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An American Embarrassment

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With election season in full swing, I find myself much more hypnotized by the political rhetoric than I normally would be. Mitt Romney’s comment, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I will fix it”, during Soledad O’brien’s interview was a jaw-dropping moment for me. Initially, I could not believe that he said it, but then it occurred to me that it was probably one of the more genuine, although despicable, comments of his campaign.

Think about it. Mitt has lived a life of privilege; he has never known a day when he has gone hungry, he has never suffered the morale shattering effects of downsizing or outsourcing, and certainly has never lived paycheck to paycheck, just one catastrophic event away from losing his home. Mitt is not alone in this, many individuals delegated to represent us in government enjoy this same privileged lifestyle. Lets face it, until you have walked in someone else’s shoes you can’t know what they are going through.

Whether Mitt knows it or not, there are more and more formerly middle class Americans who have fallen into poverty, lost their jobs, lost their homes, and are living on the streets. Those who are not living on the streets may have some form of employment income, which is hardly enough to live on, but is too much to qualify for the safety net programs Romney talks about. These people on the fringe are one step away from being counted in the ranks of the “very poor,” and it appears that he doesn’t care about them.

To illustrate: yesterday, I was listening to a radio program discussing this very topic, the plight of the very poor, when a caller arrogantly exclaimed, “Those that need a safety net should go to their local church and it should be an individual’s choice whether he/she wants to assist the poor or not.” This was then followed by the obligatory, “This is America, everyone can better their situation if they want to. They should pick themselves up by the bootstraps and change things.” This, of course, is paraphrased but it is an accurate account of what was said. The caller’s comment was met with a resounding, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” by the host and his guest; clearly expressing their disbelief in what the caller had just said. My contention is that this is the same ideology that most Republicans and especially Tea Party conservatives continuously regurgitate as the gospel.

Friends, and when I say friends I am including Republicans and Democrats alike, this is no longer your father’s or grandfather’s America. The world has changed if you haven’t noticed. Jobs which once provided comfortable livings for our citizens, have gone to China, India, or one of a hundred other developing countries all in the name of globalization. Foreclosures are at historic highs. Whether due to deregulation of the banking industry, deceptive loan practices, or flat-out greed, one can’t deny the fact that the American dream of home ownership is at the least dying, if not already dead. Satisfaction with congress and the president is at an all time low. The ideological division between the two political parties is the worst that I have ever seen. They seem to be in an eternal deadlock. Nothing is getting done, and the American people are the ones who are suffering.

At the top of the list, in my view, is the enormous divide between the rich and the poor, which is currently the widest this country has ever experienced. While our middle class, which both parties claim to want to help, continues to deteriorate at an ever increasing pace, the rich continue to get richer. Whether people who call themselves conservatives realize it or not, they are supporting the continuation and acceleration of this cycle, and are likely to become victims of their own ideology themselves, unless they happen to be counted among the top one percent of Americans economically.

About Dominic DiFrancesco

  • Dr Dreadful

    Roger, you’re correct that Chris is being rhetorical when he says “evolution is a fact”, but that doesn’t make him wrong.

    Evolution is first and foremost a theory to explain how life on Earth came to be the way it is, but it accounts so completely for what we observe, is so robustly supported by evidence, and is so manifestly without any sensible opposing theories, that for all practical intents and purposes it IS a fact.

    Trying to apply Wittgenstein in this instance is a bit like using Keats to argue that nightingales cause heart attacks.

  • roger nowosielski

    I see what you’re saying, double standard. But Clavos doesn’t think much of Romney either.

  • roger nowosielski

    Didn’t say I didn’t understand what Chris was saying, as a speaker of language, speaking emphatically to boot. It was a speech act on his part (John Searle). But the very fact you’re making the qualification, “for all intents and purposes,” says the ordinary meaning and usage are stretched. But why stretch it? There is no need to. Theories do not suffer from any disrespect, especially if they’re sound.

    And I didn’t bring up W to shed light on theories, only to sketch the necessary linguistic environment if even our most simple propositional (truth-value) assertions are to be intelligible.

  • Zingzing

    Well, it’s readily apparent clavos bases his opinions on who a person is (are they, or are they not president Obama, most likely,) rather than what they do.

  • roger nowosielski

    Well, I’ll let Clavos craft the response.

  • Christopher Rose

    To correct both Doc D and Roger, I was not being rhetorical and evolution is FACT. It is the processes of evolution which are theoretical.

    Creationism is just a theory because it is not proven by any evidence, only conjecture.

    And Roger, you may think your philosophical ponderings help our understanding and perception but I would expect you are in a minority there…

  • Dr Dreadful

    That’s precisely what I said, Chris.

