Bad Ideas, Community, Cultural Traits, Culture, Death, Dying, Ethics, Human Nature, Ideas, John McCain, Life, Meaning, Morality, Morals, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Politics, Society, Values

“Speak No Ill of the Dead”

(About a 3 minute read)

The recent death and funeral of John McCain has once again raised a debate about the propriety of speaking ill of the dead.  Naturally, the loudest voices have belonged to partisan pundits who can be expected to flip their opinions — pro and con — when the next prominent Democrat dies.

But I think a lot of common people are concerned with the issue too.  How fair is it to criticize the dead?  If it’s fair at all, then does our criticism have limits?  And if so, what should those limits be?

Continue reading ““Speak No Ill of the Dead””

Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Idealism, John McCain, Life, Memes, News and Current Events, People, Politician, Society, Values

On Heroes and the Death of John McCain

(About a 2 minute read)

To many people John McCain, who died yesterday, was a hero best remembered for his refusal when a POW to accept the offer of his captors for his personal freedom because it meant leaving his brothers behind.

To many others, McCain was the best of a bad lot — a politician who at least somewhat rose above the norm for politicians to show some political integrity and courage. I myself will always remember him as the man who rightfully stood up for the humanity of Barack Obama, his political opponent when he was running for the presidency.

Continue reading “On Heroes and the Death of John McCain”

Authoritarianism, Barack Obama, Freedom and Liberty, John McCain, News and Current Events, Oppression, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics

The Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

It seems US Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have prepared an early Christmas gift for Americans.  If various accounts are true, their gift is more than a little unsettling.

Apparently, in the name of fighting terrorism, the three have conspired to write into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act provisions that would require the military to indefinitely imprison without a civilian trial any American citizen determined to be a member of al Qaeda or it’s affiliates.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is usually a routine piece of legislation passed each year to specify the budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense.  Normally, it is not considered a threat to freedom and liberty.   But this year, the three senators have added language to it that is causing grave concern on both the Right and the Left.

In defense of their bill, the senators insist the group of people who could be indefinitely detained without civilian trial only include  “al-Qaeda terrorists who participate in planning or conducting attacks against us.” They also say the president would be able to waive military imprisonment if s/he believes civilian custody would better serve national security.

Yet, according to Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a citizen would get only one hearing during which the military could assert the person was a suspected terrorist.  He or she would then be locked up for life without ever having been formally charged.

Furthermore, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has stated, “The provisions would dramatically change broad counterterrorism efforts by requiring law enforcement officials to step aside and ask the Department of Defense to take on a new role they are not fully equipped for and do not want.”  And he adds that the legislation would make the military “police, judge and jailer.”

The provisions are also opposed by numerous others, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and President Obama.

It seems to me a law such as the three Senators want is ripe for abuse. The indefinite detention of American citizens without a fair trial runs counter to American values.  This appears to be yet another attempt to deprive us of our liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.  At least that’s how I see it.  What do you think?

Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Elections, George W. Bush, Joe Biden, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

What Happens if Obama Looses?

I don’t know whether Obama will win or loose in two days.  I don’t think anyone really knows.  He’s got every chance of winning, but strange things happen in politics.  So we can’t be certain what’s going to happen.  We can only do our best to achieve the outcome many of us hope for.  But what happens if he does loose?

I know people who would be devasted.  I suspect millions of people would be.  I think most of them would be shocked.  I think many of them would mourn.  And I wonder whether their shock and grief would turn into anger?  I wonder about that because I think, if Obama looses, just about anything could happen in the aftermath.  I imagine it would be as dangerous a moment in American politics as any moment in our history.

It does not reassure me Bush and Cheney would be still be in power during that most difficult event.  Bush and Cheney are screw ups.  It’s not too hard to imagine them doing something that would dreadfully worsen the situation for everyone.  The Nation would need a peacemaker, but those two buffoons are not peacemakers but dividers.

Could McCain govern if he won?  I think up to half the Nation would feel in their hearts he did not deserve to lead them.  He would need to overcome that to govern, but could he?

Frankly, I don’t think he has the political skill to pull it off.

So, ironically, if Obama looses, the nation is likely to look to him for guidance on how to handle the loss.  Upon how he chose to handle the situation, all else would turn.

On the other hand, if McCain looses, I’m guessing that far fewer people will be actually devastated.  A few, of course, but most McCain supporters will pick themselves up and get on with their lives.  So, I don’t think a McCain loss will create a moment in American history nearly as dangerous as an Obama loss could create.

At least, those are my hunches.

Barack Obama, Elections, Joe Biden, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

What I’m Fixing to do Come Election Night

On election night, I plan to post six live election maps on my blog.

One map will show state by state results in the presidential race for the entire country.  The other five maps will show county by county results in the presidential race for these five battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  If all goes well, all the maps should update in real time.

I’m doing it to help me keep track of the election, but anyone who is interested is invited to drop by, look over what’s happening, and leave comments on the election.

Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Are the Smears Sticking?

I could be very wrong, but I get the sense most Americans are not listening to McCain and Palin’s desperate and hysterical smears.  The notion Obama is a socialist, a friend of terrorists, anti-American, and so forth, just doesn’t seem to be resonating outside the Republican base.  That’s my impression, but I wonder if I’m right?

Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics

Still a Tight Race for Obama?

I suck when it comes to making electoral predictions.  Yet, I’m like a gambler who seldom wins, but still wants to play the game.  So, tonight, I’ve been looking at the state by state polls for clues to who might win the presidency.

At this point many people are predicting an Obama landslide because he’s ahead of McCain in so many of the key states.   However, it seems that a lot of folks in those states are still undecided.  So, I’m wondering what would happen if come election day, those undecided folks broke heavily for McCain?

Near as I can puzzle it out, it would then become a very tight race.  Obama would loose any chance of a landslide.  Yet, assuming the election were held today, and there were no significant fraud, Obama would still win — even with all the undecideds voting for McCain.

Obama’s margin of victory would be quite narrow, though.  He needs 270 electoral votes to win, and that plus 3 more electoral votes might be all he would get.  On the other hand, I think he’d pick up at least one more state (Virginia), making the grand total 286.

Of course, that assumes (1) the undecideds vote for McCain, (2) the election is held today, and (3) there is no significant fraud.

The good news is: Obama is trending ahead in some of the states I gave to McCain tonight.  If those trends continue, he might be far enough ahead by election day to win those states even if all the undecideds in them vote McCain.

Well, that’s my guess.  Tell me yours!

Further Reading:

Why Obama has to Stay above 50 Percent

Barack Obama, Citizenship, Economic Crisis, Elections, Joe Biden, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

McCain: The Experience to Mislead a Great Nation

Somehow I must have pissed off my mail carrier because all he left me this morning were two campaign flyers.  Both from the McCain Campaign.  One calls Obama a liar and the other says Obama is “dangerously inexperienced.”

I don’t know whether Obama is anymore of a liar than the rest of us folks, but I suspect the McCain Campaign isn’t the most reputable source I can find to answer that question.

The other flyer — the “dangerously inexperienced” one — makes me grin.  It wasn’t too long ago that Mr. McExperience himself looked like a reckless drunk emptying a hair trigger pistol when he was confronting the first days of the economic crisis, while Obama came across calm, in command of himself, and calling his shots.  So, I’m thinking McCain has never studied economics.  And that makes me wonder what McCain did with all those years he was gaining the experience to mislead a great nation.

I used to be kind of fond of John McCain.  That was before I noticed he runs an unusually dishonest, reckless, and mean spirited campaign.  Who wants a country governed like that?

Barack Obama, Elections, George W. Bush, Joe Biden, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Republicans Trying to Suppress Vote — Again

It seems to me the Republicans are up to their old tricks again. They are charging registration and voter fraud in an effort to suppress Democratic voters — just like they did in 2000 and 2004.

The idea is first to charge registration and voter fraud, which the Republicans are doing with ACORN as the target. Then the next step is to leak news that the Government is investigating the charges, which the Republicans did 24 hours after the last presidential debate. Last, the Republicans then spread rumors among the voters they don’t want voting that they might become the target of investigators if they vote in the election. That’s the pattern from 2000 through the present.

This time the Democrats are doing more than expressing alarm, though. Last night, they went on record demanding a special prosecutor investigate the matter to discover if there are any links or criminal coordination between the McCain Campaign and the Federal Government.

This could get nasty. Is that Republican butt steak I smell on the grill?

Barack Obama, Education, Elections, Emotions, Ethics, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, Meaning, Mental and Emotional Health, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Purpose, Truth, Values, Wisdom

Why Did the Crowd Boo McCain for His Straight Talk about Obama?

The other day while speaking to a political rally, John McCain tried to point out that, despite their differences, Barack Obama was a decent person, and there was no reason to fear an Obama presidency. Unfortunately, a good portion of the crowd booed him for his effort.

That happened at least twice during the political rally.  The first time it happened was when McCain responded to a new father who expressed his fear of an Obama presidency.  McCain said:

“First of all, I want to be president of the United States and obviously do not want Senator Obama to be.  But I have to tell you — I have to tell you — he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared [of] as president of the United States.”

That’s the reasonable statement on McCain’s part that first got him booed.

The question I have is whether the folks who booed McCain were merely unwilling or actually incapable of listening to reason?

The question interests me because I have for some time concerned myself with the human tendency to arbitrarily disregard truths.  It puzzles me why our species is not more truthful — more realistic — than it is.  As I see it, McCain was telling the crowd a simple truth — that Obama is a decent person who need not be irrationally feared.  Apparently, some of the crowd could accept that truth and move on.  But many couldn’t and felt a need to deny it by booing.  Why is that?

Were they merely unwilling to accept the truth when it was presented to them?  Or were they mentally or emotionally incapable of accepting it?  I’d like to know the answer to those questions.  The answer might help me understand why our species is not more realistic than it is.

