Odds and Ends Vol 13

Odds and EndsIs it ever time for a new Odds and Ends. I have so much stuff lying around, my desktop is getting out of hand. It’s interesting though. When I first started this series, it was to present stuff that I didn’t have much to add to. But I think everything today represents stuff I have an awful lot to say about. But enough is enough!

Third Languages

One of Frankly Curious‘ friends Infidel753 Blog turned eight this last week, so congratulations! I think that according to Catholic dogma, this means the blog is now officially responsible for its sins. But since Infiden753 (the human, not the site) is quite an outspoken atheist, it will be consigned to fire that never dies along with him. On the plus side, that’s where all the cool people go.

I found the following graph from the most recent of Infidel753′ great link round-ups. He does this kind of stuff much better than I can, because I just can’t stop myself from going on and on. Anyway, for this one I don’t have much to add. English is the most used language in the United States. Spanish is the second. [Spanish is not the most popular language in every state; see the article. -FM] But what is the third? Well, Slate put together a really great map of the third most used language in each state, Tagalog in California, Cherokee in Arkansas.

Third Most Used Language By State

Check out the article because there is a lot more to it. For those who don’t know it, “Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by a quarter of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by the majority.”

Kevin Sorbo: Christian Racist

Via The Young Turks, actor Kevin Sorbo called the protesters in Ferguson “animals.” On his Facebook page, he wrote, “It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better.” From my perspective, he made matters far worse when he apologized on TMZ. You can see it all in this video, which I completely agree with.

What I find interesting is that Sorbo is an outspoken Christian. Why is it that Christianity in this country is so often tied to racism? I’m not just ranting here. We know that the foundation of the religious right was racism and not abortion—an issue protestants really didn’t care about until well after Roe v Wade. I understand that for most Christians, their religion has almost nothing to do with theology. It is just a cultural signifier: they are the “right” kind of people. But how is it that their beliefs can be in direct opposition to the Gospels? I don’t get it.

Everyone In America Is Middle Class

Anat Shenker-Osorio proposed to answer an interesting question earlier this month, Why Americans All Believe They Are “Middle Class.” I’m afraid her answer was not all that interesting, however. She noted that regardless of how much money people get, they still see other people who they consider rich. On the other side, she posits that because even the poor have things that once were only available to the rich, people feel like they are living the middle class dream. I suppose those are true enough.

I’m more interested in the fact that only 2% of Americans consider themselves part of the upper class. Including upper-middle class still only gets you to 17%. That means that at least 15% of the people who are technically in the upper class claim they are in the middle class or below.What I hate about this is that people in the upper class have very nice standards of livings at the same time they tell themselves (And the world when a pollster calls!) that they are just a working stiff.

Ayn Rand and L Ron Top “Best Novels” List

Speaking of delusional people, in 1998, Modern Library published a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. It’s filled with the sort of things you would expect: Joyce, Fitzgerald, Nabokov. But the following year, they did a non-scientific poll of readers and got their opinions. In the top ten novels include four by Ayn Rand and three by L Ron Hubbard. It also includes The Lord of the Rings, which as you may be aware, is not a novel; it is three. But Rand and Tolkien being in the top ten reminded me of this quote:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

The books in the bottom 90 of the list are much more like the editors’ choices. But there are some odd choices like The Satanic Verses. Also there are seven Robert Heinlein novels. That’s interesting because I don’t think much of him as a writer or science fiction thinker. Also: he was very conservative with a military outlook on life. But he was nice Philip K Dick, so there’s that.

Judicial Confirmations

A few months back (See how it is?), Jonathan Bernstein wrote, McConnell’s Nuclear Blunder Haunts Republicans. At that time, there were fewer than 80 unfilled judicial vacancies. Bernstein’s point is that the McConnell game of just grinding the process to a halt has ended in the Republicans losing any power they had in the process. By blocking every nomination that came by, the Republicans have lost the ability to stop the handful that they have actual problems with.

Of course, it probably doesn’t matter for long. The Upshot‘s Senate Forecast now gives the Republicans a 65% of taking the Senate. Up until recently, their model has been pretty positive toward the Democrats. In fact, back in June it gave the Democrats almost a 60% of keeping the Senate. But no more. The only good news is that the model still predicts the most likely outcome to be a 51-49 division. If that holds, the Democrats will certainly take the Senate back in 2016—barring economic catastrophe.

Are Liberal Billionaires Good?

Even further back in time, Paul Waldman asked, Are Liberal Mega-Donors Just as Bad as Conservative Mega-Donors? My answer to this question is: in general, yes. He is pretty much on board with that, but he notes that this is really just a process story and what most people care about is results. He gives a great example:

Let’s say, for instance, that a billionaire had a company that developed a new energy technology that was so remarkable it provided low-cost, zero-carbon energy that could power every car, home, and business on earth, putting an end to the need for all fossil fuels and stopping climate change in its tracks. And he swooped into the election, spent half a billion dollars, and got a whole bunch of people elected who would ease the way for approval and adoption of his technology. And then let’s imagine that his girlfriend gave TMZ a tape on which he said that he didn’t give a crap about the planet, all he knew was that this was going to make him so much money he could spend the rest of his life snorting blow and having Nazi-themed parties at his estates while reclining on rugs made of baby harp seal pelts.

In that case, you’d have 1) a distorted election, producing 2) a wonderful result for humanity, 3) done for atrocious reasons. How would you feel about it?

I would only add that this is generally not the option. The reason we want to get money out of politics is that the big donors are not doing things that are good for our country. And it doesn’t matter in the least to me that the Koch brothers on the right or George Soros on the very moderate left think they doing what is best for the country.

Whitey on the Moon

And finally, this Gil Scott-Heron song “Whitey on the Moon” has been going through my head. The song was release in 1970, right at the time of the Moon landings. You can’t help but accept its logic: the Apollo missions were about the white elite class’ self-aggrandizement when there were so many problems here on the ground. Just the same, that was a time when the federal government was really trying to do something about poverty. What’s more, the Apollo missions were an expression of the best that humanity is. Still, I appreciate the resentment of this song:

That’s all for now. I’ll talk at you later today…

2 thoughts on “Odds and Ends Vol 13

  1. Thanks for the reference! Some of the entries on that map are surprising — I would have expected Cantonese or Mandarin in California, for example. And Nebraska probably has two Spanish-speakers and one Vietnamese-speaker. But I’m not at all surprised to see Russian prevalent here in Oregon.

    I once told a Christian that I don’t worry about going to Hell for the same reason I don’t worry about going to Azkaban (the wizard prison in the Harry Potter books). An obvious point, but he didn’t like it much.

    • You’re welcome. I always like sending people over to your blog. I don’t know if they go, but they should.

      I was a bit surprised about California too. I would have thought Vietnamese. But that’s just because where I live there is a huge Vietnamese community. But there is also a large Filipino community. California really is a wonderfully diverse state. As for Oregon, I was surprised at that. I lived in Portland for about a decade and I just don’t remember a bunch of Russians. But as much as I liked (Loved!) Portland, it always seemed like a very white town. (Not that Russians aren’t “white.”)

      Ha! I actually would have gotten the Azkaban reference! But you were right to explain; usually I’m totally clueless on popular culture. Most “modern” theology is so silly just on the face of it. I think the reason that there haven’t been any improvements on theology for about 3,000 years is that for most people, religion is just a pacifier to make people feel better about their eventual deaths. No one seems to be very interested in ontology or cosmology. As I wrote above, “It is just a cultural signifier.” And some of them really like the idea of people like us burning in hell.

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