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Glasgow

Excuse the quiet, please: I spent yesterday in Glasgow, where, among other things, I attended a fascinating talk by P. Z. Myers in which he ripped the intelligent design fanbois creationists a new orifice, before an entirely more plausible deity devoured his brain.

I am tempted at this point to whimsically speculate about the morphogenesis of Cthulhu, but as He is clearly Older Than Time Itself it might be a futile exercise, and besides, could lead to me being eaten last.

(I am now back at work, playing catch-up with a runaway novel.)

In other news:

This is the first US hardcover copy to arrive in the UK, as far as I know.

author, clutching precioussss

282 Comments

1:

I gather that PZ is on a European tour - he seems to have come hot foot from the World Atheist Convention in Dublin, from which friends of ours were tweeting.

2:

He's in London tomorrow - and I can't get to his meeting, grrrr ....

3:

He was speculating about coming to the science festival in Cheltenham this week, but I don't know what he's decided.

4:

Your "fanboi" has me wondering: would I feel better about the future of the species if I regarded creationists as engaged in bible fan fiction? Hmmm.

5:

Myers also liked our school system having time for comparative religion, ethics and philosophy, as opposed to compulsory Christianity.
The problem with the one creationist who actually spoke was that he had very poor enunciation of words, used the gish gallop method, and ultimately his argument appeared to depend upon his very own personal reading of scientific papers in a way which nobody else present agreed with, especially Prof Myers. So once again a creationist showed themselves to be a fool in front of a room full of people. Oddly enough 2 others who came in which him bailed out and left him to it, I wonder why? Maybe the unpleasant comments about creationists scared them?

6:

would I feel better about the future of the species if I regarded creationists as engaged in bible fan fiction?

The trouble is that, to coin a metaphor, they insist that the biblefan equivalent of yiffing is the only acceptable way to have sex, and campaign actively against all other forms of sexual contact. In particular, the missionary position (with or without the sheet with a hole in it) is something they consider to be a perversion and they campaign to criminalize it and discriminate against all those who practice it.

Now imagine that 30% of the population are furries and another 30-40% are sympathizers. ("I'm not a furry, but I've got a pair of rabbit-ears and a ponygirl tail in my closet ...")

7:

While an atheist myself, I came to terms with the religious after deciding they weren't any more crazy than dogmatic holders of other positions- economic, scientific, historical, etc- I disagreed with and found to be in conflict with objective reality.

Of course, in some ways that made the problem worse...

8:

I've got two problems with some of the religious ...

1. They've got a code of rules they want to live by; fine, that's their choice, I have no problem with that as long as they don't involve me and they're all doing it as consenting adults. But when they try to encode their rules in law, that affects me directly. See, for example, this.

2. Most (but not all) of the religious memes tend to involve a catch-22 about how Good Things will happen if only everyone in the whole world comes to believe in their version of the truth. This results in the ideological equivalent of spamming, which is annoying enough ... and also in attempts to capture the young, which borders on (or may cross the line into) child abuse.

Now, these are not universal traits of religious people, and there are plenty who are as unhappy about them as I am. But when these activities cross the line from minding one's own business to minding other peoples' business for them, whether or not they want it, it is, to my way of thinking, obnoxious.

9:

I wonder how much of believers attitudes are shaped by a fear that their deity is a loving god who might have mercy on sinners at the judgement day, and they wish sinners to pay now. I suspect the non-obnoxious believers are the ones doing it right.

10:

Did you see that John Scalzi got a copy for review yesterday too?

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/06/06/one-days-haul-a-just-arrived-photo-shoot/

11:

Objectionable, true...but how does it differ from what an ardent Marxist or [fill in other political ideology as desired] would try to do? Or an animal rights group, or ecology organization, or any number of political groups that are insistent that their way is the one and only?

Come to that, would the same objection apply to historical preservationists in your area?
"Energy-efficient windows? Hell no, we should freeze the same way we froze in the 1700s! Have the orphans shovel more coal!"

Singling religion out for special ire seems narrow, since it's only one subset of a vast number of positions justifying minding someone else's business.

12:

Certainly I find it odd that "Religious" organisations get to run their businesses tax free. Other businesses are allowed to operate their charitable works free of tax, and I don't see why that's not good enough for everyone!

A single 'charitable tax' law that works the same for everyone. That'd certainly get my vote.

13:

I find it somewhat concerning that I'm living in a most bizarrely faceted echo chamber. I'm a regular reader of both this blog and Pharyngula and was unaware of the apparent connection (I assume you, Charlie, are also a regular reader of Myers' blog given your willingness to travel to see him) between you two. Previously I was gratified to learn that Paul Krugman, another regular read for me, is a fan of your work when he wrote his piece on the Crooked Timber lit-crit site. The topology of my opinion-space appears to be closed.

14:

.."echo chamber".. yes. I wasn't too far into reading my most recent purchase when I encountered a character called 'Slasher' Stross. (in "Edge", Thomas Blackthorne). Our Host gets everyhere.

15:

The problem with PZ is that he's a philistine (see what I did there??? Huh, huh??) -- and so are a lot of his fans.

He's correct within one small sphere -- but he has way too much self-regard for science as an industry, and way too simplistic a view of the role of the non-empirical, non-logical in human life.

He's the kind of guy who thinks that video games aren't art because -- well, it's not the kind of art that he grew up with in dumbfuckmidwesterntown, USA. Everything has to be reducible for him -- which leads him to have very little awareness of the reverse, the fact that science is driven as much by aesthetics as logic and empirical results (aka, it's a human process).

You can see it with his reaction to the Kurzweil rapturists -- he can't possibly have fun with it, recognize any poetry in it, or inspiration. If it's not gosh-darn, midwest Scandinavian type sense, it ain't worth a damn at all. His fans are mostly the same.

I guess his problem is midwest liberal values -- it's like sticking your head in a box intentionally.

You wonder why Americans are so religious? Well, Myers is the flip side -- it's difficult to get out of religion when you're only supposed to ever do "practical thinking". It kinda protects you from most thinking.

16:

It's a question of degree, though, isn't it? Eco nuts might trash your PhD GM experiment, religious nuts might trash your world, or legislate it out of existance.

Only ardent Marxists are as destructive as religion*, and they aren't as dangerous because they are much further from existing cultural norms

People already defer to people of loud religious credentials when they want a "moral perspective", see the recent UK government report on the sexualisation of childhood as written by the head of conservative Christian organisation (charlie linked to it upthread).

I would be much harder for a hardline Marxist or econut to infiltrate a mainstream government operation.


*"can be" - I know some very fine religious people

17:

A pet peeve of mine is the pseudo-rational argument. People who are engaged in magical thinking already know what they believe and will use the form of a rational argument so that you are fooled into thinking you can have a reasonable discussion. If you defeat their arguments, it all boils down to "I know what I believe and you can't convince me otherwise." You expect this sort of thing when it comes to religious matters or things related to religious beliefs; medicine, evolution, morality. But it really bakes my noodle when we're talking about stuff that should be open to scientific inquiry like economics. You'd think we could have a reasonable discussion about what works and what doesn't, maybe perform some experiments and see if new theories hold water. But it's not a process of discovery. The theorists already know what they believe and anything that supports the beliefs will be championed and anything that harms the beliefs will be rejected as bad data. Tax cuts are applied with the same illogical zeal as blood-letting. Nobody questions the efficacy of the remedy because we already know it works, QED.

Hell, look at the global warming crapstorm. Personally, I'd be tickled pink if the environmentalists, scientists, and people who do this stuff for a living were wrong. I'd be just as happy to find out beer and bacon and fried foods are good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But the evidence doesn't hold up. It's not a question of what I wish to be true, it's a question of what is true. But a lot of people really don't think that way. "[Hobbits] loved to have books full of things they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions, with everything plain and simple." I think that holds true for a great many people.

18:

...it's not the kind of art that he grew up with in dumbfuckmidwesterntown, USA.

I think he's from the Pacific NW, actually, and didn't get out to Minnesota until after he'd gotten his PhD.

That should do it for nitpicking. I think it's more appropriate to say that the potential for poetry or inspiration from an idea or concept does not, in his mind, justify its reasonable treatment if it is in error. IOW, it's rather like the famous comment about Moby Dick--it doesn't work as an allegory if it doesn't first work as a whale.


19:

Phil, "Thomas Blackthorne" is a pseudonym for John Meaney. Whose SF works (under his own name) I heartily recommend.

20:

"...he grew up with in dumbfuckmidwesterntown, USA."

Hey now, I resemble that remark. Careful where you fling your disdain.

21:

Not sure about the danger of eco-nuts being less than that of the religious-- if you consider how lobbying against nuclear power has prevented adoption of non-carbon-emitting power infrastructure, they might outdo them handily.
Or the golden rice controversy- where anti GM food activists would rather upwards of a million and a half people go blind and/or die from Vitamin A deficiency per year rather than have them eat genetically modified rice. Charming.

22:

I would be much harder for a hardline Marxist or econut to infiltrate a mainstream government operation.

Utter rot.

23:

I rather think the Creationists are right, but for the wrong reasons. And it's not Jesus running the simulation.

24:

"EcoNut" is a loaded term. Different people have different meanings for that term, but everyone thinks they know what it means. Many use it to tag onto anyone who has ANY environmental concern.

Let's just consider the "Golden Rice" case. Do you really think it shouldn't require any to release a replicator into the world if your intentions are good? That's what your argument sounds like. It may well have been researched carefully ahead of time, but I don't know, in this case, whether it was or not. My suspicion is that:
a) It wasn't researched carefully
b) It doesn't contain novel DNA. (I.e., the same DNA already exists in other species.)
and
c) It was therefore judged safe to release.

How was step c decided upon? It's plausible, but I can't think of any way to prove it. (Though given the way that viruses transfer genes between species, b would be a good argument that it wasn't an unreasonably large additional hazard.

OTOH, given the history of various corporations and how they have acted in pursuit of profit, I don't think they can be trusted to make honest evaluations. And this is where a lot of the problem lies. Bisphenol A is still to be found in many plastics designed to contain food for children. So why should similar organizations be trusted to be careful about the other wares they sell?

Additionally, the government regulators all too often seem more concerned with eliminating competitors to the major players than with ensuring that what is vended is safe.

Vending replicators is selling something potentially quite dangerous. This means that if you don't trust the people who are saying it is safe to both be honest and to do a careful job, then you're going to be quite nervous about anything they allow to be sold. And there's lots of good reason to not trust either the regulators or the vendors.

Does all this mean that the "Golden rice" wasn't a good idea? Of course not. But it does mean that there was no way of trusting that it would be ahead of time. Yes, the stated goal was a worthy one, and yes, they said it was safe. But it was being said by the same people that were known to be quite willing to lie with a straight face if it would increase their profits.

So, for me, what's lacking is any trust in the authorities. This could be fixed by requiring that things be open, and that the regulators NEVER have any business dealings with those they regulate. Neither before they became regulators nor afterwards, nor after their retirement from the board. Like the "Chinese Wall" that's used for a clean-room implementation to avoid copyright claims. (But openness would still be needed.)

25:

My perspective is limited to the States. The Greens seem to have more traction in Europe. Over here we have a lot of politicians buttering their bread with hippie-punching but there don't seem to be that many of them in comparison.

The anti-green argument, stated charitably, is that greens are unrealistic. From the comfort of modern homes, powered by science, they comfortably criticize the fruits of technology and idealize simple people, living close to the Earth, not realizing how much they would hate that kind of lifestyle. The view is that the greens are happy to tell others how to live but hold themselves above the masses, the same way a communist intellectual will wax poetic about the virtue and dignity of labor while not expecting to put in any field time himself.

Not quite so charitably, the whole argument descends into name-calling, hippie-punching, and a confrontational sort of South Park approach to deliberately being anti-environmental. "You like baby seals? I'll use their heads for hubcaps. You don't like SUV's? I'm gonna drive a great big one just to piss you off! Here's mud in yer eye!"

The green argument, stated charitably, is that warm houses, clean sheets, and cold beer are lovely, wonderful things but we don't want to trash the entire planet trying to provide for that. Can we find a way to have clean air along with the houses, beds and beer? Can we have a debate?

Not quite so charitably, you do get the kumbaya and grape nut crowd who are most typically exemplified by NIMBYism -- sure, we want renewable power but don't put wind farms off my coastline and spoil my view. But you really, really have to dig to find any examples of lefty terrorism in this country outside of the 60's. It's limited to burning down one ski lodge and vandalizing SUV's. You have to lump in a few animal rights protesters vandalizing labs to up the numbers.

Over the last decade I have to say that the biggest change in my personal perspective is a catastrophic disillusionment with the American political process and a growing conviction that capitalism is hopelessly corrupt, broken, and as invalid as 20th century communism. While I used to be for nuclear power, I now no longer trust any corporation to handle that sort of thing responsibly. The myth of Japanese competence and professionalism has been obliterated and scattered to on the wind along with the fallout.

And when I say for nuclear power that's not nukes for their own sake; I'm for whatever proves to be the cleanest, safest, most affordable solution fully considering all of the long-term costs. The boffins swore nuclear fit the bill for the longest time. Now new boffins say that renewables are really improving and smart grids could allow for them to handle the base load generation that previously could only be satisfied by fossil fuels or nuclear.

I'm not sure who is correct yet but I fully support whoever is proven to be right. Doubtless, the true believers on either side will remain unpersuaded by any evidence they don't care to believe.

26:

It's ecologist when they aren't trying to starve people. It's econut when they are.

Now, as for releasing a foreign "replicator" into the environment without safety studies...how do you think they started growing rice in Africa in the first place? Would you care to take it back out, and watch a few more people starve for ecological purity?
Would you oppose introducing new varieties of non-GM crops in case they interact unpredictably with the environment and native species-- gene hopping's not limited to GM crops, after all.

Or do you just have a knee-jerk reaction of "Arrrgh, corporation bad"?

27:

Brighten up-- at almost all times in history, it's been a hell of a lot worse.

For example, if you dislike the political process now, imagine how much you'd have hated it around 1860... or the 1950's communist witch hunts, or the Great Depression (like this one, but a lot more people starved. Not went a little hungry, starved to death)...with bonus dust bowl, speaking of land management...etc, etc. Or the 1960's, when it was all Vietnam war (which killed about ten times as many on both sides as did the Iraq war of late) and assassinating politicans as a hobby...

Random aside, I think the lasting bad legacy of the Clinton years in the US was that it convinced people that things are generally all roses all the time. They're not. The bad times are actually normal. Hate 'em, work to get over 'em, but don't assume the fabric of the universe is unravelling.

28:

As it happens, I was reading "The Communist Manifesto" while waiting at the dentists yesterday.

What Marx was saying about the bourgeoisie is pretty easy, at first glance, to apply to the super-rich of today. Though Engels was to point out that the rise of the Corporation changed the game. The bourgeoisie, for Marx, were the Capitalists, and while they had changed the world, step by step kicking it out of earlier systems, he didn't believe they could be a final solution.

It's also clear that Marx and Engels were trying to be scientific. Things changed as time passed. That shocking pamphlet moved from being a prescription for the future to a record of the past thoughts.

I think you can see the same with the Greens. Early ecology, which set out the foundations of the movement, and gave the prospect of a stable world, turned out to be completely wrong. Even the simple equations which had been used to model a simple and obvious process turned out to be wrong. Not because of the assumptions, but because the apparent stability of the results were an island of stability in a sea of unrelenting mathematical chaos.

And when populations were observed they had that chaotic instability.

That, incidentally, is why long-duration spaceflight is so damnably difficult. And it may be impossible to build a suffiently stable system which is small enough.

Anyway, we might ask if Marx set out a Phlogiston theory of politics, but that;s a poor analogy, because Capitalism came first. We can talk about thesis and antithesis, but if Caoitalism didn't change, where's the synthesis?

And can you imagine successfully hanging a politician from a modern lamppost? Consider the implications of the intersection of Health and Safety rules with the length of available ladders.

29:

I'm not part of any established religion, but I do think everyone is basically religious and seeks some kind of mythical narrative to make sense of their lives. The fundamentalists are just the most literal-minded -- to them there is one absolute story that can't be altered. I prefer a more creative approach which says that if some group of people wants to worship Azathoth or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then that is perfectly valid and serves the same purpose as more established religions. I like artist Dave Sim's idea:

"All stories are true, every last one of them. All myths, all legends, all fables. If you believe them true, then they are true. If you don't believe them, then all that can be said is that they are true for someone else."

If we consider the Multiverse to be everything that is imaginable, then in a sense this might literally be true!

30:

The common thread between the obnoxious religious/religions and the Zombie-economics (or climate "science") you bring up is this:

Politics

Churches that gather large groups of members and survive for long times are skilled political entities. One powerful reason for people to join them is to gain some sort of counterweight to the ruling powers (secular or otherwise).

Playing at politics is one method people use to get their way--to let them do whatever it is they want. Eg:

-Want to drive your gas-guzzling SUV all over fragile endangered ecosystems? These climate-change people want to stop you. Gotta stop them.

Same for these zombie/voodoo economic arguments. It's not about observable reality, it's about someone being allowed to do whatever it is they want no matter what.

31:

Religion is about cultural identity, not theology.

32:

Charlie, Chthlu (or however its spelled) seems so, I don't know, gross and old-school.

I recommend you look into the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM):

http://www.venganza.org/

I have no affiliation with FSM, just enjoyed reading the web site. The FSM is much more cute and cuddly than HP Lovecraft's thingie...

;-)

33:

And on a less deep note, that grin is scaring me and I'm going to go hide behind the sofa.

34:

It's just not true, that capitalism came first.

What was there before Communism was simply economy. A happy mixture of whatever people thought how stuff works. Just read Adam Smith - there is no capitalism in there and there is no planned economy in there.

What is in there is what defined the Enlightenment and is sadly lacking today - observation of reality as it happens, without prejudice.

35:

AAARRRRGGH! Jeebus Dude, in that pose you look almost exactly like one of my brothers, except that he's got red hair and black glasses. He's a printer btw (hence the similarity in poses) and, alas, a God-fearing right-wing anti-evolutionist.

Who also, ironically, considers himself a pro-science rationalist :-(

36:

Born spiritual/religious? No, not at all. Born willing to accept parental guidance so they can go out into the world and fend for themselves after being taught the basics? Yes. That's where the 'cultural' bit comes in.

Economics hasn't changed in its essential since the coffee London shops of the C17th. Unimaginative, tied to political ends, exploitation and short term. As long as we still have warring nations we'll have short term economies IMHO. Nothing like a good war to make a decent profit.

37:

Dude, just like Jesus is a "kinder, gentler" re-boot of the Yahweh franchise, FSM is nothing more than a front for C'thulu. Don't be fooled.

38:

I'm not part of any established religion, but I do think everyone is basically religious and seeks some kind of mythical narrative to make sense of their lives.

Then your hypothesis is wrong because I don't fit it.

Mythology and £2.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

39:
The common thread between the obnoxious religious/religions and the Zombie-economics (or climate "science") you bring up is this:

Politics

Churches that gather large groups of members and survive for long times are skilled political entities. One powerful reason for people to join them is to gain some sort of counterweight to the ruling powers (secular or otherwise).

Playing at politics is one method people use to get their way--to let them do whatever it is they want. Eg:

Have you by any chance read The Evolution of God?

