Interesting Stuff on the Web: 1/13/10

Jesus Had A Cat [PIC]

This is, of course, assuming that Jesus himself wasn’t a cat.  Anyways, a lion-maned savior “walking on water” isn’t any great surprise for those familiar with astrotheology.

The Americanization of Mental Illness

It’s because of this kind of in-depth article that I appreciate The New York Times so much.

This is an area of study that fascinates me.  Mental illness and culture are topics of interest on their own, but combined they offer much insight.  As an American, it is easy to forget how different the world looks from the point of view of other cultures. 

Sadly, not only is ecological diversity dying out but so is cultural diversity.  I truly hope that Americanization never becomes entirely complete.

Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?

The view presented in this article should confirm what many intellectual elite liberals already knew, but it may seem counter-intuitive or morally questionable to certain conservatives (i.e., those who think it’s a criticism to call someone intelligent and well-educated).

That insight led Mr. Martin to begin advocating what was then a radical idea in business education: that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.

In 1999, few others in the business-school world shared Mr. Martin’s view. But a decade and a seismic economic downturn later, things have changed. “I think there’s a feeling that people need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it’s questioning assumptions, or looking at problems from multiple points of view,” says David A. Garvin, a Harvard Business School professor who is co-author with Srikant M. Datar and Patrick G. Cullen of an upcoming book, “Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads.”

Learning how to think critically — how to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives — has historically been associated with a liberal arts education, not a business school curriculum, so this change represents something of a tectonic shift for business school leaders. Mr. Martin even describes his goal as a kind of “liberal arts M.B.A.”

“The liberal arts desire,” he says, is to produce “holistic thinkers who think broadly and make these important moral decisions. I have the same goal.”

Considering multiple perspectives, dismissed as relativism by conservatives, is something that liberals excel at.  Liberal arts education lost it’s favor in recent decades.  The only thing students cared about was getting careers that made lots of money and so they got degrees in business and management.  The problem is that our democracy was built on the ideal of liberal arts education.  Having a widely educated public is supposed to make for a better voting public, but it turns out that it makes someone a better thinker in all areas of life including business.

This reminds me of how I once had some unintentional influence.  I believe it was sometime shortly after highschool.  I argued to my dad about the importance of critical thinking in that the human ability to use logic is one of the few things that truly differentiates humans from the rest of nature.  My dad was a professor of business management at the time and it just so happened that he was participating in a discussion about the curriculum of business majors.  Based on my argument, my dad suggested that logic courses should be included and I think his suggestion was accepted.

This article doesn’t provide any grand insight, but apparently it’s an insight that many people in the business field have so far lacked.  My dad was a proponent for teaching ethics to business students and I think it’s clear that ethics is inseparable from critical thinking skills.  It’s too bad that it took an economic downturn for leaders in the business field to figure this out.

Let’s Talk About Faith

The author made starts off with some decent points, but then offered some questionable analysis about the specific incident in question.  On the other hand, I did appreciate some of the comments.

13. Ken: Mr. Hume is a news host/reporter on FOX News. He is not a guest theologian who is invited to compare religions. Should Katie Couric over at CBS proclaim her religious views? What about Sawyer at CBS, Williams at NBC, etc.? Mr. Douthat should be astute enough to know that Mr. Hume was playing to the religious/cultural tendencies of his audience. As I am an Evangelical Christian, I would love for Tiger Woods and all people to come to Christ. However, the misuse of public airwaves, and the put down of Buddhism, exhibited by Mr. Hume is not the way to win converts.

107. jj: This column is a somewhat disingenuous, face-value analysis. I don’t think the problem with Brit Hume’s statement was any factual debate over whether Christianity offers a forgiveness or compassion that Buddhism does not. What I found outrageous was the arrogance and implied superiority Hume exhibited, in holding up his religion as a model for someone else.

I think that the tendency – even requirement, as you noted here – to proselytize is one of the most repellent things about Christianity (the same can be said for any religion that actively seeks to convert non-believers). Hume’s statement reflected the same condescension and patronizing arrogance that missionaries world over practice, in taking their beacon of light into the benighted lands. Buddhism is not a missionary religion.

The only forgiveness that Tiger Woods needs is from his family – certainly not from us, and not from someone else’s god. And theology is not the most important debate there is, particularly for those of us who are non-religious. Morality is.

126. Gloria Endres: I think what bothers people most about the Brit Hume comments is the hubris he showed in denigrating the Buddhist religion from a one sided and very public national forum that most of us do not have.

