January 2016 Archives

More Bowie

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David Bowie Wanted Ashes Scattered in 'Buddhist Ritual': Report

Associated Press

Rock legend David Bowie wanted his ashes scattered in Bali "in accordance with the Buddhist rituals," and he left most of his estate to his two children and his widow, the supermodel Iman, according to his will filed Friday in Manhattan.

The 20-page document, filed under his legal name David Robert Jones, said the estate was worth about $100 million, but didn't break down the finances.

The singer left the SoHo home he shared with Iman to her, and half of the rest of his worth. His son from a previous marriage, Duncan Jones, received 25 percent and his daughter Alexandria also received 25 percent as well as his Ulster County mountain home.

Bowie left $2 million to his longtime personal assistant Corinne Schwab and left her shares he owned in a company called Oppossum Inc. He left $1 million to Marion Skene, Alexandria's nanny.

The chameleon-like star transformed the sound - and the look - of rock with his audacious creativity and his sexually ambiguous makeup and costumes. His hits included "Space Oddity," "Golden Years," "Heroes" and "Let's Dance." He had cancer about 18 months before he died Jan. 10. He was 69.

Working Man's Hero

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you think you're so clever and classless and free
well, you're still all freaking peasants
as far as I can see...- Lennon

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Police and Community

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We've invested so much in police departments as protectors that we have forgotten what it means to serve our communities, says Baltimore Police officer Lt. Colonel Melvin Russell. It's led to coldness and callousness, and it's dehumanized the police force. After taking over as district commander in one of Baltimore's toughest neighborhoods, Russell instituted a series of reforms aimed at winning back the trust of the community and lowering the violent crime rate. "Law enforcement is in a crisis," he says. "But it's not too late for all of us to build our cities and nation to make it great again."

A Beautiful Rendition

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The Sistine Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings on earth -- but there's a lot you probably don't know about it. In this tour-de-force talk, art historian Elizabeth Lev guides us across the famous building's ceiling and Michelangelo's vital depiction of traditional stories, showing how the painter reached beyond the religious iconography of the time to chart new artistic waters. Five hundred years after the artist painted it, says Lev, the Sistine Chapel forces us to look around as if it were a mirror and ask, "Who am I, and what role do I play in this great theater of life?"


Krugman on Health Care Reform

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Krugman's probably right, but I'm all for just going for Bernie's idea to just go for universal single payer now.

Health Reform Realities

Paul Krugman

Health reform is the signature achievement of the Obama presidency. It was the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare was established in the 1960s. It more or less achieves a goal -- access to health insurance for all Americans -- that progressives have been trying to reach for three generations. And it is already producing dramatic results, with the percentage of uninsured Americans falling to record lows.

Obamacare is, however, what engineers would call a kludge: a somewhat awkward, clumsy device with lots of moving parts. This makes it more expensive than it should be, and will probably always cause a significant number of people to fall through the cracks.

The question for progressives -- a question that is now central to the Democratic primary -- is whether these failings mean that they should re-litigate their own biggest political success in almost half a century, and try for something better.

My answer, as you might guess, is that they shouldn't, that they should seek incremental change on health care (Bring back the public option!) and focus their main efforts on other issues -- that is, that Bernie Sanders is wrong about this and Hillary Clinton is right. But the main point is that we should think clearly about why health reform looks the way it does.


Eagles Founder Glenn Frey Dies at 67

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Another major loss so soon.

Can better tunes be written than "Hotel California", "Life in the Fast Lane," or "Desperado"?

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Glenn Frey, who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley and became one of history's most successful songwriting teams has died at 67.


Bill Burr on Trump

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Religious Discussion #68943

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You'll note in my post I specifically referred "Deity based Religions..." and I do not attack the scholars of such I refer to the common layman approach and understanding of those religions.

One of all time favorite authors for example was the Catholic Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

He managed to balance his spiritual affectations with the secular and said things such as:

"The time has come to realize that an interpretation of the universe--even a positivist one--remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world."

"Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation."

"Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth."

His "Phenomenon of Manbook is possibly one of the greatest pieces of literature ever to emerge from ecclesiastical thought.

In his preface he writes:

"If this book is to be properly understood, it must be read not as a work on metaphysics, still less as a sort of theological essay, but purely and simply as a scientific treatise. The title itself indicates that. This book deals with man solely as a phenomenon ; but it also deals with the whole phenomenon of man."

