Samantha Bee on why we need to save the postal service

Donald Trump is trying to kill the Untied States Postal Service by denying them funding to cover their operating deficit, because he is apparently irked that Amazon, owned by Jeff Bezos, uses the USPS to deliver some of their products at what Trump claims is below cost. Trump hates Bezos because he also owns the Washington Post that Trump is aggravated by because of negative coverage of him.

So we have the spectacle of the president of the country trying to kill an organization that provides a public good just because he is angry that a tiny part of its business might possibly, just possibly, be aiding the business of a person he hates. Trump is just piggy-backing on the long-term efforts of the Republicans to privatize the postal service, just like they want to privatize everything else.

Samantha Bee explains why the postal service is worth saving.

When it comes to Congress’s health care, money is no problem

One of the things that the current pandemic has exposed is the utter cruelty, inefficiency, and inadequacy of the private, employer-based health care system in the US. If you are well-to-do and don’t mind dealing with the tedious paperwork or have other people do it for you, this may not be a concern, because you can buy good health care. It turns out it is also not a problem if you are member of Congress since, as Lee Fang reports, they have an excellent system and in the recently passed pandemic stimulus bill, they quietly included additional funding for themselves. Even those Republicans who rail against any proposals that seek to provide universal health care are more than happy to take advantage of their tax-payer funded health care system. So is Democrat Nancy Pelosi, an adamant opponent of Medicare For All.
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Compatibilism versus biologicalism on the free will question

The question of what constitutes free will and how to describe the various arguments for and against its existence is tricky and requires careful articulation. I have been thinking about how to more carefully elucidate the issue since the interesting discussion the comments on my recent post on a debate by two philosophers on this issue, so here goes.

Let’s start with how we define free will. What I mean by having free will is that I could have decided to do something different from what I just did, which was to take a sip from a cup of coffee. This can be called contracausal free will. There are those who believe in such a contracausal free will because they think that our decisions are driven by a soul or by a ‘ghost in the machine’, (a term coined by the philosopher Gilbert Ryle to connote some kind of homunculus that exists inside our head and controls our actions) that is somehow either disconnected from our body or can act independently of it and can control it. I am going to dismiss such ideas without further discussion, because those seem to invoke religious or spiritual elements that do not have any empirical basis and seem to deny the reality that we are biological machines whose behavior is driven by the way our bodies have been shaped by evolution and personal experience, and that our behavior is driven by physiological processes obeying natural laws.
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Televangelist has request for people attending his video services

According to the satirical website The Onion, there are apparently problems with speaking in tongues during teleconference church services.

In an effort to reduce disruptions during a prayer meeting held by teleconference Tuesday, Pastor Terry McEvers of the First Pentecostal Church of God reportedly asked that any congregants presently speaking in tongues place themselves on mute for the duration of the service.

“If we all fall to the floor and unleash our miraculous gift of tongues at the same time, then everyone will just be shouting their divinely inspired strings of syllables over everyone else, and no one will understand what’s going on. A big garbled mess like that won’t do anybody any good.” According to sources, the pastor went on to request that members enable video on their devices if they intended to take up serpents, because that’s something no one ever gets tired of watching.

The competition for lithium-ion battery technology

As most people must be aware, the element lithium plays a major role in battery technology, powering many of our technology devices and electric vehicles. But it also plays a key role in medical devices and Lydia DePillis writes that the US has been losing the global competition for lithium-ion battery manufacture to China, and that is part of the reason that it has not been able to adequately meet the demands due to the pandemic.
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Seth Meyers is back

He is back from a one-week hiatus to comment on recent developments.

Incidentally, Trump has received much ridicule for saying that his suggestion about the need for testing whether injecting disinfectants might be a cure for Covid-19. He got even more ridicule when he tried to downplay his dangerous idiocy by saying that the comment was made ‘sarcastically’ when it was clearly not. It seemed like he did not understand what ‘sarcasm’ meant. But I read that what he might have meant to say was ‘hypothetically’. That would have made more sense. But while that explanation may be giving him some underserved credit, it also shows that Trump has difficulty with polysyllabic words, which is consistent with his general level of verbal incompetence.

TV mini-series review: Unorthodox (2020)

Netflix has just released this four-part mini-series based on a memoir by Deborah Feldman about how and why she left the world of Hasidic Orthodox Judaism, though as is usually the case with film adaptations, the story has been changed in several ways. The film is about a very young woman Esther (known as Esty), who is a member of the Yiddish-speaking Satmar community that lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. As is the custom in the ultra-Orthodox community, she has an arranged marriage to a very young man. The expectation in such marriages is that the woman will start having babies immediately, as many as she can.
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What a surprise! Big companies got most of the stimulus money meant for small businesses

One part of the stimulus program was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was meant to enable owners of small businesses to keep paying their employees even while their businesses were shut down. The program was limited to companies that had less than 500 employees. Why did employees of large corporations like Amazon not get similar protections? The assumption by the government seemed to be that these companies could afford to do so on their own without government help though in the absence of any law forcing them to do so, one cannot imagine Amazon’s Jeff Bezos depriving himself of even the tiniest bit of his huge wealth.
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Signs that the right is losing the culture wars

I have noticed that there are an increasing number of ads for products that feature couples and families that are same gender couples and/or different ethnicities. These ads are for everyday products and there were no obvious reasons as to why they did not stick to the traditional pairings. It is clear that these companies feel that there will be no backlash caused by this inclusivity and that there may even be a positive benefit is showing themselves to be enlightened. But as recently as 2013, a commercial that featured an interracial family caused a fuss and produced racist responses.
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The Onion predicted Trump’s disinfectant insanity

The White House has not held a full coronavirus press briefing since last Thursday, which was the occasion when Trump made the widely ridiculed and condemned suggestion that injecting bleach and other disinfectants might be a cure for Covid-19. The next day, he and Pence held a 20-minute session and walked off without taking questions. The weekend went by without any briefings and today they announced that there would also be no briefing. It looks like they may be gone for good. Trump, like the coward he is, does not want to face challenging questions and, like Brave Sir Robin, “When danger reared it’s ugly head, He bravely turned his tail and fled.”
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