The Avengers and classical theism

Watched The Avengers again on Blu-ray the other night.  In a movie full of good lines, a few stand out for (of all things) their theological significance.  Take the exchange between Black Widow and Captain America after the Norse god Thor forcibly removes his brother Loki from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s custody, Iron Man gives chase, and Captain America prepares to follow:

Black Widow: I’d sit this one out, Cap.  

Captain America: I don’t see how I can.

Black Widow: These guys come from legend, they’re basically gods.

Captain America: There’s only one God, ma’am.  And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.

Or consider the scene in which Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., exchanges words with the imprisoned Loki:

Loki: It burns you to have come so close.  To have the Tesseract, to have power -- unlimited power -- and for what?  A warm light for all mankind to share?  And then to be reminded what real power is.

Nick Fury (walking away from Loki’s cell contemptuously): Well let me know if real power wants a magazine or something.

Loki: Enough!  You are all of you beneath me.  I am a god, you dull creature.  And I will not be bullied by…

[The Hulk grabs him, repeatedly smashes him to the floor like a rag doll, then walks away as Loki lays there moaning]

Hulk: Puny god.

We cannot assume Captain America to have had time between battles to study classical philosophy and theology, but his words could be read as containing implicitly the answer to pop atheism’s “one god further” objection (which I have discussed here, here, and here).  The God of classical theism is not “a god” among others, precisely because He isn’t an instance of any kind in the first place, not even a unique instance.  He is beyond any genus.  He is not “a being” alongside other beings and doesn’t merely “have” or participate in existence alongside all the other things that do.  Rather, He just is ipsum esse subsistens or Subsistent Being Itself.  He is First Cause not in the sense of being the cause that came before the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. causes, but rather in the sense of having primal or absolutely underived causal power whereas everything else has causal power in only a derivative and thus secondary way.  He is not “a person” but rather the infinite Intellect and Will of which the persons of our experience are mere faint reflections.   Since He has no essence distinct from His existence which could even in principle be shared with anything else, He is not the sort of thing there could intelligibly be more than one of.  And so forth.  Nothing less than this could be the ultimate source of all things and thus nothing less could truly be divine.  (See my earlier posts on classical theism for the rundown.)

Hence the good Captain was correct to insist that there is only one God and that He just isn’t the sort of thing that wears a superhero costume, wields a hammer, can get knocked around by Iron Man, etc.  (Whether you think the God of classical theism actually exists is not to the point -- for the point is that if He exists, He is not the sort of thing of which Thor, Loki, et al. are instances.)  Fury was right to mock Loki’s claim to be “real power” since even if Loki existed, his power, however great, would still be merely participated or derived power rather than the Power Itself that is the God of classical theism.  The Hulk was right to dismiss Loki as “puny” despite his claim to divinity, since any god would, even if he existed, be merely one creature among others and thus (like everything else) be puny compared to the God of classical theism.  

Such beings, if they existed, would differ in no significant respect from the powerful extraterrestrials, other-dimensional beings, etc. of modern science fiction.  And thus it is no surprise that that is exactly how they are treated in contemporary pop culture.  Thor, Loki, and Co. would simply not be worthy of worship even if they existed.  But let’s give ‘em their due: They make for some bitchin’ comic book and movie characters!

Substance & Style - Top 5 Adorable Outfits from the Japan Women's Open

Photos: Yoshimasa Nakano                                                                                                        © Golf Digest Online
While the majority of golf fans are certainly focused on Medinah and Ryder Cup 2012 this weekend, many of the best women golfers on earth are engaged in an epic battle on the other side of the planet at the Japan Women's Open Golf Championship, where... despite a stellar field that includes 8 of the world's top 10 players ...  the the most feared and formidable adversary appears to be the golf course itself.  Wind-buffeted fairways and dry, speedy greens have the entire field over par going into the final round on the West Course at Yokohama Country Club.

