Monday, April 1, 2024

No Middle Ground

In the matter of undecided voters, I simply cannot fathom how there can be fence-sitters when it comes to dealing with  Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. He is so evil that in my mind  this is one of those rare cases of political absolutes in which only those people who share his sick  world view could support him,  and those with a sense of decency could not.  Consider for example Trump's latest campaign obscenity: the displaying of  a video on his social media site depicting President Biden hog-tied in the back of a pickup truck. This incident is just the latest in  the many instances of his disgusting rhetoric and behavior.

It would be disturbing even if Trump's followers comprised only  a lunatic fringe of the American public. But it's a disgrace that millions of voters cast their ballots for him in the last two presidential elections and are prepared to do so again in November notwithstanding one of his few likely genuine promises  that if elected, he intends to impose a dictatorship on the U.S. and on the other hand threatens violence if he again loses. Sadly, the more uncivilized Trump's behavior and rhetoric, the greater his popularity not only  among his MAGA-head fans but apparently among the electorate as a whole. Otherwise, the race between him and Biden would not be so close as it is at present.

A desirable scenario would be that Trump would not be able to complete his candidacy for whatever reason, such as disability. In particular, his existing condition of dementia could become so pronounced between  now and November as to incapacitate him.  Of course, the Republicans would have to  select a replacement.  And I could well be dead wrong, but I would bet that whoever they choose to run instead could not be any worse than the most despicable person that has ever held the nation's highest office.



Thursday, July 20, 2023

Caution: Balance transfers can be hazardous to your credit score

A few months ago I incurred a medical bill and charged it to my Master Card. I hadn't intended to leave it there very long, knowing the horrendous interest rate that I would be charged if I did so. I was just biding my time awaiting the opportunity to transfer this balance to  a 0% APR deal that I knew another one of my credit cards, let's call it  Credit Card X, would eventually offer as a promo which it does occasionally throughout the year. And that's just what happened. So naturally I availed of this chance and transferred the balance, approximately $2,000, from my Master Card   to Credit card X which has a credit limit of $4,000 which I've never come anywhere close to approaching. My  previous high balance  with them was around  a few hundred bucks. 

Well as it turned out,  by my placing the $2K on that card which was 50% of my credit line,  in the eyes or the algorithm of the credit score folks or  I had  effectively utilized  too much of my  credit line.  That  is considered  a red flag in terms of  card holder risk which is a situation that I never encountered before inasmuch  my credit card balances had always remained well below their respective limits. Hence, as a result of this transaction my FICO score which had been over 800 for several years dropped 38 points into the 700 range.

Now Credit Card X customer service has assured me that  if I paid down the outstanding $2,000  on time,  the percentage of balance to credit limit would decrease and my FICO score would correspondingly rebound accordingly. But that will likely take several months. An additional possible recourse would be to apply for a credit limit increase which if approved would also lower the balance to credit line ratio.

But when all is said and done, my main concern is this: As experienced as I am in personal finance both on a personal and a professional level (consumer finance was my line of work prior retirement) I had never heard that credit card balance transfers might negatively impact one's FICIO score. 

So as inviting as a balance transfer might appear, before you take the plunge, consider the overall effect on your credit rating. And if you do take that step, make sure that the spread between the amount involved and the credit limit of the new card is wide. Don't exceed 30%.

Oh, and as for Credit Card X, since the amount owed was from a medical bill,  it so happens that I received an unexpected insurance benefit which I then used to pay off that balance in full. But it will still likely take a while before my FICO bounces back accordingly. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Forgive And Forget? Not Necessarily

We often hear that forgiving grievances and wrongs that are done to us is essential for good mental and even physical health. However, I would like to present a different perspective on the matter: I submit that long-term and even permanent refusal to forgive may under certain circumstances be a justified and healthy reaction toward those who have deeply hurt us and who never apologized or otherwise tried to make amends, especially if one way or another  they're no longer around to do so.

Here is  personal  example. Several years ago, a close family member maliciously turned several mutual relatives against me over a falling out which was supposed to be strictly between her and me.  She died a few years after this incident, and the other family members to whom she denounced me are also all now deceased.  I know that this woman never regretted what she'd done. In turn, I never forgave her and likely never will. 