To me that is good use of religion that doesn't require the liturgical recitations of consensus dogmas or magical thinking, which the average "religious person" engages in when they are judging the worthiness or not of the "others" not included in their exclusivity club.

So I again refer to the historical ledger which indicates that for the most part religion fails to elevate the consciousness of the majority of it's adherents and instead leads to conflict with and social violence against those found out of favor because of tribal taboos, nationalism or ethnicity.

I do not accept the concept that humans are inherently born evil and must be corrected by alignment with some God's apparent wishes as told by authoritarian priests and that only through abdication of their own reasoning can find some "cooperative and good place" in creation. To me it's just all irrelevant

Outside of religion's mysteries and myth poetics, religion is nothing more than a harness for the mule so that it might be made to plow straight rows.

The Joys of Spam

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What all of us should do.

David Bowie - Self Eulogy

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My Favorite Bowie Song

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Bewlay Bros

And so the story goes
they wore the clothes
They said the things
to make it seem improbable
The whale of a lie
like they hope it was
And the Goodmen of Tomorrow
Had their feet in the wallow
And their heads of Brawn
were nicer shorn
And how they bought their positions with saccharin and trust
And the world was asleep
to our latent fuss
Sighing, the swirl through the streets
Like the crust of the sun
The Bewlay Brothers
In our Wings that Bark
Flashing teeth of Brass
Standing tall in the dark
Oh, And we were Gone
Hanging out with your Dwarf Men
We were so turned on
By your lack of conclusions

I was Stone and he was Wax
So he could scream,
and still relax, unbelievable
And we frightened the small children away
And our talk was old
and dust would flow
Thru our veins and Lo!
it was midnight
Back o' the kitchen door
Like the grim face
on the Cathedral floor
And the solid book we wrote
Cannot be found today

And it was Stalking time
for the Moonboys
The Bewlay Brothers
With our backs on the arch
In the Devil-may-be-here
But He can't sing about that
Oh, And we were Gone
Real Cool Traders
We were so Turned On
You thought we were Fakers

Now the dress is hung,
the ticket pawned
The Factor Max that proved the fact
Is melted down
And woven on the edging of my pillow
Now my Brother lays upon the Rocks
He could be dead, He could be not
He could be You
He's Chaemilion, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature
"Shooting-up Pie-in-the-Sky"
The Bewlay Brothers
In the feeble and the Bad
The Bewlay Brothers
In the Blessed and Cold
In the Gretch-hungry Dark
Was where we played our Mark
Oh, and we were Gone
Kings of Oblivion
We were so Turned On
In the Mind-Warp Pavilion

Lay me place and bake me Pie
I'm starving for me Gravy
Leave my shoes, and door unlocked
I might just slip away
Just for the Day, Hey!
Please come Away, Hey! .............

.................

Bowie Gone

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Quicksand

I'm closer to the golden dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform
Of imagery
I'm living in a silent film
Portraying Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality
I'm frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain't got the power, anymore
No I ain't got the power anymore

I'm the twisted name on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of Churchill's lies
I'm destiny
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their target
Divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang
Or herald loud the death of man
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release

Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah

I'm not a prophet or a stone age man
Just a mortal with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic of homo sapien
Can't take my eyes from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
On the next bardo
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release

Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah

Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release

Ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah

Person of Interest Binge

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All I can say is that is one of the best series I've ever watched and that there will be a final, if short, season 5.

Attitudes

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Good Question

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faith in the doubt that produces the faith

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This Week in God, 1.2.16

By Steve Benen

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First up from the God Machine this week is a surprising new poll that shows when Americans express support for religious liberty under the Constitution's First Amendment, they're really supporting their faith's freedom to worship - not the faiths they don't like. The Associated Press reported this week:


Americans place a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians than for other faith groups, ranking Muslims as the least deserving of the protections, according to a new survey.
Solid majorities said it was extremely or very important for the U.S. to uphold religious freedom in general. However, the percentages varied dramatically when respondents were asked about specific faith traditions, according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

At a recent debate for Republican presidential candidates, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) argued, with a straight face, that Islam is "different" when it comes to religious liberty. "The fact of the matter is Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law," Santorum said. "It is also a civil government. It is also a form of government so the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong."
Remarkably, plenty of Americans also appear comfortable with different standards for different traditions. According to the survey's findings, 82% of the public agreed that protections for Christians are important. For Jewish Americans, support slips to roughly 70%. For Mormons, it's 67%. And at the bottom, 63% of Americans are on board with protections with those with no religion, and only 61% say the same about Muslims.
Some may take solace in the fact that majorities are willing to endorse protections across the board, but the gap between groups is nevertheless disheartening.
Given the nature of the political debate, perhaps it's not too shocking that so many people would embrace an ugly double-standard, but this doesn't change the fact that we're talking about public attitudes that cut against bedrock American principles.
The idea that the First Amendment applies to everyone, regardless of their belief system, and that the law doesn't play favorites among traditions, is a core constitutional truth - which many Americans evidently take issue with.
Also from the God Machine this week:

