Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who would root for a team that doesn't even take the field?

Good question.  That is why I won't be bothering to vote in this election.  Congressional Democrats deserve the beating they have coming, for being such a bunch of wimps.

Most recent example, and why I am writing this, is the Dems decision to punt on the Bush tax cut issue, which is as sure of a thing as you can get in politics.

Well done, Republicans

The other day, Republicans blocked the passage of a bill that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Abusing the filibuster contrary to the designs of the Founding Fathers in order to deprive patriotic Americans the right to defend their country? That is an impressive display of something. I'm actually not really even sure what descriptor to use anymore. Shameless, reprehensible, backward, stupid, evil...none of these really fit.  Is there a word that encompasses all of them?

Interestingly, this really exposes what the conservative opposition to gay marriage is all about. It isn't about defending families, defending marriage, or defending religion. Its about bigotry, homophobia, and hate.  People with a conscience should take comfort:  like every other institutionalized form of bigotry and prejudice, the ban on homosexual marriage will soon end up in the dustbin of history, where our descendants will gaze upon it and wonder how their ancestors could have been such a bunch of jerks.

I'll finish with this comic.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who is the anti-Christ?

I was reading the other day that a non-trivial number of conservative Christians believe that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. This is crazy. Not the part about the anti-Christ coming to destroy America; that part is pretty reasonable. What is crazy is the notion that Satan would deliberately choose to come as Barack Obama.

Consider: Satan is supposed to be very tricky. When Satan does come as the anti-Christ, he will need to find a way to be accepted among Jesus Christ's followers - especially the ones who will be on guard for the anti-Christ. What a terrible disguise Barack Obama would be! He is a pro-choice Democrat for one, so that raises red flags (and thus is a bad disguise). After all, whether or not one believes that abortion is evil, there are literally hundreds of millions of Americans who support abortion rights; they can't all be the anti-Christ. Obama also has a funny sounding name; his Dad was a Muslim, he has lived in Indonesia, and he is biracial. These are all attributes that draw attention to Barack Obama, most of which happens to be unfortunately negative (ie, the birther movement of the Tea Parties). Thus, we can conclude that Obama would be a terrible vessel for Satan to use as the anti-Christ. Way too obvious.

They say the wolf will come dressed in sheep's clothing. The anti-Christ will need to blend in naturally with the right-wing Christians who will be looking out for him. Thus I suspect that the anti-Christ will almost certainly be white, although could be either male or female. Definitely will be physically attractive, and a decent orator (which excludes George W. Bush from the running). The orations of the anti-Christ will be very emotional in nature, to appeal to our primal, irrational, and often evil side. Naturally, the anti-Christ will profess great faith in Christianity and may even present him/herself as a Christian leader. Finally, since most of the devout and evangelical Christians in America are Republicans, the anti-Christ will also certainly be a Republican.

Jesus Christ will need to come to earth to save his followers from the anti-Christ. With this conclusion, we can infer then that the anti-Christ will inevitably fool the majority of Christians into following him/her. This makes sense upon further consideration. Satan is supposed to be the Prince of Darkness, and the Master of all Evil. How competent of a villain would Satan be if he could not even deceive the majority of Jesus Christ's mortal followers? Thus, if the anti-Christ is among us, he/her will be held in high regard by a strong majority of evangelical Christians, who will have been fooled by the wolf in sheep's clothing.

We know from Biblical sources that Jesus Christ was apolitical, was an "outsider" in the sense that he did not recognize traditional forms of authority, and that he was persecuted greatly. The anti-Christ will naturally attempt to mimic Jesus Christ in these regards. He/she will pretend to be working for the good of the people as an outsider, and will claim to be viewed by the establishment with contempt. The anti-Christ will also feign persecution by anti-Christian forces, and will elicit a sense of victimization among his/her followers.