Presented at a pretty pop-sci level, I'm afraid, but on the flip side it's a quick read. One speculation he offers up, a rather intriguing one, is that religion is the mother of politics. Depressing if true, but all the more believable for that.

40:

the difference with the religious , they have a 'get out of reason free' card.
you try to engage their broken idea- and it's crossed fingers, nah, nah ,- can't argue with me I got an invisible mate

41:

"The Evolution of God" is marred by the chapter at the end.

It is quite probable that his publishers insisted he put it in there over his own protests, in the hope that it would prevent him from getting lynched on by all three abrahamic religions on the publication date.

Until that chapter, it is exactly how the discipline "religion" should be taught at high-school level.

Poul-Henning

42:

Tests looking into the brain's working seem to show that many people are afraid all the time. Who knows why. If so, the fearful must be looking for things to protect them Religion of some kind would fill that hole.
The problem is the Religious know the right things to do. As they look around they see the world is still a bad place. That must be because others are not doing the right things. So lets make them, for there own good. What do you think the old time Moslems are up to. They want to save the world by making us act right.
"would be much harder for a hardline Marxist or econut to infiltrate a mainstream government operation." SOUND AND FURY" ERIC ALTERMAN

"The ranks of the neoconservatives were largely composed of former sectarian Marxists of mostly Jewish academic origin, who transferred their intellectual allegiance to capitalism and American military power but retained their obsession with theological disputation and political purity. The impresario at the center of this attack was Irving Kristol, a onetime Trotskyist" Its the smell of power that gets them.
"bad legacy of the Clinton years" No matter what it is, if its bad Clinton did it. Neo-Cons say that all the time.

43:

Couple of obvious errors in your post.

First, fallacy of false dichotomy. You pretend that the only two options are (1) lots of starving people and (2) allowing untested, unregulated GM plants. There are lots of other options between those two.

Second, you assume that the presence of hungry people implies a lack of food. It implies that the hungry people aren't getting food, which some say is more commonly a result of unequal distribution.

44:
"The Evolution of God" is marred by the chapter at the end.

It is quite probable that his publishers insisted he put it in there over his own protests, in the hope that it would prevent him from getting lynched on by all three abrahamic religions on the publication date.

Oh, I agree emphatically about the last chapter, but I suspect that there's a degree of healthy self-interest that may have directed its inclusion (whatever Wright's private beliefs) as well. I heard about this book and ordered it on the basis of a segment on To the Best of Our Knowledge carried on our local NPR affiliate after all :-)

45:

I have only one comment on your grin in that photo:

"More cheese, Gromit?"

46:

Have you any concept of the diversity of what you dismiss with one or two sentences?

47:

Well said.
I only have to look downwards to detect the unequal distribution...

48:

I see what you're saying, but -- speaking as an atheist -- I have some sympathy for andyf's sweeping dismissal: the quiet religious believers aren't exactly the ones who get the air time, and it's sometimes hard to remember this.

49:

I get two batches of religious people who wake me up. The boys are Mormons and the black families want me to tell them where the black residents/owners live. I know they'll knock on the doors of other non-black people, but I'm not aiming them at our black folk.

And of course, if I hadn't pretended to be religious while growing up, my father would have killed me.

50:

It's regrettable that noisy people like Terry Jones and that rapture fellow are promoted by the sensationalist media, but we should try to rise above this IMO, remembering the tiny amount of support that they have.
If you consider the matter carefully, it may seem that the contention that the cosmos (multiverse?) is inanimate is as hard to prove as the idea of an omnipresent God.
The attempt by some noisy people to set up a conflict between science and religious faith is utterly unwise.

51:

Ha OK maybe you're an exception, but I'll bet you have a few beliefs that are quasi-religious. Maybe I shouldn't have said "make sense of your life", but "give your life meaning". I don't know how anyone could even get out of bed without a few of these. To use your example, finding a good cup of coffee could be thought of as a religious activity :)

52:
And of course, if I hadn't pretended to be religious while growing up, my father would have killed me.

You too, eh?[1] Was it also the case that whatever father wanted to, it just so happened that this was what God/Jeebus/The Bible direct him to do as well?

There's a reason why I'm a committed rationalist and a preacher of the scientific method, burden of proof standards, etc.


[1]Dad later became a member of the CSA (The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord). Lives on a little piece of land in Southern Missouri and is armed to the teeth with over a thousand different firearms - everything from collectibles (Lugers especially) to black powder to hunting rifles to curiosities like the Gyrojet to . . . well, you get the idea. The Millenium is Coming, according to the gospel of Hal Lindsey.

53:

This isn't theory, it's practice- people were ready to go with implementation of the golden rice. The people who lobbied against it were not capable of or chose not to provide a substitute. So the actual outcome was blindness and death no matter what other outcomes might possibly have happened in a world that wasn't ours.
That's where the lunacy comes in- insisting that starving people must starve if they can't have food that isn't- heh- kosher with the far nut wing of the ecology movement.

54:

>Have you by any chance read The Evolution of God?

I have not read it, or even a review of it until just now (and just what's been written here).

It sounds like it might be interesting, but it doesn't take a whole lot of thought to understand that the way big religions operate is more about survival of the institution than anything particularly spiritual.

I think it's pretty hard to make much sense of European history without viewing most of the religious struggles as power struggles between human beings.

55:

A single 'charitable tax' law that works the same for everyone. That'd certainly get my vote.

I'm a Christian who would be interested in repealing the entire concept of "tax exempt" and "non profit" from the US tax code. It's just too easy to fake it and walk off with piles of money. Religious and non religious setups all do it.

56:

and a growing conviction that capitalism is hopelessly corrupt, broken, and as invalid as 20th century communism.

So come up with a better system that is implementable.

57:

quiet religious believers aren't exactly the ones who get the air time

In my circle of friends we all cringe when we hear of Ham, Robertson, Hinn, Mohler, and a long list of others.

They do get the air time. And we wish they would just go away.

So, anyone here been to the "Creation Museum" or going visit the theme park Ham is building. GDRFC

Sigh.

58:

Why is it difficult to believe it's possible to live without religious feelings of any kind? It is. If you need mythology/religion to get you out of bed in the morning, fine. But some people just... don't. We get up in the morning, do our thing, love our families, laugh at Monty Python's, eat, have sex, sleep, and eventually we die. Why would anything else be necessary to give meaning to life?

59:

Bollocks, basically.

60:

We used to have a better system here in the UK, before Margaret Thatcher destroyed it.
It was usually referred to as the 'mixed economy' or the 'post-war consensus' and was a kind of compromise between capitalism and socialism. There are still remnants of it in our NHS and Social Security systems, though under relentless siege by the Thatcherites. ('market fundamentalists', with the emphasis on 'mental').

61:

he ripped the intelligent design fanbois / creationists a new orifice,

There are a lot of Christians who don't think there's a there there with these camps either. But they aren't the ones with TV shows.

62:

That's actually largely what we have in the US. A 503(c) organization. It's not all charitable (IE, you can have a tax exempt social club), but the rules are all the same (IE, only funds that are from donations or the sale of donated goods/labor qualify etc). The only special treatment religions get is that churches can file paperwork at the state level (The actual requirements are the same, but the 503(c) paperwork is a nightmarish 30 page document, so this is significant if hiring an accountant to do the paperwork would be a burden).

63:

CSA (The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. Years ago I ran into them. They acted like a part of CHRISTIAN IDENTITY MOVEMENT. They may have pulled back avoid outsiders. But they they were very bad news. People over in the old lands don't know how bad some want the US to get. And how hard at work they are to make it so.
Many of you seem to be old farts. Do you youngens ones know about THE DEMON HAUNTED WORLD by Carl Sagan. It's on why we are where we are.
Religious believers are scared of science, much of Religion can be tested. It was a Religious fact that women had less ribs than men. Saying other wise would get you dead. But it's obviously not so if you dare look.
Now days much of America hates science thanks to Religion. And they know less about Religion than they do science. They need to be with others like themselves.

64:
And can you imagine successfully hanging a politician from a modern lamppost? Consider the implications of the intersection of Health and Safety rules with the length of available ladders.

An excellent point! Maybe we can just hoist them up on the ladders and throw them off? Or does that violate littering laws? Still, how else are we to illuminate the world (and our lampposts) save by removing politicians?

65:

Religious believers are scared of science

A bit of a sweeping statement. And not at all true. Especially for the folks who are not looking to be on TV, write a book about religion, speak at church conferences, etc...

66:
So come up with a better system that is implementable.

Unfortunately, capitalism is not implementable. It somehow always deteriorates into cronyism, regulatory capture, oligopoly, and oligarchy. Or fascism, autocracy, and state corporatism. Choose one or both.

67:
Now, these are not universal traits of religious people, and there are plenty who are as unhappy about them as I am. But when these activities cross the line from minding one's own business to minding other peoples' business for them, whether or not they want it, it is, to my way of thinking, obnoxious.

Let me tell you the problem I have with fundamentalists. This is a true story of some zealots who crossed that line; it happened a few miles from where I'm sitting in Portland, Oregon, USA, a little over 15 years ago. A fundamentalist group, Lubavitcher Hassidic Jews as it happens, tried to kidnap my younger son. He had gone to a day camp they had set up to visit a friend; one of the adult members of the group phoned us to say that they were going to take him on a trip to Seattle, which is just shy of 150 miles from here. We told them that had not been discussed with us before he left and that we would not give permission. They made it clear they didn't care about our permission and said he'd only be there for a couple of days.

We drove to that camp and demanded that our son be returned to us. After about 15 minutes of attempts to persuade us to go away, and our explanation that a) we had already called the police, and that b) I was prepared to use force on them if necessary to retrieve my son (I had a jack handle in my hand and a hunting knife in my pocket, not owning a gun), they brought our son in. He was confused, but quite happy to see us, and we took him away amid continued attempts to convince us to let him go to Seattle.

The police arrived after we left, and came to our house afterwards. They agreed to send someone immediately if we called them again, and we agreed not to press charges unless that happened.

As you can imagine, I don't like religious fundamentalists at all, and I'm rather tolerant about religion in general, while having none of my own.

68:

I think I am in love with that sentence. It is pure poetry. Quick question though, where does that leave JR Bob Dobbs?

69:

So it seems to me that most forms of what is called communism or socialism wind up there also.

So where's the alternative that works so much better?

70:

OK:

Unreasoning belief, and the believers.

The believers, in all the monotheistic religions, and even that religion-without-a-god, communism, seem to have common characteristics, as do those religions.
All seem to suggest that religion is a very bad idea, and that religions, and especially their believers, will do certain unpleasant things.
In order to combat this pernicious mind-rot, I have proposed some falsifiable tests for religions, and some suggestions as to what rational people should do about it.

What do those religions (including Marxism) actually DO?
How are they structured?
Never mind what they claim – what are their real, testable parameters?
For example, Marxist governments murdered millions in the name of their patent version of Marx’s holy truth – which was wrong, because the revolution was going to come to the most developed countries first – which was completely wrong …… Which sounds like a religion in its operating parameters to me.

I've come up with:
A set of testable Propositions

1. No “god” can be detected - OR - God is not detectable.
2. All religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
3. All religions have been made by men.
4. Prayer has no effect on third parties.
5. All religions kill, or enslave, or torture.

There's also a LONG essay after this, but I think that's enough for now.

71:

Religion is about cultural identity, not theology.

Agree.

So, some cultural programs are epistemologically closed, potentially aggressive and tangled up with oppression of "less valuable individuals".

Some of those toxic mindsets even posture as scientific (commies among them). Which is extra bad, because it destroys the words and symbols of the critical mindset, stealing the prisoners' hope of an alternative...

But now what?

Does anybody believe that Creationist fellow changed his mind? Or he will at least shut up for a while?

And then again in the Age of Enlightenment a lot of things really changed. (My family was in the trenches, then...)

Alas, what is the secret to crack a closed skull?

72:

Replace religion with nation state and god with patriotism and you can make the same argument.

What you seem to be saying is that all human society endeavors can be proven to be bad since they all (ok 99.999%) have done bad things throughout history.

73:

"Alas, what is the secret to crack a closed skull?"

There doesn't seem to be one. The best you can hope for is to catch them young before their opinions are fully formed and are still questioning rather than blinkered (the local Jehovah's Witnesses avoid us since I took apart their view of creation and caused the younger missionary to the become interested and was hustled away by the senior!).

Radio 4 this morning had a piece on a book Inside the 'Truthers' (not sure of exact title) by a journalist who took a couple of years to investigate the conspiracy theories around 9/11 and he seems to have come to a similar conclusion. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary they will hold or even extend their belief to encompass as new evidence of the extent of the conspiracy.

Which leads back to the old saw 'A man convinced against his will.Is of his own opinion still. (sorry don't know the origin).

74:

No. Just flat no.

I have no need to make sense of my life. I don't require meaning or purpose.

I exist. I can continue to do so. I can, whilst continuing to exist, do many, many things of my choice. I don't need anything more.

I do not hear a bump in the night and imagine ghosts - I think of a physical action and a probable cause (bloody cats), I do not invoke the big beard in the sky when something detrimental happens to me, such as my roof leaking - I accept that the construction was faulty, clean up, and fix it.

I *DO NOT* believe - I accept the probability (or not) of something based on evidence at hand, and am perfectly willing to change my opinion given evidence to the contrary. And I always, always question that "evidence".

I do not scream in the night knowing that I am not significant in any way, that I am just another bundle of self-aware molecules with no special place or purpose in the universe, that I occupy an infinitesimally small slice of all the time and space available, and that I could cease to exist at any moment and the universe would not care a jot (or change a jot either). This does not bother me - why should it?

I do not require religion or anything connected to it for morality. I can generate my own morality from basic principles completely removed from religion.

Dave Sim is notably crazy. I wouldn't put too much stock in any concepts he espouses, especially not the one you quote. Believing does not make something so, it simply makes you deluded and disconnected from reality. Which is pretty much (the moderate version of) my view of the religious.

75:

Damn, forgot something - I've often wondered just why Douglas Adams wrote about the total perspective vortex being such a horrible torture. I've never been able to figure out just why exposing someone to their utter, total, and complete insignificance in the universe should bother them. I think it may just have occurred to me - it seems that many people really can't deal with such a thought, and this may be why so many turn to religion's opioid (not to mention egotistic) effects...

76:

"Even in the face of evidence to the contrary they will hold or even extend their belief [...]"

One of the best passages in "The Evolution of God" is where he examines how the jews rationalized away how they could have lost a war, when their God was better (by definition) than the god of their enemy.

77:

I'm not thinking of Terry Jones and the Rapture people.

I'll grant you that I can't prove that the [hypothetical] first cause isn't sentient ... but I think the more we examine human consciousness, the more we see that it's not very significant to the greater state of the universe. There's no obvious room for an "immortal soul", there is in fact no obvious room for a separate spiritual component of our being: it's just an illusion generated by the reflexive application of theory of mind to our own internal state, and theory of mind in turn is just a highly tuned set of heuristics for survival that happen to have evolved in mammals.

The idea that the universe around us was caused by something possessing this particular attribute is about as plausible as the idea that the universe was caused by something possessing monster truck tyres.

78:

[The Evolution of God]

It sounds like it might be interesting, but it doesn't take a whole lot of thought to understand that the way big religions operate is more about survival of the institution than anything particularly spiritual.

Here, let me fix that for you:

It sounds like it might be interesting, but it doesn't take a whole lot of thought to understand that the way human institutions operate is more about survival of the institution than anything particularly resembling their official goals.

79:

There doesn't seem to be one.

I disagree.

I witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall (the whole epoch, not just the incident).

At some point something cracked.
Cognitive dissonance was eating through.

For a while, a large part of the population was (relatively) unbiased, painfully disoriented but inherently free. Until a new narrative manifested. Which marked the return of the boredom for me.

But the new narrative was qualitatively different from the old one. Much more tolerant and flexible. Worlds of difference.

Something similar must have happened in the Enlightenment.

Bavaria got a new criminal code in 1813. Before, torture was legal and routinely applied. After, religious status was obsolete (emanzipating Jews and other people), homosexuality was effectively legalized (until 1872, and then again from 1972 up to now), due process installed and whatnot.

Middle Ages to modernity in maybe a decade or two.
Too much change for the slow infiltration of a new generation. In myeyes, there was a battle and - finally - one side just collapsed. Disappeared for a few years.

You should have seen the East German border guards in early 1990. Those were the select few, the true believers. Like toddlers taking their first steps into a new world. Insecure, interested, undecided.

80:

Driftwood @ 60 We used to have a better system here in the UK, before Margaret Thatcher destroyed it.

"Better system"? There are some rose-tinted spectacles in place here.

Power cuts, strikes by a show of hands. Closed shops. Patronage. A lack of political accountability. Stop/Go economic policy. The IMF declaring us a basket case. 20% inflation. The NUM thinking that they ran the country, not elected politicians.

Nationalised industries that stifled progress (remember when the Post Office were the only people allowed to provide telecommunications? Remember British Leyland?)

Remind me, how were these "better"?

81:

You should have seen the East German border guards in early 1990. Those were the select few, the true believers. Like toddlers taking their first steps into a new world. Insecure, interested, undecided.

The problem is that for most people when they go "all in" it is very hard to exit, no matter how much evidence they are shown. Spouses who will not leave abusive relationships. Elderly who refuse to leave their "home" even when living there is killing them. And all the way at the other end of the spectrum people in the US who always buy $5 of gas at a time for the car because that's the way their dad taught them to do it when they learned to drive 40 year ago. (Currently that's about 1.25 gallons.)

Which is why you see leaders of all types (religious, political, etc...) continue to be supported by their faithful even when they totally go off the deep end. The supporters can't imagine any other approach to the topic.

Facing up to being wrong is something most folks just can't do. And in some cultures it seems to be taboo to even suggest someone might be wrong. You have to present alternatives as being maybe kinda more right.

82:

Heh. I've been living with clinical depression for 10+ years now. With meds and therapy, things are usually under control. While my mood is stable, I realize and don't much care about my place in the universe: I know that I am a tiny and completely insignificant part of it. I am OK with this.

When things aren't under control, this becomes a Big Deal and is a source of mind-numbing anguish. Ugh. I'd rather keep my Rose-Coloured Glasses of Happy Ignorage on rather than be aware of, and horribly care about, just how insignificant I am.

83:

I'd say one needs some rose-tinted shades to look at what's become of conservatism without revulsion. Thatcher and Reagan threw away the clippers and went straight for the chainsaw, lacking the patience to concentrate on rot. As if the leaven sought to be the entire loaf.

84:

Where does it leave Bob Dobbs?

Slacking off somewhere, I'd suggest. :-)

85:

The reason people stick to seemingly counterproductive practices is because they have an investment in them. They will change when the perceived benefits of change obviously exceed that investment. It's true of religions, and its true of programming. I'm sure that there's a lot of COBOL programmers still around looking and doing COBOL jobs rather than learn C++/Java/Python or whatever and upgrading

86:

Personal accounts I have read on Pharyngula, Panda's thimb and elsewhere over the years suggest that some fundamentalists can be de-programmed by consistently presenting the facts and arguing with them. Eventually they realise they have been lied to, or else their natural curiosity takes over and they seek out information themselves and realise they've been lied to. It does seem to take a bit of time though, it is not a quick fix. That is why consistently confronting creationists and other such nutters is necessary, rather than hiding and hoping they'll go away. It is also important to confront them because if you don't they dominate the public discussion space, so that even neutral people (usually the majority) end up letting them do what they want.

