An alternative presidential option?

What do you think of this possibility–not a third party, but a coalition ticket elected by the public via the internet?

The restless political middle — emboldened by the recent inability of a special congressional committee to agree on a debt-reduction deal — is staking out a controversial plan to insert itself into the 2012 election.

A bipartisan group of political strategists and donors known as Americans Elect has raised $22 million and is likely to place a third presidential candidate on the ballot in every state next year. The goal is to provide an alternative to President Obama and the GOP nominee and break the tradition of a Democrat-vs.-Republican lineup.

The effort could represent a promising new chapter for political moderates, who see a wide-open middle in the political landscape as congressional gridlock and bitter partisan fights have driven down favorability ratings for both parties.

“Voters are saddened by the inability of people in Washington to deal with the issues that are important to them,” said the group’s chief executive, Kahlil Byrd, a Republican strategist who once worked for Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D).

Americans Elect has ballot slots in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and five other states, with certification pending in several others.

The group is relying on an ambitious plan to hold a political convention on the Internet that would treat registered voters like fans of “American Idol,” giving everyone a shot at picking a favorite candidate.

“We want to gather millions of people and allow them to run authentically through the process,” Byrd said, calling it a “wide-scale draft movement for presidential candidates.”

Unlike the Green Party, Americans Elect is not creating a separate party, but trying to change the political process in two ways. First, the group seeks to create a mixed-party ticket, requiring its presidential candidate to pick a running mate from a different party.

Second, Americans Elect — which was formed and is backed by Peter Ackerman, a wealthy private investor and philanthropist, along with Byrd — wants to take the nominating process out of the hands of a few primary voters and make it more open through the use of technology. Registered voters who sign up on the group’s Web site would directly nominate and select candidates online in the spring. A final nominee would be selected in June.

via Moderate Americans Elect group hoping to add third candidate to 2012 election ballot – The Washington Post.

Would you participate in an online convention?  Would you vote for its candidate?

With an unpopular incumbent and very likely an unpopular Republican challenger, as well as broad disillusionment with conventional politics, might this actually work?

Non-creationist critiques of Darwinism

Marquette philosophy professor Howard Kainz reviews two new books in which atheist scholars critique Darwinism:

Surprisingly, two recent books by atheist philosophers of science have joined with ID theorists in the criticism of neo-Darwinism.

Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, in What Darwin Got Wrong come at neo-Darwinism from a number of directions. Initially, they draw a comparison with B.F. Skinner’s psychological theory of “operant conditioning,” which attempted to explain changes in human behavior by patterns of stimulus and response. Limitations of that theory have eventually been revealed: it did not take into account internal mechanisms in organisms subjected to external stimuli; and the intention of researchers or subjects affected the results of experiments. Skinner’s behaviorism can be corrected by taking these aspects into account. But no such correction is possible in neo-Darwinism, which has no interest in “the internal organization of creatures . . . (genotypic and ontogenetic structures)” and recognizes no “intentions” in evolutionary processes.

The remaining chapters of their book add qualifications that almost seem like ID arguments: Fibonacci patterns, in which each term is equal to the sum of the two preceding ones, seem to be prior to all evolutionary developments; scaling factors in organisms are multiples of a quarter, not of a third, according to the “one-quarter power law”; computational analysis of nervous systems of organisms show that their “connection economies” are perfect; “cost versus speed” analyses of the respiratory patterns of the song of canaries show the most efficient use of energy; tests of the ratio of foraging honeybees to those staying in the hives show perfect solutions in all situations. There is perfection everywhere. They also offer an example of a type of wasp whose patterns of feeding her young competes with ID theorist Michael Behe’s notion of “irreducible complexity.”

But the major neo-Darwinist problem, they conclude, is that natural selection, in analogy to artificial selection, depends on the existence of a mythical “Mother Nature.” But since there is no Mother Nature, “she is a frail reed for [adaptationists] to lean on. Ditto, the Tooth Fairy; ditto the Great Pumpkin; ditto God. Only agents have minds, and only agents act out of their intentions, and natural selection isn’t an agent.”

Bradley Monton, in Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, in contrast to Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, is not so much concerned with deficiencies in neo-Darwinism, but rather in pointing out unfairness and invalid criticisms of arguments by proponents of ID. Monton maintains he is looking for the truth, wherever it leads.

via Intelligent Design: Atheists to the Rescue | First Things.

iPhones are pro-life

Indignant complaints about Siri, the virtual personal assistant on the new iPhones, which will give you information about just about everything, but not where you can get an abortion:

If you ask Siri for an abortion clinic in New York City, it will tell you “Sorry, I couldn’t find any abortion clinics.” A simple Google web search—which Siri itself uses to find results—gives you seven to start with, some within walking distance of where I’m located.

• If you ask the same question in the city of Washington DC, Siri won’t direct you to a nearby clinic, but to one 26 miles away.