In truth, the anti-Christ will be a great persecutor of others. Some of these persecutions will be difficult to see, because the anti-Christ will try to present the perpetrators as victims and vice versa. For clarity, imagine where Jesus Christ would stand on an issue; the anti-Christ would take the opposite stance. For example, would Jesus Christ support the waterboarding of Muslims picked up in Afghanistan or holding men indefinitely without trial in Guantanamo? Of course not, but the anti-Christ will support these positions by pointing out that they are probably all terrorists who want to kill Christians. What would Jesus Christ say about plans to build a Muslim community center in downtown Manhattan? I think he would be OK with it; so naturally the anti-Christ would not. Again, the anti-Christ will pretend that the persecutors (Christians who are willing to strip American Muslims of their rights to build houses of worship) are actually the victims (by claiming that Muslims want to kill or convert Christians) in order to confuse Christians.

Another example: Jesus Christ would certainly not advocate military force to solve our foreign policy problem; the anti-Christ will naturally be more open to those suggestions. Jesus Christ knows that all humans are sinners and that we are all equal in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ would not hold a homosexual in lower regard than any other person. Naturally the anti-Christ will take strong positions against homosexuals, but like always, the anti-Christ will claim that the persecutors (Christians who wish to deny homosexuals equal rights, such as the right to serve their country in the military) are actually the victims (the anti-Christ will claim that homosexuals want to molest or corrupt children, destroy Christian families etc). Would Jesus Christ support rounding up illegal Hispanic immigrants like criminals and shipping them back to Mexico? Nope; so the anti-Christ will, but will pretend that Americans are the victims instead of poor immigrants, by claiming that Hispanics are committing crimes, stealing jobs, abusing public services, et cetera.

I do not know how soon the anti-Christ will come to destroy America, or if he/she is already here doing this evil work. I suppose it is also possible that the anti-Christ works through multiple people at the same time to advance Satan's evil agenda. In any case, I think I have established a useful set of descriptive factors, so that we may potentially identify the anti-Christ(s) and work to marginalize him/her. As a recap, here are some possible attributes of the anti-Christ:

- Attractive, well spoken
- Uses emotionally charged language, induces strong emotions in others
- Could be male or female
- Caucasian race
- Republican
- Christian, with generally high marks from Christian groups
- Claims to be a political outsider
- Pretends to be persecuted
- Political support for the persecution of others

I am not really sure if there is anyone in American life with all of these attributes, but if there is, we should really watch out for him/her.

**** UPDATE ****

I swear I knew nothing about this soon-to-be-released book, "The Persecution of Sarah Palin", until days after writing this post.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

American Enterprise Institute on the Bush tax cuts

Long synopsis here:

A summary.  We cannot afford to extend the middle class tax cuts because of the deficit, but we can afford to extend the tax cuts for the top 2% despite of the deficit.  I kid you not, that's the argument they are making.

The thing is, I don't actually doubt that extending cuts for the rich but not the middle class would promote faster overall growth.  Of course it would!  But there is more to an economy than purely GDP. 

Economic growth over the last two decades has been quite unbalanced, with increasingly stark wealth disparities.  You don't need to be a socialist to think that uneven economic growth is a bad thing for a society.  What is more difficult is figuring out what to do about it.  Instead of those solutions, what is coming out of AEI is a recipe for how to continue economic growth for the top 2% and stagnation for the middle classes.  I wouldn't blame someone for not being thrilled about that.

The right has only itself to blame for the expiring of the top Bush tax cuts.  I've no doubt that Obama would have agreed to an extension as a quid pro quo for Republicans playing ball on some other issue (cap and trade maybe?).  Alas, Republicans have refused to cooperate on a single issue.  Now Obama is presented with a tempting opportunity to be the economic populist that the GOP portrays him as.  I don't blame him for seizing it.

In Mexico, a war every century.

Interesting Op-Ed in the NYT.  Money quote:

"But this is not the way things are. We (Mexicans) are dealing with a situation generated, to a great extent, by the market for drugs and weapons in the United States and by the refusal of many Americans to recognize their own portion of responsibility in these tragic events. The drug war will have to be resolved on both sides of the border.";jsessionid=8BE04864C366600E2B0CAE00E236544C.w5?a=660860&f=28&sub=Contributor

Thursday, September 09, 2010

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings."

