mm459: Blast from the Past! No. 39

August 5, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

So, back into the archives yet again, (once again, a picnic summer concert with friends) but this time, you really get a treat, as this is one of my all time favorites, not by any statistical measure, just by my own subjective evaluation.

I console myself by guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 12, 2007, and originally titled “mm168: We’re fighting more than one pointless war.”

MUDGE‘s Musings

The U.S. has always been this very strange dichotomy: a Puritanical streak a mile wide, uneasily coexisting with gaudy decadence.

We prohibited alcohol consumption by Constitutional amendment in 1920. The result: organized crime in this country became an ingrained institution, and every solid citizen knew a bootlegger. The Great Experiment ended with repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Oddly, organized crime is still with us, having survived to evolve toward other more lucrative (i.e., still illegal) venues. Such as gambling, sex, even tobacco.

And drugs.

Gambling had always been an underground phenomenon, save for a couple of pockets (Nevada and Atlantic City). Then, 35 years ago, state sponsored lotteries began to appear on the scene, leading to the next step, the oddly constrained riverboat and tribal casinos that now populate so many parts of the nation.

Gambling, always a pernicious and destructive habit, is now state sanctioned, making it possible for working stiffs and stiffettes who couldn’t raise busfare to an Indian casino to blow half their weekly pay on a one in 12million shot at obscene wealth at their corner mini-mart.

Commercial sex, fully consummated in the form of legal brothels only in several counties of Nevada, has long been available in teaser form (”look but don’t touch — and would you like to buy a ‘private dance’ in the back?”) in nearly every city, of whatever size.

Many of these strip clubs, “gentlemen’s clubs” and the like are run by, you guessed it, organized crime, also still a force in the pornography field, although the liberating effect of the Internet has democratized both supply and demand of that particular form of entertainment.

Tobacco is a late addition to the list of proscribed vices, as more municipalities and states (who have long since attempted to control tobacco sales to minors with spotty success) have begun to restrict the ability of citizens to indulge in smoking in public spaces, and have often raised taxes on cigarette purchases so outlandishly that organized crime has been pleased to step into tobacco sales, providing low-priced supplies using stolen or imported stock.

So the U.S. goes both ways: Puritanical (sex, tobacco) and decadence (alcohol, gambling).

And then there are drugs. The Puritans have a firm grasp on this issue, and the law and order establishment has made the enforcement of drug prohibition a very big business indeed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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mm442: Blast from the Past! No. 35

July 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s baaaaaack! Mid-summer lethargy. Another in a string of Midwestern 90/90 days.

So begging your indulgence yet again, we bring back another gem from the dim, cool and crisp past, last October.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 8, 2007, and originally titled “mm164: A Nation of Christians is Not a Christian Nation,”

MUDGE’S Musings

The creation of the United States of America was the result of two parallel streams: the twin manifest desires for freedom of economic opportunity and freedom of religion.

The Bush theocracy would like us to forget the latter. So thanks are due to Jon Meacham in today’s NYTimes, for a useful reminder.

nytimes

By JON MEACHAM

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

Read the rest of this entry »


mm299: More than the economy, we’re in intellectual trouble

February 27, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Susan Jacoby has just released a book, “The Age of American Unreason“, and contributed to the Opinion page of the Washington Post a couple of Sundays ago.

washingtonpost

The Dumbing Of America

Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces

By Susan Jacoby | Sunday, February 17, 2008; B01

“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today’s very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble — in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm164: A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

October 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The creation of the United States of America was the result of two parallel streams: the twin manifest desires for freedom of economic opportunity and freedom of religion.

The Bush theocracy would like us to forget the latter. So thanks are due to Jon Meacham in today’s NYTimes, for a useful reminder.

nytimes

By JON MEACHAM

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

According to Scripture, however, believers are to be wary of all mortal powers. Their home is the kingdom of God, which transcends all earthly things, not any particular nation-state. The Psalmist advises believers to “put not your trust in princes.” The author of Job says that the Lord “shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands.” Before Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if, as Paul writes in Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then it is difficult to see how there could be a distinction in God’s eyes between, say, an American and an Australian. In fact, there is no distinction if you believe Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles: “I most certainly believe now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”

The kingdom Jesus preached was radical. Not only are nations irrelevant, but families are, too: he instructs those who would be his disciples to give up all they have and all those they know to follow him.