• A reader reported that when he asked “find a pregnancy termination clinic” Siri responded: “I found a number of medical centers fairly close to you.” Then “it showed me seven results and four of them were chiropractors, two were acupuncture specialists, and one was an emergency room.” Update: Indeed, after we tested this, it’s true.

Apparently, women across the country are having similar experiences.. To make matters worse, the iPhone 4S’ smart assistant will not direct you to a place where you can obtain emergency contraception if you ask for it. Instead, it gives you a definition.

via Is Siri Pro Life? Apparently Yes (Updated).

The Elf who stole Christmas

Far more subversive to the true meaning of Christmas than the secularizers is the “naughty or nice” legalism of “Elf on the Shelf”:

Who can resist the holiday fun of scaring the children into good behavior? Ask any of history’s most efficient dictators — they’ll tell you. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the naughty-nice punishment paradigm. Where would this holiday be without its good old-fashioned behavioral paranoia? Charles Dickens may get all the credit for this, but do also consider George Orwell.

That’s what makes “The Elf on the Shelf” so ingeniously successful. Cooked up in 2005 by a mother-daughter duo in Georgia, “The Elf on the Shelf” began as a children’s storybook that came packaged with a benign little elf doll — “a pixie scout” in the tale — togged out in a cute red leotard.

As the story goes, once a family gives their elf a name and places him on a shelf or mantel, he is endowed with magic powers. Beginning around Thanksgiving, the pixie scout watches everything that goes on during the day. At night, he flies back to the North Pole and gives Santa a full account: who behaved, who didn’t.

The elf returns to your house in the dark of morning, before everyone gets up, positioning himself in a different spot from where he was before, so that the children have to find his new vantage point. Also, very important — if anyone in the house touches the elf in any way, he’ll lose his magic. And if that happens, then we’re all royally screwed come Christmas Eve. In other words, it’s no longer Santa Claus who knows if you’ve been bad or good. It’s a whole army of his pixie-scout elves. (All a parent has to do to sustain the fantasy is remember to move the elf each night after the kids have gone to bed.)

via CBS’s ‘Elf on the Shelf’: Unwarranted Christmas surveillance techniques – The Washington Post.

Look at the message of the “naughty or nice” Santology:  You will get a gift, but only if you are good.   Gifts must be deserved.   The gift of the Christ child, though, is precisely to those who do NOT deserve it.

Does America need to defend everybody?

Frank Sonnek, frequent commenter on this blog, has found some interesting data and raises some interesting questions about our defense budget:

our military spending exceeds ALL global military spending if you don’t count china, which spends about 15% of what we spend.

some analyses relate military spending to GDP, but I am not sure what the relevance of doing that is, as opposed to absolute spending.

let’s say we cut our military spending to be maybe 1/2 of the next top military spenders combined…. would those nations not work to defend peace and commerce? are we unfairly subsidizing the peace rather than having other nations chip in their fair share of spending?

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/10/military_spending

and now look at this chart:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm

and this one… the pie chart is sort of eye-popping. the usa represents nearly half of ALL global military spending according to the pie chart.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending

Summary: I am really challenged to believe that significant cuts in the military will threaten world peace.
It would appear that the United States of America really is the policeman of the world and budgets accordingly.  Is it that we are enabling other countries to spend so little on defending themselves that they can afford free health care and all of those other welfare state benefits?  Does our status as leader of the free world mean that we have to have the capability of defending every other country, as well as our own?   Couldn’t we expect our technological superiority in warfare, expensive as it is, to result at some point in savings?
Granted that national defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government and that it has to remain an important priority in this still-dangerous world, given our massive deficits, should our defense budget be scaled back?

The end of the Euro?

The European economy is in a state of crisis, to the point that some people are thinking that the Euro, the pan-European currency (except for the British pound a few others), may be finished.  Some businesses are planning what to do if the Euro ceases to exist:

International companies are preparing contingency plans for a possible break-up of the eurozone, according to interviews with dozens of multinational executives.

Concerned that Europe’s political leaders are failing to control the spreading sovereign debt crisis, business executives say they feel compelled to protect their companies against a crash that can no longer be wished away. When German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy raised the prospect of a Greek exit from the eurozone earlier this month, it marked the first time that senior European officials had dared to question the permanence of their 13-year-old experiment with monetary union.

“We’ve started thinking what [a break-up] might look like,” Andrew Morgan, president of Diageo Europe, said on Tuesday. “If you get some much bigger kind of … change around the euro, then we are into a different situation altogether. With countries coming out of the euro, you’ve got massive devaluation that makes imported brands very, very expensive.”

via Businesses plan for possible end of euro – FT.com.

That wouldn’t help American exports.  But it would mean the dollar would suddenly become very, very strong.  That sounds like a good thing, but it would probably mean more dollars flowing out of this country into foreign imports and investments.

What might the breakup of the Euro mean for the American economy?


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