* Ironically, creationists apply descent with modification to their tactics: "In what is almost a too-clever illustration of how evolution works, a scientist at Australian National University has created a chart to show us the evolution of anti-evolution bills. The study was published last week in Science, on the 10th anniversary of the historic Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, which struck down the teaching of intelligent design, an attempt to mask creationism with pseudo-scientific language. Evolutionary biologist Nick
Matzke revealed how these bills have evolved over time to avoid potential predators such as the pesky Constitution and public outcry."

* A patient at a Catholic hospital in California asked for a tubal ligation during a scheduled C-section procedure, but the hospital refused on religious grounds. Because refusing "pregnancy-related care" for non-medical reasons is illegal in California, the patient and the ACLU filed a lawsuit that's worth keeping an eye on. The first court hearing is scheduled for this Tuesday.

* And the fine folks at Right Wing Watch identified "five failed right-wing prophecies and predictions" from 2015, "including fears about the looming imposition of martial law, establishment of Obama's private army and the assassination of conservative leaders." My personal favorite were the prophecies about divine punishment in 2015 over marriage equality, which some religious right figures said would include hurricanes, riots, and a mass migration away from the United States. None of this actually happened.

New Numbers from Krugman

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How Bad America Could Get If a 1%-Loving Republican Wins in 2016

Krugman paints a picture that shows how bad things could easily get, again.

Paul Krugman now has some official numbers on his side to make the case that having Obama in the White House instead of Mitt Romney has made a serious difference to the country.

In Monday's column, Krugman looks at the IRS's tax tables for 2013, which were released last week, and concludes that elections have real consequences. His argument is directed to people on the left, who are disappointed with Obama and argue that there is no major difference between the two parties (except Bernie Sanders) and that the wealthy will always dominate.

Well, yes, but there has been some measurable progress, Krugman argues.

For one of the important consequences of the 2012 election was that Mr. Obama was able to go through with a significant rise in taxes on high incomes. Partly this was achieved by allowing the upper end of the Bush tax cuts to expire; there were also new taxes on high incomes passed along with the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

If Mitt Romney had won, we can be sure that Republicans would have found a way to prevent these tax hikes. And we can now see what happened because he didn't. According to the new tables, the average income tax rate for 99 percent of Americans barely changed from 2012 to 2013, but the tax rate for the top 1 percent rose by more than four percentage points. The tax rise was even bigger for very high incomes: 6.5 percentage points for the top 0.01 percent.

Partisan Distribution of Media in US

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Harvard Loses to Prisoners in Debate

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Harvard debate team loses to prison debate team

By Walter Einenkel

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Three Harvard debate team members faced off against three men incarcerated for violent crimes. This was two weeks ago.

After an hour of fast-moving debate on Friday, the judges rendered their verdict.

The inmates won.


The audience burst into applause. That included about 75 of the prisoners' fellow students at the Bard Prison Initiative, which offers a rigorous college experience to men at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, in the Catskills.


The prison debate squad v. Harvard debate team was set up to show off Bard College's prison initiative. Pretty successful exhibition
The prison team had its first debate in spring 2014, beating the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Then, it won against a nationally ranked team from the University of Vermont, and in April lost a rematch against West Point.

Preparing has its challenges. Inmates can't use the Internet for research. The prison administration must approve requests for books and articles, which can take weeks.

The team they beat said they were caught off guard by how prepared the inmates were. These are men serving time for manslaughter. Our perceptions of their capabilities can be pretty condescending. Judge Mary Nugent led the debate panel.
Ms. Nugent said it might seem tempting to favor the prisoners' team, but the three judges have to justify their votes to each other based on specific rules and standards.

"We're all human," she said. "I don't think we can ever judge devoid of context or where we are, but the idea they would win out of sympathy is playing into pretty misguided ideas about inmates. Their academic ability is impressive."