He was not a theologian or clergyman having a nice philosophical discussion about the merits of his faith with another theologian, but a talking head engaged in a one sided condemnation of another person’s personal beliefs. It sounded exactly what it was – bigoted and rude.

If Mr. Hume really had Tiger’s salvation at heart, he could have offered to meet with him in a private conversation and offered him his counsel for improving his situation, man to man. Woods would have had the option of politely accepting or declining the invitation. The shock of it was that Hume decided unilaterally to make the suggestion publicly and with no chance at a “no, thank you” from Woods.

Coming from someone who is neither a pastor nor personal friend, it sounded crass and highly offensive.

127. Rob: I’m not bothered that Mr. Hume voiced the opinions he did — I strongly defend his right to free speech and free opinions. However, I’m very bothered that we all refer to him as a “news analyst” on “Fox News”, instead of as a “commentator” on “Fox Opinions”. The latter is accurate; the former is a dangerous blurring of the very thick line between objective news analysis and evangelizing.

 Religion and Women

A nice op-ed piece about the relationship of religion and human rights. 

It can’t be denied that many holy texts and many religious histories offer examples of atrocious beliefs and behaviors.  Religious people aren’t wrong when they quote their favored text to support slavery or oppression of women because there are passages that directly support such things.  Monotheism in particular has clear messages in support of slavery and oppression of women… which goes back to the 10 commandments (it states that you shouldn’t covet you neighbors property with ‘property’ being defined as including your neighbors wife and slaves; and that is the very same 10 commandments that Christians would like to have put on the walls of courthouses and schools).

This reminds me of two things.  First, Derrick Jensen’s book The Culture of Make Believe is an awesome book that analyzes this in detail.  Second, I was reading about the beginnings of the culture wars. 

The culture wars began with anti-communism and the Republican fight against the New Deal.  At one time, Republicans were supportive of some civil rights and they criticized the KKK.  However, when the Democrats embraced civil rights, the Republicans turned their back on the poor and took up the Southern Strategy to steal the Democrat’s southern base.  This worked for the Republican party, but this led to odd results.  In poor states, the rich vote for Republicans and the poor vote for Democrats.  In rich states, both poor and rich vote for Democrats.  The swing states are the middle income states and the swing voters are the middle class. 

The interesting part is that Republicans became the party that was against communism and socialism, and the two were seen as the same.  As the socialists in this country were for civil rights, the Republicans became the party that opposed government intervention into civil rights issues.  This seems odd at first glance considering that the Southern Strategy also made the GOP the party of the religious right.  You’d think that Christians would be for helping the poor and underprivileged, but that isn’t the case for the religious right because the fear of communists/socialists was greater than their love of the gospel.

How News Happens: A Study of the News Ecosystem of One American City

The study, which examined all the outlets that produced local news in Baltimore, Md., for one week, surveyed their output and then did a closer examination of six major narratives during the week, finds that much of the “news” people receive contains no original reporting. Fully eight out of ten stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information.

And of the stories that did contain new information nearly all, 95%, came from traditional media—most of them newspapers. These stories then tended to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets.

I’m not surprised, but it does dissapoint me.  The newspapers do a mediocre job of reporting.  The failure of our political system largely rests on the major media such as newspapers that set the narrative agenda.

What dissapoints me is that the newspapers aren’t creating most of the new information, but they are creating most of the new information that gets read by most people.  There are many organizations that report on various issues.  These organizations often focus solely on a particular issue or area of study and they do very detailed investigations.  Newspaper reporters depend on these kinds of organizations to discover news stories that exist outside of press releases. 

Newspapers are shrinking and doing less investigative reporting.  The fact that the public is so dependent on them is a sad state of affairs. 

What papers do well is less about offering new information and more about offering information that has been filtered and analyzed.  If you want to consider simply the factor of new information, twitter beats all of the news media combined.  Even news media watches twitter to discover emerging trends and breaking news, but the average person doesn’t want to follow thousands of twitterers in order to discover random bits of new information.

Two defense contractors indicted in shooting of Afghans

I don’t know too much about this incident, but I have researched some of the history of Blackwater.  This incident seems to be systemic to the entire organization as this isn’t an isolated event.  I always wonder why upper level officials are rarely held accountable.  The way Blackwater employees acted would appear to be grounded in how they were trained and the general policies of the company.

This is similar to other types of organizations.  Consider the case of the FBI vs Judi Bari.  The FBI agents involved were found guilty, but it was obvious that the responsibility went beyond just some low level employees.  The FBI upper level management were simply untouchable by the court system.  Or consider the torture situation.  It was obvious that many people in the military and in Washington knew what was going on at various military detainment prisons, but those who were ultimately culpable never were charged or even investigated to any extent. 

