel, and unfair. It can cause great suffering to many when it is not used ethically. So, ethical capitalism is a must.

And, capitalism is a game that produces winners, but also losers. You can't have one without the other. So, a compassionate reset for the losers is a must.

And, not everything in life is about the money. There are many things in life that cannot be monetized and capitalism is a poor way to address them. So, other systems for dealing with life are a must.

This is where "socialism" comes in. We are already using it along with capitalism right now. We have been since the 1930s.

We saw that laissez-faire capitalism destroyed our economy, and so we implemented regulations to constrain business from its worst excesses. We already saw that our elders were struggling too much in their final years and implemented Social Security and Medicare. We saw that the workers in capitalism were suffering, and also restive, and implemented social programs to keep them from the worst ills of poverty and exploitation. We have been utilizing socialism to a great effect, becoming the strongest nation in the world while doing so.

Most first world nations have many similar programs. In fact some have systems which are slightly more socialized, like national healthcare, and those deliver better health for the citizens. There are some places where the education system is more socialized, and their citizens are better educated. So, obviously there is a place for socialism because people are already doing it and it's working.

With democracy for self-rule, capitalism to run the economy, and socialism to ensure that the needs of all are being met, a society would have everything they need to create a really great life experience for all citizens.

Soo: Are you nuts? What ever happened to celebrating the individual instead of the whole group?

What makes you think that is a superior way to celebrate? What's wrong with celebrating both? They are not mutually exclusive. We already make extensive use of socialism right now.

Soo: I can understand helping your fellow person, but giving up on individuality is not something that I highly regard.

What have I proposed which involves giving up on individuality? Be specific.

Soo: What I was trying to get at was that people in America want to solely just focus on the group.

Like who? I don't know anybody who wants this, not even Bernie Sanders. It seems like it is an exaggeration to create a straw man.

No other Western nation is doing this - why would we? Why would we have to? What we have now is almost working. A very small shift, in a direction that other countries are having success with, would let us share the same success, because they are doing something that works better.

Painting it as a debate between those who want to focus ONLY the group and those who focus ONLY the individual is polemics. It's not a matter of what might be considered "socialism" and what is revered as "capitalism". It's a matter of what works.

The fact is that humans always, always celebrate both and depend on both to make things work. Humans are social animals.

02-22-20 12:21  •  Bible Takes Work

Bandicoot: The Bible does not necessarily condemn homosexuality. You have to read between the lines. People who are willing to put in the work can reach a deeper understanding.

Or, you can do a lot of work and still not understand.

Bandicoot: It includes being intellectually honest, reading the NT through its Jewish context, etc, etc..

It is intellectually dishonest to pretend it makes a fig's difference what the ignorant sheepherders from thousands of years ago thought about homosexuality, or hell, etc.

Bandicoot: For example, if you read JS Spong or Karen Armstrong and learn to understand the historical context of the Bible, it's not necessary to cling to a simplistic, "God Hates Gays" interpretation.

Even supposing that you are right, and the "actual" message of the Bible is "God LOVES gays," who cares? Are we supposed to base our morality, or our understanding of anything, on what they said? Of what relevence is what they thought?

The Bible is a historical footnote, nothing more, not worthy of insense scrutiny any more than the ideas hundreds of other cultures living on earth then and since.

Bandicoot: Most people have not taken the time to understand the original intent of the authors. And, translation is difficult in the best of circumstances, let alone from thousands of years ago! But it can be done, if you care, if you take the time. If you want to know GOD, this is how you enter the conversation.

You seem to think that if you can just look between the genocides and across the language barrier and figure out what the sheepherders really said, you can figure out stuff about GOD. So you put in tons of work digging through a really ugly pile of crap to find GOD.

And that is where your intellectual integrity collapses, because no matter what the ignorant herders were saying in "the conversation," there is zero evidence that GOD told the sheepherders anything more than He is telling you.

Working on understanding what that ignorant, violent bunch of loons had to say about the world is not getting you one millimeter closer to understanding what God is or what God wants.

Bandicoot: If you think that's work, I'm sorry.

It is work. I didn't say there was anything wrong with working for your views. I certainly didn't come to mine without a hell of a lot of work.

But all this work is futile if you are not getting any closer to anything true or important. Why are you bothering to do the work to find the real meaning hidden in the words of ignorant sheepherders? They didn't know anything in particular. You don't have to figure out whether the shepherds were "really" trying to condemn homosexuality or not. Most people did in those days, maybe some didn't. But what difference does it make?

If you want to know whether or not to condemn homosexuality, look at it yourself. Don't let ancient sheepherders or JS Spong or Karen Armstonrg choose your morality for you. YOU choose what is right and true based on reality and what works and what is compassionate.

Sure, it takes a lot more work to figure out the truth yourself than to let Spongs tell you what to think. But that work is worth it because at least you find out the reality.

Bandicoot: I think I'd rather attempt to be honest in what I believe, even if it takes "work," than just go with whatever my first impression is. ;)

If you were honest you would stop pretending that Christianity, even your extra gooey nice version, merits this.

02-20-20 12:21  •  How Things Are

Selah: The world is a confusing place. You hear a lot of different things. That is why I advise people to turn to scripture. It takes some interpretation, but it's the only way to find out what's what.

