Why Be a Patriot? Why Prefer Our Fellow Americans? – Ricochet

In response to my most recent post, Peter Robinson poses a fundamental question: Why should the government of the United States prefer the welfare of those who are citizens of this country to those who are not? To begin to answer Peter’s question, one must ask what a political community is and what it is for. In addressing this question, Thomas…

Source: ricochet.com

A prime example of why I find it so challenging to find common philosophical ground with conservative doctrine. It is inward looking, selfish, and paranoid, and that just isn’t how I see the world and the people in it. Are there bad people in the world? Yes, of course there are, but how does hiding behind a "citadel" do anything to change that? 

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My disappointments with Cenk Uygur’s interview with Sam Harris

I’ve watched all 3 hours of Cenk Uygur’s “interview” of Harris. Twice. It’s definitely worth watching at least once if you haven’t yet.

I went into this as a big fan of both men. That, unfortunately, has changed somewhat. Here’s why.

I came out the other side feeling like I wish all of Fox Nation would feel; finally realizing that, on some level, we’re being duped by “the media.” It’s my sad duty to now report that, on some level, this now includes Cenk Uygur for me.

I’ve lost some respect for Cenk because of how he conducted himself in this interview. It just seemed to me that he couldn’t keep his ego in check. All too often and throughout the entire 3-hour interview, Cenk talked (often at length) about what HE thought.

I didn’t watch this to hear Cenk’s opinions. I watched to it to better understand Harris and to hear his points of view from his own lips.

I felt somewhat duped because it seemed like the whole thing was done so that Cenk could offer his opinions while refuting Sam point by point. Cenk seemed to be employing the tried-and-true Fox News tactic: either talk over the guest or, even worse, twist the guest’s words and points of view when you don’t agree or don’t understand them.

This is not to say that Cenk and Sam weren’t ever in agreement. They were, but Cenk didn’t always seem to be truly listening to what Harris was saying. He didn’t always let Sam finish a point, and he didn’t seem to ask the kind of follow-up and clarifying questions I was expecting. Instead, Cenk seemed to mostly be preparing to launch into his own rebuttal using his own opinions and to everything Harris had to offer.

Here’s the interview. Give it a listen and come to your own conclusions.

Besides feeling a little duped, I was actually embarrassed for Cenk (and for myself, being a fan of his); not because he isn’t a neuroscientist and not because he’s somehow less informed or less intelligent than Harris. I don’t know that he is, nor do I claim to even know by what measure one would come to such a conclusion.

No, I was embarrassed for Cenk for how rudely he behaved and for how obtuse he insisted on being as Harris made point after point as clear as possible, starting with the fact that he (Harris) was compelled to be on TYT because Cenk allowed Harris’s detractors like Reza Aslan and C.J. Werleman to appear on similar TYT programs basically uncontested and unmolested by the host on points of fact.

In my opinion, Harris and his views have been dramatically misrepresented by people like Aslan. Cenk compounds this by seemingly eschewing his journalistic responsibilities. Nowhere is this on better display, in my opinion, then in his far friendlier interview with Aslan.

I was hoping for much more from Cenk.

To his credit, Cenk does talk about how he (and TYT) corrected their mistakes and misrepresentations of some of Harris’s statements. I gladly give him credit for that. Such acts are far too rare in journalism these days.

Cenk’s journalistic integrity, however, came into question repeatedly for me because he seemed to demonstrate an incapacity – correction, an unwillingness, I suspect – to see how undeniably the “straight lines” can be justifiably drawn from religious dogma to the actions of some present-day believers, and that some of those straight lines to behaviors are worse AT THIS POINT IN TIME than others.

The issues that I thought were going to be discussed in this interview were the misunderstandings and deliberate misrepresentations of Harris’s philosophical views on the religion of Islam and what some believers – granted, a tiny percentage of the total, but enough to create concern about what is happening in the world today – are choosing to do as a direct result of their faith and their beliefs. Instead, what I felt I got was a disproportionate amount of Cenk’s views instead of Harris explaining his.

(For the record, I am an atheist. Every religion has extremists – and always have had throughout history – who pervert some of the teachings of their faith. Whether it’s ISIS or the Westboro Baptists, it’s still a perverse cherry-picking of the worst parts of some ancient texts. The question, in my humble opinion, that Harris is trying to get us to confront is to what end those perversions turn into actions TODAY, as well as what the consequences are that come from those actions. That, it seems to me, is what Harris is distinguishing for us, and what I wanted to hear the most.)

—–

CORRECTION AND CLARIFICATION TO THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH
The above paragraph, on second thought, is a little too generous and even incorrect. Upon further reflection, it needs to be clarified and corrected.

I want to make this correction because I see it as fundamental to Harris’s position, and it’s one with which I completely agree. It’s also the point that I think a lot of people miss or don’t understand, and here it is: it is NOT extremism or a perversion of any religion to follow the doctrine of that religion. It is, in fact, what believers are expected to do, especially when the doctrine is written down and the believers profess to believe the words on the page come from their god.