There are hundreds of examples like this.  A number of US politicians and military leaders have been charged of crimes against humanity and yet they walk free.  And just consider the enormous number of corporate crimes and how it’s rare for wealthy people to spend much time in prison (if any time at all).  Some corporate criminals have stolen more money by themselves than all of the thiefs held in prison combined.

We don’t live in a just society.

A Fight for the Homeless and Against Authority

This guy is the kind of libertarian that I’m so fond of.  If you actually want to help the poor and homeless, there is no way to do it but fight those in power.

“I believe he truly does care for the people he takes in,” said Bruce Gibson, the outgoing chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. “And there’s only one thing he cares more about. And that’s fighting with the county.”

Mr. de Vaul admits to enjoying battling local officials, but he also says he has been shaken by his prosecution.

“What I’m saying is that I’m in over my head,” Mr. de Vaul said. “And because I don’t like authority, I’m not going to give up.”

Millennials: They’re Younger – But Their Preferences Aren’t That Different

There was one detail about this survey that caught my attention.  Millennials and GenXers are on the same page when it comes to technology and the internet.  These are the two generations that are now taking over the work force and positions of leadership.  Because of various reasons including economics, Boomers have been slow to leave the work force and positions of leadership, but it’s inevitable that the Boomers will be leaving in large numbers in this upcoming decade. 

We are in a transition right now.  Once that transition is complete, the entire work force and the positions of leadership will be filled with the technology embracing generations.  I don’t know if that is good or bad, but there are massive changes on the horizon.

This is why Republicans are so worried [PIC]

From looking at demographics, I already knew that the younger generation was liberal to moderate on most issues.  All of this is interesting as the conservative movement has been fleeing the moderate position and attacking all moderate Republicans.  If the GOP simply stopped catering to extremists (most of them being of the religious variety) and returned to an egalitarian form of libertarianism, they could quite possibly attract many of these younger voters.

Her GOP Critics Unleashed, Will Palin Fire Back?

Palin is joining Fox News and speaking at the first tea party convention which is the movement backed by Fox News.  Palin, Fox News, and tea party leaders have been attacking many GOP politicians. 

Within the tea party movement, many of the Ron Paul libertarians are critical of their movement having been taken over by Fox News and the Beckheads.  In the near future, the real libertarians are going to start causing problems for the career politicians like Palin who simply want to take over the GOP.

It makes me excited.  The conservative movement is going to get really ugly when all these folks turn on eachother.

The former Alaska governor’s memoir did, in fact, outrage many people involved in the McCain-Palin operation. They saw in the book an array of the same qualities they had come to discern in her during the two months of the general election: the self-serving habits, the vindictiveness, the distant relationship with the truth. For McCainworld, all the old feelings toward Palin came back in a rush. But except for chief strategist Steve Schmidt’s concise dis of the book (“fiction”) and communications adviser Nicolle Wallace’s somewhat more lengthy refutation on The Rachel Maddow Show, virtually everyone else in the McCain-Palin orbit abided by the Senator’s wishes — keeping the secrets of the campaign secret.

Until this week, that is. With the publication of our book Game Change and the appearance of Schmidt on 60 Minutes in a piece discussing our reporting, much of the truth about Palin has begun to emerge. The questions are how she might respond and what effect the turn of events will have on her future — a future that now includes a gig at Fox News.

The picture presented in Game Change of Palin’s emergence as national phenomenon — and the real Palin behind her public persona — is often startling and sometimes shocking. The scantness of the vetting she received before being placed on the Republican ticket. Her substantive deficiencies, even more dramatic than those that had previously been reported: her lack of understanding about why there are two Koreas, her ignorance about the function of the Federal Reserve, her belief that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. The fact that, at her lowest moments during preparation for her debate against Joe Biden, some senior McCain aides worried that she was mentally unstable. And, ultimately, their fears that she wasn’t up to the job of being Vice President.

Adding to the picture are the revelations that Schmidt brought forward on 60 Minutes — in particular, her habitual shading of the truth in ways that exposed the campaign to extreme political vulnerability. “You know, it [was] the equivalent of saying down is up and up is down,” Schmidt told Anderson Cooper on the program. “[She routinely said things] that were provably, demonstrably untrue.”

No Seat for Wall Street at Tea Party

Judson Phillips, a Tennessee attorney and organizer of the convention, says the tea-party movement, disparate as it is, includes many people “who believe that Congress pays far too much attention to Wall Street and not enough attention to Main Street.” Tea-party rallies, he says, draw a lot of small businessmen and women frustrated at their own inability to get capital while big banks prosper, and thus inclined to think the deck is stacked against them.