For additional details on the 2012 Japan Women's Open you'll want to head over to Mostly Harmless, where you'll find the Constructivist, always a stellar source for news, info and insights English... on the Asian women's golf tours.

For my part, I'm focusing on something a bit more, shall we say...superficial: the awesome golf outfits.  You see, not only are these ladies some of the best golfers in the world, they're also some of the best dressed.

There were dozens of great looks on display during this event, however in the interest of time, here are my top five faves:
• Megumi Kido shared the lead going into the final round. Here she is in city shorts and an oxford shirt. ...on the golf course. A novel idea. ...that looks smashing.  Here's another take on the same look.  Pearly Gates
Ai Miyazato An international superstar and currently 6th in the world, Ai Miyazato has a style that's consistently cute, but never cloying.   Paradiso 
Ayako Uehara  This look is certainly insolite. I love the layers and the fact that they allow a short sleeved polo dress to transcend the summer season. Ayako finished solo 7th today.   Jun & Rope
Chie Arimura  is implausibly cute... TCFW the extent that she sometimes comes perilously close to cutsey.  However the talented top 20 player looks sporty and sophisticated in this outfit. The bold plaid, navy blue and brass buttons, assure that it strikes the right chords of cuteness without edging into the anime abyss    Viva Heart 
Na Yeon Choi  is currently No. 3 in the world and her style is right up there too. Traditional golf elements and a modern color palette are what makes this outfit my choice for No.1.  Hazzy's
Photos: Yoshimasa Nakano - © Golf Digest Online 

It's A Cookbook!!

That was my thought when I watched the video of The Rominee, in his Bainful iteration, talking about how they take over companies, do some manipulations, then "harvest" them. "Harvest." I imagine it's good business-speak, but it does seem a little cold. For a human, anyway.


Winning At Some Costs

Wise words in an essay by John Hodgman, who plays public pomposity, but who, evidently, is a private thinker. It appears in the 90 days, 90 reasons project: a daily dose of reasons to reelect the president. I think he means to address those liberals who're disappointed in Barack Obama because (I told you so) he's not liberal enough, and a pragmatist. People who want it all, now; and, failing that, are willing to let the other side win.
Those on the right who began wishing in 1980 to dismantle the Great Society, de-regulate and de-unionize business, and starve the beast of the federal government are, you may have noticed, very close to succeeding. I am not saying this to scare you; maybe you agree with them. But the point is that it happened because they endured the compromises, hypocrisies, and retreats needed to get the wins, and profoundly change policy in ways we barely noticed -- the repeal of Glass-Steagall; the massive tax cuts; the empowerment of corporations as political donors. These things did not happen because conservatives who believed in them kicked Reagan out of office in 1984 for failing to outlaw abortion immediately. It happened because they won elections.
(And were also willing to settle for the steady erosion of abortion and contraceptive rights, state by state across the country, which, if unchecked, may end up amounting to the same thing).

It's worth a read in its entirety; as a bonus, as you'd expect from him, it's funny and witty, too.

[Image source]


Nicolas Colsaerts, Belgian Golf Player Dude, Makes Ryder Cup History

From his two word Twitter bio (Golf Player) to his self-designated role as "team dude", Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts seems to favor understatement when it comes to self-description.

A decade-long quest to win on the European Tour... including four trips back to Q-School... appears to have imbued the 29-year-old Belgian with playful pragmatism that's quite refreshing in the often bombastic world of professional sports.

Today, after making history as the first Belgian to play on a Ryder Cup team, Colsaerts is receiving plentiful praise for a performance that's being called the greatest rookie round in Ryder Cup history. And he's trending on Twitter.  So one might wonder if the newly celebrated golfer will be able to hold on to his trademark reserve.  In any case, we can be pretty sure Dufner/ZJohnson vs Colsaerts/Garcia will be a much watched match tomorrow am. ... and for a little more background on the now famous Belgian golfer here's a post we did on him a while back.