87:

I suppose the ultimate problem in the science/religion debate is that some people assume since religion provides both a metaphysic and moral guide, that anything providing a metaphysic must provide a moral guide as well-- i.e., that anything that explains the universe must also explain morality.
Since science doesn't do this (any more than an engineering diagram of a car explains why you'd stop at a stop sign), some people reject the whole thing.

"At any moment, a distant exploding star from aeons ago could send us a wave of radiation that would wipe out life on the planet. Gaze with awe at the majesty of the universe, and the fragility of human life." "My neighbor just beat his kid to death- should I be gazing with awe at the fragility of life now?"

88:

I don't know that I'd call the sort of guidance you get from religion very moral (no, not what they, in theory, espouse, but what you actually get - and even the theory of the allegedly peaceful, loving religions still contains the cores of "kill the unbeliever" and "those who don't believe will suffer").

The real problem with the "debate" is that religion generally insists that is isn't even possible to have morality without it. I can point you to some nut who today on the Australian ABC news site proclaimed precisely this, blaming the abuse of the elderly by their children (and the downfall of society in general) on a "godless society"

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/06/08/3238225.htm?section=australia

Under the name Jon, 5 comments down. I'm sure we've all seen that rant, or a variant thereof, many times - and the thing is that you can't argue with these people; they are not open to rational discussion of such things. Religion gives that close-minded certainty, amongst other things.

89:

think it's more appropriate to say that the potential for poetry or inspiration from an idea or concept does not, in his mind, justify its reasonable treatment if it is in error. IOW, it's rather like the famous comment about Moby Dick--it doesn't work as an allegory if it doesn't first work as a whale.

So do women really look like Picasso paintings? Or are they really flat and black-and-white like the photo that Picasso was shown by a journalist challenging Picasso's drawings?

"Error" is only a small subset of aesthetic judgment, and crucially depends on context. The whole world isn't the lab -- in fact, treating it that way is the inverse error of incorrect contextualization.

Moby Dick didn't work for me regardless of whether his whaling was correct -- I found it dull.

90:

I'm assuming you're referring to accounts of people who've walked away from religion due to the science vs. religion debate. while your conclusions may apply to them you're looking at a small sample of what many of us call the 6000 year YEC/AIG crowd. The vast majority of those in this camp are firmly of the belief that what you and I call science is totally wrong on the facts and thus conclusions. Even though they don't even understand either and don't want to understand. We're wrong and they don't even care to listen. Five years ago I was oblivious to this group till I ran into their buzz saw tried to talk and finally walked away.

92:

If you need an hour of deep science to refute their 30 second soundbite you have lost

93:

Stuff the religious debate! :-)

I'm waiting for the rest of Merchant Princes and Rule 34 on the kindle store....

94:

A set of testable Propositions

1. No “god” can be detected - OR - God is not detectable.
2. All religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
3. All religions have been made by men.
4. Prayer has no effect on third parties.
5. All religions kill, or enslave, or torture.

1 is fair enough. The answer is usually, so what?
2 is false, unless you play the No True Scotsman game. We can start with deism -- which may depend on 1), but isn't "mere superstition" or "blackmail".
3 is unfalsifiable. The historical record is simply incomplete -- and will never be that complete.
4. is fair enough. The answer is usually, so what?
5. is false, unless you play a No True Scotsman game. The local coven of witches hasn't bothered anyone to the limit of verification.

I suggest you save your Long Essay. If it's composed of lazy truisms of the ultra-skeptical variety, it's no more interesting than the Apostolic creed.

95:

what annoys me the most.
the organised insanity spouted forth from belivers in sky-fairies is given equal worth to things discovered through science and reason.
no, just no.
dont teach creationism in schools, schools aren't places for that sort of thing.
If you want to tell kids morally instructive lies I suggest fairy tales i.e.
little red riding hood- don't trust strangers
3 little pigs - use bricks , its just a better idea
not the bible, not constructive life-lessons
- don't call old men bald or bears will eat you
- if you back chat your dad he can kill you
- polyester cotton will cause you to burn in hell forever

96:

And we get really close to one problem-- what _is_ the foundation of morality? Not sure about you, but anything I can think of has some unpleasant implications- invisible men in the sky? Lunacy. Majority opinion? Fine until the majority wants to burn all the [witches/Jews/bankers/nobility]. Intrinsic brain structure? What about people with a different brain wiring/genes? Just what feels right to you? Good for you, but hard to persuade others who feel differently.

97:

And we get really close to one problem-- what _is_ the foundation of morality?

Biology, probably. I suggest some study of the theory of iterated games, and some consideration of the social structure of primate troupes and the evolution of behavioural traits would come in handy here.

98:

what _is_ the foundation of morality?

Do we need one?

Neurotypical humans naturally react with deep disgust to a lot of things.

Auschwitz really doesn't need an explanation. Understanding what and when, seeing the pictures, is fully enough.

What about just sensitizing this?
Building a world that just itches and sucks a little less than before, one step at a time?

If you think of morality as a natural ability, based on an evolved specialised subsystem of the brain, then a better world may be a simple question of exercise. Training that thing.

99:

Anybody remember Chaos theory? I still believe!!! Well it explains a lot of what's always been going on. And not going on. One of my favorite books is THE DEMON HAUNTED WORLD by Carl Sagan. it covers Lenin, hope, demons and reason.
When I was a kid, the Jesuit I was talking religion with told me that the bases for religion is the mysteries. To be religious, you must accept mysteries what could not be proved. This is called faith. And it is the heart of all religions. I am not talking about the feel good because I am with people I like stuff. Even if that's why most say they are religious.
Many or most must be looking for something to protect them. A Religion of some kind would fill that hole. Fundamentalists of all kinds know the right things to do. As they look around they see the world is still a bad place. That must be because others are not doing the right things. So lets make them, for there own good.
Real capitalism did not come first. But it worked for anything past the tribe or town. I think it's a deficit setting for humans. It works better than other things in the long run. When more advanced things go down capitalism still works. But it must be watched and ruled. Our Neo-Cons are always yammering about Adam Smith. They take his words out of context ,just like they do every thing, to prove what they preach is capitalism. It has nothing to do with what Smith did or said. As long as it's small, capitalism only makes small mistakes.

100:

If you are going to get uber-rational about morality, the end point is Game Theory. Was Auschwitz rational from this POV? I have no idea, but it might have been.

101:

JasonJ, you make good points, but you also illustrate why religion is so appealing. If the alternative story is: “You are meaningless, random particles of total insignificance in an incomprehensibly vast universe; your thoughts have no place in our models but we assure you that they’re also meaningless epiphenomena of particles interacting in a void”, you have what we call a “hard sell”. I think a bit of humility is called for when we’re talking about reducing the status of human beings to basically a big cosmic zero!

I don’t actually see how science can prove its assumptions in any case; if I choose to believe the universe is incomprehensible, that everything that matters is unique and irreproducible (i.e. magic), or that consciousness is primary, not material, then it seems we are at an impasse. I’m opposed to every “tyranny of the real” or system of intellectual totalitarianism, whether it’s imposed by scientific materialists or religious dogmatists.

Materialism may give civilizations the power to crush those who see the world differently, but that's not quite the same as refuting their beliefs. I just find it amazing that modern people can be so arrogant as to basically dismiss all of human thought prior to the Enlightenment as if it was all delusional, superstitious rubbish. This seems uncomfortably close to other religions who see the world prior to the coming of their revealed truth of choice as a place of darkness and ignorance.

102:
If you are going to get uber-rational about morality, the end point is Game Theory.

Game Theory has no moral component; it's as value-free as free-market capitalism (and just as useless in the real world). No logical structure can ever guarantee truth, because it's dependent on the truth or falsity of its postulates.

The closest science can come to addressing morality is to examine how humans behave, what they value, and why. That's why the studies Charlie mentioned

theory of iterated games, and some consideration of the social structure of primate troupes and the evolution of behavioural traits

are worth looking at (and I would add theory of self-organized systems and various forms of dynamic systems theory such as percolation theory and spin-glass organization). But once we know how we arrived at our values, we still have to choose the ones we personally will follow, and apply them to our lives. Where many religions fall down is that they insist that choosing morality is a social process; it's actually a personal process that results in some sort of social process to negotiate what values will be recognized at a societal level. But if a person's values aren't his or her personal choice, then the only reason to follow them is fear of retribution (punishment, ostracism, shaming, etc.) from your neighbors. In other words, the claim made by many religionists that belief in a Supreme Being is necessary for moral behavior is exactly backwards.

Shorter me, for bumper stickers: "There's no such thing as an organized religion."

103:
CSA (The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. Years ago I ran into them. They acted like a part of CHRISTIAN IDENTITY MOVEMENT. They may have pulled back avoid outsiders. But they they were very bad news. People over in the old lands don't know how bad some want the US to get. And how hard at work they are to make it so.

At least in the case of my Dad, he started out many years ago not being particularly religious and monotonically progressed to it being a monomania. A true story which sounds much funnier (or so I've been told) in the retelling than actually being there would suggest: One Thanksgiving many years ago, I found myself seated next to my father. Trying to find a neutral topic, I asked him, so what do you think of the Cardinals next year?"

Without skipping a beat, he replied, "I think they're going to kick ass - just like Jesus is going to kick ass when he comes back." Gee, Dad, it only took you one sentence to get from baseball to Armageddon. Isn't that some sort of a record?

My point is, we sort of joke about these sorts of people being mentally unsound . . . but what if in fact they really are? Think of something like Vinge's Focus condition occurring for non-intentional reasons. Maybe religion just happens to be the biggest, juiciest, most obvious soul trap for these of people. What alternate notions would their monomania in quest of a subject focus upon in the absence of organized religion?

104:

What about Evolutionary Game Theory?

The whole rational deliberation mojo is based on phantasies. That, in theory, you are able to make a rational decision, doesn't mean anybody does so in practice.

Gut reactions are fast and they are cost-effective and in everyday life they rule.

And a gut that is decided (i.e. a limbic system) can taint rational processes. You get rationalization instead of deliberation.

Auschwitz was visceral to the extreme. Fear and hate, based on connecting the Jews to the horrors of the Great War. (And on a deeper level, a memory of the propaganda connecting the Jews to the horrors of the Plague in the 14th century.)

A rational psychopath would have coopted them, willing as they were (most of them). Imagine a Prussian-style militarised Germany with nuclear armed V2s. Revered professor Einstein in Berlin arguing for peace, is widely ignored.

That actually might be a good yarn...

105:
It sounds like it might be interesting, but it doesn't take a whole lot of thought to understand that the way big religions operate is more about survival of the institution than anything particularly spiritual.

That might well be. But what I was getting at is that Wright presents a theory that turns the usual notion of cause and effect on its head, in this case that religion is in the service of politics. He seems to suggest that religion is actually the percusor to all political forms that are expressed at any level above nomadic hunter-gatherers.

I don't know if it's true - I put it in the same category as the rather controversial theory (to put it mildly), that permanent settlements, towns, villages, what have you, came before agriculture, not after. Permanent settlements moreover (goes one incarnation of the hypothesis) that were the reason agriculture was developed.

Well, it's something to think about :-)

106:

If someone believes what is said in the Bible is true, then it literally is the most important thing in the universe by far. It's the rest of the believers that can't make the obvious connection.

It's the same with the Simulation Argument. Which of the three alternatives do you *really* believe?

107:
I think the more we examine human consciousness, the more we see that it's not very significant to the greater state of the universe. There's no obvious room for an "immortal soul", there is in fact no obvious room for a separate spiritual component of our being: it's just an illusion generated by the reflexive application of theory of mind to our own internal state, and theory of mind in turn is just a highly tuned set of heuristics for survival that happen to have evolved in mammals.

You know how we all like to complete the sentence "The 21st Century will be the century of . . . " in 25 words or less. Well, it strikes me that a lot of these sorts of questions - which are really nothing more than intellectual flotsam from the middle ages or earlier - will just quietly expire over the next century or so. I mean, really, it seems like any question about free will is just about as meaningful as asking how 3 is grass, or do clouds prime. The same for the categories containing entities like souls or "natural morality".

Yeah, yeah, I know, there are people who would vociferously disagree with me on this one. But I suspect that number of people who do agree on the quaintness of those types of concepts is only going to increase as time goes on ;-)

108:
The reason people stick to seemingly counterproductive practices is because they have an investment in them.

Or possibly they're just sick. Those ants that get infected by a certain type of fungus who then climb to the top of a stalk of grass and otherwise try to make themselves obvious to predators? I don't think they have an investment in that type of behaviour.

Though if you could somehow talk to them they might disagree.

109:
The real problem with the "debate" is that religion generally insists that is isn't even possible to have morality without it . . .

Under the name Jon, 5 comments down. I'm sure we've all seen that rant, or a variant thereof, many times - and the thing is that you can't argue with these people; they are not open to rational discussion of such things.

Hmmm . . . perhaps you might be interested in this comic installment.

110:

You are a cosmically insignificant creature in a meaningless universe where nothing matters and everyone and everything is going to die. If you believe otherwise its just your brain going wrong. But it doesn't matter because there's no free will anyway. But pain still hurts.

Yeah... I'll sign up for that! (not)

111:
JasonJ, you make good points, but you also illustrate why religion is so appealing. If the alternative story is: “You are meaningless, random particles of total insignificance in an incomprehensibly vast universe; your thoughts have no place in our models but we assure you that they’re also meaningless epiphenomena of particles interacting in a void”, you have what we call a “hard sell”.

Ah, "What is the purpose of meaning?" That will make any grade-school kids' head explode. At least, the ones that are smart enough to have their own labs :-)

112:

You are a patient man, Bruce. Fifteen minutes is a good deal longer than I would maintain … relative calm? … in such a circumstance.

Kudos for an appropriate response and your restraint. (Keep that jack handle handy, just in case.)

113:

"What is the purpose of meaning?"

You might call it a snippet of negative entropy. A snippet of structure, that could accumulate under the right circumstances.

Feeding on the range of far-from-equilibrium structures called life, for example.

114:

If there is no free will its all just pre-determined illusion. Which will be over fairly soon.

115:

Charlie, I hope you will forgive a personal question or two:

Is that utterly manic grin how you look by default, or just when you are aware that The Camera Is Watching? If the former: What feline qualities do you perceive as essential in your cats* which led them to take on staff such an exuberantly mad biped as yourself?

________
* They must have known; cf. Mafdet and the cat treats .

116:

The grin is merely what happens when I get my hands on the first copy in Europe of a project that took me eighteen bloody months to complete. Or when inducing felines to make idiots of themselves on youtube ...

117:

... or when you are doing a book reading.
Nevertheless I retract all claims of unserious demeanor and apologize. Thanks for responding!

118:


That might well be. But what I was getting at is that Wright presents a theory that turns the usual notion of cause and effect on its head, in this case that religion is in the service of politics. He seems to suggest that religion is actually the percusor to all political forms...

Oh, ok, I think I get it. I was referring to how large religions behave today and have behaved for a long time, but perhaps not for millenia and certainly not before recorded history. I have no particularly informed opinion about how religion and politics originally developed.

One clarification: I was referring to "politics" in the generic sense of interpersonal and institutional behavior. For example, who gets to exercise power and enjoy the rewards of power. Did religion cause interpersonal power struggles? I doubt it, but maybe--I know nothing at all about prehistoric life after all. And saying that big religions are best understood through a political lens doesn't mean they are about secular (eg modern liberal vs conservative political) party politics.

I would intuitively assume that interpersonal relationships permeate all human endeavors, including religion and societal organizations.

It sounds like Wright tries to make an argument that the first societal organizations were religious in nature and thus the kind of behavior we call "political" was first learned in a religious setting.


...I put it in the same category as the rather controversial theory (to put it mildly), that permanent settlements, towns, villages, what have you, came before agriculture, not after...

Yes. For framing a discussion it can be useful to describe extreme possibilities and pursue them as far as evidence allows. Makes for fun, but like you I have a hard time taking polemics like that too seriously. Thanks!

119:

The reason people stick to seemingly counterproductive practices is because they have an investment in them.

Or possibly they're just sick.

Then everyone or nearly everyone is sick. There seems to be something about the way our brains operate that makes us reluctant to drop anything we have a large investment in. I've seen it with technical things where when the science shows something is wrong the investors hang on for dear life and also with philosophical things.

Which is why it is so hard to get folks out of cults of any kind. Religious or Eco or drill baby drill or whatever.

I don't think being "sick" is a part of it unless you are assigning a totally different meaning to sick then I am.

120:

Biology, probably. I suggest some study of the theory of iterated games, and some consideration of the social structure of primate troupes and the evolution of behavioural traits would come in handy here.

Way, way, way under-determined. Anthropology would be done if that were the case.

Biology can not give you a morality -- it can only exclude some very, very bad moralities.

Morality is aesthetic -- obviously human aesthetics is constrained by biology, just as it's constrained by physics, but within that envelope, you have an infinity of completely distinct aesthetics (and moralities).

You just can't reduce it to another field -- it can be informed by iterated games, biology, physics, economics, art, literature and so on. But if we talk morality, we've got to talk morality without a hope of every reducing it to any other field, or combinations of fields.

What determines morality? Morality. The reductive fallacy is the worst "gift" of the enlightenment. For Cthulhu's sake, we can't even reduce thermodynamics to mechanics in any sensible way for actually practical use -- which is the only way that science matters!

And folks want to reduce fields describing humans to "science". Silly wabbit -- physics will never tell us how we should live, or even how we do live, just how we can't live.

121:

Biology can not give you a morality -- it can only exclude some very, very bad moralities.

We're coming at this from opposite directions: my take on it is that biology kinda-sorta determines the framework within which moralities are developed, and gives us some procedures for rejecting really crap ones.

122:

Scientific morality works perfectly for spherical Humans moving in a vacuum.

123:

Scientific morality works perfectly for spherical Humans moving in a vacuum.

Spherical frictionless humans, at that.

124:

If it's all biology, let's hope the genes that influence it are highly conserved through the human population. Otherwise the only way to get a society you want involves more eugenics than politics
I do occasionally wonder if genetic differences in mirror neuron activity explain a great deal of political argument.

125:

If you want a better society then engineering people is the only real way to go. Otherwise it's more of the same forever. As someone once said, most people are only three missed meals away from barbarism.

126:

And with very few non third world people understanding how to get their meals from other than the local store or food outlet, it can get ugly quickly.

127:

anura @ 94 and whoever said "nationalism" was the same as religion .....

Last first:
"Nationalism" does not claim to be greater than nations - religion does - to the extent of catholic-terrorist-killing 3 heads-of-state in the late 16th-early-17th C's and making numerous attempts on another, and thankfully failing (Gloriana)
OR
The islamic loonies claim for "khalifah" - much greater than mere nationalism.

now then:

1. No “god” can be detected - OR - God is not detectable.
2. All religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
3. All religions have been made by men.
4. Prayer has no effect on third parties.
5. All religions kill, or enslave, or torture.
1 is fair enough. The answer is usually, so what?
Because, if "god" is not detectable, then "god" is 150% irrelevant, and pointless.
Religion DEPENDS upon "god" being present and active.

2 is false, unless you play the No True Scotsman game. We can start with deism -- which may depend on 1), but isn't "mere superstition" or "blackmail".
No
"Unless you do what "god" (we the priests) say, you will burn in hell eternally, and what's more we can make your remaining years/months/weeks/days/hours on Earth VERY unpeasant"
Proved by example and practice.