Asked specifically about Wall Street bonuses, Mr. Phillips replies: “I think the reaction of most people in the tea-party movement is going to be this: If a company is doing well, they don’t have a problem with it. Most people in the tea-party movement are capitalists….If the company in question is one that received a government bailout — totally different story. Most people in the tea-party movement don’t believe in the concept of too big to fail.”

Would a transnational mega-corporation such as News Corp that is behind Fox News support the tea party movement if they thought it was against the financial interests of transnational mega-corporations? The tea party was originally the party of Ron Paul. Many Fox News pundits such as Glenn Beck criticized, ridiculed, and dismissed Ron Paul. After undermining Ron Paul’s movement, Glenn Beck (and Fox News in general) has attempted to take over Ron Paul’s movement and call it his own.

Many in the tea party have as much faith in the market as they do in God. It goes back to the earliest Christians who came to America. They believed that being rich was an outward sign of being saved. This is why the lower middle class tea party movement trusts the rich and distrusts those even more poor than they are. This same mentality has led the legal system to be tough on crimes of the poor all the while going easy on the crimes of the rich.

The problem with the government we have right now is that it’s neither capitalism nor socialism. It’s a soft form of fascism where the line between govt and capitalism is so blurred as to almost not exist at all. The bailouts are a problem, but just focusing on them would be to ignore the real problem. If a free market is to exist, the influence of big money needs to be taken out of Washington. I don’t know what the exact solution is, but the government we have doesn’t serve the average person of any political persuasion.

Free markets only can be held accountable if the general public can have direct influence on the companies they work for and have money invested in. When companies become transnation megacorporations, they become so big that they can’t be controlled and instead usurp control. Free markets like democracy only work on the small level of direct participation of the citizenry and direct accountability to specific communities.

The problem of our system is that there is a deep inconsistency. The political system was set up with divisions of power because it was assumed that individuals aren’t to be trusted with too much power. On the other hand, the mainstream has had naive trust in capitalism based on an assumption of enlightened selfishness. The problem is that these two beliefs are at odds. Many people in politics were once worked for or owned private corporations, and many people working for or owning private corporations were once politicians. There is a revolving door between them.

The tea party’s trust of capitalism and mistrust of government makes absolutely no sense. What makes an individual trustworthy when they are privately employed but use their personal connections to influence politics but untrustworthy when they become a politician with personal connections to private corporations?

There are very few political groups demanding that corpoations be held accountable to their shareholders. And one of these few are the socialists (such as Noam Chomsky). Socialism is in reality the complete opposite of big government. Instead, with socialism, companies are directly accountable to the people who work for them and to the communities they effect… and, of course, to their shareholders. Neither democracy nor free markets can exist on a large scale. When companies and governments become too big, they can’t be controlled by the people and instead act to control the people. Whether we are ruled by big government or big business, it’s all the same.

Socialism is simply the counter-balance to libertarianism. Libertarians believe that the powers that be should quit meddling with our lives and communities. Socialists believe that we as individuals and communities should take personal responsibility to force those in power to be accountible. However, if libertarians merely take power away from government, big business will fill the void and simply become the new political force. And if socialists put their faith in the present faux democracy, the government will continue on as before.

The tricky part is how does power get put back in the hands of individuals and small business owners, of communities and workers. Basically, what this is about is the need for grass roots activism that can fight against being taken over by big business astro turf. Grass roots activism has to be rooted in communities. People have to know and trust eachother and have to be fighting for a common cause.

Unfortunately, the tea party at present doesn’t fit the bill. There may be some factions of genuine grass roots within the tea party. Instead of fighting outside forces of the evil Democrats, for right now the grass roots activists should be fighting to take back their movement from Fox News and the GOP.

The difficulty these days is that grass roots can’t easily be differentiated from astro turf. Even astro turf movements have genuine grass roots activists. That is exactly what the astro turf manipulators want. The real grass roots activists lend the astro turf movement credibility, and then propaganda and spin is used to manipulate the movement. The interesting thing about astro turf is that most people in such a movement don’t even know who is in control.

Even the government used to be in the business of astro turf. The FBI had its COINTELPRO where they’d infiltrate grass roots organizations. Once infiltrated, they’d either destroy the organization or take over positions of leadership. The average person wouldn’t even notice anything had changed. The same techniques used by the FBI are essentially what private companies use as well. The difference is that this kind of activity became illegal for the FBI to be involved with, but it’s perfectly legal for private corporations.

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