Perseverance Pays Off for Nicolas Colsaerts - April 25, 2011

When I think of Belgium I think of beer.. or Brel... but I don't generally think of professional golfers.

In fact the last time a Belgian won on the European Tour was almost three decades ago when Phillipe Toussaint edged out Bob Shearer in a sudden death playoff at the Benson & Hedges Festival of Golf in 1974.

However, for the past ten years there's been a young man striving to put the Kingdom of Belgium back onto the top of the leaderboard, and yesterday he succeeded, with his breakthrough victory at the Volvo China Open.



Maybe I can preempt some right-wing spam for a few people. You're welcome.

The above is the sort of crap that RWS™ like Drudge et al., and his dutiful mail-forwarders, like to upchuck into the political scene. Here are the facts:

Is the Obama Phone Obama's doing? No. The universal service requirement dates back at least to the Communications Act of 1934. The Lifeline program specifically was started in 1984 under President Reagan and was expanded in 1996 under President Clinton to allow qualifying households to choose to apply the benefit to either a landline or a cell phone. So no, it's not an Obama handout.
Shockingly, despite the bipartisan origins of the service, the idea of an "Obama Phone" for the undeserving has existed for a long time. A couple email forwards, debunked by, were circulating in October 2009 and described poor people shamelessly showing off their free phones:

I get crap like that sent to me all the time, often accompanied by the ironic phrase "Snopes confirms!!!"  Yesterday someone rediscovered the oldie favorite about Barack and Michele Obama having "relinquished!!!" their law licenses under "questionable!!!!" circumstances. Other than disproving it, Snopes confirms. I mean, how stupid do you have to be, how gullible, how deeply in need of hate to fail to recognize bullshit like that from a mile away? Enough, evidently, that Drudge is considered credible and Foxorovobeckian dishonesty is considered biblical in its literalism.

I'd been collecting the stuff that people send me like the above, planning to wrap it up in a stinky ball and drop it into this space. But it's a fool's errand. Those who believe it will always believe it; and the more the evidence mounts that they're wrong, the further it pushes their heads to where they can neither see nor hear it. Exactly, in other words, where they like it.


Lucidity In This Guy

Why, seems like just yesterday that I wrote about the dumbness of Mitt. And now, as usual, we can enjoy Jon Stewart doing it much better (for reasons unknown, he omitted the airplane windows thingy. Too easy, I guess).



 There's a safer for work version, but it's not as much fun.

Pulling A Fast One

This should work.

[Image source]

Too Bad He's So Bad

Definitely a glass-half-empty kind of guy, I'm hardly convinced President Obama is gonna win this thing, current polls notwithstanding. But I am concerned that Mitt Romney (who could have seen it coming?) is turning out to be such a crappy candidate. Because I'd like this election to be about the issues at hand, about the real choice, the real direction in which voters want to see the country headed. The way it is now, teabaggers and teabaggRs can blame it on Mitt if he loses, and not on their message.

And, who knows, they might be right. Because, other than the fact that he was the only sane one in the bunch, and that the alternatives were even worse, he's the worst candidate up with whom they could have come. He's charismatic as an empty chair, as comfortable around regular people as a spider around shoes, as willing to lie as a guy facing a third strike law (well, in that he was among similars), as committed to his positions as someone who's not committed to his positions.

To watch The Rominee work his magic, with anything but Foxian blinders, is to cringe. Were he around, the Marquis de Sade might throw an arm around Mitt's shoulders and say, "I feel for ya, guy." He's becoming more pathetic by the hour. (Check out that link. Really.)

So it'll be too easy to blame his loss, assuming it happens, on his bearing Mittness. People didn't reject teabaggerism, they'll say, they rejected the man who changes positions like dirty underwear. (Do those things actually get dirty?) They rejected the guy caught on tape saying what we really believe; the guy who got caught hiding his money all over the world, like we wish we could.