    Roger is just splitting what appear to be hairs but which he has no way of proving are not just figments of his imagination.

  • Cindy


    Disclaimer: Not all, or necessarily even most, atheists will fit into my comment above. It is mainly the vocal ones I have encountered.

    I have further reasoning and support for why I find the atheist argument as uncompelling as the theist ones and how science seems to have taken on godlike qualities for some. I will post that separately.

    So, to start:

    Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, among others, have led me to question my own willingness to associate myself with a label that says I am certain about things none of us can be certain about. After setting down most of my thinking, I discovered this article, entitled, ‘How Dawkins converted me from atheism to agnosticism’ wherin this science-minded, former atheist had laid down most of the same reasons as me. It might clarify my meaning.

    Atheism, for me, was a personal rejection of the belief in a deity(ies). Having watched certain vocal atheists for a few years and I find many are cocksure and full of hubris and they seem to want to convert the world to their own views even more passionately than any evangelical I have ever encountered. In fact, with the exception of a few Jehova’s Witnesses, my contact with Christians has never included any attempts by them to convert me to their personal beliefs. I have witnessed many atheists, on the other hand, being abrasive and rude and I find their behavior in their zeal to convert the world to their own beliefs, a menace to civility and sisterly love.

    Atheists and theists both present arguments for their positions. One may find certain arguments more compelling than others or even as compelling as say, the theory of special relativity (wink). But there is no proof. None. There are merely arguments and theories. Atheists I have encountered who seem to have joined the cult-like Richard Dawkins ‘movement’, strike me (much like the skeptics I have encountered) to be joining a social order where there are right and wrong beliefs and ways of thinking and everyone presents the same argument. I find compelling, Lynn Margulis’ excoriating criticism of Dawkins’ perspective on evolution science. Considering that I now believe Dawkins’ is wrong and that his own glaring biases are inadvertently promoted as science, it makes me cringe even more to think of him as a sort of ‘leader’ of the atheist ‘movement’ for lack of a better description.

  • Cindy

    I will begin with a quote:

    “Therefore, to those who claim that the very idea of a Big Bang violates the First Law of Thermodynamics (also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy) that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, proponents respond that the Big Bang does not address the creation of the universe, only its evolution, and that, as the laws of science break down anyway as we approach the creation of the universe, there is no reason to believe that the First Law of Thermodynamics would apply.”

    Three points from that:

    1) “…the laws of science break down anyway as we approach the creation of the universe”

    2) Science does not speak about the creation of the universe; it is beyond the scope of science.

    3) The best current theory for even the evolution of the universe offered by science requires a violation of one of its own laws.

    Thus, if the laws of science break down as we approach the creation of the universe, then any possible discovery regarding the creation of the universe would have to have a radical effect on the nature of science as we understand it.

    4) Things are not always what they seem. What if we can only interpret our world in ways that make it impossible for us to comprehend aspects of reality which do not lend themselves to our scrutiny–at least for the time being. We can show innumerable examples of our ancestors doing just that. I am not sure there is any evidence that our ancestors were any less sure in their ‘knowledge’ than we believe we are.

    For example, after 107 years as a sort of ‘truth’, we now know special relativity theory to be wrong. This means we can be wrong about very big things and things we have been pretty certain of.

    I think science probably cannot ever reveal the whole ‘truth’. To therefore presume science can answer questions it cannot is to become a ‘science fundamentalist’ and thus become the other side of the same coin as a religious fundamentalist.

    I like what Bernard Beckett said (from the same link as my preceding):

    I respond well to what I read of Immanuel Kant’s idea that the world as we see it is absolutely a function of the way our brain works. In the modern parlance, it’s an evolved machine that we carry with us. The very ideas of space and time are human inventions and we organise the world according to these ideas.

    Kant said, whatever the true reality is beyond that, we can’t know because our brains aren’t up to it. Our world is limited by the machinery we carry. It’s very different to the 18th and 19th century Enlightenment scientists who were mostly men of God and thought it was their quest to uncover God’s great plan.

    I think there’s a bit of a hangover of that in modern science, that beneath it all there’s this great truth that we can understand. And I see no reason at all why our brain would have evolved for deeper understanding. It evolved for survival. Some things will always be beyond our ken.

  • roger nowosielski


    Nothing to do with proof, Dreadful, not when what’s at stake are terms of ordinary language. And even if there was one, I wouldn’t waste my time wasting it on you. If you want to be a fuzzy thinker and a fuzzy speaker, that’s your decision, so don’t let me stand in your way.