Now I want to emphasize that I don't advocate an obsessive, all-consuming bitterness by those who cannot forgive a grave injury that was done to them. That can be self-destructive.  Personally, whenever I happen to reflect on what happened to me as narrated above, an objective awareness of having been betrayed remains. But I don't dwell on it. And I never even experienced the desire for vengeance over what happened. When the memory of the incident crosses my mind, I just figuratively shake my head at the unfairness of the way events unfolded, and then I move on to other matters. This is what I mean by managing the feelings of unforgiveness in a rational manner.

And to be clear I certainly don't criticize those who have forgiven their wrongdoers for a particular grievance.  But let it be known that such willingness to let bygones be bygones should not be expected from everybody who's been ill-treated. Above all, no one should be shamed by others for refusing to have a change of heart. In short, each of us must do what's best for him/herself. There are no right or wrong answers. 

So for those who strongly feel that in remaining steadfast in their refusal to forgive, if this is their road to obtaining and keeping peace of mind, then let us be accepting of it. For the choice they've made is one to which they are entitled.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Why a God Is Not Needed In Dealing With Life

As I have submitted in my previous posts on the topic of atheism, there is no scientific evidence for the existence of a supreme being. In this discussion, I'd also like to point out that such an entity is not even necessary in order explain the  events that occur in the course of our lives, or for that matter, life itself..

Theists attribute the reason for these happenings as a divine plan or God's will and purpose. But the more likely answer is simple randomness by which such incidents have a cause but not a purpose behind them. Examples are illness  and mishaps. These misfortunes can--and do--strike all kinds of people. And there's really no reason why bad things to happen to good people or vice versa.  No one is being singled out.

Despite the natural calamities that have besieged life from its very beginning and which have wiped out most organisms through the eons,
such as the Permian-Triassic extinction  also known as The Great Dying which occurred about 250 million years ago and which spelled the doom of 90% of all marine land much of land life at that time, the ancestors of humankind survived and adapted. These are our forbears from whom we developed.  And all the evidence for this process points to evolution by natural selection as the source of our turning out to be the complex  creatures, complete with heartaches and joys, that we've eventually become--no assembly by a sky daddy required.

Friday, October 1, 2021

On Saying "No" To Unfounded Faith

Recently, a friend of mine referred to me an article from the "Wall street Journal"  (Sept. 23, 2021) attacking atheism. The author,  Michael Guillen,  is a former athiest and regrets having been one.  And like so many of his kind, his justifications for abandoning non-belief  are completely wrongheaded. Here's what  he has to say:

Why Atheists Need Faith

"Atheism's central conceit is that it is a worldview grounded in logic and scientific evidence. That is has nothing to do with faith, which it associates with weakness.  In reality, faith is central to atheism, logic, and even science. 

"I became an atheist early in life and long believed that my fellow nonbelievers were an enlightened bunch. I relished citing studies appearing to show that atheists have higher IQs than believers. But when I was studying for my doctorate in physics, math and astronomy, I began questioning my secular worldview.

""Like one of Hermann Hesse’s tormented intellectuals, I set off to explore alternatives—beginning with Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. This turned into a decades-long intellectual-spiritual journey. Ultimately I became a Christian, but along the way I discovered fascinating differences and similarities among humanity’s many religions and philosophies. I learned that all views of the world differ in three essential ways.

First, foundation. All worldviews are built on core beliefs that cannot be proved. Axioms from which everything else about a person’s perception of reality is derived. They must be accepted on faith.

"Second, size. Every worldview—that is, every person’s bubble of reality—has a certain diameter. That of atheism is relatively small, because it encompasses only physical reality. It has no room for other realities. Even humanity’s unique spirituality and creativity—all our emotions, including love—are reduced to mere chemistry.

"Third, deity. Without exception, every worldview is ruled over by a god or gods. It’s the who or what that occupies its center stage. Everything in a person’s life revolves around this.

