RIP John Boehner

Right now, the minority of Republicans who are in or supporting the Tea Party mentality are in complete control of the party.  And, as long as John Boehner and other (relatively) sane GOP Reps don’t find sufficient stones to stand up to them, they are the tail that wags, not just the GOP dog, but the entire country.  The shrinking group of non-fanatic members of the GOP are terrified that, if they displease this dogmatic, absolutist group of reactionary ideologues even once, they will find themselves “primaried” in the next election.  The Right keeps its rule by fear because it can summon up many millions of dollars from right-wing oligarchic billionaires to finance primary challenges against any Republican from a candidate far to the right of the incumbent. After 36 years in the Senate, in a seat that was such a shoo-in that Dems sometimes didn’t even bother to run an opponent against him, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) will be leaving the Senate in a couple of days having lost a primary to an unknown Tea Party loony named Richard Mourdock by 61/39%.  Mourdock went on to make a major embarrassment of himself, and was beaten by the Democrat Joe [More...]

Guns…

One thing is obvious from the start – we are NEVER going to be able to implement a rational solution to gun violence. We can, of course, pass laws preventing (most of) the sale of assault-style weapons and semi-automatic handguns with magazines capable of holding, say, more than 7 or 8 cartridges. These would have to be federal laws, because many states have no inclination to do it themselves. Still and all, with the exception of the mass killer phenomenon, most gun deaths are caused by people with ordinary handguns, most of which would not fall under any ban we could conceivably get through Congress. We could drastically improve identity checks for criminal histories and a history of mental instability, but that is, at best, a weak sieve, as many people buy guns before their first criminal act (often a murder with said handgun) and, since many thought disorders do not manifest themselves before late teen or young adult years, perhaps years after a person purchases a gun. And, as in the Newtown shootings, the murderer simply appropriated his mother’s guns (legally bought in a state with reputedly the strongest gun laws in the country), shot his mother, and took [More...]

If It Were Up To Me…From Columbine to Newtown

Maybe it’s the movies, maybe it’s the books Maybe it’s the bullets, maybe it’s the real crooks Maybe it’s the drugs, maybe it’s the parents Maybe it’s the colors everybody’s wearin Maybe it’s the President, maybe it’s the last one Maybe it’s the one before that, what he done Maybe it’s the high schools, maybe it’s the teachers Maybe it’s the tattooed children in the bleachers Maybe it’s the Bible, maybe it’s the lack Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the crack Maybe it’s the hairdos, maybe it’s the TV Maybe it’s the cigarettes, maybe it’s the family Maybe it’s the fast food, maybe it’s the news Maybe it’s divorce, maybe it’s abuse Maybe it’s the lawyers, maybe it’s the prisons Maybe it’s the Senators, maybe it’s the system Maybe it’s the fathers, maybe it’s the sons Maybe it’s the sisters, maybe it’s the moms Maybe it’s the radio, maybe it’s road rage Maybe El Nino, or UV rays Maybe it’s the army, maybe it’s the liquor Maybe it’s the papers, maybe the militia Maybe it’s the athletes, maybe it’s the ads Maybe it’s the sports fans, maybe it’s a fad Maybe it’s the magazines, maybe it’s the internet Maybe [More...]

Whither Critical Thinking?

Why do so few Americans seem capable of exercising the skill of critical thinking? In the past decade, neuro-scientists have made immense strides in understanding how the various parts of the brain collaborate to create a personal identity and the ability to think and reason. The process of “critical thinking” involves several steps.  First is deciding on premises and ruthlessly analyzing them to be as sure as possible that they are supported by factual and objective data and are as free of bias as we can make them.  The key here is understanding scientific skepticism – questioning what we think, how we think, and what we think we know.  We must always be prepared to correct or update our knowledge and thought processes as new data comes in or data that is better analyzed.  Critical thinking is a methodology – a process to increase understanding, a form of the scientific method. Secondly, we reason from this foundation, constructing a chain of logic that will take us to a conclusion.  We must understand logical thinking and be aware of the array of formal and informal logical fallacies that can lead us to unwarranted conclusions and keep in mind the potential biases [More...]

RIP Susan Rice

I am reminded of that old cartoon featuring a male porcupine jumping from a limb onto a female porcupine below him while decrying “So many Porcupines, so little time.“  The sheer number of issues crying out to be discussed in the current political, economic, and societal arenas is so overwhelming, it’s hard to decide what to deal with next. I’ll start with some thoughts on the shameful destruction of Susan Rice.  She is a longtime friend and associate of President Obama as well as an honored member of the Clinton State Department, in charge of the baroquely complex issues of diplomacy between the United States and the nations of Africa. She has also spent the last four years as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, a Cabinet position, dealing with all of the member nations. She is supremely qualified, both by experience and by education. She was valedictorian at her elite Catholic private academy, had a perfect GPA at Stanford, where she also won a highly prestigious Truman Scholarship in her junior year and was awarded Phi Beta Kappa on graduation.  She was then awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to New College, Oxford, where she earned a M.Phil followed by a [More...]