This reader liked the book, to say the least:

​I am 69, an atheist, and a retired engineer. Until I read about Waking Up on the Dish, I had never heard of Sam Harris. Because of his book, not only will I die happily, I will be happier for the rest of my life. For a long time I struggled with questions such as “Where was I before I was born?” and “What happens to me after I die?” I had not researched to find answers to my questions. However, the scientific and philosophical discussion by Harris has convinced me that consciousness is self (I). My perception of I is just my consciousness. Bingo! Now I am not worried about “I.”

Waking Up will not change many minds, as you suggest. But it may help many individuals like me who are not deep thinkers. Thanks for paving my way to enlightenment.

Another offers a critique:

The problem with Sam Harris’ thesis is that he spends a good deal of energy to destroy one dualism – the self and the rest of the world – and then focuses the rest of his capital on 51dolkylconstructing another in its place – consciousness and sensory perception. As if consciousness is any easier to define as a continuous, knowable entity than self. A valid argument could be made that he’s simply substituted one term for the other and both are subject to the same powerful criticisms he makes against self – that both are elemental, Western constructs of spirituality that don’t survive analytic examination.

What are we left with then, if that’s the case? A construct of consciousness that, on the most basic level, is completely reducible to brain waves and other sensory input. Humans may seem to be more complex organizations than, say, rocks and debris. The brain is a wonderfully mysterious organ to behold, after all, especially by its owner or someone similarly placed. And true spiritual oneness with the world could start by meditation and a loosening up of the dualistic approach we utilize to strap the world down on a gurney and do with it as we please.

But Harris might need one more nudge in an Eastern direction, to get his argument fully down. He’s wedded himself to the existence of consciousness, despite acknowledging all along that it is not scientifically provable (except, he argues, through self-examination).

Or one nudge back West, in which the richness of human experience and thought cannot be reduced to neurons, without making it meaningless. Another turns the critique toward me:

Like many, I found Sam’s book enlightening and deeply challenging. And, like you, in the end I found myself unable to follow him into the complete annihilation of the self; it is too intuitively, phenomenologically present, it seems to me, to accept Sam’s dismissal. But the bookclub-beagle-trtraditional Western view of the self seems also unsatisfactory, hence the value of trying to see things from a different perspectives.

However, I also cannot accede to your Christian idea of a self relating to an altogether different and greater entity or being (which, only too often, amounts to the projection of human personality traits onto God, emotions such as love or anger or jealousy).

Read On

The Most Expensive Midterms Ever

Oct 23 2014 @ 1:20pm

The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) does the calculations:

Almost $4 billion will be spent for this year’s midterm election, the Center for Responsive Politics is projecting. That figure makes this year’s election by far the most expensive midterm ever. The candidates and parties alone will combine to spend about $2.7 billion, while outside groups will likely spend close to $900 million on their own — a figure that veers close to the $1.3 billion spent by outside groups in 2012, when the hyper-expensive presidential race was fueling the fire. …

The 2010 midterm cost $3.6 billion; this one will run an estimated $333 million more than that. The congressional portion of the 2012 race cost about $3.6 billion as well.

Evan Osnos asks, “Will anything stop those sums from growing again in two years, and two years after that? “:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Oct 23 2014 @ 12:57pm

Barga, Italy-12pm

Barga, Italy, 12 pm

A No-Drama Ebola Policy, Ctd

Oct 23 2014 @ 12:40pm

On top of the modest travel restrictions from the DHS, the CDC announced yesterday that anyone traveling from the epicenters of the epidemic will be monitored for 21 days after they enter the US:

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said that anyone arriving from the three countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – will be actively monitored on a daily basis and will also face new rules about where they can travel within the United States. He added that about 70 percent of all travelers stay in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia. People will receive a kit when they arrive at the airport that explains what the symptoms are, a guide to telephone numbers, and a thermometer, Frieden said. State and local officials will maintain daily contact with travelers for the entire 21 days.

Morrissey is skeptical these new measures will be effective:

The problem with this approach is that it’s still voluntary.

Read On

The Senate Map Turns Redder

Oct 23 2014 @ 12:18pm

Senate Map

That latest from Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Our present ratings leave Republicans with 49 seats and Democrats with 47 seats, with four Toss-ups: Georgia and Louisiana, which both might be heading to overtime, and Colorado and Kansas, where incumbents Udall and Roberts are in deep trouble — especially Udall — but retain a path to victory. To claim a majority, Republicans need to win half of the Toss-up states. Democrats need to win three of them to achieve a Biden Majority (a 50-50 draw with Vice President Joe Biden’s tie-breaking vote giving Democrats the edge). Given the playing field, this arithmetic certainly advantages the GOP, but there is at least some chance that Democrats might pull off the unexpected.