I'd much rather the Rs had found, among the ruins of their party, a person able to carry their standard proudly and with conviction, and with something greater than the attractiveness of spoiled food. (Admittedly not an easy task, of late.) The country needs the debate, held honestly, among honest exemplars of each side, the issues laid out clearly, the choices for what they are.

Of course, to the extent that Mitt seems to be blowing it, I'm delighted, because I'm of the mind that, addressing the actual issues, the actual facts of what Obama has done and hasn't, and of what Romney claims he'd do (who the hell knows?), the choice is pretty obvious. Unless the goal is to pay as little in taxes as possible, damn the consequences. Or to discriminate against gays; or to degrade education to the point that, other than whatever value publicly-funded bible school might have, it's a white-flag-waving signal to the rest of the world to pass us by.

If Obama wins, I'd like to be able to think it's because a majority of voters see the danger in what today's Rs are proposing. But, sadly, the very fact of Mitt sort of negates the whole idea.

Was Aquinas a dualist?

At the start of chapter 4 of Aquinas(the chapter on “Psychology”), I wrote:

As I have emphasized throughout this book, understanding Aquinas requires “thinking outside the box” of the basic metaphysical assumptions (concerning cause, effect, substance, essence, etc.) that contemporary philosophers tend to take for granted.  This is nowhere more true than where Aquinas’s philosophy of mind is concerned.  Indeed, to speak of Aquinas’s “philosophy of mind” is already misleading.  For Aquinas does not approach the issues dealt with in this modern philosophical sub-discipline in terms of their relevance to solving the so-called “mind-body problem.”  No such problem existed in Aquinas’s day, and for him the important distinction was in any case not between mind and body, but rather between soul and body.  Even that is potentially misleading, however, for Aquinas does not mean by “soul” what contemporary philosophers tend to mean by it, i.e. an immaterial substance of the sort affirmed by Descartes.  Furthermore, while contemporary philosophers of mind tend to obsess over the questions of whether and how science can explain consciousness and the “qualia” that define it, Aquinas instead takes what is now called “intentionality” to be the distinctive feature of the mind, and the one that it is in principle impossible to explain in materialistic terms.  At the same time, he does not think of intentionality in quite the way contemporary philosophers do.  Moreover, while he is not a materialist, he is not a Cartesian dualist either, his view being in some respects a middle position between these options.  But neither is this middle position the standard one discussed by contemporary philosophers under the label “property dualism.”  And so forth.

To the modern philosophical reader, all this might make Aquinas sound very odd indeed, confusing and perhaps confused…  Yet had Aquinas been familiar with the ideas of contemporary philosophers of mind, he would have regarded them as the confused ones, and in particular as having gotten the basic conceptual lay of the land totally wrong.  For the “mind-body problem” is essentially an artifact of the early modern philosophers’ decision to abandon a hylemorphic conception of the world for a mechanistic one, and its notorious intractability is, in the view of Thomists, one of the starkest indications of how deeply mistaken that decision was.

End quote.  In a recent paper, the esteemed Alfred Freddoso takes his own Thomistic look at contemporary philosophy of mind, and explains how much of what is today taken for granted in the field is “bound to strike a Thomist as strange and insufficiently motivated.”  Nor is it only the views of materialists that Freddoso (and I) are critical of.  For reasons he clearly explains, the views of many dualists, and even of many orthodox Catholic thinkers, must from a Thomistic point of view be regarded as seriously deficient.  Give the paper a read.  You’ll find in it, among many other good things, a useful overview of the way the Thomistic approach to issues in the philosophy of mind reflects a broader Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of nature.