The only acknowledgment of God in the original Constitution is a utilitarian one: the document is dated “in the year of our Lord 1787.” Even the religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the preamble to take note of God’s authority, but the effort failed.

The founders of this nation were not irreligious men, although a religion that allowed many of those residing in the southern states to reconcile faith with the holding of slaves has to be judged harshly (perhaps a topic for another day).

But they understood, apparently better than many of their modern-day successors, that the freedom to practice one’s religion is a cornerstone of this nation.

After all, flight from religious persecution was and has been a consistent motivation for waves of immigration, both before, and for nearly every year since the signing of the Constitution.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation – New York Times

Messers Falwell, Robertson and McCain: Leave the rest of us alone to practice, or not, the religion of our choice, free from coercion and the pernicious attempts to undermine education in this country with “creation science” and the like.

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation — that all men are created equal — in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

If you want a Christian nation, I’ve got one for you: France! Should you want a pure theocracy, try Iran! Go hence and prosper, if you can.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm112: Daily Kos: Evolution is, in fact, a theory, not a fact.

August 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Due to the nature of my employment, and the extraordinary nature of my specific role that requires me to venture out of the safe confines of the introverted world of gearhead IT types, and into the dangerous confines of wild-eyed intellectual activity, I meet more than a few scientists. Not daily, or even every week, but several times a month.

It’s quite bracing, actually. I keep myself (comparatively) young by encountering smart people on a regular basis. Quite tonic really.

They wouldn’t have any trouble with this material; do you?

dailykos

Evolution is, in fact, a theory, not a fact.

by Dan Quixote
Sat Aug 18, 2007 at 10:47:11 AM PDT

I’ve decided to start my diarying with a couple of entries about evolution. I’m working on my PhD in evolutionary biology, and while I can tell most people here understand that there is no logical way to reject evolution, I thought it might be helpful to clarify a few important points about evolution. Those who reject evolution often use the inconsistencies in the understanding of those they argue with to “prove” that evolution does not make sense. So I’d like to see us all on the same page.

For those of you who reject evolution as a matter of faith, it is not my goal to convince you of anything. If you were open to being swayed by facts, reasons or logic, it would, by definition not be faith. If you like, imagine this was written in a fantasy realm in which evolution is real and your genetic code is 95% identical to that of a chimp. I don’t want the comments section to turn into an argument about whether evolution is real or people on the other side are questionable. No one is going to change his mind on the topic.

I found this story at the top of the heap at Daily Kos Saturday; not a lengthy read, but as cogent a discussion of a complex, button-pushing topic as I’ve encountered in some time.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Daily Kos: Evolution is, in fact, a theory, not a fact.

As the wonderfully appellated Dan Quixote states, he’s hardly likely to change any hearts and minds wedded to so-called “creation science” (ha!).

But he provides some ammunition to those among us who encounter the sincere but scientifically ignorant; hasn’t happened to me lately, but that’s because I don’t usually lead with my liberal chin in the HCA (Heart of Corporate America, not the real name of my real employer).

And, I gained a new perspective reading this article:

The popular view of evolution is a progression from bacteria to squiggly guys to fish to lungfish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to primates to great apes to Neanderthals to cavemen to us us US, the pinnacle of God’s design! But wait, we are talking about science here, no supernatural explanations need apply. If we overcome our religious biases and our anthropocentrism, it becomes clear that the world’s organisms are not striving to be us. Some populations evolve to be bigger, others to be smaller. Brains get bigger and smaller. Number of limbs increases and decreases. There is no direction to it. Every population just drifts towards whatever happens to encourage survival and reproduction in their peculiar environment at that moment. There is no force driving things towards being human like.

Ow! Now I’m all bruised from being knocked off my pinnacle. But, I’ll heal.

No more than was D.Q., I’m not here to pick a fight (and, as you’ve probably sorted out by now, I don’t have the horsepower to mount much of a defense). But, fearless reader, let me know what you think of this. Kansans need not apply.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE