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    • Rationality Is A Process, Not A Conclusion (Nuclear Weapons Edition)
      A lot of mistakes come from assuming rationality means “thinks the same way I do” rather than “reasons from premises I might not share.” Left than 1/1000 economists predicted the financial collapse, because they reasoned from assumptions like “the market is self-correcting” or “housing prices never go down.” (Sometimes both at the same time, which is rarely […]
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Stay Tuned with Kasparov and Vindman

Stay Turned with Preet Bharara did a town hall in NYC recently and invited Ben Stiller, Garry Kasparov and Alexander Vindman. This is a must listen podcast. The first conversation with Ben Stiller is good in its own right, especially to fans of his hit series on Apple +, Severence. Best series on TV in decades. I’m serious. So so good. But enuf of that. It’s Kasparov and Vindman that get to the heart of the matter in Ukraine. I’ve heard similar sentiments from Timothy Snyder and Fiona Hill recently. Basically, Ukraine HAS to win, not only for itself but for the rest of us. It’s existential for the free world. Don’t believe me? Emmanuel Macron finished only 4 points ahead of Russian backed candidate Marine Le Pen in last weekend’s first round of elections for president of France. Voters will think of their own personal economy first. But Vindman and Kasparov make a case for dealing a knock out blow to Putin as quickly as possible.

In fact, there’s really no way around it. The west must show strength and determination against putin to get him to back down. The longer this drags out, the more painful it’s going to be for the entire world. Better to close the skies now, deal putin a crushing defeat and let Kremlin insiders take care of the rest.

As for putin dropping nukes, they both made some great points: 1.) Putin can’t pull the trigger by himself. There is a chain of command. And 2.) Putin can’t be within 30 feet of anyone, which indicates that he wants to live.

Great podcast. It’s a don’t miss. Catch it here.

Religion

I don’t follow the sport of golf, though I do try to remember when the tournament played in Pebble Beach is, because the scenic shots are stunningly beautiful. This last weekend featured the Masters Tournament, which I think is the most prestigious, but I do not watch it.

I just turned on the station yesterday., looking for the baseball game, and I saw them talking about Scottie Scheffler, who had just won the Masters in very impressive fashion. I had never heard of him, but I hardly know the names of any golfers. I just now read that he was considered the number one golfer in the world, he is 25, from Texas. They showed his wife being very excited,, she seems very supportive, and of course is quite attractive. His first prize was $2.5 million.

Nothing unusual here. But then I saw a brief TV comment or two by Scheffler, right after he had won, saying that he was so full of emotion before going out to the course that final day, that he almost did not know that he could cope with it. And then his wife told him, in a supportive way, “Who are you to think that it is all up to you?” The import, for him, was that she was saying that it is in god’s hands, not his. And Scheffler told the media that after his wife said that, he realized that if god decided that it was his time to win, he would; if not, then it was not his time.

So what do we think about that? In one sense, Scheffler was being modest, like the athletes or coaches who are on camera after a big win or great performance, and say that they “give all the glory to god.” But is he saying that he had nothing to do with it, it was all god’s work? Oh, he probably was not saying that, he has some belief system where you have to do the best you can, but then the rest is up to god.

Of course, as people have said over the years that this kind of statement has become very common in sports, what about the other players? God did not want them to win? It was not their time to win? Does god care about who wins the Masters Golf Tournament, or any sports competition? If some other golfer tried very hard, and was obviously a very good golfer to even get in this tournament, but he did not do too well, and finished out of the money, was that god’s will? Did god have a purpose for the finish of every player in the tournament?

None of this makes any logical sense, but I certainly do concede that religion, belief, and faith are not necessarily susceptible to human logic. “The ways of god are unknown to man”? If that is so, then why do the athletes, or the politicians, keep trying to tell people what god intends for them or for the country? What they really mean is, that they are sure that god favors all that they do, even if they try to overturn election results, and that god validates for them the rightness of the cause which they personally believe in.

And they go on saying things like that, almost like a catechism, maybe it is actually one. God wants this, god intends this. They know, there is no doubt for them. God is on their side, and they are on god’s side. Whatever they do is right, and what their enemies do is wrong and bad. They sometimes even say that: their opponents are “against god,” “for the devil,” trying to destroy god’s kingdom. Amy Coney Barrett, when asked about her religious beliefs at her nomination hearing, said that she “wanted to create god’s kingdom on earth.”

I do not know that that means. Literally, it means that she has a conception or viewpoint on various things, and she believes that this is what god wants on earth, and she will decide cases based on that. Now, I would say that this is exactly what we do not want on the Supreme Court, justices deciding cases based on their religious beliefs. It is not that religious beliefs are bad, or wrong to have, but anyone who knows anything about various religions know that they differ, there are various gradations. Hundreds of years of battlefield wars have been fought between different religions, all trying to create their particular vision of god’s kingdom on earth.

The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, and the other groups which have controlled the Republicans’ choices who now dominate the Supreme Court, have made sure to pick Catholics, from the Opus Dei sect. This is a very unsettling sect, involving secrecy, intransigence, a mission of installing their doctrines. This effort has turned the Supreme Court into almost a religious arm, in a country which was founded on freedom of, and freedom from, religion. No clause in the Constitution ever said that people could not be religious, or practice their own religion, but the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The founders’ ancestors came from Europe, they knew the dangers and destruction wrought by people who wanted their particular religion to be the law of the land, and who wanted to destroy anyone who did not have the same religion. This Establishment Clause has been interpreted by Courts here for hundreds of years, to call for a separation of church and state. The religious factions have fought against it; they declaim about “a war on Christmas,” they want prayers in school, but the courts have always stopped them. But the Opus Dei members of the Supreme Court almost certainly have other ideas

Encouraged and spurred to action by the makeup of the Court, various states are already trying to install religion in their schools, some requiring that the textbooks provide a Christian religion alternative to any scientific theory or fact stated. I do not think that mandated school prayers are far behind, though they will of course be generous enough to not yet force the students to pray; they can opt out, and be mocked and pointed at by their religious classmates.

I would not presume to tell people what religion to believe in, or if they should believe in religion at all. The Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment moved Western civilization away from the overwhelming and suffocating presence of the Church, to a respect for the scientific method, for using “right reason” to figure out things, as opposed to being told, under penalty of excommunication and often death, what they must think or say. That is how, among other things, we managed to defeat diseases such as smallpox and polio; we developed entities such as the Center for Disease Control, and World Health Organization; we ended the pernicious practice of slavery.

Science is flawed, but it tries to uncover general facts and test theories, and the goal of most scientists is to make the world safer. Religion is the belief of the individual person. Anyone can have one’s own religion. Where did one person’s religious beliefs come from? Religious school? Their parents? Psychosis? At the extremes, yes, psychosis is in there; witness the insane person who says that some being told him to murder people.. The hatred of Judaism was created by the early Christians who wanted to proselytize their new religion, and needed to condemn the earlier one, so they invented a story to do that, one based on absolutely no verifiable contemporaneous history, and yet hundreds of millions of people believe the story they made up.

“We got the criminals, but you got the Puritans,” is the joke that Australians liked to say to Americans. And of course the first immigrants to our shores included all sorts of intolerant religions, including the Puritans, who thought that there were witches who must be killed. This was before our Constitution was written, by very educated people who did not want that kind of thing in America.

But America has always had this current of Fundamentalism, from the early fire-and-brimstone preachers like Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, to various groups which preached fear, anger, intolerance; and never stopped trying to indoctrinate followers. Eventually, the Evangelical movement rose up, with its weirdly convenient mix of belief and politics, which caused many of them to say that Donald Trump was sent by god to smite the evil liberals.

Any group which calls itself a religion, and says that Trump, the most corrupt, evil, Nazi-like person who has ever held political power in America, was sent by god, is insane, and much worse, because they are a large cult which threatens to destroy this country and the world.

I wonder if someone like Scott Scheffler thinks about any of this. Probably not, why should he? Being from Texas; and based on his modest but still unsettling comments Sunday, I would bet money that he votes for Abbott and Cruz and Cornyn, right down the line. And if those people continue to run the country; unless they are politically removed and replaced by people who actually follow science, it will be uninhabitable because of climate change. See the first 45 minutes of the movie “Interstellar,” to get the idea of what is in store, unless we do something drastic.

But so many people do not understand, do not care; somehow think that there is no drastic climate change; or that maybe there is, but there is nothing we should do about it. Do they think that their version of god will fix it? That god wants Abbott and DeSantis and Trump to win? That the Supreme Court which just overturned the expanded version of the Clean Water Act, is doing a good thing by allowing more corporate pollution of water in the service of more profits?

Or do they just hold on to their very narrow belief system, that whether they win or lose a golf tournament is in the hands of god? And the rest of it? They don’t think much about it, they just go to the polls and vote for all the Republicans, who violate all of the teachings of Jesus that I am aware of, about rich people not entering the kingdom of heaven.

Their religion is self-serving, and conveniently allows them to rationalize all of their inhumane and life-destroying views, such as doing nothing to stop the insane accumulation of assault weapons, doing nothing to try to save the environment, not getting vaccinated to try to stop the spread of a dreadful pandemic. These are things that should not be about political beliefs, they should be about scientific facts and realities which scream out at everyone. But they manage to ignore them behind the comfortable protection of what they call their religion, which they want to be sure to tell everyone about, even a television audience of millions of people who turned on to see a golf match.

Firebird

Marc Chagall was a Hasidic Jew from Belarus. He painted the scenery for George Balanchine’s choreography and staging of The Firebird ballet. Balanchine’s family was Georgian. The Firebird was written by Igor Stravinsky, whose mother was from Kyiv.

The curtain for the ballet painted by Chagall features two colors prominently.

Blue and Yellow.

Slava Ukraini