I have one point of disagreement with Fred, though (as it seems he would agree) it is more terminological than substantive.  He says some very kind things about both my book The Last Superstition and David Oderberg’s book Real Essentialism.  But he takes exception to Oderberg’s (and my) tendency to characterize Aquinas’s position as “hylemorphic dualism.”  Fred writes:

Unlike Feser, I am very uneasy describing St. Thomas’s position as a form of dualism — even ‘hylemorphic dualism’ — since it is precisely the unity of the human being that St. Thomas wants to emphasize over against Plato’s position, which (as he interprets it) posits many substantial forms in the human composite.  (The term ‘hylemorphic dualism’ originates, I believe, with David Oderberg in Real Essentialism (New York: Routledge, 2007).) This is largely a verbal disagreement, but I for one resist making Thomistic philosophical anthropology conform to what I believe to be the illegitimate contemporary taxonomy of ‘solutions’ to the alleged ‘mind-body problem’, according to which each solution is either a type of materialism or a type of dualism.

Freddoso is right to say that the term “hylemorphic dualism” probably originates with David Oderberg (certainly it originates with him as far as David or I know), though it is David’s 2005 Social Philosophy and Policy paper “Hylemorphic Dualism” that (at least as far as I know) actually marks its first appearance.  But Aquinas’s position is characterized as “Thomistic dualism” in William Hasker’s 1999 book The Emergent Self and J. P. Moreland and Scott Rae’s 2000 book Body and Soul, and Aquinas is characterized as “a non-Cartesian substance dualist” in Eleonore Stump’s 2003 book Aquinas.  And there is a good reason why these (and other) writers classify Aquinas as a kind of dualist.  The reason is that is that Aquinas just obviously is a dualist given the sense of “dualism” that has long been operative in modern philosophy of mind.  As Stump writes:

It is clear that Aquinas rejects the Cartesian or Platonic sort of dualism.  On the other hand, Aquinas seems clearly in the dualist camp somewhere since he thinks that there is an immaterial and subsistent constituent of the subject of cognitive function.  (p. 212)

In particular, Aquinas holds that the human intellect is immaterial and that because it is, the human soul of which it is a power survives the death of the body.  And that is more than enough to make him a dualist as “dualism” is generally understood today.  To the vast majority of contemporary philosophers, to say “Aquinas thinks the soul is immaterial and survives the death of the body, but he isn’t a dualist” sounds a little like saying “Aquinas believed the existence of God can be demonstrated, but he isn’t a theist.”  

The reason Freddoso (and some other writers on Aquinas) resist the term “dualism” is that they tend to use it in an older sense, to refer more or less exclusively to what is today generally regarded only as one version of dualism among others -- specifically, to what Stump calls “the Cartesian or Platonic sort of dualism.”  On a Cartesian or Platonic view, the real you is something entirely immaterial -- your soul -- and the body is merely something with which you are contingently associated, and not essentialto you at all.  Human beings are violently sundered in two, the seamless unity of their material and immaterial aspects denied.  Naturally, Aquinas, who (following both Aristotle and Christian tradition alike) regards our bodily nature as essential to us, rejects such a view.  For that reason, Freddoso worries that by applying to Aquinas the “dualism” label:

Thomism gets put into the same general category as philosophical anthropologies according to which human beings are not properly speaking (i.e., per se) animals at all, but instead immaterial souls closely associated with animal bodies… One might have hoped for a more fine-grained problematic to begin with, where Thomistic philosophical anthropology would be seen as (a) clearly distinct from dualism in insisting that human beings are both unified substances and animals in the full-blooded sense and (b) clearly distinct from materialism in insisting that there is a radical metaphysical underpinning, viz., an immaterial form, for the human animal’s distinctiveness from other animals.

The trouble is that the term “dualism” just doesn’t have these exclusively Platonic and Cartesian implications in contemporary philosophy.  Many modern dualists are “property dualists,” who hold precisely that human beings are material things and indeed animals of a certain kind, but animals who happen to have immaterial properties in addition to material ones.  To be sure (and as the above quote from my Aquinasbook indicates) I would not classify Aquinas as a “property dualist” either, in part because it isn’t correct to describe him as holding that thoughts and the like are “properties” of a material substance.  But the existence of property dualism as a position within the broad dualist camp nevertheless illustrates the point that “dualism” as it is understood today simply does not imply the idea that a person’s body is not essential to him.  