So the Senate remains too close to call, but it’s clear that Republicans are well positioned to win a majority and that Democrats’ backs are up against the wall as Election Day approaches

Nate Cohn determines that, more or less, “Democratic chances depend on winning Kansas or Georgia, or another red state, South Dakota, which was largely taken for granted over the summer but where a Democratic and an independent candidate have a shot at an upset”:

Read On

Marijuana Doesn’t Make You Stupid

Oct 23 2014 @ 11:58am

Ingraham draws attention to a new study on teen pot use and IQ:

Even heavy marijuana use wasn’t associated with IQ.

“In particular alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline,” the authors write. “No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.”

Read On

An “actual nerd” joins this reader in stating his case for true nerdom:

Female nerds take a stand against the reader:

He is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with this particular sordid corner of NerdCulture. As a woman, I earned my nerd status in exactly the same way as every other picked-on kid in school ever did: by being labeled that by my peers. I was bullied, I was mocked for reading too much SFF, for playing Dungeons and Dragons, and for not being very good at sports. Now this guy and folks like him want to tell me I didn’t earn that nerd card? That I don’t belong with the only group where I have ever belonged? I have some choice four letter words for him, as well as advice on where he can stick them.

The wonder of it all is that he clearly can’t even see his hypocrisy – that he is doing exactly the same thing to women that has been done to him. And while I may sympathize with his situation, I 1979474_354805564678076_7909139515221880476_ndon’t need his permission to lay claim to territory that has been mine since the first time I read The Hobbit at age five or discovered Batman comics at fourteen. Nerd territory is the domain of the outcast and the iconoclast, and it has never been about needing anyone’s approval. Watching these men try to say that they suddenly have some kind of say in who gets to wear the label would be hilarious if it wasn’t so infuriating.

Another is a tad more direct:

Speaking as a female nerd, your reader can definitely go fuck himself over that thought train. I’ve spent my entire life dealing with assholes like him and how I’m a “fake nerd” simply because I have breasts and a vagina. News flash dude: my adolescence was probably half as fun as yours.

Read On

Vote Early, Vote Often?

Oct 23 2014 @ 11:21am

John Fund argues against early voting:

Consider that for all of the hullabaloo about early voting, studies have shown it hasn’t increased overall voter turnout. Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, notes turnout is down even in states that have made it easier to vote through Election Day registration or early voting. Gans and other observers are also concerned that early voters won’t have the same information as those who vote on Election Day. They may miss out on candidate debates or be unable to factor in other late-developing election events. “Those who vote a month in advance are saying they don’t care about weighing all the facts,” says Adams, the former Justice Department official. One secretary of state I interviewed compared early voting that takes place before debates are finished with jurors in a trial who stand up in the middle of testimony and say they’ve heard enough and are ready to render a verdict.

In response, Chait proposes “a perfect solution that would address Fund’s professions of deep social commitment to a single national voting day while also addressing concerns about the inconvenience”:

You’d simply have to make Election Day a national holiday.

Read On

The Globe and Mail reports on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the suspected shooter. He had been named a “high risk traveller” and blocked from leaving the country because of fears that he might become a jihadi:

“He wanted to go back to Libya and study,” [friend Dave] Bathurst said. He urged his friend to make sure study was on his mind and “not something else.” Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau insisted he was only going abroad with the intent of learning about Islam and to study Arabic. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was blocked from fulfilling those plans. Sources say he intended to travel abroad, but he had not been able to secure a valid travel document from federal officials, who have been taking measures to prevent Canadians from joining extremists overseas.

Reid Standish notes that the “attack comes as Canada has ramped up its role in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, though it remains unclear whether the attack has any connection with these recent decision”:

Canada has sent 26 special forces troops to Iraq to serve in an advisory role, and on Oct. 7 Parliament voted in favor of joining U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. In late September, a video released by the Islamic State’s spokesperson, Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani urged the group’s supporters to kill Canadians and commit domestic attacks on Canadian territory.

Joe Friesen has more context:

For a country that lived through more than a decade of Western anti-terror wars largely without domestic bloodshed, Wednesday’s attack was a potential turning point.

Read On


Oct 23 2014 @ 10:20am

Ann Friedman raises an eyebrow at empowerment conferences:

These conferences all follow a similar formula. Take a vintage feminist icon (Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda), a Clinton, a media maven (Arianna Huffington or Tina Brown, but probably not both), and three or four celebrities with a conscience (Oprah, Angelina, Geena, Meryl). Throw in Sandberg — who is absolutely mandatory — along with a half-dozen women who run Fortune 500 companies. With only 24 CEOs to choose from, organizers can’t be too picky. Book a five-star hotel (Ritz-Carlton or similar) in Southern California or, if you’re keeping it simple, Manhattan. Choose a hashtag. Pay a few entry-level bloggers to flood the internet with 30-second video clips of the world-changing conversations taking place in front of a logo-spattered backdrop. And watch the sponsorship money roll in. …

For as long as there’s been a mainstream feminist movement, there have been corporations eager to capitalize on women’s desire for empowerment.

Read On