According to Bard their program currently has 300 prison inmates of both genders fully enrolled. They also say the program is cost effective.
The criminal justice system is staggeringly expensive. As a country we spend $212 billion dollars annually to apprehend, try, and incarcerate prisoners. In recent years, the United States has maintained a prison population of more than 2.3 million people, with the average annual cost of over $29,000 per person (in many states, including New York, the cost is much higher). And while America has the longest and most punitive sentencing structures in the modern world, 750,000 inmates are released each year. Nationwide, nearly 68 out of every one hundred prisoners are rearrested within three years of release, and more than half return to prison. Research indicates that these high and expensive rates of recidivism fall to less than 22% if prisons offer significant educational opportunity to incarcerated men and women. Among formerly incarcerated Bard students, less than 2% have returned to prison. The estimated cost per person, per year of the BPI program is a small fraction of the price of continuing incarceration. It saves tax payers money, while increasing public safety.

How about them apples?

Ronald Dworkin on Equality

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Defining what we mean by "equality"

A Theory of Equality | Philosophy

Professor Ronald Dworkin presented his theory of equality in front of the Carnegie Council on December 6, 2011.


Starting the Year Under Jerkiocracy

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Privilege, Pathology and Power

Paul Krugman

Wealth can be bad for your soul. That's not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it's a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.

And it's obvious, even if we don't have statistical confirmation, that extreme wealth can do extreme spiritual damage. Take someone whose personality might have been merely disagreeable under normal circumstances, and give him the kind of wealth that lets him surround himself with sycophants and usually get whatever he wants. It's not hard to see how he could become almost pathologically self-regarding and unconcerned with others.

So what happens to a nation that gives ever-growing political power to the superrich?

Oligarchy.tomtomorrow.jpgModern America is a society in which a growing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and these people have huge political influence -- in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came from fewer than 200 wealthy families. The usual concern about this march toward oligarchy is that the interests and policy preferences of the very rich are quite different from those of the population at large, and that is surely the biggest problem.

But it's also true that those empowered by money-driven politics include a disproportionate number of spoiled egomaniacs. Which brings me to the current election cycle.

The most obvious illustration of the point I've been making is the man now leading the Republican field. Donald Trump would probably have been a blowhard and a bully whatever his social station. But his billions have insulated him from the external checks that limit most people's ability to act out their narcissistic tendencies; nobody has ever been in a position to tell him, "You're fired!" And the result is the face you keep seeing on your TV.

But Mr. Trump isn't the only awesomely self-centered billionaire playing an outsized role in the 2016 campaign.

There have been some interesting news reports lately about Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas gambling magnate. Mr. Adelson has been involved in some fairly complex court proceedings, which revolve around claims of misconduct in his operations in Macau, including links to organized crime and prostitution. Given his business, this may not be all that surprising. What was surprising was his behavior in court, where he refused to answer routine questions and argued with the judge, Elizabeth Gonzales. That, as she rightly pointed out, isn't something witnesses get to do.

Then Mr. Adelson bought Nevada's largest newspaper. As the sale was being finalized, reporters at the paper were told to drop everything and start monitoring all activity of three judges, including Ms. Gonzales. And while the paper never published any results from that investigation, an attack on Judge Gonzales, with what looks like a fictitious byline, did appear in a small Connecticut newspaper owned by one of Mr. Adelson's associates.

O.K., but why do we care? Because Mr. Adelson's political spending has made him a huge player in Republican politics -- so much so that reporters routinely talk about the "Adelson primary," in which candidates trek to Las Vegas to pay obeisance.

Are there other cases? Yes indeed, even if the egomania doesn't rise to Adelson levels. I find myself thinking, for example, of the hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, another big power in the G.O.P., who published an investor's letter declaring that inflation was running rampant -- he could tell from the prices of Hamptons real estate and high-end art. Economists got some laughs out of the incident, but think of the self-absorption required to write something like that without realizing how it would sound to non-billionaires.

Or think of the various billionaires who, a few years ago, were declaring with straight faces, and no sign of self-awareness, that President Obama was holding back the economy by suggesting that some businesspeople had misbehaved. You see, he was hurting their feelings.

Just to be clear, the biggest reason to oppose the power of money in politics is the way it lets the wealthy rig the system and distort policy priorities. And the biggest reason billionaires hate Mr. Obama is what he did to their taxes, not their feelings. The fact that some of those buying influence are also horrible people is secondary.

But it's not trivial. Oligarchy, rule by the few, also tends to become rule by the monstrously self-centered. Narcisstocracy? Jerkigarchy? Anyway, it's an ugly spectacle, and it's probably going to get even uglier over the course of the year ahead.

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