Now Freddoso does have some things to say about property dualism, but his remarks seem to me somewhat odd, and are in my view in any case mistaken.  For one thing, he says that though property dualism “is often presented as an alternative to materialism” it is in fact “clearly a form of materialism.”  He also writes:

A zombie-world is one which is just like ours in its physical constitution and physical events, but in which there are no sensuous experiences.  Is a zombie world possible?  If it is, then even so moderate a form of materialism as property dualism is false, since the presence of the sensuous experiences cannot be accounted for merely by the presence of the physical, no matter how the latter is constituted, and sensings and feelings do not necessarily supervene on the physical.

The reason this is odd is that the notion of a “zombie” is commonly put forward precisely in arguments against materialism and in favor of property dualism! For example, David Chalmers’ book The Conscious Mind, which is an especially influential recent defense of the possibility of “zombies,” makes use of the notion precisely as a way of defending property dualism.  Since a zombie would be identical to us in all its material properties but devoid of consciousness, it follows (so the argument goes) that consciousness is not material but rather a non-material property of human beings.  (In his paper “Why I Am Not a Property Dualist,” John Searle argues that property dualism in fact threatens to collapse into a Cartesian-style substance dualism.  While I have criticizedother aspects of Searle’s paper, that much seems to me hardly less plausible than Freddoso’s opposite assertion.)

The reason Freddoso says what he does about property dualism seems to be that he associates it with a fairly strong claim about the supervenience of the mental on the physical.  But as Chalmers writes:

There is a weaker sort of property dualism with which [Chalmers’] view should not be confused.  It is sometimes said that property dualism applies to any domain in which the properties are not themselves properties invoked by physics, or directly reducible to such properties.  In this sense, even biological fitness is not a physical property.  But this sort of “dualism” is a very weak variety.  There is nothing fundamentally ontologically new about properties such as fitness, as they are still logically supervenient on microphysical properties.  Property dualism of this variety is entirely compatible with materialism.  By contrast, the property dualism that I advocate involves fundamentally new features of the world.  Because these properties are not even logically supervenient on microphysical properties, they are nonphysical in a much stronger sense.  When I speak of property dualism and nonphysical properties, it is this stronger view and the stronger sense of nonphysicality that I have in mind.  (p. 125)

Hence Freddoso is perhaps conflating what is really only one version of property dualism -- what Chalmers calls a “very weak variety” -- with property dualism as such.  Be that as it may, there is certainly nothing in property dualism per se that entails materialism.  And since property dualism also does not entail treating a person’s body as non-essential to him, there is nothing in dualism per se as the term “dualism” is generally understood today that entails a specifically Platonic or Cartesian conception of persons.  That narrow construal of “dualism” has become archaic.

Hence it seems to me that for a Thomist to insiston using “dualism” in the more narrow, archaic sense is like refusing to use the word “atom” the way modern physicists do on the grounds that the ancient atomists thought of atoms as essentially indivisible.  In both cases, the meaning of the term has as a matter of linguistic fact simply changed fundamentally and nothing of substance rides on it anyway.  Insisting on the older usage gains nothing and has as a downside that it sows confusion.  In the case at hand, refusing to allow that Aquinas could in any sense be called a dualist at best seems baffling to most contemporary readers (given that Aquinas affirmed the immateriality of the intellect and the immortality of the soul) and at worst threatens to foster positive misunderstandings (if, for example, it leads any contemporary readers to conclude that Aquinas’s position might be compatible with naturalism broadly conceived).  

As my longtime readers know, I have no problem whatsoever with insisting on old ideas and even old usages when something substantive is at stake.  Hence I am keen to insist not only on the fundamental importance of the Aristotelian theory of act and potency but even on the language of “act” and “potency,” since I think these terms have connotations which make them more suitable means of conveying the concepts in question than contemporary putative substitutes like “categorical properties” and “dispositional properties.”  