I don't think scripture contains anything that we can't find out any other way.

Trying to figure out what scripture means can be interesting, but if you want to figure out how things are, I often advise people to forget scripture and just look at how things are.

Katy: If the bible is the only book that describes the universe. What happen if we didn't have this book?

Good question. If we did not have science books, we could still find out what the the universe is like because we could get the information again.

Katy: How?

The same way we got it for the science books, by looking directly at the universe. Reality is an open book about itself.

On the other hand, if you did not have "the bible" to tell you what God is like, where would you look to find out?

Katy: I want know the true. The real true, not manmade up truth.

You can have this. All you have to do is look directly at reality instead of that inane book. The truth cannot escape you when you verify it for yourself.

Katy: I need God's help every day. Fix my heart stop being so hateful, Help me to do all the things I need to do.

You don't have to pretend that the bible is true to have this.

Katy: Only Jesus salvation really can change present behaviour to good. Without Jesus, no one can really be good at all.

If this says what I think you are saying, your claim is a horrific lie.

Most people are plenty good. This means people from all human groups, including Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, non-theists and wonderers and everything in between, billions of people who are not Christian and somehow manage to be good, even great, without "Jesus." If you personally had been born in India or Pakistan or Thailand, you would still be the good person you are without any help from "Jesus" at all.

Please, do not continue insult yourself and your fellow human beings in this manner.

Selah: This is the truth of scripture. Jesus came to bring good to a world in sin and iniquity. It is His hand that raises us to Righteousness.

I'm kind of tired of living in a society where it is commonly accepted that "You can't be good without Jesus." That may or may not be what Katy is saying - it's hard to tell - but it is a widely held and disseminated viewpoint nonetheless.

Many people in my community truly believe that they are afflicted with "sin" from birth, and without "Jesus" they will burn in hell in the afterlife, and in the meantime they will be unlucky, unsuccessful or even evil without His "help."

This is problematic for two reasons. For one thing, I see people constantly wrong about what is going on. They give all of the credit for everything they do right in their lives to "Jesus." This sucks because a) it is a magical view of cause and effect, which ignores what is really happening, and because b) it is rooted in the supposition that ordinary people are too weak, lazy, or evil to have any kind of achievement without magic help. This belief completely ignores the hard work, determination and excellence of humans themselves and gives someone else all the credit.

The other reason this is problematic is because it skews the attitude in a very negative direction towards anyone who is not Christian. Clearly, if all humans are innately evil because of Original Sin, then anyone not redeemed through Christ is a force of unrestrained evil. So, not-Christian = bad person.

The ignorance, depreciation and prejudice promulgated by this view are seriously damaging the human condition.

02-02-20 20:20  •  Alcohol Free Will

Rita: The problem in this country is we have no accountability. Remember the McDonald's lawsuit, where a lady spilled hot coffee in her own lap, then sued and won millions of dollars? We can always find someone else to blame for our own mistakes - especially if they have deep pockets!

A few years ago some Indians sued the beer companies for making them alcoholic. As if they didn't drink that beer of their own free will! I wonder how many millions they got?

The case was not without merit. The judge acknowledged their grievances, but explained that the case belonged in state, not federal, court, so it was dismissed.

Rita: Good! The beer companies are not forcing anyone to drink.

The beer companies were knowingly supplying local stores with far more alcohol than could be consumed legally in the area, by orders of magnitutde. In addition, one in four kids born on the Pine Ridge reservation has fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol is destroying their lives.

It's also slowly destroying the lives of many people I know, by making them sick and degrading their relationships. So forgive me if I don't gush with sympathy for "the beer companies."

Rita: They are continuing to drink of their own free will.

Alcohol is addictive. In addiction the term 'free will' has a lot less meaning.

01-01-2020 3:42  •  Gay in Nature

Straight-n-Narrow: Of course there is a "backlash" to gay marriage!

Homosexuality is unnatural. There are no long term gay animal couples because from an evolutionary standpoint it's a dead end. An animal's natural instinct is to reproduce for the survival of their species.

This is simply incorrect. Not every adult animal in a species plays the same role.

Many different species of animals purposefully create adults who are non-reproducers. For example, in many species of birds, some of the males never leave the nest and have nests of their own. They stay and help the parent birds raise several more broods. Because the bachelor bird shares DNA with his younger siblings, this function DOES assure the continuence of his DNA even though he never reproduces himself.

Similarly, in wolf packs usually only the dominant pair are breeders, while the other adults serve in supportive roles, helping to hunt and watch the pups, etc. Again, because they share DNA with the pups, by helping them to survive they are assuring the continuence of their own genetic material.

These are just two examples, there are many others across the animal kingdom. From an evolutionary standpoint this is a very good distribution of resources for the survival of the species, and much better than if every adult was burdened with offspring.

It may well be that homosexuality (and trans- or a- sexuality, and a multitude of other variations) arise in humans in order to create non-reproducing adults to aid reproducing adults with the childrearing. So, it is naturally occurring for reasons which can be explained. It serves an important evolutionary function. There is nothing wrong with it.

The "backlash" is misplaced.

Read more in the Archives.