When I was an atheist, a scientific monk sleeping three hours a day and spending the rest of my time immersed in studying the universe, my worldview rested on the core axiom that seeing is believing. When I learned that 95% of the cosmos is invisible, consisting of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” names for things we don’t understand, that core assumption became untenable. As a scientist, I had to believe in a universe I mostly could not see. My core axiom became “believing is seeing.” Because what we hold to be true dictates how we understand everything—ourselves, others and our mostly invisible universe, including its origin. Faith precedes knowledge, not the other way around.

"Atheism demands a small cosmos, so that is all secularist-materialists see. They bend over backward to interpret every pixel of evidence solely in terms of space, time, matter and energy. For them, that’s all there is. It’s a religious conviction they cannot prove but take on faith.

"Atheists commonly believe that science will ultimately demystify everything. But science’s worldview is becoming more mystical, not less. Witness supernatural-like concepts such as virtual particles, imaginary time and quantum entanglement. Even atheist Sam Harris admits: “I don’t know if our universe is, as JBS Haldane said, ‘not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose.’ But I am sure that it is stranger than we, as ‘atheists,’ tend to represent while advocating atheism.”

"The overwhelming evidence, I’ve discovered, makes it crystal clear: Faith is the foundation of the entire human experience—the basis of both science and religion. Our faith in physical reality drives us to seek treatments for deadly diseases like Covid-19, to explore the depths of the sea, to invent the perfect source of energy. Our faith in spiritual reality drives us to create breathtaking works of art, music, and architecture; to see life as a divine creation, not an accident of nature; to be curious about things that are not of this world.

"For all those reasons and more, I’ve come to learn that atheists are greatly mistaken: Faith is anything but a weakness. It is the mightiest power in the universe." 

* * *

Guillen is so off the  mark on so many levels, I hardly know where to start refuting him. For one thing, in the matter of faith, there's spiritual faith , e.g. religious beliefs, the contents for which there is no evidence, such as certainty of the existence of a supreme being)on one hand, and  rational faith on the other, as propose by social psychologist Erich Fromm.  An example of the latter is in the form of inductive reasoning, e.g., as per Fromm, inasmuch as  the sun has risen and set everyday for millions of years, all things being equal I have faith it will rise again tomorrow morning. Or to put this another way,  there's no basis to think that that Earth will not complete another rotation in its usual 24 hours cycle, just as it's done for eons. And this belief is supported by our knowledge of astronomy. 
The physical universe as an infinite entity includes everything that exists in nature, and accordingly,  as an atheist I very much appreciate its magnificence.  And if that appreciation, along with other emotions such as the deep love that I feel for my wife can in fact be reduced to chemistry,  well so what? It doesn't make them any less genuine. 

Or take Guillen's assertion: "... my worldview rested on the core axiom that seeing is believing. When I learned that 95% of the cosmos is invisible, consisting of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” names for things we don’t understand, that core assumption became untenable". That is spoken like a true god-believer which at heart he must have been all along . Atheists don't  need to see something to believe that it exists. Take the wind for example.  Who has ever seen it? But it can be felt and above  all measured. And just because cosmologists  can't at present fully explain dark matter and dark energy, that doesn't mean that they necessarily never will. Discoveries of that nature don't happen overnight. Considering what has been learned about the universe in, say, the last 50 years, imagine what knowledge the next fifty will bring.  

Finally, are atheists invincible and invulnerable when it comes to  erroneous and superstitious beliefs? Of course not.  Nor should we claim to be. The following post from the blog site "Atheist Revolution" well confirms that fact.

It's just that of all foolish beliefs and misplaced faith that some individual atheists may harbor, god-belief—which is probably the biggest delusion in the history of humankind—is not one of them.

Monday, July 19, 2021

What The F--k Is the Matter With These People?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected the minds of many  Americans who've never even had the disease i.e. in terms of their reaction to the virus' mere existence which many of them refuse to even acknowledge. And in light of their hostility to compliance with  simple life saving measures including  wearing face masks and refusing vaccinations against the disease, I'm  very glad that my wife and I are living abroad.  As such we have been able to observe this phenomenon of lunacy from afar and in safety from the violence that many of these crazies have committed against mask wearers and vaccine advocates. Moreover,I'm also concerned  about the outrageous attacks in the U.S. against Asian-Americans, who have been scapegoated as sources of the the coronavirus, especially inasmuch as my wife is a Filipina and so would be at risk if we were still living in the States. 

Things were bad enough before the pandemic when the anti-vaxxers were mainly irresponsible parents who were jeopardizing the safety and lives of their children by refusing to have them inoculated against childhood diseases. But now this twisted mentality of resistance has mutated  into opposition to coronavirus vaccinations  as well and has affected the thinking of  many others,including  elected officials at various levels, mainly Republicans (imagine that).  It's  as though it were an epidemic itself, and one for which there is no cure. Just how out of control the situation has become in America is well documented in the following two articles which  happened appear online on the same day. 

"Doctor sounds alarm on low vaccination rates: 'It’s not a debate. It’s science.'"

"We’ve plummeted from dumb to dumber — to proud and unapologetically ignorant | Opinion"

In the end, I suppose  what it boils down to is that Americans who want to get vaccinated will do so. And those don't, won't. Will this leave the latter to eventually infect and kill off each other? If so, they will they have no one to blame but themselves.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Can America Really Recover from the Trump Era?

As a result of four years of Trumpism culminating in an attempt  by President Trump and his followers to viciously  overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election,  American democracy has been grievously wounded. Considering the following two articles I wonder whether even a new and Democratic administration can repair the damage that  Trump did to the country--or whether the millions of  Americans--who after all  elected him in 2016 in the first place embody a national character  flaw that's too deeply rooted to be cured and will continue to drag down the U.S. 

Most Americans reject the attack on the Capitol — but millions empathize with the mob

Police departments across the U.S. open probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot

But what's particularly disturbing is that the deadly violence against the American people, government property, and the political system  which Trump and his  domestic terrorists followers have committed may not be over. Some say that  impeachment efforts against Trump will only fan the flames of violence by these people. I disagree. I think that they will go forward with their plans of destruction either way.

As Inauguration Nears, Concern Of More Violence Grows

These are grim times, and they are complicated by the COVID pandemic which continues to infect and kill Americans in record number daily, in relation to which, the national  deployment of vaccines is going more slowly than planned.

So, Biden's intended efforts to rebuild the country notwithstanding, I believe that the difficult era the U.S. is experiencing will likely be upon us for a long time to come. And the plague of diehard Trump  loyalists amongst real Americans is surely not going to make recovery any easier. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Forgive Trumpsters? Forget It

Now that Joe Biden has won  the 2020 presidential election, I've been hearing a lot from various sources including the president-elect himself about the need for the American people to reunite and let bygones be bygones between the Dems and the Republicans. On one level, I understand--almost sympathize--with Biden in his desire to lead a country in which as he put it there are no red states or blue states,  just the United States.

However, four years of Trump's evil and cruelty which were supported by his bigoted followers and were climaxed by his vicious bid for re-election can't be that readily forgiven and forgotten, which might be the case in the matter of opposing philosophies  between, say, Mitt Romney and former President Obama.  Instead, Trump and his administration's social-economic-political  mindset were products of a twisted a narcissistic sociopath, and his fan base loved every minute of it .

To put it another way, this is not just a case of conservatives vs. liberals.  Many Trump supporters especially those who attended his "red only"rallies and other mass gatherings such as Sturgis are responsible for  the spread of COVID-19 to innocent people, thanks to their callous refusal to observe simple protocols such as masking up. Besides Trump himself, other officials in his administration  are likewise unconcerned for the health and welfare of others. Recall the infamous White House coronavirus sesuperspreader event.  In  a word Trumpsters are dangerous.

During the Trump years  racism and antisemitism have increased significantly in the U.S. thanks  to  his dog whistled  messages signaling encouragement of  violence and hatred  to his followers against minorities.

Then there is the far right and violent Qanon conspiracy theory a belief in which takes a certain kind of gullibility  and outright bigotry to fall for this outlandish delusion . Not surprisingly, it has a large following among Trumpsters, including recently elected Republican members of Congress.  