  • Dr Dreadful

    The best current theory for even the evolution of the universe offered by science requires a violation of one of its own laws.

    No it doesn’t.

    How can something that doesn’t exist yet have “laws”?

  • Christopher Rose

    Cindy, I am rather astonished by your post. I was really hoping for something better than this.

    To summarise, you find arrogant or pushy atheists offensive; you can’t accept that over 6,000 years after the rise of the concept of monotheism, the complete lack of any evidence that said deity exists is more compelling than “we can’t be certain”; you don’t like a lack of “civility or sisterly love” in some sections of the atheist spectrum; you find the argument of a high school teacher who isn’t a scientist but uses the arguments of an 18th Century philosopher against science to justify his position compelling; you find it odd that people who don’t believe in the existence of a god are also opposed to the religions that exploit that belief; and you don’t like the fact that there is no “proof” that gods don’t exist. Is that it?

    I am actually staggered that you present this motley crew as the reasoning for your change of position. A distaste for behaviour you dislike, a non-scientific argument against science, and the lack of proof for the unprovable?

    Are you trying to be funny here?

    In an attempt to remain civil, I will not remark further on this appalling and extraordinary ragbag of, I don’t know what to call it, so let’s go with stuff…

  • roger nowosielski

    My goodness, Cindy, you’re taking an unnecessarily metaphysical turn, though I understand of course.

    Why not just say that there’s nothing to mediate between our language and our world, that the limits of our language are the limits of our world?

  • Christopher Rose

    Roger, as the arch obfuscator, you have no right at all to ever describe anybody, let alone Doc D, as a “fuzzy thinker and a fuzzy speaker”. Unbelievable!

  • roger nowosielski


    You know what she was referring to, Dreadful, the Big Bang hypothesis is itself unaccountable in terms of the subsequent laws (so it was unfortunate phrasing). I suppose a Steady-State theory would be free of that limitation.

  • roger nowosielski

    Chris, Dreadful was being “fuzzy” in conflating theories with facts. Of course, he was being fuzzy on purpose, as you can readily surmise from his #43, which is ample proof that he knows better. So my take it, he was trying to humor you, Chris, nothing more. Just a case of people playing their games.

    Sorry you got caught in the crossfire, it wasn’t my intention. But then again, you’ve got no one but yourself to blame for stepping onto the minefield. There were warning signs all over.

    Have you availed yourself, by the way, of the links I provided up thread? Just wondering.

  • Christopher Rose

    Roger, as a general but not absolute rule I never follow any links you post as when I do I find that a state of less rather than enhanced clarity and understanding ensues, much like many of your own comments…

  • roger nowosielski

    Not my fault, then, Chris. It was for your edification, but you know what they say about leading the horse to the water.

  • Christopher Rose

    I don’t really see you as someone I would turn to for edification, Roger; from you I get and expect entertainment or confusion, sometimes both!

  • Christopher Rose

    As for leading a horse to water, I see people such as the Doc and I as the ones holding the reins…

  • Cindy


    Well, I will thank you for being civil.

    But there are ‘real’ scientists who are not atheists and also those who would agree with me and who would also agree with Kant. Your choice is not to address the content–that’s fine.

    As to the ‘length of time with no proof’ argument: I could make a similar argument regarding the length of time that there was no proof that anything traveled faster than the speed of light or for nearly the same percentage of time, there was no evidence of anything scientific at all. Yet now, in the minute number of years of existence, there is science.

    Besides, I think we could easily imagine an impassable division between realms of existence. So, for me, the ‘we haven’t had any proof thus far’ argument doesn’t work.


    Very clever! But apparently, the universe did exist, since the big bang does not describe the origin of the universe, only a part of its evolution. I admit you can say that the rules changed when the universe changed. But that seems to me to be consistent with what I am saying. Science itself and its laws and its facts and its theories could be subject to change, based on the circumstances. And the failure of the 1st law of thermodynamics to apply pre-expansion is at least evidence for the truth of that statement, if prior to the big bang, other laws and facts applied.

  • Cindy

    I am going out. Will check in tomorrow.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Cindy, just because we don’t yet know what was (a misleading word in itself, since time did (again, sorry) not exist either) going on prior to the Big Bang doesn’t mean we never will.

    A conscious creator isn’t necessary for a universe to spring into existence: that’s a human conceit. (i.e. we create things, therefore…)

    I will admit that I do see indications in the way the universe works that it has the hallmarks of being designed. Whether this is nothing more than my own prejudice as a member of a species that designs stuff, or whether it is a designer recognizing design when he sees it, is open to debate.

  • Dr Dreadful

    And I will add to the above that even if the universe does or did have a designer, it doesn’t follow that he/she/it/they should be worshipped, nor that he/she/it/they would want or expect to be.

