NBC News tacitly accepts Heaven

I thought it was great when tonight’s substitute anchorperson on NBC News, Savannah Guthrie, said that the last segment would be about Gene Wilder, who died today of Alzheimer’s. I looked forward to seeing some of his old film clips again, and hearing about his career. And I did. But then Guthrie said something that rankled. As best I can recall, it is this statement, referring to Gilda Radner

“Gene Wilder. . . . now reunited with his wife after decades of making us laugh.”

Well, it might refer simply to the fact that they’re reunited underground, but I seriously doubt that’s the implication. No, the implication is that they’re seeing each other again in the afterlife.

Much as I liked both Wilder and Radner, and would love to know that they’d see each other again, I know that it just ain’t so. What newswriter (anchors don’t write their own copy) would say such a thing—and get away with it? The sooner that newspapers and television stop tacitly assuming that we live on after death, the better.

Gene Wilder died

I was going to end the day (late) with something lighthearted, invariably an animal video, but just got the news that Gene Wilder died. I had no idea he was 83, and the BBC said he died of “complications from Alzheimer’s disease.” He was, of course, Willy Wonka, but I’ve never seen that; I have seen the two films that garnered him an Academy Award nomination: “The Producers” (Best Supporting Actor), and “Young Frankenstein” (co-nominated with Mel Brooks for Best Adapted Screenplay).

His birth name was Jerome Silberman, so of course he was Jewish, and he was also married to Gilda Radner, another Jew. What I remember most about Wilder was how deeply he loved Radner, who died of 42 of ovarian cancer, and how movingly he wrote of their relationship and her death. Sadly, I can’t remember where I read it.

Two great comedians gone—and missed.

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Not much evidence for a historical Jesus

Apart from angry letters I get from believers—or kinder ones in which they pray for my salvation—perhaps the most frequent genre of emails in my box is about the historical Jesus. While I’m about 99.9999999% sure that any Jesus person who lived wasn’t divine, the son of God, or a miracle worker, I’m not all that sure there was a real human being around whom the Jesus myth accreted.  Just looking at the evidence as a scientist, I find no evidence for Jesus’s existence as a historical person except in Scripture, and the different gospels tell different stories. Most telling is the complete absence of good evidence for Jesus from people writing during the time when he was supposed to have lived, especially the Jewish philosopher Philo, who would have been a contemporary of Jesus. If Jesus had such a huge impact on the Jews and on Palestine, why didn’t anybody notice it? Why are there no descriptions of the earthquakes and people rising from their graves when Jesus was crucified?

But my doubt angers Christians. If they can show that a historical Jesus-person exists, they think—wrongly—that they’ve gone most of the way  towards establishing Jesus as the Messiah. To even doubt that such a person existed, well, that nips their claim in the bud. (Of course, even if such a person did exist, Christians would, as Hitchens used to say, “have all their work ahead of them.”)

I know Bart Ehrman thinks there was a historical (though not a divine) Jesus, and I’ve read his “evidence,” but haven’t found it very convincing. And the other “evidence” for a historical Jesus person is either fraudulent, derived from scripture, or are second- or third-hand accounts from people who wouldn’t have been contemporaries of Jesus and are simply repeating what other Christians said. So I don’t have a firm opinion one way or another. And yes, I know that the mantra here is “Nearly all reputable scholars and historians admit that there was a real Jesus-person,” but we scientists don’t accept truth simply because there’s a consensus. In fact, I think that consensus is based on evidence that’s pitifully thin.

For a handy summary of the evidence used to adduce the existence of a historical Jesus, I’d recommend the short and easily digested post on Rosa Rubicondior, “The historical evidence for Jesus.” I can’t vouch for all the author’s claims (though what I do know is accurately represented), but there’s a handy table giving all the early writers and theologians whose words are used as evidence for a historical Jesus. At least you can see the lack of evidence in one short-ish post.

There’s also a very lively argument with the author in the comment section.

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h/t: Heather

Krauss reacts to the Templeton-funded “Science and religion” project at Arizona State

This morning I posted about the Think Write Publish “Science and religion” project at Arizona State University (ASU), which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation —apparently to the tune of a few hundred thousand bucks. The project’s explicit aim is to show the public that science and religion are compatible, and the Project Leader is Daniel Sarewitz, described on the TWP site this way:

Daniel Sarewitz is Professor of Science and Society in the School for the Future of Innovation and Society, and co-director and co-founder of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, at Arizona State University (http://www.cspo.org).  He is the editor of the magazine Issues in Science and Technology (www.issues.org), and a regular columnist for Nature. His most recent book is The Techno-Human Condition(2011; co-authored with Braden Allenby; MIT Press).

Since my colleague and fellow nonbeliever Lawrence Krauss is also at ASU, where he’s a Foundation Professor, Director of the ASU Origins Project and Co-director of the Cosmology Initiative, I sent him my post with the links to “Science and Religion Project.”  I wasn’t particularly soliciting a response from him, but just calling it to his attention. But I got a response anyway, which I post with permission:

I am surprised that the same day I heard about this, I saw this article about a worrisome essay by the same colleague, Dan Sarewitz, that appeared to argue against curiosity driven research.  This statement blew me away:

“But I’m not really talking much about sciences like cosmology, say, or subatomic particle physics, which no one expects to have a practical application — and where it really doesn’t matter if the results are true or not.”

I think that makes his leadership of this program attempting to claim non-existent harmonies between science and religion more understandable, if, when discussing the universe he doesn’t really care about what is true or not, and therefore probably  doesn’t understand how we can distinguish between the two. Still, for someone who claims that science should be serving the public good, and not merely produce knowledge, it is disappointing that he would support people wasting time on this instead of producing good scholarship.

It’s not good PR, if you’re head of a science and religion program, to say that in some areas of science the truth doesn’t matter. It’s even worse if you’re at the same university as someone like Krauss!

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UPDATE:  I now remember that I wrote about Sarewitz in a piece for Slate, “No faith in science.” In that piece I criticize him for claiming that religious faith was no different from the kind of “faith” that scientists have in something like the Higgs boson.”

A big dust-up about marijuana between Maajid Nawaz and Peter Hitchens, with a note on free will

UPDATE: Note that Peter Hitchens himself has responded to this post, somewhat acrimoniously, at this link in the comments below. He’s not banned or anything, so feel free to address his remarks. Maybe he’ll respond; who knows?

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Here’s an interesting—and acrimonious—conversation between Maajid Nawaz, who apparently has a program on Britain’s LBC Radio, and journalist Peter Hitchens (brother of You Know Who). Go to the link to hear the 9 minutes of bluster and yelling—almost all of it from Hitchens—or hear it on YouTube, without only the audio, here.) The topic is marijuana, and before Hitchens and Nawaz got into the fracas, Nawaz had expressed the opinion that marijuana should be legalized (see video at bottom of the page at the first link).

I didn’t know that Peter Hitchens was stringently against drugs, including marijuana, which he says in this interview is clearly connected with mental illness and should remain illegal. He calls it a “legal poison”—just like alcohol and tobacco.

Nawaz then asks him the obvious question, “In your opinion, how do you distinguish the health risks that are related to alcohol, and the social costs of alcohol consumption, versus marijuana?” For it’s clear that whatever “damage” marijuana does (and I don’t know about the clear connection to mental illness asserted by Hitchens), the social and medical consequences of alcohol use are much more severe. Hitchens’s response is that once the genie is out of the bottle—once alcohol is legal, as it is—then you can’t ban it any more. Hitchens says as well that if alcohol hadn’t been legalized, he would have banned that as well! Imagine, no pubs and no pints! What a dour and unempathic killjoy!

To that statement I would have replied (and maybe Nawaz doesn’t know this), that the U.S. did ban alcohol after it had been in use for several centuries: the Prohibition experiment that lasted from 1920-1933. It was a dismal failure, and perhaps Hitchens would argue that it was doomed to fail because people already were aware of the benefits of alcohol. But we also know about the benefits of marijuana, and prohibition hasn’t worked there, either. That’s why it will gradually become legal all over America. If Hitchens is right, on the other hand, we can expect an epidemic of mental illness in Colorado and Oregon, two states where public purchase of marijuana for recreational use is legal.

Nawaz, who (in contrast to Hitchens) keeps his cool, finally loses it at about 7:30 when Hitchens says that “cynical businessmen” who market alcohol and tobacco are even worse than gangsters. That’s simple hyperbole.

I have a few points to make about Peter Hitchens. The first is that there’s a remarkable similarity between his voice and his style of rhetoric and those of his late brother Christopher. I don’t know if this reflects genetics, a common environment (likely both, since they’re brothers), or Peter’s conscious adoption of his brother’s style. Regardless, it’s a bit eerie to hear crazy conservative sentiments being expressed in a voice we’re used to for touting atheism, rationality, and, of course, Mr. Walker’s amber restorative.

Second, digging a bit deeper into Peter Hitchens and drugs (he’s apparently written a book I’ve not read), I found out that he and Russell Brand used to have very similar dustups (see here, for instance). Brand sees abuse as a form of illness that shouldn’t be criminalized. Peter Hitchens sees it as a “crime”, something that people do voluntarily, and that users should simply be clapped in jail. In fact, Hitchens says at 8:35 in the interview, “The very word ‘addiction’ assumes that the person involved has no no free will.” But he thinks people have free will, so “addiction” isn’t a real phenomenon. Hitchens clearly has no idea about the physiological and psychological bases of addiction.

Now think about the “free will” argument against addiction and for jailing.  Hitchens isn’t espousing “compatibilist” free will here; he’s espousing a purely dualistic and libertarian free will. And if you think that those who believe in libertarian free will do no harm to society, there’s your counterexample.

Hitchens sees drug use as a “bad choice” that someone makes, and instead of being treated, they should go straight to jail.  A determinist would argue against that, taking Brand’s side of the debate, and I think Brand is clearly right. Nobody makes a libertarian “choice” to use drugs, and recognizing that it’s the consequence of one’s genes and one’s environment breeds a lot more sympathy than Hitchens has.

It’s also clear that Hitchens’s view of punishing drug abusers is based on retribution: they made the wrong choice and should be punished for it, not treated! (To be fair, also sees incarceration for drug use as a deterrent, something that a determinist might contemplate—though I think a strong argument can be made for rehabilitation, perhaps in a locked hospital setting.)

Decca Aitkenhead, reviewing Hitchens’s drug book (The War We Never Fought) in the Guardian, and criticized it severely, also emphasizes the fallacy of Hitchens’s free-will argument:

Hitchens thinks there is no such thing as addiction? “No, it’s just laughable. I believe in free will. People take drugs because they enjoy it.” I agree that many people take drugs such as cannabis because they like it – but doesn’t he wonder why those same people would never dream of touching heroin? Happy, successful, stable people seldom inject smack, whereas most junkies suffered catastrophic childhoods, often in care and often abused. Doesn’t that tell us something critically important about the difference between drugs?

When I saw Hitchens’s view of free will and retribution, I immediately guessed that he was religious. And I was right about that, as I discovered from this video (I really don’t know much about Peter Hitchens except that he has a column in the Sunday Mail):

I still maintain that a). most people who believe in free will, as surveys show, are pure dualists, who think people “could have done otherwise”; and b). emphasizing determinism over dualism will have far more beneficial consequences for society than emphasizing that we have a form of free will compatible with determinism. Peter Hitchens’s vindictiveness shows that pretty clearly.

Finally, it’s clear that Peter Hitchens, besides being vindictive, is petty and jealous, perhaps because he was always in the shadow of his more famous—and more rational—older brother. Even after the exchange with Nawaz above, he couldn’t resist tw**ting at Nawaz, who immediately made him look petty.

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After all, who listens to LBC, while Hitchens has a weekly column in Britain’s most widely-read newspaper. It’s still very strange that two brothers, both having British University educations, wound up so differently. Peter was even a Trotskyite Socialist at one point, and a member of the Labour Party at another. I’m curious whether any of his conservatism is simply a form of contrarianism—a reaction to Christopher’s views and success.

h/t: Barry

Templeton-sponsored essay contest: Big bucks for telling stories about accommodationism

The John Templeton Foundation, which funds many scientists who aren’t (but should be) ashamed to take money from an organization devoted to finding God in science, is up to its usual shenanigans. We have some juicy information about it that I hope I can reveal soon, but this contest, just announced, will give you an idea of how deeply Templeton is still immersed in the project to harmonize science and religion.

Reader Rob S. called my attention to a TWP (Think Write Publish) Science & Religion Project run by Arizona State University that apparently has deep pockets courtesy of Templeton, and is devoted to supporting Templeton’s own confirmation bias: that religion and science are in perfect comity. According to Templeton, TWP began as an NSF-sponsored program, but now has been injected with the “science and religion” business (I doubt the NSF would sponsor the present program.)

Here’s part of the new announcement. Note that they characterize religion as a “way of knowing” (my emphasis). Parts of their announcement are indented, with my comments flush left, and the evidence for Templeton funding of TWP’s project is at the bottom.

IF YOU HAVE A TRUE STORY THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL ABOUT HARMONIES BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION WE WANT TO HELP YOU DO IT.

Science and religion, despite their rich, interwoven history, are too often portrayed as opposites in nearly every way, irreconcilable by definition. Indeed, our increasingly polarized societies seem to encourage the proposition that these two ways of knowing the world cannot productively co-exist, that they encounter each other through conflict and contradiction.

If religion is a way “of knowing the world,” I’d like to hear what it has helped us know. What exactly, dear Templeton-funded TWP, has religion told us about the world that is true? How many gods are there? Is Jesus divine? Is it immoral to get a blood transfusion? Is evolution true? Can women be priests? Is there an afterlife of some sort? Should we kill apostates? All religions differ on the answers to these questions, and there’s no way of ascertaining the answers. So how, exactly, can religion tell us anything? The announcement continues:

Our project advances a different proposition: that science and religion can reinforce each other to allow a more nuanced [JAC: If you hear the word “nuanced” in such discussions, head for the hills!], profound, and rewarding experience of our world and our place in it. We will use creative nonfiction writing to explore and advance this proposition. We are building a new community of storytellers who will write, publish, and disseminate engaging and inspiring nonfiction narratives of harmonies, reconciliation, and even productive interaction between science and religion.

It’s curious that a project that claims religion and science both advance our understanding of the world wants to use personal anecdotes and stories to buttress that proposition. Well, after all, that’s all they’ve got. . .

One of the best ways to foster collective understanding is with a good story. Creative nonfiction–true stories, well told–allows for complexity, novelty, and revelation, and through compelling voice, suspense, character development, and well-chosen details has the potential to engage the widest audiences and change the way they know the world.

If you have a true story that you would like to tell about harmonies between science and religion—drawn from your personal life, your work, your experience, your studies—we want to help you do it.

The Think-Write-Publish Science & Religion project offers several ways for you–scholars, scientists, religious figures, writers, everyday people—to become part of a vibrant new community of storytellers.

I’m not sure what they’re looking for here. Is Francis Collins’s Frozen Waterfall Conversion story suitable? Is the fact that someone went to church and was inspired to go back to her lab to study the Mind of God what they want? What about a priest getting a revelation that God worked through evolution?

By and large, we scientists don’t call ourselves “storytellers,” because that implies that we’re engaged in concocting fiction. The real community of storytellers comprises the religionists, who are completely engaged in promulgating fiction. Here the TWP is trying to mix truth and fiction—right up Templeton’s alley.

The prizes are not insubstantial, either:

Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science and Technology editors will award two prizes—a best essay prize of $10,000, and a $5,000 runner-up prize—and up to five honorable mentions, each with a $500 prize. The two winning essays will be published in the fall 2017 issues of both magazines; honorable mentions will also be considered for publication in one or both magazines and/or online. The best essay winner and runner-up will also win a trip to Washington, D.C. where they will be honored at our publication launch event in 2017.