3 is unfalsifiable. The historical record is simply incomplete -- and will never be that complete.
OK, produce a counterexample - religion made by women ....

4. is fair enough. The answer is usually, so what?
Again, if it is totally ineffective - why bother - you really haven't got the hang of this have you?
There is a corollry of that proposition btw: "There is no such thing as "Psi""
AND : LOTS of gullible morons are still praying - erm - why?

5. is false, unless you play a No True Scotsman game. The local coven of witches hasn't bothered anyone to the limit of verification.
- Sorry, assuming the Jack Chalker definitions of major religions here.
Meanwhile, note the historical record for christianity, islam, judaism and communism, for killing, enslavement and torture .....

128:

"Nationalism" does not claim to be greater than nations

Since when?

129:

Patient, hell. I was trying to hold their attention so they wouldn't try to sneak my son out while we waited for the police to arrive. At the same time, I knew that the police in this town have a rather long response time to something that isn't an emergency in their view (and an even longer response time to something that might actually be dangerous to them; this isn't the finest police force in the world). My problem with actually using the jack handle was that I was outnumbered about 5 to 1, and while I was fairly sure by the way they talked that none of them had ever been in a violent confrontation before, those aren't good odds if you don't have some sort of overwhelming force, like a sword, or a large knife, or a gun. Although I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to hold myself back if the standoff had lasted much longer.

130:
"What is the purpose of meaning?"

I think it's a useful question with which to open up some discussion of humanity's place in the universe, although the answer may not be quite so useful ("It hasn't a purpose."). But turn it around and ask, from an evolutionary point of view, "What is the function of meaning?" and I think it's much more relevant.

Meaning is something that has evolved in some more complex organisms (and I refuse to get dragged into the side issue of whether that's only humans; that rabbit hole is for another day) as a way to remember, think about, and communicate complex ideational structures (well, more complex than "Should I kill, eat, or fuck that?"). That implies that "meaning" didn't exist before the organisms that evolved it, and specific meanings didn't exist before they were created and used by some organism. Most of the things we think about don't exist in the physical world; the more abstract the concept the less it maps to something physical. Examples: "friendship", "alliance", "justice", "mercy", "evil", and "love".

Now that most definitely doesn't mean those things don't exist; it means they don't exist unless some living being uses them in some way. And you can't just reduce them to memes and treat them as independent replicators using the organisms as a substrate because the nature of "meaning" is that it has a function for the organism; it's not simple parasitism.

There is no reason why humans have to take their values from an external source, whether that's a god or a scientific theory; values by their nature are prescriptive and should represent what we want to have, not what someone or something else wants, or how we've evolved. Science, in particular evolution and behavioral psychology, can tell us how we're most likely to behave in a give circumstance, and allow us to, we hope, to figure out how to implement our value systems so they have a chance of working effectively and giving us the outcomes we would like to see.

131:

"Intrinsic brain structure? What about people with a different brain wiring/genes? Just what feels right to you? Good for you, but hard to persuade others who feel differently."

Well, yes.

That's where morality comes from as I understand it - initially just what seems right and wrong to the individual. Why does it seem right or wrong to me? Because I do or don't want it happening to ME. Now, as trite as it may sound, do unto others as you would have them do unto you (and as tied to religion as that particular phrasing of the concept is) is pretty damned good, isn't it?

Growing from that, you have to fit into the society you are a member of, and so morality becomes shared, with some oddities being either worn off or amplified (both by feedback effects) in the process. To be part of society I must expand the self-interest I began with to include those around me (or some of them, anyway).

What starts as pure self interest spreads to an interest in others, because if it does not then that self-interest defeats itself (and on the evolutionary side, you don't get to breed - whereas those whose self-interest subsumes itself somewhat into morality do, and the tendency toward morality grows in the population). And so we get altruism (or a beginning) from self-interest. The surrounding culture further shapes my initial morality.

On the flip-side, we have psychopaths who appear to either have a faulty morality, or none at all. Various neurological studies have indicated a tendency toward consistent physical differences in their brains - so I think that wiring does indeed play a part, just like culture.

And yes, it is hard to persuade others who feel differently. Morals (like ethics) are NOT universal. Certain parts do seem to be shared by the vast majority of humanity, but definitely not all. For example, right now the Australian media is whipping the population into a moral panic about what Indonesians to with our cattle after we export them. Lots of Australians feel that it is immoral to cause these cattle to suffer (or indeed blatantly torture them, as has been happening). Obviously the Indonesians involved do not.

A tired example would be abortion.

Given all this, I've never understood why so many people cannot see that morals are not universal, and that a different set of precepts does not make someone immoral - just operating from a different set of rules. I mean, the same people I've argued with over this accept that cultures are different, so why not basic morality?

132:

Given all this, I've never understood why so many people cannot see that morals are not universal, and that a different set of precepts does not make someone immoral - just operating from a different set of rules. I mean, the same people I've argued with over this accept that cultures are different, so why not basic morality?

So how do you create a civil society when multiple cultures are involved. At some level you get to where nothing can be against the law. Sort of like objectivism taken to the limit.

133:

Well, there are two answers I can think of to that:

You don't.

Why would you even try? Cultures (and their accompanying morality), by their very nature, do not co-exist well in the same place if they differ much.

OR

One culture and morality must be placed supreme to all others. One law, or none at all. Now, this supreme morality (let's call it law) need not actually be one of those interacting - it could well be an artificial thing, constructed as a sort of compromise that everyone can live with, picking the bits where the competing cultures and moralities overlap.

Of course, nobody will be completely happy with that, but I understand that that's how politics works :)

The second seems to me to be what most western nations have gone for, not particularly by thinking it through and saying that's what we want but rather via the usual human way of sucking it and seeing :) The religious wars of the past several hundred years certainly pushed us in this direction.

Has worked so far (it helps that most nations are nations because their populations are largely homogeous anyway - and yes I can see the glaring exceptions of the US and Australia), but it is fraying a bit at the edges with special interest groups making (and in some cases receiving) concessions to their particular culture and/or morality - there have been recent calls in Australia for Sharia law to be implemented, and I've read that this has actually happened in the UK. Australia already has an off-shoot court system devoted to Aboriginals.

And just in case you were thinking I think that all moralities and cultures should be accepted and treated as equal (moral relativism), no, I don't. I simply recognise that other people think differently to me, and that this doesn't automatically make them evil.

134:

I used to see Billy Graham personally fairly often because my grandparents were big personal friends of the Grahams. He used to be in news a good bit, as well as sometimes the giant conferences were reported on.

135:

That's not quasi-religious, that's addiction!

136:

Yep, their evangelical fundamentalist religion took the King James bible literally, which was very painful. I tried to stand between him and my brother, but I couldn't always get there.

I haven't spoken to the evil stepmother in many years, much longer than since Dad died, and since she only joined the religion on marrying Dad (six months after Mother died -- met two months after, engaged after another two months, married after the last two months), I do wonder if she's dropped out. But I'm not going to talk to her just for that.

137:

just operating from a different set of rules

I don't think, morals should be rule-based at all.

Societies need to be rule-based, but then different societies can exist in parallel.
There's a possible case for prohibiting or for legalizing alcohol, prostitution, marihuana, gas-guzzling cars.

But morals - in their essence - work differently. Context matters, specifics matter. To the degree you zoom into the complexity of it, your personal judgment can change.

You may be tolerant of the use of a certain drug (nobody else gets hurt after all), then you see the neighbour change and you connect it to his drug use. He starts to beat his wife, you sympathize with her. You give him a choice between staying sober or earning a vengeful beating.

You're cleaning up in the flat of your beloved uncle, ill with terminal cancer. In the bathroom you find the same drug, you rush up to him, head full of reproaches. But then you're there and can't even utter a word. Just look into his sad eyes. With an understanding you could not possibly find words for, you put the stuff back where it was. Making it look as untouched as you possibly could.

Why the desire to extricate artificial morals - simplifications?

Because you're afraid of an Angry God, a bearded tyrant in a night-gown?

138:

Well, if you don't get very much donated money, you don't have to file for taxes. I used to volunteer here and we only got a couple thousand a year, so didn't have to report it.

139:

Wow, that's awful. I've heard of groups that do that before, but never from someone I've known (online) for so long.

140:

Alas, what is the secret to crack a closed skull?

Well, in my case, my brain swelled up and smushed against the skull, then bled. It wasn't quite strong enough to crack the skull, but it gave me a stroke and little coma.

141:

I think you've misunderstood my use of the word rules. And possibly the rest of what I wrote.

142:
"What is the purpose of meaning?"
I think it's a useful question with which to open up some discussion of humanity's place in the universe, although the answer may not be quite so useful ("It hasn't a purpose."). But turn it around and ask, from an evolutionary point of view, "What is the function of meaning?" and I think it's much more relevant.

Dear God. I think that some people might be just a little culturally deprived. Please don't tell me I'm the only one to have seen this.

143:

Well at least you have an honest non PC valid (IMO) answer.

Has worked so far (it helps that most nations are nations because their populations are largely homogeous anyway - and yes I can see the glaring exceptions of the US and Australia), but it is fraying a bit at the edges with special interest groups making (and in some cases receiving) concessions to their particular culture and/or morality

Yes. In the US the PC line of we can all work it out if we just try hard enough drives me (and a lot of others) nuts. Sigh. The one I like best is the lawsuit in Florida where a Muslim woman wanted her drivers license photo to be taken with her head/face fully covered.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sultaana_Freeman
Sorry but if you want to live in a different culture then you have to fit in or move on. IMO.

Of course the EU is bumping into these issues full time now as they move to more and more open borders. And now some countries (France?) are trying to maybe be not so open while declaring they are. And Germany with it's gastarbeiters has had issues for well over 30 years.

144:

Religion is What Keeps the Poor from Murdering the Rich" --Napoleon Bonaparte Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism."
-Benito Mussolini ---"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." - Adolph Hitler "My New World Order" - Proclamation to the German Nation, Berlin, February 1, 1933

145:

Nope, never saw that. I still think it's an interesting question.

146:

A lot of people seem to think that Sharia law courts operating in the UK are some kind of special concession - which is untrue.

Under the English legal system two parties involved in a civil (not criminal) dispute can opt to have the matter judged by a third party of their mutual choosing. It can be an arbitration service, it can be a Sharia court. It can even be a group of your friends set up for the purpose. If it follows the law in such a matter its decision is binding under English law.

147:

there have been recent calls in Australia for Sharia law to be implemented, and I've read that this has actually happened in the UK.

Then you should immediately shitcan whatever news source you got that from, because it's systematically lying to you to promote a specific political agenda.

There's a lot of noise on this topic in a handful of right-wing newspapers, specifically the Daily Mail, The Times (a Murdoch property, I'll note), the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph. It's also worth noting that the whole Londonistan/Eurabia farrago came out of the writings of a couple of journalists -- Bat Ye'or and [Mirror columnist] Melanie Philips -- who have a political axe to grind: they're strongly pro-zionist Jews and this stuff is propaganda aimed at indirectly shoring up US support for Israel by discrediting the somewhat less militarily supportive European approach.

Deconstruct their writings and you get something remarkably similar to late-19th century Tsarist anti-semitic propaganda. Irony is left as an exercise for the reader.

148:

Melanie Philips writes for the Daily Mail, not the Mirror.

I find her useful only for the fact that whatever she says or writes is guaranteed wrong - something remarkably rare in a world where even a stopped clock is right once a day (what, you still use old 12 hour clocks that don't show am/pm?).

149:

Patronage. Worse than ever, surely?

A lack of political accountability. 100x worse now, surely?

Stop/Go economic policy. Much worse now, surely? Haven't you noticed the cuts/credit-crunch?

The IMF declaring us a basket case. Massive cuts now required to prevent default. Current financial crisis far, far worse than any in the 60s.

20% inflation. Noticed food and fuel prices recently? The real rate of inflation now is far higher than it was most of the time in the 50s/60s, though there were a few alarming peaks.

The NUM thinking that they ran the country, not elected politicians. You must read the Daily Mail. All Gormley wanted was a pay rise.

Nationalised industries that stifled progress
What progress did they stifle? I'm unaware of that.

(remember when the Post Office were the only people allowed to provide telecommunications? Who cares?

Remember British Leyland?) Sadly gone. What happened to our car industry?


Remind me, how were these "better"?
Greater social equality, economic stability, low unemployment, low crime, a belief in the future, family stability. Bullyboy bosses under a degree of restraint, unlike now. A lost Golden Age. The economic crises of the time were a storm in a teacup, easily solved. You could even buy a British car!

150:

Ever read "The Dam Builders"? (About the creation of the nationalised North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and how it systematically built more or less the entire national grid infrastructure (generating stations, long-distance high-voltage power lines and distribution lines) North of the Forth-Clyde valley, Perth and Dundee. Oh and did the whole project as a "zero sum" project by making a nominal profit on some parts of the whole, and re-investing that entire sum in the next piece of infrastructure.

Do you want to try and explain how it is "better" to can a project as "uneconomic" and/or see 10% taken off the top to pay investors?

151:

Greater Social Equality ... I remember reading somewhere that social inequality actually got worse under nu_Labour - a quick google finds why britains battle bring down social inequality has failed by Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Sheffield University, and an expert on health and social inequalities and, incidentally, a lifelong Labour voter.

Not that I'm saying Thatcher was a saint, but when she won power there was a (much smaller!) deficit and cuts were required to get the economy back on track - which worked, and a V. healthy economy was handed to Blair's nu-Labour. Obviously not all the economic woes can be affixed to Blair/Brown, but still ...

152:

Charlie @ 147
Yes - but ...
There really are islamic groups who want Sharia, who want khalifah, who believe that "Voting is un-islamic", who murder young women because they won't do what their "god" tells them, and who attempt to murder teacher who tell children about comparitive religion.

They are like the RC church in the period 1560-1648 in fact, and just as dangerous.

153:

Some parts of Sharia law can be implimented under more or less any jurisdiction (except maybe Israelii) that allows private enterprise, in particular there is nothing that prevents a group setting up a Sharia bank. Also Sharia banking law is very Christian, since there are passages in the Bible that speak against usury (in the original sense, meaning the lending of money for "interest").

Ref #146 and 147 - I'm agreeing with you guys.

154:

New Labour was a Thatcherite project. Bliar was overtly Thatcherite, so it is no surprise that inequality increased under his leadership.
The era of the postwar consensus was very different. I realise some on here are too young to remember it. It was not exclusively associated with the Labour Party, for whom I have no particular enthusiasm, now or then.

155:

You can still buy a British car today -- it's called a Nissan Qashqai, and it's designed and built in the UK. Profits go to Japan, of course.

Or if you're rich you can buy a Morgan.

The rest, I'm with you on. If we weren't in a severe housing market crash right now inflation would be way over 5%.

156:

"Then you should immediately shitcan whatever news source you got that from, because it's systematically lying to you to promote a specific political agenda."

Heh - that'll be our ABC (the equivalent of the BBC), which is "supposed" to be completely unbiased. It isn't, of course, but the bias it gets routinely accused of isn't to the right :)

I didn't pay much attention to it at the time, and I'm guessing that it was a mangled version of what Dirk said at 146. There once was a time when the media, and especially edifices such as the ABC, bothered to do real reporting and investigation instead of just grabbing stuff and printing whatever filled the (web) page...

Mind you, I did pay attention when it got cited as justification for using Sharia law here a few weeks ago - and I don't think you can accuse the people who were doing it of being zionists - not within their hearing, anyway :) Anyway, it would seem that people from all positions have been taken in by the claims floating about...

Hmm - does that make another Australian first then, with the Koori courts? A separate legal system (sort of, within limits - but there is pressure to expand those limits) for one group within society - does any other country have such a thing? Openly, that is, not as a government funded "injustice for the ethnic minority" system.

157:

Tribal courts in the US might be a case of the "oppress the minority" version turning into a parallel legal system. Depends, too, on how much you consider tribal sovereignty to be a fact and how much a convenient fiction.

158:

The Mini is doing fine, with the owners about to invest half a billion in updated UK plant.

(Profits to Germany)

Jaguar/Land Rover made a lot of money last year.

(Profits to India)

As an MG driver, I should also point out that the marque continues to be built — or at least assembled — in Birmingham, in the form of the MG-6.

(Profits to China)

British-owned is somewhat rarer. But then, that's the nature of globalisation - big companies own subsidiaries around the world, and there are plenty of UK-based companies who manufacture elsewhere.

159:

Also Ford, Toyota and Honda. In fact British car manufacturing is a tremendous success story overall: productivity has grown dramatically and total output has held up remarkably well over the years.

The downsides are ownership of the profits is overwhelmingly outside the UK, and total employment has shrunk - the average car needs far fewer people on the production line. But the UK is still the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world (it varies by exchange rate against France), and also still the 6th largest manufacturer in the world. We make more stuff than South Korea! (This was true in both 2008 and 2009, the latest year shown: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/snaama/dnllist.asp)

160:

Where Does Religion Come From:
My 2p's worth is it originated from sensible advice handed down through the generations (such as not eating stuff that might kill you - eg shellfish/pork if you live in hot countries).
When an adult, and esp. a parent, drills such instructions into children it really sticks, esp. if they get beaten when they disobey.

Case in point: I can still never pass anyone on stairs without hearing my grandfather saying it's unlucky to cross on the stairs! Even on a wide staircase it makes me feel uncomfortable - though my GP's house had a very narrow and very steep staircase and it made sense to stop us pesky kids fooling around on the stairs.
I also can't drive past a field of sheep without saying "Good morning Mr Sheep" because my grandmother used to say it was lucky ... not figured that one out even now, though it's possible she was just taking the piss or mad as a badger!

Pick some item from a religion - let's say the Latter Day Saint's rule about not drinking hot drinks, and have quick think about why that might have been a good idea back then. Well the wagon trains heading west would likely have to haul their fuel for cooking, so if you could stop people wasting it by heating water for hot drinks that might indeed offer an advantage!

Because kids are so suggestible, I don't think kids should have religious instruction until they are 'old enough' to make up their own minds - though discussing the various religions (and absence of religion) could be a useful first step.
To me, Sunday School = Religious Grooming, with all the modern day baggage of 'grooming' as it takes advantage in exactly the same way!

Of course, once this distilled into a religion there were those who recognised the power of being in charge of the rule book with a vengeful god on your side to induce the faithful to obey ... and hey, surely the faithful should contribute towards the running of this religion ...

161:

This despite the Thatcher years involving the "unnecessary destruction of a third of the UK's manufacturing base" (Source Sir John Harvey Jones, not my opinion).

162:

Charlie @19: Thanks - got some Meaney now. Yes, he is very good indeed. You're not the only poster here who is in his books, I see!

Further on the "hall of mirrors" - P.Z.Meyers was in my local pub (Caroline of Brunswick) the day you posted this blog, though I missed his talk.

Morgans - mmm they *are* nice. I know a J.E.T. engineer who rebuilt a couple. (Actually, one of them was rebuilt twice. Tip - be very careful in a 3 wheeled car when approaching an inspection pit.)

@160 - I can't go past a magpie without saluting, if I'm wearing a hat. However my girlfriend says "Where's your wife?" to any solo magpie. Local variations, I guess - she's Hertfordshire, I'm Bedfordshire. A sheep on the road should have "Mint sauce!" shouted at it.