  • roger nowosielski

    @69, 70

    Sure you would Chris, view my comments as contributing to general confusion and corrupting the innocent and the simpleminded.. But I should expect no better from trying to unfetter a chained mind.

    But seriously now, your quest for certainty is uncanny and is your greatest stumbling block. If you could only divorce it from your unshakable belief in science as the be all and end all and try take things in stride, you’d be on the way to recovery.

    Man is the measure of all things, Chris, not science. It is man who made science, not the other way around. Develop some perspective, for crying out loud. Mind is a terrible thing to waste.


  • Igor

    #43-Dr D.: excellent post. Thank you.

  • Christopher Rose

    Cindy, the fact that there are real scientists who are not atheists, whilst true, is irrelevant to your argument.

    Similarly, we can imagine all sorts of things but that doesn’t make them true, so I still don’t see any logic or coherence to your shift in position, just a reaction against some things you don’t like.

    And as Doc D has pointed out, just because we don’t (yet) know something doesn’t mean it is okay to simply make stuff up.

    There is zero evidence that the so called creator god of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic conjectures exists whilst there is plenty of evidence, and more every day, of the natural processes that shape our universe.

    Roger, your conceit really is rather breathtaking. You lack skills in reading, writing and comprehension yet have the arrogance to assume, with zero foundation, that you are in a position to be able to help anybody, let alone “unfetter a chained mind”. In that latter regard, you would be better trying to achieve that for yourself…

    To correct only your latest false presumptions, I am not on a quest for certainty (to say nothing of it is unclear how a quest could be in any way uncanny), nor do I have an “unshakable belief in science as the be all and end all”. Your constant invention of irrelevancies and untruths only belittles you.

    Please keep your platitudinous and irrelevant advice to yourself, where it might best do some good or at least no harm.

  • roger nowosielski


    And by #43 he was correcting whom?

  • roger nowosielski

    @77, the latter part

    Chris, rest assured that I think of you in no less superlative terms.

    But you knew that already.

  • Costello

    I like what I heard Penn the magician say though I may be quoting it wrong. He said when asked if he believed in God, he was an atheist. When asked if there was a god, he was an agnostic.

    Anyone else amused by how Chris and Roger constantly go at each while unaware of how much they are alike?

  • zingzing

    i think we can all tell that their dicks are of similar size.

  • Christopher Rose

    Roger, unfortunately the one thing you aren’t doing is thinking.

    Costello, thanks for re-confirming how nuanced your perception is.

    zingzing, your comedic skills never fail to amuse!

  • Dr Dreadful

    Roger’s main failing is his having convinced himself that reality is a philosophical construct. His conclusions are therefore usually contradicted by, um, reality.

    Chris’s main failing is that he believes his opinion on any subject is invariably the correct and rational one. This despite the fact that he supports Manchester United and wears Spanish leather boots to bed.

  • zingzing

    i watched the second half of the chelsea-man u match the other morning. it was 3-0 chelsea at the time and i thought it would be nice to watch man u getting smacked around a bit. but noooooo. god, i hate them.

  • Dr Dreadful

    zing, did you catch the Man U-Man City game earlier this season? That one would have fixed you up for a good long while.

  • Christopher Rose

    I do my best, Doc D, I do my best.

    It was a rather good come back against Chelsea, wasn’t it?

    I still feel sick when I think about that derby game, even though we have beaten the sky blue scumbags since then!

  • Zingzing

    I did read about that game. 6-0, right? Mmmm. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a man u game where the lost. Tis a pity.

    One of the penalties man u got in the Chelsea game seemed like a bit of dumb luck, which is what pisses me off. But them’s the rules.

    Still, after watching the recent couple of usmnt friendlies, it’s nice to see a team playing like they’ve met each other before. That last goal was pretty pretty. I gave a little cheer before I remembered what I was doing.

  • roger nowosielski

    God forbid, Costello. You’re either showing naivete or lack of discernment.

    Moi and Christopher Rose alike? You surely must be saying this only for effect. The only similarity between us has to do with the level of conceit, but mine is justified, whereas Chris’s, I have no idea where it came from, but I’m certain we shall hear it from the horse’s mouth.

    As to you, Dreadful, you’re the least qualified person to be giving anyone lectures on the nature of reality, especially since you’re being inattentive to the nuances of your own language. But don’t let that stop you because you know what they say about opinions. Everyone’s got them.

  • roger nowosielski


    Bet you one thing, Zing, mine is way thicker than his. Chris’s strikes me as a pencil kind, his bark always bigger than his bite.