October 26, 2012

Is it something in the water?

What on earth is in the water being used to brew all that tea?
Because I haven't had this much attention paid to my lady parts since my last gynecological examination. And if we need to discuss them, could we do so in private? And perhaps be introduced first?
Outside of the simply outrageous violation of personal privacy (as well as privacies covered by the Constitution) the amount of time and energy being spent worry about, studying, and publicly discussing the genitals, sexual practices, sexual assaults and sexual preferences of other people is in mind bogglingly poor taste.

I vacillate between a conviction that the prurient focus is designed as smoke-and-mirrors to keep everyone's attention away from the bigger issues (the economy, jobs, healthcare, education...) and that perhaps these folks just need to get some "relief" so they can think about something else!
Honestly, 16 year old boys spend less time perseverating on the possible sexual practices of strangers than some of our "honorable" representatives in Washington and candidates for same.
American Media: the correct response to a male politician expressing his "opinions" on anything of a gynecological nature is "EWWWWW". Followed by "no, seriously". Especially if his authority comes from anything outside of a Gynecologist. In 2012.
This election cycle has been the creepiest I have ever witnessed, and I lived through Watergate.
People, when you can creep out a nurse, who lives on the internet, and who remembers Richard Nixon....

October 25, 2012

The Dismal Science

Economics really needs some Steampunk, some Tesla, some Zeppelins.
Trying to read about and understand what is going on in our economy is frustrating, exhausting, and BORING. It is also really, really important. And a whole lot of the complicated double-talk and seeming contradictions being thrown around are designed to make you run screaming back to LOL cats despairing of ever understanding what is going on.
I am not an economist or a historian. I do pay attention to history, and the past couple of decades has looked a lot like the free-for-all that was going on among the rich and powerful during the early part of the last century. With predictable results.
Now there are lots of folks to tell me that I just don't understand how complex the current economy has become, how different the world is than it was in 1929, etc. Granted. So I look to some folks with a lot more on the ball than myself to see what they think. And guess what?
Some interesting reading for those interested in having more information on how the heck we got here.

Elizabeth Warren Interview

Contrary Brin

Please, let us recall that President Obama inherited an economy in free-fall. He did NOT cause it, although amusingly he was being accused of same even before he was moved into the White House!
I personally thought he was insane for wanting what was probably going to be a pretty thankless job. Just ask poor Herbert Hoover about that one!

Okay - so maybe we have a bit of a handle on the problem. What is the solution?
Unsurprisingly, simply voting for candidate A, B or writing in Mickey Mouse (again) is not going to fix everything and bring a golden age of prosperity.
Getting someone in office who is willing to make hard choices that will help rebuild the middle class, rather than simply enriching the already wealthy is a good start.

October 15, 2012

Science vs Religion

Recent comments by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun regarding his religious beliefs and how they influence his votes in Congress have caused a lot of concern, since he sits on the House Science Committee: CNN Belief Blog post

This got me thinking about fundamental differences in how people think about humanity in general based on their religious beliefs.
If I come from a standpoint that mankind was created by an omniscient, omnipotent diety in their own image, created as a perfect being, then I am coming from a place of having been created perfect and then corrupted to the present state. So the focus would be regaining what was lost, and returning to the previous state of perfection.

However, if my point of view is that mankind has evolved from mammalian progenitors who evolved from even earlier forms, then understanding our reactions and impulses comes from considering our progenitors. By understanding how our primate relatives interact, we gain insight into ourselves. In this model, we are still developing and evolving - simply one more step in an ongoing process.

I personally find the second model most useful, since it provides me with insight into human behavior and motivations without getting bogged down in moral judgement. It is also interesting to think about how certain behaviors affect individuals and groups on an overall troupe success or survival basis.
That said - I think that having people who have strong religious beliefs that contradict current scientific thought should be ethical enough to recuse themselves from those committees in the first place. In the absence of such ethics, the committee should excuse them from membership based upon their strongly held beliefs. Should a passionate pacifist be elected, they certainly should not serve on a Committee responsible for making decisions that affect the military. This does not promote democracy, it ensures that things get bogged down in committees forever and nothing can ever get into the house to be democratically voted upon!

Religion, Politics and Magical Thinking...oh my!!

Might as well jump in at the deep end and just get it over with!
POV overview (not really a disclaimer, because I do claim all my experience as valid but it is just MY experience):
  • Spent a couple of decades going to school while working, got my bachelors in nursing.
  • Certified Hospice/Palliative nurse for 10 years
  • Medically disabled for the past 2 years
  • No income for over a year due to refusal of long term disability insurance to pay. 
My goodness, where to start? The world is so very different than I thought it would be. And chillingly familiar to someone who read a LOT of science fiction.
But just to talk about the current rhetoric being thrown about, and some of the issues that have raised my personal hackles.

Firstly of course, is the whole demonizing of the poor and elderly which has emerged as an apparently valid campaign strategy in an economy that has left far too many of us poor as well as impoverishing a lot of the elderly! So we adult children are facing not only our own economic crises, but also taking in or arranging care for parents who have few resources as well. 
The rationale for this gets into the magical thinking that permeates the rhetoric one sees in social media, from pundits, and even from candidates.
"I worked hard, paid my taxes, took care of my family, went to church, and became a success." Ergo - if you are NOT a success then you have obviously failed in one of the above.

Reality and personal experience of individuals puts lie to this myth every single day. The difference that I have seen is that those who indulge in this sort of magical thinking make those instances "The Exception". Much like the racist who has a friend of color "but he/she is Different", the homophobe who finds out someone they know is gay "but he/she doesn't act like That", the misogynist with a female friend "she acts like one of the Guys" - this individual looks at the person they know who is unemployed, or disabled, or divorced, or poor, and says "oh but he/she is Different!"
Each instance that they become familiar with is an exception to their Rule, rather than invalidating the stereotype that forms the basis for overall philosophy.
This is not to point fingers and say "You!" at all. Any of us that grew up in the dominant culture in the US were indoctrinated into this sort of magical thinking from Santa Claus on. Most children's books and stories are designed to teach us that being good is rewarded and being bad is punished.
And while this is true in many cases, the problem arises when one transposes the cause and effect. Assuming that a failure to work hard, pay taxes, take care of family, go to church, etc are the reasons for poverty, unemployment, illness, etc is not only a logical fallacy but also a disservice to human beings.
It is understandable. To assume that one is at the mercy of fate, a spin of the cosmic wheel, that random chance could result in disaster is terrifying. If one can comfort oneself with the reassurance that the bad things that happen to others were probably their own fault then that creates a magical ward against such random chance hitting your own home. Until it does, of course.
Then, it is Different.
So let's try this:
Try changing perspective as an experiment.
Imagine that everyone out there is struggling, trying their best. And everyone has challenges and problems that you know nothing about. Maybe she isn't just lazy, maybe she was up all night with a sick family member or an abusive spouse. And maybe he is depressed and beaten down from being rejected for job after job for over a year. And maybe you have no idea what living in their heads or bodies feels like, and maybe that is something you should just be grateful about.
Disease, economic downturns, natural disaster, death...they all happen. To Them, and to Us. Randomly, to the good and to the bad. To the wealthy and the poor. To the healthy and the well. To Democrats, Republicans and even to Libertarians!
My favorite quote really sums it up for me:
"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
 -- Marcus to Franklin in Babylon 5:"A Late Delivery from Avalon"