163:

A lot of the above made me remember why I was such a big fan of Ayn Rand in my teens. It wasn't the selfishness (believe it or not) so much as that I found a moral code that someone had tried to develop emphatically without relying on a real or imaginary enforcer. Rand obviously wasn't the first to do this, but she was who I ran into while at an impressionable age (reading "hard" science fiction and listening to rock bands like Rush).

That the basis for Objectivism seems to include lingering resentment at Rand's mother giving little Ayns's toys away to poor kids and it looks like a Leo-Strauss-style attempt to beat Communism at its own game would hit me later. Not to mention Rand and almost every single Objectivist being a poor advertisement for the philosophy.

But I still believe that the only honest moral code is one that we (humanity) work out for ourselves. We're all there is (AFAWK). If we do something cool like go to the moon, cure polio or invent a plural society, we own it. Hooray for us. If we do something horrible like Auschwitz, sorry, we own that too. Ditto if we fuck up completely. Anyone out there, I hope you like the Chuck Berry.

It's obviously hard work and slow going. We've only recently worked out, at least in theory, that treating other people like objects is bad. It's also a bit scary, so we cling to our self-created Skyfather who lets us live under His roof, even as He has serious empty nest issues, and lets us misbehave as long as we don't rebel or simply move out. But moving out of the house is how we grow up.

Anyway, 8 more weeks to sort it out and get our collective shit together. Then the flying saucers destroy the planet and rescue everyone who paid their $30 to "Bob."

164:

A sheep on the road should have "Mint sauce!" shouted at it.

I normally shout "Redcurrant jelly!" at them, but it's the same idea.

165:

If you go by economic % growth rate, the success story was the post-war consensus until the oil shocks. The growth rate then was higher than the last 30 years of neoliberal financial jiggery pokery.
I wonder why....

Meanwhile the biggest falls in industrial output/ employment occured after Thatcher, and continued under BLair. The only reason I can see that the gini coefficient didn't get much worse was that Blair et al spent some money on welfare, rather than following the US example of letting the poor starve. However it has only gotten worse since the bubble burst. The income (And of course asset) distribution in the UK has been getting worse ever since the Thatcher era, and the reasons why are complex, but might just have something to do with globalisation, financial magic and the inherent tendency of capitalism to monopoly.

All of which can only be countered by us normal people banding together and standing up for ourselves. The current main parties show little sign however of doing much for us.

166:

Inflation is how the debts are going to be eliminated.
It sucks money out of savings by devaluing them, sucks money out of borrowers (esp via mortgages) through vastly increased interest and depresses real wages.
As a bonus, the govt can pay its debts by printing money and kick off the whole process ie "quantitative easing". Cui bono? The usual suspects...

167:

The dangers of printing money have been overstated, especially compared to the inflationary effects of borrowing money, as seen during the bubble. We know printing too much money is bad, but those in charge have wilfully ignored the dangers of borrowing too much money.

168:

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." George Orwell.
Ayn Rand was on welfare when she was dying. Something her small minded followers don't want to know. The men of old time principle have power and still at war with the Keynesian Economy. It worked till the tax cutters came in. Keynes's way of deficit spending worked. The "lets not spend any money" did not. Not then and there is no way it will work now. But they just know it's wrong, just plan wrong where it works or not.
If you put the money out to where real people can use it they spend it and the surplus goods are used. When you try and save your way out, the money stays in the banks of the rich. And nothing gets better for anyone but the rich.
The last big Depression was in a steady state till FDR jacked it up and out. And he only tried Keynes after nothing else worked. And later FDR did what the bankers wanted and pulled back. And the depression started back up.
This is not the first time the neo-cons have put us in this tar pit. The last time President Clinton taxes the top 1% and it worked great! When President Clinton was enacting his first federal budget in 1993, he found his "fiscally conservative" Republican predecessor had left a $290-billion deficit. He responded by imposing substantial tax increases on the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

Like now the Republican right threw a screaming tantrum, falsely describing the tax increase as the "largest in history" (that was Reagan's)and warning that it would result in a severe recession or worse. Conservative politicians and pundits unanimously
predicted that higher taxes would mean fewer jobs and larger deficits. They were wrong! It happened after their tax cuts.
---The history of the last century shows, as we shall see later, that the advice given to governments by bankers, like the advice they gave to industrialists, was consistently good for bankers, but was often disastrous for governments, businessmen, and the people generally.
-Carroll Quigley

169:

To be fair, there is a long history of 'bible fan fiction' (also known as Apocrypha), and now-orthodox books contain a lot of what could only be considered 'ascended fanon' (the Apocalypse of John, also known as Revelations, is a very good example: it was written by someone more or less completely unassociated with the movers and shakers of the gospel proper, writing a story in a then-popular style; why it became orthodox rather than one of the many similar documents floating around at the time is questionable, but the possibilities include confusion stemming from the fact that the author has a similar name to one of the apostles and the fact that it contains a chain letter-style warning). The ID folks don't appear to be doing the equivalent of bible fanfiction so much as they appear to be doing the biblical equivalent of arguing over whether Superman or Batman could win in a fight (or whether Superman or The Flash could win in a race, or... the list goes on) and selectively supporting their points with cherrypicked examples from a long running narrative full of retcons.

However, analyzing the flaws of offhand metaphors is beside the point.

170:

The ID folks don't appear to be doing the equivalent of bible fanfiction so much as they appear to be doing the biblical equivalent of arguing over whether Superman or Batman could win in a fight (or whether Superman or The Flash could win in a race, or... the list goes on) and selectively supporting their points with cherrypicked examples from a long running narrative full of retcons.

As someone who's tried to participate in these discussions at a civil level I've grown very tired and somewhat fed up with the entire debate. I and most of my friends just stay out of the discussion. Most Christians who claim to believe any of the 3 to 5 major variants of creationism or ID with any of the dozens of variations within these themes really don't know what they are talking about. Basically they cannot articulate or even understand if explained to them what "they believe". They've just chosen someone they like and said "I believe what he's saying". Which is a major reason they get their hat, coat, and underwear handed to them in these debates.

And most of the ones who can articulate their beliefs based them on science that rejects facts or evidence that doesn't fit their narrative so they are also a loose in any debates where science comes up. (They claim that we just don't understand it yet so let's ignore it until we do.)

And those of us who believe the evidence for a 14 billion years or so old universe and evolution (change over time) of life on earth is very very very strong just stay out of the debate.

171:

Well, I know the idea that e.g. the rules of kashrut have some rational basis in hygiene and like is quite popular these days, but then, there are multiple other explanations, e.g. it was more of a case of cultural seperation from neighbouring and related groups (did I mention the bible is about as useful a source concerning the history of the Levant as Lord of the Rings is concerning Britain?), it was a taboo (flagburning, err, eating the mascot of the tribe is serious business here) etc.

Add some layers of rationalizing and reconciling this with folk systematics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folk_biology

and you get a sytem nobody understands anymore. Oh, and then the rabbis of the talmud appear to unify things and make it more simple, with the predictable results.

Problem is, I don't see that much of a difference between those rules and the rules some people call 'voodoo' in the laboratory, not totally tongue in check. E.g. cultivating mammalian cells is quite difficult, you get recipes handed down through the generations, with some rationalizations about mechanisms etc.; that's not to say science is just another mythology, you could always do double-blind studies etc., but in the day-to-day hazzle, it's all to easy doing it in a proto-scientific way. And that's before laboratory group dynamics mingle in.

On a lighter note, AFAIK there has been no forced conversions of TRIS users by the HEPES guys.

172:

My parents' religion said things like that -- being lucky for something -- was not religious. We shouldn't think of such things; for example, we were told Santa and the Easter Bunny didn't exist.

173:

I don't think you can realistically expect them to enjoy a discussion of what you are going to dress their meat with.

174:

I think that quantitative easing is a sign of pure desperation.
The current crisis is the worst in living memory, involving substantial institutional collapse.
The cuts are also an act of despair, rather than ideology. Gordon Brown tried Keynesianism, and persuaded the rest of the West to do so as well, but it has failed and governments have simply run out of credit. The underlying financial position of the US and UK is not much better than that of Greece or Portugal.
Large amounts of 'easing' would undermine the credibility of the governments bonds, imo, and lead to a kind of meltdown reminiscent of South America.
Taxing the rich is the only remaining source of funds, but the US population seems unable to grasp this, and vote for vicious demagogues who demand ever more tax cuts for the rich, while vilely insisting they are on the side of the people.
The US government is building ever more overseas military bases, when to me it seems obvious that closing them is the way to restore soundness to Federal finances.
US default anyone?

175:
Taxing the rich is the only remaining source of funds, but the US population seems unable to grasp this, and vote for vicious demagogues who demand ever more tax cuts for the rich, while vilely insisting they are on the side of the people.

Blink. Why goodness no, that's not true. In fact a majority of Americans are for increasing taxes on the rich. Just like they are for getting out of Afghanistan and just like they were for real financial reform and just like they were for real health care reform. It's all in there in the polls if you want to look it up.

So the U.S. population understands this very well. In fact, that's what most of them thought they were getting when they voted for Obama. It's just that the common folk don't have much say in the policies that are implemented and that's been true for some time now.

I'm guessing that what you know about what Americans want comes via the official media apparatus.

176:

I was referring to the rise of the Tea Party, the seizure of the House of Reps by the Republicans, etc. Is this really all down to vote-rigging?
I have read reports of Tea Party types, on being elected, demanding not just welfare cuts but tax cuts for the rich.
There are also claims that the Tea Party is a front for the Koch Brothers, which would explain a lot.

177:

I'm guessing that what you know about what Americans want comes via the official media apparatus.
I no longer watch TV or read newspapers. I get all my news from the web. BBC, Channel 4, presstv.ir, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, www.truth-out.org.

178:

No, not vote rigging. What happened was that Obama turned out to be a grade-A welsher. The voters saw no quid pro quo for their vote, so a lot of them just stayed home in 2010. The results were what anyone with a grain of common sense would have predicted.

And of course, the Obama administration and Congress and the official media all publicly interpreted this landslide defeat as the Democrats "over-reaching" and "being too liberal". As opposed to not delivering on what they promised.

And us, the DFH's who made yet another correct prediction, and well beforehand? Well, the fact that we were right (again) just doesn't seem to get any airplay. In case you're wondering, yes, through bitter experience I've come around to the idea that Chomsky was dead right all down the line.

179:

I was referring to the rise of the Tea Party, the seizure of the House of Reps by the Republicans, etc.

The last few Congressional elections are much much much more of a throw the bums out than a vote for something. The R's were tossed out in '06 which given our system put the D's into power. The D's held with the "magic" of O's election in '10 but it was much more a situation of party votes for D's with O at the top of the ticket than a vote for individual representatives. They claimed a far left mandate (Pelosi's said this repeatedly) and did medical reform but didn't reform as much as muddled things up and stirred up a lot of non hard core D voters. So in '10 we got D's being thrown out. Which meant R's by default. Some of them being TP was much less important in the election than them not being a D. In some cases being a TP even hurt and cost them the election.

Now as we slid into '12 we have a situation where each side is trying to not be the one that screws up the most. Not in terms of what they do but in terms of the perception of their voters. And D's in the Senate are primed for big losses mainly because most of the Senators up for re-election are D's with many of them retiring.

We have had very little in the way of mandates lately. Much more in the way of I'm pissed so out you go. Then a case of "who are you?" when they see who they elected.

Just to give an example or how little passion there is in the traditional voting camps. In NC O won. But it was the 2nd closest state he won. And he won basically because it was raining and somewhat cold all day state wide. The D's had been getting people out to vote early for the previous month. Especially first time voters. So on election day many without much passion avoided the rain and didn't vote. And now with many or most of the first timers from '10 saying they plan to not vote in '12 things may shake up yet again.

180:

Sorry that should be "first timers from '08 saying they plan to not vote in '12 things may shake up yet again."

181:

Sorry David, but unless you've got polls to support you or a prediction you've made that's been subsequently confirmed, what you've got is a narrative, not any sort of real theory.

And what you would call "muddled things up" I would call "welshed on their campaign promises". In fact, what we got was essentially business as usual, where the thin starve before the fat suffer :-(

182:

"Anybody remember Chaos theory? I still believe!!!"

Chaos theory is not a belief system. It's just aged enough to not get PopSci press. But it has become embedded in all sorts of things. For instance, at some point in the near future I need to write some code to recognize chaotic data, as opposed to random data, in the context of information security. Strange attractors considered as an attack indicator.

I don't know if you've read James Gleick's 1987 Chaos: Making a New Science. I wish (and if this has been done, someone please tell me) that an equally skilled writer would seize that topic and describe how it came to be baked into so very many things.

If it hasn't been done, I can only say that as Gleick's book begins with Edward Lorenz and a simple weather model executing on a ca. 1960 computer, a possible hook to obvious current issues seems to exist.

This seems somewhat OT. I'm currently too lazy/depressed to make more than hand-wavy arguments about the Enlightenment being a Good Thing, hence popularization of science is laudable. But I don't believe it for a moment--I'm only preaching to the choir here, as would the book. While I would gladly (although only slightly) enrich the author by snapping it up as soon as it became available, the people who would most benefit (those who have never heard of the Enlightenment, or regard it as a Bad Thing) would not read it. They may not even be capable of reading it.

183:

I tend to agree with you--I didn't vote for Obama because he backed off of his stance against an Ashcroftian/Patriot Act surveillance state when it was politically useful--a Constitutional scholar. It seemed at that point that he would win, so I also thought that he might not want to limit his soon-to-be-actualized power. In other words, I thought it was a really shitty, self-serving move. What I would expect from a generic politician. I intentionally threw my vote away on a Green candidate, as a (useless) statement. My state wasn't going to be anything but a solid Obama win, so doing that wouldn't have brought a far worse candidate into office.

But there are bits of your post that I (not highly political or widely knowledgeable on social subjects) do not get. Even as an American, I've no idea what you mean by "us, the DFH's." WTF does your TLA mean?

Also, WTF was "Chomsky was dead right all down the line," about? I'm not a social sciences guy, and am only slightly acquainted with Chomsky's work, but I do have some memories of thinking him a straight-up lunatic, on a couple of topics. Are you claiming that everything he's ever written or said is error-free? Given that he seems to be a bit prone to stirring controversy for the sake of stirring controversy, I find this unlikely. He seems as much interested in gaining the attention of the 'intellectual' press, as any mainstream politician is in gaining the attention of the popular press.

184:

Correct, chaos theory (we don't need no stinkin' capitals) is a set of mathematical techniques for analyzing and simulating nonlinear dynamic systems of relatively low dimensionality.

One of the interesting results that's come out of chaos theory is the proof that predicting the future of such systems (and this includes the solar system, considered as N bodies (N between 9 and several thousand depending on how many of the smaller bodies you want to include) under mutual gravitational influence) is an exponential- time computing problem because its time requirements increase exponentially with the amount of future time you want to predict. It is also interesting that such dynamic systems appear to be unstable (I don't know if that's been formally proven yet), in the sense that given enough time they fly apart.

185:

Vote rigging is the only way Bush won. BOTH TIMES. two different recounts said that and proved it the first time. It was the same in round 2. I did read James Gleick's 1987 Chaos. And others. It seemed to me why all the 5 to 30 year plans never worked the way the were going to. Some never worked at all. Things change.
In the mid 60's When I was in the Army in Berlin, I talked with real live Commies. Ones who were not the American "stick daddy in the eye types." I said the long plans that were at it heart of all planed futures would not work the way they were expected to. I used shooting at a tank with a cannon as a example. If you do all the things that must be done to target something, a tank will have moved. What you do is bore site it and fire before it can move and hope for at hit. And maybe do it over.
I believe everything human works that way. Everything changes all the time. And everything effects everything else. Too much planning is a joke. Unless you can change the plan. There are limits that must be understood.

186:

Vote rigging is the only way Bush won. BOTH TIMES. two different recounts said that and proved it the first time.

Excuse me?

During the spring/summer of 2001 the state of Florida did a hand recount of every ballot cast in the presidential election. And there were people from the NY Times, Washington Post, some citizens groups, and others sitting at the table for every ballot keeping their own tallies. And I think they video taped all of it but I may be wrong on this. Bush won by 450 or so votes. Surely the NYT and WP were not in on this rigged win by Bush.

Now, was there a mess with the ballots and voting in four of the largest counties in Florida? Yes. But these counties were run by the democrats for the previous 20 to 40 years and so all of these voting systems and policies were put in place by the D's. I grew up in an area where the local registration was 90% D's and have seen first hand how easy it is to make a mess when you become complacent.

187:

Sorry David, but unless you've got polls to support you or a prediction you've made that's been subsequently confirmed,

Polls did back up what I said. I do keep up with the news. Mostly NPR and MSNBC and a lot of the cable news from all over. Plus actually read my local paper (What a concept.) What did I say that was wrong? A lot of younger first time voters have said they will likely not vote in 2012 as they are disillusioned with the results of the D win in 2008. Heck I even know some of them. I swear they expected the sun to rise in the west or something similar.

The NC issue for O's was taken from various polls and statistical analysis about historical voter turnout and even written up by several O supporters here.

call "muddled things up" I would call "welshed on their campaign promises"

Two sides of the same coin. They didn't do what they promised but they did do something which I feel was worse than nothing or everything.

188:

look I'm sorry for the all the words. But I can't stand it. The owners of the media work hard to make people think the ones trying to fix the mess are the ones who made it. It looks like the Neo-Cons in Congress decided long ago that increasing the misery index by sabotaging economic recovery and employment growth is their best tactic for electoral gains. If that's what it takes, they will put us all into a new Great Depression.

189:

DFH = "Dirty Fucking Hippies" referring to dissident voices opinion leaders, e.g., Paul Krugman, Seymour Hersh and various bloggers, who later turn out to have been right. DFHs said the PATRIOT Acts, invasion of Iraq, etc., were bad and evil ideas and now say focusing only on the deficit may satisfy bondholders but screws everyone else.

VSPs (Very Serious People), Sensible Liberals, Villagers, etc.) disagree. These are established columnists, talking heads, etc., like Thomas Friedman and David Fucking Brooks, and pretty much everyone on political talk shows (Meet The Press, Morning Joe, The View, Fox and Friends, etc.). They give rightwing narratives (deficit, War on Terror, abortion), however crazy or dishonest, serious consideration when they don't simply go along or try to put a human face on them.

Because the right long ago learned to game the US media's fetish of "objectivity," SYN flooding talk shows with increasingly lunatic ideas that have to be discussed in the name of "objectivity." This pushes the Overton Window (the left and right bounds of political discourse) ever further to the right. It's why the Tea Party became such a phenomenon. Fox, on the right, of course welcomed them. But on other shows, they had to give the Tea Party a voice, in the name of "objectivity."

But it's a feature, not a bug. Despite the occasional protest from talk-show "liberals," it gives them cover. Any really progressive ideas are kept off the table as "unserious." They live well on the Washington DC cocktail weenie circuit and would probably poll as UK Tories. It also serves rightwingers like David Fucking Brooks, making his essentially vile opinions seem reasonable compared to the other stuff out there.

VSPs also trade in false equivalency: "Both sides do it." But you can believe that when 9/11 Truthers get as much clout in DC and in statehouses as Birthers have now.

So you get crap like "Earth flat? Opinions differ."

190:

#173 - They're supposed to run away from a discussion of what condiments we're going to eat them with!