This is where Aslan and Harris seem to me to have very significant disagreements. Aslan wants us to believe that it’s ok for believers to cherry pick and still call themselves believers. As an atheist, I don’t care one way or the other, but what Harris is doing is forcing us to face reality. The reality is that the fundamental tenants of religion don’t allow believers to cherry pick. The pejorative term for this that I used to hear often in my youth was, “Cafeteria Catholic.”

In other words, you can call yourself a believer and you can even believe that the Koran and the Bible contain the actual and literal words of your god, but if you’re going to be a believer, how can you pick and choose which passages you’re going to follow and which ones you won’t? This is the philosophical argument Harris is making and the one Uygur and Aslan seem to either be missing or willfully ignoring.

Make no mistake, we’re fortunate to live in a world in which the vast majority of believers DO cherry pick and DON’T actually following their teachings to the letter; HOWEVER, it simply is intellectually dishonest for people like Cenk and Aslan to attempt to disconnect the religion and its texts from the actions of evildoers when the evildoers say that that is precisely why they are doing what they are doing; fulfilling the teachings of their god and of the holy men who have brought them the words of their gods.

—–

In addition to his behavior as a host, Cenk’s use of strawman arguments was also somewhat embarrassing. What better example than playing the Hitler card? It was unnecessary and counterproductive to this discussion, just as his drawing on medieval Christianity was. Such tactics strike me as simply an attempt to create false equivalences which ultimately lead to a disingenuous reframing of the connection between certain doctrines of any religion, in this case Islam, and to the actions of believers, in this case, modern-day Muslim terrorists.

To his credit, Cenk admits his atheism and agrees that not all religions are the same, but I didn’t think that this was supposed to be about what Cenk thinks.

All of this is not to say that I’m no longer a fan of Cenk. I’m just really disappointed in how he chose to approach this interview and how he conducted himself through most of it.

My unsolicited (and unqualified) advice to Cenk would be that the next time he brings on a guest to go ahead and ask the questions he wants to ask but to then stay respectfully quiet as they answer them. Ask follow-up and clarifying questions. Ask tough questions and, yes, professionally challenge the responses. That’s more than just fine, that’s the mark of real journalism for me.

If, however, he decides to take up large blocks of time expressing his own opinions; if, instead, he chooses to engage in a debate with a guest, then call it a “debate.” Follow the protocols, and give yourself and your guest equal time. I didn’t put a stopwatch on it, but it did feel to me that on this occasion he gave himself far more time than he bestowed on his guest. Just don’t call the show an “interview.”

All in all, I still believe Cenk to be a bright individual and a better journalist than he demonstrated in this interview.

What I’m also convinced of is that Harris has been misunderstood and intentionally misrepresented. Far too many people, it seems, have latched onto those misrepresentations. While this 3-hour interview should convince the viewer of the same, I strongly encourage the reader to first read Harris’s books and his blogs before taking the words of his detractors as “gospel” for what Harris actually means by his own words.

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Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon

Although the media has speculated that terrorist groups might try to use the Ebola virus as a weapon, the disease is a poor agent for a biological attack.

Source: www.stratfor.com

An important read, especially if you’re concerned that some terrorist organization is trying to weaponize Ebola. Spoiler alert. You can stop worrying.

 

And, you should stop listening to mainstream media. Their business model relies on turning absolutely everything into fear, uncertainty, doubt. It’s called FUD. Those of us who’ve spent a career in sales and marketing are intimately familiar with the concept of FUD. It’s a damn shame that newsrooms are now beholden to my profession and the people on the business side; i.e., to the people in media companies selling advertising.

 

The breakdown of the wall between "church and state" in media is one of the most damaging things ever to occur in our democracy because it turns us into scared and misinformed sheep.

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States Ease Interest Rate Laws That Protected Poor Borrowers

Lawmakers in several states have voted to increase the fees or the interest rates that lenders can charge on personal loans used by millions of poor or financially struggling borrowers.

Source: dealbook.nytimes.com

We’re taken for suckers everyday by this kind of bullshit. I believe that there’s an awakening happening among the 98%, and I believe we’re capable of changing our country for the better.

 

"The lenders argued that interest rate caps had not kept pace with the increased costs of doing business, including running branches and hiring employees. Unless they can make an acceptable profit, the industry says, lenders will not be able to offer loans allowing people with damaged credit to pay for car repairs or medical bills.

 

"But a recent regulatory filing by one of the nation’s largest subprime consumer lenders, Citigroup’s OneMain Financial unit, shows that making personal loans to people on the financial margins can be a highly profitable business — even before state lending laws were changed. Last year, OneMain’s profit increased 31 percent from 2012.

 

……..

 

"Under the previous law, lenders could charge 30 percent interest on loans up to $1,000 and 18 percent on a remaining balance of $6,500. The new law allows for rates of up to 30 percent on the first $4,000 of a loan and 24 percent on the next $4,000.

 

"North Carolina lawmakers, meanwhile, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the consumer finance industry. Speaker Thom Tillis, who supported the bill in the House, was one of the biggest beneficiaries. Mr. Tillis, a Republican who is running for United States Senate, has received more money from the American Financial Services Association than any other Senate candidate, according to OpenSecrets.org.