***** UPDATE *****

1. More regarding point 4 below, where I connect the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment with the political aspirations of the GOP. Here is Andrew Sullivan elaborating on that point: "You reap what you sow. You turn a benign Muslim community center into a "stab in the heart" of Americans (in Sarah Palin's words) and someone soon will up the ante." The fact that Palin herself doesn't support the Koran burning is irrelevant. If you help ignite a fire, don't try to claim innocence when it starts to burn out of control.

2. Terry Jones totally chickened out. He says he canceled the burning because the NYC Imam agreed to move the mosque there. This is BS for two reasons. One is because the NYC mosque organizers promised no such thing. Two is because Terry Jones' motivation for the burning never was the NYC mosque. He was doing it because he claimed the book "is full of lies", and he probably thinks he is doing God a favor by burning Korans. Presumably he still believes that. My money says the real reason he canceled the burning is because getting death threats isn't as fun as it sounds. He is a fraud to begin with (read about his ministry in Germany), so I'm not surprised that he bailed on his publicity stunt when he realized he might actually be in danger.

3. The Westboro Baptist Church has promised to stage a Koran burning if Jones backs out. This is not surprising. We have 300 million Americans, many of whom are crazy. We have all seen how much attention someone can get for threatening to burn Korans, so I definitely expected someone to repeat, although not to quickly. As I said before, the real story here is that Muslims world-wide just need to grow up and realize that throwing a temper tantrum every time someone insults their religion isn't going to repeal the 1st Amendment.

***** END UPDATE *****

That was Heinrich Heine in 1821. I read this quote with connection to the Florida Pastor's decision to stage a "Quran-burning day" on 9/11 this year. A few thoughts on that:

1. Burning books is fundamentally un-American.

2. This pastor has a right to make a fool of himself and his 50 followers.

3. If I was a Muslim I'd be most bothered by the predictably childish reaction to the burning, not the burning itself. That is, millions of Muslims worldwide with apparently nothing better to do will have a childish, almost Pavlovian reaction to this "insult". They will work themselves into a tizzy and probably dozens of people will die because of some irrelevant stunt pulled by some jackass in Florida, United States, of all places. Such a reaction is a sign of intellectual weakness, of insecurity, and of backwardness.

4. There is a very clear connection between the mainstreaming of attacks on Islam and the political inclinations of the right. A majority of Republicans think that Obama is a Muslim or is not an American. This is not novel. The right does this sort of thing all the time. Hispanics, homosexuals, and atheists are the tried-and-true scapegoats; Muslims are a more recent addition. These tactics are proven; they work very well. They don't make America a better place.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Not to say that hyperinflation in Germany was a good thing, but it actually took place many years before the Great Depression and well before Hitler took power.  It wasn't hyperinflation that led to Hitler coming to power, in fact, it was the Great Depression.  Hyperinflation in 1920's Germany was certainly disruptive but in the aftermath Germany was not left in a terrible economic situation.  After all, when there is hyperinflation, what did people do?  Consume and invest.  A rich man would build a factory, or a house, or purchase equipment, anything rather than let the money get eaten up by hyperinflation.  Once the economomic picture settled down, all of these investments still had real productive value, as France discovered shortly thereafter.
On the other hand, consider deflation.  People with debts are worse off:  think of middle class people with mortgages, car payments, student loans, etc.  These people will seriously struggle and certainly will decrease their discretionary consumption (think of American farmers in the 1930s).  Now consider the rich:  people who may have a bunch of liquid assets.  They have every reason to sit on their fortune rather than invest it.  They will postpone purchases for as long as possible so that the money becomes worth more through deflation.  This means less consumption, and less investment.
I can understand why inflation is something to be avoided in general.  However, from my rudimentary economic knowledge I'd think that given our current contractionary situation, inflation might be a good thing while deflation will exacerbate the problem significantly.  Right now we are on the verge of a deflationary spiral, whether or not people want to admit it for political reasons. 
Disclaimer:  there is a conflict of interest to this post.  I am sitting on approximately $ 200,000 dollars of student loan debt (as are most medical students).  So I stand to gain a lot more from inflation, which will eat away my debts, than deflation, which will exacerabate them. 
Too much deflation and I may be forced to flee the country.