Archive for ‘politics’

March 10, 2015

Dear Iran

by Neil Rickert

Here is my paraphrase of the letter from 47 Republican senators, including the parts that were unwritten but implied:

Dear Iran,

We understand that you are ignorant and stupid people who do not understand how the US government works.  So we are going to explain it to you.

The reason we don’t want you to reach an agreement with our government, is that we want an excuse to be able to go to war against you.

Apart from being borderline treason, this was a stupid thing for Republicans to do.

Link for relevant news report: Republicans Warn Iran — and Obama — That Deal Won’t Last

November 25, 2014

On Ferguson, Missouri

by Neil Rickert

I’ll just quote a little from Fred Clark (the slacktivist), who says it so well:

In a sane universe, or a moral one, it would not be not reasonable to claim that the mere presence of an unarmed dark-skinned person was a basis to fear for one’s life. In a sane world, such fear would be regarded, rather, as the very definition of racial prejudice.

The argument that the presence of an unarmed black man prompted a lethal response out of existential fear would not be possible as a defense against the accusation of racial prejudice in a sane world, because it would be rightly understood as a confirmation of such prejudice — as a confession of it.

Now go read Fred’s complete post.

October 31, 2014

The cultural scene

by Neil Rickert

A few posts worth reading:

Some choice quotes:

In evangelical home schools by the millions science is treated as toxic. Meanwhile in the secular public schools education has been mugged by corporate utilitarianism.


If the British had reacted to Hitler’s bombing of London the way we overacted to 9/11 the entire city of London would be one vast memorial…

You can count me as siding with Kaci Hickox on this.

I’m not sure that I agree with Coyne’s diagnosis, though I agree that there is a decline.

I frequently receive email from the NY Times, asking me to subscribe.  But I probably read less than one article per day, on average, so I’m not inclined to answer their ads.  I get much of my news from NPR, and I do contribute to my local NPR station.  If the NY Times, the Washington Post and several other newspapers could get together in a consortium, and offer a subscription that would give on-line browsing access to all of those papers, I might sign up for that.  I won’t subscribe to the NY Times only, because I don’t like the idea of a single source.

October 30, 2014

Please vote on Tuesday Nov 4th

by Neil Rickert

If you are a registered voter in the USA, then please vote on Tuesday.

I won’t tell you how to vote.  I suggest you study the candidates and decide that for yourself.  But I will tell you how I plan to vote for the most important positions.

For Illinois governor, my vote will be for Patrick Quinn.  I don’t actually like Quinn, so this is more a case of voting against his Republican opponent (Bruce Rauner).

For US Senate, I’ll be voting for Dick Durbin.  In my opinion, he has been a pretty good senator.  His opponent, Jim Oberweis, should have stayed out of politics — he isn’t very good at it.

For congress, I’ll probably vote for the Democrat, but it will be a wasted vote.  The 14th congressional district is a safe Republican seat.  I hate that.  I hated it just as much at a previous residence, where I was in a safe Democrat seat.  Competitive elections are better.

And then there’s a bunch of other positions.  Our ballot is too long.

We need better candidates

Yes, the choice of candidates is often poor.  But vote anyway.  If you don’t vote, then the politicians will take you for granted, and things won’t get better.

October 20, 2013

Politics and religion don’t mix

by Neil Rickert

This post is mainly to suggest a few links worth reading.

The shutdown

Frank Schaeffer has some ideas on what was behind the shutdown.  Whether or not he is correct, they are worth reading or listening to.

I’ll note that Schaeffer is also pushing his recent book.  I don’t have much to say about that.  I did buy the book (the inexpensive kindle edition), but I have not finished reading it.  I’m still half-way through the opening paragraph.  Evidently, reading that book is not one of my high priorities.

Here are the two Schaeffer posts that I recommend:

On abortion

Samantha, at her blog Defeating the Dragons, has a multi-part series on how her views on abortion evolved.  She has a summary post, “Ordeal of the Bitter Waters” which summarizes the six parts and provides links to them.  The summary post is an excellent place to start.

If you are familiar with the biblical reference alluded to in the title, you can probably guess where her posts are going.  Early on, she was persuaded by the “pro-life” arguments.  But then real life happened to her, and she began to understand that the issue was far more complex than the pro-life folk would have you believe.  She is now pro-choice.

As part of her journey, she discovered that the Christian Bible does not condemn abortion.  Quite the contrary, in some circumstances it commands abortion.

September 27, 2013

The stalemate in Washington

by Neil Rickert

Frank Schaeffer, writing about the current political stalemate, says:

What the reality-based community, especially in our media savvy centers of intellectual life forget, is that a big chunk of our population has been groomed from birth to embrace delusional thinking.

Put it this way: you can’t understand who supports and voted for Senator Ted Cruz and the forty extremists in Congress holding the rest of us hostage, unless you first understand why the Creation Museum has so many enthusiastic visitors. When they are there they can learn how dinosaurs cohabited the earth with people and why the planet is only six thousand years old, sort of the scientific equivalent to claims that President Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Kenya.

Until the root of myth-based political thinking is admitted and understood it can’t be addressed. Pointing out that the right lives in an echo chamber solves nothing. The point is why?

I recommend reading Schaeffer’s full post on the topic:


August 31, 2013

Stay out of Syria

by Neil Rickert

I rarely make political comments here, but it is time for an exception.  I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, but I kept my view to myself.  This time, I will be more public.

There is no good reason for the USA to intervene in Syria.  There is no plausible good outcome.  We should stay out.

Some say that the use of chemical weapons must not go unpunished.  I agree that there is a plausible case for that argument.  But unless we are damned sure about which faction instigated the use of chemical weapons, we cannot use that as an excuse to intervene.

There’s an interesting analysis of the Syrian situation on Wolff’s blog.  I cannot vouch for its accuracy.  But it should remind us of how uncertain is our knowledge of the current situation.

April 22, 2013

Obese legislation

by Neil Rickert

Richard Posner, in a post about the proposed immigration reform, writes:

It is an unreadable 880 pages in length (legislation has become obese in tandem with the increasing obesity of the population).

Emphasis added, to highlight the part that I found both amusing and true.

February 24, 2013

Illinois public pensions

by Neil Rickert

Public pensions have been much in the news recently in Illinois.  This is largely because the state has serious budget problems, and part of those problems are pension related.

[Full disclosure:  I am currently receiving a pension from SURS – the State University Retirement System]

Some state politicians see the public pensions as too generous, and as a drain on the state budget.  So they want to cut pensions.  There are three kinds of cuts that have been suggested:

  • Cuts to people currently receiving pensions;
  • cuts to future pensions of current employees;
  • cuts to pensions of people hired in the future.

I have no problem at all with the third of those.  The state, as employer, can set whatever employment conditions it wants.  People are free to choose not to work for the state of Illinois if they do not consent to the working conditions.

read more »

February 22, 2013

On the keystone pipeline – an opinion

by Neil Rickert

There has been a lot of discussion about the keystone pipeline, and whether approval should be given for its completion.  A number of environmental groups have been pressuring President Obama to reject the pipeline.


The pipeline would bring crude oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in the USA.  Extracting oil from the tar sands is a particularly dirty operation, in terms of its effect on the environment.  Environmentalists point to the pollution that will be caused by extracting this oil.  And they remind us of the global warming problem as they argue for rejection of the pipeline.

read more »