Saturday, February 17, 2018

Critical Thinking and Gun Reform

This article dealing with gun reform, by author and speaker Brené Brown, is worth reading.
Excerpted from the article:
"The ability to think past either/or situations is the foundation of critical thinking, but still, it requires courage. Getting curious and asking questions happens outside our ideological bunkers. It feels easier and safer to pick a side. The argument is set up in a way that there’s only one real option. If we stay quiet we’re automatically demonized as “the other.”
The only true option is to refuse to accept the terms of the argument by challenging the framing of the debate. But make no mistake; this is opting for the wilderness. Why? Because the argument is set up to silence dissent and draw lines in the sand that squelch debate, discussion, and questions—the very processes that we know lead to effective problem solving."

"...Of all of the lobbying organizations I’ve studied over the past twenty years, not one of them has done a better job using fear and false dichotomies than the NRA. Today’s NRA rhetoric employs the ominous they and forces “us versus them” language over and over. Allow anyone to buy any type of gun and ammunition, when and wherever they want, or they will break down your door, take away your guns, crush your freedom, kill everyone you love, and put an end to the American way. They are after us. They are coming. That’s the biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve heard since someone told me, “If you own a gun—any gun—you might as well be the one pulling the trigger in all of these terrible mass shootings.” No and no." 

"...The only way to successfully bring about gun reform is if a critical mass of us are willing to have honest, tough, civil conversations outside of our ideological bunkers. Gun reform will not happen unless the silent majority of gun owners who passionately disagree with the NRA’s divisive rhetoric and complete lack of respect for responsible gun culture speak out and take political and economic action.
When we engage in the “us versus them” argument, we lose. The only person who wins is the person who owns the framing of the argument."

The thought I took away from this is that the NRA can't be part of the solution because they are to a large degree the problem. They have forfeited the right to frame the argument.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

'Useful idiot' at best

 You may be too young to remember the once famous magazine advertisements by the Philadelphia Bulletin of happy memory. The ads showed a crowd.  In the background an airplane was crashing or a tall  building was burning. One little guy in a black suit was jumping up and down, shouting and pointing at the unfolding disaster, but everyone else had his nose in the newspaper. The caption was: “In Philadelphia, nearly everyone reads the Bulletin.”

 That’s how it looks to me now, with Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the former National Intelligence Director in the role of the guy in the black suit. Russia is disrupting the country with propaganda, and the all eyes are on Twitter.  Clapper’s successor, Dan Coats, testified this week that Russia deemed its efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign “successful.” That would be news if the media covered it instead of taking Donald J. Trump on his own terms and covering the circus.

 But if it is true, the President of the United States is an unwitting or witting stooge of Vladimir Putin. If he is unwitting, he is what Vladimir Lenin termed a “useful idiot.” If he is witting, there is not a whole helluva lot we can do about it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"What are they giving out today?"

There are many qualities of the Trump Administration that frequently are criticized: the incompetence; the chaos; the tweeting; the lying; the contempt for Constitutional norms; the hostility toward immigrants; and so on.  Most of these qualities, of course, are more or less directly traceable to the character and personality of the president.

But there is another aspect of the Trump Administration that may deserve more consideration than it has received so far: the policy innovations.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Conflicts Between Faith and Science

There is an interesting book review by John Farrell on the Commonweal site.  The title of the article  is "The Conflict Continues". The book being reviewed is On Faith and Science, by Edward J. Larson and Michael Ruse.
From the article:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Endangered species: pro-life Democrats in Congress [Updated 2/12/2018]

First Things, in my view, has been running on fumes for the last nine years, continuing to get by on the goodwill and reputation among religious conservatives that was built up by the periodical's founder, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, who passed away in 2009. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

A True Conundrum and Some Conundrum Confusion

I find the Brexit issue fascinating and regularly check in to see on how it's going. Teresa May is taking the hits, but I wonder if anybody could negotiate this to a reasonable conclusion.

One of the stickiest wickets is the Irish question. If Northern Ireland is to stay part of the UK some solution must be found to the question of being in-or-out of the single EU market. The Republic of Ireland does not want a border constructed and I would bet a lot of Unionists don't want one either. Teresa May has fudged the issue to assure the continuing support of her government by the Protestant-like  UDP (Ulster Democratic Party). Now the EU has issued what looks like an ultimatum: May must make up her mind.

"The EU will prepare a draft of the U.K. withdrawal treaty that envisions Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union — essentially issuing an ultimatum that London come up with other options or accept that there is no other practical way to avoid the recreation of a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Friday." Brexit Ultimatum--Politico.

Perhaps part of the fascination lies in the fact that this is not an American problem--at least, not yet.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

O, Say Can You See Straight?

 Some variously related nits annoying me came together today. It's the day of the National Prayer Breakfast, and the Prayer-in-Chief spoke at the event to acknowledge that there is a God and the Bible is good and people ought to practice their Christian religion.

 President Obama used to go to these exercises in public smarm, too, but he was always accused of not going, and what he said was fly-specked for heresies against capitalism and the National Purpose. Trump will get a pass because, after all, he didn't say anything. Furthermore...