Friday, October 31, 2008

Why I Am Not a Catholic (Political Issue)

A recent story on NPR's Morning Edition encapsulates many of my reasons for leaving the Roman Catholic Church. It is an oppressive, anti-progress religion whose hierarchy has a vested interest in suppressing social and spiritual development.

The story recounts the experiences of several anti-abortion Catholics who have experienced harrassment in various forms from their more fanatical brethren. For example, Rick Gebhard, a member of the Knights of Columbus who set up a pro-Obama website after the organization took out an anti-Obama advertisement in several major newspapers, has been threatened with expulsion from the organization and even legal action because of his stand. Similarly, Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor, has experienced harrassment from certain portions of the laity and public condemnation by a Bishop due to his pro-Obama stance.

Particularly disturbing to me is the hypocrisy displayed by some anti-Obama Catholics quoted in the article. For example, Catholic theologian George Weigel boasts that the Supreme Court is gradually chipping away at the right to abortion. Doesn't that contradict the usual conservative / pro-life argument that the Supreme Court shouldn't be making law?

What dissident Catholics need to realize is that the problem is not just a few fanatical right-wing Catholics. They are just one symptom, one outgrowth of a far larger problem within the Catholic Church-a stultifying hierarchy bent on imposing its will on all Catholics. The only solution is to make the leap to Protestantism, which at least has an emphasis on the free will of the believer. I, for one, have joined the Unitarian Universalists.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Post of Particular Note to Our Readers in West Virginia

It seems that a lot of the electronic voting machines being supplied by the ES&S company are apparently having extreme problems with calibration after they are moved into the poll station. These calibration problems cause the vote to register for a different candidate than the one you selected when you voted. For instance, early voters have experienced issues when they try to vote for Barack Obama, only to find their vote registering as Ralph Nader or another fringe candidate. The election integrity site Brad Blog offers a video demonstrating this problem and its potential effect on next Tuesday's election, posted below. Similar problems have cropped up in other states.

This may just be an honest instance of mechanical breakdown. However, given what happened in 2000, and reports of electoral misconduct during the 2004 election, we should be very suspicious of any irregularities during this election.

A Matter of Perception

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks had a surprisingly insightful column yesterday regarding the importance of perception to the economy. Although classical liberal economists such as those who blog at Cafe Hayek focus on the rational interest of businessmen and consumers as the best hope for a stable economy, behavioral economists such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb note that self-interest often leads people to see what they want to, often ignoring convincing evidence to the contrary.

For example, Taleb notes that modern risk-management models used by banks and other businesses are not effective in warning of major hazards. For instance, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, Taleb predicted the problems that would be posed by Fannie Mae, warning that it was sitting on "a barrel of dynamite." As Brooks concedes, the perceptions of Wall Street traders and others were influenced by their own biases and expectations, failing to perceive how a globalized economy created the possibility of widespread failure.

To be fair, one should note Brooks's observation that the same problems of perception could even more easily arise in a government controlled system. This is not a case for a communist or totally socialized system. Still, the views of Taleb and other behavioral economists should give pause to those who feel that self-interested businessmen are the solution to every financial problem.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama and Terrorism

Andrew Sullivan has a very intelligent post regarding Sen. Obama's strategy for fighting terrorism. As Sullivan notes, the current strategy for defeating terrorism worldwide has not been working. Although there have been no major terror attacks against the United States since 9 / 11, al-Qaeda is on the rise again, and Afghanistan is slowly drifting back into chaos.

Some, such as Alexander Cockburn and Richard Kim, will no doubt count Sullivan's support as a point against Obama. However, there is nothing wrong with gaining the support of moderate, intelligent conservatives like Sullivan. As Sullivan himself points out in his post, he came to some of the wrong conclusions about how to react to 9 / 11. What is important is that he has had the sense to recognize that, and adjust his position accordingly.

Monday, October 27, 2008

All about Alexander

Alexander Cockburn has published a condemnation of Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy in The Nation. As usual, his essay is characterized by a total misunderstanding of American politics.

Cockburn's main beefs with Obama: That the Senator is willing to go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and attack terrorists in other countries. I'm sorry to break it to you, Alex, but most Americans are perfectly fine with that. Most liberals do not oppose defense so much as they oppose war on countries that do not threaten us.

Second, he notes, correctly, that Obama has not taken as strong as stance on civil liberties as might be hoped. This is a valid point, Mr. Cockburn, but it should be noted that this is no worse than what McCain is proposing. Indeed, a President Obama might be willing to revise the Patriot Act. We will have no such chance with McCain.

What is particularly galling about Cockburn's article is what it omits. It does not discuss what the two candidates with a chance of winning would do with their Supreme Court nominations, an issue with the potential to affect a variety of what Cockburn calls "decent progressive principles" ranging from abortion to health care and the death penalty.

Second, he does not discuss the prospect of an outright religious fanatic-Sarah Palin-being within a heartbeat of the presidency. Cockburn notes that Iraq War supporter Christopher Hitchens has endorsed Obama. What he fails to mention is that Hitchens largely based his endorsement on McCain's inclusion of such a fanatic on his ticket.

When it comes to issues like that, Mr. Cockburn, I would rather be on Hitchens's side any day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

World Series, Game 3

Well, the World Series will be moving to my hometown tonight, barring any interference from the weather. The Phillies and Rays are tied so far.

What I think the home team needs to do:

1. Get Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins back in gear. They've been basically inactive during the post season. Although it is a testament to the team that they've come so far without them, we need them to step up.

2. Stop stranding runners. I don't know how many times during this series that we've had runners on second or third base and haven't been able to get them home.