191:

I'm at rather a loss to see how Brown tried Keynesianism. Perhaps you could explain?

You do know that if bond holders were scared, the interest rate paid by the US gvt would be higher, right? Yet it remains stubbornly low...
Wait, I've seen a cartoon about that:
http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug/2011/03/18

I do however agree that taxing the rich is one of the things left to do.

192:

Greg, while Chomsky went off the reservation on certain issues (he has a tendency to shortcut his own logic and see most enemies of US state policy as de-facto good guys, because 80% of the time they are, which is embarrassing in the remaining 20% of cases) his analysis of the way mass media are used to impose a false consensus view of reality to keep the American public in line is both accurate and chilling.

TL;DR version of Chomsky: the US public are one of the most heavily propagandized populations in history, and they don't know it. Mechanisms to keep them in the dark and stop them noticing what's being done in their name are analysed, at length. The mechanism of the Overton window is examined. And the structure of the US State Department and its institutional capture by multinational corporations who use it as a crude tool of enforcement is examined. See also Smedley Butler -- only Chomsky is a lot more analytical.

193:

Brown was Keynesian in that from 2008-2010 his government implemented a large fiscal stimulus over and above the automatic stablisers (a temporary VAT cut, for example). It worked, too: over June 2009 to June 2010 the economy grew by nominal 5%, real 1.4%, and both deficits and unemployment were well below predicted figures. Then the Tories got in.

194:

I'm at rather a loss to see how Brown tried Keynesianism. Running the State at a huge deficit in a desperate attempt to restart economic growth? He hardly made a secret of it. He was everywhere, telling all the others to join in. Some economists are still defending him for it, claiming he avoided a Great Depression. I think he merely postponed it, and probably made it worse in the long run, but I'm sure he meant well. There was a failure to grasp that this isn't just a downturn, but a massive transfer of real wealth to Asia and elsewhere. That is a long story.

You do know that if bond holders were scared, the interest rate paid by the US gvt would be higher, right? Yet it remains stubbornly low... Final proof that all wealth is in the hands of the stupid. They actually believe the ratings agencies! Who have been thoroughly intimidated by the US Govt into not reducing their rating...They timidly reduced their 'prospect' or somesuch recently, and were swiftly berated by the Treasury Secretary. They were merely pointing out the obvious. The Republican Party, infested with lying teabaggers, will not agree to any sane measures to stop the deficit from growing, nor will it agree to allow it to grow. The US is unable to fund its crazed foreign policy of full spectrum dominance, and unwilling to admit it.
The Treasury Secy is torn between telling the the Congress that it is dangerously risking the full faith and credit of the US, and telling the ratings agencies that everything is fine....It's like Alice in Wonderland.

195:

Don't agree that it worked; for Keynesianism to work, tax collections have to increase enough to cover the deficit before the Govt credit runs out. Labour was committed to a deficit reduction budget almost as severe as the Tory plans before the election. They have used the room for manoeuvre afforded by Opposition to back off from this since, but that is just political bs.
Everyone is watching Greece; that is the true alternative to the deficit reduction. Keynesianism didn't work, because it wasn't just a downturn, but a rendezvous with reality. Even the newspapers knew it was all going wrong, that people were just shuffling debts they could never repay from one credit card to another. We didn't know the banks were full of shit too, sitting on vast quantities of valueless paper and telling themselves they were making a profit.

196:

But government credit was never going to run out int the UK - not at any time over the past 4 years, not in the foreseeable future! Bond prices and bond futures didn't show a sniff of it, and the UK's total debt to GDP ratio still remains low by historical standards.

As I said elsewhere, the UK remains the 6th largest manufacturer in the world. We are not fucked, nor are we even in absolute decline. Poor countries are getting richer, so our share of GDP will converge to our share of world population over time, which is an unalloyed good thing. This is entirely separate from worrying about equitable distribution of wealth *within* the UK, which is a really serious problem.

197:

There was a failure to grasp that this isn't just a downturn, but a massive transfer of real wealth to Asia and elsewhere.

Rubbish. What's actually happening is that Asia and elsewhere are finally going through the economic development transition that Japan and South Korea did a generation or two ago. The impact is seismic because China and India have, between them, around 30-40% of the global population; but their increase in wealth doesn't automatically come out of our pockets because it's driven by their economies strengthening.

What's making us feel the pinch is a combination of (a) borrowing to conceal the extent of our relative decline (our currencies are over-valued, for one thing), and (b) systematic regulatory capture of the financial sector controllers by the large capital investing agencies, who are stealing us blind by promoting bubbles.

In the [very] long term, assuming no catastrophes along the way, the USA will reach equilibrium at roughly 3-4% of planetary GDP, and the UK at under 1%; but this is no bad thing, because it means everybody will finally have reached a developed world standard of living (whatever that may be by then).

198:

Hmm, wait, John points out that Brown et al's Keneysianism worked, using actual numbers. Driftwood disagrees, but doesn't provide numbers and retreats into paranoia about Asia stealing our wealth.

The interesting questions to a tyro like me include
1)How high would growth have been in western economies if the money put into China etc was invested in them? (I suspect not any higher at all) and 2) I've forgotten what question I was thinking of.

I definitely agree with Charlie re- this is all partly down to us going down to out relative economic strength, rather than the artificial legacy.

The disturbing thing is how poor you can seem to be even in one of the worlds top 6 economies, simply because the system is highly unequal, see my previous mention of gini coefficients. And the Tories only want to make it worse.

199:

guthrie @ 198
" And the Tories only want to make it worse."
Really?

I know the madwoman from Grantham was down that road, but I don't believe you, not at present, at any rate.
Especially not when NuLiebour are also trying to make people poorer in a much more dangerous way - by systematically trashing what's left of our education system.
I was, for a short time, a member of the Lem-o-Crats, until I realised that their supposed policies regarding education were a lie (a prominent local Lem-o-Crat councillor is functionally illiterate), their policies on transport were a lie (in favour of rail until NIMBYism set in ....). Now they are being subjected (in some areas) to "entryism" by believers in Dark-Ages camelherders' myths, which makes their policies on gender-equality a lie, as well.

Comparing the UK & the US, there's this vast dichotomy on Healthcare. Here the NHS is in desperate need of reform, but none of the political parties is even vaguely suggesting doing the right thing.
As someone currently undergoing treatment, the thing I notice is the vast, creaking, overloaded, paper-based, slow, incompetent bureaucracy. When you finally get to the actual healthcare, it's excellent, but what a struggle, and how much money is being wasted?
In the US, Obama and the D's have finally instituted something vaguely like a National Healthcare system, the same as every other developed nation has.
Yet vast swathes of the US politicos, and apparently US public, are against it, and I just can't get my head around this deliberate self-harm.

Will someone please explain - even allowing for Charlie's piece about the US being propagandised by the "Right" - or should that be "authoritarian" - given that ploitics is (at least) a plane, not a line-structure.

200:

Thanks for the DFH definition. A useful thing to know, since I seem to be one.

201:

The disturbing thing is how poor you can seem to be even in one of the worlds top 6 economies,
Trust your eyes... I learnt that long ago. Nearly all the factories in the city I live in have been demolished. It's all gone. Where are they making all this stuff? Not in Leicester.
I didn't accuse the Asians of stealing anything, btw.
Around here, a good employer boasts of paying minimum wage.
It may be different in Edinburgh, the 'Athens of the North'.

I agree that a levelling out is taking place, that is obvious, but it's not a levelling up. The future looks like Mexico.
Dunno where john got his numbers from; Alistair Darling didn't seem too happy, when he announced his plans for budget balancing. For Keynesianism to work, the deficit is supposed to disappear spontaneously, as economic growth boosts tax revenues.

202:

Here the NHS is in desperate need of reform, but none of the political parties is even vaguely suggesting doing the right thing.
As someone currently undergoing treatment, the thing I notice is the vast, creaking, overloaded, paper-based, slow, incompetent bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, this is the result of reform. It used to be a lot more efficient, but Thatcher/Major reformed it into an inefficient bureaucracy, based on the idea of the free market (internal). Huge numbers of ledger controllers have been hired as a result. It used to just be doctors and nurses.

vaguely like a National Healthcare system, the same as every other developed nation has.
Yet vast swathes of the US politicos, and apparently US public, are against it, and I just can't get my head around

I'm not in touch with the details on this, but my impression is that Obama made so many concessions to get it through Congress, that his original backers lost enthusiasm, seeing it as another get rich quick scheme for big business. Meanwhile, the pig-ignorant Republicans still think it is socialism.

203:

I need to write some code to recognize chaotic data, as opposed to random data, in the context of information security. Strange attractors considered as an attack indicator.
Greg, totally off-topic, but interesting (to me): without boring other readers too much, can you point me to any handy references on the subject?

204:

and from Greg:
Here the NHS is in desperate need of reform, but none of the political parties is even vaguely suggesting doing the right thing.
As someone currently undergoing treatment, the thing I notice is the vast, creaking, overloaded, paper-based, slow, incompetent bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, this is the result of reform. It used to be a lot more efficient, but Thatcher/Major reformed it into an inefficient bureaucracy, based on the idea of the free market (internal). Huge numbers of ledger controllers have been hired as a result. It used to just be doctors and nurses.

Sadly, a lot of the paperwork is because of litigation. Every time anyone does anything they have to write it down, so if the brown and slippery hits the rapidly rotating there's a paper-trail and the management can point the finger at who did the wrong thing. Of course, this means there's never enough time for the people to do everything and this, in turn, increases the likelihood of errors, but of course those errors can now be proven to be the fault of someone other than the management!

Most of the political elite run scared about tackling the NHS because it's such an unwieldy beast it is probably impossible to make it run smoothly - at least impossible from here!
In the good old days (when my dad was training to be a Doctor) hospitals were pretty much run by a Hattie Jacques type character and the (junior) nurses did the cleaning. He also talks of a Lancelot Spratt style head consultant who he heard saying to a junior anaesthetist during an operation "if the patient can stay awake surely you can!" ...
There was often a Private Wing, paid for by some thankful patient, the resources of which were available free of charge to the NHS as required.
Of course, way back then they still used leeches and trepanning to try and balance the humors

This was improved by adding armies of middle management and bloody accountants. The left hated the very idea of private medical care and forced the private and NHS to split, resulting in private hospitals where the NHS now has to pay to use the facilities - that's much better! Well done!
Of course, you can't have nurses cleaning, so they hire in minimum wage cleaners who have to clean to a schedule so tight they simply can't do a thorough job - whereas the nurses knew only too well how important it was and they'd only be doing it a year until the next years intake.
Hell, my dad worked in a TB hospital in the Midlands after the war and his first duty every day was to clean the wards!

Hospitals get awards for their efficacy in treating bed sores now! Sheez ... in the good old days people didn't get bed sores because they were looked after! There would be hell to pay if anyone got a bed sore (see Hattie above!).

My dad was recently in hospital and the level of care he got was appalling. I can regale you with sad tales of them repeatedly pulling off his skin with the dressings even though he would tell them his skin was delicate and to be careful removing the plasters! (That STILL makes me VERY angry!).
My eldest brother (also a Doctor) was going to call the hospital and read them the riot act but my dad pulled rank and told him not too!
The nurses (formerly known as "the caring profession") didn't seem to care, or at least with the benefit of the doubt, didn't have the luxury of enough time to care!

The answer? Well you can't turn the clock back, and there is simply no way the NHS can be fully funded, which many people fail to grasp ("just raise more tax"). More people living longer and more treatments being devised means it can suck up all the money you throw at it - free dental implants, hair transplants and liposuction for everyone at the one end, or working out whether one couple's IVF is worth more than a few months to a year on some new cancer treatment, or a bunch of hip replacements, at the other!
There will always be a point where the pot is empty and someone will have to choose who gets treated and who doesn't, but there must be a more efficient way of doing it and I just wish politicians could learn that adding more people to the Board of Directors (AKA "Jobs for the boys") and appointing more middle management simply isn't the way!

205:

And yet, using wikipedia as a first pass: "Engineering is an important part of the economy of Leicester. Companies include Jones & Shipman (machine tools and control systems), Richards Engineering (foundry equipment), Transmon Engineering (materials handling equipment) and Trelleborg (suspension components for rail, marine, and industrial applications)."

In March 2011, the UK made 209,000 tonnes of finished steel products per week, an amount I am unable even to visualise. You cannot rely on your personal experience of employment patterns to say anything about output (and nor can I rely on mine), because industrial productivity has skyrocketed over the whole 20th century!

To reiterate, I am not trying to be either contrarian or Panglossian. I just want to identify the actual problems in society as clearly as I can. Unemployment is a scourge, and both wages and working conditions urgently need to improve at the bottom end.

My GDP figures are from the ONS, but are presented more conveniently here. I quoted 2009 Q2 to 2010 Q2 - June to June - and rounded to 1 decimal place. I'm not entirely sure what your argument aginst Keynesianism actually is, but it's worth noting that the critical thing is the ratio debt/gdp, which can fall sharply even when the budget is in deficit. A budget surplus is nice and all, but not really that important - nothing magical happened when the UK ran a surplus for three years at the turn of the century, or when the US ran a surplus in the Clinton years.

206:

"19-05-2003

Renold plc, the precision engineering group, is pleased to announce that the sale of its former Jones & Shipman factory site in Leicester to Morris Homes has become unconditional and proceeds are expected by the end of May 2003.

The net proceeds of the sale, £5.2m in cash, will be used to pay down Company borrowings. The carrying value of the site was £2.3m in the balance sheet at 29 March 2003."

Since been taken over by Kellenberger, whoever that is. They still have a grinding machine business on the edge of town, but the big machine tool factory is gone, built over, along with literally hundreds of other light machine shops that used to exist when I moved here 30-ish years ago, along with all of the boot & shoe, and nearly all of the knitwear.

I didn't give an argument against Keynesianism; if you think I did, please re-read. If you are unconcerned whether a budget is in deficit or surplus, I'm glad you're not in charge of the money.

207:

I live in Brighton UK, which mostly makes it's money by being London's dirty weekend (plus a declining but still high quality university) but even here people still make things for a living. Or at least, some of us try to.

I count myself as, oh I dunno, a sort of Orwell "Tory anarchist", which in the US would translate as a DFH, but I dislike the rentamob anti-capitalists that are trying to put a local firm out of business for the heinous crime of legally supplying parts for combat aircraft to our military allies who happen to include Israel but also Australia, Finland and the United States (the firm formerly known as EDO).

Vandals were acquitted on a nonsense defense of preventing war crimes (a journalist wrote "Bigotry against the Jewish state is now so entrenched in contemporary British society that juries have begun to acquit criminals merely if they can show that they acted against Israeli interests. No other defence is necessary.").

If the DFH's succeed, then the firm will merely relocate elsewhere in the UK (probably the Milton Keynes Triangle), so the only result will be a reduction in local jobs. No combat operations will affected. I note that no protests are planned against, for example, the manufacturers of Katyusha launchers.

Sorry for banging on. Just trying to make the point that you'll find manufacturing everywhere you look in the UK. And wrong-headed politics of all flavours.


@ Deficit discussion: I borrow *more* money when I'm short of work, and pay it back when I'm doing better. Does macroeconomics work in a different way?

208:

Tories making things worse was a comment about social inequalities. As I pointed out above the gini coefficient (obviously not the best thing ever, but still a useful guide) sharply increased under the tories, much less so under new labour. Note also that it was Major, a tory, who introduced (Well, him and his government) the internal market, which effectively doubled the percentage of NHS money spent on internal bureacracy. ODdly enough labour didn't commission a study to compare now with then, presumbaly because it'll be even worse after their fiddling about.

From my point of view, new labour were tory light.
Put it this way - you get knocked over by a car - new labour would call an ambulance; the tories would rifle your pockets for money and then toss a coin to decide whether to call an ambulance.

As someone who left school 16 years ago, I am somewhat out of touch, but get the impression that the bad parts of the education system are down to a weird toxi mix up of teach to the test, childrens rights, and a dash of political correctness. The first bit being due to marketised, target driven thinking, of the sort right wingers think solves everything.
So you have to be even handed in apportioning blame, and anyway education used to be a council matter, how come conservative councils have trouble as well, or do they somehow do better at it?

And finally, re the NHS - nobody doubts that it needed more money put into it. What many of us object to is money sinks like the PFI/ PPP, which are objectively a waste of money, huge salaries for certain sections of management and consultants, and something else which I can't recall. Oh yes, shutting hospitals left right and centre, when not everyone has a car and anyway, we're at peak oil and the days of cheap easy transport are over.

209:

AFAIK, macroeconomics works much like your finances, except when the Govt gets desperate enough, it can print the stuff off (quantitative easing). The problem with just printing it is it reduces the value of it, which annoys the people who have lent it to the Govt, and are expecting it back in the future. If you annoy them too much, it becomes difficult to borrow, and you end up like Argentina.

210:

driftwood wrote:
"... when the Govt gets desperate enough, it can print the stuff off (quantitative easing)."

I'm somewhat puzzled by how printing more 'money' helps. Is that actually running the presses for longer and printing more £10 and £20 notes?

How the hell does that help? I can't go to the bank and ask for some of this 'extra money' they've printed, and I assume no one else can either?

I must be totally missing the point?

211:

Literal printing isn't required, they can just spend more money than they have coming in, without borrowing the difference.
I believe the US has been buying its own bonds, which seems to produce the same effect.

212:

No, that's not how it works at all.

I am, however, a bit too sick still to try to explain economic theory and practice here.

The US does buy its own bonds -- usually via the Social Security fund, which has real money (payroll taxes), and invests in treasury bonds. But, by far, the biggest owner of the debt right now is China, which has all sorts of fun and interesting implications.

You may be confusing how the government works with money with how the finance world works with money. (Where money is largely virtual: saying someone is worth a billion dollars may not be accurate, as it would be based on his current stock holdings. But selling that stock would cause the stock price to dip, which would cause him to be worth less money. But he can still borrow money using that as a collateral, which causes the amount of money in the economy to appear to be larger than it actually is. Until it all comes crashing down. As has happened.)

I recommend reading Steven Brust's Orca.

213:

The amount of actual currency (pound notes, dollar bills, Loonies and Toonies, etc) in circulation at any time is far less than the amount of money floating around, by more than an order of magnitude. I believe there's something in the neighborhood of $800 E9 dollars in circulated currency in the US, versus around $10 E12 in monetary value (based on the M2 figure from 2010).

To address the question of why USians are so irrational about health care: it's simple, they've been heavily propagandized for decades that the system in place in the US is the most efficient and has the best care for the lowest cost in the world. Of course this is utter bullshit, but it's still true (based on polls) that a majority of USians think that we have a system that compares favorably. So naturally they assume that making it more like anyone else's system will make it worse. Of course that would have the advantage of reducing the number of slavering Canadians coming across the border to rip off our ever-so-much-better health system :-)

By the way, if you couldn't tell from the above, I'm a DFH, and always have been.

In fact, 55 percent of Americans surveyed last year (2008) said U.S. patients receive better quality of care than do those in other nations, even though only 45percent said they thought the United States had the world’s best health care system.

214:

And ending up like Argentina is bad because...?