 

"Mr. Tillis’s campaign manager, Jordan Shaw, said the donations did not sway his voting record. “He wanted to make sure that people still have these loans as an option,” Mr. Shaw said."

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Time to Rethink the War on Terror

(Thom plus logo) When Eric Holder eventually steps down as Attorney General, he will leave behind a complicated legacy, some of it tragic, like his decision not to prosecute Wall Street after the financial crisis, and his all-out war on whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

Source: www.thomhartmann.com

It’s never been "a war." We were sold a bill of goods that played on our fears, bigotry, and xenophobia. 9/11 was a crime. A terrible, heinous crime, but a crime, nonetheless. We and future generations will pay the price for our playing directly into the hands of the criminals by allowing ourselves to become terrorized, and for not behaving the way a civilized and mature country who stands on its principles of the rule of law should behave.

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The New Challenge to Market Democracies: The Political and Social Costs of Economic Stagnation

William Galston explores the difficulties market democracies face in an era of diminished growth and a weakened middle class. Galston argues that if the West fails to address economic stagnation, other domestic and foreign policy issues will prove intractable. Economic stagnation means a continuation of gridlocked, zero-sum politics and represents a threat to democratic institutions, he writes.

Source: www.brookings.edu

This treatise on our democracy is an absolute must-read for everyone. Below is the spoiler, but don’t miss the opportunity to read and contemplate everything Galston has to say.

 

"In modern circumstances, then, economic growth is more than a material goal; it is a moral enterprise as well. Because I cannot improve on the economist Benjamin Friedman’s formulation of this proposition, I conclude by quoting a passage that summarizes his magisterial book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.

“The value of a rising standard of living lies not just in the concrete improvements it brings to how individuals live but in how it shapes the social, political and, ultimately, the moral character of a people. Economic growth—meaning a rising standard of living for the clear majority of citizens—more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy. . . . Even societies that have already made great advances in these very dimensions, for example, most of today’s Western democracies, are more likely to make still further progress when their living standards rise. But when living standards stagnate or decline, most societies make little or more progress toward any of these goals, and in all too many instances they plainly retrogress.”

 

"That is why, as Friedman insists, the central question the United States now faces is whether the next generation will again achieve broadly shared prosperity or rather experience the stagnation of living standards. Broad prosperity is both the oil that lubricates the machinery of government and the glue that binds our society together. Economic stagnation means a continuation of gridlocked, zero-sum politics and a turn away from the spirit of generosity that only a people confident of its future can sustain.

 

"At long last, our leaders must turn away from peripheral squabbles and attend to the one issue that more than any other will define our country’s prospects. The stakes could not be higher, and we have waited long enough."

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Baby boomers ruined America: Why blaming millennials is misguided — and annoying

It may be fun to bash today’s youth — but here’s where the awful job economy and ailing planet actually came from

Source: www.salon.com

We Baby Boomers have been the ones in charge for a generation. To deny that we’re the ones who effed things up royally is not only disingenuous, it’s a lie and the epitomy of immaturity. I was taught growing up to admit my mistakes and to apologize when I was wrong. Too few of my generation are willing to do that with our kids. For what it’s worth, I admit we failed you, and for that, I am sorry.

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Best of the Left Podcast

Chris Matthews auditions for Fox News. 

Source: itunes.apple.com

I don’t get my news from tv and that includes MSNBC. Independent and non-commercial outlets are the last bastions of real investigative journalism.

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I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria

Old white people are drowning in despair and rage. Here’s how my father lost his mind — thanks to his cable diet

Source: www.salon.com

I felt like I was reading words I could have written; not so much about my own father who died almost 26 years ago but, sadly, of some of my contemporaries who now fit the Fox Profile in more ways than just gender, race, and age.

 

All hope is not lost. Not by a long shot.

 

First, I have total faith and confidence that my children and their generation will not be the scared and uninformed fuck-ups we Baby Boomers have become. We have the set example for them starting with the early 80s for how NOT to run a government, an economy or, with rare exceptions along the way, a civil society.

 

There’s also this. It’s how the article concludes. It sums up nicely where my hope rests when it comes to the rest of us.

 

"I, and people like me, have managed to break the cycle of conservative red-and race-baiting. I’ve noticed similar attitude shifts among some of my close friends, who have likewise drifted from the televised rage of our fathers. I only wish I could do something to ease the anxiety of those I love, an emotion that is a cash cow for exploitative right-wing commentators. But I have no real solution, other than to turn off the television. Sadly, for some of the nation’s elderly, they seem to have no desire whatsoever to rethink the politics of fear and Fox News. It’s a criminal waste of retirement."

- Edwin Lyngar, self-professed "libertarian and frequent Republican voter" and one-time fan of Fox News

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On the Mechanics of Defamation : Sam Harris

Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape.

Source: www.samharris.org

Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) and Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) are two people that I’ve read and respected in the past. No longer, and not until they issue a public apology to Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) for knowingly defaming him.

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