3. Pitching. Brett Myers performance on the mound on Thursday was awful, and largely responsible for giving the Rays such an early lead.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Conspiracy Builds

The Crooked Timber blog has a hilarious post about the international conspiracy by Socialists to throw our economy into chaos so that Obama can be elected. Amazing to imagine the power a bunch of anarcho-communists have over world finance.

Thanks to Paul Krugman for highlighting this on his blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ruthie, Ruthie, Ruthie...

Attn: Ruth Ann Dailey, Columnist, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dear Ms. Dailey,

The column you published yesterday on the supposed use of white liberal guilt to rally support for Obama has to be one of the most comical attempts at a right wing polemic I have ever seen. Never mind not living up to the standards of William F. Buckley or George Will; you aren't even in the same arena with Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin.

First, the evidence you back your assertion with is at best weak. You cite the remarks of only three figures to support your claim. (Really only two when you consider that one at the end of the column, Colin Powell, seems to have been shoe-horned in at the last minute when his support for Obama was made public on Sunday.) Three people-Powell, Rep. John Murtha, and Gov. Ed Rendell-can hardly be said to represent the overall trend of Democratic rhetoric.

What is especially amusing is that one figure you quote was not supporting Sen. Obama, while you blatantly misrepresent another. As you admit in your column, Gov. Rendell was arguing for Sen. Hillary Clinton when he warned that many white Pennsylvanian voters would not support a black candidate. Although you try to portray this as liberal elitism, you have to wonder whether Gov. Rendell knows a bit more about Pennsylvania politics than you do, given that he has won two state-wide elections here. Furthermore, your own newspaper recently published an article featuring interviews with a number of these voters. Your co-workers are cutting you off at the knees.

Particularly galling is your misrepresentation of Powell's remarks. You make reference to a short passage in his interview with Meet the Press in which he referred to the election of Sen. Obama as offering a chance at a generational change. You treat this as the entirety of his remarks, when anyone who reads about them can see is not true. Powell cites a number of reasons for backing Sen. Obama, including his position on the economy and the inexperience of Gov. Palin. The latter issue has also been noted by a number of conservatives, including Peggy Noonan hardly people one would expect to associate with liberal guilt.

Face it, Ruthie, your candidate is unable to fight it out on the issues, so he and minions like you are trying to distract everyone with irrelevant side issues.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Few Hours Not Wasted

This morning, I spent four hours answering telephones at WQED, a local radio station in Pittsburgh which plays classical music. They are having their annual fall pledge drive, and one of our grad activity announcements mentioned that they were looking for volunteers.

I found it to be a very worthwhile, fulfilling experience. My greatest moment was when I took a call for $365 during an hour when we had a matching challenge of $1000.

My only complaint was that a lot of people called just with inane questions, like what was the CD they heard about yesterday. (I don't know, why didn't you call yesterday?) One guy called to ask if we had the weather report.

Still, I greatly enjoyed my time. It felt good to actually contribute something to my community.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Congrats to Krugman

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has won a Nobel Prize in Economics. Krugman's columns are excellent exposes of the current state of affairs, and they unashamedly put forth a liberal vision of what our economy and government should be.

Naturally, some bloggers aren't happy about this development. Russell Roberts at the Cafe Hayek blog is practically boiling over with resentment that someone who does not represent his version of "the economic way of thinking" got the prize.

Well Russell, as you yourself observe in your post, better get used to it. The corporate leaders you trusted to build our economy got greedy and blew it with the deregulation. Your ideas are going to be out of fashion for a long while. Maybe you should call up some Marxist historians and ask them how they coped...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Additional Evidence for Those Who Claim Racism Has Nothing to Do with Opposition to Obama

Philadelphia Doing Me Proud

For once, I'm proud to live in Philadelphia. Those Flyers fans had the guts to stand up to Sarah Palin and show what we really think of her.

Of course, this was a stupid event for her to do to begin with. Philadelphia is basically an all Democrat, with the Republican Party in permanent minority status. To compound things, Philadelphians are always at their most aggressive at sporting events. Whoever put her out in front of that crowd should be fired.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The above movie from Reason TV, featuring Nick Gillespie, is a propagandistic attack on any move toward government-sponsored health care. Unlike much of what Reason TV produces, this is so ham-handed, it borders on the laughable. To make the argument that many people without health insurance are wasting their money on lesser things and should not be helped, Gillespie goes out and interviews a few losers he found on Sunset Strip. This is not only insulting to poor people without health care, its depiction of the African-Americans Gillespie interviews is borderline racist.

Imagine this, Mr. Gillespie. I decide to do a short video documentary about libertarians, and selected the worst fanatics possible to represent the movement. (You know the type having seen them at Ron Paul rallies, Mr. Gillespie, the idiots walking around ranting about how we need to close our borders and handing out John Birch Society pamphlets.) Somehow, I have the feeling you would be blogging about how unfair it was.

I do not want to imply that I totally oppose the libertarian movement. They have good insights in some areas, and they are right to be cautious about imposing another massive government program. However, I have also observed that their ideology at times seems totally devoid of morality. This is a pronounced case in point.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Not Quite What They Were Hoping For

Reason Magazine's Hit and Run blog has an amusing post about last night's presidential debate. One can practically hear the libertarians howl in disappointment as they see a new era of big government looming over them. My favorite line, in regard to apparent voter approval of this trend: "Is there any way to pull off this "democracy" thing without using actual voters?"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I am sorry I have not posted to my blog over the past week, but things have been hellishly busy. I will try to post more regularly this week.