And  keep in mind the former are not about to give up their beliefs and ideology  even though their Dear Leader lost the election; In fact, the latter itself is a reality which  many of them refuse to accept. just as Trump himself is in denial of that outcome through now. In short,  considering the foregoing, how can there be any reasonable basis for reconciliation between  Trump supporters and real Americans?

 If anything it's the Trumpsters who should make the first move towards reconciliation by waiving the white flag and reaching out for forgiveness. But of course that hasn't happened. And until it does,  they should be shunned accordingly, which BTW is the very least that they  and Trump would likely do to their opponents if he had won.  

I only hope that President Biden doesn't continue  charging at this windmill and instead focuses on rebuilding the country from the socioeconomic and pandemic destruction that Trump and his people have left behind. That's what it will take to  truly make America great again.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Why Attacks by China on God-Centered Religions Should Not Be Blamed on Atheists

The disinclination to believe that there is a supreme being can take various forms. The two that I will consider here are atheism and antitheism.  I understand atheism to be simply the absence of the belief that a god or gods exists, or that there is a lack of lack of evidence for such an entity.  On the other hand, I understand antitheism to be a doctrine which not only rejects a supreme being's existence but also actively opposes theistic religions. 

This is not to say that atheism stakes its position in the spectrum of irreligion and passively lets it go at that.  In fact, atheists who simply demand the right not to be persecuted for their non-belief and to be granted socio-political equality with theists are considered by some as "militant". But obviously, such freedom is of vital importance, especially in societies where the god-believers and their culture predominate, as in the U.S.  

Antitheism, however, takes an antagonistic stance in dealing with religious beliefs. Its adherents who hold political power may even go so far as to try to abolish them altogether. An example is the Communist regime in China in its attacks on that country's religious communities, especially the imprisonment of the latter’s' members in "reeducation camps" in attempts to rid them of their theistic mindsets.  Antitheism was likewise a pillar of the culture of the former Soviet Union. Under both the old USSR and modern China, the purported purpose of eradicating religion has supposedly been to replace the old superstitious ways that impede mankind's progress.

Towards this end, communist ideology (in which antitheism plays a vital role) claims to be a revolutionary movement, one which promises to create an advanced type of humankind who in turn would build a glorious new world. But the more likely reason is that religion is seen as a source of competition for the hearts and minds of the people.  (This struggle is discussed in depth in “The Battle for China’s Spirit” by Sarah Cook).   So In short, suppression of religion in China is simply a means of heading off a power struggle.

Personally, as an atheist, I’m put off by antitheism. I support people's entitlement to personal beliefs to the extent that those who hold them do not try to impose their creeds on others. Unfortunately, however, that ideal is not the kind of world we live in.  Consider the existence of religious fundamentalism as enforced in such countries as Iran on hand and extremist antitheism as practiced in places like China on the other.  That said, I must acknowledge that I don’t consider the boundaries between atheism and antitheism as absolute. There is no bright orange line separating them.  For example, inasmuch as I don't believe in the existence of God, I think that the field of theology, which dictionaries define as “the study of the nature of God and religious beliefs”,  is a waste of time, resources, and intellectual effort and therefore should not be offered as a separate course of study in secular universities over what is basically a myth.  Instead, it should be included under mythology along with the study of other god legends of the world.  So, with this point of view, does this mean that I have morphed into an antitheist?  I’d like to think not. For one thing, I'm not proposing to scrap theology entirely, just to downgrade its undeserved status as an academic discipline and to place it under a more appropriate field of inquiry.

Finally, but significantly, there is the matter of the consequences of the inability to distinguish atheism from antitheism as it applies to god-believers who, because of this misunderstanding, tar both groups with the same brush. Obviously, they feel threatened by those who they see are unjustifiably attacking their beliefs.  Yet for many theists, especially the religious fundamentalists, the very phenomenon of non-belief itself is considered a threat to their culture, so they lash out at all unbelievers indiscriminately.  I don’t know whether explaining the difference to theists would make a difference in their understanding and tolerance of non-belief as a whole. But if by utilizing this approach, we can get at least a few of them to realize that not all of us godless folks are their enemies, it would be a start. And as I see it, that’s worth the effort.