Archive for June 1st, 2011

June 1, 2011

From My Bookshelf

by Vince

I hope this turns into a daily series.

The Rabbis frequently suggested that on Mount Sinai, each one of the Israelites who had been standing at the foot of the mountain had experienced God in a different way. God had, as it were, adapted himself to each person “according to the comprehension of each.” As one Rabbi put it, “God does not come to man oppressively but commensurately with a man’s power of receiving him.” This very important rabbinic insight meant that God could not be described in a formula as though he were the same for everybody: he was an essentially subjective experience. Each individual would experience the reality of “God” in a different way to answer the needs of his or her own particular temperament. Each one of the prophets had experiences God differently, the Rabbis insisted, because his personality had influenced his conception of the divine. –Karen Armstrong (pp. 73-4) in her book The History of God.

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June 1, 2011

Afternoon Links

by Vince

Read up:

  1. A list of the 50 best cover songs ever.
  2. Some info behind the sped-up re-authorization of the PATRIOT act.
  3. A drug war-style raid on a house that had some small connection to viewing a pornographic website a year ago.
  4. A Macbook thief gets pwned.
  5. Police officers in New Mexico can take guns away from drivers who pose no threat.
  6. A Mexican teacher has been honoured after video footage showed her calming pupils (via singing to them) as a gun battle raged outside her school.
June 1, 2011

Long Read and Slideshow of the Day

by Vince

Rolling Stone puts forth a biased (is it?) piece and slideshow on Roger Ailes, spinmaster behind Fox News.

June 1, 2011

Obama in 2012

by Vince

So far isn’t shabby but has room to improve. Consider this when you point out what Obama has dodged:

Obama is also benefiting from the absence of negatives. The economy, while lethargic, is growing. The private sector is creating jobs. Natural disasters, while deadly and plentiful, have not developed into governmental crises. Skyrocketing gas prices, which fed the public’s economic fears, are now subsiding. And the GOP’s signature budget plan, ambitious in its spending reductions, has lost its luster with the public.

June 1, 2011

Humans as Patients as Consumers

by Vince

Andrew Sullivan cites a Krugman column with a logically binding quote:

HALF of all health care costs in the US is concentrated in only 5% of the population, and 80% of costs are accounted for by the top quintile! (source: Kaiser Foundation PDF)

So the effect here is that with such a concentration of costs in such a small segment of the population, the ability of the larger population to move the market is highly restricted. You can make 80% of consumers highly price sensitive, but they can only affect a tiny fraction of healthcare spending. And for the generally well, their costs are probably those which are least responsible for the spiraling inflation. They’re not getting $30,000 stents or prolonged ICU stays, or needing complex chronic disease management.

Conversely, those who are high consumers of health care simply cannot be made more price sensitive, since their costs are probably well beyond what they could pay in any event, and for most are well beyond the limits of even a catastrophic health insurance policy.

Once you are told that you need a bypass/chemo/stent/dialysis/NICU etc, etc, etc, the costs are so overwhelming that a consumer cannot possibly pay them out of pocket. Since, by definition, these catastrophic costs are paid by some form of insurance, the consumer cannot have much financial interest in cost containment. For most, when they are confronted with a major or life-threatening illness, their entire focus shifts to survival, and they could care less about the cost

This combats both Obama’s and the Republican approach to reform health care and Medicare. Some more feedback on this can be found here.

June 1, 2011

The Magical Mystery Tour of Sarah Palin

by Vince

As I noted earlier today, Palin is making her cross-country trip, effectively rousing the people for a possible 2012 GOP bid. Palin is taking an unconventional route (no pun intended) in that she is purposefully eluding the press (and even her fans) and making them find her. In a sense, this tour will either give Palin the green or red light in terms of running in 2012:

According to a source with knowledge of Palin’s thinking, the tour is a test of whether she can do it “her way,” which the source described as “nontraditional, low-cost, high-tech…. The key is to be totally unpredictable and always keep her rivals off-balance.”

With that under-the-radar approach, Palin may have some gold up her sleeve:

Unscripted moments that go badly can haunt a politician on YouTube during a campaign and into the future, but Palin’s ease with a rope line and her politicking skills are one of her best assets. A Palin campaign may not have a press bus or the more formal interviews that reporters crave, but her team will undoubtedly factor in added time for her to greet supporters and campaign not just in large rallies but one on one as well.

The one major trait of Palin that could doom her chances is her divisiveness. Everything from her comments post-Tuscon to her Tweets, she polarizes the political debate to awful extremes (sometimes even cultural ones). Andrew Sullivan made this ironic point when she moved to Arizona, a state bitterly divided between the white, conservative north and the Hispanic south.

