Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 27th, 2014

A Jon Stewart segment definitely worth watching

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On race in the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Is this how it happened when animals first moved onto land?

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Bad headline, especially for those who have mother issues

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Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 1.31.43 PM

In the NY Times.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in NY Times

The Sorry State of Bank Apologies

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Jesse Eisinger writes in ProPublica:

Admitting a problem, as the cliché has it, is the first step to solving it. But with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, admissions of wrongdoing have been the last step. There’s much work to be done to hold giant corporations accountable for their misdeeds.

Over the last few years, the Justice Department and the S.E.C. have been assailed for delivering lashings to corporate malefactors that resemble a fanning with palm fronds. In response, the Justice Department and the S.E.C. would like us to think that they received the message and got tough. This summer, the Justice Department forced Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas to plead guilty to crimes. In some of its recent settlements, the S.E.C. has been requiring individuals and corporations admit that they did something wrong.

Such public statements of contrition have some degree of usefulness. It’s almost ridiculous that we consider it progress by merely forcing bad actors to admit the truth — but it is. For years, the Justice Department relied on deferred or non-prosecution agreements, requiring corporations to write big checks but face little or no other consequences. For years, the S.E.C.’s settlements by default included boilerplate clauses where the accused could pay up without either admitting or denying the charges. (Alas, the progress has been halting and the Doctrine of Immaculate Settlements is alive and well: Just last month, Morgan Stanleysettled with the agency for misleading investors in two residential mortgage-backed securities the firm sold. But, whoops, the agency forgot to get any admission of wrongdoing.)

Compelling an admission is merely the first vertebra of the spine insertion surgery. The problem with the Justice Department’s guilty pleas is that they lead to no further business consequences. And the new S.E.C. admissions policy doesn’t require defendants to cop to anything specific.

The S.E.C.’s action against the hedge fund manager Philip Falcone was the first big public “apology” case. As Jonathan Weil pointed out in a Bloomberg View column at the time, Mr. Falcone “admitted to a long list of facts that certainly look awful,” such as secretly borrowing $133 million from his hedge fund to pay his taxes. But he didn’t admit to breaking any specific laws.

That’s not how things work for criminals. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 12:10 pm

Another black citizen shot dead by police

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No warning, just gunfire. And, of course, police officers nowadays are free to gun down citizens, particularly African-Americans, if the police officer is fearful. Quite a few seem to be fearful a lot.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed

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Very interesting post at AlterNet by Valerie Tarico:

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.”  In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes [3] that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized [4].

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth.  Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot, by Reza Aslan and  How Jesus Became God, by Bart Ehrman [5]

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.”  In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position.  Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All [6].For centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie [7] introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

More academic arguments in support of the Jesus Myth theory can be found in the writings of Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history uses [8] the tools of his trade to show, among other things, how Christianity might have gotten off the ground without a miracle. Price, by contrast,writes [9] from the perspective of a theologian whose biblical scholarship ultimately formed the basis for his skepticism. It is interesting to note that some of the harshest debunkers of fringe Jesus myth theories like those from Zeitgeist or Joseph Atwill (who tries to argue that the Romans invented Jesus) are from serious Mythicists like Fitzgerald, Carrier and Price.

The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive:

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef.  In the words of [10] Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp. 56-57)

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests [11] that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded.  “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.”

3. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Books, Religion

Bill Kristol: “Let’s Just Drop a Few Bombs and See What Happens”

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And, in terms of thoughtful advice, that’s the best Bill Kristol can offer. Kevin Drum comments:

From Bill Kristol, during an appearance on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham’s show, bringing his megawatt analytic powers to bear on the problem of ISIS in Iraq:

What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there.

You can’t make this stuff up. We liberals often accuse folks like Kristol of mindlessly advocating military action all the time, no matter what. But we’re exaggerating, aren’t we? Nobody literally wants to unleash an air campaign just to see what happens. Nobody just casually ignores the possible drawbacks. That’s ridiculous! Why do we insist on juvenile caricatures like this?

I don’t know. Why do we?

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2014 at 11:55 am

Posted in GOP, Mideast Conflict

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