If the people who booed McCain were merely unwilling to accept the truth, then they have a moral problem.  They lack honesty — specifically, intellectual honesty — which is a virtue.  That solves the mystery.  For to say someone is merely unwilling implies they have a choice in the matter, and must take moral responsibility for their choices.

On the other hand, if the people who booed McCain were mentally or emotionally incapable of accepting the truth, then perhaps we should ask how that could be the case?  What causes, or at least explains, their disability?

This afternoon, I can think of only three factors which might explain how someone could lack the intellectual discipline to accept a truth.

The first, and most obvious, factor is simple confusion.  People become confused for all sorts of reasons.  Perhaps many of the people booing McCain have been so propagandized in recent weeks they honestly believe Barack Obama is a dire threat to them, their country, or their way of life.   “Garbage in, garbage out”.

That one might not only be the most obvious factor, but also the most likely factor.  The one weakness in proposing it as an explanation for someone’s behavior might be it doesn’t explain how someone could be so non-discriminating as to believe the “garbage in” in the first place.

The second factor requires a moment’s explanation.  It happens that the human brain is born scarce half made up, and that we spend our early years developing our brains to their full adult abilities.  That is, our brains are not completely developed until around the age of 22 or so.  But what happens if something goes wrong with some part of our development and, consequently, some of our abilities are disabled?

If I can recall, people are born with an ability to see the world only in black and white, either/or terms.  It’s typically around the ages of 13 to 15 that our brains develop an ability to see the world in more complex, nuanced, and realistic terms.  So, for instance, an 11 year old usually lacks an ability to think or feel that other people are a mix of both good and bad traits.  Instead, an 11 year old usually can only think or feel that other people are essentially only good or only bad.

A few years later, however, most people’s brains have developed the mental and emotional capacity to see other people more realistically — as, perhaps, a mix of virtues and vices.  Yet, suppose someone is afflicted with one or another disorders — such as a Borderline Personality Disorder — and thus their brain never fully develops an ability to see the world in complex, nuanced terms?  Or suppose someone is raised in an environment where the message the world is black and white, either/or, gets heavily reinforced, and the person is never challenged to grow their brain around the concept the world is more complex and nuanced than that?  Wouldn’t such people — even as adults — struggle to grasp the otherwise simple notion that Barack Obama is a decent person who nevertheless ought not, for whatever reasons, to be president?

I think it’s quite possible some of the folks who booed McCain’s suggestion Obama is a decent person were people mentally and emotionally incapable of grasping the concept someone can be both a decent person and a person they nevertheless oppose for reasons having nothing to do with that person’s decency.

The third and last factor also requires a moment’s explanation.  The other day, I was reading an article, written from a conservative point of view, on the alleged across the board decline in morals in our society.  For the most part, I disagreed with the author, but he did say at least one thing that struck me as profoundly true.

At some point, he noted that people who lack a sense of purpose in their lives quite often substitute dramas for the missing purpose.  (I apologize I’m unable to cite the article — I foolishly neglected to bookmark it.)  Now, he left it open whether such people willingly choose to create and maintain dramas, or are in some way compelled to create dramas by the absence in their lives of genuine purpose and meaning.  I tend to think the latter is the more likely explanation because I have seen how widespread and apparently spontaneous that behavior is. In my opinion, too many people do it for it to be something that’s entirely a matter of choice.

Yet, whatever the cause — choice or something deeper — the fact remains many people thrive on creating and maintaining dramas in their life.  Moreover, it requires no great effort to see how such people would flock to a battle royale between “the forces of good and the forces of evil”; nor does it require much effort to see how such people might interpret the political battle between McCain and Obama in those dramatic terms for the sake of heightening and intensifying the drama they crave as a substitute for genuine purpose and meaning.

If the above happens to be true, then I suppose when McCain reminded the crowd that Obama was a decent person, he threatened some of them with the destruction of their ersatz sense of purpose or meaning.  Consequently, they refused to accept the truth of McCain’s statements and instead booed him.

Those, then, are the few paltry ideas I can come up with this lazy afternoon to explain how some of the crowd McCain spoke to the other day booed him for speaking the truth.  Regardless of whether I’ve hit any nails on the head today, the larger question remains: Why does our species have such a strong tendency to arbitrarily and irrationally disregard truths?  For me, that question is one of pure fascination.

Elections, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics

How Many Times Will McCain Reverse Himself Next Week?

Folks, it’s time to take a stand.  Yup.  That’s right.  It’s time to reveal where you stand on the key question of how many times John McCain will reverse himself during the coming week (October 13th to 19th).  Place your guesses now!

Barack Obama, Elections, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin

Who’s Lying More About Obama? McCain or Palin?

I’ve lost track.  About a week ago, Palin was in the lead.  But McCain has been doing some pretty heavy catching up.  So, as it stands, which one of them is now lying more about Barack Obama?