One other irony: Palin made the comment that she loves the smell of emissions. This comment could have many meanings behind it. It coincidentally was said by her the same day this report (eyes widen) was released:

According to the IEA, a record 30.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere last year, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. In light of these shocking numbers, experts now fear that it will be impossible to prevent a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius — which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change.”

Picture by Flickr user Dave77459

June 1, 2011

Divided They Stand

by Vince

TIME magazine ran a good piece on the politics of Arizona. It’s worth reading in full. Here are some money quotes and comments.

Arizona is, after all, the Grand Canyon State. Its defining topographical feature is literally a divide. The politics of the state, not just in these past few weeks but in the past few years, has been all about division, as though every argument we are having as a nation plays out there on a breathtaking scale. The budget is a shambles, the schools are among the worst in the country, the governor is accused of running “death panels” for cutting off funding for organ transplants for some Medicaid patients. Representative Giffords’ Tea Party — backed opponent held a “Get on target for victory” shoot-out at a gun range as a campaign event. Rallies against a controversial immigration bill last year featured so many tearful calls to prayer and accusations of Nazism that it seemed like an all-Hispanic version of the Glenn Beck show. “It’s as bad as I’ve seen in 40 years of observing Arizona politics,” says Bruce Merrill, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University. “We have so many real problems, and all our leadership has done is [pursue] polarizing issues using very strident language.”

Hence the picture. Here is a very brief history of the rather young state (less than 100 years old and less than a dozen senators in it’s history):

A certain level of discord was sewed into the fabric of Arizona from the outset. The center of the state was settled largely by “washed-up 49ers,” as Tucson lawyer and history buff David Hardy puts it, who were returning empty-handed and somewhat wild-eyed from California. Among them was a morphine-addicted prospector named Jack Swilling, who founded Phoenix. The libertarian DNA — the same strain that made Giffords a fan of concealed weapons and caused state senator Lori Klein to carry a handgun to Governor Jan Brewer’s state of the state address at the capitol two days after the Tucson shootings — remains from those early days. Distant from Washington and hardened by the Apache wars, settlers acted first and asked permission from the federal government later. “The pioneer,” wrote Orick Jackson in his 1908 history, “took the matter in hand without any authority, and without a dollar in pay.” That group had little in common with the Mormons who settled the north and not much regard for the Hispanic population that was dominant in the south. It was, says Manuel Hernandez, professor of Mexican-American literature at Arizona State University, an “apartheid state” for Hispanics until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

With all its baggage, Arizona has boomed over the past half century:

Fair weather and cheap housing made the desert boom: a population that was just 700,000 after World War II stands at more than 6.5 million today. The growth in the past 20 years has been nothing short of steroidal: the population mushroomed by 40% in the 1990s and then rose an additional 25% in the first decade of this century. It is now the 16th largest state in the U.S. And that’s just the official population.

However, the state’s current affairs are hard to overlook:

The state of Arizona’s budget is even worse than it looks: a new study estimates that the true deficit is $2.1 billion (more than twice what the legislature says it is). The unemployment rate is exactly that of the U.S. as a whole — 9.4% — but more than half of the homes in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is, are underwater. Most state parks are being shuttered. The public schools are in the bottom 10% of the nation by many metrics.

The current leadership appears singularly unfit to tackle these challenges. Half the legislature seems to treat legislating like an indoor version of the Tombstone 2 p.m. Gunfight Show, giving speeches about pioneer values and then firing a round of blanks. Arizona’s legislature has long been warped by low voter turnout and uncontested districts. “Only ideologues go to the polls,” says Merrill. “In Arizona, that happens to be the right-wingers.” Public financing for campaigns removed most kinds of fundraising and, with them, the moderation that can come with accountability to the business community, so the primaries function as a race to the fringe of acceptable politics.

One Arizonan statesman worth mentioning is Russell Pearce:

Russell Pearce, the Mesa Republican who is now the president of the senate and perhaps the most powerful politician in the state. In 2009 the budgetary meltdown was already in its second year, but Pearce doggedly championed legislation that would force Obama, whom he describes as waging “jihad” against Arizona, to provide proof of his citizenship (it was tabled after being ridiculed around the country). In 2010, Pearce turned to immigration with SB 1070, a bill seemingly purpose-built to provoke not only controversy but also a lengthy court battle, thereby sapping both prestige and resources from a state that needs more of both. This year, the No. 2 priority after the budget, says Pearce, will be legislation calling for the repeal of the 14th Amendment, the one that grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil. This, of course, is not anywhere near the jurisdiction of the Arizona legislature.