But there are other cases where the benefits of reviving older usage are balanced or even outweighed by the costs.  For example, if in every context I used the word “science” only in the technical Aristotelian sense of the word, I might please certain Aristotelian or Thomistic readers of the sort who occasionally complain (in the combox, say) that my usage is insufficiently traditional.  But I would baffle the vast majority of my readers, who would be led into grave and entirely avoidable misunderstandings, and who are (quite understandably) not keen to read through a primer on the history of philosophical linguistic usage as a prolegomenon to every blog post.  And in my estimation, preserving the archaic use of “dualism” is even less important than insisting in every context on the older sense of “science.”

But I hate to disagree with Fred, whose work I have long admired and from whom I have learned much.  Our minor disagreement notwithstanding, this latest paper is of great interest.  Again, give it a read.


Big Time

Since I'm sure my readers spend their time reading The Economist and The New York Times, they probably missed this. Fact is, I did, too, until another surgeon came up to me today while I was scrubbing for a case and mentioned she'd seen it.

I'm especially disappointed at the first quote of mine, which was just part of a story I was telling when the interviewer asked me about when something surprised me during an operation. It certainly doesn't belong in "things surgeons won't tell you." I gave her a lot better ones than that, including one I thought the most important of all:
"Judgment is more important than techinique. The body heals well enough that it can make up for it if your surgeon is a little less than graceful. But there's no amount of healing that can fix the wrong operation done at the wrong time."
See? That's better than any of them.

Offbeat Awesomeness: The Ryder Cup Chronicles of @MikeBelindo

The adventure is well underway for David Amezqueta (aka @MikeBelindo).

He's the spunky Spanish golf scribe with Ryder Cup dreams we told you about last week, and it seems those dreams are already coming true... and then some... as evidenced below. The clip is in Spanish but one needn't understand the language to see that David has excellent access.

I wonder how many US golf bloggers get to kiss their captain (0:02)? This clip certainly begs the question.

Anyway, David is telling his story at Ryder Cup by Schweppes, an elegant microsite on Cronica Golf, sponsored by the global beverage brand.

If you're able to read/understand Spanish... and you're looking for a fresh, fun, first hand view of this most spirited and exciting of golf events... you'll definitely want to follow @MikeBelindo .


This ebook is described as proposing that the upcoming election is really a referendum on George W Bush. It's an interesting formulation, which I hadn't thought of exactly like that; although it's clear enough, and I've said so many times, that R and R want to take us back, in all ways, to those times. In his deafening absence from R/R/R talking points (and conventions), it's pretty clear they'd rather we not put it that way.

This book documents how the eight year reign of President George W. Bush changed Washington and the country. A compilation of some of the best journalism published in the Washington Monthly magazine during those years, the book provides an insightful real-time account of what happened in the nation’s capital when, for the first time in half a century, the GOP took charge of both elected branches of government. Suddenly, the rules in Washington changed in ways Beltway veterans were slow to see, in the service of an agenda they did not grasp, and with a level of incompetence that they literally could not believe...

I might have to give it a read. In any case, although Ds are pointing it out to a certain extent, it seems to me it needs to be made very clear, because it's entirely true: we'll be choosing whether to go back to what went on under Bush, or what's happened since. Makes it simpler for everyone, whatever side they're on. (Some might argue that it's not exactly like Bush, because these guys want to cut spending so drastically. To which I'd reply: same basic policies; just more people hurt.)

The problem for Rs -- and it's implicit in their explicit expunging of George W from their conversations -- is that they know they're offering nothing different from the Bush years, and they know how disastrous it was for the country. What's less obvious, but certainly must be true, is that the ones pushing return to those days aren't thinking about the country at all. They're thinking about their personal wealth, how to retain it at all costs, how to increase it, even if it's at the expense of everyone else. There's no other way to explain it.

If the election really were about what it's really about, it'd be a landslide; or so you'd think, if it weren't for some of the comments here, which indicate facts have nothing to do with it. For teabaggers, that's obviously true; the question is how many of them there still are out there, deeply the Foxification has penetrated, and whether, at this late date, anything can penetrate it.