Templeton is apparently making a Big Push to show the public that religion and science are compatible. That make it even more important for those of us who feel otherwise to emphasize the incompatibilities. Here are the other projects of the TWP:

ONLINE COURSE

In fall 2017, we will be offering a four-part online course, “Telling True Stories About Harmonies Between Science & Religion.” Taught by Fellows and mentors from the program, the course offers anyone who has experience(s) related to the harmonies between science and religion to join a community of writers. Using project stories as examples, the course will provide training in narrative nonfiction research, writing, and revision and regular feedback on their writing.

Wait! There’s more!

PUBLIC EVENTS AT FIVE MUSEUMS AROUND THE US & CANADA

The public is invited to these events to learn about the project and the resulting narratives, engage with the authors and mentors, and join in the conversation about harmonies between science and religion.

This is odious. Templeton is getting its sticky fingers into public museums, and of course there’s no opportunity for a response by those of us who who feel that science and religion are in opposition. I’m sure that if I, for example, gave a lecture at a public museum on the incompatibility of science and religion, people would find that rude. But those who impart the opposite message are welcomed and lionized.

But wait! There’s still more!

NATIONAL CONFERENCES IN WASHINGTON D.C.

In fall 2017, a conference will be held to launch the special “Science and Religion” issues of Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science and Technology. In June 2018, a two-day conference will feature best stories, compelling project participants, opinion leaders, and the media.

And if you think that’s all, no, there’s MORE! With all of this you get EXTRA GOODIES!

FELLOWSHIP INFORMATION

We will be awarding twelve $10,000 two-year TWP Science & Religion Fellowships to develop a publishable true story or series of stories.

Open to novice and experienced writers, anyone who has a compelling true story or true stories illustrating or exploring harmonies between science and religion is encouraged to apply. Over a two-year period, Fellows will develop, write, and market their creative nonfiction stories. They will be mentored throughout the project by experienced writers, editors and teachers. They and their stories will be featured in a series of regional and national events.

As part of the workshop, Fellows will participate in three intensive training workshops. . .

So, let’s see. Twelve $10,000 fellowships is $120,000. Add to that $17,500 for the essays, the public events—probably at least $10,000 each—and two national conferences (I’ll say a total of $100,000 if you throw in the online courses), and you get nearly $240,000, roughly a cool quarter million.

That’s a lot of dosh to throw at reconciling science and faith! But they must feel it’s important if they’re spending so much money on this. And yet, all the while, people are leaving faith, often because they feel it doesn’t comport with science. Maybe this program is a desperation move to counteract that. After all, America is inexorably becoming more secular, and the faithful have to deal with that.

Here’s evidence of Templeton’s sponsorship. Doesn’t Lawrence Krauss work at ASU?

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Readers’ wildlife photographs

Here are more photos taken by reader Benjamin Taylor on his trip to Southern Africa in 2015. The captions are from his photo site, and we’ll have more soon.

Dancing white lady spider (Carparachne aureoflava), Namibia. The ‘white lady’ spider is hunted by pompilid wasps, which it will attempt to escape by cartwheeling down steep sand dunes:

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Namib sand gecko (Pachydactylus rangei):

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Peringuey’s desert adder (Bitis peringueyi):

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Namaqua chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis):

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Namib rock agama (Agama planiceps):

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Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), Okavango Delta, Botswana:

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 Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), Okavango Delta, Botswana:

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Water lily (species unknown), Okavango Delta, Botswana:

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African wood owl (Strix woodfordii) visiting our lodge dining room:

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Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Good morning—especially to those of you bummed out by another week of work. But cheer up: it’s Chop Suey Day, as well as International Day Against Nuclear Tests. You can’t do much about the latter, and I can’t really recommend trying the culturally appropriated “Chinese” dish. But for Leisure Fascists and Food Police, it’s also “More Herbs, Less Salt Day.” What’s next: “National Coffee Enema Day”? Why don’t we have “Eat a Big Steak Day”?

On this day in 1911, Ishi, a member of the Yahi Tribe of Native Americans, walked into Oroville, California, searching for meat. He was 50 years old, starving, and the last recorded Native American to make contact with white colonizers (the rest of his tribe and family had died or been killed). He spent the remaining years of his life in an apartment in the Anthropology Museum of UC Berkeley, being a subject for study. Lacking immunity to “Western” diseases, he was often sick, and died of tuberculosis in 1916. On August 29, 1966, the Beatles performed their last paid concern before fans in Candlestick Park, San Francisco.

Notables born on this day include Temple Grandin (1947) and Michael Jackson (1958). Those who died on this day include Ingrid Bergman (1982) and bluesman David “Honeyboy” Edwards (2011), whom I once signed up as entertainment for a charity gig here in Chicago. Lovely guy, and I didn’t know he died till I looked up today’s events. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is trying to be fearsome:

A: Why are you rushing to me?
Hili: To show you how sharp my claws are.
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In Polish:
Ja: Dokąd pędzisz?
Hili: Pokazać ci jakie mam ostre pazurki.

And Leon is near the end of his hiking trip in southern Poland:

Leon: I don’t really feel like running, it’s too hot.

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Finally, here are two new photos of Gus chilling in Winnipeg:

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This is my favorite cat pose: reclining with both front paws tucked into the chest:

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Another Jerry the Cat

I have to admit it: in lieu of having children, I’ve opted for having people name their cats “Jerry”, although I will never corrupt the process by offering payment. But there are now five six cats in the world named after me. To wit:

  1. Gayle Ferguson’s long-haired orange cat, now adopted out to a loving home in Christchurch, New Zealand.
  2. Robin Cornwell’s black cat
  3. Mr. Das’s cat named Jerry (It was a stray in Bangalore, India, and I shamelessly suggested the naming. Mr. Das said that a cat couldn’t be named Jerry if it was a female, as this one was, but I countered–and won–by showing him a photo of Jerry Hall on the Internet.)
  4. The visiting tuxedo cat who lives next door to Theo (the espresso-drinking cat) and his staff.
  5. My friend Melissa Pugh’s recently-acquired shelter cat

And now there is number 5 6: a beautiful Bengal kitten bred by Anthony Hutcherson, a professional Bengal breeder. I first met Anthony at the Great New Yorker Cats versus Dog Debate in October of 2014; he was on Team Cat and brought two of his Bengals. During the two-hour debate one of the cats sat on my lap for a long time, and I fell in love with these gorgeous animals. I still hope to get one. Here’s a picture I took of Anthony in the Green Room before the debate:

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Look at those CATS!

I was amazed that any cat would sit placidly on a lap in a strange place in front of a noisy crowd, but both cats did. They’re clearly bred for their personality as well as their looks. (You can read a New Yorker piece about Anthony and his fellow Bengalophiles here, and read about Anthony’s Jungletrax Cattery here, with the available cats here).

At any rate, some day I hope to get a Bengal kitten, and I’ll get it from Anthony, who’s kindly offered me one. (Joyce Carol Oates, another participant on Team Cat, got a lovely Bengal from Anthony last year.) But in the meantime, there is now Jerry the Cat #5 6, Anthony’s new kitten named after me.

Here he is; isn’t he a beaut?

Jerry the Cat Anthony Hutcherson

Grania says that I can’t have this one because it would be hubris to own a cat named after myself.😦

Hillary Clinton and the Citizens United decision

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided one of the most contentious cases of our era: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a vote split sharply along ideological lines (5-4, with Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in favor; and liberals Stevens, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Breyer dissenting), the Court decided that putting limits on corporations donating money to political campaigns—or doing their own political advertising—violated the First Amendment right of free speech.