Bear in mind that the problems Argentina had in 2002 where caused basically by follow the neoliberal policies right down to the last letter during a whole decade. It's budget deficit was caused by privatizing social security, meaning you ended up still paying the liabilities (pensions) with no income from payroll taxes, as they went to individual private account instead and the banks kept 25% - 30% of that in "fees". This deficit (basically a transference of public money to the banks) was financed with debt, until it piled so high it stifled the economy and we spent 4 straight years in recession, all the time being the "model student" of the IMF and the markets. Once the whole affair became unsustainable, the banks offloaded as much bonds as they could and let the country fall down, keeping a decade of profits in their pockets.

Unlike some may think, Argentina has been doing quite well since the crisis. Yes, inflation is a concern but not as a big one as not having a job and the country has been consistently growing 6% - 9% every year. Sometimes it pays off to realized you've been robbed and stop paying even more money to the ones who did it.

215:

That's good news. The Western media are still portraying Argentina as a basket case!

216:

Keneysianism worked two ways. It primes the pump with more money when the Economy slows too much. Then pulles money out of the Economy when it starts overheating. From Ronnie Raygun on, the Cons put money out to make things better so they would win votes. Even if they had to borrow money from China. That's the main reason America is in this tar pit. Not Keynes!
You guys are hurting because you brought AAA bonds from our biggest banks. They were crooks and it was a con. And it sucked up your money. We just borrowed more money from China. A time ago they said that if we were not nicer to them they could have a sale of dollars and see what they were really worth.
Evangelical fundamentalist religion did not take the real King James Bible too far. It's what they were told it was. The English based churches stayed in the cities where it was nicer. The pioneers moved out into the mountains and did without. They did not read well, certainly not the old English of King James time. That's why the RC's use Latin, it did not change. So they loved their bibles but they could not make sence of what it said in many ways. There was a snake oil salesman working the trails. People asked what this and that in their bibles meant. He did not know, but he smelled money. He wrote and sold a (cor...) book of what the King James English meant, off his wagon. Then he started selling them by mail.
Almost all the "ALL American" Religions are based on it. Years ago there was an old guy who was going around to Fundamentalist Bible schools and putting in their Libraries, what the rest of the Protestants said The King James Bible meant. The Fundamentalist schools watched out for him like his name was Manson.
What they have is something that has been market tested by how much money the one preaching it can raise. Part of the take goes to the owner of the tent or small church and part to the visiting preacher. If it makes enough money it's in, if not it's out. Thats what ex-preachers say.
Thanks to the Cons sucking up to them, the Head Chaplain of the Army is (was?) one. Thousands of service men signed a petition saying that to be promoted they had to go to the Crusader Fundamentalist Church their boss used. Many of them were main line Protestants, Jews and RC. If you have not been in, you do not know how extreme it is to sign any criticism in the Military.

217:

I WAS WRONG!! "Almost all the "ALL American" Religions are based on it." OK, THAT'S TOO FAR! MOST STARTED FROM A 1800'S ENDTIME CHURCH.

218:

Oh, Paper Money tm, is easy enough to print off these days - you just need Nation State Level Supported printing Technology

What is really needed to upset the World $Economic$ System is a means to replicate GOLD ... what FUN that would produce.

219:

guthrie @ 208 & everybody.
Youve got most of it.


ALL our guvmints since 1963/8 have screwed it.
Transport was the first to go in that year .....
when an unbelievably corrupt minster put his henchman, Beeching in to destroy the railways - we've been around this cycle TWICE now, with the tories screwing it, then LieBour claiming to do something, then actually doing nothing.
Then Education, with the destruction of selection on the basis of ABILITY (NOTE _ this does not necessarily mean "Grammar" schools) being banned, because it was "Unequal" - well people are different.
Then Defence, started by madwoman from Grantham, whose defence cuts got us the Falklands war, and every PM since, has followed her tratorous course.
Lastly, food security - which makes even an allotment-holder like me shudder .....

220:

Apologies to all for being so very OT. Keeping it brief:
Wikipedia has useful references. The Sugihara and May paper refers to algorithms and datasets. Also, search for Time Series Prediction and Neural Networks. Knuth is useful, of course. The difficult bits may come down to test datasets as much as software. NIST publishes reference datasets for ANOVA, etc., testing, but nothing useful for this (that I know of). The version of the WP page I'm referring to is http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chaos_theory&oldid=432821317#Distinguishing_random_from_chaotic_data

221:

In the US, Obama and the D's have finally instituted something vaguely like a National Healthcare system, the same as every other developed nation has.
Yet vast swathes of the US politicos, and apparently US public, are against it, and I just can't get my head around this deliberate self-harm.

As far as I can understand the opinion, it's this- for much of the world, healthcare is considered a right, that humans deserve no matter what. In the US, a good chunk of the middle class considers it a matter of merit-- if you can afford health insurance, you deserve top-quality healthcare, and if you can't you might generously and charitably be granted second- or third-rate care.
Anything like a national healthcare system screws this up- all of a sudden, the deserving middle class not only has to pay for its own healthcare, it has to pay for the healthcare of the filthy, lazy, morally unclean poor. To add insult to injury, it also suggests that both groups will be receiving the same level of care, when clearly the ones paying for the care should be receiving a higher level of care than those who get it as charity.

Short version- in the US, large chunks of people don't consider healthcare a right, and are pissed at paying for someone else's rather than taking the money that would be spent on the poor and divvying it up among themselves.
I have rarely heard an objection from people I've talked to about limiting the growth of insurance premiums, or controlling costs, or making drugs more affordable. But talk about paying taxes for healthcare for the poor and the saliva starts to foam.

222:

C @ 221
If you are correct, that's horrible!

223:

It's broadly correct. There's a large and very vocal minority in the US who hate the poor and want them to die. I suspect because they've swallowed the prosperity gospel wholesale and think that being poor is a sign of being sinful.

224:

Yup, that matches what I've seen online - I joined a forum for SCA and such type people because there were some interesting discussions of medieval technology, and was horrified by the number of commentators who supported torture. A large number of them also think it is your problem if you can't afford decent healthcare, even whilst complaining about premiums rising.
Obviously not everyone in the USA is like that, but a lot of the loud shouty people are.

225:

They are going to have some emotional issues when the rich hammer them down into poverty.
I've read that soup-kitchens are now being opened in middle-class areas in the US.
I suspect that a lot of middle-class people in the US don't realise how much of their income is recycled welfare payments. They are in for a nasty surprise when their Tea Party friends get their way.

226:

From what I can tell, the professional classes seem to have a good chunk of that viewpoint. I'm not so sure it's as much a case of hating the poor as it is not wanting to be responsible for the wellbeing of the poor.

It could explain a bit of why the word "socialism" gets bandied about- if you squint and look at it broadly, the core concept of socialism is that a population should, perhaps through the mechanism of the state, ensure the wellbeing of its members. There are quite a few people in the US who vehemently disagree with that, because it requires taking care of the population as a whole, and many would prefer to pick and choose individual members or groups who get support.

The other catch, even discarding the notion of a prosperity gospel, is that if you are trying to run a meritocracy, someone's probably not going to have enough "merit" to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter themselves.
I have worked around enough poor people to know that some of them (thank goodness a minority of them) just don't have the full set of social and financial skills to really function. (Ditto the middle class, really, but downward mobility works swiftly there)
Given how hard it is to function in the US without a bank account, driver's license, and credit card...and bearing in mind that there are people who literally don't know how to get these...they're screwed. They've never learned the habits of holding down a job-- literally, no idea _why_ you would have to show up at a given place right at a given time, or why telling the boss to shove it isn't viable if you disagree with him.

Looks like I've come around to saying that without some spread of knowledge, customs, and practices, spreading money is going to be just a patch.

227:

David L.
In 2000 the vote was counted by a coalition of newspapers by the Florida "clear intent of the voter" law and the actual paper ballots, and Gore won by a small number of votes.
In 2004 the official electronic count in Ohio had Bush winning, but the exit polls had him losing. No audit trail in 2004, so your guess is as good as mine.

228:

They've never learned the habits of holding down a job-- literally, no idea _why_ you would have to show up at a given place right at a given time, or why telling the boss to shove it isn't viable if you disagree with him.
I have lived near a City Council dosshouse, and come out of the house in the morning to find drunken young men sitting on the doorstep blocking exit from the house. They saw no reason to get out of my way, and I was obliged to step over them. I was afraid that if I asked them to move, a fight would start. Quarrelling is the main hobby of these type of people, in my experience. Oddly, this also seems to have been the case for the convicts in Dostoevsky's novel 'House of the Dead', written in Russia a long time ago.

Looks like I've come around to saying that without some spread of knowledge, customs, and practices, spreading money is going to be just a patch.
I suspect that nothing will change these people, they will always be welfare recipients. Early intervention is the only thing which might make a difference, fewer junkies/winos doing/failing to do child-rearing.
I suppose I'm suggesting that it would take a huge effort across generations to do anything that isn't just a patch. If the Govt cuts carry on, the patch will be removed, and things will get worse. Much worse.

229:

My un-PC theory to explain why socialist policies are so unpopular in America is tribalism. The idea of having your money redistributed to people of other tribes is just too abhorrent to many Americans. This is why socialism seems to work best in more homogeneous populations like Sweden where there is probably a greater sense of brotherhood with the poor due to shared tribal identity. So I guess I'm arguing that "National Socialism" works better than "Multicultural Capitalism". :O

230:

Last Spring/Summer here, in Colorado Springs, we had a number of homeless camps pop up in city parks, out of view for the most part. One person wrote a series of rather nasty letters to the editor in the local newspaper, essentially saying how they should be run out of town, he ended his last letter with "In my plan of National Socialism, if you don't work you don't eat." I'm still kicking myself for not responding to ask if he was really calling himself a Nazi. Meanwhile, the city was considering giving them bus tickets to get them out of town.

Tribalism may play some part, but I tend to think it's the influence of Big Business that has as much to do with the US attitude against Socialism, the Corporations certainly don't want their empires getting nationalized and the wealth being spread around. Then there's that big war against the above mentioned National Socialists.

Before WWII Socialism was a somewhat popular idea in the US, at least among some Jews (not my grandparents though) and Labor organizers among others.

231:

From what I can tell, the actual number of people in the US who hold the opinion that they should not have to provide anything to anybody if they don't get it back in full with interest is a minority, but it is a very vocal minority. And that attitude has already done major damage to our society. In the 1970's and 1980's a public revulsion against the public institutions in which many mentally-ill people were confined resulted in almost all of them being closed, but no systems of any sort were set up to replace them; the money spent on the institutions was simply returned via tax cuts. The patients were put on the street, with nothing but badly overworked, understaffed, and under-equipped public clinics to take care of them. Those patients dependent on medication were given it (when it was available) and trusted to take it. Of course this resulted in a huge surge of homeless people who were mentally-ill and not taking their medication properly; last I heard at least 500,000 people in the US were homeless, and 40-50% were estimated to be mentally ill. Also, something like 20% of the prison population in the US is mentally ill (they get arrested when they act out as a result of not taking medication, or just because the non-homeless don't want to see them or know they're there). And the prisons are less well-equipped to handle mental illness than the public clinics are.

I have gotten the distinct impression that the most common form of the "I don't want to do anything for them" attitude is a harking back to Eugenics: "If they can't take care of themselves1, then they should be allowed to die off by neglect."

I hope it's obvious that I view this kind of thinking and the consequences it's had for my country with a great deal of disgust.

1. For values of "can't take care of themselves" that include "can't get rich because they lack my privilege" and "are inferior kinds of people".

232:

I once fell into a political discussion with a guy I randomly met on the street who expressed things in exactly those tribal terms: He was an old guy who readily acknowledged some chronic medical conditions, but nevertheless believed on principle (I'm not sure what principle, but he took it as axiomatic) that members of different groups should not be paying for each others' healthcare. As an example, he explained, he didn't want his own healthcare funds being mixed with those of young lesbians. Why he picked young lesbians in particular, I'll never know, but he was utterly unmoved when I pointed out that in a single-payer system, or any other kind of general risk-management their money would almost certainly be redistributed to him.

233:

WHO says that 15% of people in the world are disabled and that a lot of the problems are caused by poverty.

234:

In the 1970's and 1980's a public revulsion against the public institutions in which many mentally-ill people were confined resulted in almost all of them being closed, but no systems of any sort were set up to replace them; the money spent on the institutions was simply returned via tax cuts. The patients were put on the street, with nothing but badly overworked, understaffed, and under-equipped public clinics to take care of them. Those patients dependent on medication were given it (when it was available) and trusted to take it.

Not really given back in tax cuts. It was just that by closing the mental institutions and moving people into community care no one wanted to pay for the bump in costs that was the result. Personally I think there was a bit of wishful thinking all the way around that it wouldn't cost much for "community care". Not to mention that very few people of ANY political stripe wanted an outpatient home for the recently institutionalized anywhere near where they lived or worked. So you got the mess we're in.

And as a result of the institutional problems and some very dedicated lawyers and advocates for letting the mentally ill have a say in their treatments, it is very hard to legally force people to take their meds. And so many (most?) do not.

235:

I'm cross-posting this link from the Pharyngula TET because I suspect: 1) Not everybody here is a TET participant and 2) The Whole Earth Ribosome project is of general interest to this group:

http://opensourceecology.org/index.ph

Now I must Skype with the Baloneys.

236:

All the above is very convincing, and even more depressing.

Peripherally, it reminds me of another political/social trope from the US, which is gaining traction amongst the "Right" here, too.

"Socilaism" = Marxism / Communism.

Which it doesn't of course.
Socialism is a POLITICAL system, whereas Communism is a Religion.

But it serves the interests of the Ultra-Right, especially the Authoritarians amongst them, to make sure that distinction is not ever seen or observed.

237:

My understanding is that the percentage of inmates in US prisons with mental health problems isn't 20% -- it's somewhere between 50% and 80%. And indeed if you graph the number of people in mental institutions over time, and superimpose a graph of the number of people in prisons over time, you get a roughly flat line: the mentally ill were kicked out of hospital, spent some time on the street, then ended up in jail (where the conditions are worse than in hospital and don't involve much in the way of treatment).

A major contributing factor is the war on drugs: most people with schizophrenia attempt to self-medicate to make the voices and hallucinations go away. Around 85% of schizophrenics smoke, and a large proportion use cannabis -- a correlation which the drug warriors invoke to "prove" that cannabis causes schizophrenia.

238:

a correlation which the drug warriors invoke to "prove" that cannabis causes schizophrenia.

First I've heard THAT one.

More on this later. What we've each heard that is from across the big pond. (Have to dismantle my bath room just now.)

239:

Charlie, I won't guess what the actual percentage is - but it's very high. How is it over in the UK? Do you have a better plan for dealing with the semi-criminally crazy?

I'll note in passing that most mentally ill people don't actually choose crime - but quite a lot are forced there by circumstance or wind up in the criminal justice system for being excessively eccentric in public.

240:

Ah, well here in the UK, we once had people in asylums too, but an evil empress, sorry, prime minister (Or maybe some of her minions) decided that was too expensive and old fashioned and they should be shut down and the inhabitants releaed onto the streets. Oddly enough it is more expensive to look after people that way, something they only found out after they'd shut everything down. Net result, a lot of people had a bad time.
Of course, the idea wasn't bad in principle, rather the execution of it, since looking after people in the community costs more than locking a lot of them up in a big building.

So, not dissimilar to the USA, and certainly one or two mental health involved people I've seen around complain of lack of funds even today.

241:
Oddly enough it is more expensive to look after people that way, something they only found out after they'd shut everything down. Net result, a lot of people had a bad time.

I'm going to take a wild guess and suggest that there were people, lots of them and well-respected, who pointed this out and made exactly that prediction. And after that prediction came true, the Usual Suspects made the usual noises about who coulda known, continued to ignore the problem for the usual pretexts, and - also as usual - the DFH's were not given one jot or tittle in of say in the policy making process after having been proven more competent than the ones who formulated the original bad policy.

Anybody see a pattern here :-(

242:

The UK has about a tenth the per-capita prison population of the USA. Which might sound good at first, except the UK has the highest per-capita prison population of any EU state, by a margin of around 20-30%.

What we don't have is a huge private "corrections" industry lobbying for more prisons as an Keynsian stimulus mechanism. Nor do we have prisons being run as cheap labour pools. Nor do we have a large (15-20% of population) visually distinctive ethnic minority against whom institutional discrimination ("Jim Crow") has been replaced by more easily deniable discrimination (mandatory sentencing drug laws targeting that group's preferred recreational substance).

We also -- finally! After 20 years of insanity! -- have a Secretary of State for Justice who publicly admits that prisons cost a lot of money and don't reform criminals, and that aside from incarcerating the most dangerous offenders in order to protect the public, we ought to be reducing prisoner numbers. (His own party's hang'em and flog'em wing hates him, but Kenneth Clarke has generally struck me as being one of the most all-around sensible politicians we've got, and I'd be a lot more optimistic about the UK's future if he was prime minister instead of an idiotic and sheltered child of privilege like Cameron.)

243:

I'm wondering if the prison vs. mental health treatment issue disproves the "vocal minority hate the poor and sick" theory of American politics that's been mentioned here.

It's almost stereotypically easy for a politician here to get elected by claiming to be tougher on crime than his opponent, and relatively few will suggest being "less tough on criminals" by suggesting treatment rather than incarceration.

The theory seems to be individual groups building (and living in) happy, prosperous areas, while shoving the "unwanted" into less-desirable spots and ignoring them.

Perhaps it's the majority that's supporting this, not a "vocal minority"? Certainly would explain a bit- domestic and foreign policy alike.

244:

I'll guess that you didn't grow up with late 80s US High School anti-drug films? Not unusual for them to mention Drug Induced Psychosis. Thank you Mrs. Reagan.

245:

" His own party's hang'em and flog'em wing hates him, but Kenneth Clarke has generally struck me as being one of the most all-around sensible politicians we've got, and I'd be a lot more optimistic about the UK's future if he was prime minister instead of an idiotic and sheltered child of privilege like Cameron.)"

Clarke also favours Jazz ! How about that ..a cultured politician. This Alien Interloper doesnt stand an earthly of significant promotion through the ranks of the Tory party ..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0092tqq

246:

Given the impression I've gotten from Steve Bell cartoons (Yes I know they are a bit one sided) from the 80's, it is rather depressing that you'd think Clarke would be much better than Cameron...

247:

If you were truly godly you would not be so bad off. just pray more.
The Wall Street Journal's headline says it all. “Health insurers plan hikes” just before the November 2010 elections.
The WSJ also reported straightforwardly that insurers are blaming the rate hikes on the health care bill, “Rate Increases Are Blamed on Health-Care Overhaul.” The news itself is clear; major insurers are deliberately raising insurance rates—again—and are doing so just before the midterm elections; they are linking the rate hike to their opposition to the Obama administration.
The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, because the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad.
The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them more easy victims of a big lie than a small one, because they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.
Such a form of lying would never enter their heads. They would never credit others with the possibility of such great impudence as the complete reversal of facts. Even explanations would long leave them in doubt and hesitation, and any trifling reason would dispose them to accept a thing as true.
Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most imprudent of lies, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well, and therefore they stop at nothing to achieve this end.
~ Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

Conservatism DID convey a sense of practicality and a respect for reason then, rather than an irrational belligerence and a disdain for facts now.


248:

In Central Virginia, an autistic young man was just sentenced to one year in jail and his mother is furious. He hurt a deputy badly enough that he had to retire. After that year, he'll be in a hospital and then residential treatment program.

249:

Virginia has a new empty prison that costs $700,000 per year. It's empty because we didn't get as many prisoners as expected.