Sheila Baird, lifelong Republican who voted for John McCain, and who was FDIC chair under Bush (and continued for a while under Obama), doesn't plan to vote for The Rominee:

Final question -- you're a lifelong Republican. You write in the book that you voted for John McCain in 2008. Are you planning to vote for Mitt Romney this time around?

Bair: I am very disappointed in Mr. Romney. I am aghast at the recent statements that he made; they were on YouTube. I think he has a lot to explain. I am also, though, disappointed in Mr. Obama. I think his policies have been Wall Street-friendly through his economic team. I think he's got the worst of both worlds -- Wall Street doesn't like him because he's been publicly critical, yet his administration has performed policies that are pretty friendly to them. So at this point I have to say I'm probably going to write in Jon Huntsman.
That she's not voting for Romney isn't the interesting part: she is, after all, one of those few remaining intelligent self-described Republicans. What's is interesting (reconfirming her intelligence) is the recognition that Obama has, in fact, been very friendly to Wall Street and yet they've lined up against him. Like so much else at the heart of teabagger rage against their president, it really makes no sense. He's anti-business? By what measure? He's made us less safe? On what evidence? (Not, surely, by virtue of terrorist body-count.) His energy policies are hurting Americans? In what way, exactly? Quadrupling drilling? Getting us closer to energy independence than we've been in decades? Whom does that hurt, and how? (And, unless you can point to why current gas prices, the same as they were under Bush, are his fault, line up the dots and connect them, don't bother to bring it up.)

The idea that Obama hates capitalism is as ridiculous as is the hate so many people have for the Affordable Care Act. The number of pages in it, or the number of Congressfolk who read it before voting, it seems to me, are less important than what's in it. When people find out, they mostly like it. Not to mention that when they're told it was originally designed by a conservative think tank, they're sort of dumbstruck.

If it hasn't happened by now, ain't never gonna: having a discussion of the two candidates that's based on reality. What Obama actually has or hasn't done (as opposed to crap like this); what Romney says he'd do (to the extent that he's been willing to reveal it); how his ideas have worked when they've been tried before. Claiming Barack Obama is antibusiness just because it's apparent that teabaggRs will eat it up and vote accordingly doesn't make it so. Evidently, Sheila Baird is among the few on the right who gets that.

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Judy (my child bride) showed me a perfect quote from George Orwell. I'd like readers to note that it has  now replaced the subtitle of my blog. The man surely foresaw these times, did he not?

Not Smart

Noting that George W went to Yale, and that, some years back, Harvard offered me a seven year scholarship, we know that just because The Rominee went Ivy League it doesn't mean he's smart. Slowly it's becoming pretty clear; and, really, we should consider it a welcome break from the lying. Example one:

PELLEY:  Now, you made on your investments, personally, about twenty million dollars last year. And you paid fourteen percent in federal taxes. That's the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes fifty thousand dollars and paid a higher rate than you did?

ROMNEY:  It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as thirty-five percent.  . . .
No, Mittster Businessman. That's dividends. Not capital gains. Capital gains are profits you made, all by yourself, without lifting a finger or breaking a sweat, when you sell something that's appreciated. Harvard MBA? Well, George showed us that having one doesn't necessarily mean you know arithmetic.

And how about this, after his wife's plane made an emergency landing:
“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem."

Excellent point, Governor. First day in office, you should issue an executive order.

Yeah, sure, everyone misspeaks. The RWS™ and Frank Drackman would like you to believe our president thinks there are 57 states. But the above don't seem like slips of the tongue: more like run-of-the-mill dumbness. I suppose I could be wrong. Maybe he's just woefully misinformed about basic stuff. Stuff that fifth-graders know. But coattail college admissions don't concern themselves with I.Q. Not back in those days, anyway.

Finally, how about this: what sort of doofus shows up at a Latino event wearing brownface? Seriously. He did.

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