To wrap up, much of the national and state-level approach to immigration issues most likely will come back to haunt America. The strident bumper-sticker public policy approach in Arizona and elsewhere in America is attacking the very base that will have a majority in Arizona in a few decades and most likely will continue to grow in presence and stature in America in the years to come:

So when the lawmakers decided to cut dropout-prevention programs — the Hispanic dropout rate is particularly abysmal — they may have fulfilled a campaign promise, but they also dented Arizona’s prospects.

(Pictured: The Grand Canyon in Arizona).

June 1, 2011

“Government Cannot Feel”

by Vince

That the government is out of the realm of Christian ethics and morals is generally what a few critics of my blog/ideas come to the table saying. Government, most notably American government, is not a human, not a Christian, not the church, and shouldn’t be (but still is in some conversations is) expected to uphold Christian morals, ethics, or norms of human compassion (James 1:27 can get us started). It is rather humorous and hypocritical, I find it, when the church tells the state to uphold ambiguous morals on marriage and life but to then ignore others such as caring for the poor, needy, stopping wars, providing safety nets, and condemning capital punishment.

We could continue with the fact that Jesus was killed for opposing a systematic domination of people by a rich, pious few. Keyword: killed, which has been muted over the last two centuries and replaced with “died for our sins”. This is due to many governments since Constantine taking up Christianity as their official or unofficial (mostly a majority) state religion. Once the state is one of ostensible Christian ideals, the tables turn from criticizing government injustices (government and their officials are now sacrosanct) to a domesticated path of radical religion. But I digress.

I thought of this topic when I saw John Boehner criticized by his own flock when he came into Washington D.C. to give a commencement speech to Catholic University:

More than 75 professors at Catholic University and other prominent Catholic colleges have written a pointed letter to Mr. Boehner saying that the Republican-supported budget he shepherded through the House will hurt the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable, and that he therefore has failed to uphold basic Catholic moral teachings.

“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s most ancient moral teachings,” the letter says. “From the apostles to the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”

June 1, 2011

Does Mentioning Racial Disparities Make One a Racist?

by Vince

Some would say yes in the case of Rush Limbaugh. Many of his analogies on his radio show are race-laden (“Obama is working for reparations with his new health care bill“). His logic generally looks like this:

Let’s see, we’ve got a black president, and I’ve been implicated in several racially tinged controversies, so why not compare him to a slave holder? Plus I can riff off his Abraham Lincoln complex by adding that he’s actually more like a Confederate. Ha. Comparing our first black president to Jefferson Davis! That will get ’em going.

Conor Friedersdorf makes an important note about Rush Limbaugh (and other talk radio hosts on the right). He conducted email interviews with GOP county chairmen across the country and had this one response:

Their listeners do not always or ever understand that they are entertainers. I’m not discounting their ability to formulate opinion or the good they might do as watchdogs. However, we must understand that in order for them to be successful, they have to have good ratings. Their decisions therefore are not based on the good of the Republican Party, but on how certain subject matters will affect ratings. We have to clearly delineate between members of the Republican Party and entertainers. We should be careful to ensure that people do not feel they are speaking for the Republican Party.

Now, on to the left.
Bill O’Reilly continues to make the identical claim of race-bating with Barack Obama. O’Reilly claims that Obama’s poor choices of churches to attend brings him again and again into the presence of reverends turned race activists. This, O’Reilly argues, makes Obama the inciter of (or supporter of inciting) racial disparities and he should be the last one to support racist incitements since he “has made it” through the Ivy League’s and into the Oval Office.

I come away with this question: should Obama never support racial equality since he has made a nice life for himself and his family?

After looking at both sides, the far right with Rush Limbaugh and the racially activist side with Obama’s preachers, I can see it as unfair to quickly label Rush as the racist. Rev. Jeremiah Wright did make some harsh criticisms of America that included racial injustices spanning America’s history. However, with both examples from their respective sides, you have to ask what their goals are from their diatribes. Are they pushing for the topic of race to be discussed openly or higher entertainment ratings? An even better question is if these two sides are ostensibly hoping to play racial peacemaker but the money, fame, or power is the real goal underneath it all.

June 1, 2011

Adele Does Angrybirds

by Vince
June 1, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince

Pictured: Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Eric Clapton

June 1, 2011

Sarah Palin in Pennsylvania

by Vince

She made a stop yesterday in northern York county and then made her way over to Philadelphia to see the liberty bell. I wonder if she took I-76 or the more scenic Route 30.