The reasons why the liberals were against it was because the money of corporations could tilt the election process, favoring the elections of those candidates whose views favored corporations. That, in turn, could influence candidates (or politicians running for re-election) to adopt views congenial to corporations, and possibly vote in favor of bills that benefited the rich donors. That’s fundamentally anti-democratic, giving some people (or corporations, now construed as “people”) a disproportionate influence.

The Citizens United ruling (which I oppose, as I don’t think corporations are people, and believe that there should be spending limits), explicitly discussed the issue of whether this could corrupt the political system, or even create the appearance of corruptionand the majority opinion, written by Kennedy, said this:

While a single Bellotti footnote purported to leave the question open, 435 U. S., at 788, n. 26, this Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.

The court’s own decision along ideological lines was mirrored by the public. Conservatives, who of course favor corporate influence, liked the decision, while liberals (including President Obama and the New York Times) excoriated it, arguing that it would terminally corrupt our democratic government. The liberal view was that in a democracy, corporate spending, because of its potential to swing elections, could buy political influence. And clearly they think it can, for why else would corporations and bodies like the National Rifle Association donate money to politicians with consonant views? Now you can say that this is only meant to keep already-elected politicians with congenial views in power, but, donations are made well before election time, and to candidates who aren’t yet in power.

Indeed, Hillary Clinton herself  (along with Bernie Sanders) said that a “litmus test” for any proposed Supreme Court justice should be his/her opposition to the Citizens United decision.

So here’s my question. When I decried the Clinton Foundation’s taking of big sums of money from countries like Saudi Arabia, and corporations, and criticized Hillary’s enormous personal gains from making speeches to Wall Street bankers, I was told that there was no problem because it was never PROVEN that Hillary was corrupted or changed her views based on this money. (Remember, too, that many of us lauded Bernie Sanders for funding his candidacy with small donations just because this seemed more fair, more democratic).

I don’t get the fact that people who cried foul when the Citizens United decision came down are now saying there’s nothing wrong with both Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation taking money from corporations and foreign governments. Granted, funding an election isn’t identical to funding a charity, but in both cases there is the possibility of buying influence. Face it: did the Saudi donations of $10-$25 million to the Clinton Foundation come from a pure altruism on the part of that repressive government, or did they hope for some accommodation from the Clintons?

“Hope” is the operative word here. As we all know, it’s nearly impossible to prove that a donation influences a politician’s views, and they’ll always deny it. It is the possibility of that influence, the possibility of corruption by money, that the laws were meant to prevent—the laws overturned in the Citizens United decision. Liberals opposed that for this reason: what hope does the average and impecunious citizen have of influencing politicians, compared to the oil-rich Saudis or the Wall Street banks?

You might say that influencing an election is one thing, but influencing a future president by donating to her family’s Foundation is another, and the possibility of influence doesn’t exist in the latter case. I don’t agree, and that’s why I said that the Clinton Foundation should be a “blind charity”, or shut down, until no Clinton remains in political office. And no Clinton, including Chelsea, should be on the board of directors. It’s family, Jake!

I see it as hypocritical for liberals to disagree with the conservative court in the Citizens United decision (“no possibility of corruption or the appearance of corruption,” as they said), and yet use that same rationale to excuse Hillary Clinton’s personal gains from speeches to corporations, acquisition of corporate and foreign money to her family Foundation, and her shameless courting of Wall Street, which has now donated about $5 million to her candidacy. (Do you think they might be trying to buy influence?)

It’s almost impossible to detect corruption or influence peddling once it’s occurred, so we need to have laws and regulations to prevent the possibility of corruption. I am not saying Hillary Clinton has been corrupted or influenced by money. I don’t know that. And you don’t know otherwise. But she certainly has done very little to reduce the possibility of corruption in her case, which she could have done. But she has done little because she cares more about winning than about winning with a clean and ethical campaign. The other Democratic candidate, who felt differently, is now gone.

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p.s. Need I say again that I’m voting for her and not for Trump? I just don’t want to write the usual tirades against the odious Donald, which you can read everywhere else on the liberal parts of the Internet. And besides, almost no readers of this site, as far as I know, like Trump, so what’s the point?

 

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