250:

Please put quotes around quotes. And frankly, I don't believe in gods so praying would be a waste of time.

251:

If you were truly godly you would not be so bad off. just pray more

Very Puritan.

"God will take care of the righteous", taken literally, has two consequences:

It lets life appear controllable (nothing feels as good as a nice little control illusion).

It makes "righteoussness" measurable (even more control illusion). A congregation of Christians that is "taken care of" quite obviously seems to do something right.

Which is your dearest wish come true, if you're a devout Christian totally disoriented by a plethora of competing denominations.

Not to ignore this feeling really, really special once you're an accepted member of the provable and obvious one true faith. (let's call it the "City upon the Hill" syndrome)

A combination of deadly feelgood effects of this magnitude naturally warps reality perceptions.

If you threaten my basking in merited delightful gloriousness, God-given no less, by asking awkward questions and coming up with wicked "facts" and "data" or simply by showing me the hidden ugliness of the world, you're proven ungodly beyond doubt. You're utterly evil.

No wonder, really.

252:

"Please put quotes around quotes." opps. do you feel better now? I'm better with a a 10 lb hammer.

253:

"In the 1970's and 1980's a public revulsion against the public institutions." "One over the CoCos Nest" came out and it was watched over and over in collages by stoned people who believed it was a up to date documentary. So the evil lockups were ended.
But the pols never came up with the money for the local care to take there place. Not that they would have stayed there anyway. The local Salvation Army said the homeless people that people were worrying about then, were not the people who were turned out of care. 80% of them died in the first winter.
The law just so nuts. The meds make people feel bad. They can not be made to take them. So they act weird or cut people and go to jail. There they can be made to take meds and act sane. More or less. But the wardens who don't want them in jail say they are mistreated and being in jail makes them worse. It took both the Liberals and the Cons to mess up this bad.

254:

Charlie:
In 2000, the American Psychiatric Association estimated that 20% of the prison population in the US suffered from "serious" mental illness, and 5% were actively psychotic at any given time. A later study looking at data from 2002-2003 and 2005-2006 estimated that about 15% of the male prisoners were seriously mentally ill (major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.), and 30% of the female prisoners were.

I would bet that the 50 to 80% figure includes a lot of people who need treatment for drug dependency and mental problems relating to drug addiction (just because they shouldn't have been put in jail just for using meth doesn't mean that meth hasn't done considerable mental and physical damage, for instance).

C @ 243:

I think the part of the population that wants to shove everyone else out the airlock is still relatively small, but they've captured the politicians (and not just the Tea Party) because it's not politically acceptable to be "soft" on crime. The voters generally go along with this because they've been systematically lied to by the media, who keep telling them how much crime there is1, when in fact violent crime has been going down almost monotonically for more than 2 decades2.

1. A noxious example: the local Faux TV News here in Portland starts its 10 PM newscast almost every single night with at least one and usually more than one story about a sexual predator who has been discovered using his (or occasionally her) position as a teacher / coach / priest / counselor / Scout leader to molest young children. When they don't have one of those stories they report that someone (usually said to be "Hispanic") has attempted to abduct a child on the way to school. Now some of these stories are true (but by no means all of them, as I've checked back on some later on), but much of the reportage is intended to make the stories drag on for days when they have nothing additional to report.

2. Which is one of the reasons that the politicians and the "prison-industrial complex" are so eager to use drug charges to send people to jail: the pool of violent criminals is smaller than it used to be and they need the number of prisoners to increase in order to grow their business.

255:

#242 'What we don't have is a huge private "corrections" industry '

That's true as far as it goes; run a websearch for "Premiere Prisons", and work out from there if you don't think that private enterprise exists in the UK prisons "industry".

256:

Greg, many thanks. Would return the thread to topicality, but I've never been to Glasgow...

257:

@229 Sean S:

I'd love a Multicultural Mixed Economy. I've lived in Amsterdam 12 years and seen it change a lot. [Anecdotal observations follow.]

Call it the Great White European Freakout. The former monocultures of (mostly northern) Europe could (sorta) deal with former colonials moving in, but not Turkish and Moroccan guest workers two or three generations on still working out their cultural identities. In the Netherlands in the late 1990s, well before 9/11, newspapers were going on about honor killings and female genital mutilation, though actual incidents were rare.

Also, the fabled Dutch (mostly meaning Amsterdam) tolerance may have owed a lot to the influx of cultural refugees from the US, UK, post-1968 France, an ammnesiac West Germany and dictatorships like Portugal, Spain and Greece. It gave the local Provo movement a critical leg up into the political scene, unlike with similar movements elsewhere.

Problem is, that generation are dying off and their political heirs, as heirs often do, have mostly squandered the legacy of tolerance. Those who see the 1960s as a big wrong turn are still around and are happily using shock doctrine tactics to rectify the situation. That's a friend's theory, but I think he's spot on.


@244 JamesPadraicR:

Those anti-drug films were shown when I was in middle school in the mid-1970s, and even earlier. My fave has a kid doing a school project on^H^Habout LSD. He naturally turns to the police for info. Great photos of deformed stillborn babies (accompanied by musical stings), one with what looks like a dick growing out of its forehead. They were really guinea pig fetuses whose mothers had been given massive LSD doses during pregnancy.

Not to mention TV shows like Adam-12, Baretta, Kojak, Streets of San Francisco, Mod Squad, Dragnet, etc. The 1970s had drug episodes of cop, doctor and lawyer shows like the 1980s had punk episodes of same.

YouTube is your friend!

258:

Not to mention TV shows like Adam-12, Baretta, Kojak, Streets of San Francisco, Mod Squad, Dragnet, etc. The 1970s had drug episodes of cop, doctor and lawyer shows like the 1980s had punk episodes of same.

I remember some of those shows, and some later ones where the drug of choice among the TV writers always seemed to be PCP/Angel Dust.

259:

I was in Amsterdam on 9/11 and had an interesting conversation with a (white female) taxi driver. Your experiment in multiculturalism seemed to be having, shall we say, mixed results? This is where I always part company with "progressives" -- their narrative of inevitable happy multicultural integration seems to have little basis in fact, almost like some quasi-religious article of faith. I found it very jarring and disorienting to be in parts of European cities that didn't look European. Has anything like this ever been attempted in the history of human civilization?

That was ten years ago; it sounds like Europeans attitudes are hardening, which was 100% predictable. I think Mr. Wilders is going to win this argument as the War of Civilizations continues and demographic pressures intensify in Europe.

260:

You quoted Hitler and didn't mark what he said vs. what you said. Yes, of course putting quotes around what I said is right. Online we also use italics and paragraph changes.

261:


""You quoted Hitler and didn't mark what he said vs. what you said."" tack you very much. i hope no one though i said what was in his name mello GUY, mello I've had people I know lose it over what they said were harmless drugs. I got up and got down at times. They are why I stopped.
Brain scans (no I don't remember what kind ) show even coffee changes how parts of your brain works for at time. Anything that can work on your brain mimetics something your body makes as needed. It goes into the brain's different rectures a molecule at a time. Not as brain soup.
I talked to a much younger than I researcher for a major drug company once. We started off on neurotransmitters (his work). When the brain is flooded with phony neurotransmitters some receptors die for good. (this is in print) So different parts of the brain can no longer use what it needs. Heavy stoners need the drugs to feel normal but they can never, ever really go back to normal.
Years ago, a study found many drug users needed meds and were using street drugs instead of legal ones. If they were down they tried to get up etc.
Over here cut backs are making hard for people who have been ill for years to get their meds. In one state someone who had been ill for years, knew he was getting worse and could not get his meds, just cut at the the man walking next to the State Governor.

262:

Multicultural integration can turn out well if the government doesn't ignore its problems for a decade or two and then panic when something bad happens. The Dutch government never seemed to deal with crime and unemployment among immigrants, so the far right had the floor, saying these problems were inherent in immigration (of dark people). After 9/11, the far right said "we told you so," and gave the mainstream right political cover for reaction.

There's a lot of excluded middle going on about multiculturalism, as if the only choices are to be completely nonjudgmental on things like honor killings, which nobody is, or writing off the very idea of multiculturalism as hopeless and going back to a monoculture, which is impossible.

I live near the center of Amsterdam on a busy boulevard, across from a mosque. It's a good neighborhood. This is Europe, not Euro Disney.

Has "anything like this" been tried in the history of human civilization? Sure, by the US, UK, Brazil, Australia, the Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman Empires, to name a few. It wasn't multiculturalism that killed off the last three.

263:


Schizophrenia is now know to from a virus that every one has. In a few percent of us it becomes active when they are kids. There is no cure.
Some years ago, a study was made at a "gladiator" school for violent kids. The Docs said everybody there had obvious signs of brain damage. They were in hell and were likely to stay there.

264:

Be careful with your assertions -- the schizophrenia virus link is not known at all. It's suspected, and doubted by quite a few people. One old article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1269155.stm -- note that that's back in 2001 (I didn't try sorting my search by date).

If you have citations, you should provide them.

265:

Well, the schizophrenigen virus comes up every few years, there is some circumstancial evidence, like correlation of schizoprenia and birth month or exposure to certain viruses in utero.

But then, AFAIK there is some doubt there is ONE schizophrenia, leaving aside the question of the validity of historic labels for different syndromes like paranoid vs. hebephrenic, there seem to be some differences in sensitivity to drug treatment, some people are said only to respond to clozapine, and AFAIK there are differences in the level of anatomical changes.

But then, I lately came across an article about strange MRI results in otherwise healthy people, so I ask myself if it's just sampling bias, e.g. we have an idea what a healthy brain looks like, but this corresponds badly with the realities of the population; since MRI cost are expensive, this errorneous assumption goes unchecked; schizophrenic brains, OTOH, get MRIs quite often (death by brain tumour is bad for insurtance, and 'organic psychosis' is on of the differentials), so we get to see the variable population in all its g(l)ory. And last but not least, the facts that social isolation (not that unheard of in a paranoid mutterer) may not be that good for neuron survival and that haloperidol might have some MPTP-like metabolites that are neurotoxic also put some question marks to studies like these. So well, let's put soem question marks to "brain abnormalities in schizophrenia".

On another level, there seem to be some genes that influence the manifestation of SZ, e.g. there might be some overlap between ADHD and schizotypy in the attentional domains.

Concerning behaviourally disturbed children, most of those are not SZ, but that's another story.

266:

This is what's new about Schizophrenia, so far as I know. There is a lot of thinking about Schizophrenia. Of the could be this, could be that kind.
In the years since my cousan has dropped out of sight, the best answer was "nobody really knows." This sounds like the like best of what a non pro can find.
Popular Magazines sell by there covers. But I think this looks good. Maybe. http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/03-the-insanity-virus/?searchterm=Schizophrenia

267:

What are some examples of multiculturalism turning out well with respect to Islam? If you look around the world, you see fighting wherever Muslims come into contact with other cultures. And you want to import this ideology into your country? Sir, are you mad?

Islam is by definition an imperialistic, anti-liberal ideology which seeks to control all aspects of society. Strangely, when people like Gert Wilders point this out they are attacked by people on the Left! WTF?

Of course I'm just an Islamophobe, racist, blah blah blah. LOL! Why have so many Westerners adopted this bizarre, suicidal "tolerance"? I am genuinely puzzled by this phenomenon -- it seems to be a mental virus without precedent in history!

268:

You could probably generalize: "If you look around the world, you see fighting wherever [fill in culture here] comes into contact with other cultures."

269:

SOME aspects and sects of Islam.
Labelling all muslims the same is as stupid as saying the Inquisition, the Wee Free and the Quakers are all the same.

That said, there is a very dangerous ("militant") component of both Sunni and Shia islam that need squashing.

270:

"Under Ottoman rule, dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects) were allowed to "practice their religion, subject to certain conditions, and to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy, see: Millet" and guaranteed their personal safety and security of property, in return for paying tribute to Muslims and acknowledging Muslim supremacy. While recognizing the inferior status of dhimmis under Islamic rule, Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, states that, in most respects, their position was "was very much easier than that of non-Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval Europe.""
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Ottoman_Empire
So, yeah...

271:

At several times in this thread there have been comments made about the US as a whole. As if the R's are all Tea Party advocates, christian prosperity gospel followers, and want to eliminate all welfare and social security type programs yesterday.

Might I suggest the story of the blind describing an elephant? With the twist that they all approached from the same direction and missed most of the beast?

The USA that seems to exist in the minds of many here ... well I don't see it. Or really I see it in small minorities of people. And as I've mentioned I live in central NC. But that's after growing up in far western Kentucky (6 to 8 hours from the hillbilly areas) and spent 8 years in Pittsburg and New England. Plus business trips all over the US about 30 time a year for a while.

I move in circles that include stanch evangelical Christians and stanch atheistic folks. Some vote the D ticket without fail and others the R. And some mix it up.

Do people in Europe really think that everyone over here who doesn't agree with Obama is wrong and just plain crazy? So they really think all the prisons in the US are private? Do they really think 50% of the folks in prison are only there because they are mentally ill and need to be treated by a professional out side of the prison system?

One reason I don't comment on the state of politics in the UK is I know I'm not getting a very balanced view of things from my distance. My only real contact with society in Europe is with Germany and you know, things over there seem to have a few issues along with the US.

272:

At several times in this thread there have been comments made about the US as a whole. As if the R's are all Tea Party advocates, christian prosperity gospel followers, and want to eliminate all welfare and social security type programs yesterday.

TBF, this is the sort of view that you are quite likely to acquire by webchatting politics with Rs. (been there, done that... do a websearch for [paws4thot &punditkitchen] if you don't believe me).

Do they really think 50% of the folks in prison are only there because they are mentally ill?

I think you've said this in a way that suggests you've got cause and effect backwards. I don't think anyone is suggesting that people are doing time because they are mentally ill; rather that we have an impression that people are doing time because they committed crimes that they would not have comitted had they received better mental healthcare.

273:

@David L:

You gotta admit the Republicans who get elected tend to give that impression, regardless of whether their party has a silent sane majority. I know a lot of engineers who just don't want to pay taxes and don't believe the world was created 6000 years ago, but they'll pull the "R" lever, no matter how crazy and cruel the candidate.

The lineup for Monday night's GOP debate promised more of the same, with the only non-crazy one (Romney) trying to walk back his one real accomplishment, a state-level version of Obama's healthcare reform. An Eisenhower Republican might have a better chance with the general electorate, but he's already sitting in the White House.

274:


"Really think 50% of the folks in prison are only there because they are mentally ill?" This is a snake or egg deal. Warden and Guard Associations says there to many mentally ill in prison and they need to be treated by a professional out side of the prison system! The Cons are just mad to be mean, to somebody. Somebody who can't hit back.

There are a lot mentally ill who are not in jail. Why, they were lucky and got help. Even if it was a just a good lawyer.
Remember when the Right Wing got so hard on kids a few year ago. There was a real study that said there would be a lot of killer kids coming on. What the study said that if they got help they would be alright. Guess what part of the study the PARTY OF MEAN acted on.

275:

" a good chunk of the middle class considers it a matter of merit-- if you can afford health insurance, you deserve top-quality healthcare, and if you can't you might generously and charitably be granted second- or third-rate care." Lets see, hit that on the head, that's very right, that's the way it is here now. It's my money and I want it in my bank.

276:

Well, my source for information about schizophrenia is my son, who is a clinical research psychologist specializing on research in and teaching about the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia. Among other research he runs a clinic where he both treats and studies his patients.

I asked him about the virus theory a few months ago, and he said that it's an interesting idea, but that there's not really a lot of data to support it. There's certainly no direct link to any given virus, nor any strong indirect statistical data about correlation (and certainly not causation) between viral infection and schizophrenia onset. Now, it is possible that there is a virus, and that it has a long incubation period. Possibly it's a retrovirus that hides in human DNA. But there's no evidence for any of this at the moment. So really, the virus idea isn't really a theory yet, just a hypothesis waiting for falsification.

277:

I know I am not qualified to say for sure. Nobody is yet, thats yet.. But maybe parts of this is new enough the old think has not up to date. the magazines piece did go into the objections. magazines are sold by their covers. Something new sells better. But?
"Tokyo – Radioactive caesium was detected from two minke whales caught off a city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, 650 kilometres north-east of a damaged nuclear plant, a news report said on Tuesday.
Researchers examined six of the 17 whales during so-called research whaling in Kushiro city, which started this year’s season in late April, and they detected 31 becquerels and 24.3 becquerels of radioactive caesium per kilogram in the two whales out of the six, Kyodo News reported citing a whalers’ association.
While the level of the radioactive substances remained below the limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram, the association officials told a news conference in the city that the contamination must have been caused by the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant." BUT IT'S SAFE THEY SAY.

278:

Maybe it's stress that put the most of the mentally ill in jail. The FBI calls them stressors. Enough stressors and almost anyone can crack. The classic case is a guy who seems normal to all. He loses his job, can't find new work, his wife leaves and takes the kids. He gets out his gun and kills them and himself. Or peope at his old job, or robs banks, or starts hunting people.
The FBI says it a old story and when they look for the guilty, one of the first things they look for is someone who has just had a run of really bad luck. The closer to the edge you are the faster you go over it.
So do you think the cons are making more stress for all. They say its needed for progress. if there more stress whats it doing to all of us?

279:

Do they really think 50% of the folks in prison are only there because they are mentally ill?

I think you've said this in a way that suggests you've got cause and effect backwards. I don't think anyone is suggesting that people are doing time because they are mentally ill; rather that we have an impression that people are doing time because they committed crimes that they would not have comitted had they received better mental healthcare.

OK. I'll take it your way. But 50%? I just listened to an interview with a brain specialist and the topic came up. He said an accepted value for the high side was 30%. And that doesn't mean they would not have committed the crime with prior treatment. Just that maybe some would not have done it and treatment could have been done instead of prison.

280:

I think we're all basically agreeing - better mental healthcare would have prevented some of the mentally ill people in prisons committing the crimes that they've been imprisoned for. Certainly I'm not suggesting that better mental healthcare would prevent all mentally ill people from committing crimes. Similarly, I wouldn't suggest that a "guaranteed basic income" would prevent all burglary, muggings or shoplifting, although it would prevent some "crimes of desperation" where the perpetrator stole food for dependants, or to obtain cash to buy food or meds for dependants.

281:

Yes. I know some people, one a relative, who seemed to be wired to just not care a hoot about property rights. At all. Or obeying laws. Or rules. Or anything. I have no idea if they are wired that way, wired to a predisposition and raised wrong, or just plain raised wrong. But those folks are a serious issues that will not go away by almost any amount of treatment.

And reading Charlie's blog makes me wonder at times if Europe didn't do a genetic "cleansing" for a few 100 years in shoving people over here to our side of the big pond. Independent to a fault. Stubborn. You name it. Of course I like it. I don't want to live where everyone thinks alike. :)

282:

Some years ago over here, a study was made at a "gladiator" school for violent kids. The Docs said everybody there had obvious signs of brain damage. They were in hell and were likely to stay there.
You Brits have done a lot of work on Sociopaths. Is there any doubt that jails are full of them. Dumb ones. Smart ones win votes. Our pens are full of mildly retarded drug users. There is not much to do with people who are doing life a little at a time. It's more of a public heath thing like a disease carriers. But a few people did get rehabilitate back when it was still tried!
Not that many years ago there were jobs for them to go to. That would help everything now. What we are doing can not last.

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